When Ussher first came into the parlour at Ballycloran, he asked after Thady, and it will be necessary to explain why he did so; the terms on which the two men stood towards each other not being such as to render it probable that either should be very anxious for the presence of the other.
It had come to the knowledge of Denis McGovery that Brady had asked to the wedding a lot of men from Drumleesh, and some also from Mohill — characters with whom Denis was not apt to consort himself, and whom he looked on as paupers and rapparees. He had also made out, it is presumed with the aid of his affianced, that some other motive was probably ensuring their attendance than merely that of doing honour to his, Denis’s, nuptials. Pat Brady was not likely to have made a confidant of his sister or of Denis on the occasion; but nevertheless, the bridegroom had discovered that the meeting was, to some extent, to be a political one, and moreover, that Thady Macdermot was expected to be there.
Now McGovery, although it must be presumed that, in common with all Irishmen of the lower order, he conceived that he was to a certain degree injured and oppressed by the operation of the existing laws, nevertheless had always thought it the wiser course to be with the laws, bad as they might be, than against them. When, therefore, he learnt that the brothers of the men whom Ussher had put into prison were to be of the party, and that many of their more immediate neighbours would be there, and remembered also that Captain Ussher himself had promised to come to the “divarsion,” mighty fears suggested themselves to him, and he began to dread that the occasion would be taken for offering some personal injury to the latter! In which case, might not all be implicated? — and among the number that dear person for whom Denis felt the tenderest regard — viz., himself?
Actuated by these apprehensions, Denis, on the morning of the wedding, had gone to Ussher to unfold his budget of dreadful news — to assure the Captain that his only object “was to get himself married,” and to see that the “pigs and the thrifle of change were all right,”— and strongly to advise the Captain to stay away; “not that it wouldn’t be a great honer for a poor boy like him to see his honer down there, for he had the greatest rispect in life for him, and all that wore the King’s sword; but there war no knowing what them boys might be afther when they got the dhrink in them.”
Ussher thanked Denis for his communication, but at the same time begged him not to disquiet himself — told him that there was no danger in life; and declared that he felt so confident of the good feeling of the men through the country towards him, particularly those at Drumleesh and Mohill, that he should always feel perfectly safe in their company — in fact, that he looked on their presence as a protection. Poor Denis stared hard at him; but as he soon perceived that the Captain was laughing at him for his solicitude, he retreated with a grin on his face, remarking that he had meant all for the best.
Though Captain Ussher affected to set no value on McGovery’s tale, he nevertheless thought that there might be something in it. He determined, however, not to be deterred from going to the wedding. Though in many respects a bad man, Ussher was very vigilant in the performance of his official duties, and, as has been before said, was possessed of sufficient courage. It had been part of McGovery’s disclosure that Thady Macdermot was to be at the wedding, and it occurred to Ussher, that at any rate no personal violence would be offered as long as young Macdermot was with him; he therefore determined to see him first, and tell him what he had heard. It is true he had no great love for the poor fellow; still he would have been sorry to see him, from any cause of uneasiness or distress, throw himself into the hands of men who might probably induce him to join in acts which would render him subject to the severest penalties of the law. Ussher understood Thady’s character tolerably well; and though he had no real sympathy for his sufferings, still he had manly feeling enough to wish to save him, as Feemy’s brother, from the danger into which he believed him so likely to fall.
It was for the purpose of talking on this subject that he asked for Thady; but when he found he was not in the house, nor expected home to dinner, he was obliged to postpone what he had to say till he met him at Mary Brady’s wedding.
About seven o’clock, Feemy and her lover arrived at Mrs. Mehan’s little whiskey shop, where the marriage was to take place. The whole party were already there: Father John was standing with his back to a huge turf fire, in the outer room — the usual drinking room of the establishment — amusing the bystanders with jokes, apparently at the expense of the bridegroom. Mary Brady was dressed in a white muslin gown, which, though it was quite clean, seemed to have been neither mangled nor ironed, so multitudinous had been the efforts to make it fit her ungainly person. She had a large white cap on her head, extending widely over her ears; and her hair, parted on her left brow, was smeared flat over her forehead with oil: her arms were bare, and quite red, and her hands were thrust into huge white cotton gloves, which seemed to make them so ashamed of themselves as utterly to unfit them for their ordinary uses. Everyone that entered, said, “Well, Mary,” or, “Well, alanna, how’s yourself?” or some greeting of the kind, to which she answered only with a grin. She and her future husband seemed totally unacquainted with each other, for since he came in he hadn’t spoken to her. In fact, poor Mary, as she expressed herself to Feemy, “Couldn’t get her sperrits up at all, and felt quite cowed like.”
Biddy, from Ballycloran, was her bridesmaid, and she, though she did not emulate the bride in her white dress, had also thrust her head into a huge cap, which, if it did not much add to her beauty, at any rate made her sufficiently remarkable to show that she was one of the principal characters of the evening.
Denis had procured himself a second-hand light brown coat, with metal buttons; this was the only attempt at wedding finery which he had made; but even this seemed to make him somewhat beside himself, and gave him a strong resemblance to that well-known martyr to unaccustomed grandeur — a hog in armour. Pat seemed to scorn the party altogether, though he was to officiate in giving away the bride; he was talking apart to Reynolds and one or two others, and seeing to the proper arrangement and distribution of the good things which were to follow the wedding. Thady was not in the place; he had not yet arrived.
“Ah! Feemy,” began Father John, as she walked in, followed by Ussher, “how are you? and this is kind of you, Captain.”
“Long life to you, Miss Feemy! and you, too, Captain dear,” said Mary, at last excited to speak by the greatness of the occasion.
“Your honers are welcome, Miss; your honers are welcome, Captain Ussher,” said Denis, forgetting that, for the present, he was only a guest himself; and then Brady, and then Shamuth na Pibu’a, the blind piper from County Mayo, “who had made the music out of his own head, all about O’Connell”— and then Biddy, and Mrs. Mehan, and all the boys and girls one after another, got up, and ducked their heads down in token of kindly welcome to the “young misthress and her lover;” and though most of those present, at other times, would have said that it was a pity their own Miss Feemy should be marrying “a born inimey of the counthry, like a Revenue officer, and a black Prothestant too,” it wasn’t now, when she had come to honour the wedding of one of themselves, that they would be remembering anything against her or her lover.
“Well, Mary, so the time’s nearly come,” said Feemy, as she sat down on the bench by the fire, that Mary, regardless of all bridal propriety, wiped down for her with the tail of her white dress; saying, as she did so, “What harum? sure won’t the dust make it worse, when the dancing comes on, and —”
“What is it, Miss?
“Ah, now! you’ll be at me like the rest of ’em;” and she put her big face down over Feemy’s. “Are the sheets done, Mary?”
“Ah now! Miss, you’re worse than ’em all!” and Mary put her big hand with the big cotton glove, with the fingers widely extended, before her face to hide the virgin blush.
“What’s that, Feemy?” said Father John; “what’s that I heard?”
“Go asy, now, Father John, do;” and Mary gave the priest a playful push, which nearly put him into the fire; “for God’s sake, Miss, don’t be telling him, now; you won’t, darlint?”
“What was it, Feemy? all’s fair now, you know.”
“Only just something Mary was to get ready for her husband, then, Father John — nothing particular. You’ll never be married yourself, you know, so you needn’t ask.”
“Oh! part of the fortune, was it? Trust Denis, he’ll look to that; is it the pigs, eh, Denis?”
“No, Father John, it jist a’nt the pigs,” said Mary.
“Come, what is it? — out with it Denis.”
“Sorrow a one of me knows what you’re talking about,” said Denis.
“It a’nt the calf at last, Denis, is it?”
“Bad luck to it for a calf!” exclaimed McGovery; and then, sidling up to the priest, “you wouldn’t be setting all the boys laughing at me, Father John, and thim sthrangers, too.”
“Well, well, Denis, but why didn’t you tell me the whole?”
When Ussher had first entered, Brady had come up, expressly to welcome him; and there was something in his extreme servility which made Ussher fear all was not quite right. But Ussher had become habituated to treat the servility of the poor as the only means they had of deprecating the injuries so frequently in his power to inflict; he had, too, from his necessity of not attending to their supplications, acquired a habit of treating them with constant derision, which they well understood and appreciated; and the contempt which he always showed for them was one of the reasons why he was so particularly hated through the country. Though now a guest of Brady’s, he could not help showing the same feeling. Moreover, Ussher, who as far as the conduct of man to man is concerned had nothing of treachery about him, strongly suspected Pat’s true character, and was therefore less likely to treat him with respect.
“Thank you, Brady, I’ll do very well; don’t you expect Mr. Thady here?”
“Is it the young masthur, Captain? In course we do. Mary wouldn’t be married av he warn’t to the fore.”
“Indeed! I didn’t know you’d so much respect for Mr. Macdermot as that.”
“Is it for the masthur, Captain?”
“For the matter of that, Brady, you wouldn’t much mind how many masters you had if they all paid you, I’m thinking.”
“And that’s thrue for you, Captain,” said Pat, grinning in his perplexity, for he didn’t know whether to take what Ussher said for a joke or not.
“Keegan, now, wouldn’t be a bad master,” said Ussher.
“And what puts him in your head, Captain Ussher?”
“Only they say he pays well to a sharp fellow like you.”
“‘Deed I don’t know who he pays. They do be saying you pay a few of the boys too an odd time or two yourself.”
“Is it I? What should I be paying them for?”
“Jist for a sight of a whiskey still, or a little white smoke in the mountains on a fine night or so. They say that same would be worth a brace of guineas to a boy I could name.”
“You’re very sharp, Mr. Brady; but should I want such assistance, I don’t know any I’d sooner ask than yourself.”
“Don’t go for to throuble yourself, for I don’t want to be holed of a night yet; and that’s what’ll happen them that’s at that work, I’m thinking; and that afore long — not that I’m blaming you, for, in course, every one knows it’s only your dooty.”
“You’re very kind; but when will Mr. Thady be here?”
“‘Deed I wonder he a’nt here, Captain; but war you wanting him?”
“Not in particular. Is it true the brothers of those poor fellows I took up at Loch Sheen are here to-night?”
“They is, both of ’em; there’s Joe Reynolds, sitting behind there — in the corner where I was when you and Miss Feemy come in.”
“It’s lucky he wasn’t with his brother, that’s all: and he’d better look sharp himself, or he’ll go next.”
“Oh, he’s a poor harmless boy, Captain. He never does nothing that way: though, in course, I knows nothing of what they do be doing; how should I?”
“How should you, indeed! though you seem to be ready enough to answer for your friend Reynolds. However, I don’t want to be taking any more of the boys at Drumleesh; so if he is a friend of yours, you’d better warn him, that’s all:” and he walked away.
“And it’s warning you want yourself, Captain, dear,” said Pat to himself; “how clever you think yourself, with your Mr. Keegan and your spies, and your fine lady Miss, there; but if you a’nt quiet enough before Christmas, it’s odd, that’s all.”
They were called into the inner room now, as Father John was going to perform the ceremony; and such marshalling and arranging as he had! — trying to put people into their proper places who would be somewhere else — shoving down the forms out of the way — moving the tables — removing the dishes and plates; for the supper was to be eaten off the table at which the couple were to be married. And though all the company had probably been at weddings before, and that often, they seemed new to the proceedings.
“Denis, you born fool, will you come here, where I told you? and don’t keep the mutton spoiling all night;” and he shoved McGovery round the table.
“Mary Brady, if you wish to change the ugly name that’s on you this night, will you come here?” and he seized hold of the young woman’s arm and dragged her round; “and who’s wanting you, Biddy?” as the girl followed close behind her principal.
“Shure, Father John, a’nt I to be bridesmaid then?”
“You, bridesmaid, and Miss Feemy to the fore! stay where you are. Come, Feemy.”
“Oh! Father John, I a’nt bridesmaid.”
“Oh! but you will be; and, as Thady a’nt here, Captain Ussher’ll be best man; come round, Captain,”— and Ussher came round. “And mind, Captain,” he added, whispering, “when I come to ‘salute nostrâ’— those are the last words — you’re to kiss the bride; you are to kiss her first, and then you’ll be married yourself before the year’s out.”
“But I am not all ambitious that way.”
“Never mind, do as I tell you; and don’t forget to have a half-crown in your hand, or so, when I bring the plate round. Come, Pat, where are you? you’ve to give her away.”
“She’ll jist give herself away, then, Father John; by dad, she’s ready and willing enough!”
“Do as I tell you, and don’t stand bothering. You want to keep those shiners in your pocket — I know you;” and Brady, shamed into compliance, also went into his place.
“Now, Denis, the other side of her, boy; why, you’re as awkward to marry as shoeing a colt.”
“Why then, Father John, that’s thrue; for I shod many a colt, and never was married.”
“You’ll not be so long, avick; and may be you’ll know more about it this time next week. But here’s the plate; what do you mean to give the bride? you must put something handsome here for Mary.”
“Faix then I forgot about that;” and he put his hand into his pocket and forked out half-a-crown, which, with a sheepish look, he put in the plate.
“Half-a-crown, indeed, for a tradesman like you! There’s Corney Dolan there, who don’t seem to have a coat that fits him too well, would do more for his wife, if it was God’s pleasure he was to have one this night.”
“Well, there;” and Denis put down another half-crown. This money, which is always put down just before the marriage, is a bridal present to the bride, and becomes her exclusive property.
“Well, Mary, you must be getting the rest of it from him another time.”
“Let her alone for that, yer riverence,” said Corney Dolan — who considered that Father John’s allusion to his coat privileged him to put in his joke —“let her alone for that; she knows how to be getting the halfpence, and to hoult them too.”
“It’s a great deal you’re knowing about it, I’m thinking, Mr. Dolan,” retorted Denis; “it’s a pity you couldn’t keep the hoult of any yerself.”
“Wisht, boys! how am I to marry you at all, if you go on this way? Come, Mary, off with that glove of yours; now for the ring, Denis:” and Mary hauled away at the glove, which the heat of her hand prevented her from pulling off.
“Drat it for a glove, then!”
“Ah, alanna, gloves come so nathural to your purty hand, they don’t like to lave it at all.”
At last, however, Mary got her hands ready for action; the ring was in the plate with the two half-crowns; Father John was standing between the two matrimonial aspirants; Ussher and Feemy were close behind Mary, and Brady was sitting down on the right hand of Denis; and the priest opened his book and began.
The marriage ceremony took about five minutes; but during this time Father John found occasion to whisper Ussher to come up close to the bride; and then, after hurrying over a great part of the service almost under his breath, he pronounced the final words —salute nostrâ— in a loud voice, adding at the same time to Ussher, “Now, my boy!”
Ussher, in obedience to the priest’s injunction, seized hold of the bride at one side, to kiss her; while McGovery, determined to vindicate his own right, pounced on her on the other; justly thinking that the first kiss she should have after her wedding ought to be given to her by her lawful married husband.
But, alas! both aspirants were foiled, and Mary got no kiss at all. She, in her dismay at the energy of the two aspirants, ducked her head down nearly to the level of the table, and Denis, in his zeal and his hurry, struck Ussher in the face with his own forehead with no slight force. The Captain retreated, half-stunned, and not very well pleased with the salute he had received; and Denis was so shocked at what he had done, that he forgot his wife — and, apparently even the pigs and the money — in his regrets and apologies.
“Egad, Captain,” said Father John, “that’s more of a kiss than I meant to get you; why, you’re as awkward, McGovery, as a bullcalf. Who’d have thought to see you butting at the Captain, like an old goat on his hind legs!”
“Faix then, yer riverence, I didn’t intend to be trating the Captain in that way; but any way the Captain’s head is ‘amost as hard as my own, for the flashes isn’t out of my eyes yet.”
“Never mind,” said Ussher; “and if you always take care of your wife the same way, my good fellow, you’ll be sure she’ll not come to any harm, for want of looking after.”
In the meantime Mary had escaped from the salute intended for her, and was, with the aid of Biddy, Mrs. Mehan, and sundry others of her visitors, engaged in extricating two legs of mutton, a ham, and large quantities of green cabbages from the pots in which they had been boiling in the outer room.
“God bless you, Sally dear, and will you drain them pratees? they’ll be biled to starch. And Mrs. Mehan, darling, my heart’s broke with the big pot here, will you lend me a hand? good luck to you then. There’s Denis and Pat, bad manners to them, they’d see me kilt with all the bother, and stand there doing nothing under the sun.”
And poor Mary McGovery, as we must now call her, toiled and groaned under the labours of her wedding day till the perspiration ran from under her wedding cap; and her wedding-dress gave manifold signs of her zeal in preparing the wedding-supper.
Whilst Mary was dishing the mutton, &c., Father John was employed in the not less important business of collecting his dues.
Between McGovery and Pat Brady he had succeeded in getting two thirty-shilling notes, which lay in the bottom of the plate, and formed a respectable base for the little heap of silver which he would collect; and if he did not get as much as the occasion would seem to warrant, the deficiency arose from no delicacy in asking, or want of perseverance in urging.
“Now, Captain, you’re the only Protestant among us; show these Catholics of mine a liberal example — show them what they ought to do for their priest,”— here Captain Ussher put a couple of half-crowns in the plate. “There, boys, see what a Protestant does for me. Well, Feemy, I never ask the ladies, you know, but I shan’t let Thady off; though he ain’t here, I shall settle that in the rent.”
“Oh, yes, Father John; make Thady pay for himself and me; Mrs. Brennan has got all my money.”
“But where’s Thady, Feemy dear? I hope you and he are good friends now.”
“Oh yes, Father John; that is, I didn’t see him since morning.”
“But will he be here to-night?”
“He said he would; but you’d best ask Pat, he knows most about him.”
This conversation took place in an under tone, and the priest walked on with his plate.
“Come, Mr. Tierney, how’s yourself? I see you’re waiting there, quite impatient, with your hands in your pocket. It’s nothing less than a crown piece, I’ll go bail.”
“‘Deed then, crown pieces a’nt that plenty in the counthry, these days, Father John; the likes of them”— and he put half-a-crown in the plate —“are scarce enough.”
The speaker was an old man, rather decently dressed in knee-breeches and gaiters; he was one of those who, even in bad times, manage by thrift and industry to get, among the poor, the reputation of comparative wealth.
“And that’s true for you, Mr. Tierney, and thank you kindly; they do however say, that however scarce they are in the country, you’ve your share of them.”
“Go on, Father John, go on, you do be saying more than you know.”
And by degrees the priest went through them all. From most of them he got something; from some a shilling, from some only sixpence; some few gave nothing at all: these in general endeavoured to escape observation behind the backs of the donors, but Father John let none of them off; and those who were unprepared, and who alleged their poverty, and their inability, he reproved for their idleness, and hinted rather strongly that their visits to Mrs. Mulready’s, or similar establishments, were the cause of their not being able to do what he called their duty by their priest.
Standing in a corner, at the further end of the room, and resting against a wall, was Joe Reynolds: as Father John had a bad opinion of this man, and as he was not a parishioner of his, he was returning without speaking to him, when Joe said,
“You’re in the right of it, Father John, not to be axing such a poor divil as me; you know, betwixt them all, they’ve not left me the sign of a copper harp.”
“I know, Reynolds, you’re too fond of Mrs. Mulready’s to have much for your own priest, let alone another.”
“Faix then, Father John, you shouldn’t spake agin mother Mulready, for she’s something like your riverence; and a poor boy with an empty pocket will get neither comfort nor good words from either of ye.”
Father John did not think it to be consistent with his dignity to answer this sally; so he returned to the other end of the room, carefully counting as he went, and pocketing the money which he had collected. In the meantime the bride, with such assistance as she could get, had succeeded in putting the supper on the table: a leg of mutton at the top, reclining on a vast bed of cabbage; a similar dish at the bottom; and a ham, with the same garniture, in the middle. The rest of the table was elegantly sprinkled with plates of smoking potatoes; and what knives and forks and spoons and plates could be spared from the head of the table, where a few were laid out with some little order for the more aristocratic of the guests, were collected together in a heap. At first, no one seemed inclined to sit down; every one was struck with a sudden bashfulness, till Father John, taking up the knife and fork at the top of the table, called McGovery to bring his wife to supper.
“Now, Denis, my man, don’t be thinking of those two pigs, but bring your better half with you, and let’s see how you can behave as a married man.”
“Come, Miss Feemy,” said Mary, “if you and the Captain now would jist sit down, and begin — there’s a dear, Miss, do.”
“Oh, Mary, nobody must sit down before you, to-night.”
“Never mind me, Miss — if I could only get you and the Captain seated; yer honer,” and she turned round with a curtsey to Ussher, “there’s Denis and Pat there will do nothing in life to help me!” and the poor woman seemed at her wit’s end to know how to arrange her guests.
At last, however, Ussher and Feemy sat down at one side of the priest, Denis and his wife at the other, and by degrees the table got quite full; so much so, that when the boys saw one another taking their seats, they were as eager as before they had been slow; and they hustled each other at the bottom of the table, till they were so crowded that they hadn’t room to use their arms. Pat sat at the bottom, and he and the priest emulated each other in the zeal and celerity with which they cut up and distributed the joints before them.
At Pat’s end of the table plates were scarce, and the boys round him took the huge lumps of blood-red mutton in their fists, and seemed perfectly independent of such conventional wants as knives and forks, in the ease and enjoyment with which they dispatched their repast. At last Brady had done all to the joint that carving could do, and having kept a tolerably sufficient lion’s share for himself, he passed the bone down the table, which was speedily divided into as many portions as nature had intended that it should be.
Matters were conducted in a rather more decorous manner among the aristocrats at Father John’s end of the table — though even here they were carried on in a somewhat rapid and voracious fashion. The priest helped Feemy and Ussher, Mary and her husband; and then remarking that he had done all the hard work of the evening, and that he thought it was time to get a bit himself, he filled a moderate plate for his own consumption, and passed the joint down to be treated after the same manner as its fellow.
As long as the eating continued there was not much said; but when the viands had disappeared, and the various bottles came into requisition, the clatter of tongues became loud and joyous; and though the first part of the entertainment had to all appearance come to a rather too speedy termination for want of material to carry it on, there seemed, from the quantity of whiskey produced, little chance of any similar disappointment in what the greater portion of the guests considered the more agreeable part of the entertainment.
“Well, Denis,” said Father John, “I believe I’ve done all I can this time; and as I know you’ll want to be looking after the cow that’s in calf — no, not the cow, but the pigs — I’ll be off.”
“Folly on, Father John, folly on; it’s always the way with yer riverence — to be making yer game of a poor boy like me! But you’re not going out of this till you’ve dhrunk Mary’s health here, and heard a tune on the pipes, any way.”
“Not a drop, Denis, thank ye,” and Father John got up; “and now, boys and girls, good night, and God bless you — and behave yourselves.”
“Faix, then, yer riverence,” said Joe Reynolds from the bottom of the table, “you may tell by the way the boys take to the bottle, that they’ll behave themselves dacently and discreatly, like Christians.”
“Indeed, then, Reynolds, where you are, and the whiskey with you, I believe there’s likely to be little discretion but the discretion of drunkenness — and not much of that.”
“Thank ye, Father John, and it’s you have always the kind word for me.”
“But, Father John,” began Mary, “you’re not really going to go without so much as a tumbler of punch?”
“Not a drop, Mary, my dear; I took my punch after dinner — and I can’t stand too much. Good night, Feemy — you’ll stay and have a dance I suppose; good night, Captain Ussher.”
And Father John got up from table, and went out of the room. As soon, however, as Denis saw that he was really going, he rose and followed him out of the door.
“Sit down, Denis, sit down — don’t be laving your company such a night as this.”
“But I want to have jist a word with yer riverence.”
“Well, what is it?”
“Jist step outside then, Father John.”
“Well, Denis; is it anything about Betsy Cane? or has Ginty come home, and is he wanting the pigs?”
“No, but would you just step outside here, Mr. McGrath; where those long-eared ruffians won’t be hearing me?” and he and the priest walked a little distance from the door of Mrs. Mehan’s house.
“I’m afeard, Father John, them born divils from Drumleesh and Mohill, as Pat brought here to-night, are maning more than good to Captain Ussher.”
“And what makes you think that, Denis?”
“Why, Father John, Mary was saying that Pat towld her a lot of his own frinds would be up with him, and that if they war talking together, she and those as are with her dancing and the like, warn’t to be disturbing them; and then I knows them boys is very mad with the Captain about that whiskey business up at Loch Sheen; and then Joe Reynolds and Jack Byrne are in it, and their brothers are two of them as war sazed and are now in Ballinamore Bridewell; — and I know there is something of the sort going on through the counthry; and faix, Father John, I wouldn’t for money that anything happened, and I in it the while; for a poor boy is always made to be mixed up in them affairs, if by bad luck he is anywhere near at the time.”
“But what do you think they’d do to the Captain to-night, Denis?”
“Faix then, yer riverence, I don’t know what they’d be doing — murther him, maybe.”
“God forbid! But, Denis, those men from Drumleesh could hardly know Captain Ussher was going to be at the wedding to-night.”
“Oh! yer riverence, they’d know it well enough from Pat Brady.”
“But you don’t think your wife’s brother would join a party to murder Ussher?”
“Why then, Father John — I think it’s just he that would be putting the others up to it.”
“Good gracious, Denis! and what would he get by such deeds as that? Isn’t he comfortable enough.”
“It isn’t them as is poorest, is always the worst. But any how, Father John, if you’d come back, and yer riverence wouldn’t mind for the onst jist sitting it out — jist dhrinking a dhrop at an odd time, or colloguing a bit with owld Mr. Tierney, till we get the Captain out of that, shure they’d never be doing anything out of the way as long as yer riverence is in it.”
“It isn’t here — in the house, where there are so many together — they’d attack him, even if they meant to do so; and I don’t think they mean it to-night; but it’s on his way home — and my going back would not in any way prevent that. But why don’t you at once tell Captain Ussher, and warn him that you fear he is not safe among those fellows at night.”
“That’s jist what I did then; but he’s so foolish, and so bowld, there’s no making him mind what one would say. I did tell him, Father John, that I was afeared that there would be some lads in it wouldn’t be his well-wishers. But he laughed at me, and towld me there were none of the boys through the counthry war so fond of him as those Reynoldses and Byrnes, and all them others down at Drumleesh.”
“Well, Denis, and what can I do more; if he laughs at you, why wouldn’t he also laugh at me?”
“Why, yer riverence, you and he are frinds like; besides, he wouldn’t trate the like of you as he would such a one as I; why I believe he don’t think the poor are Christians at all.”
“It’s true enough for some of them; but what would you have me do? I couldn’t walk back to Mohill by his horse’s side; — and I tell you if they attack him at all, it will not be at the house there, but on his way home.”
“‘Deed then. Father John, any way I wish he was well out of that.”
“It seems, Denis, it’s yourself you’re thinking of, more than the Captain.”
“Shure, and why wouldn’t I— and I just married? A purty thing for me just now, to be took up among a lot of blackguard ruffians for murthering a king’s officer.”
“Well, Denis, I won’t go back now — it would look odd and do no good; so do you go back and drink a tumbler of punch with the men, and dance a turn or two with the girls, as you should on your wedding night; and by and by I’ll come down again as if to see what was going on — and to walk home with Miss Feemy. The Captain must go back to Ballycloran for his horse; and if he can be persuaded that there is any danger, he can go up and sleep at the cottage; for I tell you, if they mean to hurt him at all, it’s on the road home to Mohill they’d make the attempt. Do you go in and say nothing about it, and I’ll be down by and by.”
Father John walked away towards his house, and Denis McGovery went back with a heavy heart to dance at his own wedding; for though his solicitude for the “king’s officer” would not have been of the most intense kind, had he thought that he was to be murdered anywhere else, he had a great horror at the idea of any evil happening to that important personage, when it could in any way affect his own comfort.
When Denis returned into Mrs. Mehan’s big kitchen, the amusements of the evening — dancing and drinking — were on the point of commencing. Shamuth of the pipes, the celebrated composer and musician, was sitting in the corner of the huge fireplace, with a tumbler of punch within reach of his hand, preparing his instrument — squeaking, and puffing, and blowing in the most approved preparatory style. Mary was working and toiling again for the benefit of her guests — carrying kettles of boiling water into the inner room — emptying pounds of brown sugar into slop-basins and mugs — telling the boys to take their punch — taking a drop herself now and again, with some one who was wishing her health and happiness, and comfort with the man she’d got — inciting the girls to go and dance — and scolding her brother and husband, because, “bad manners to them, divil a hand they’d lend to help her, and she with so much to do, and so many to mind.”
“And now, Miss Feemy, if you’d only get up and begin, dear, the others would soon folly; come, Captain Ussher — would yer honer jist stand up with Miss Feemy?”
“Oh, no, Mary — you’re the bride you know; Captain Ussher must dance with you first.”
“Oh! laws, Miss, but that’d be too much honour intirely.”
“No, Mrs. McGovery, but it’s I that’ll be honoured; so if you will be good enough to stand up with me, I shall be glad to shake a foot with you:” and the gallant Captain led Mary into the middle of the floor.
“But, Captain, dear, sorrow a sup of dhrink did I see you take this blessed evening; shure then you’ll let me get you a glass of wine before we all begin, jist to prevent your being smothered with the dust like; shure, yer honour hasn’t taken a dhrop yet.”
“I won’t be so long, Mary; but I won’t have the wine yet, I’ll wash the dust out with a tumbler of punch just now. Here’s your husband, you must make him dance with the bridesmaid.”
“I’m afraid then he ain’t much good at dancing.”
“Oh! but he must try. — Come, McGovery, there’s Biddy waiting for you to take her out; and here’s Shamuth waiting — you don’t think, man, he’d begin till you’re ready.”
“Come, Denis,” said his gentle spouse, “I never see sich a man; can’t ye stand up and be dancing, and not keeping everyone waiting that way?”
“Mind yourself, Mary, and you’ll have enough to mind. Come, Biddy, alanna, let us have a shake together, all for luck;” and the happy husband led forth Biddy of Ballycloran — she with the big cap — who was only now beginning to regain the serene looks, which had been dispelled by Father John’s not permitting her to act as bridesmaid.
And now Shamuth — his preparatory puffs having been accomplished — struck up “Paddy Carey” with full force and energy. As this was the first dance, no one stood up but the two couple above named; there were therefore the more left to admire the performance, and better room left for the performers to show their activity.
“Faix then, Mary,” said one, “it’s yerself that dances illigant — the Lord be praised — only look to her feet.”
“Well, dear — Denis, shure no one thought you were that good at a jig; give him a turn, Biddy — don’t spare him — he’s able for you and more.”
“Ah! but see the Captain, Kathleen; it’s he that could give the time to the music; a’nt he and Mary well met? — you must put more wind into the pipes, Shamuth, before they’re down.”
“But if you want to see the dancing, wait till Miss Feemy stands up — it’s she that can dance; you’ll stand up with the Captain, Miss Feemy, won’t you?”
“Indeed I will, Corney, if he asks me.”
“Axes you! ah, there’s little doubt of that; it’s he that’s ready and willing to ax you, now and always.”
“Ah! Mr. McGovery, shure man, you’re not bait yet! you wouldn’t give in to Biddy that soon?”
Poor Denis was giving signs of having had enough of the amusement. There was a tolerably large fire on the hearth, near which he had been destined to perform his gyrations — which, if not very graceful, had, at any rate, been sufficiently active; and the exertion, heat, and dust were showing plainly on his shining countenance.
“Ah! Mr. McGovery,” panted Biddy, “shure you’re not down yet, and I only jist begun!”
“Indeed, then, Biddy, I am, and quite enough I’ve had, too, for one while. Here, Corney, come and take my place;” and Denis deposited a penny in a little wooden dish by the piper’s side.
“By dad, Denis,” said Corney, “you’ll sleep to-night, any ways — to look at you.”
“That’s jist what he won’t, then; for it’ll be morning before he’s in bed, and Mary’ll have too much to say to him, when he is there, to let him sleep.”
“Never mind, boys; do you dance, and I’ll get myself a dhrink, for I’m choked with the dust; — and here’s Mr. Thady. Why, Mr. Thady, why didn’t you come in time for the supper, then?”
Just as Denis McGovery gave over dancing, Thady entered the house, having anything but a wedding countenance. He had been, since the time we parted from him after his interview with Keegan, lying in the stable, smoking. He had eaten nothing, but had remained meditating over the different things which conspired to make his heart sad.
His father’s state — the impossibility of carrying on the war any longer against the enmity of Flannelly and Keegan — his own forlorn prospects — the insult and blow he had just received from the overbearing, heartless lawyer — but, above all, Feemy’s condition, and his fears respecting her, were too much for him to bear. After his sister and Captain Ussher had left Ballycloran, he had gone up to the house and had swallowed a couple of glasses of raw whiskey, to drive, as he said to himself, the sorrow out of his heart; and he had now come down to seek the friends whom Brady had recommended to him, and determined, at whatever cost, to revenge himself, by their aid, against Keegan, for the insults he had heaped upon him, and against Ussher for the name which, he believed, he had put upon his sister.
It was with these feelings and determinations that Thady had come down to McGovery’s wedding; and, as he entered the room, Ussher and Feemy were just standing up to dance.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01