The Kellys and the O'Kellys, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter IV

The Dunmore Inn

Anty Lynch was not the prettiest, or the youngest girl in Connaught; nor would Martin have affirmed her to be so, unless he had been very much inebriated indeed. However young she might have been once, she was never pretty; but, in all Ireland, there was not a more single-hearted, simpleminded young woman. I do not use the word simple as foolish; for, though uneducated, she was not foolish. But she was unaffected, honest, humble, and true, entertaining a very lowly idea of her own value, and undated by her newly acquired wealth.

She had been so little thought of all her life by others, that she had never learned to think much of herself; she had had but few acquaintances, and no friends, and had spent her life, hitherto, so quietly and silently, that her apparent apathy was attributable rather to want of subjects of excitement, than to any sluggishness of disposition. Her mother had died early; and, since then, the only case in which Anty had been called on to exercise her own judgment, was in refusing to comply with her father’s wish that she should become a nun. On this subject, though often pressed, she had remained positive, always pleading that she felt no call to the sacred duties which would be required, and innocently assuring her father, that, if allowed to remain at home, she would cause him no trouble, and but little expense.

So she had remained at home, and had inured herself to bear without grumbling, or thinking that she had cause for grumbling, the petulance of her father, and the more cruel harshness and ill-humour of her brother. In all the family schemes of aggrandisement she had been set aside, and Barry had been intended by the father as the scion on whom all the family honours were to fall. His education had been expensive, his allowance liberal, and his whims permitted; while Anty was never better dressed than a decent English servant, and had been taught nothing save the lessons she had learnt from her mother, who died when she was but thirteen.

Mrs Lynch had died before the commencement of Sim’s palmy days. They had seen no company in her time for they were then only rising people; and, since that, the great friends to whom Sim, in his wealth, had attached himself, and with whom alone he intended that Barry should associate, were all of the masculine gender. He gave bachelor dinner-parties to hard-drinking young men, for whom Anty was well contented to cook; and when they as they often, from the effect of their potations, were perforce obliged to do stayed the night at Dunmore House, Anty never showed herself in the breakfast parlour, but boiled the eggs, made the tea, and took her own breakfast in the kitchen.

It was not wonderful, therefore, that no one proposed for Anty; and, though all who knew the Lynches, knew that Sim had a daughter, it was very generally given out that she was not so wise as her neighbours; and the father and brother took no pains to deny the rumour. The inhabitants of the village knew better; the Lynches were very generally disliked, and the shameful way ‘Miss Anty was trated,’ was often discussed in the little shops; and many of the townspeople were ready to aver that, ‘simple or no, Anty Lynch was the best of the breed, out-and-out.’

Matters stood thus at Dunmore, when the quarrel before alluded to, occurred, and when Sim made his will, dividing his property and died before destroying it, as he doubtless would have done, when his passion was over.

Great was the surprise of every one concerned, and of many who were not at all concerned, when it was ascertained that Anty Lynch was an heiress, and that she was now possessed of four hundred pounds a-year in her own right; but the passion of her brother, it would be impossible to describe. He soon, however, found that it was too literally true, and that no direct means were at hand, by which he could deprive his sister of her patrimony. The lawyer, when he informed Anty of her fortune and present station, made her understand that she had an equal right with her brother in everything in the house; and though, at first, she tacitly acquiesced in his management, she was not at all simple enough to be ignorant of the rights o possession, or weak enough to relinquish them.

Barry soon made up his mind that, as she had and must have the property, all he could now do was to take care that it should revert to him as her heir; and the measure of most importance in effecting this, would be to take care that she did not marry. In his first passion, after his father’s death, he had been rough and cruel to her; but he soon changed his conduct, and endeavoured to flatter her into docility at one moment, and to frighten her into obedience in the next.

He soon received another blow which was also a severe one. Moylan, the old man who proposed the match to Martin, called on him, and showed him that Anty had appointed him her agent, and had executed the necessary legal documents for the purpose. Upon this subject he argued for a long time with his sister pointing out to her that the old man would surely rob her offering to act as her agent himself recommending others as more honest and fitting and, lastly, telling her that she was an obstinate fool, who would soon be robbed of every penny she had, and that she would die in a workhouse at last.

But Anty, though she dreaded her brother, was firm. Wonderful as it may appear, she even loved him. She begged him not to quarrel with her promised to do everything to oblige him, and answered his wrath with gentleness; but it was of no avail. Barry knew that her agent was a plotter that he would plot against his influence though he little guessed then what would be the first step Moylan would take, or how likely it would be, if really acted on, to lead to his sister’s comfort and happiness. After this, Barry passed two months of great misery and vexation. He could not make up his mind what to do, or what final steps to take, either about the property, his sister, or himself. At first, he thought of frightening Moylan and his sister, by pretending that he would prove Anty to be of weak mind, and not fit to manage her own affairs, and that he would indict the old man for conspiracy; but he felt that Moylan was not a man to be frightened by such bugbears. Then, he made up his mind to turn all he had into money, to leave his sister to the dogs, or any one who might choose to rob her, and go and live abroad. Then he thought, if his sister should die, what a pity it would be, he should lose it all, and how he should blame himself, if she were to die soon after having married some low adventurer; and he reflected; how probable such a thing would be how likely that such a man would soon get rid of her; and then his mind began to dwell on her death, and to wish for it. He found himself constantly thinking of it, and ruminating on it, and determining that it was the only event which could set him right. His own debts would swallow up half his present property; and how could he bring himself to live on the pitiful remainder, when that stupid idiot, as he called her to himself, had three times more than she could possibly want? Morning after morning, he walked about the small grounds round the house, with his hat over his eyes, and his hands tossing about the money in his pockets, thinking of this cursing his father, and longing almost praying for his sister’s death. Then he would have his horse, and flog the poor beast along the roads without going anywhere, or having any object in view, but always turning the same thing over and over in his mind. And, after dinner, he would sit, by the hour, over the fire, drinking, longing for his sister’s money, and calculating the probabilities of his ever possessing it. He began to imagine all the circumstances which might lead to her death; he thought of all the ways in which persons situated as she was, might, and often did, die. He reflected, without knowing that he was doing so, on the probability of robbers breaking into the house, if she were left alone in it, and of their murdering her; he thought of silly women setting their own clothes on fire of their falling out of window drowning themselves of their perishing in a hundred possible but improbable ways. It was after he had been drinking a while, that these ideas became most vivid before his eyes, and seemed like golden dreams, the accomplishment of which he could hardly wish for. And, at last, as the, fumes of the spirit gave him courage, other and more horrible images would rise to his imagination, and the drops of sweat would stand on his brow as he would invent schemes by which, were he so inclined, he could accelerate, without detection, the event for which he so ardently longed. With such thoughts would he turn into bed; and though in the morning he would try to dispel the ideas in which he had indulged overnight, they still left their impression on his mind they added bitterness to his hatred and made him look on himself as a man injured by his father and sister, and think that he owed it to himself to redress his injuries by some extraordinary means.

It was whilst Barry Lynch was giving way to such thoughts as these, and vainly endeavouring to make up his mind as to what he would do, that Martin made his offer to Anty. To tell the truth, it was Martin’s sister Meg who had made the first overture; and, as Anty had not rejected it with any great disdain, but had rather shown a disposition to talk about it as a thing just possible, Martin had repeated it in person, and had reiterated it, till Anty had at last taught herself to look upon it as a likely and desirable circumstance. Martin had behaved openly and honourably with regard to the money part of the business; telling his contemplated bride that it was, of course, her fortune which had first induced him to think of her; but adding, that he would also value her and love her for herself, if she would allow him. He described to her the sort of settlement he should propose, and ended by recommending an early day for the wedding.

Anty had sense enough to be pleased at his straightforward and honest manner; and, though she did not say much to himself, she said a great deal in his praise to Meg, which all found its way to Martin’s ears. But still, he could not get over the difficulty which he had described to Lord Ballindine. Anty wanted to wait till her brother should go out of the country, and Martin was afraid that he would not go; and things were in this state when he started for Dublin.

The village of Dunmore has nothing about it which can especially recommend it to the reader. It has none of those beauties of nature which have taught Irishmen to consider their country as the ‘first flower of the earth, and first gem of the sea’. It is a dirty, ragged little town, standing in a very poor part of the country, with nothing about it to induce the traveller to go out of his beaten track. It is on no high road, and is blessed with no adventitious circumstances to add to its prosperity.

It was once the property of the O’Kellys; but, in those times the landed proprietors thought but little of the towns; and now it is parcelled out among different owners, some of whom would think it folly to throw away a penny on the place, and others of whom have not a penny to throw away. It consists of a big street, two little streets, and a few very little lanes. There is a Court-house, where the barrister sits twice a year; a Barrack, once inhabited by soldiers, but now given up to the police; a large slated chapel, not quite finished; a few shops for soft goods; half a dozen shebeen-houses, ruined by Father Mathew; a score of dirty cabins offering ‘lodging and enthertainment’, as announced on the window-shutters; Mrs. Kelly’s inn and grocery-shop; and, last though not least, Simeon Lynch’s new, staring house, built just at the edge of the town, on the road to Roscommon, which is dignified with the name of Dunmore House. The people of most influence in the village were Mrs. Kelly of the inn, and her two sworn friends, the parish priest and his curate. The former, Father Geoghegan, lived about three miles out of Dunmore, near Toneroe; and his curate, Father Pat Connel, inhabited one of the small houses in the place, very little better in appearance than those which offered accommodation to travellers and trampers.

Such was, and is, the town of Dunmore in the county of Galway; and I must beg the reader to presume himself to be present there with me on the morning on which the two young Kellys went to hear Sheil’s speech. At about ten o’clock, the widow Kelly and her daughters were busy in the shop, which occupied the most important part of the ground-floor of the inn. It was a long, scrambling, ugly-looking house. Next to the shop, and opening out of it, was a large drinking-room, furnished with narrow benches and rickety tables; and here the more humble of Mrs. Kelly’s guests regaled themselves. On the other side of this, was the hall, or passage of the house; and, next to that again, a large, clingy, dark kitchen, over which Sally reigned with her teapot dynasty, and in which were always congregated a parcel of ragged old men, boys, and noisy women, pretending to be busy, but usually doing but little good, and attracted by the warmth of the big fire, and the hopes of some scraps of food and drink.

‘For the widow Kelly God bless her! was a thrue Christhian, and didn’t begrudge the poor more power to her like some upstarts who might live to be in want yet, glory be to the Almighty!’

The difference of the English and Irish character is nowhere more plainly discerned than in their respective kitchens. With the former, this apartment is probably the cleanest, and certainly the most orderly, in the house. It is rarely intruded into by those unconnected, in some way, with its business. Everything it contains is under the vigilant eye of its chief occupant, who would imagine it quite impossible to carry on her business, whether of an humble or important nature, if her apparatus was subjected to the hands of the unauthorised. An Irish kitchen is devoted to hospitality in every sense of the word. Its doors are open to almost all loungers and idlers; and the chances are that Billy Bawn, the cripple, or Judy Molloy, the deaf old hag, are more likely to know where to find the required utensil than the cook herself. It is usually a temple dedicated to the goddess of disorder; and, too often joined with her, is the potent deity of dirt. It is not that things are out of their place, for they have no place. It isn’t that the floor is not scoured, for you cannot scour dry mud into anything but wet mud. It isn’t that the chairs and tables look filthy, for there are none. It isn’t that the pots, and plates, and pans don’t shine, for you see none to shine. All you see is a grimy, black ceiling, an uneven clay floor, a small darkened window, one or two unearthly-looking recesses, a heap of potatoes in the corner, a pile of turf against the wall, two pigs and a dog under the single dresser, three or four chickens on the window-sill, an old cock moaning on the top of a rickety press, and a crowd of ragged garments, squatting, standing, kneeling, and crouching, round the fire, from which issues a babel of strange tongues, not one word of which is at first intelligible to ears unaccustomed to such eloquence.

And yet, out of these unfathomable, unintelligible dens, proceed in due time dinners, of which the appearance of them gives no promise. Such a kitchen was Mrs. Kelly’s; and yet, it was well known and attested by those who had often tried tile experiment, that a man need think it no misfortune to have to get his dinner, his punch, and his bed, at the widow’s.

Above stairs were two sitting-rooms and a colony of bed-rooms, occupied indiscriminately by the family, or by such customers as might require them. If you came back to dine at the inn, after a day’s shooting on the bogs, you would probably find Miss Jane’s work-box on the table, or Miss Meg’s album on the sofa; and, when a little accustomed to sojourn at such places, you would feel no surprise at discovering their dresses turned inside out, and hanging on the pegs in your bed-room; or at seeing their side-combs and black pins in the drawer of your dressing-table.

On the morning in question, the widow and her daughters were engaged in the shop, putting up pen’norths of sugar, cutting bits of tobacco, tying bundles of dip candles, attending to chance customers, and preparing for the more busy hours of the day. It was evident that something had occurred at the inn, which had ruffled the even tenor. of its way. The widow was peculiarly gloomy. Though fond of her children, she was an autocrat in her house, and accustomed, as autocrats usually are, to scold a good deal; and now she was using her tongue pretty freely. It wasn’t the girls, however, she was rating, for they could answer for themselves; and did, when they thought it necessary. But now, they were demure, conscious, and quiet. Mrs. Kelly was denouncing one of the reputed sins of the province to which she belonged, and describing the horrors of ‘schaming.’

‘Them underhand ways,’ she declared, ‘niver come to no good. Av’ it’s thrue what Father Connel’s afther telling me, there’ll harum come of it before it’s done and over. Schaming, schaming, and schaming for iver! The back of my hand to such doings! I wish the tongue had been out of Moylan’s mouth, the ould rogue, before he put the thing in his head. Av’ he wanted the young woman, and she was willing, why not take her in a dacent way, and have done with it. I’m sure she’s ould enough. But what does he want with a wife like her? making innimies for himself. I suppose he’ll be sitting up for a gentleman now bad cess to them for gentry; not but that he’s as good a right as some, and a dale more than others, who are ashamed to put their hand to a turn of work. I hate such huggery muggery work up in a corner. It’s half your own doing; and a nice piece of work it’ll be, when he’s got an ould wife and a dozen lawsuits! when he finds his farm gone, and his pockets empty; for it’ll be a dale asier for him to be getting the wife than the money when he’s got every body’s abuse, and nothing else, by his bargain!’

It was very apparent that Martin’s secret had not been well kept, and that the fact of his intended marriage with Anty Lynch was soon likely to be known to all Dunmore. The truth was, that Moylan had begun to think himself overreached in the matter to be afraid that, by the very measure he had himself proposed, he would lose all share in the great prize he had put in Martin’s way, and that he should himself be the means of excluding his own finger from the pie. It appeared to him that if he allowed this, his own folly would only be equalled by the young man’s ingratitude; and he determined therefore, if possible, to prevent the match. Whereupon he told the matter as a secret, to those who he knew would set it moving. In a very short space of time it reached the ears of Father Connel; and he lost none in stepping down to learn the truth of so important a piece of luck to one of his parishioners, and to congratulate the widow. Here, however, he was out in his reckoning, for she declared she did not believe it that it wasn’t, and couldn’t be true; and it was only after his departure that she succeeded in extracting the truth from her daughters.

The news, however, quickly reached the kitchen and its lazy crowd; and the inn door and its constant loungers; and was readily and gladly credited in both places.

Crone after crone, and cripple after cripple, hurried into the shop, to congratulate the angry widow on ‘masther Martin’s luck; and warn’t he worthy of it, the handsome jewel and wouldn’t he look the gintleman, every inch of him?’ and Sally expatiated greatly on it in the kitchen, and drank both their healths in an extra pot of tea, and Kate grinned her delight, and Jack the ostler, who took care of Martin’s horse, boasted loudly of it in the street, declaring that ‘it was a good thing enough for Anty Lynch, with all her money, to get a husband at all out of the Kellys, for the divil a know any one knowed in the counthry where the Lynchs come from; but every one knowed who the Kellys wor and Martin wasn’t that far from the lord himself.’

There was great commotion, during the whole day, at the inn. Some said Martin had gone to town to buy furniture; others, that he had done so to prove the will. One suggested that he’d surely have to fight Barry, and another prayed that ‘if he did, he might kill the blackguard, and have all the fortin to himself, out and out, God bless him!

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