The Kellys and the O'Kellys, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter VI

The Escape

In vain, after that, did Anty try to sleep; turn which way she would, she saw the bloodshot eyes and horrid drunken face of her cruel brother. For a long time she lay, trembling and anxious; fearing she knew not what, and trying to compose herself trying to make herself think that she had no present cause for fear; but in vain. If she heard a noise, she thought it was her brother’s footstep, and when the house was perfectly silent and still, she feared the very silence itself. At last, she crept out of bed, and, taking the candle left by her brother, which had now burned down to the socket, stepped softly down the stairs, to the place where the two maid-servants slept, and, having awakened them, she made Biddy return with her and keep her company for the remainder of the night. She did not quite tell the good-natured girl all that had passed; she did not own that her brother had threatened to send her to a madhouse, or that he had sworn to have her life; but she said enough to show that he had shamefully ill-treated her, and to convince Biddy that wherever her mistress might find a home, it would be very unadvisable that she and Barry should continue to live under the same roof.

Early in the morning, ‘Long afore the break o’ day,’ as the song says, Biddy got up from her hard bed on the floor of her mistress’ room, and, seeing that Anty was at last asleep, started to carry into immediate execution the counsels she had given during the night. As she passed the head of the stairs, she heard the loud snore of Barry, in his drunken slumber; and, wishing that he might sleep as sound for ever and ever, she crept down to her own domicile, and awakened her comrade.

‘Whist, Judy whist, darlint! Up wid ye, and let me out.’

‘And what’d you be doing out now?’ yawned Judy.

‘An arrand of the misthress shure, he used her disperate. Faix, it’s a wondher he didn’t murther her outright!’

‘And where are ye going now?’

‘Jist down to Dunmore to the Kellys then, avich. Asy now; I’ll be telling you all bye and bye. She must be out of this intirely.’

‘Is’t Miss Anty? Where’d she be going thin out of this?’

‘Divil a matther where! He’d murther her, the ruffian ‘av he cotched her another night in his dhrunkenness. We must git her out before he sleeps hisself right. But hurry now, I’ll be telling you all when I’m back again.’

The two crept off to the back door together, and, Judy having opened it, Biddy sallied out, on her important and good-natured mission. It was still dark, though the morning was beginning to break, as she stood, panting, at the front door of the inn. She tried to get in at the back, but the yard gates were fastened; and Jack, the ostler, did not seem to be about yet. So she gave a timid, modest knock, with the iron knocker, on the front door. A pause, and then a second knock, a little louder; another pause, and then a third; and then, as no one came, she remembered the importance of her message, and gave such a rap as a man might do, who badly wanted a glass of hot drink after travelling the whole night.

The servants had good or hardy consciences, for they slept soundly; but the widow Kelly, in her little bed-room behind the shop, well knew the sound of that knocker, and, hurrying on her slippers and her gown, she got to the door, and asked who was there.

‘Is that Sally, ma’am?’ said Biddy, well knowing the widow’s voice.

‘No, it’s not. What is it you’re wanting?’

‘Is it Kate thin, ma’am?’

‘No, it’s not Kate. Who are you, I say; and what d’you want?’

‘I’m Biddy, plaze ma’am from Lynch’s, and I’m wanting to spake to yerself, ma’am about Miss Anty. She’s very bad intirely, ma’am.’

‘What ails her and why d’you come here? Why don’t you go to Doctor Colligan, av’ she’s ill; and not come knocking here?’

‘It ain’t bad that way, Miss Anty is, ma’am. Av’ you’d just be good enough to open the door, I’d tell you in no time.’

It would, I am sure, be doing injustice to Mrs Kelly to say that her curiosity was stronger than her charity; they both, however, no doubt had their effect, and the door was speedily opened.

‘Oh, ma’am!’ commenced Biddy, ‘sich terrible doings up at the house! Miss Anty’s almost kilt!’

‘Come out of the cowld, girl, in to the kitchen fire,’ said the widow, who didn’t like the February blast, to which Biddy, in her anxiety, had been quite indifferent; and the careful widow again bolted the door, and followed the woman into certainly the warmest place in Dunmore, for the turf fire in the inn kitchen was burning day and night. ‘And now, tell me what is it ails Miss Anty? She war well enough yesterday, I think, and I heard more of her then than I wished.’

Biddy now pulled her cloak from off her head, settled it over her shoulders, and prepared for telling a good substantial story.

‘Oh, Misthress Kelly, ma’am, there’s been disperate doings last night up at the house. We were all hearing, in the morn yesterday, as how Miss Anty and Mr Martin, God bless him! were to make a match of it, as why wouldn’t they, ma’am? for wouldn’t Mr Martin make her a tidy, dacent, good husband?’

‘Well, well, Biddy don’t mind Mr Martin; he’ll be betther without a wife for one while, and he needn’t be quarrelling for one when he wants her. What ails Miss Anty?’

‘Shure I’m telling you, ma’am; howsomever, whether its thrue or no about Mr Martin, we were all hearing it yestherday; and the masther, he war afther hearing it too, for he come into his dinner as black as tunder; and Terry says he dhrunk the whole of a bottle of wine, and then he called for the sperrits, and swilled away at them till he was nigh dhrunk. Well, wid that, ma’am, he sent for Miss Anty, and the moment she comes in, he locks to the door, and pulls her to the sofa, and swears outright that he’ll murdher her av’ she don’t swear, by the blessed Mary and the cross, that she’ll niver dhrame of marrying no one.’

‘Who tould you all this, Biddy? was it herself?’

‘Why, thin, partly herself it war who tould me, ma’am, and partly you see, when Mr Barry war in his tantrums and dhrunken like, I didn’t like to be laying Miss Anty alone wid him, and nobody nigh, so I and Terry betook ourselves nigh the door, and, partly heard what was going on; that’s the thruth on it, Mrs Kelly; and, afther a dale of rampaging and scolding, may I niver see glory av’ he didn’t up wid his clenched fist, strik her in the face, and knock her down all for one as ‘av she wor a dhrunken blackguard at a fair!’

‘You didn’t see that, Biddy?’

‘No, ma’am I didn’t see it; how could I, through the door? but I heerd it, plain enough I heerd the poor cratur fall for dead amongst the tables and chairs I did, Mrs Kelly and I heerd the big blow smash agin her poor head, and down she wint why wouldn’t she? and he, the born ruffian, her own brother, the big blackguard, stricking at her wid all his force! Well, wid that ma’am, I rushed into the room at laist, I didn’t rush in for how could I, and the door locked? but I knocked agin and agin, for I war afeard he would be murthering her out and out. So, I calls out, as loud as I could, as how Miss Anty war wanting in the kitchen: and wid that he come to the door, and unlocks it as bould as brass, and rushes out into the garden, saying as how Miss Anty war afther fainting. Well, in course I goes in to her, where he had dragged her upon the sofa, and, thrue enough, she war faint indeed.’

‘And, did she tell you, Biddy, that her own brother had trated her that way?’

‘Wait, Mrs Kelly, ma’am, till I tell yer how it all happened. When she corned to herself and she warn’t long coming round she didn’t say much, nor did I; for I didn’t just like then to be saying much agin the masther, for who could know where his ears were? perish his sowl, the blackguard!’

‘Don’t be cursing, Biddy.’

‘No, ma’am; only he must be cursed, sooner or later. Well, when she corned to herself, she begged av’ me to help her to bed, and she went up to her room, and laid herself down, and I thought to myself that at any rate it was all over for that night. When she war gone, the masther he soon come back into the house, and begun calling for the sperrits again, like mad; and Terry said that when he tuk the biling wather into the room, Mr Barry war just like the divil as he’s painted, only for his ears. After that Terry wint to bed; and I and Judy weren’t long afther him, for we didn’t care to be sitting up alone wid him, and he mad dhrunk. So we turned in, and we were in bed maybe two hours or so, and fast enough, when down come the misthress as pale as a sheet, wid a candle in her hand, and begged me, for dear life, to come up into her room to her, and so I did, in coorse. And then she tould me all and, not contint with what he’d done down stairs, but the dhrunken ruffian must come up into her bed-room and swear the most dreadfullest things to her you iver heerd, Mrs Kelly. The words he war afther using, and the things he said, war most horrid; and Miss Anty wouldn’t for her dear life, nor for all the money in Dunmore, stop another night, nor another day in the house wid him.’

‘But, is she much hurt, Biddy?’

‘Oh! her head;’ cut, dreadful, where she fell, ma’am: and he shuck the very life out of her poor carcase; so he did, Mrs Kelly, the ruffian!’

‘Don’t be cursing, I tell you, girl. And what is it your misthress is wishing to do now? Did she tell you to come to me?’

‘No, ma’am; she didn’t exactly tell me only as she war saying that she wouldn’t for anything be staying in the house with Mr Barry; and as she didn’t seem to be knowing where she’d be going, and av’ she be raally going to be married to Mr Martin ’

‘Drat Mr Martin, you fool! Did she tell you she wanted to come here?’.

‘She didn’t quite say as much as that. To tell the thruth, thin, it wor I that said it, and she didn’t unsay it; so, wid that, I thought I’d come down here the first thing, and av’ you, Mrs Kelly, wor thinking it right, we’d get her out of the house before the masther’s stirring.’

The widow was a prudent woman, and she stood, for some time, considering; for she felt that, if she held out her hand to Anty now, she must stick to her through and through in the battle which there would be between her and her brother; and there might be more plague than profit in that. But then, again, she was not at all so indifferent as she had appeared to be, to her favourite son’s marrying four hundred a-year. She was angry at his thinking of such a thing without consulting her; she feared the legal difficulties he must encounter; and she didn’t like the thoughts of its being said that her son had married an old fool, and cozened her out of her money. But still, four hundred a-year was a great thing; and Anty was a good-tempered tractable young woman, of the right religion, and would not make a bad wife; and, on reconsideration, Mrs Kelly thought the thing wasn’t to be sneezed at. Then, again, she hated Barry, and, having a high spirit, felt indignant that he should think of preventing her son from marrying his sister, if the two of them chose to do it; and she knew she’d be able, and willing enough, too, to tell him a bit of her mind, if there should be occasion. And lastly, and most powerfully of all, the woman’s feeling came in to overcome her prudential scruples, and to open her heart and her house to a poor, kindly, innocent creature, ill-treated as Anty Lynch had been. She was making up her mind what to do, and determining to give battle royal to Barry and all his satellites, on behalf of Anty, when Biddy interrupted her by saying

‘I hope I warn’t wrong, ma’am, in coming down and throubling you so arly? I thought maybe you’d be glad to befrind Miss Anty seeing she and Miss Meg, and Miss Jane, is so frindly.’

‘No, Biddy for a wondher, you’re right, this morning. Mr Barry won’t be stirring yet?’

‘Divil a stir, ma’am! The dhrunkenness won’t be off him yet this long while. And will I go up, and be bringing Miss Anty down, ma’am?’

‘Wait a while. Sit to the fire there, and warm your shins. You’re a good girl. I’ll go and get on my shoes and stockings, and my cloak, and bonnet. I must go up wid you myself, and ask yer misthress down, as she should be asked. They’ll be telling lies on her ‘av she don’t lave the house dacently, as she ought.’

‘More power to you thin, Mrs Kelly, this blessed morning, for a kind good woman as you are, God bless you!’ whimpered forth Biddy, who, now that she had obtained her request, began to cry, and to stuff the corner of her petticoat into her eyes.

‘Whist, you fool whist,’ said the widow. ‘Go and get up Sally you know where she sleeps-and tell her to put down a fire in the little parlour upstairs, and to get a cup of tay ready, and to have Miss Meg up. Your misthress’ll be the better of a quiet sleep afther the night she’s had, and it’ll be betther for her jist popping into Miss Meg’s bed than getting between a pair of cowld sheets.’

These preparations met with Biddy’s entire approval, for she reiterated her blessings on the widow, as she went to announce all the news to Sally and Kate, while Mrs Kelly made such preparations as were fitting for a walk, at that early hour, up to Dunmore House.

They were not long before they were under weigh, but they did not reach the house quite so quickly as Biddy had left it. Mrs Kelly had to pick her way in the half light, and observed that ‘she’d never been up to the house since old Simeon Lynch built it, and when the stones were laying for it, she didn’t think she ever would; but one never knowed what changes might happen in this world.’

They were soon in the house, for Judy was up to let them in; and though she stared when she saw Mrs Kelly, she merely curtsied, and said nothing.

The girl went upstairs first, with the candle, and Mrs Kelly followed, very gently, on tiptoe. She need not have been so careful to avoid waking Barry, for, had a drove of oxen been driven upstairs, it would not have roused him. However, up she crept her thick shoes creaking on every stair and stood outside the door, while Biddy went in to break the news of her arrival.

Anty was still asleep, but it did not take much to rouse her; and she trembled in her bed, when, on her asking what was the matter, Mrs Kelly popped her bonnet inside the door, and said,

‘It’s only me, my dear. Mrs Kelly, you know, from the inn,’ and then she very cautiously insinuated the rest of her body into the room, as though she thought that Barry was asleep under the bed, and she was afraid of treading on one of his stray fingers. ‘It’s only me, my dear. Biddy’s been down to me, like a good girl; and I tell you what this is no place for you, just at present, Miss Anty; not till such time as things is settled a little. So I’m thinking you’d betther be slipping down wid me to the inn there, before your brother’s up. There’s nobody in it, not a sowl, only Meg, and Jane, and me, and we’ll make you snug enough between us, never fear.’

‘Do, Miss Anty, dear do, darling,’ added Biddy. ‘It’ll be a dale betther for you than waiting here to be batthered and bruised, and, perhaps, murthered out and out.’

‘Hush, Biddy don’t be saying such things,’ said the widow, who had a great idea of carrying on the war on her own premises, but who felt seriously afraid of Barry now that she was in his house, ‘don’t be saying such things, to frighthen her. But you’ll be asier there than here,’ she continued, to Anty; ‘and there’s nothin like having things asy. So, get up alanna, and we’ll have you warm and snug down there in no time.’

Anty did not want much persuading. She was soon induced to get up and dress herself, to put on her cloak and bonnet, and hurry off with the widow, before the people of Dunmore should be up to look at her going through the town to the inn; while Biddy was left to pack up such things as were necessary for her mistress’ use, and enjoined to hurry down with them to the inn as quick as she could; for, as the widow said, ‘there war no use in letting every idle bosthoon in the place see her crossing with a lot of baggage, and set them all asking the where and the why and the wherefore; though, for the matther of that, they’d all hear it soon enough.’

To tell the truth, Mrs Kelly’s courage waned from the moment of her leaving her own door, and it did not return till she felt herself within it again. Indeed, as she was leaving the gate of Dunmore House, with Anty on her arm, she was already beginning to repent what she was doing; for there were idlers about, and she felt ashamed of carrying off the young heiress. But these feelings vanished the moment she had crossed her own sill. When she had once got Anty home, it was all right. The widow Kelly seldom went out into the world; she seldom went anywhere except to mass; and, when out, she was a very modest and retiring old lady; hut she could face the devil, if necessary, across her own counter.

And so Anty was rescued, for a while, from her brother’s persecution. This happened on the morning on which Martin and Lord Ballindine met together at the lawyer’s, when the deeds were prepared which young Kelly’s genuine honesty made him think necessary before he eloped with old Sim Lynch’s heiress. He would have been rather surprised to hear, at that moment, that his mother had been before him, and carried off his bride elect to the inn!

Anty was soon domesticated. The widow, very properly, wouldn’t let her friends, Meg and Jane, ask her any questions at present. Sally had made, on the occasion, a pot of tea sufficient to supply the morning wants of half a regiment, and had fully determined that it should not be wasted. The Kelly girls were both up, and ready to do anything for their friend; so they got her to take a little of Sally’s specific, and put her into a warm bed to sleep, quiet and secure from any interruption.

While her guest was sleeping, the widow made up her mind that her best and safest course, for the present, would be, as she expressed it to her daughter, Meg, ‘to keep her toe in her pump, and say nothing to nobody.’

‘Anty can just stay quiet and asy,’ she continued, ‘till we see what Master Barry manes to be afther; he’ll find it difficult enough to move her out of this, I’m thinking, and I doubt his trying. As to money matthers, I’ll neither meddle nor make, nor will you, mind; so listen to that, girls; and as to Moylan, he’s a dacent quiet poor man but it’s bad thrusting any one. Av’ he’s her agent, however, I s’pose he’ll look afther the estate; only, Barry’ll be smashing the things up there at the house yonder in his anger and dhrunken fits, and it’s a pity the poor girl’s property should go to rack. But he’s such a born divil, she’s lucky to be out of his clutches alive; though, thank the Almighty, that put a good roof over the lone widow this day, he can’t clutch her here. Wouldn’t I like to see him come to the door and ax for her! And he can’t smash the acres, nor the money they say Mulholland has, at Tuam; and faix, av’ he does any harm up there at the house, shure enough Anty can make him pay for it every pot and pan of it out of his share, and she’ll do it, too av’ she’s said by me. But mind, I’ll neither meddle nor make; neither do you, and then we’re safe, and Anty too. And Martin’ll be here soon I wondher what good Dublin’ll do him? They might have the Repale without him, I suppose? And when he’s here, why, av’ he’s minded to marry her, and she’s plased, why, Father Geoghegan may come down, and do it before the whole counthry, and who’s ashamed? But there’ll be no huggery-muggery, and schaming; that is, av’ they’re said by me. Faix, I’d like to know who she’s to be afeared of, and she undher this roof! I s’pose Martin ain’t fool enough to care for what such a fellow as Barry Lynch can do or say and he with all the Kellys to back him; as shure they would, and why not, from the lord down? Not that I recommend the match; I think Martin a dale betther off as he is, for he’s wanting nothing, and he’s his own industhry and, maybe, a handful of money besides. But, as for being afeard I niver heard yet that a Kelly need be afeard of a Lynch in Dunmore.’

In this manner did Mrs Kelly express the various thoughts that ran through her head, as she considered Anty’s affairs; and if we could analyse the good lady’s mind, we should probably find that the result of her reflections was a pleasing assurance that she could exercise the Christian virtues of charity and hospitality towards Anty, and, at the same time, secure her son’s wishes and welfare, without subjecting her own name to any obloquy, or putting herself to any loss or inconvenience. She determined to put no questions to Anty, nor even to allude to her brother, unless spoken to on the subject; but, at the same time, she stoutly resolved to come to no terms with Barry, and to defy him to the utmost, should he attempt to invade her in her own territories. After a sound sleep Anty got up, much strengthened and refreshed, and found the two Kelly girls ready to condole with, or congratulate her, according to her mood and spirits. In spite of their mother’s caution, they were quite prepared for gossiping, as soon as Anty showed the slightest inclination that way; and, though she at first was afraid to talk about her brother, and was even, from kindly feeling, unwilling to do so, the luxury of such an opportunity of unrestrained confidence overcame her; and, before the three had been sitting together for a couple of hours, she had described the whole interview, as well as the last drunken midnight visit of Barry’s to her own bed-room, which, to her imagination, was the most horrible of all the horrors of the night.

Poor Anty. She cried vehemently that morning more in sorrow for her brother, than in remembrance of her own fears, as she told her friends how he had threatened to shut her up in a mad-house, and then to murder her, unless she promised him not to marry; and when she described how brutally he had struck her, and how, afterwards, he had crept to her room, with his red eyes and swollen face, in the dead of the night, and, placing his hot mouth close to her ears, had dreadfully sworn that she should die, if she thought of Martin Kelly as her husband, she trembled as though she was in an ague fit.

The girls said all they could to comfort her, and they succeeded in a great degree; but they could not bring her to talk of Martin. She shuddered whenever his name was mentioned, and they began to fear that Barry’s threat would have the intended effect, and frighten her from the match. However, they kindly talked of other things of how impossible it was that she should go back to Dunmore House, and how comfortable and snug they would make her at the inn, till she got a home for herself; of what she should do, and of all their little household plans together; till Anty, when she could forget her brother’s threats for a time, seemed to be more comfortable and happy than she had been for years.

In vain did the widow that morning repeatedly invoke Meg and Jane, first one and then the other, to assist in her commercial labours. In vain were Sally and Kate commissioned to bring them down. If, on some urgent behest, one of them darted down to mix a dandy of punch, or weigh a pound of sugar, when the widow was imperatively employed elsewhere, she was upstairs again, before her mother could look about her; and, at last, Mrs Kelly was obliged to content herself with the reflection that girls would be girls, and that it was ‘nathural and right they shouldn’t wish to lave Anty alone the first morning, and she sthrange to the place.’

At five o’clock, the widow, as was her custom, went up to her dinner; and Meg was then obliged to come down and mind the shop, till her sister, having dined, should come down and relieve guard. She had only just ensconced herself behind the counter, when who should walk into the shop but Barry Lynch.

Had Meg seen an ogre, or the enemy of all mankind himself, she could not, at the moment, have been more frightened; and she stood staring at him, as if the sudden loss of the power of motion alone prevented her from running away.

‘I want to see Mrs Kelly,’ said Barry; ‘d’ye hear? I want to see your mother; go and tell her.’

But we must go back, and see how Mr Lynch had managed to get up, and pass his morning.

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