The Kellys and the O'Kellys, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XXI

Lord Ballindine at Home

Two days after the last recorded interview between Lord Ballindine and his friend, Dot Blake, the former found himself once more sitting down to dinner with his mother and sisters, the Honourable Mrs O’Kelly and the Honourable Misses O’Kelly; at least such were the titular dignities conferred on them in County Mayo, though I believe, strictly speaking, the young ladies had no claim to the appellation.

Mrs O’Kelly was a very small woman, with no particularly developed character, and perhaps of no very general utility. She was fond of her daughters, and more than fond of her son, partly because he was so tall and so handsome, and partly because he was the lord, the head of the family, and the owner of the house. She was, on the whole, a good-natured person, though perhaps her temper was a little soured by her husband having, very unfairly, died before he had given her a right to call herself Lady Ballindine. She was naturally shy and reserved, and the seclusion of O’Kelly’s Court did not tend to make her less so; but she felt that the position and rank of her son required her to be dignified; and consequently, when in society, she somewhat ridiculously aggravated her natural timidity with an assumed rigidity of demeanour. She was, however, a good woman, striving, with small means, to do the best for her family; prudent and self-denying, and very diligent in looking after the house servants.

Her two daughters had been, at the instance of their grandfather, the courtier, christened Augusta and Sophia, after the two Princesses of that name, and were now called Guss and Sophy: they were both pretty, good-natured girls one with dark brown and the other light brown hair: they both played the harp badly, sung tolerably, danced well, and were very fond of nice young men. They both thought Kelly’s Court rather dull; but then they had known nothing better since they had grown up, and there were some tolerably nice people not very far off, whom they occasionally saw: there were the Dillons, of Ballyhaunis, who had three thousand a-year, and spent six; they were really a delightful family three daughters and four sons, all unmarried, and up to anything: the sons all hunted, shot, danced, and did everything that they ought to do at least in the eyes of young ladies; though some of their more coldly prudent acquaintances expressed an opinion that it would be as well if the three younger would think of doing something for themselves; but they looked so manly and handsome when they breakfasted at Kelly’s Court on a hunt morning, with their bright tops, red coats, and hunting-caps, that Guss and Sophy, and a great many others, thought it would be a shame to interrupt them in their career. And then, Ballyhaunis was only eight miles from Kelly’s Court; though they were Irish miles, it is true, and the road was not patronised by the Grand Jury; but the distance was only eight miles, and there were always beds for them when they went to dinner at Peter Dillon’s. Then there were the Blakes of Castletown. To be sure they could give no parties, for they were both unmarried; but they were none the worse for that, and they had plenty of horses, and went out everywhere. And the Blakes of Morristown; they also were very nice people; only unfortunately, old Blake was always on his keeping, and couldn’t show himself out of doors except on Sundays, for fear of the bailiffs. And the Browns of Mount Dillon, and the Browns of Castle Brown; and General Bourke of Creamstown. All these families lived within fifteen or sixteen miles of Kelly’s Court, and prevented the O’Kellys from feeling themselves quite isolated from the social world. Their nearest neighbours, however, were the Armstrongs, and of them they saw a great deal.

The Reverend Joseph Armstrong was rector of Ballindine, and Mrs O’Kelly was his parishioner, and the only Protestant one he had; and, as Mr Armstrong did not like to see his church quite deserted, and as Mrs O’Kelly was, as she flattered herself, a very fervent Protestant, they were all in all to each other.

Ballindine was not a good living, and Mr Armstrong had a very large family; he was, therefore, a poor man. His children were helpless, uneducated, and improvident; his wife was nearly worn out with the labours of bringing them forth and afterwards catering for them and a great portion of his own life was taken up in a hard battle with tradesmen and tithe-payers, creditors, and debtors. Yet, in spite of the insufficiency of his two hundred a-year to meet all or half his wants, Mr Armstrong was not an unhappy man. At any moment of social enjoyment he forgot all his cares and poverty, and was always the first to laugh, and the last to cease to do so. He never refused an invitation to dinner, and if he did not entertain many in his own house, it was his fortune, and not his heart, that prevented him from doing so. He could hardly be called a good clergyman, and yet his remissness was not so much his own fault as that of circumstances. How could a Protestant rector be a good parish clergyman, with but one old lady and her daughters, for the exercise of his clerical energies and talents? He constantly lauded the zeal of St. Paul for proselytism; but, as he himself once observed, even St. Paul had never had to deal with the obstinacy of an Irish Roman Catholic. He often regretted the want of work, and grieved that his profession, as far as he saw and had been instructed, required nothing of him but a short service on every Sunday morning, and the celebration of the Eucharist four times a-year; but such were the facts; and the idleness which this want of work engendered, and the habits which his poverty induced, had given him a character as a clergyman, very different from that which the high feelings and strict principles which animated him at his ordination would have seemed to ensure. He was, in fact, a loose, slovenly man, somewhat too fond of his tumbler of punch; a little lax, perhaps, as to clerical discipline, but very staunch as to doctrine. He possessed no industry or energy of any kind; but he was good-natured and charitable, lived on friendly terms with all his neighbours, and was intimate with every one that dwelt within ten miles of him, priest and parson, lord and commoner.

Such was the neighbourhood of Kelly’s Court, and among such Lord Ballindine had now made up his mind to remain a while, till circumstances should decide what further steps he should take with regard to Fanny Wyndham. There were a few hunting days left in the season, which he intended to enjoy; and then he must manage to make shift to lull the time with shooting, fishing, farming, and nursing his horses and dogs.

His mother and sisters had heard nothing of the rumour of the quarrel between Frank and Fanny, which Mat Tierney had so openly alluded to at Handicap Lodge; and he was rather put out by their eager questions on the subject. Nothing was said about it till the servant withdrew, after dinner, but the three ladies were too anxious for information to delay their curiosity any longer.

‘Well, Frank,’ said the elder sister, who was sitting over the fire, close to his left elbow (he had a bottle of claret at his right) ‘well, Frank, do tell us something about Fanny Wyndham; we are so longing to hear; and you never will write, you know.’

‘Everybody says it’s a brilliant match,’ said the mother. ‘They say here she’s forty thousand pounds: I’m sure I hope she has, Frank.’

‘But when is it to be?’ said Sophy. ‘She’s of age now, isn’t she? and I thought you were only waiting for that. I’m sure we shall like her; come, Frank, do tell us when are we to see Lady Ballindine?’

Frank looked rather serious and embarrassed, but did not immediately make any reply.

‘You haven’t quarrelled, have you, Frank?’ said the mother.

‘The match isn’t off is it?’ said Guss.

‘Miss Wyndham has just lost her only brother,’ said he; ‘he died quite suddenly in London about ten days since; she was very much attached to him.’

‘Good gracious, how shocking!’ said Sophy.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Guss.

‘Why, Frank,’ said their mother, now excited into absolute animation; ‘his fortune was more than double hers, wasn’t it? who’ll have it now?’

‘It was, mother; five times as much as hers, I believe.’

‘Gracious powers! and who has it now? Why don’t you tell me, Frank?’

‘His sister Fanny.’

‘Heavens and earth I hope you’re not going to let her quarrel with you, are you? Has there been anything between you? Have there been any words between you and Lord Cashel? Why don’t you tell me, Frank, when you know how anxious I am?’

‘If you must know all about it, I have not had any words, as you call them, with Fanny Wyndham; but I have with her guardian. He thinks a hundred and twenty thousand pounds much too great a fortune for a Connaught viscount. However, I don’t think so. It will be for time to show what Fanny thinks. Meanwhile, the less said about it the better; remember that, girls, will you?’

‘Oh, we will we won’t say a word about it; but she’ll never change her mind because of her money, will she?’

‘That’s what would make me love a man twice the more,’ said Guss; ‘or at any rate show it twice the stronger.’

‘Frank,’ said the anxious mother, ‘for heaven’s sake don’t let anything stand between you and Lord Cashel; think what a thing it is you’d lose! Why; it’d pay all the debts, and leave the property worth twice what it ever was before. If Lord Cashel thinks you ought to give up the hounds, do it at once, Frank; anything rather than quarrel with him. You could get them again, you know, when all’s settled.’

‘I’ve given up quite as much as I intend for Lord Cashel.’

‘Now, Frank, don’t be a fool, or you’ll repent it all your life: what does it signify how much you give up to such a man as Lord Cashel? You don’t think, do you, that he objects to our being at Kelly’s Court? Because I’m sure we wouldn’t stay a moment if we thought that.’

‘Mother, I wouldn’t part with a cur dog out of the place to please Lord Cashel. But if I were to do everything on earth at his beck and will, it would make no difference: he will never let me marry Fanny Wyndham if he can help it; but, thank God, I don’t believe he can.’

‘I hope not I hope not. You’ll never see half such a fortune again.’

‘Well, mother, say nothing about it one way or the other, to anybody. And as you now know how the matter stands, it’s no good any of us talking more about it till I’ve settled what I mean to do myself.’

‘I shall hate her,’ said Sophy, ‘if her getting all her brother’s money changes her; but I’m sure it won’t.’ And so the conversation ended.

Lord Ballindine had not rested in his paternal halls the second night, before he had commenced making arrangements for a hunt breakfast, by way of letting all his friends know that he was again among them. And so missives, in Guss and Sophy’s handwriting, were sent round by a bare-legged little boy, to all the Mounts, Towns, and Castles, belonging to the Dillons, Blakes, Bourkes, and Browns of the neighbourhood, to tell them that the dogs would draw the Kelly’s Court covers at eleven o’clock on the following Tuesday morning, and that the preparatory breakfast would be on the table at ten. This was welcome news to the whole neighbourhood. It was only on the Sunday evening that the sportsmen got the intimation, and very busy most of them were on the following Monday to see that their nags and breeches were all right fit to work and fit to be seen. The four Dillons, of Ballyhaunis, gave out to their grooms a large assortment of pipe-clay and putty-powder. Bingham Blake, of Castletown, ordered a new set of girths to his hunting saddle; and his brother Jerry, who was in no slight degree proud of his legs, but whose nether trappings were rather the worse from the constant work of a heavy season, went so far as to go forth very early on the Monday morning to excite the Ballinrobe tailor to undertake the almost impossible task of completing him a pair of doeskin by the Tuesday morning. The work was done, and the breeches home at Castletown by eight though the doeskin had to be purchased in Tuam, and an assistant artist taken away from his mother’s wake, to sit up all night over the seams. But then the tailor owed a small trifle of arrear of rent for his potato-garden, and his landlord was Jerry Blake’s cousin german. There’s nothing carries one further than a good connexion, thought both Jerry and the tailor when the job was finished.

Among the other invitations sent was one to Martin Kelly not exactly worded like the others, for though Lord Ballindine was perhaps more anxious to see him than anyone else, Martin had not yet got quite so high in the ladder of life as to be asked to breakfast at Kelly’s Court. But the fact that Frank for a moment thought of asking him showed that he was looking upwards in the world’s estimation. Frank wrote him a note himself, saying that the hounds would throw off at Kelly’s Court, at eleven; that, if he would ride over, he would be sure to see a good hunt, and that he, Lord Ballindine, had a few words to say to him on business, just while the dogs were being put into the cover. Martin, as usual, had a good horse which he was disposed to sell, if, as he said, he got its value; and wrote to say he would wait on Lord Ballindine at eleven. The truth was, Frank wanted to borrow money from him.

Another note was sent to the Glebe, requesting the Rector to come to breakfast and to look at the hounds being thrown off. The modest style of the invitation was considered as due to Mr Armstrong’s clerical position, but was hardly rendered necessary by his habits; for though the parson attended such meetings in an old suit of rusty black, and rode an equally rusty-looking pony, he was always to be seen, at the end of the day, among those who were left around the dogs.

On the Tuesday morning there was a good deal of bustle at Kelly’s Court. All the boys about the place were collected in front of the house, to walk the gentlemen’s horses about while the riders were at breakfast, and earn a sixpence or a fourpenny bit; and among them, sitting idly on the big steppingstone placed near the door, was Jack the fool, who, for the day, seemed to have deserted the service of Barry Lynch.

And now the red-coats flocked up to the door, and it was laughable to see the knowledge of character displayed by the gossoons in the selection of their customers. One or two, who were known to be ‘bad pays,’ were allowed to dismount without molestation of any kind, and could not even part with their steeds till they had come to an absolute bargain as to the amount of gratuity to be given. Lambert Brown was one of these unfortunate characters a younger brother who had a little, and but a very little money, and who was determined to keep that. He was a miserable hanger-on at his brother’s house, without profession or prospects; greedy, stingy, and disagreeable; endowed with a squint, and long lank light-coloured hair: he was a bad horseman, always craning and shirking in the field, boasting and lying after dinner; nevertheless, he was invited and endured because he was one of the Browns of Mount Dillon, cousin to the Browns of Castle Brown, nephew to Mrs Dillon the member’s wife, and third cousin of Lord Ballaghaderrin.

He dismounted in the gravel circle before the door, and looked round for someone to take his horse; but none of the urchins would come to him. At last he caught hold of a little ragged boy whom he knew, from his own side of the country, and who had come all the way there, eight long Irish miles, on the chance of earning sixpence and seeing a hunt.

‘Here, Patsy, come here, you born little divil,’ and he laid hold of the arm of the brat, who was trying to escape from him come and hold my horse for me and I’ll not forget you.’

‘Shure, yer honer, Mr Lambert, I can’t thin, for I’m afther engaging myself this blessed minute to Mr Larry Dillon, only he’s jist trotted round to the stables to spake a word to Mick Keogh.’

‘Don’t be lying, you little blackguard; hould the horse, and don’t stir out of that.’

‘Shure how can I, Mr Lambert, when I’ve been and guy my word to Mr Larry?’ and the little fellow put his hands behind him, that he might not be forced to take hold of the reins.

‘Don’t talk to me, you young imp, but take the horse. I’ll not forget you when I come out. What’s the matter with you, you fool; d’ye think I’d tell you a lie about it?’

Patsy evidently thought he would; for though he took the horse almost upon compulsion, he whimpered as he did so, and said:

‘Shure, Mr Lambert, would you go and rob a poor boy of his chances? I come’d all the way from Ballyglass this blessed morning to ‘arn a tizzy, and av’ I doesn’t get it from you this turn, I’ll —’ But Lambert Brown had gone into the house, and on his return after breakfast he fully justified the lad’s suspicion, for he again promised him that he wouldn’t forget him, and that he’d see him some day at Mr Dillon’s.

‘Well, Lambert Brown,’ said the boy, as that worthy gentleman rode off, ‘it’s you’re the raal blackguard and it’s well all the counthry knows you: sorrow be your bed this night; it’s little the poor’ll grieve for you, when you’re stretched, or the rich either, for the matther of that.’

Very different was the reception Bingham Blake got, as he drove up with his tandem and tax-cart: half-a-dozen had kept themselves idle, each in the hope of being the lucky individual to come in for Bingham’s shilling.

‘Och, Mr Bingham, shure I’m first,’ roared one fellow.

But the first, as he styled himself, was soon knocked down under the wheels of the cart by the others.

‘Mr Blake, thin Mr Blake, darlint doesn’t ye remimber the promise you guy me?’

‘Mr Jerry, Mr Jerry, avick,’ this was addressed to the brother ‘spake a word for me; do, yer honour; shure it was I come all the way from Teddy Mahony’s with the breeches this morning, God bless ’em, and the fine legs as is in ’em.’

But they were all balked, for Blake had his servant there.

‘Get out, you blackguards!’ said he, raising his tandem whip, as if to strike them. ‘Get out, you robbers! Are you going to take the cart and horses clean away from me? That mare’ll settle some of ye, if you make so free with her! she’s not a bit too chary of her hind feet. Get out of that, I tell you;’ and he lightly struck with the point of his whip the boy who had Lambert Brown’s horse.

‘Ah, Mr Bingham,’ said, the boy, pretending to rub the part very hard, ‘you owe me one for that, anyhow, and it’s you are the good mark for it, God bless you.’

‘Faix,’ said another, ‘one blow from your honour is worth two promises from Lambert Brown, any way.’

There was a great laugh at this among the ragged crew, for Lambert Brown was still standing on the doorsteps: when he heard this sally, however, he walked in, and the different red-coats and top-boots were not long in crowding after him.

Lord Ballindine received them in the same costume, and very glad they all seemed to see him again. When an Irish gentleman is popular in his neighbourhood, nothing can exceed the real devotion paid to him; and when that gentleman is a master of hounds, and does not require a subscription, he is more than ever so.

‘Welcome back, Ballindine better late than never; but why did you stay away so long?’ said General Bourke, an old gentleman with long, thin, flowing grey hairs, waving beneath his broad-brimmed felt hunting-hat. ‘You’re not getting so fond of the turf, I hope, as to be giving up the field for it? Give me the sport where I can ride my own horse myself; not where I must pay a young rascal for doing it for me, and robbing me into the bargain, most likely.’

‘Quite right, General,’ said Frank; ‘so you see I’ve given up the Curragh, and come down to the dogs again.’

‘Yes, but you’ve waited too long, man; the dogs have nearly done their work for this year. I’m sorry for it; the last day of the season is the worst day in the year to me. I’m ill for a week after it.’

‘Well, General, please the pigs, we’ll be in great tune next October. I’ve as fine a set of puppies to enter as there is in Ireland, let alone Connaught. You must come down, and tell me what you think of them.’

‘Next October’s all very well for you young fellows, but I’m seventy-eight. I always make up my mind that I’ll never turn out another season, and it’ll be true for me this year. I’m hunting over sixty years, Ballindine, in these three counties. I ought to have had enough of it by this time, you’ll say.’

‘I’ll bet you ten pounds,’ said Bingham Blake, ‘that you hunt after eighty.’

‘Done with you Bingham,’ said the General, and the bet was booked.

General Bourke was an old soldier, who told the truth in saying that he had hunted over the same ground sixty years ago. But he had not been at it ever since, for he had in the meantime seen a great deal of hard active service, and obtained high military reputation. But he had again taken kindly to the national sport of his country, on returning to his own estate at the close of the Peninsular War; and had ever since attended the meets twice a week through every winter, with fewer exceptions than any other member of the hunt. He always wore top-boots of the ancient cut, with deep painted tops and square toes, drawn tight up over the calf of his leg; a pair of most capacious dark-coloured leather breeches, the origin of which was unknown to any other present member of the hunt, and a red frock coat, very much soiled by weather, water, and wear. The General was a rich man, and therefore always had a horse to suit him. On the present occasion, he was riding a strong brown beast, called Parsimony, that would climb over anything, and creep down the gable end of a house if he were required to do so. He was got by Economy; those who know county Mayo know the breed well.

They were now all crowded into the large dining-room at Kelly’s Court; about five-and-twenty redcoats, and Mr Armstrong’s rusty black. In spite of his shabby appearance, however, and the fact that the greater number of those around him were Roman Catholics, he seemed to be very popular with the lot; and his opinion on the important subject of its being a scenting morning was asked with as much confidence in his judgment, as though the foxes of the country were peculiarly subject to episcopalian jurisdiction.

‘Well, then, Peter,’ said he, ‘the wind’s in the right quarter. Mick says there’s a strong dog-fox in the long bit of gorse behind the firs; if he breaks from that he must run towards Ballintubber, and when you’re once over the meering into Roscommon, there’s not an acre of tilled land, unless a herd’s garden, between that and the deuce knows where all further than most of you’ll like to ride, I take it.’

‘How far’ll you go yourself, Armstrong? Faith, I believe it’s few of the crack nags’ll beat the old black pony at a long day.’

‘Is it I?’ said the Parson, innocently. ‘As soon as I’ve heard the dogs give tongue, and seen them well on their game, I’ll go home. I’ve land ploughing, and I must look after that. But, as I was saying, if the fox breaks well away from the gorse, you’ll have the best run you’ve seen this season; but if he dodges back into the plantation, you’ll have enough to do to make him break at all; and when he does, he’ll go away towards Ballyhaunis, through as cross a country as ever a horse put a shoe into.’

And having uttered this scientific prediction, which was listened to with the greatest deference by Peter Dillon, the Rev. Joseph Armstrong turned his attention to the ham and tea.

The three ladies were all smiles to meet their guests; Mrs O’Kelly, dressed in a piece of satin turk, came forward to shake hands with the General, but Sophy and Guss kept their positions, beneath the coffee-pot and tea-urn, at each end of the long table, being very properly of opinion that it was the duty of the younger part of the community to come forward, and make their overtures to them. Bingham Blake, the cynosure on whom the eyes of the beauty of county Mayo were most generally placed, soon found his seat beside Guss, rather to Sophy’s mortification; but Sophy was good-natured, and when Peter Dillon placed himself at her right hand, she was quite happy, though Peter’s father was still alive, and Bingham’s had been dead this many a year and Castletown much in want of a mistress.

‘Now, Miss O’Kelly,’ said Bingham, ‘do let me manage the coffee-pot; the cream-jug and sugar-tongs will be quite enough for your energies.’

‘Indeed and I won’t, Mr Blake; you’re a great deal too awkward, and a great deal too hungry. The last hunt-morning you breakfasted here you threw the coffee-grouts into the sugar-basin, when I let you help me.’

‘To think of your remembering that! but I’m improved since then. I’ve been taking lessons with my old aunt at Castlebar.’

‘You don’t mean you’ve really been staying with Lady Sarah?’

‘Oh, but I have, though. I was there three days; made tea every night; washed the poodle every morning, and clear-starched her Sunday pelerine, with my own hands on Saturday evening.’

‘Oh, what a useful animal! What a husband you’ll make, when you’re a little more improved!’

‘Shan’t I? As you’re so fond of accomplishments, perhaps you’ll take me yourself by-and-by?’

‘Why, as you’re so useful, maybe I may.’

‘Well, Lambert,’ said Lord Ballindine, across the table, to the stingy gentleman with the squint, ‘are you going to ride hard today?’

‘I’ll go bail I’m not much behind, my lord,’ said Lambert; ‘if the dogs go, I’ll follow.’

‘I’ll bet you a crown, Lambert,’ said his cousin, young Brown of Mount Brown, ‘the dogs kill, and you don’t see them do it.’

‘Oh, that may be, and yet I mayn’t be much behind.’

‘I’ll bet you’re not in the next field to them.’

‘Maybe you’ll not be within ten fields yourself.’

‘Come, Lambert, I’ll tell you what we’ll ride together, and I’ll bet you a crown I pound you before you’re over three leaps.’

‘Ah, now, take it easy with yourself,’ said Lambert; ‘there are others ride better than you.’

‘But no one better than yourself; is that it, eh?’

‘Well, Jerry, how do the new articles fit?’ said Nicholas Dillon.

‘Pretty well, thank you: they’d be a deal more comfortable though, if you’d pay for them.’

‘Did you hear, Miss O’Kelly, what Jerry Blake did yesterday?’ said Nicholas Dillon aloud, across the table.

‘Indeed, I did not,’ said Guss ‘but I hope, for the sake of the Blakes in general, he didn’t do anything much amiss?’

‘I’ll tell you then,’ continued Nicholas. ‘A portion of his ould hunting-dress I’ll not specify what, you know but a portion, which he’d been wearing since the last election, were too shabby to show: well, he couldn’t catch a hedge tailor far or near, only poor lame Andy Oulahan, who was burying his wife, rest her sowl, the very moment Jerry got a howld of him. Well, Jerry was wild that the tailors were so scarce, so he laid his hands on Andy, dragged him away from the corpse and all the illigant enthertainment of the funeral, and never let him out of sight till he’d put on the last button.’

‘Oh, Mr Blake!’ said Guss, ‘you did not take the man away from his dead wife?’

‘Indeed I did not, Miss O’Kelly: Andy’d no such good chance; his wife’s to the fore this day, worse luck for him. It was only his mother he was burying.’

‘But you didn’t take him away from his mother’s funeral?’

‘Oh, I did it according to law, you know. I got Bingham to give me a warrant first, before I let the policeman lay a hand on him.’

‘Now, General, you’ve really made no breakfast at all,’ said the hospitable hostess: ‘do let Guss give you a hot cup of coffee.’

‘Not a drop more, Mrs O’Kelly. I’ve done more than well; but, if you’ll allow me, I’ll just take a crust of bread in my pocket.’

‘And what would you do that for? you’ll be coming back to lunch, you know.’

‘Is it lunch, Mrs O’Kelly, pray don’t think of troubling yourself to have lunch on the table. Maybe we’ll be a deal nearer Creamstown than Kelly’s Court at lunch time. But it’s quite time we were off. As for Bingham Blake, from the look of him, he’s going to stay here with your daughter Augusta all the morning.’

‘I believe then he’d much sooner be with the dogs, General, than losing his time with her.’

‘Are you going to move at all, Ballindine,’ said the impatient old sportsman. ‘Do you know what time it is? it’ll be twelve o’clock before you have the dogs in the cover.’

‘Very good time, too, General: men must eat, you know, and the fox won’t stir till we move him. But come, gentlemen, you seem to be dropping your knives and forks. Suppose we get into our saddles?’

And again the red-coats sallied out. Bingham gave Guss a tender squeeze, which she all but returned, as she bade him take care and not go and kill himself. Peter Dillon stayed to have a few last words with Sophy, and to impress upon her his sister Nora’s message, that she and her sister were to be sure to come over on Friday to Ballyhaunis, and spend the night there.

‘We will, if we’re let, tell Nora,’ said Sophy; ‘but now Frank’s at home, we must mind him, you know.

‘Make him bring you over: there’ll be a bed for him; the old house is big enough, heaven knows.’

‘Indeed it is. Well, I’ll do my best; but tell Nora to be sure and get the fiddler from Hollymount. It’s so stupid for her to be sitting there at the piano while we’re dancing.’

‘I’ll manage that; only do you bring Frank to dance with her,’ and another tender squeeze was given and Peter hurried out to the horses.

And now they were all gone but the Parson. ‘Mrs O’Kelly,’ said he, ‘Mrs Armstrong wants a favour from you. Poor Minny’s very bad with her throat; she didn’t get a wink of sleep last night.’

‘Dear me poor thing; Can I send her anything?’

‘If you could let them have a little black currant jelly, Mrs Armstrong would be so thankful. She has so much to think of, and is so weak herself, poor thing, she hasn’t time to make those things.’

‘Indeed I will, Mr Armstrong. I’ll send it down this morning; and a little calf’s foot jelly won’t hurt her. It is in the house, and Mrs Armstrong mightn’t be able to get the feet, you know. Give them my love, and if I can get out at all tomorrow, I’ll go and see them.’

And so the Parson, having completed his domestic embassy for the benefit of his sick little girl, followed the others, keen for the hunt; and the three ladies were left alone, to see the plate and china put away.

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