Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

The fair Irish maid online

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kept silent for a little while, that
seemed a long while to her, thinking thoughts.
Presently she spoke. "Dennis dear," she said,
"why did you play that air to-night if that is the
way you feel ?"

"Why did I play that air?" Dennis answered,
gloomily. "God knows. Many's the time that I
have passed your fine house and looked up at it
and thought of you inside with all your great
friends, and I expected that I should pass it to-
night just the same. But somehow in the cold
and the wet and the darkness there came a great
longing into my heart to see you again, and a great
wonder into my mind as to whether you would be
glad to see me again, or whether you had forgotten
all about me. So I pulled my fiddle out of my
pocket and set to playing, scarcely knowing what
I did, but thinking, at least, that if you heard it you
would know that I was there."

"I am glad you did," Grania said, tenderly.

Dennis shook his head angrily. "I'm not so
sure that I am glad," he said, gruffly. "What is


the good of it ? You are on the heights and I am
in the depths; there is a great gulf between us."

"You might bridge it with a word," Grania

"Don't talk like that," Dennis said, fiercely. "I
have said my say, and I mean it."

Grania sighed again wearily. : "Tis the proud
spirit you have, Dennis," she said; "but, at least,
I suppose you won't be too proud to let me help
you to your end ?"

Dennis shook himself fretfully. " What can you
do for me ?" he asked.

"Will you dine with me to-night?" Grania an-
swered. She asked the question as if it were the
most natural one in the world.

Dennis sat up a little in his chair and gaped.
" Sure, you are laughing at me and my rags," he said,

"Don't say such words, heart," Grania pro-
tested. "But I have the manager of the Rotundo
Theater corning here this evening, and it would
be grand for you to meet him."

Dennis was plainly agitated by her words. "The
manager of the Rotundo Theater Mr. Heritage?"
he questioned.

Grania nodded. "Himself. I have told him all
about you, and he is crazy mad to meet you, and it
will be the surprise of his life to find you here this
very evening as ever is. And I have some fine
guests that maybe you could play your air to, and


they would take your name all over town and make
you famous in a week. In a week, is it ? What am
I saying ? You'd be famous in a day."

Dennis, as he listened to Crania's words of cheer,
had gradually slipped out of his sullen lethargy as a
snake slips out of its skin. He gripped the arms of
the chair in which he lay supine and forced himself
to sit bolt upright, staring at Grania. In his new
alertness, his new eagerness, he seemed as if he had
wakened out of some long sleep to a sudden and
pleasurable consciousness. Then the clouds of
doubt and disappointment darkened his face again.
"Oh, Grania, how splendid!" he cried, in obedience
to his first impulse. Then, obeying his second, he
added, "But how can I sit at your table like this ?"
And he pointed with more irritation now than pride
at his rags.

Grania smiled encouragement and confidence.
"Just do as I tell you," she said, "and all will be
well. Now, Dennis, to please me you must put a
bit of your pride in your pocket, for this way of
mine is the way to try for your fortune and to win

Dennis aped her uplifted mood with his own new-
born enthusiasm. "Show me the road, sweet-
heart," he promised, cheerfully, "and I'll do the

Grania looked at him a little wistfully. His
easily shifting mood disquieted her, yet she believed
that if he would fall in with her scheme and carry


it out to the best of his ability it had a rare chance
to end well. To be sure it seemed a little bit like a
fancy in a fairy tale, but what then ? There was a
deal of truth in a fairy tale.

"Dennis," she said, "you will give me your
promise to do as I wish, however strange it may
seem to you, and this will be a great evening for
both of us."

Dennis nodded, puzzled and wondering, and
Grania, taking his acquiescence for granted, rang
the bell and told the answering servant that she
wished to speak with Mr. Fenny. When they were
again alone Grania spoke quickly, anticipating
the question that she knew Dennis was sure to

"Mr. Fenny," she said, "acts as my private
secretary, which is of no importance; but he is about
your size, which is of great importance. I am
going to get him to take you home with him and to
lend you a suit of clothes that will set you off be-
comingly, and then you shall dine with me to-night
and win all hearts."

Dennis began instantly to make objections. He
would not have been himself if he had not proved
ready to make objections to any plan proposed for
his welfare. But Grania, who saw that he was
really eager to be convinced, overruled his objections
one after another. Of course he could not put
fine clothes on a soiled body, but he could wash him-
self as clean as a new pin at Mr. Penny's. Of


course he was miserably tired, but he could have at
least an hour's sleep at Mr. Penny's after his bath
before he need think of dressing for the dinner. Of
course Mr. Fenny would be delighted to render such
a small service to a man of genius, and equally, of
course, when Dennis was the idol of London he
could easily work off his obligation to Mr. Fenny in
a dozen ways that would be highly satisfactory to
that gentleman.

By the time that Mr. Fenny made his appearance
Dennis had been won over to consent, albeit none
too graciously, to Crania's proposals. The wine
and meat had brisked him not a little, rousing him
to his old readiness to assert independence, but he
was too much taken with the immediate chance
offered to him not to give way. As for Mr. Fenny,
entering all point-device, whether he had consented
to exchange some words with John or Thomas or
no, he did not permit himself to show the slightest
surprise either at Dennis's presence or Dennis's

Dennis rose as Mr. Fenny entered and Grania
formally presented the two men to each other as
calmly as if they had encountered in some aristo-
cratic assembly.

"Mr. Fenny," Grania said, "this is my oldest,
nearest, and dearest friend, Mr. Dennis Tirowen."

Fenny bowed gracefully to Dennis and Dennis
bowed awkwardly to Fenny.

"I am happy to make your acquaintance, sir,"


Fenny said, blandly, "and I envy you the recom-

He smiled on Dennis as he spoke with an amia-
bility which, it may be, he was far from feeling.
Any amusement he may have felt at the whimsical
situation he kept most religiously to himself. There
was no hint of mirth or curiosity in his eyes or on
his lips. As for Dennis, he glowered at Fenny and
looked, as he felt, ill at ease. Grania was, out-
wardly at least, perfectly self-possessed.

"Mr. Fenny," Grania said, quietly, as one that
makes a most ordinary suggestion, "I want you to
take this gentleman to your lodgings, and to furnish
him with all that he may require. He is doing me
the honor of joining my company at dinner to-

Mr. Fenny made another excellent bow in the
direction of Dennis. "With the greatest pleasure,"
he protested; and, indeed, he carried himself as if
his chief desire in life was to be agreeable to the
shabby stranger.

A sudden thought struck Grania, and she gave
it tongue. "Mr. Tirowen," she said, with a
quizzical smile, "is to be congratulated upon the
conclusion of his wager."

Dennis turned his eyes from their half-scornful,
half-envious appreciation of Mr. Penny's finery to
Crania's face. What on earth, he asked himself,
was she talking about ? What wager did she speak
of? He soon learned.



Mr. Fenny, seeing that he was expected to show
interest, showed it. " His wager ?" he queried,
with as much show of eagerness as polite usage

Grania was really pleased with her readiness of
invention, and prompt to expound it. " My friend,
like most men of genius, has his eccentricities. He
made a wager a year ago that he would travel to
London and wear the same suit of clothes there
for a twelvemonth."

Dennis gaped with amazement; then he shut
his mouth tight and did his best not to grin. Cer-
tainly Grania was saving the situation magnifi-

Mr. Fenny broke into a loud laugh, and clapped
his hands approvingly. He did not in the least be-
lieve the statement, but it was a statement that in
a wagering age was quite believable. "Egad! very
original and neat," he protested, admiringly. "I
do not think a merrier bet was ever recorded at

Grania had more to say. "The time has ex-
pired," she continued, "and the first part of the
wager is won. But there is a second clause to it,
by which my friend undertakes not to wear any of
his own clothes when he changes his attire for some-
thing more suitable to London society. By the
terms of the wager he must be indebted for his shift
to the good offices of a friend. Now, I am Mr.
Tirowen's only friend in London at the moment,


and in this particular I cannot assist him. There-
upon I thought of you."

Mr. Fenny was vehement in his assurances of the
delight it would afford him to be of service to Miss
O'Hara's friend in this delightful dilemma, and he
listened with an attentive ear to all Crania's in-
structions, while Dennis held his peace, feeling con-
fusedly as if he had stepped somehow out of Lon-
don into the pages of an Arabian tale, and feeling
emphatically grateful to Grania for the readiness
which had set the seal of an enviable originality
upon his rags and tatters.



MR. FENNY never allowed himself to show
surprise, nor even to feel surprise, at any
wish or whim of Crania's. He had been sensible
enough to recognize from the beginning of their
acquaintance that when she said a thing she meant
it, and when she wished for a thing to be done it
was well for those who desired her friendship to
obey her. It was accordingly without even so
much as a twitch of an eyelid or the least elevation
of an eyebrow that Mr. Fenny accepted the charge
of the dingy and ragged individual whom Grania
committed to his care. He quitted the room, there-
fore, after smiling as amiably upon the ragamuffin
by the fire as if he had been the favorite among
his club companions, and set to work at once to
carry out Crania's commands.

In the hall he found John and Thomas immobile
and expressionless. He knew that they knew,
and they knew that he knew, but the traditional
distance was preserved. Mr. Fenny sent John
or Thomas for a coach, for he decided that even
if the climatic conditions had been more favorable


to walking exercise the contrast between the fine
scrupulosity of his attire and the grotesque rags
of his companion might succeed in attracting an
unnecessary degree of notice in the neighborhood
of St. James's, in spite of the darkness of that
February evening.

While the coach was being sent for, Mr. Fenny,
discreetly unwilling to intrude upon the strange
pair in the great room, beguiled the time in a little
lounge-room, where in a well-locked cabinet of
gold and ivory the late Lord Ashford had sheltered
a remarkable collection of books of a light-hearted
nature. To this well-locked cabinet Mr. Fenny,
by favor of my Lord Cloyne, had the key, and he
now silenced unnecessary speculation in his mind
by a few minutes' study of the skittish in literature.
When the coach arrived Mr. Fenny put aside his
book, relocked the cabinet, and returned to the
drawing-room, where Grania and Dennis sat facing
each other beside the hearth.

Mr. Fenny explained that a coach was in waiting,
and straightway he conducted Dennis to it with as
pleasant an air of good fellowship and as entire an
absence of any appearance of patronage as if he
had been accompanying one of his chosen com-
rades of the clubs. Mr. Fenny had had the fore-
thought to banish John and Thomas from the hall
before ascending to fetch Dennis, and the two men
so oddly contrasted passed unobserved to the wait-
ing coach, wherein Mr. Fenny conveyed Dennis


to his lodgings in Jermyn Street, talking pleasantly
the while, and as if the little adventure were the
most natural thing in the world. It was for the
most part a monologue, for Dennis was embarrassed
and taciturn, but Mr. Fenny showed no conscious-
ness of his companion's awkwardness, but chatted
away gaily and made shift to speak for two.

When the pair arrived at Mr. Penny's elegant
lodgings, which, of course, were in the fashionable
end and on the fashionable side of Jermyn Street,
Mr. Fenny conducted Dennis to his apartments,
where they were received by Mr. Fenny's gentle-
man with a composure which rivaled in its calm
and dignity that of Mr. Fenny himself. Master
and man installed Dennis in Mr. Fenny's dainty
dressing-room, there to make his necessary ablu-
tions with aid of every exqfiisite essence, scent, soap
and unguent that Bond Street could afford, while
Mr. Fenny consulted with his man on the question
of Dennis's attire, and studied the contents of his

Mr. Fenny was fortunate in his man-servant.
There never was a better valet for a man of Peregrine
Fenny's kidney than Sparrow since the word valet
became a noun substantive with serious possibilities.
He played the Leporello to Mr. Fenny's Don Gio-
vanni with an air of discretion and restraint which
suggested rather that he was sharing in the manage-
ment of a Sunday-school than the amusements of
a libertine. Had master been judged by man, had


the nature of the one been appraised by the stand-
ard of the demeanor of the other, Mr. Peregrine
Fenny would have obtained, to his infinite amaze-
ment and amusement, a reputation very different
from that which he actually enjoyed.

Sparrow had not only the urbanity, but also the
dignity, characteristic of the sort of personage that
comes into mental being when the words "rural
dean" are uttered. He surveyed the panorama of
fashionable life with calm, complacent eye; he aided
and abetted debauch with an air of grave decorum;
he took seduction and adultery for granted as part
of a fine gentleman's appanage with an affability
that never descended into any impertinent sug-
gestion of complicity. When occasion called, as it
often called, he was as ready to play pimp and
pander as to tie a cravat or to froth a cup of choco-
late. But he did the one duty of his office as he
did the other, with the same show of suave cor-

It was with the demure demeanor of some hiero-
phant introducing a novice into the presence of the
interpreter of divinity that Mr. Sparrow assisted
Mr. Fenny to usher Dennis Tirowen into Mr.
Fenny's dressing-room, made sure that all the
elegant appliances for perfect cleanliness were in
their place, and closed the door upon the dingy
poet with a countenance of an imperturbable gravity.
If Mr. Fenny chose to bring home beggars from
the street that was the affair of Mr. Fenny, and not
16 229


to be questioned. Sparrow's countenance had
worn the same air of immaculate calm on so many
occasions when he had ushered unexpected visitors
into those dainty rooms that he was by now well
drilled in impassiveness. He had shown as gravely
remote to each and all of the vagrant fair that
flitted so frequently across the threshold of Mr.

Never did Mr. Sparrow's austere aloofness of
demeanor fail him, never, even in the company of
his kind if one so incomparable could be said to
belong to a class, who really stood apart, an isolated
specimen did he condescend to any indiscretion
concerning his master's affairs. He listened to the
confidences of other valets in the little club-room
of gentlemen's gentlemen at the Hand and Glove
in Ryder Street with good-humored tolerance; but
his own lips never made the minutest contribution
to the feast of scandal. As far as Mr. Sparrow was
concerned Mr. Peregrine Fenny might have been
Galahad, or, for the matter of that, Abelard.

After Dennis, at the expense of no little labor
and a vast consumption of soap, had washed him-
self white of his London grime, Mr. Fenny, punc-
tilious in obedience to Crania's commands, saw that
Sparrow made up a very good apology for a bed
on the sofa in the dressing-room, and there he in-
sisted that Dennis should rest for an hour. Once
between the sheets sleep settled swiftly upon Den-
nis's tired, distraught senses, and it did not seem


to him that he had closed his eyes for an instant
when he was roused from a dreamless sleep to find
Mr. Fenny standing by his couch and assuring him
that it was time for him to arise and dress.

For a moment Dennis could not realize where he
was. He was as much puzzled as the awakened
sleeper in the Oriental story who is persuaded by
the merrymakers that he is the caliph. Swiftly,
however, memory reasserted itself, and half eagerly,
half reluctantly, wholly embarrassed, Dennis Tiro-
wen quitted his sofa to surrender himself to the
hands of Mr. Sparrow, who, under his master's di-
rections, was to make a new man of him as far as
clothes could do the trick. Many garments lay
before him, wisely culled by the united judgments
of master and man, and in a final selection from
these Dennis was now persuaded to garb himself.

It was not to be denied that Dennis made really
quite a pretty figure in his rig as a fine gentleman.
Mr. Fenny eyed him approvingly; Mr. Sparrow
eyed him approvingly; in so far as he might be said
to be their handiwork they applauded him. Though
he was a tall lad of his hands, he was no taller than
Mr. Fenny, and as far as length went, Mr. Penny's
garments suited him well enough. Before he left
Ireland he was of somewhat stouter build than the
London fine gentleman, and then it would have
taken some little humoring and adjusting to fit
him satisfactorily from Mr. Fenny's wardrobe.
But the evil days in London, the days of cold and


want, the evil nights of London, the night of spong-
ing in taverns and sleeping behind bulkheads had
done their work in thinning him and making him
the likelier model for the pains of Mr. Fenny and
Mr. Sparrow. Now their task was done, and well
done, and the young Irishman looked mighty fine
in raiment of a kind that he had never worn before.
Even in his Dublin days his habiliments were of
the sober, modest kind that the son of a well-to-do
farmer would naturally affect, and had nothing in
common with the fine array that was Mr. Penny's
daily wear. However, his natural adaptability and
the native ease of his carriage enabled him to sport
his fine feathers, unfamiliar as they were, with an
air of familiarity.

Peregrine Fenny was justly renowned for his ex-
cellent taste in dress, and though he did not con-
sider that it was, as it were, inherent in obedience
to Crania's commands that he should endow his
newly found friend with the best treasures of his
wardrobe, the nobles and glories of his tallboy, he
saw to it that the young Irishman's costume was of
a kind that for happiness of cut and suavity of
color should show him off to the best advantage.
He had a double reason for this precision. In the
first place, he knew that Grania would appreciate
very keenly the way in which he had carried out
her wishes, and he sought, therefore, to requite him-
self commendably. In the second place, the artist
in Mr. Fenny was animated by his task. In dress-


ing Dennis Tirowen for his debut in the world, Mr.
Fenny was, as it were, dressing him for himself.
The well-proportioned body, the well-proportioned
limbs of the Irishman, felicitously molded by Mr.
Penny's clothes, revealed Mr. Fenny to himself as
never yet a mirror could do. In the rehabilitated
Dennis Mr. Fenny seemed to behold his living
image, and beholding, very greatly to admire. His
mind reverted with a tender melancholy to his
earlier days, when the garden of pleasure first
opened its rose-garlanded gates for him, and when
he first realized the philosophy of a fine body in
fine clothes. So he surveyed Tirowen in a rapture,
seeing there himself as he had been, as he was,
and as he long hoped to be, and he enjoyed the
study amazingly, and made poor Dennis stand this
way and that way, walk thus and sit so, that he
might taste to the full this unexpected pleasure.

The young Irishman was a little shy at first
during the process of transition, and his reluctance
only surrendered to the eagerness of his rekindled
desire to meet some of the members of that bright
world whose distant light had lured him to disaster,
that bright world which he seemed to have lost, but
which he now again longed to conquer. Hopes that
had long been buried, ambitions that had been
drowned in taverns, began to revive, to reassert
themselves, and to warm his heart. The dreams
of victory which he had dreamed so often in his
wanderings among the Kerry hills, the dreams which


had been so rudely dissipated In the slums and
alleys of the great implacable city, began to paint
themselves anew in lovelier colors upon his mind.
His degradation was but skin-deep, and he was still
shrewd enough to recognize the force of Crania's
reasoning and the wisdom of her counsels. He would
have enjoyed well enough to triumph over society
clad in the simple garments of a rustic so, perhaps,
his simple vanity would have been most fully flat-
tered but he was ready to admit that London might
be wooed and won more decorously in a gala suit.
Indeed, when the transformation was completed
and he saw himself in Mr. Penny's long mirror he
was very well content with the change, and thanks
to a certain mimetic quality in his composition, he
carried himself as if he had been used to handsome
garments all his days. The soothing influence of a
clean skin, a short sleep, and a set of comely gar-
ments had restored to him much of the self-con-
fidence that had been so sadly bruised and battered
in London. He really felt as he surveyed his re-
flected person that he was justified in entertaining
anew the highest hopes of triumph. When, there-
fore, Mr. Fenny told his guest that it was time for
them to be returning to Ashford House, it was with
no outward show of trepidation that Mr. Dennis
accompanied his deputy Samaritan to the waiting



THE great dining-room of Ashford House was
one of the proudest glories of that magnificent
mansion. On its walls the portraits of the young
spendthrift ancestors, happily rescued from exile
by Crania's gold and Lord Cloyne's acumen,
smiled or frowned according to their humor upon
the strangers about the board. Holbein and Por-
bus had portrayed the servants of the polygamist
and the Virgin. The Lord Ashford that had
obeyed the Caledonian Solomon looked as wise as
his master. There were those there that had
fought for their kings at Edgehill and Chester, and
Dunbar, and at Worcester, and at Boyne, and be-
neath these ever, by Crania's orders, big bowls of
hot-house roses bloomed. Across the canvas of one
portrait a grim bar of black paint had been smeared.
This was the portrait of one of the house that had
gone for Parliament and Oliver against throne and
Charles, and had been thus defaced by command of
the late Lord Ashford, that was as valiant a Jacobite
as a man should be that was old enough to remem-
ber the tragedy of the forty-five, and would as soon


have gone to hell as to Carlton House. There was
another portrait that was defaced in the same
fashion, but even more emphatically, for this pic-
ture had two broad bars of condemnatory black
drawn across it. This was the painting which it
most amused My Lord Cloyne to regard, for it was
the presentment of that ancestor of Lord Ashford's
whose renegade defection from the cause of King
James the Second to the cause of William of Orange
had caused Lupus Loveless, of unpleasant memory,
to play the rat in his turn.

For long enough these solemn images of stalwart
men, and of their companions, the dear, adorable
women, whom they had loved and hated and
cheated, and that had loved and hated and cheated
them, had gazed gravely and gloomily down upon
an almost deserted room. The late Lord Ashford
detesting his age and despising its politics, kingless

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Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyThe fair Irish maid → online text (page 13 of 20)