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Banim, John / Stories by English Authors: Ireland
This eBook was produced by Charles Aldarondo, Charles Franks, Nicole
Apostola and The Online Distributed Proofreading Team.



STORIES BY ENGLISH AUTHORS

IRELAND


THE GRIDIRON BY SAMUEL LOVER
THE EMERGENCY MEN BY GEORGE H. JESSOP
A LOST RECRUIT BY JANE BARLOW
THE RIVAL DREAMERS BY JOHN BANIM
NEAL MALONE BY WILLIAM CARLETON
THE BANSHEE ANONYMOUS






THE GRIDIRON

BY SAMUEL LOVER





A certain old gentleman in the west of Ireland, whose love of the
ridiculous quite equalled his taste for claret and fox-hunting, was
wont, upon festive occasions, when opportunity offered, to amuse
his friends by DRAWING OUT one of his servants, exceedingly fond
of what he termed, his "thravels," and in whom a good deal of whim,
some queer stories, and, perhaps more than all, long and faithful
services had established a right of loquacity. He was one of those
few trusty and privileged domestics who, if his master unheedingly
uttered a rash thing in a fit of passion, would venture to set him
right. If the squire said, "I'll turn that rascal off," my friend
Pat would say, "Throth you won't, sir;" and Pat was always right,
for if any altercation arose upon the "subject-matter in hand,"
he was sure to throw in some good reason, either from former
services--general good conduct--or the delinquent's "wife and
children," that always turned the scale.

But I am digressing. On such merry meetings as I have alluded
to, the master, after making certain "approaches," as a military
man would say, as the preparatory steps in laying siege to some
extravaganza of his servant, might, perchance, assail Pat thus:
"By the by, Sir John" (addressing a distinguished guest), "Pat has
a very curious story, which something you told me to-day reminds
me of. You remember, Pat" (turning to the man, evidently pleased
at the notice thus paid to himself)--"you remember that queer
adventure you had in France?"

"Throth I do, sir," grins forth Pat.

"What!" exclaims Sir John, in feigned surprise, "was Pat ever in
France?"

"Indeed he was," cries mine host; and Pat adds, "Ay, and farther,
plase your honour."

"I assure you, Sir John," continues mine host, "Pat told me a story
once that surprised me very much, respecting the ignorance of the
French."

"Indeed!" rejoined the baronet; "really, I always supposed the
French to be a most accomplished people."

"Throth, then, they're not, sir," interrupts Pat.

"Oh, by no means," adds mine host, shaking his head emphatically.

"I believe, Pat, 'twas when you were crossing the Atlantic?" says
the master, turning to Pat with a seductive air, and leading into
the "full and true account" (for Pat had thought fit to visit
North Amerikay, for "a raison he had," in the autumn of the year
ninety-eight).

"Yes, sir," says Pat, "the broad Atlantic"--a favourite phrase of
his, which he gave with a brogue as broad, almost, as the Atlantic
itself.

"It was the time I was lost in crassin' the broad Atlantic, a-comin'
home," began Pat, decoyed into the recital; "whin the winds began
to blow, and the saw to rowl, that you'd think the Colleen Dhas
(that was her name) would not have a mast left but what would rowl
out of her.

"Well, sure enough, the masts went by the hoard, at last, and the
pumps were choked (divil choke them for that same), and av coorse
the wather gained an us; and, throth, to be filled with wather is
neither good for man or baste; and she was sinkin' fast, settlin'
down, as the sailors call it; and, faith, I never was good at settlin'
down in my life, and I liked it then less nor ever. Accordingly
we prepared for the worst, and put out the boot, and got a sack o'
bishkits and a cask o' pork and a kag o' wather and a thrifle o'
rum aboord, and any other little matthers we could think iv in the
mortial hurry we wor in--and, faith, there was no time to be lost,
for, my darlint, the Colleen Dhas went down like a lump o' lead
afore we wor many sthrokes o' the oar away from her.

"Well, we dhrifted away all that night, and next mornin' we put
up a blanket an the end av a pole as well as we could, and then we
sailed illegant; for we darn't show a stitch o' canvas the night
before, bekase it was blowin' like bloody murther, savin' your
presence, and sure it's the wondher of the worid we worn't swally'd
alive by the ragin' sae.

"Well, away we wint, for more nor a week, and nothin' before our two
good-lookin' eyes but the canophy iv heaven and the wide ocean--the
broad Atlantic; not a thing was to be seen but the sae and the sky;
and though the sae and the sky is mighty purty things in themselves,
throth, they're no great things when you've nothin' else to look
at for a week together; and the barest rock in the world, so it
was land, would be more welkim. And then, soon enough, throth, our
provisions began to run low, the bishkits and the wather and the
rum--throth, THAT was gone first of all--God help uz!--and oh! it
was thin that starvation began to stare us in the face. 'O murther,
murther, Captain darlint,' says I, 'I wish we could land anywhere,'
says I.

"'More power to your elbow, Paddy, my boy,' says he, 'for sitch a
good wish, and, throth, it's myself wishes the same.'

"'Och,' says I, 'that it may plase you, sweet queen iv heaven,
supposing it was only a DISSOLUTE island,' says I, 'inhabited wid
Turks, sure they wouldn't be such bad Chrishthans as to refuse us
a bit and a sup.'

"'Whisht, whisht, Paddy,' says the captain, 'don't be talking bad
of any one,' says he; 'you don't know how soon you may want a good
word put in for yourself, if you should be called to quarthers in
th' other world all of a suddint," says he.

"'Thrue for you, Captain darlint,' says I--I called him darlint,
and made free with him, you see, bekase disthress makes us
all equal--'thrue for you, Captain jewel--God betune uz and harm,
I own no man any spite'--and, throth, that was only thruth. Well,
the last bishkit was sarved out, and, by gor, the WATHER ITSELF
was all gone at last, and we passed the night mighty cowld. Well,
at the brake o' day the sun riz most beautifully out o' the waves,
that was as bright as silver and as clear as chrystal. But it was
only the more cruel upon us, for we wor beginnin' to feel TERRIBLE
hungry; when all at wanst I thought I spied the land. By gor, I
thought I felt my heart up in my throat in a minit, and 'Thunder
an' turf, Captain,' says I, 'look to leeward,' says I.

"'What for?' says he.

"'I think I see the land,' says I.

"So hes ups with his bring-'em-near (that's what the sailors call
a spy-glass, sir), and looks out, and, sure enough, it was.

"'Hurrah!' says he, 'we're all right now; pull away, my boys,' says
he.

"'Take care you're not mistaken,' says I; 'maybe it's only a
fog-bank, Captain darlint,' says I.

"'Oh no,' says he; 'it's the land in airnest.'

"'Oh, then, whereaboats in the wide world are we, Captain?' says
I; 'maybe it id be in ROOSIA, or PROOSIA, the Garmant Oceant,' says
I.

"'Tut, you fool,' says he, for he had that consaited way wid him,
thinkin' himself cleverer nor any one else--'tut, you fool,' says
he, 'that's FRANCE,' says he.

"'Tare an ouns,' says I, 'do you tell me so? and how do you know
it's France it is, Captain dear?' says I.

"'Bekase this is the Bay o' Bishky we're in now,' says he.

"'Throth, I was thinkin' so myself,' says I, 'by the rowl it has;
for I often heerd av it in regard of that same; and, throth, the
likes av it I never seen before nor since, and, with the help of
God, never will.'

"Well, with that, my heart began to grow light; and when I seen my
life was safe, I began to grow twice hungrier nor ever; so says I,
'Captain jewel, I wish we had a gridiron.'

"'Why, then,' says he, 'thunder an' turf,' says he, 'what puts a
gridiron into your head?'

"'Bekase I'm starvin' with the hunger,' says I.

"'And, sure, bad luck to you,' says he, 'you couldn't eat a gridiron,'
says he, 'barrin' you were a PELICAN O' THE WILDHERNESS,' says he.

"'Ate a gridiron!' says I. 'Och, in throth, I'm not such a gommoch
all out as that, anyhow. But, sure, if we had a gridiron we could
dress a beefstake,' says I.

"'Arrah! but where's the beefstake?' says he.

"'Sure, couldn't we cut a slice aff the pork?' says I.

"'By gor, I never thought o' that,' says the captain. 'You're a
clever fellow, Paddy,' says he, laughin'.

"'Oh, there's many a true word said in joke,' says I.

"'Thrue for you, Paddy,' says he.

"'Well, then,' says I, 'if you put me ashore there beyant (for we
were nearin' the land all the time), 'and, sure, I can ax them for
to lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I.

"'Oh, by gor, the butther's comin' out o' the stirabout in airnest
now,' says he; 'you gommoch,' says he, 'sure I told you before
that's France--and, sure, they're all furriners there,' says the
captain.

"'Well, says I, 'and how do you know but I'm as good a furriner
myself as any o' thim?'

"'What do you mane?' says he.

"'I mane,' says I, 'what I towld you, that I'm as good a furriner
myself as any o thim.'

"'Make me sinsible,' says he.

"'By dad, maybe that's more nor me, or greater nor me, could do,'
says I; and we all began to laugh at him, for I thought I would
pay him off for his bit o' consait about the Garmant Oceant.

"'Lave off your humbuggin',' says he, 'I bid you, and tell me what
it is you mane at all at all.'

"'Parly voo frongsay?' says I.

"'Oh, your humble sarvant,' says he; 'why, by gor, you're a scholar,
Paddy.'

"'Thruth, you may say that,' says I.

"'Why, you're a clever fellow, Paddy,' says the captain, jeerin'
like.

"'You're not the first that said that,' says I, 'whether you joke
or no.'

"'Oh, but I'm in airnest,' says the captain; 'and do you tell me,
Paddy,' says he, 'that you spake Frinch?'

"'Parly voo frongsay?' says I.

"'By gor, that bangs Banagher, and all the world knows Banagher
bangs the divil. I never met the likes o' you, Paddy,' says he.
'Pull away, boys, and put Paddy ashore, and maybe we won't get a
good bellyful before long.'

"So, with that, it wos no sooner said nor done. They pulled away,
and got close into shore in less than no time, and run the boat
up in a little creek; and a beautiful creek it was, with a lovely
white sthrand--an illegant place for ladies to bathe in the summer;
and out I got; and it's stiff enough in the limbs I was, afther
bein' cramped up in the boat, and perished with the cowld and
hunger; but I conthrived to scramble on, one way or t' other, tow'rd
a little bit iv a wood that was close to the shore, and the smoke
curlin' out iv it, quite timptin' like.

"'By the powdhers o' war, I'm all right,' says I; 'there's a house
there.' And, sure enough, there was, and a parcel of men, women,
and childher, ating their dinner round a table, quite convanient.
And so I wint up to the door, and I thought I'd be very civil to
them, as I heerd the Frinch was always mighty p'lite intirely, and
I thought I'd show them I knew what good manners was.

"So I took aff my hat, and, making a low bow, says I, 'God save
all here,' says I.

"Well, to be sure, they all stapt ating at wanst, and began to
stare at me, and, faith, they almost looked me out of countenance;
and I thought to myself, it was not good manners at all, more betoken
from furriners which they call so mighty p'lite. But I never minded
that, in regard o' wantin' the gridiron; and so says I, 'I beg your
pardon,' says I, 'for the liberty I take, but it's only bein' in
disthress in regard of ating,' says I, 'that I made bowld to throuble
yez, and if you could lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'I'd
be intirely obleeged to ye.'

"By gor, they all stared at me twice worse nor before, and with
that, says I (knowing what was in their minds), 'Indeed, it's thrue
for you,' says I. 'I'm tatthered to pieces, and God knows I look
quare enough; but it's by raison of the storm,' says I, 'which
dhruv us ashore here below, and we're all starvin',' says I.

"So then they began to look at each other again; and myself seeing
at once dirty thoughts was in their heads, and that they tuk me
for a poor beggar coming to crave charity, with that says I, 'Oh,
not at all,' says I, 'by no manes--we have plenty of mate ourselves
there below, and we'll dhress it,' says I, 'if you would be plased
to lind us the loan of a gridiron,' says I, makin' a low bow.

"Well, sir, with that, throth, they stared at me twice worse
nor ever, and, faith, I began to think that maybe the captain was
wrong, and that it was not France at all at all; and so says I, 'I
beg pardon, sir,' says I to a fine ould man, with a head of hair
as white as silver; 'maybe I'm under a mistake,' says I, 'but I
thought I was in France, sir; aren't you furriners?' says I. 'Parly
voo frongsay?'

"'We, munseer,' says he.

"'Then would you lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'if you
plase?'

"Oh, it was thin that they stared at me as if I had seven heads;
and, faith, myself began to feel flushed like and onaisy; and
so says I, makin' a bow and scrape ag'in, 'I know it's a liberty
I take, sir,' says I, 'but it's only in the regard of bein' cast
away; and if you plase, sir,' says I, 'parly voo frongsay?'

"'We, munseer,' says he, mighty sharp.

"'Then would you lind me the loan of a gridiron?' says I, 'and
you'll obleege me.'

"Well, sir, the ould chap began to munseer me; but the divil a bit
of a gridiron he'd gi' me; and so I began to think they wor all
neygars, for all their fine manners; and, throth, my blood begun
to rise, and says I, 'By my sowl, if it was you was in disthress,'
says I, 'and if it was to ould Ireland you kem, it's not only the
gridiron they'd give you, if you axed it, but something to put an
it, too, and the drop o' dhrink into the bargain, and cead mile
failte.'

"Well, the word cead mile failte seemed to sthreck his heart,
and the ould chap cocked his ear, and so I thought I'd give him
another offer, and make him sinsible at last; and so says I, wanst
more, quite slow, that he might understand, 'Parly--voo--frongsay,
munseer?'

"'We, munseer,' says he.

"'Then lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'and bad scram to
you.'

"Well, bad win to the bit of it he'd gi' me, and the ould chap begins
bowin' and scrapin', and said something or other about a long tongs.

[Footnote: Some mystification of Paddy's touching the French
n'tends.]

"'Phoo!--the divil swape yourself and your tongs,' says I; 'I don't
want a tongs at all at all; but can't you listen to raison?' says
I. 'Parly voo frongsay?'

"'We, munseer.'

"'Then lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'and howld your
prate.'

"Well, what would you think, but he shook his old noddle as much as
to say he wouldn't; and so says I, 'Bad cess to the likes o' that
I ever seen! Throth, if you wor in my counthry, it's not that away
they'd use you. The curse o' the crows an you, you ould sinner,'
says I; 'the divil a longer i'll darken your door.'

"So he seen I was vexed; and I thought, as I was turnin' away, I
seen him begin to relint, and that his conscience throubled him;
and says I, turnin' back, 'Well, I'll give you one chance more,
you ould thief. Are you a Chrishthan at all? Are you a furriner,'
says I,' that all the world calls so p'lite? Bad luck to you, do
you understand your own language? Parly voo frongsay?' says I.

"'We, munseer,' says he.

"'Then, thunder an' turf,' says I, 'will you lind me the loan of
a gridiron?'

"Well, sir, the divil resa've the bit of it he'd gi' me; and
so, with that, 'The curse o' the hungry an you, you ould neygarly
villain,' says I; 'the back o' my hand and the sowl o' my foot to
you, that you may want a gridiron yourself yit,' says I. And with
that I left them there, sir, and kem away; and, in throth, it's
often sense that I thought that it was remarkable."






THE EMERGENCY MEN

BY GEORGE H. JESSOP





The fourth morning after his arrival in Dublin, Mr. Harold Hayes,
of New York, entered the breakfast-room of the Shelbourne Hotel in
a very bad humour. He was sick of the city, of the people, and of
his own company. Before leaving London he had written to his friend,
Jack Connolly, that he was coming to Ireland, and he had expected
to find a reply at the Shelbourne. For three days he had waited
in vain, and it was partly, at least, on Jack's account that Mr.
Hayes was in Ireland at all. When Jack sailed from New York he had
bound Harold by a solemn promise to spend a few weeks at Lisnahoe
on his next visit to Europe. Miss Connelly, who had accompanied her
brother on his American tour, had echoed and indorsed the invitation.

Harold had naturally expected to find at the hotel a letter urging
him to take the first train for the south. He had seen a great
deal of the Connellys during their stay in the United States, and
Jack and he had become firm friends. He had crossed at this unusual
season mainly on Jack's account--on Jack's account and his sister's;
so it was little wonder if the young man considered himself ill
used. He felt that he had been lured across the Irish Channel--across
the Atlantic Ocean itself--on false pretences.

But in a moment the cloud lifted from his brow, a quick smile stirred
under his yellow moustache, and his eyes brightened, for a waiter
handed him a letter. It lay, address uppermost, on the salver, and
bore the Ballydoon postmark, and the handwriting was the disjointed
scrawl which he had often ridiculed, but now welcomed as Jack
Connolly's.

This is what Hayes read as he sipped his coffee:

LISNAHOE, December 23d.

MY DEAR HAROLD: Home I come from Ballinasloe yesterday, and find
your letter, the best part of a week old, kicking about among
the bills and notices of meets that make the biggest end of my
correspondence. You must be destroyed entirely, my poor fellow, if
you've been three days in dear dirty Dublin, and you not knowing
a soul in it. Come down at once, and you'll find a hearty welcome
here if you won't find much else. I don't see why you couldn't
have come anyhow, without waiting to write; but you were always
so confoundedly ceremonious. We're rather at sixes and sevens, for
the governor's got "in howlts" with his tenants and we're boycotted.
It's not bad fun when you're used to it, but a trifle inconvenient
in certain small ways. Let me know what train you take and I'll
meet you at the station. You must be here for Christmas Day anyhow.
Polly sends her regards, and says she knew the letter was from you,
and she came near opening it. I'm sure I wish she had, and answered
it, for I'm a poor fist at a letter.

Yours truly,

JACK CONNOLLY.

The first available train carried Harold southward. On the way he
read the letter again. The notion of entering a boycotted household
amused and pleased him. He had never been in Ireland before, and he
was quite willing that his first visit should be well spiced with
the national flavour. Of course he had his views on the Irish
question. Every American newspaper reader is cheerfully satisfied
with the conviction that the Celtic race on its native sod has no
real faults. A constitutional antipathy to rent may exist, but that
is a national foible which, owing doubtless to some peculiarity of
the climate, is almost praiseworthy in Ireland, though elsewhere
regarded as hardly respectable. At any rate, with the consciousness
that he was about to come face to face with the much-talked-of
boycott, Harold's spirits rose, and as he read Polly Connolly's
message they rose still higher. He was a lively young fellow, and
fond of excitement. And at one time, as he recalled with a smile
and a sigh, he had been almost fond of Polly Connolly.

When he alighted at the station--a small place in Tipperary--the dusk
of the early winter evening was closing in, and Harold recollected
that his prompt departure from Dublin had prevented him from
apprising Jack of his movements. Of course there would be no trap
from Lisnahoe to meet this train, but that mattered little. Half
a dozen hack-drivers were already extolling the merits of their
various conveyances, and imploring his patronage.

Selecting the best-looking car, he swung himself into his seat,
while the "jarvey" hoisted his portmanteau on the other side.

"Where to, yer honour?" inquired the latter, climbing to his place.

"To Lisnahoe House," answered Hayes.

"Where?"

This question was asked with a vehemence that startled the young
American.

"Lisnahoe. Don't you know the way?" he replied.

"In troth an' I do. Is it Connolly's?"

"Yes," answered Harold. "Drive on, my good fellow; it's growing
late."

The man's only answer was to spring from his seat and seize Harold's
portmanteau, which he deposited on the road with no gentle hand.

"What do you mean?" cried the young man, indignantly.

"I mane that ye'd betther come down out o' that afore I make ye."

Harold was on the ground in a moment and approached the man with
clinched fists and flashing eyes.

"How dare you, you scoundrel! Will you drive me to Lisnahoe or will
you not?"

"The divil a fut," answered the fellow, sullenly.

Hayes controlled his anger by an effort. There was nothing to be
gained by a row with the man. He turned to another driver.

"Pick up that portmanteau. Drive me out to Mr. Connolly's. I'll
pay double fare."

But they all with one consent, like the guests in the parable,
began to make excuse. One man's horse was lame, another's car was
broken down; the services of a third had been "bespoke." Few were
as frank as the man first engaged, but all were prompt with the
obvious lies, scarcely less aggravating than actual rudeness. The
station-master appeared, and attempted to use his influence in the
traveller's behalf, but he effected nothing.

"You'll have to walk, sir," said the official, civilly. "I'll keep
your portmanteau here till Mr. Connolly sends for it." And he
carried the luggage back into the station.

"How far is it to Mr. Connolly's?" Harold inquired of a ragged
urchin who had strolled up with several companions.

"Fish an' find out," answered the youngster, with a grin.

"We'll tache them to be sendin' Emergency men down here," said
another.

The New-Yorker was fast losing patience.

"This is Irish hospitality and native courtesy," he remarked,
bitterly. "Will any one tell me the road I am to follow?"

"Folly yer nose," a voice shouted; and there was a general laugh,
in the midst of which the station-master reappeared.

He pointed out the way, and Harold trudged off to accomplish,
as best he might, five Irish miles over miry highways and byways
through the darkness of the December evening.

This was the young American's first practical experience of
boycotting.

It was nearly seven o'clock when, tired and mud-bespattered, he
reached Lisnahoe; but the warmth of his reception there went far to
banish all recollection of the discomforts of his solitary tramp.
A hearty hand-clasp from Jack, a frank and smiling greeting from
Polly (she looked handsomer than ever, Harold thought, with her
lustrous black hair and soft, dark-gray eyes), put him at his ease
at once. Then came introductions to the rest of the family. Mr.
Connolly, stout and white-haired, bade him welcome in a voice
which owned more than a touch of Tipperary brogue. Mrs. Connolly,
florid and good-humoured, was very solicitous for his comfort. The
children confused him at first. There were so many of them, of all
sizes, that Hayes abandoned for the present any attempt to distinguish
them by name. There was a tall lad of twenty or thereabouts,--a
faithful copy of his elder brother Jack,--who was addressed as
Dick, and a pretty, fair-haired girl of seventeen, whom, as Polly's
sister, Harold was prepared to like at once. She was Agnes. After
these came a long array,--no less than nine more,--ending with
a sturdy little chap of three, whom Polly presently picked up and
carried off to bed. Mr. Connolly, of Lisnahoe, could boast of a
full quiver.

There was a general chorus of laughter as Harold related his
experience at the railway-station. The Connollys had rested for
several days under the ban of the most rigid boycott, and had become
used to small discomforts. They faced the situation bravely, and
turned all such petty troubles into jest; but the American was
sorely disquieted to learn that there was only one servant in the
house--an old man who for many years had blacked boots and cleaned
knives for the family, and who had refused to crouch to heel under
the lash of the boycott.

Harold stammered an apology for his unseasonable visit, but Jack
cut him short.

"Nonsense, man; the more the merrier. We're glad to have you, and
if you can rough it a bit you won't find it half bad fun."

"Oh, I don't mind, I'm sure," said Harold; "only I'm afraid you'd
rather have your house to yourselves at such a time as this."

"Not we. Why, we expect some Emergency men down here in a few
days. We'll treat you as the advance guard; we'll set you to work
and give you your grub the same as an Emergency man."

"What is an Emergency man?" inquired Harold. "Those Chesterfieldian
drivers at the station seemed to think it was the worst name they
could call me."

A hearty laugh went round the circle.

"If they took ye for an Emergency man, it's small wonder they were
none too swate on ye," observed Mr. Connolly.

"But what does it mean?" asked the New-Yorker.

"Well," began the old gentleman, "there's good and bad in this
world of ours. When tenants kick and labourers clare out, an' a
boycott's put on a man, they'd lave yer cattle to die an' yer crops
to rot for all they care. It's what they want. Well, there happens
to be a few dacent people left in Ireland yet, and they have got up
an organization they call the Emergency men; they go to any part
of the country and help out people that have been boycotted through
no fault of their own--plough their fields or reap their oats or
dig their potatoes, an' generally knock the legs out from under the
boycott. It stands to reason that the blackguards in these parts
hate an Emergency man as the divil hates holy water; but ye may
take it as a compliment that ye were mistook for one, for all that."

Here Dick thrust his head into the door of the large library, in
which the party was assembled.

"Dinner is served, my lords and ladies," he cried; and there was
a general movement toward the dining-room.

"No ceremony here, my boy," laughed Jack, as he led Harold across
the hall. "I'll be your cavalier and show you the way. The girls
are in the kitchen, I suppose."

But Miss Connolly and Agnes were already in the dining-room, and
the party gathered round the well-spread board and proceeded to do
full justice to the good things thereon. The meal was more like
a picnic than a set dinner. Old Peter Dwyer, the last remaining
retainer, had never attended at table, so he confined himself to
kitchen duties, while the young Connollys waited on themselves and
on each other. A certain little maid, whom Harold by this time had
identified as Bella, devoted herself to the stranger, and took
care that neither his glass nor his plate should be empty. A glance
of approval, which he intercepted on its way from Miss Connolly to
her little sister, told Harold that Bella had been given a charge
concerning him, and he appreciated the attention none the less on
that account, while he ate his dinner with the agreeable confidence
that it had been prepared by Miss Polly's own fair hands.

Everything at table was abundant and good of its kind, and conversation
was alert and merry, as it is apt to be in a large family party. So
far, the boycott seemed to have anything but a depressing effect,
though Harold could not help smiling as he realised how it would have
crushed to powder more than one estimable family of his acquaintance.

After dinner Jack rose, saying that he must go round to the stables
and bed down the horses for the night. Harold accompanied him, and
acquitted himself very well with a pitchfork, considering that he
had little experience with such an implement. he had gone with a
couple of the younger boys to chop turnips for certain cattle which
were being fattened for the market.

"How did you come to be boycotted?" inquired Harold, with some
curiosity, as soon as he found himself alone with Jack.

"Oh, it doesn't take much talent to accomplish that nowadays,"
answered the young Irishman, with a laugh. "In the first place, the
governor has a habit of asking for his rent, which is an unpopular
proceeding at the best of times. In the second place, I bought half
a dozen bullocks from a boycotted farmer out Limerick way."

"And is that all?" asked Harold, in astonishment. Notwithstanding
his regard for his friend, he had never doubted that there must have
been some appalling piece of persecution to justify this determined
ostracism.

"All!" echoed Jack, laughing. "You don't know much of Ireland, my
boy, or you wouldn't ask that question. We bought cattle that had
been raised by a farmer on land from which a defaulting tenant had
been evicted. Men have been shot in these parts for less than that."

"Pleasant state of affairs," remarked the New-Yorker.

"I don't much care," Jack went on, lightly. "We're promised a
couple of Emergency men from Ulster in a few days, and that will
take the weight of the work off our hands. It isn't as if it were
a busy time. No crops to be saved in winter, you see, and no farm
work except stall-feeding the cattle. That can't wait."

"But your sisters--all the work of that big house--" began Harold,
who was thinking of Polly.

"We expect two Protestant girls down from Belfast to-morrow. That'll
be all right. We get all our grub from Dublin,--they won't sell us
anything in Ballydoon,--and we mean to keep on doing so, boycott or
no boycott. We have been about the best customers to the shopkeepers
round here, and it'll come near ruining the town--and serve them
right," the young man added, with the first touch of bitterness he
had displayed in speaking of the persecution of his family.

By next day the situation had improved. A couple of servant-girls
arrived from the north. They were expected, and accordingly Dick
was on hand with the jaunting-car to meet them and drive them from
the station. The Emergency men had not yet appeared, so Jack and
such of his brothers as were old enough to be of use were kept
pretty busy round the place. Harold had wished to return to England
and postpone his visit till a more convenient time, but to this no
one would listen. He made no trouble; he was not a bit in the way;
in fact, he was a great help. So said they all, and the young
New-Yorker was quite willing to believe them.

He did occasionally offer assistance in stable or farm-yard, but
he much preferred to spend his time rambling over the old place,
admiring the lawns, the woods, the gardens, all strangely silent
and deserted now. Miss Connolly was often his companion. The
importation from Belfast relieved her of some of the pressure of
household cares, and since her brothers were fully occupied, it
devolved upon her to play host as well as hostess, and point out
to the stranger the various charms of Lisnahoe.

This suited Harold exactly. He usually carried a gun and sometimes
shot a rabbit or a wood-pigeon, but generally he was content to
listen to Polly's lively conversation, and gaze into the depths of
her eyes, wondering why they looked darker and softer here under the
shadow of her native woods than they had ever seemed in the glare
and dazzle of a New York ball-room. Harold Hayes was falling in
love--falling consciously, yet without a struggle. He was beginning
to realise that life could have nothing better in store for him
than this tall, graceful girl, in her becoming sealskin cap and
jacket, whose little feet, so stoutly and serviceably shod, kept
pace with his own over so many miles of pleasant rambles.

One day--it was the last of the old year--Miss Connolly and Harold
were strolling along a path on which the wintry sunshine was tracing
fantastic patterns as it streamed through the naked branches of
the giant beech-trees. The young man had a gun on his shoulder,
but he was paying little attention to the nimble rabbits that now
and then frisked across the road. He was thinking, and thinking
deeply.

He could not hope for many more such quiet walks with his fair
companion. She would soon have more efficient chaperons than the
children, who often made a pretence of accompanying them, but invariably
dashed off, disdainful of the sober pace of their elders. Before
long--next day probably--he would be handed over to the tender
mercies of Jack, who had constantly lamented the occupations that
prevented his paying proper attention to his guest. The heir of
Lisnahoe had promised to show the young stranger some "real good
sport" as soon as other duties would permit. That time was close
at hand now. The Emergency men had been at work for several days;
they were thoroughly at home in their duties; besides, the fat
cattle would be finished very shortly and sent off to be sold in
Dublin. Jack had announced his intention of stealing a holiday on
the morrow, and taking Hayes to a certain famous "snipe bottom,"
when the game was, to use Dick's expression, "as thick as plums in
one of Polly's puddings."

It was hard to guess then they might have such another rumble, and
Harold had much to say to the girl at his side; and yet, for the
life of him, he could not utter the words that were trembling on
his lips.

"I don't believe you care much for shooting, Mr. Hayes."

A rabbit loped slowly across die road not twenty yards from the
gun, but Harold had not noticed it. He roused himself with a start,
however, at the sound of his companion's voice.

"Oh yes, I do, sometimes," he answered, glancing alertly to both
sides of the road; but no game was in sight for the moment.

"If this frost should break up, you may have some hunting," pursued
Miss Connolly. "I'm afraid you're having an awfully stupid time."

Harold interposed an eager denial.

"Oh yes, you must be," insisted the young lady; "but Jack will find
more time now, and if we have a thaw you will have a day with the
hounds. Are you fond of hunting?"

"I am very fond of riding, but I have never hunted," answered the
New-Yorker.

"Just like me. I am never so happy as when I am on horseback, but
mamma won't let me ride to hounds. She says she does not approve
of ladies on the field. It is traditional, I suppose, that every
mistress of Lisnahoe should oppose hunting."

"Indeed, why so?" inquired Harold.

"Why, don't you know?" asked the girl. "Has nobody told you our
family ghost-story?"

"No one as yet," answered Hayes.

"Then mine be the pleasing task; and there is a peculiar fitness
in your hearing it just now, for to-morrow will be New-Year's Day."

Harold failed to see the applicability of the date, but he made no
observation, and Miss Connolly went on.

"Ever so many years ago this place belonged to an ancestor of mine
who was devoted to field-sports of all kinds. He lived for nothing
else, people thought, but suddenly he surprised all the world by
getting married."

Harold thought that if her remote grandmother had chanced to
resemble the fair young girl at his side, there was a good excuse
for the sportsman; but he held his tongue.

"The bride was exacting--or perhaps she was only timid. At any
rate, she used her influence to wean her husband from his outdoor
pursuits--especially hunting. He must have been very much in love
with her, for she succeeded, and he promised to give it all up--after
one day more. It seems that he could not get out of this last run.
The meet was on the lawn; the hunt breakfast was to be at Lisnahoe
House. In short, it was an affair that could neither be altered
nor postponed.

"This meet," continued Polly, "was on New-Year's Day. There was
a great gathering, and after breakfast the gentlemen came out and
mounted at the door; the hounds were grouped on the lawn; it must
have been a beautiful sight."

"It must, indeed," assented Harold.

"Well, this old Mr. Connolly--but you must understand that he was
not old at all, only all this happened so long ago--he mounted his
horse, and his wife came out on the step to bid him good-bye, and
to remind him of his promise that this should be his last hunt.
And so it was, poor fellow; for while she was standing talking
to him, a gust of wind came and blew part of her dress right into
the horse's face. Mr. Connolly was riding a very spirited animal.
It reared up and fell back on him, killing him on the spot."

"How horrible!" exclaimed Harold.

"Wait! The shock to the young wife was so great that she died the
next day."

"The poor girl!"

"Don't waste your sympathy. It was all very long ago, and perhaps
it never happened at all. However, the curious part of the story
is to come. Every one that had been present at that meet--men,
dogs, horses--everything died within the year."

"To the ruin of the local insurance companies?" remarked Harold,
with a smile.

"You needn't laugh. They did. And next New-Year's night, between
twelve and one o'clock, the whole hunt passed through the place,
and they have kept on doing it every New-Year's night since."

"A most interesting and elaborate ghost-story," said Harold. "Pray,
Miss Connolly, may I ask if you yourself have seen the phantom
hunt?"

"No one has ever done that," replied Polly, "but when there is
moonlight they say the shadows can be seen passing over the grass,
and any New-Year's night you may hear the huntsman's horn."

"I should like amazingly to hear it," replied the young man. "Have
you ever heard this horn?"

"I have heard A horn," the girl answered, with some reluctance.

"On New-Year's night between twelve and one?" he pursued.

"Of course--but I can't swear it was blown by a ghost. My brothers
or some one may have been playing tricks. You can sit up to-night
and listen for yourself if you want."

"Nothing I should like better," exclaimed Harold. "Will you sit up
too?"

"Oh yes. We always wait to see the Old Year out and the New Year
in. Come, Mr. Hayes, it's almost luncheon-time," she added, glancing
at her watch; and they turned back toward the house, which was just
visible through the leafless trees.

Harold walked at her side in silence. He had heard a ghost-story,
but the words he had hoped to speak that day were still unuttered.

Loud were the pleadings, when the little ones' bedtime came, that
they might be allowed to sit up to see the Old Year die; but Mrs.
Connolly was inexorable. The very young ones were sent off to bed
at their usual hour.

Cards and music passed the time pleasantly till the clock was almost
on the stroke of twelve. Then wine was brought in, and healths
were drunk, and warm, cheerful wishes were uttered, invoking all
the blessings that the New Year might have in store. Hands were
clasped and kisses were exchanged. Harold would willingly have been
included in this last ceremony, but that might not be. However, he
could and did press Polly's hand very warmly, and the earnestness
of the wishes he breathed in her ear called a bright colour to her
cheek. Then came good-night, and the young American's heart grew
strangely soft when he found himself included in Mrs. Connolly's
motherly blessing. He thought he had never seen a happier, a more
united family.

The party was breaking up; some had retired; others were standing,
bedroom candlesticks in their hands, exchanging a last word, when
suddenly, out of the silence of the night, the melodious notes
of a huntsman's horn echoed through the room. Harold recalled the
legend, and paused at the door, mute and wondering.

Jack and his father exchanged glances.

"Now which of you's tryin' to humbug us this year?" asked the old
man, laughing, while Jack looked round and proceeded, as he said,
to "count noses."

This was a useless attempt, for half the party that had sat up to
wait for the New Year had already disappeared.

Dick sprang to the window and threw it open, but the night was
cloudy and dark.

Again came the notes of the horn, floating in through the open
window, and almost at the same moment there was a sound of hoofs
crunching the gravel of the drive as a dozen or more animals swept
past at wild gallop.

"This is past a joke," cried Jack.



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Library mainpage -> Banim, John -> Stories by English Authors: Ireland