The Kellys and the O'Kellys, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XVII

Martin Kelly’s Courtship

It will be remembered that the Tuam attorney, Daly, dined with Barry Lynch, at Dunmore House, on the same evening that Martin Kelly reached home after his Dublin excursion; and that, on that occasion, a good deal of interesting conversation took place after dinner. Barry, however, was hardly amenable to reason at that social hour, and it was not till the following morning that he became thoroughly convinced that it would be perfectly impossible for him to make his sister out a lunatic to the satisfaction of the Chancellor.

He then agreed to abandon the idea, and, in lieu of it, to indict, or at any rate to threaten to indict, the widow Kelly and her son for a conspiracy, and an attempt to inveigle his sister Anty into a disgraceful marriage, with the object of swindling her out of her property.

‘I’ll see Moylan, Mr Lynch,’ said Daly; ‘and if I can talk him over, I think we might succeed in frightening the whole set of them, so far as to prevent the marriage. Moylan must know that if your sister was to marry young Kelly, there’d be an end to his agency; but we must promise him something, Mr Lynch.’

‘Yes; I suppose we must pay him, before we get anything out of him.’

‘No, not before but he must understand that he will get something, if he makes himself useful. You must let me explain to him that if the marriage is prevented, you will make no objection to his continuing to act as Miss Lynch’s agent; and I might hint the possibility of his receiving the rents on the whole property.’

‘Hint what you like, Daly, but don’t tie me down to the infernal ruffian. I suppose we can throw him overboard afterwards, can’t we?’

‘Why, not altogether, Mr Lynch. If I make him a definite promise, I shall expect you to keep to it.’

‘Confound him! but tell me, Daly; what is it he’s to do? and what is it we’re to do?’

‘Why, Mr Lynch, it’s more than probable, I think, that this plan of Martin Kelly’s marrying your sisther may have been talked over between the ould woman, Moylan, and the young man; and if so, that’s something like a conspiracy. If I could worm that out of him, I think I’d manage to frighten them.’

‘And what the deuce had I better do? You see, there was a bit of a row between us. That is, Anty got frightened when I spoke to her of this rascal, and then she left the house. Couldn’t you make her understand that she’d be all right if she’d come to the house again?’

While Barry Lynch had been sleeping off the effects of the punch, Daly had been inquiring into the circumstances under which Anty had left the house, and he had pretty nearly learned the truth; he knew, therefore, how much belief to give to his client’s representation.

‘I don’t think,’ said he, ‘that your sister will be likely to come back at present; she will probably find herself quieter and easier at the inn. You see, she has been used to a quiet life.’

‘But, if she remains there, she can marry that young ruffian any moment she takes it into her head to do so. There’s always some rogue of a priest ready to do a job of that sort.’

‘Exactly so, Mr Lynch. Of course your sister can marry whom she pleases, and when she pleases, and neither you nor any one else can prevent her; but still ’

‘Then what the devil’s the use of my paying you to come here and tell me that?’

‘That’s your affair: I didn’t come without being sent for. But I was going to tell you that, though we can’t prevent her from marrying if she pleases, we may make her afraid to do so. You had better write her a kind, affectionate note, regretting what has taken place between you, and promising to give her no molestation of any kind, if she will return to her own house and keep a copy of this letter. Then I will see Moylan; and, if I can do anything with him, it will be necessary that you should also see him. You could come over to Tuam, and meet him in my office; and then I will try and force an entrance into the widow’s castle, and, if possible, see your sister, and humbug the ould woman into a belief that she has laid herself open to criminal indictment.. We might even go so far as to have notices served on them; but, if they snap their fingers at us, we can do nothing further. My advice in that case would be, that you should make the best terms in your power with Martin Kelly.’

‘And let the whole thing go! I’d sooner Why, Daly, I believe you’re as bad as Blake! You’re afraid of these huxtering thieves!’

‘If you go on in that way, Mr Lynch, you’ll get no professional gentleman to act with you. I give you my best advice; it you don’t like it, you needn’t follow it; but you won’t get a solicitor in Connaught to do better for you than what I’m proposing.’

‘Confusion!’ muttered Barry, and he struck the hot turf in the grate a desperate blow with the tongs which he had in his hands, and sent the sparks and bits of fire flying about the hearth.

‘The truth is, you see, your sister’s in her full senses; there’s the divil a doubt of that; the money’s her own, and she can marry whom she pleases. All that we can do is to try and make the Kellys think they have got into a scrape.’

‘But this letter What on earth am I to say to her?’

‘I’ll just put down what I would say, were I you; and if you like you can copy it.’ Daly then wrote the following letter

‘My Dear Anty,

Before taking other steps, which could not fail of being very disagreeable to you and to others, I wish to point out to you how injudiciously you are acting in leaving your own house; and to try to induce you to do that which will be most beneficial to yourself, and most conducive to your happiness and respectability. If you will return to Dunmore House, I most solemnly promise to leave you unmolested. I much regret that my violence on Thursday should have annoyed you, but I can assure you it was attributable merely to my anxiety on your account. Nothing, however, shall induce me to repeat it. But you must be aware that a little inn is not a fit place for you to be stopping at; and I am obliged to tell you that I have conclusive evidence of a conspiracy having been formed, by the family with whom you are staying, to get possession of your money; and that this conspiracy was entered into very shortly after the contents of my father’s will had been made public. I must have this fact proved at the Assizes, and the disreputable parties to it punished, unless you will consent, at any rate for a time, to put yourself under the protection of your brother.

‘In the meantime pray believe me, dear Anty, in spite of appearances,

‘Your affectionate brother,

‘BARRY LYNCH.’

It was then agreed that this letter should be copied and signed by Barry, and delivered by Terry on the following morning, which was Sunday. Daly then returned to Tuam, with no warm admiration for his client.

In the meantime the excitement at the inn, arising from Anty’s arrival and Martin’s return, was gradually subsiding. These two important events, both happening on the same day, sadly upset the domestic economy of Mrs Kelly’s establishment. Sally had indulged in tea almost to stupefaction, and Kattie’s elfin locks became more than ordinarily disordered. On the following morning, however, things seemed to fall, a little more into their places: the widow was, as usual, behind her counter; and if her girls did not give her as much assistance as she desired of them, and as much as was usual with them, they were perhaps excusable, for they could not well leave their new guest alone on the day after her coming to them.

Martin went out early to Toneroe; doubtless the necessary labours of the incipient spring required him at the farm but I believe that if his motives were analysed, he hardly felt himself up to a tˆte-…-tˆte with his mistress, before he had enjoyed a cool day’s consideration of the extraordinary circumstances which had brought her into the inn as his mother’s guest. He, moreover, wished to have a little undisturbed conversation with Meg, and to learn from her how Anty might be inclined towards him just at present. So Martin spent his morning among his lambs and his ploughs; and was walking home, towards dusk, tired enough, when he met Barry Lynch, on horseback, that hero having come out, as usual, for his solitary ride, to indulge in useless dreams of the happy times he w0uld have, were his sister only removed from her tribulations in this world. Though Martin had never been on friendly terms with his more ambitious neighbour, there had never, up to this time, been any quarrel between them, and he therefore just muttered ‘Good morning, Mr Lynch,’ as he passed him on the road.

Barry said nothing, and did not appear to see him as he passed; but. some idea struck him as soon as he had passed, and he pulled in his horse and hallooed out ‘Kelly!’ and, as Martin stopped, he added, ‘Come here a moment I want to speak to you.’

‘Well, Mr Barry, what is it?’ said the other, returning. Lynch paused, and evidently did not know whether to speak or let it alone. At last he said, ‘Never mind I’ll get somebody else to say what I was going to say. But you’d better look sharp what you’re about, my lad, or you’ll find yourself in a scrape that you don’t dream of.’

‘And is that all you called me back for?’ said Martin.

‘That’s all I mean to say to you at present.’

‘Well then, Mr Lynch, I must say you’re very good, and I’m shure I will look sharp enough. But, to my thinking, d’you know, you want looking afther yourself a precious dale more than I do,’ and then he turned to proceed homewards, but said, as he was going ‘Have you any message for your sisther, Mr Lynch?’

‘By —! my young man, I’ll make you pay for what you’re doing,’ answered Barry.

‘I know you’ll be glad to hear she’s pretty well: she’s coming round from the thratement she got the other night; though, by all accounts, it’s a wondher she’s alive this moment to tell of it.’

Barry did not attempt any further reply, but rode on, sorry enough that he had commenced the conversation. Martin got home in time for a snug tea with Anty and his sisters, and succeeded in prevailing on the three to take each. a glass of punch; and, before Anty went to bed he began to find himself more at his ease with her, and able to call her by her Christian name without any disagreeable emotion. He certainly had a most able coadjutor in Meg. She made room on the sofa for him between herself and his mistress, and then contrived that the room should be barely sufficient, so that Anty was rather closely hemmed up in one corner: moreover, she made Anty give her opinion as to Martin’s looks after his metropolitan excursion, and tried hard to make Martin pay some compliments to Anty’s appearance. But in this she failed, although she gave him numerous opportunities.

However, they passed. the evening very comfortably quite sufficiently so to make Anty feel that the kindly, humble friendship of the inn was infinitely preferable to the. miserable grandeur of Dunmore House; and it is probable that all the lovemaking in the world would not have operated so strongly in Martin’s favour as this feeling. Meg, however, was not satisfied, for as soon as she had seen Jane and Anty into the bedroom she returned to her brother, and lectured him as to his lukewarm manifestations of affection.

‘Martin,’ said she, returning into the little sitting-room, and carefully shutting the door after her, ‘you’re the biggest bosthoon of a gandher I ever see, to be losing your opportunities with Anty this way! I b’lieve it’s waiting you are for herself to come forward to you. Do you think a young woman don’t expect something more from a lover than jist for you to sit by her, and go on all as one as though she was one of your own sisthers? Av’ once she gets out of this before the priest has made one of the two of you, mind, I tell you, it’ll be all up with you. I wondher, Martin, you haven’t got more pluck in you!’

‘Oh! bother, Meg. You’re thinking of nothing but kissing and slobbhering. Anty’s not the same as you and Jane, and doesn’t be all agog for such nonsense!’

‘I tell you, Martin, Anty’s a woman; and, take my word for it, what another girl likes won’t come amiss to her. Besides, why don’t you spake to her?’

‘Spake? why, what would you have me spake?’

‘Well, Martin, you’re a fool. Have you, or have you not, made up your mind to marry Anty?’

‘To be shure I will, av’ she’ll have me.’

‘And do you expect her to have you without asking?’

‘Shure, you know, didn’t I ask her often enough?’

‘Ah, but you must do more than jist ask her that way. She’ll never make up her mind to go before the priest, unless you say something sthronger to her. Jist tell her, plump out, you’re ready and willing, and get the thing done before Lent. What’s to hindher you? shure, you know,’ she added, in a whisper, ‘you’ll not get sich a fortune as Anty’s in your way every day. Spake out, man, and don’t be afraid of her: take my word she won’t like you a bit the worse for a few kisses.’

Martin promised to comply with his sister’s advice, and to sound Anty touching their marriage on the following morning after mass.

On the Sunday morning, at breakfast, the widow proposed to Anty that she should go to mass with herself and her daughters; but Anty trembled so violently at the idea of showing herself in public, after her escape from Dunmore House, that the widow did not press her to do so, although afterwards she expressed her disapprobation of Anty’s conduct to her own girls.

‘I don’t see what she has to be afeard of,’ said she, ‘in going to get mass from her own clergyman in her own chapel. She don’t think, I suppose, that Barry Lynch’d dare come in there to pull her out; before the blessed altar, glory be to God.’

‘Ah but, mother, you know, she has been so frighted.’

‘Frighted, indeed! She’ll get over these tantrums, I hope, before Sunday next, or I know where I’ll wish her again.’

So Anty was left at home, and the rest of the family went to mass. When the women returned, Meg manoeuvred greatly, and, in fine, successfully, that no one should enter the little parlour to interrupt the wooing she intended should take place there. She had no difficulty with Jane, for she told her what her plans were; and though her less energetic sister did not quite agree in the wisdom of her designs, and pronounced an opinion that it would be ‘better to let things settle down a bit,’ still she did not presume to run counter to Meg’s views; but Meg had some work to dispose of her mother. It would not have answered at all, as Meg had very well learned herself, to caution her mother not to interrupt Martin in his love-making, for the widow had no charity for such follies. She certainly expected her daughters to get married, and wished them to be well and speedily settled; but she watched anything like a flirtation on their part as closely as a cat does a mouse. If any young man ere in the house, she’d listen to the fall of his footsteps with the utmost care; and when she had reason to fear that there was anything like a lengthened tˆte-…-tˆte upstairs, she would steal on the pair, if possible, unawares, and interrupt, without the least reserve, any billing and cooing which might be going on, sending the delinquent daughter to her work, and giving a glower at the swain, which she expected might be sufficient to deter him from similar offences for some little time.

The girls, consequently, were taught to be on the alert to steal about on tiptoe, to elude their mother’s watchful ear, to have recourse to a thousand little methods of deceiving her, and to baffle her with her own weapons. The mother, if she suspected that any prohibited frolic was likely to be carried on, at a late hour, would tell her daughters that she was going to bed, and would shut herself up for a couple of hours in her bedroom, and then steal out eavesdropping, peeping through key-holes and listening at door-handles; and the daughters, knowing their mother’s practice, would not come forth till the listening and peeping had been completed, and till they had ascertained, by some infallible means, that the old woman was between the sheets.

Each party knew the tricks of the other; and yet, taking it all in all, the widow got on very well with her children, and everybody said what a good mother she had been: she was accustomed to use deceit, and was therefore not disgusted by it in others. Whether the system of domestic manners which I have described is one likely to induce to sound restraint and good morals is a question which I will leave to be discussed by writers on educational points.

However Meg managed it, she did contrive that her mother should not go near the little parlour this Sunday morning, and Anty was left alone, to receive her. lover’s visit. I regret to say that he was long in paying it. He loitered about the chapel gates before he came home; and seemed more than usually willing to talk to anyone about anything. At last, however, just as Meg was getting furious, he entered the inn.

‘Why, Martin, you born ideot av’ she ain’t waiting for you this hour and more!’

‘Thim that’s long waited for is always welcome when they do come,’ replied Martin.

‘Well afther all I’ve done for you! Are you going in now? cause, av’ you don’t, I’ll go and tell her not to be tasing herself about you. I’ll neither be art or part in any such schaming.’

‘Schaming, is it, Meg? Faith, it’d be a clever fellow’d beat you at that,’ and, without waiting for his sister’s sharp reply, he walked into the little room where Anty was sitting.

‘So, Anty, you wouldn’t come to mass?’ he began.

‘Maybe I’ll go next Sunday,’ said she.

‘It’s a long time since you missed mass before, I’m thinking.’

‘Not since the Sunday afther father’s death.’

‘It’s little you were thinking then how soon you’d be stopping down here with us at the inn.’

‘That’s thrue for you, Martin, God knows.’ At this point of the conversation Martin stuck fast: he did not know Rosalind’s recipe for the difficulty a man feels, when lie finds himself gravelled for conversation with his mistress; so he merely scratched his head, and thought hard to find what he’d say next. I doubt whether the conviction, which was then strong on his mind, that Meg was listening at the keyhole to every word that passed, at all assisted him in the operation. At last, some Muse came to his aid, and he made out another sentence.

‘It was very odd my finding you down here, all ready before me, wasn’t it?’

‘ ‘Deed it was: your mother was a very good woman to me that morning, anyhow.’

‘And tell me now, Anty, do you like the inn?’

‘ ‘Deed I do but it’s quare, like.’

‘How quare?’

‘Why, having Meg and Jane here: I wasn’t ever used to anyone to talk to, only just the servants.’

‘You’ll have plenty always to talk to now eh, Anty?’ and Martin tried a sweet look at his lady love.

‘I’m shure I don’t know. Av’ I’m only left quiet, that’s what I most care about.’

‘But, Anty, tell me you don’t want always to be what you call quiet?’

‘Oh! but I do why not?’

‘But you don’t mane, Anty, that you wouldn’t like to have some kind of work to do some occupation, like?’

‘Why, I wouldn’t like to be idle; but a person needn’t be idle because they’re quiet.’

‘And that’s thrue, Anty.’ And Martin broke down again.

‘There’d be a great crowd in chapel, I suppose?’ said Anty.

‘There was a great crowd.’

‘And what was father Geoghegan preaching about?’

‘Well, then, I didn’t mind. To tell the truth, Anty, I came out most as soon as the preaching began; only I know he told the boys to pray that the liberathor might be got out of his throubles; and so they should not that there’s much to throuble him, as far as the verdict’s concerned.’

‘Isn’t there then? I thought they made him out guilty?’

‘So they did, the false ruffians: but what harum’ll that do? they daren’t touch a hair of his head!’

Politics, however, are riot a favourable introduction to love-making: so Martin felt, and again gave up the subject, in the hopes that he might find something better. ‘What a fool the man is!’ thought Meg to herself, at the door ‘if I had a lover went on like that, wouldn’t I pull his ears!’

Martin got up walked across the room looked out of the little window felt very much ashamed of himself, and, returning, sat himself down on the sofa.

‘Anty,’ he said, at last, blushing nearly brown as he spoke; ‘Were you thinking of what I was spaking to you about before I went to Dublin?’

Anty blushed also, now. ‘About what?’ she said.

‘Why, just about you and me making a match of it. Come, Anty, dear, what’s the good of losing time? I’ve been thinking of little else; and, after what’s been between us, you must have thought the matther over too, though you do let on to be so innocent. Come, Anty, now that you and mother’s so thick, there can be nothing against it.’

‘But indeed there is, Martin, a great dale against it though I’m sure it’s good of you to be thinking of me. There’s so much against it, I think we had betther be of one mind, and give it over at once.’

‘And what’s to hinder us marrying, Anty, av’ yourself is plazed? Av’ you and I, and mother are plazed, sorrow a one that I know of has a word to say in the matther.’

‘But Barry don’t like it!’

‘And, afther all, are you going to wait for what Barry likes? You didn’t wait for what was plazing to Barry Lynch when you came down here; nor I yet did mother when she went up and fetched you down at five in the morning, dreading he’d murdher you outright. And it was thrue for her, for he would, av’ he was let, the brute. And are you going to wait for what he likes?’

‘Whatever he’s done, he’s my brother; and there’s only the two of us.’

‘But it’s not that, Anty don’t you know it’s not that? Isn’t it because you’re afraid of him? because he threatened and frightened you? And what on ‘arth could he do to harum you av’ you was the wife of of a man who’d, anyway, not let Barry Lynch, or anyone else, come between you and your comfort and aise?’

‘But you don’t know how wretched I’ve been since he spoke to me about about getting myself married: you don’t know what I’ve suffered; and I’ve a feeling that good would never come of it.’

‘And, afther all, are you going to tell me now, that I may jist go my own way? Is that to be your answer, and all I’m to get from you?’

‘Don’t be angry with me, Martin. I’m maning to do everything for the best.’

‘Maning? what’s the good of maning? Anyways, Anty, let me have an answer, for I’ll not be making a fool of myself any longer. Somehow, all the boys here, every sowl in Dunmore, has it that you and I is to be married and now, afther promising me as you did ’

‘Oh, I never promised, Martin.’

‘It was all one as a promise and now I’m to be thrown overboard. And why? because Barry Lynch got dhrunk, and frightened you. Av’ I’d seen the ruffian striking you, I think I’d ‘ve been near putting it beyond him to strike another woman iver again.’

‘Glory be to God that you wasn’t near him that night,’ said Anty, crossing herself. ‘It was bad enough, but av’ the two of you should ever be set fighting along of me, it would kill me outright.’

‘But who’s talking of fighting, Anty, dear?’ and Martin drew a little nearer to her ‘— who’s talking of fighting? I never wish to spake another word to Barry the longest day that ever comes. Av’ he’ll get out of my way, I’ll go bail he’ll not find me in his.’

‘But he wouldn’t get out of your way, nor get out of mine, av’ you and I got married: he’d be in our way, and we’d be in his, and nothing could iver come of it but sorrow and misery, and maybe bloodshed.’

‘Them’s all a woman’s fears. Av’ you an I were once spliced by the priest, God bless him, Barry wouldn’t trouble Dunmore long afther.’

‘That’s another rason, too. Why should I be dhriving him out of his own house? you know he’s a right to the house, as well as I.’

‘Who’s talking of dhriving him out? Faith, he’d be welcome to stay there long enough for me! He’d go, fast enough, without dhriving, though; you can’t say the counthry wouldn’t have a good riddhance of him. But never mind that, Anty: it wasn’t about Barry, one way or the other, I was thinking, when I first asked you to have me; nor it wasn’t about myself altogether, as I could let you know; though, in course, I’m not saying but that myself’s as dear to myself as another, an’ why not? But to tell the blessed truth, I was thinking av’ you too; and that you’d be happier and asier, let alone betther an’ more respecthable, as an honest man’s wife, as I’d make you, than being mewed up there in dread of your life, never daring to open your mouth to a Christian, for fear of your own brother, who niver did, nor niver will lift a hand to sarve you, though he wasn’t backward to lift it to sthrike you, woman and sisther though you were. Come, Anty, darlin,’ he added, after a pause, during which he managed to get his arm behind her back, though he couldn’t be said to have it fairly round her waist ‘Get quit of all these quandaries, and say at once, like an honest girl, you’ll do what I’m asking and what no living man can hindher you from or say against it. Or else jist fairly say you won’t, and I’ll have done with it.’

Anty sat silent, for she didn’t like to say she wouldn’t; and she thought of her brother’s threats, and was afraid to say she would. Martin advanced a little in his proceedings, however, and now succeeded in getting his arm round her waist and, having done so, he wasn’t slow in letting her feel its pressure. She made an attempt, with her hand, to disengage herself certainly not a successful, and, probably, not a very energetic attempt, when the widow’s step was heard on the stairs. Martin retreated from his position on the sofa, and Meg from hers outside the door, and Mrs Kelly entered the room, with Barry’s letter in her hand, Meg following, to ascertain the cause of the unfortunate interruption.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43