Page images

quite to decay. The only beings connected with the existence of the place (and that in the very last stage of its occupation) whom I would attempt to commemorate, were Lanty the whipper-in, and Biddy Keenahan the dairy-maid. Lanty was a kind, frank, honest-hearted lad as ever lived. He was a great favourite with the family and the servants, particularly the females. The whole pack of hounds loved him; and a cheering word from his voice could keep them together in the thickest cover, even if there were half-a-dozen hares a-foot; when Brian Oge, the veteran huntsman, might tantivy himself hoarse, and only frighten the whelps and vex the old dogs for his pains. Lanty was, indeed, in the words of the ballad,

Beloved much by man and baste. But if he was welcome in the kitchen and the kennel, as surely he was, how many a thousand times more welcome was he, when he came home from the chase, cheering the tired harriers along, and stopping to say, “How is it wid you, Biddy?” or, “ What a fine night it is, Biddy!” or some such passing phrase, at the dairy door; where Biddy was sure to be waiting, with a ready answer and a kind look. Ay, welcome indeed was the commonest word which came from Lanty's lips; and the more so, as not a syllable of a more direct tendency had he ever uttered; although it was plain to every one in the world, that he had been in love with Biddy for full a year and a half.

“ Ah, Brine!” said he to the old huntsman, one day when they were returning home after a couple of hard runs, followed by the limping pack, “Ah, Brine! it's no use talking! It's no use, you see; for I niver can bring myself to say the words to her, out and out. I love her little finger betther nor the whole 'varsal world : but, by this Cross-Pathrick!” (and he put his finger on his whip handle, making a very positive cross) “it's unpossible for me to tell her so.”

Brian Oge, who was a regular male match-maker, and who thought that “the b’ys and girls ought to hunt in couples, any how," was resolved that it should not be his fault if Biddy Keenahan did not know the true state of the case; or if she did not take proper measures to bring matters to a speedy issue between herself and Lanty. He, therefore (as he himself expressed it), “up an' tould her what Lanty had said; an' advised her, as the only way of bringin' him to rason, to go straight to Peg Morrin the fortin-teller, at the fut of Magany Bridge, who'd soon give her a charm that'd make Lanty folly her an’ spake to the point, as sartin as the rots (rats) folly'd Terry the rot-catcher; an' sure enough he could make thim spake too, if he thought it worth his while!”

This counsel was too palatable to be rejected by poor Biddy. Her spotted cotton handkerchief futtered over her bosom while Brian Oge was giving his advice; and had it been of muslin, the deep glow of delight might

have been seen through it. Her face had no covering to conceal its blushes; and her eyes swam in tears.

“Och, then, musha, Brine Oge!” said she, “it's myself that's behoulden to you for your good nath'r. Why, then, can it be true what you tell me? Little I thought than Lanty cared a thraneen for me, though, in troth, it's myself that loves the ground he walks on. Why, then, why wouldn't he tell me so at oncet? If it wasn't that it wouldn't be becomin' in a young girl to spake first, I'd soon tell him what's neither a shame nor a sin, any how. But I'll folly your word, Brine Oge; for you're an ould man, an'a kind one, an' one that knows what's fit for the b’ys an' the girls, an' that niver stands between thim but to bring thim closer to one another; an' here's a noggin of rale crame for you, Brine, jew'l, for it's tired you must be, afther the hunt."

While Brian drank off the cream, to which he had added something from a leather-covered bottle that he had a habit of carrying in his side-pocket, Biddy went on to tell him that she would not lose any time, but would step down that very night as far as Maganyford, and cross over in Tom Fagan the miller's cot, which would land her at the very field in which Peg Morrin's cabin stood. Brian, after wiping his lips with the cuff of his faded green hunting frock, gave Biddy a very fatherly kiss; and, wishing that a blessing might be on her path, he left her to make her preparations.

When night had fairly set in, so that there was little danger of her course being observed, Biddy, having arranged all the affairs of the dairy, put her grey cloak on her shoulders, and drew the hood well over her head. She tied her shoes fast on, as she had a rough path to follow for a couple of miles by the river's bank, and pulling her woollen mittens on her hands and arms, she finally slipped out of the back window, made the sign of the cross on her breast, and with a short prayer fervently put up, started on her expedition. She knew her way very well, even had it been pitch dark; but as there was moonlight, and as she stepped buoyantly forward, she reached Tom Fagan's cabin by the river side, without once stumbling or tripping over stone or bramble.

“God save all here!” said Biddy, as she raised the latch and entered the cabin, where the miller and his wife were eating their supper by the fire.

“God save you, kindly!” replied they; and the next words in both their mouths were expressions of surprise at this late visit from little Biddy.

“Why, thin, what's comed over you, Biddy, avic?said Molly Fagan. “Sure, thin, some misfortin it is that brings you to our cabin this time o' night. But it's welcome you are, alanna, any how; an' the greather your throuble the gladder we are to see you."

“ Thank you, kindly, Molly, asthore; but it's no throuble at all; only I 'd be after throublin' Tom jist to ferry me across the river in the cot, that 's all.”'

“Wid all the pleasure in life, and heartily welcome, Biddy, my darling,” said Tom Fagan, a friendly young fellow, who was always ready to do a kind turn, particularly to a pretty girl. But his wife's curiosity was not so easily satisfied.

“Why, thin, the Lord save us, Biddy!” said she, “ where is it you'd be goin' across the river, into the Queen’s County, in the dark night. There 's niver a wake nor a weddin' goin' on, nor a dance even, in the three parishes. Where in the world are you goin', Biddy?”.

“In troth, it's only jist to see a friend, Molly; and Tom 'll tell you who when he comes back.”

“Och! is that the way wid you, Biddy? I see how it is. It's ould Peg you ’re agoin' to; an' all along of Lanty. There's no use in denyin' it-an' more's the pity, Biddy, agra! It's twice you ought to think of what you ’re about to do; that's not oncet before an' oncet afther, - but two times both together, Biddy; for it's a foolish thing, an' one you 'll be sorry for, may be. Take my advice, an' have nawthin' to do with ould Peg and her grasy pack o'cards. It's bad fortin they'll bring you, Biddy, dear, when she's afther tellin' you all that's good. For your own sake an' poor Lanty's, keep away from her; an' let thrue love take its coorse!”

This sensible warning had little effect on Biddy Keenahan. Youth and love were bad subjects to reason with. Backed by Brian Oge's advice, Biddy was resolved to pursue her adventure. She thought, that if

« PreviousContinue »