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Title: All on the Irish Shore - Irish Sketches
Author: Somerville, E. Oe. (Edith Oenone), 1858-1949, Ross, Martin, 1862-1915
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "All on the Irish Shore - Irish Sketches" ***

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[Illustration: "ROBERT TRINDER, ESQ., M.F.H." _A Grand Filly._]



All on the Irish Shore

Irish Sketches

By

E.OE. Somerville and Martin Ross

Authors of

"Some Experiences of an Irish R.M.," "The Real Charlotte" "The Silver
Fox," "A Patrick's Day Hunt" etc., etc.

With Illustrations by E.OE. Somerville


_SECOND IMPRESSION_


Longmans, Green, and Co.

39 Paternoster Row, London

New York and Bombay

1903



CONTENTS.


THE TINKER'S DOG

FANNY FITZ'S GAMBLE

THE CONNEMARA MARE

A GRAND FILLY

A NINETEENTH-CENTURY MIRACLE

HIGH TEA AT MCKEOWN'S

THE BAGMAN'S PONY

AN IRISH PROBLEM

THE DANE'S BREECHIN'

"MATCHBOX"

"AS I WAS GOING TO BANDON FAIR"



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

"ROBERT TRINDER, ESQ., M.F.H."

"A SILENCE THAT WAS THE OUTCOME PARTLY OF STUPIDITY, PARTLY OF CAUTION,
AND PARTLY OF LACK OF ENGLISH SPEECH"

"MR. GUNNING WAS LOOKIN' OUT FOR A COB"

ROBERT'S AUNT

THE BLOOD-HEALER

"THE GREY-HAIRED KITCHEN-MAID"

SWEENY

"MUSHA! MUSHA!"

"CROPPY"

A HIERARCH OF HORSE-DEALING



THE TINKER'S DOG


"Can't you head 'em off, Patsey? Run, you fool! _run_, can't you?"

Sounds followed that suggested the intemperate use of Mr. Freddy
Alexander's pocket-handkerchief, but that were, in effect, produced by
his struggle with a brand new hunting-horn. To this demonstration about
as much attention was paid by the nine couple of buccaneers whom he was
now exercising for the first time as might have been expected, and it
was brought to abrupt conclusion by the sudden charge of two of them
from the rear. Being coupled, they mowed his legs from under him as
irresistibly as chain shot and being puppies, and of an imbecile
friendliness they remained to lick his face and generally make merry
over him as he struggled to his feet.

By this time the leaders of the pack were well away up a ploughed field,
over a fence and into a furze brake, from which their rejoicing yelps
streamed back on the damp breeze. The Master of the Craffroe Hounds
picked himself up, and sprinted up the hill after the Whip and Kennel
Huntsman--a composite official recently promoted from the stable
yard--in a way that showed that his failure in horn-blowing was not the
fault of his lungs. His feet were held by the heavy soil, he tripped in
the muddy ridges; none the less he and Patsey plunged together over the
stony rampart of the field in time to see Negress and Lily springing
through the furze in kangaroo leaps, while they uttered long squeals of
ecstasy. The rest of the pack, with a confidence gained in many a
successful riot, got to them as promptly as if six Whips were behind
them, and the whole faction plunged into a little wood on the top of
what was evidently a burning scent.

"Was it a fox, Patsey?" said the Master excitedly.

"I dunno, Master Freddy: it might be 'twas a hare," returned Patsey,
taking in a hurried reef in the strap that was responsible for the
support of his trousers.

Freddy was small and light, and four short years before had been a
renowned hare in his school paper-chases: he went through the wood at a
pace that gave Patsey and the puppies all they could do to keep with
him, and dropped into a road just in time to see the pack streaming up a
narrow lane near the end of the wood. At this point they were reinforced
by a yellow dachshund who, with wildly flapping ears, and at that
caricature of a gallop peculiar to his kind, joined himself to the
hunters.

"Glory be to Mercy!" exclaimed Patsey, "the misthress's dog!"

Almost simultaneously the pack precipitated themselves into a ruined
cabin at the end of the lane; instantly from within arose an uproar of
sounds--crashes of an ironmongery sort, yells of dogs, raucous human
curses; then the ruin exuded hounds, hens and turkeys at every one of
the gaps in its walls, and there issued from what had been the doorway a
tall man with a red beard, armed with a large frying-pan, with which he
rained blows on the fleeing Craffroe Pack. It must be admitted that the
speed with which these abandoned their prey, whatever it was, suggested
a very intimate acquaintance with the wrath of cooks and the perils of
resistance.

Before their lawful custodians had recovered from this spectacle, a tall
lady in black was suddenly merged in the _mêlée_, alternately calling
loudly and incongruously for "Bismarck," and blowing shrill blasts on a
whistle.

"If the tinker laves a sthroke of the pan on the misthress's dog, the
Lord help him!" said Patsey, starting in pursuit of Lily, who, with tail
tucked in and a wounded hind leg buckled up, was removing herself
swiftly from the scene of action.

Mrs. Alexander shoved her way into the cabin, through a filthy group of
gabbling male and female tinkers, and found herself involved in a wreck
of branches and ragged tarpaulin that had once formed a kind of tent,
but was now strewn on the floor by the incursion and excursion of the
chase. Earthquake throes were convulsing the tarpaulin; a tinker woman,
full of zeal, dashed at it and flung it back, revealing, amongst other
_débris_, an old wooden bedstead heaped with rags. On either side of one
of its legs protruded the passion-fraught faces of the coupled
hound-puppies, who, still linked together, had passed through the period
of unavailing struggle into a state of paralysed insanity of terror.
Muffled squeals and tinny crashes told that conflict was still raging
beneath the bed; the tinker women screamed abuse and complaint; and
suddenly the dachshund's long yellow nose, streaming with blood, worked
its way out of the folds. His mistress snatched at his collar and
dragged him forth, and at his heels followed an infuriated tom cat,
which, with its tail as thick as a muff, went like a streak through the
confusion, and was lost in the dark ruin of the chimney.

Mrs. Alexander stayed for no explanations: she extricated herself from
the tinker party, and, filled with a righteous wrath, went forth to look
for her son. From a plantation three fields away came the asphyxiated
bleats of the horn and the desolate bawls of Patsey Crimmeen. Mrs.
Alexander decided that it was better for the present to leave the
_personnel_ of the Craffroe Hunt to their own devices.

It was but three days before these occurrences that Mr. Freddy Alexander
had stood on the platform of the Craffroe Station, with a throbbing
heart, and a very dirty paper in his hand containing a list of eighteen
names, that ranged alphabetically from "Batchellor" to "Warior." At his
elbow stood a small man with a large moustache, and the thinnest legs
that were ever buttoned into gaiters, who was assuring him that to no
other man in Ireland would he have sold those hounds at such a price; a
statement that was probably unimpeachable.

"The only reason I'm parting them is I'm giving up me drag, and selling
me stock, and going into partnership with a veterinary surgeon in Rugby.
You've some of the best blood in Ireland in those hounds."

"Is it blood?" chimed in an old man who was standing, slightly drunk, at
Mr. Alexander's other elbow. "The most of them hounds is by the Kerry
Rapparee, and he was the last of the old Moynalty Baygles. Black dogs
they were, with red eyes! Every one o' them as big as a yearling calf,
and they'd hunt anything that'd roar before them!" He steadied himself
on the new Master's arm. "I have them gethered in the ladies'
waiting-room, sir, the way ye'll have no throuble. 'Twould be as good
for ye to lave the muzzles on them till ye'll be through the town."

Freddy Alexander cannot to this hour decide what was the worst incident
of that homeward journey; on the whole, perhaps, the most serious was
the escape of Governess, who subsequently ravaged the country for two
days, and was at length captured in the act of killing Mrs. Alexander's
white Leghorn cock. For a young gentleman whose experience of hounds
consisted in having learned at Cambridge to some slight and painful
extent that if he rode too near them he got sworn at, the purchaser of
the Kerry Rapparee's descendants had undertaken no mean task.

On the morning following on the first run of the Craffroe Hounds, Mrs.
Alexander was sitting at her escritoire, making up her weekly accounts
and entering in her poultry-book the untimely demise of the Leghorn
cock. She was a lady of secret enthusiasms which sheltered themselves
behind habits of the most business-like severity. Her books were models
of order, and as she neatly inscribed the Leghorn cock's epitaph,
"Killed by hounds," she could not repress the compensating thought that
she had never seen Freddy's dark eyes and olive complexion look so well
as when he had tried on his new pink coat.

At this point she heard a step on the gravel outside; Bismarck uttered a
bloodhound bay and got under the sofa. It was a sunny morning in late
October, and the French window was open; outside it, ragged as a Russian
poodle and nearly as black, stood the tinker who had the day before
wielded the frying-pan with such effect.

"Me lady," began the tinker, "I ax yer ladyship's pardon, but me little
dog is dead."

"Well?" said Mrs. Alexander, fixing a gaze of clear grey rectitude upon
him.

"Me lady," continued the tinker, reverentially but firmly, "'twas afther
he was run by thim dogs yestherday, and 'twas your ladyship's dog that
finished him. He tore the throat out of him under the bed!" He pointed
an accusing forefinger at Bismarck, whose lambent eyes of terror glowed
from beneath the valance of the sofa.

"Nonsense! I saw your dog; he was twice my dog's size," said Bismarck's
mistress decidedly, not, however, without a remembrance of the blood on
Bismarck's nose. She adored courage, and had always cherished a belief
that Bismarck's sharklike jaws implied the possession of latent
ferocity.

"Ah, but he was very wake, ma'am, afther he bein' hunted," urged the
tinker. "I never slep' a wink the whole night, but keepin' sups o' milk
to him and all sorts. Ah, ma'am, ye wouldn't like to be lookin' at him!"

The tinker was a very good-looking young man, almost apostolic in type,
with a golden red aureole of hair and beard and candid blue eyes. These
latter filled with tears as their owner continued:--

"He was like a brother for me; sure he follied me from home. 'Twas he
was dam wise! Sure at home all me mother'd say to him was, "Where's the
ducks, Captain?" an' he wouldn't lave wather nor bog-hole round the
counthry but he'd have them walked and the ducks gethered. The pigs
could be in their choice place, wherever they'd be he'd go around them.
If ye'd tell him to put back the childhren from the fire, he'd ketch
them by the sleeve and dhrag them."

The requiem ceased, and the tinker looked grievingly into his hat.

"What is your name?" asked Mrs. Alexander sternly. "How long is it since
you left home?"

Had the tinker been as well acquainted with her as he was afterwards
destined to become, he would have been aware that when she was most
judicial she was frequently least certain of what her verdict was going
to be.

"Me name's Willy Fennessy, me lady," replied the tinker, "an' I'm goin'
the roads no more than three months. Indeed, me lady, I think the time
too long that I'm with these blagyard thravellers. All the friends I
have was poor Captain, and he's gone from me."

"Go round to the kitchen," said Mrs. Alexander.

The results of Willy Fennessy's going round to the kitchen were
far-reaching. Its most immediate consequences were that (1) he mended
the ventilator of the kitchen range; (2) he skinned a brace of rabbits
for Miss Barnet, the cook; (3) he arranged to come next day and repair
the clandestine devastations of the maids among the china.

He was pronounced to be a very agreeable young man.

Before luncheon (of which meal he partook in the kitchen) he had been
consulted by Patsey Crimmeen about the chimney of the kennel boiler, had
single-handed reduced it to submission, and had, in addition, boiled the
meal for the hounds with a knowledge of proportion and an untiring
devotion to the use of the potstick which produced "stirabout" of a
smoothness and excellence that Miss Barnet herself might have been proud
of.

"You know, mother," said Freddy that evening, "you do want another chap
in the garden badly."

"Well it's not so much the garden," said Mrs. Alexander with alacrity,
"but I think he might be very useful to you, dear, and it's such a
great matter his being a teetotaler, and he seems so fond of animals. I
really feel we ought to try and make up to him somehow for the loss of
his dog; though, indeed, a more deplorable object than that poor mangy
dog I never saw!"

"All right: we'll put him in the back lodge, and we'll give him Bizzy as
a watch dog. Won't we, Bizzy?" replied Freddy, dragging the somnolent
Bismarck from out of the heart of the hearthrug, and accepting without
repugnance the comprehensive lick that enveloped his chin.

From which it may be gathered that Mrs. Alexander and her son had
fallen, like their household, under the fatal spell of the fascinating
tinker.

At about the time that this conversation was taking place, Mr. Fennessy,
having spent an evening of valedictory carouse with his tribe in the
ruined cottage, was walking, somewhat unsteadily, towards the wood,
dragging after him by a rope a large dog. He did not notice that he was
being followed by a barefooted woman, but the dog did, and, being an
intelligent dog, was in some degree reassured. In the wood the tinker
spent some time in selecting a tree with a projecting branch suitable to
his purpose, and having found one he proceeded to hang the dog. Even in
his cups Mr. Fennessy made sentiment subservient to common sense.

It is hardly too much to say that in a week the tinker had taken up a
position in the Craffroe household only comparable to that of Ygdrasil,
who in Norse mythology forms the ultimate support of all things. Save
for the incessant demands upon his skill in the matter of solder and
stitches, his recent tinkerhood was politely ignored, or treated as an
escapade excusable in a youth of spirit. Had not his father owned a farm
and seven cows in the county Limerick, and had not he himself three
times returned the price of his ticket to America to a circle of adoring
and wealthy relatives in Boston? His position in the kitchen and yard
became speedily assured. Under his _régime_ the hounds were valeted as
they had never been before. Lily herself (newly washed, with "blue" in
the water) was scarcely more white than the concrete floor of the kennel
yard, and the puppies, Ruby and Remus, who had unaccountably developed a
virulent form of mange, were immediately taken in hand by the
all-accomplished tinker, and anointed with a mixture whose very
noisomeness was to Patsey Crimmeen a sufficient guarantee of its
efficacy, and was impressive even to the Master, fresh from much anxious
study of veterinary lore.

"He's the best man we've got!" said Freddy proudly to a dubious uncle,
"there isn't a mortal thing he can't put his hand to."

"Or lay his hands on," suggested the dubious uncle. "May I ask if his
colleagues are still within a mile of the place?"

"Oh, he hates the very sight of 'em!" said Freddy hastily, "cuts 'em
dead whenever he sees 'em."

"It's no use your crabbing him, George," broke in Mrs. Alexander, "we
won't give him up to you! Wait till you see how he has mended the lock
of the hall door!"

"I should recommend you to buy a new one at once," said Sir George Ker,
in a way that was singularly exasperating to the paragon's proprietors.

Mrs. Alexander was, or so her friends said, somewhat given to vaunting
herself of her paragons, under which heading, it may be admitted,
practically all her household were included. She was, indeed, one of
those persons who may or may not be heroes to their valets, but whose
valets are almost invariably heroes to them. It was, therefore,
excessively discomposing to her that, during the following week, in the
very height of apparently cloudless domestic tranquillity, the housemaid
and the parlour-maid should in one black hour successively demand an
audience, and successively, in the floods of tears proper to such
occasions, give warning. Inquiry as to their reasons was fruitless. They
were unhappy: one said she wouldn't get her appetite, and that her
mother was sick; the other said she wouldn't get her sleep in it, and
there was things--sob--going on--sob.

Mrs. Alexander concluded the interview abruptly, and descended to the
kitchen to interview her queen paragon, Barnet, on the crisis.

Miss Barnet was a stout and comely English lady, of that liberal forty
that frankly admits itself in advertisements to be twenty-eight. It was
understood that she had only accepted office in Ireland because, in the
first place, the butler to whom she had long been affianced had married
another, and because, in the second place, she had a brother buried in
Belfast. She was, perhaps, the one person in the world whose opinion
about poultry Mrs. Alexander ranked higher than her own. She now allowed
a restrained acidity to mingle with her dignity of manner, scarcely more
than the calculated lemon essence in her faultless castle puddings, but
enough to indicate that she, too, had grievances. _She_ didn't know why
they were leaving. She had heard some talk about a fairy or something,
but she didn't hold with such nonsense.

"Gerrls is very frightful!" broke in an unexpected voice; "owld
standards like meself maybe wouldn't feel it!"

A large basket of linen had suddenly blocked the scullery door, and
from beneath it a little woman, like an Australian aborigine, delivered
herself of this dark saying.

"What are you talking about, Mrs. Griffen?" demanded Mrs. Alexander,
turning in vexed bewilderment to her laundress, "what does all this
mean?"

"The Lord save us, ma'am, there's some says it means a death in the
house!" replied Mrs. Griffen with unabated cheerfulness, "an' indeed
'twas no blame for the little gerrls to be frightened an' they meetin'
it in the passages--"

"Meeting _what_?" interrupted her mistress. Mrs. Griffen was an old and
privileged retainer, but there were limits even for Mrs. Griffen.

"Sure, ma'am, there's no one knows what was in it," returned Mrs.
Griffen, "but whatever it was they heard it goin' on before them always
in the panthry passage, an' it walkin' as sthrong as a man. It whipped
away up the stairs, and they seen the big snout snorting out at them
through the banisters, and a bare back on it the same as a pig; and the
two cheeks on it as white as yer own, and away with it! And with that
Mary Anne got a wakeness, and only for Willy Fennessy bein' in the
kitchen an' ketching a hold of her, she'd have cracked her head on the
range, the crayture!"

Here Barnet smiled with ineffable contempt.

"What I'm tellin' them is," continued Mrs. Griffen, warming with her
subject, "maybe that thing was a pairson that's dead, an' might be owin'
a pound to another one, or has something that way on his soul, an' it's
in the want o' some one that'll ax it what's throublin' it. The like o'
thim couldn't spake till ye'll spake to thim first. But, sure, gerrls
has no courage--"

Barnet's smile was again one of wintry superiority.

"Willy Fennessy and Patsey Crimmeen was afther seein' it too last
night," went on Mrs. Griffen, "an' poor Willy was as much frightened! He
said surely 'twas a ghost. On the back avenue it was, an' one minute
'twas as big as an ass, an' another minute it'd be no bigger than a
bonnive--"

"Oh, the Lord save us!" wailed the kitchen-maid irrepressibly from the
scullery.

"I shall speak to Fennessy myself about this," said Mrs. Alexander,
making for the door with concentrated purpose, "and in the meantime I
wish to hear no more of this rubbish."

"I'm sure Fennessy wishes to hear no more of it," said Barnet acridly to
Mrs. Griffen, when Mrs. Alexander had passed swiftly out of hearing,
"after the way those girls have been worryin' on at him about it all the
morning. Such a set out!"

Mrs. Griffen groaned in a polite and general way, and behind Barnet's
back put her tongue out of the corner of her mouth and winked at the
kitchen-maid.

Mrs. Alexander found her conversation with Willy Fennessy less
satisfactory than usual. He could not give any definite account of what
he and Patsey had seen: maybe they'd seen nothing at all; maybe--as an
obvious impromptu--it was the calf of the Kerry cow; whatever was in it,
it was little he'd mind it, and, in easy dismissal of the subject, would
the misthress be against his building a bit of a coal-shed at the back
of the lodge while she was away?

That evening a new terror was added to the situation. Jimmy the
boot-boy, on his return from taking the letters to the evening post,
fled in panic into the kitchen, and having complied with the etiquette
invariable in such cases by having "a wakeness," he described to a
deeply sympathetic audience how he had seen something that was like a
woman in the avenue, and he had called to it and it returned him no
answer, and how he had then asked it three times in the name o' God what
was it, and it soaked away into the trees from him, and then there came
something rushing in on him and grunting at him to bite him, and he was
full sure it was the Fairy Pig from Lough Clure.

Day by day the legend grew, thickened by tales of lights that had been
seen moving mysteriously in the woods of Craffroe. Even the hounds were
subpoenaed as witnesses; Patsey Crimmeen's mother stating that for three
nights after Patsey had seen that Thing they were singing and screeching
to each other all night.

Had Mrs. Crimmeen used the verb scratch instead of screech she would
have been nearer the mark. The puppies, Ruby and Remus, had, after the
manner of the young, human and canine, not failed to distribute their
malady among their elders, and the pack, straitly coupled, went for
dismal constitutionals, and the kennels reeked to heaven of remedies,
and Freddy's new hunter, Mayboy, from shortness of work, smashed the
partition of the loose box and kicked his neighbour, Mrs. Alexander's
cob, in the knee.

"The worst of it is," said Freddy confidentially to his ally and
adviser, the junior subaltern of the detachment at Enniscar, who had
come over to see the hounds, "that I'm afraid Patsey Crimmeen--the boy
whom I'm training to whip to me, you know"--(as a matter of fact, the
Whip was a year older than the Master)--"is beginning to drink a bit.
When I came down here before breakfast this mornin'"--when Freddy was
feeling more acutely than usual his position as an M.F.H., he cut his
g's and talked slightly through his nose, even, on occasion, going so
far as to omit the aspirate in talking of his hounds--"there wasn't a
sign of him--kennel door not open or anything. I let the poor brutes out
into the run. I tell you, what with the paraffin and the carbolic and
everything the kennel was pretty high--"

"It's pretty thick now," said his friend, lighting a cigarette.

"Well, I went into the boiler-house," continued Freddy impressively,
"and there he was, asleep on the floor, with his beastly head on my
kennel coat, and one leg in the feeding trough!"

Mr. Taylour made a suitable ejaculation.

"I jolly soon kicked him on to his legs," went on Freddy, "not that they
were much use to him--he must have been on the booze all night. After
that I went on to the stable yard, and if you'll believe me, the two
chaps there had never turned up at all--at half-past eight, mind
you!--and there was Fennessy doing up the horses. He said he believed
that there'd been a wake down at Enniscar last night. I thought it was
rather decent of him doing their work for them."

"You'll sack 'em, I suppose?" remarked Mr. Taylour, with martial
severity.

"Oh well, I don't know," said Mr. Alexander evasively, "I'll see.
Anyhow, don't say anything to my mother about it; a drunken man is like
a red rag to a bull to her."

Taking this peculiarity of Mrs. Alexander into consideration, it was
perhaps as well that she left Craffroe a few days afterwards to stay
with her brother. The evening before she left both the Fairy Pig and the
Ghost Woman were seen again on the avenue, this time by the coachman,
who came into the kitchen considerably the worse for liquor and
announced the fact, and that night the household duties were performed
by the maids in pairs, and even, when possible, in trios.

As Mrs. Alexander said at dinner to Sir George, on the evening of her
arrival, she was thankful to have abandoned the office of Ghostly
Comforter to her domestics. Only for Barnet she couldn't have left poor
Freddy to the mercy of that pack of fools; in fact, even with Barnet to
look after them, it was impossible to tell what imbecility they were not
capable of.

"Well, if you like," said Sir George, "I might run you over there on the
motor car some day to see how they're all getting on. If Freddy is going
to hunt on Friday, we might go on to Craffroe after seeing the fun."

The topic of Barnet was here shelved in favour of automobiles. Mrs.
Alexander's brother was also a person of enthusiasms.

But what were these enthusiasms compared to the deep-seated ecstasy of
Freddy Alexander as in his new pink coat he rode down the main street
of Enniscar, Patsey in equal splendour bringing up the rear, unspeakably
conscious of the jibes of his relatives and friends. There was a select
field, consisting of Mr. Taylour, four farmers, some young ladies on
bicycles, and about two dozen young men and boys on foot, who, in order
to be prepared for all contingencies, had provided themselves with five
dogs, two horns, and a ferret. It is, after all, impossible to please
everybody, and from the cyclists' and foot people's point of view the
weather left nothing to be desired. The sun shone like a glistering
shield in the light blue November sky, the roads were like iron, the
wind, what there was of it, like steel. There was a line of white on the
northerly side of the fences, that yielded grudgingly and inch by inch
before the march of the pale sunshine: the new pack could hardly have
had a more unfavourable day for their _début_.

The new Master was, however, wholly undaunted by such crumples in the
rose-leaf. He was riding Mayboy, a big trustworthy horse, whose love of
jumping had survived a month of incessant and arbitrary schooling, and
he left the road as soon as was decently possible, and made a line
across country for the covert that involved as much jumping as could
reasonably be hoped for in half a mile. At the second fence Patsey
Crimmeen's black mare put her nose in the air and swung round; Patsey's
hands seemed to be at their worst this morning, and what their worst
felt like the black mare alone knew. Mr. Taylour, as Deputy Whip,
waltzed erratically round the nine couple on a very flippant polo pony;
and the four farmers, who had wisely adhered to the road, reached the
covert sufficiently in advance of the hunt to frustrate Lily's project
of running sheep in a neighbouring field.

The covert was a large, circular enclosure, crammed to the very top of
its girdling bank with furze-bushes, bracken, low hazel, and stunted
Scotch firs. Its primary idea was woodcock, its second rabbits; beaters
were in the habit of getting through it somehow, but a ride feasible for
fox hunters had never so much as occurred to it. Into this, with
practical assistance from the country boys, the deeply reluctant hounds
were pitched and flogged; Freddy very nervously uplifted his voice in
falsetto encouragement, feeling much as if he were starting the solo of
an anthem; and Mr. Taylour and Patsey, the latter having made it up with
the black mare, galloped away with professional ardour to watch
different sides of the covert. This, during the next hour, they had
ample opportunities for doing. After the first outburst of joy from the
hounds on discovering that there were rabbits in the covert, and after
the retirement of the rabbits to their burrows on the companion
discovery that there were hounds in it, a silence, broken only by the
far-away prattle of the lady bicyclists on the road, fell round Freddy
Alexander. He bore it as long as he could, cheering with faltering
whoops the invisible and unresponsive pack, and wondering what on earth
huntsmen were expected to do on such occasions; then, filled with that
horrid conviction which assails the lonely watcher, that the hounds have
slipped away at the far side, he put spurs to Mayboy, and cantered down
the long flank of the covert to find some one or something. Nothing had
happened on the north side, at all events, for there was the faithful
Taylour, pirouetting on his hill-top in the eye of the wind. Two fields
more (in one of which he caught his first sight of any of the hounds, in
the shape of Ruby, carefully rolling on a dead crow), and then, under
the lee of a high bank, he came upon Patsey Crimmeen, the farmers, and
the country boys, absorbed in the contemplation of a fight between
Tiger, the butcher's brindled cur, and Watty, the kennel terrier.

The manner in which Mr. Alexander dispersed this entertainment showed
that he was already equipped with one important qualification of a
Master of Hounds--a temper laid on like gas, ready to blaze at a
moment's notice. He pitched himself off his horse and scrambled over the
bank into the covert in search of his hounds. He pushed his way through
briars and furze-bushes, and suddenly, near the middle of the wood, he
caught sight of them. They were in a small group, they were very quiet
and very busy. As a matter of fact they were engaged in eating a dead
sheep.

After this episode, there ensued a long and disconsolate period of
wandering from one bleak hillside to another, at the bidding of various
informants, in search of apocryphal foxes, slaughterers of flocks of
equally apocryphal geese and turkeys--such a day as is discreetly
ignored in all hunting annals, and, like the easterly wind that is its
parent, is neither good for man nor beast.

By half-past three hope had died, even in the sanguine bosoms of the
Master and Mr. Taylour. Two of the farmers had disappeared, and the lady
bicyclists, with faces lavender blue from waiting at various windy cross
roads, had long since fled away to lunch. Two of the hounds were
limping; all, judging by their expressions, were on the verge of tears.
Patsey's black mare had lost two shoes; Mr. Taylour's pony had ceased to
pull, and was too dispirited even to try to kick the hounds, and the
country boys had dwindled to four. There had come a time when Mr.
Taylour had sunk so low as to suggest that a drag should be run with
the assistance of the ferret's bag, a scheme only frustrated by the
regrettable fact that the ferret and its owner had gone home.

"Well we had a nice bit of schooling, anyhow, and, it's been a real
educational day for the hounds," said Freddy, turning in his saddle to
look at the fires of the frosty sunset. "I'm glad they had it. I think
we're in for a go of hard weather. I don't know what I should have done
only for you, old chap. Patsey's gone all to pieces: it's my belief he's
been on the drink this whole week, and where he gets it--"

"Hullo! Hold hard!" interrupted Mr. Taylour. "What's Governor after?"

They were riding along a grass-grown farm road outside the Craffroe
demesne; the grey wall made a sharp bend to the right, and just at the
corner Governor had begun to gallop, with his nose to the ground and his
stern up. The rest of the pack joined him in an instant, and all swung
round the corner and were lost to sight.

"It's a fox!" exclaimed Freddy, snatching up his reins; "they always
cross into the demesne just here!"

By the time he and Mr. Taylour were round the corner the hounds had
checked fifty yards ahead, and were eagerly hunting to and fro for the
lost scent, and a little further down the old road they saw a woman
running away from them.

"Hi, ma'am!" bellowed Freddy, "did you see the fox?"

The woman made no answer.

"Did you see the fox?" reiterated Freddy in still more stentorian tones.
"Can't you answer me?"

The woman continued to run without even looking behind her.

The laughter of Mr. Taylour added fuel to the fire of Freddy's wrath: he
put the spurs into Mayboy, dashed after the woman, pulled his horse
across the road in front of her, and shouted his question point-blank at
her, coupled with a warm inquiry as to whether she had a tongue in her
head.

The woman jumped backwards as if she were shot, staring in horror at
Freddy's furious little face, then touched her mouth and ears and began
to jabber inarticulately and talk on her fingers.

The laughter of Mr. Taylour was again plainly audible.

"Sure that's a dummy woman, sir," explained the butcher's nephew,
hurrying up. "I think she's one of them tinkers that's outside the
town." Then with a long screech, "Look! Look over! Tiger, have it!
Hulla, hulla, hulla!"

Tiger was already over the wall and into the demesne, neck and neck with
Fly, the smith's half-bred greyhound; and in the wake of these champions
clambered the Craffroe Pack, with strangled yelps of ardour, striving
and squealing and fighting horribly in the endeavour to scramble up the
tall smooth face of the wall.

"The gate! The gate further on!" yelled Freddy, thundering down the
turfy road, with the earth flying up in lumps from his horse's hoofs.

Mr. Taylour's pony gave two most uncomfortable bucks and ran away; even
Patsey Crimmeen and the black mare shared an unequal thrill of
enthusiasm, as the latter, wholly out of hand, bucketed after the pony.

       *       *       *       *       *

The afternoon was very cold, a fact thoroughly realised by Mrs.
Alexander, on the front seat of Sir George's motor-car, in spite of
enveloping furs, and of Bismarck, curled like a fried whiting, in her
lap. The grey road rushed smoothly backwards under the broad tyres;
golden and green plover whistled in the quiet fields, starlings and huge
missel thrushes burst from the wayside trees as the "Bollée," uttering
that hungry whine that indicates the desire of such creatures to devour
space, tore past. Mrs. Alexander wondered if birds' beaks felt as cold
as her nose after they had been cleaving the air for an afternoon; at
all events, she reflected, they had not the consolation of tea to look
forward to. Barnet was sure to have some of her best hot cakes ready
for Freddy when he came home from hunting. Mrs. Alexander and Sir
George had been scouring the roads since a very early lunch in search of
the hounds, and her mind reposed on the thought of the hot cakes.

The front lodge gates stood wide open, the motor-car curved its flight
and skimmed through. Half-way up the avenue they whizzed past three
policemen, one of whom was carrying on his back a strange and wormlike
thing.

"Janet," called out Sir George, "you've been caught making potheen!
They've got the worm of a still there."

"They're only making a short cut through the place from the bog; I'm
delighted they've found it!" screamed back Mrs. Alexander.

The "Bollée" was at the hall door in another minute, and the mistress of
the house pulled the bell with numbed fingers. There was no response.

"Better go round to the kitchen," suggested her brother. "You'll find
they're talking too hard to hear the bell."

His sister took the advice, and a few minutes afterwards she opened the
hall door with an extremely perturbed countenance.

"I can't find a creature anywhere," she said, "either upstairs or
down--I can't understand Barnet leaving the house empty--"

"Listen!" interrupted Sir George, "isn't that the hounds?"

They listened.

"They're hunting down by the back avenue! come on, Janet!"

The motor-car took to flight again; it sped, soft-footed, through the
twilight gloom of the back avenue, while a disjointed, travelling
clamour of hounds came nearer and nearer through the woods. The
motor-car was within a hundred yards of the back lodge, when out of the
rhododendron-bush burst a spectral black-and-white dog, with floating
fringes of ragged wool and hideous bald patches on its back.

"Fennessy's dog!" ejaculated Mrs. Alexander, falling back in her seat.

Probably Bismarck never enjoyed anything in his life as much as the all
too brief moment in which, leaning from his mistress's lap in the prow
of the flying "Bollée," he barked hysterically in the wake of the
piebald dog, who, in all its dolorous career had never before had the
awful experience of being chased by a motor-car. It darted in at the
open door of the lodge; the pursuers pulled up outside. There were
paraffin lamps in the windows, the open door was garlanded with
evergreens; from it proceeded loud and hilarious voices and the jerky
strains of a concertina. Mrs. Alexander, with all, her most cherished
convictions toppling on their pedestals, stood in the open doorway and
stared, unable to believe the testimony of her own eyes. Was that the
immaculate Barnet seated at the head of a crowded table, in her--Mrs.
Alexander's--very best bonnet and velvet cape, with a glass of steaming
potheen punch in her hand, and Willy Fennessy's arm round her waist?

The glass sank from the paragon's lips, the arm of Mr. Fennessy fell
from her waist; the circle of servants, tinkers, and country people
vainly tried to efface themselves behind each other.

"Barnet!" said Mrs. Alexander in an awful voice, and even in that moment
she appreciated with an added pang the feathery beauty of a slice of
Barnet's sponge-cake in the grimy fist of a tinker.

"Mrs. Fennessy, m'm, if you please," replied Barnet, with a dignity
that, considering the bonnet and cape, was highly creditable to her
strength of character.

At this point a hand dragged Mrs. Alexander backwards from the doorway,
a barefooted woman hustled past her into the house, slammed the door in
her face, and Mrs. Alexander found herself in the middle of the hounds.

"We'd give you the brush, Mrs. Alexander," said Mr. Taylour, as he
flogged solidly all round him in the dusk, "but as the other lady seems
to have gone to ground with the fox I suppose she'll take it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Fennessy paid out of her own ample savings the fines inflicted upon
her husband for potheen-making and selling drink in the Craffroe gate
lodge without a licence, and she shortly afterwards took him to America.

Mrs. Alexander's friends professed themselves as being not in the least
surprised to hear that she had installed the afflicted Miss Fennessy
(sister to the late occupant) and her scarcely less afflicted companion,
the Fairy Pig, in her back lodge. Miss Fennessy, being deaf and dumb, is
not perhaps a paragon lodge-keeper, but having, like her brother, been
brought up in a work-house kitchen, she has taught Patsey Crimmeen how
to boil stirabout _à merveille_.



FANNY FITZ'S GAMBLE


"Where's Fanny Fitz?" said Captain Spicer to his wife.

They were leaning over the sea-wall in front of a little fishing hotel
in Connemara, idling away the interval usually vouchsafed by the Irish
car-driver between the hour at which he is ordered to be ready and that
at which he appears. It was a misty morning in early June, the time of
all times for Connemara, did the tourist only know it. The mountains
towered green and grey above the palely shining sea in which they stood;
the air was full of the sound of streams and the scent of wild flowers;
the thin mist had in it something of the dazzle of the sunlight that was
close behind it. Little Mrs. Spicer pulled down her veil: even after a
fortnight's fly-fishing she still retained some regard for her
complexion.

"She says she can't come," she responded; "she has letters to write or
something--and this is our last day!"

Mrs. Spicer evidently found the fact provoking.

"On this information the favourite receded 33 to 1," remarked Captain
Spicer. "I think you may as well chuck it, my dear."

"I should like to beat them both!" said his wife, flinging a pebble into
the rising tide that was very softly mouthing the seaweedy rocks below
them.

"Well, here's Rupert; you can begin on him."

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure!" said Rupert's sister
vindictively. "A great teasing, squabbling baby! Oh, how I hate fools!
and they are _both_ fools!--Oh, there you are, Rupert," a well-simulated
blandness invading her voice; "and what's Fanny Fitz doing?"

"She's trying to do a Mayo man over a horse-deal," replied Mr. Rupert
Gunning.

"A horse-deal!" repeated Mrs. Spicer incredulously. "Fanny buying a
horse! Oh, impossible!"

"Well, I don't know about that," said Mr. Gunning, "she's trying pretty
hard. I gave her my opinion--"

"I'll take my oath you did," observed Captain Spicer.

"--And as she didn't seem to want it, I came away," continued Mr.
Gunning imperturbably. "Be calm, Maudie; it takes two days and two
nights to buy a horse in these parts; you'll be home in plenty of time
to interfere, and here's the car. Don't waste the morning."

[Illustration: "A SILENCE THAT WAS THE OUTCOME PARTLY OF STUPIDITY,
PARTLY OF CAUTION, AND PARTLY OF LACK OF ENGLISH SPEECH."]

"I never know if you're speaking the truth or no," complained Mrs.
Spicer; nevertheless, she scrambled on to the car without delay. She and
her brother had at least one point in common--the fanatic enthusiasm of
the angler.

In the meantime, Miss Fanny Fitzroy's negotiations were proceeding in
the hotel yard. Fanny herself was standing in a stable doorway, with her
hands in the pockets of her bicycle skirt. She had no hat on, and the
mild breeze blew her hair about; it was light brown, with a brightness
in it; her eyes also were light brown, with gleams in them like the
shallow places in a Connemara trout stream. At this moment they were
scanning with approval, tempered by anxiety, the muddy legs of a lean
and lengthy grey filly, who was fearfully returning her gaze from
between the strands of a touzled forelock. The owner of the filly, a
small man, with a face like a serious elderly monkey, stood at her head
in a silence that was the outcome partly of stupidity, partly of
caution, and partly of lack of English speech. The conduct of the matter
was in the hands of a friend, a tall young man with a black beard,
nimble of tongue and gesture, profuse in courtesies.

"Well, indeed, yes, your ladyship," he was saying glibly, "the breed of
horses is greatly improving in these parts, and them hackney horses--"

"Oh," interrupted Miss Fitzroy hastily, "I won't have her if she's a
hackney."

The eyes of the owner sought those of the friend in a gaze that clearly
indicated the question.

"What'll ye say to her now?"

The position of the vendors was becoming a little complicated. They had
come over through the mountains, from the borders of Mayo, to sell the
filly to the hotel-keeper for posting, and were primed to the lips with
the tale of her hackney lineage. The hotel-keeper had unconditionally
refused to trade, and here, when a heaven-sent alternative was delivered
into their hands, they found themselves hampered by the coils of a
cast-off lie. No shade, however, of hesitancy appeared on the open
countenance of the friend. He approached Miss Fitzroy with a mincing
step, a deprecating wave of the hand, and a deeply respectful ogle. He
was going to adopt the desperate resource of telling the truth, but to
tell the truth profitably was a part that required rather more playing
than any other.

"Well, your honour's ladyship," he began, with a glance at the hotel
ostler, who was standing near cleaning a bit in industrious and
sarcastic silence, "it is a fact, no doubt, that I mentioned here this
morning that this young mare was of the Government hackney stock. But,
according as I understand from this poor man that owns her, he bought
her in a small fair over the Tuam side, and the man that sold her could
take his oath she was by the Grey Dawn--sure you'd know it out of her
colour."

"Why didn't you say so before?" asked Miss Fitzroy, bending her straight
brows in righteous severity.

"Well, that's true indeed, your ladyship; but, after all--I declare a
man couldn't hardly live without he'd tell a lie sometimes!"

Fanny Fitz stooped, rather hurriedly, and entered upon a renewed
examination of the filly's legs. Even Rupert Gunning, after his brief
and unsympathetic survey, had said she had good legs; in fact, he had
only been able to crab her for the length of her back, and he, as Fanny
Fitz reflected with a heat that took no heed of metaphor, was the
greatest crabber that ever croaked.

"What are you asking for her?" she demanded with a sudden access of
decision.

There was a pause. The owner of the filly and his friend withdrew a step
or two and conferred together in Irish at lightning speed. The filly
held up her head and regarded her surroundings with guileless
wonderment. Fanny Fitz made a mental dive into her bankbook, and arrived
at the varied conclusions that she was £30 to the good, that on that sum
she had to weather out the summer and autumn, besides pacifying various
cormorants (thus she designated her long-suffering tradespeople), and
that every one had told her that if she only kept her eyes open in
Connemara she might be able to buy something cheap and make a pot of
money on it.

"This poor honest man," said the friend, returning to the charge, "says
he couldn't part her without he'd get twenty-eight pounds for her; and,
thank God, it's little your ladyship would think of giving that!"

Fanny Fitz's face fell.

"Twenty-eight pounds!" she echoed. "Oh, that's ridiculous!"

The friend turned to the owner, and, with a majestic wave of the hand,
signalled to him to retire. The owner, without a change of expression,
coiled up the rope halter and started slowly and implacably for the
gate; the friend took off his hat with wounded dignity. Every gesture
implied that the whole transaction was buried in an irrevocable past.

Fanny Fitz's eyes followed the party as they silently left the yard, the
filly stalking dutifully with a long and springy step beside her master.
It was a moment full of bitterness, and of a quite irrational
indignation against Rupert Gunning.

"I beg your pardon, miss," said the ostler, at her elbow, "would ye be
willing to give twenty pounds for the mare, and he to give back a pound
luck-penny?"

"I would!" said the impulsive Fanny Fitz, after the manner of her
nation.

When the fishing party returned that afternoon Miss Fitzroy met them at
the hall door.

"Well, my dear," she said airily to Mrs. Spicer, "what sort of sport
have you had? I've enjoyed myself immensely. I've bought a horse!"

Mrs. Spicer sat, paralysed, on the seat of the outside car, disregarding
her brother's outstretched hands.

"Fanny!" she exclaimed, in tones fraught with knowledge of her friend's
resources and liabilities.

"Yes, I have!" went on Fanny Fitz, undaunted. "Mr. Gunning saw her. He
said she was a long-backed brute. Didn't you, Mr. Gunning?"

Rupert Gunning lifted his small sister bodily off the car. He was a tall
sallow man, with a big nose and a small, much-bitten, fair moustache.

"Yes, I believe I did," he said shortly.

Mrs. Spicer's blue eyes grew round with consternation.

"Then you really have bought the thing!" she cried. "Oh, Fanny, you
idiot! And what on earth are you going to do with it?"

"It can sleep on the foot of my bed to-night," returned Fanny Fitz, "and
I'll ride it into Galway to-morrow! Mr. Gunning, you can ride half-way
if you like!"

But Mr. Gunning had already gone into the hotel with his rod and fishing
basket. He had a gift, that he rarely lost a chance of exercising, of
provoking Fanny Fitz to wrath, and the fact that he now declined her
challenge may or may not be accounted for by the gloom consequent upon
an empty fishing basket.

Next morning the various hangers-on in the hotel yard were provided with
occupation and entertainment of the most satiating description. Fanny
Fitz's new purchase was being despatched to the nearest railway station,
some fourteen miles off. It had been arranged that the ostler was to
drive her there in one of the hotel cars, which should then return with
a horse that was coming from Galway for the hotel owner; nothing could
have fitted in better. Unfortunately the only part of the arrangement
that refused to fit in was the filly. Even while Fanny Fitz was
finishing her toilet, high-pitched howls of objurgation were rising,
alarmingly, from the stable-yard, and on reaching the scene of action
she was confronted by the spectacle of the ostler being hurtled across
the yard by the filly, to whose head he was clinging, while two helpers
upheld the shafts of the outside car from which she had fled. All were
shouting directions and warnings at the tops of their voices, the hotel
dog was barking, the filly alone was silent, but her opinions were
unmistakable.

A waiter in shirt-sleeves was leaning comfortably out of a window,
watching the fray and offering airy suggestion and comment.

"It's what I'm telling them, miss," he said easily, including Fanny Fitz
in the conversation; "if they get that one into Recess to-night it'll
not be under a side-car."

"But the man I bought her from," said Fanny Fitz, lamentably addressing
the company, "told me that he drove his mother to chapel with her last
Sunday."

"Musha then, may the divil sweep hell with him and burn the broom
afther!" panted the ostler in bitter wrath, as he slewed the filly to a
standstill. "I wish himself and his mother was behind her when I went
putting the crupper on her! B'leeve me, they'd drop their chat!"

"Sure I knew that young Geogheghan back in Westport," remarked the
waiter, "and all the good there is about him was a little handy talk.
Take the harness off her, Mick, and throw a saddle on her. It's little
I'd think meself of canthering her into Recess!"

"How handy ye are yerself with your talk!" retorted the ostler; "it's
canthering round the table ye'll be doing, and it's what'll suit ye
betther!"

Fanny Fitz began to laugh. "He might ride the saddle of mutton!" she
said, with a levity that, under the circumstances, did her credit.
"You'd better take the harness off, and you'll have to get her to Recess
for me somehow."

The ostler took no notice of this suggestion; he was repeating to
himself: "Ride the saddle o' mutton! By dam, I never heard the like o'
that! Ride the saddle o' mutton--!" He suddenly gave a yell of laughing,
and in the next moment the startled filly dragged the reins from his
hand with a tremendous plunge, and in half a dozen bounds was out of the
yard gate and clattering down the road.

There was an instant of petrifaction. "Diddlety--iddlety--idlety!"
chanted the waiter with far-away sweetness.

Fanny Fitz and the ostler were outside the gate simultaneously: the
filly was already rounding the first turn of the road; two strides more,
and she was gone as though she had never been, and "Oh, my nineteen
pounds!" thought poor Fanny Fitz.

As the ostler was wont to say in subsequent repetitions of the story:
"Thanks be to God, the reins was rotten!" But for this it is highly
probable that Miss Fitzroy's speculation would have collapsed abruptly
with broken knees, possibly with a broken neck. Having galloped into
them in the course of the first hundred yards, they fell from her as
the green withes fell from Samson, one long streamer alone remaining to
lash her flanks as she fled. Some five miles from the hotel she met a
wedding, and therewith leaped the bog-drain by the side of the road and
"took to the mountains," as the bridegroom poetically described it to
Fanny Fitz, who, with the ostler, was pursuing the fugitive on an
outside car.

"If that's the way," said the ostler, "ye mightn't get her again before
the winther."

Fanny Fitz left the matter, together with a further instalment of the
thirty pounds, in the hands of the sergeant of police, and went home,
and, improbable as it may appear, in the course of something less than
ten days she received an invoice from the local railway station,
Enniscar, briefly stating: "1 horse arrd. Please remove."

Many people, most of her friends indeed, were quite unaware that Fanny
Fitz possessed a home. Beyond the fact that it supplied her with a
permanent address, and a place at which she was able periodically to
deposit consignments of half-worn-out clothes, Fanny herself was not
prone to rate the privilege very highly. Possibly, two very elderly
maiden step-aunts are discouraging to the homing instinct; the fact
remained that as long as the youngest Miss Fitzroy possessed the
where-withal to tip a housemaid she was but rarely seen within the
decorous precincts of Craffroe Lodge.

Let it not for a moment be imagined that the Connemara filly was to
become a member of this household. Even Fanny Fitz, with all her
optimism, knew better than to expect that William O'Loughlin, who
divided his attentions between the ancient cob and the garden, and ruled
the elder Misses Fitzroy with a rod of iron, would undertake the
education of anything more skittish than early potatoes. It was to the
stable, or rather cow-house, of one Johnny Connolly, that the new
purchase was ultimately conveyed, and it was thither that Fanny Fitz,
with apples in one pocket and sugar in the other, conducted her ally,
Mr. Freddy Alexander, the master of the Craffroe Hounds. Fanny Fitz's
friendship with Freddy was one of long standing, and was soundly based
on the fact that when she had been eighteen he had been fourteen; and
though it may be admitted that this is a discrepancy that somewhat fades
with time, even Freddy's mother acquitted Fanny Fitz of any ulterior
motive; and Freddy was an only son.

"She was very rejected last night afther she coming in," said Johnny
Connolly, manipulating as he spoke the length of rusty chain and bit of
stick that fastened the door. "I think it was lonesome she was on the
thrain."

Fanny Fitz and Mr. Alexander peered into the dark and vasty interior of
the cow-house; from a remote corner they heard a heavy breath and the
jingle of a training bit, but they saw nothing.

"I have the cavesson and all on her ready for ye, and I was thinking
we'd take her south into Mr. Gunning's land. His finces is very good,"
continued Johnny, going cautiously in; "wait till I pull her out."

Johnny Connolly was a horse trainer who did a little farming, or a
farmer who did a little horse training, and his management of young
horses followed no known rules, and indeed knew none, but it was
generally successful. He fed them by rule of thumb; he herded them in
hustling, squabbling parties in pitch-dark sheds; he ploughed them at
eighteen months; he beat them with a stick like dogs when they
transgressed, and like dogs they loved him. He had what gardeners call
"a lucky hand" with them, and they throve with him, and he had,
moreover, that gift of winning their wayward hearts that comes neither
by cultivation nor by knowledge, but is innate and unconscious. Already,
after two days, he and the Connemara filly understood each other; she
sniffed distantly and with profound suspicion at Fanny and her
offerings, and entirely declined to permit Mr. Alexander to estimate her
height on the questionable assumption that the point of his chin
represented 15'2, but she allowed Johnny to tighten or slacken every
buckle in her new and unfamiliar costume without protest.

"I think she'll make a ripping good mare," said the enthusiastic Freddy,
as he and Fanny Fitz followed her out of the yard; "I don't care what
Rupert Gunning says, she's any amount of quality, and I bet you'll do
well over her."

"She'll make a real nice fashionable mare," remarked Johnny, opening the
gate of a field and leading the filly in, "and she's a sweet galloper,
but she's very frightful in herself. Faith, I thought she'd run up the
wall from me the first time I went to feed her! Ah ha! none o' yer
thricks!" as the filly, becoming enjoyably aware of the large space of
grass round her, let fling a kick of malevolent exuberance at the two
fox-terriers who were trotting decorously in her rear.

It was soon found that, in the matter of "stone gaps," the A B C of
Irish jumping, Connemara had taught the grey filly all there was to
learn.

"Begor, Miss Fanny, she's as crabbed as a mule!" said her teacher
approvingly. "D'ye mind the way she soaks the hind legs up into her!
We'll give her a bank now."

At the bank, however, the trouble began. Despite the ministrations of
Mr. Alexander and a long whip, despite the precept and example of Mr.
Connolly, who performed prodigies of activity in running his pupil in at
the bank and leaping on to it himself the filly time after time either
ran her chest against it or swerved from it at the last instant with a
vigour that plucked her preceptor from off it and scattered Fanny Fitz
and the fox-terriers like leaves before the wind. These latter were
divided between sycophantic and shrieking indignation with the filly for
declining to jump, and a most wary attention to the sphere of influence
of the whip. They were a mother and daughter, as conceited, as craven,
and as wholly attractive as only the judiciously spoiled ladies of their
race can be. Their hearts were divided between Fanny Fitz and the cook,
the rest of them appertained to the Misses Harriet and Rachael Fitzroy,
whom they regarded with toleration tinged with boredom.

"I tell ye now, Masther Freddy, 'tis no good for us to be goin' on
sourin' the mare this way. 'Tis what the fince is too steep for her.
Maybe she never seen the like in that backwards counthry she came from.
We'll give her the bank below with the ditch in front of it. 'Tisn't
very big at all, and she'll be bound to lep with the sup of wather
that's in it."

Thus Johnny Connolly, wiping a very heated brow.

The bank below was a broad and solid structure well padded with grass
and bracken, and it had a sufficiently obvious ditch, of some three feet
wide, on the nearer side. The grand effort was duly prepared for. The
bank was solemnly exhibited to the filly; the dogs, who had with
unerring instinct seated themselves on its most jumpable portion, were
scattered with one threat of the whip to the horizon. Fanny tore away
the last bit of bracken that might prove a discouragement, and Johnny
issued his final order.

"Come inside me with the whip, sir, and give her one good belt at the
last."

No one knows exactly how it happened. There was a rush, a scramble, a
backward sliding, a great deal of shouting, and the Connemara filly was
couched in the narrow ditch at right angles to the fence, with the water
oozing up through the weeds round her, like a wild duck on its nest; and
at this moment Mr. Rupert Gunning appeared suddenly on the top of the
bank and inspected the scene with an amusement that he made little
attempt to conceal.

It took half an hour, and ropes, and a number of Rupert Gunning's
haymakers, to get Fanny Fitz's speculation on to its legs again, and Mr.
Gunning's comments during the process successfully sapped Fanny Fitz's
control of her usually equable temper, "He's a beast!" she said
wrathfully to Freddy, as the party moved soberly homewards in the
burning June afternoon, with the horseflies clustering round them, and
the smell of new-mown grass wafting to them from where, a field or two
away, came the rattle of Rupert Gunning's mowing-machine. "A crabbing
beast! It was just like my luck that he should come up at that moment
and have the supreme joy of seeing Gamble--" Gamble was the filly's
rarely-used name--"wallowing in the ditch! That's the second time he's
scored off me. I _pity_ poor little Maudie Spicer for having such a
brother!"

In spite of this discouraging _début_, the filly's education went on and
prospered. She marched discreetly along the roads in long reins; she
champed detested mouthfuls of rusty mouthing bit in the process
described by Johnny Connolly as "getting her neck broke"; she trotted
for treadmill half-hours in the lunge; and during and in spite of all
these penances, she fattened up and thickened out until that great
authority, Mr. Alexander, pronounced it would be a sin not to send her
up to the Dublin Horse Show, as she was just the mare to catch an
English dealer's eye.

"But sure ye wouldn't sell her, miss?" said her faithful nurse, "and
Masther Freddy afther starting the hounds and all!"

Fanny Fitz scratched the filly softly under the jawbone, and thought of
the document in her pocket--long, and blue, and inscribed with the too
familiar notice in red ink: "An early settlement will oblige".

"I must, Johnny," she said, "worse luck!"

"Well, indeed, that's too bad, miss," said Johnny comprehendingly.
"There was a mare I had one time, and I sold her before I went to
America. God knows, afther she went from me, whenever I'd look at her
winkers hanging on the wall I'd have to cry. I never seen a sight of her
till three years afther that, afther I coming home. I was coming out o'
the fair at Enniscar, an' I was talking to a man an' we coming down
Dangan Hill, and what was in it but herself coming up in a cart! "An' I
didn't look at her, good nor bad, nor know her, but sorra bit but she
knew me talking, an' she turned in to me with the cart! Ho, ho, ho!'
says she, and she stuck her nose into me like she'd be kissing me. Be
dam, but I had to cry. An' the world wouldn't stir her out o' that till
I'd lead her on meself. As for cow nor dog nor any other thing, there's
nothing would rise your heart like a horse!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was early in July, a hot and sunny morning, and Fanny Fitz, seated on
the flawless grassplot in front of Craffroe Lodge hall-door, was engaged
in washing the dogs. The mother, who had been the first victim, was
morosely licking herself, shuddering effectively, and coldly ignoring
her oppressor's apologies. The daughter, trembling in every limb, was
standing knee-deep in the bath; one paw, placed on its rim, was ready
for flight if flight became practicable; her tail, rigid with anguish
would have hummed like a violin-string if it were touched. Fanny, with
her shirt-sleeves rolled up to her elbows, scrubbed in the soap. A
clipped fuchsia hedge, the pride of William O'Loughlin's heart, screened
the little lawn and garden from the high road.

"Good morning, Miss Fanny," said a voice over the hedge.

Fanny Fitz raised a flushed face and wiped a fleck of Naldyre off her
nose with her arm.

"I've just been looking at your mare," went on the voice.

"Well, I hope you liked her!" said Fanny Fitz defiantly, for the voice
was the voice of Rupert Gunning, and there was that in it that in this
connection acted on Miss Fitzroy as a slogan.

"Well, 'like' is a strong word, you know!" said Mr. Gunning, moving on
and standing with his arms on the top of the white gate and meeting
Fanny's glance with provoking eyes. Then, as an after-thought, "Do you
think you give her enough to eat?"

"She gets a feed of oats every Sunday, and strong tea and thistles
through the week," replied Fanny Fitz in furious sarcasm.

"Yes, that's what she looks like," said Rupert Gunning thoughtfully.
"Connolly tells me you want to send her to the show--Barnum's, I
suppose--as the skeleton dude?"

"I believe you want to buy her yourself," retorted Fanny, with a vicious
dab of the soap in the daughter's eye.

"Yes, she's just about up to my weight, isn't she? By-the-bye, you
haven't had her backed yet, I believe?"

"I'm going to try her to-day!" said Fanny with sudden resolve.

"Ride her yourself!" said Mr. Gunning, his eyebrows going up into the
roots of his hair.

"Yes!" said Fanny, with calm as icy as a sudden burst of struggles on
the part of the daughter would admit of.

Rupert Gunning hesitated; then he said, "Well, she ought to carry a
side-saddle well. Decent shoulders, and a nice long--" Perhaps he caught
Fanny Fitz's eye; at all events, he left the commendation unfinished,
and went on, "I should like to look in and see the performance, if I
may? I suppose you wouldn't let me try her first? No?"

He walked on.

"Puppy, _will_ you stay quiet!" said Fanny Fitz very crossly. She even
slapped the daughter's soap-sud muffled person, for no reason that the
daughter could see.

"Begorra, miss, I dunno," said Johnny Connolly dubiously when the
suggestion that the filly should be ridden there and then was made to
him a few minutes later; "wouldn't ye wait till I put her a few turns
under the cart, or maybe threw a sack o' oats on her back?"

But Fanny would brook no delay. Her saddle was in the harness-room:
William O'Loughlin could help to put it on; she would try the filly at
once.

Miss Fitzroy's riding was of the sort that makes up in pluck what it
wants in knowledge. She stuck on by sheer force of character; that she
sat fairly straight, and let a horse's head alone were gifts of
Providence of which she was wholly unconscious. Riding, in her opinion,
was just getting on to a saddle and staying there, and making the thing
under it go as fast as possible. She had always ridden other people's
horses, and had ridden them so straight, and looked so pretty,
that--other people in this connection being usually men--such trifles as
riding out a hard run minus both fore shoes, or watering her mount
generously during a check, were endured with a forbearance not frequent
in horse owners. Hunting people, however, do not generally mount their
friends, no matter how attractive, on young and valuable horses. Fanny
Fitz's riding had been matured on well-seasoned screws, and she sallied
forth to the subjugation of the Connemara filly with a self-confidence
formed on experience only of the old, and the kind, and the cunning.

The filly trembled and sidled away from the garden-seat up to which
Johnny Connolly had manoeuvred her. Johnny's supreme familiarity with
young horses had brought him to the same point of recklessness that
Fanny had arrived at from the opposite extreme, but some lingering
remnant of prudence had induced him to put on the cavesson headstall,
with the long rope attached to it, over the filly's bridle. The latter
bore with surprising nerve Fanny's depositing of herself in the saddle.

"I'll keep a holt o' the rope, Miss Fanny," said Johnny, assiduously
fondling his pupil; "it might be she'd be strange in herself for the
first offer. I'll lead her on a small piece. Come on, gerr'l! Come on
now!"

The pupil, thus adjured, made a hesitating movement, and Fanny settled
herself down into the saddle. It was the shifting of the weight that
seemed to bring home to the grey filly the true facts of the case, and
with the discovery she shot straight up into the air as if she had been
fired from a mortar. The rope whistled through Johnny Connolly's
fingers, and the point of the filly's shoulder laid him out on the
ground with the precision of a prize-fighter.

"I felt, my dear," as Fanny Fitz remarked in a letter to a friend, "as
if I were in something between an earthquake and a bad dream and a
churn. I just _clamped_ my legs round the crutches, and she whirled the
rest of me round her like the lash of a whip. In one of her flights she
nearly went in at the hall door, and I was aware of William O'Loughlin's
snow-white face somewhere behind the geraniums in the porch. I think I
was clean out of the saddle then. I remember looking up at my knees, and
my left foot was nearly on the ground. Then she gave another flourish,
and swung me up on top again. I was hanging on to the reins hard; in
fact, I think they must have pulled me back on to the saddle, as I
_know_ at one time I was sitting in a bunch on the stirrup! Then I heard
most heart-rending yells from the poor old Aunts: 'Oh, the begonias! O
Fanny, get off the grass!' and then, suddenly, the filly and I were
perfectly still, and the house and the trees were spinning round me,
black, edged with green and yellow dazzles. Then I discovered that some
one had got hold of the cavesson rope and had hauled us in, as if we
were salmon; Johnny had grabbed me by the left leg, and was trying to
drag me off the filly's back; William O'Loughlin had broken two pots of
geraniums, and was praying loudly among the fragments; and Aunt Harriet
and Aunt Rachel, who don't to this hour realise that anything unusual
had happened, were reproachfully collecting the trampled remnants of the
begonias."

It was, perhaps unworthy on Fanny Fitz's part to conceal the painful
fact that it was that distinguished fisherman, Mr. Rupert Gunning, who
had landed her and the Connemara filly. Freddy Alexander, however, heard
the story in its integrity, and commented on it with his usual candour.
"I don't know which was the bigger fool, you or Johnny," he said; "I
think you ought to be jolly grateful to old Rupert!"

"Well, I'm not!" returned Fanny Fitz.

After this episode the training of the filly proceeded with more system
and with entire success. Her nerves having been steadied by an hour in
the lunge with a sack of oats strapped, Mazeppa-like, on to her back,
she was mounted without difficulty, and was thereafter ridden daily. By
the time Fanny's muscles and joints had recovered from their first
attempt at rough-riding, the filly was taking her place as a reasonable
member of society, and her nerves, which had been as much _en évidence_
as her bones, were, like the latter, finding their proper level, and
becoming clothed with tranquillity and fat. The Dublin Horse Show drew
near, and, abetted by Mr. Alexander, Fanny Fitz filled the entry forms
and drew the necessary cheque, and then fell back in her chair and gazed
at the attentive dogs with fateful eyes.

"Dogs!" she said, "if I don't sell the filly I am done for!"

The mother scratched languidly behind her ear till she yawned musically,
but said nothing. The daughter, who was an enthusiast, gave a sudden
bound on to Miss Fitzroy's lap, and thus it was that the cheque was
countersigned with two blots and a paw mark.

None the less, the bank honoured it, being a kind bank, and not desirous
to emphasise too abruptly the fact that Fanny Fitz was overdrawn.

In spite of, or rather, perhaps, in consequence of this fact, it would
have been hard to find a smarter and more prosperous-looking young woman
than the owner of No. 548, as she signed her name at the season-ticket
turnstile and entered the wide soft aisles of the cathedral of horses at
Ballsbridge. It was the first day of the show, and in token of Fanny
Fitz's enthusiasm be it recorded, it was little more than 9.30 A.M.
Fanny knew the show well, but hitherto only in its more worldly and
social aspects. Never before had she been of the elect who have a horse
"up," and as she hurried along, attended by Captain Spicer, at whose
house she was staying, and Mr. Alexander, she felt magnificently
conscious of the importance of the position.

The filly had preceded her from Craffroe by a couple of days, under the
charge of Patsey Crimmeen, lent by Freddy for the occasion.

"I don't expect a prize, you know," Fanny had said loftily to Mr.
Gunning, "but she has improved so tremendously, every one says she ought
to be an easy mare to sell."

The sun came filtering through the high roof down on to the long rows of
stalls, striking electric sparks out of the stirrup-irons and bits, and
adding a fresh gloss to the polish that the grooms were giving to their
charges. The judging had begun in several of the rings, and every now
and then a glittering exemplification of all that horse and groom could
be would come with soft thunder up the tan behind Fanny and her squires.

"We've come up through the heavy weights," said Captain Spicer; "the
twelve-stone horses will look like rats--" He stopped.

They had arrived at the section in which figured "No. 548. Miss F.
Fitzroy's 'Gamble,' grey mare; 4 years, by Grey Dawn," and opposite
them was stall No. 548. In it stood the Connemara filly, or rather
something that might have been her astral body. A more spectral,
deplorable object could hardly be imagined. Her hind quarters had fallen
in, her hips were standing out; her ribs were like the bars of a grate;
her head, hung low before her, was turned so that one frightened eye
scanned the passers-by, and she propped her fragile form against the
partition of her stall, as though she were too weak to stand up.

To say that Fanny Fitz's face fell is to put it mildly. As she described
it to Mrs. Spicer, it fell till it was about an inch wide and five miles
long. Captain Spicer was speechless. Freddy alone was equal to demanding
of Patsey Crimmeen what had happened to the mare.

"Begor, Masther Freddy, it's a wonder she's alive at all!" replied
Patsey, who was now perceived to be looking but little better than the
filly. "She was middlin' quiet in the thrain, though she went to lep out
o' the box with the first screech the engine give, but I quietened her
some way, and it wasn't till we got into the sthreets here that she went
mad altogether. Faith, I thought she was into the river with me three
times! 'Twas hardly I got her down the quays; and the first o' thim
alecthric thrams she seen! Look at me hands, sir! She had me swingin'
on the rope the way ye'd swing a flail. I tell you, Masther Freddy, them
was the ecstasies!"

Patsey paused and gazed with a gloomy pride into the stricken faces of
his audience.

"An' as for her food," he resumed, "she didn't use a bit, hay, nor oats,
nor bran, bad nor good, since she left Johnny Connolly's. No, nor drink.
The divil dang the bit she put in her mouth for two days, first and
last. Why wouldn't she eat is it, miss? From the fright sure! She'll do
nothing, only standing that way, and bushtin' out sweatin', and watching
out all the time the way I wouldn't lave her. I declare to God I'm
heart-scalded with her!"

At this harrowing juncture came the order to No. 548 to go forth to Ring
3 to be judged, and further details were reserved. But Fanny Fitz had
heard enough.

"Captain Spicer," she said, as the party paced in deepest depression
towards Ring 3, "if I hadn't on a new veil I should cry!"

"Well, I haven't," replied Captain Spicer; "shall I do it for you? Upon
my soul, I think the occasion demands it!"

"I just want to know one thing," continued Miss Fitzroy. "When does your
brother-in-law arrive?"

"Not till to-night."

"That's the only nice thing I've heard to-day," sighed Fanny Fitz.

The judging went no better for the grey filly than might have been
expected, even though she cheered up a little in the ring, and found
herself equal to an invalidish but well-aimed kick at a
fellow-competitor. She was ushered forth with the second batch of the
rejected, her spirits sank to their former level, and Fanny's
accompanied them.

Perhaps the most trying feature of the affair was the reproving sympathy
of her friends, a sympathy that was apt to break down into almost
irrepressible laughter at the sight of the broken-down skeleton of whose
prowess poor Fanny Fitz had so incautiously boasted.

"Y' know, my dear child," said one elderly M.F.H., "you had no business
to send up an animal without the condition of a wire fence to the Dublin
Show. Look at my horses! Fat as butter, every one of 'em!"

"So was mine, but it all melted away in the train," protested Fanny Fitz
in vain. Those of her friends who had only seen the mare in the
catalogue sent dealers to buy her, and those who had seen her in the
flesh--or what was left of it--sent amateurs; but all, dealers and the
greenest of amateurs alike, entirely declined to think of buying her.

The weather was perfect; every one declared there never was a better
show, and Fanny Fitz, in her newest and least-paid-for clothes, looked
brilliantly successful, and declared to Mr. Rupert Gunning that nothing
made a show so interesting as having something up for it. She even
encouraged him to his accustomed jibes at her Connemara speculation, and
personally conducted him to stall No. 548, and made merry over its
melancholy occupant in a way that scandalised Patsey, and convinced Mrs.
Spicer that Fanny's pocket was even harder hit than she had feared.

On the second day, however, things looked a little more hopeful.

"She ate her grub last night and this morning middlin' well, miss," said
Patsey, "and"--here he looked round stealthily and began to
whisper--"when I had her in the ring, exercisin', this morning, there
was one that called me in to the rails; like a dealer he was. 'Hi! grey
mare!' says he. I went in. 'What's your price?' says he. 'Sixty guineas,
sir,' says I. 'Begin at the shillings and leave out the pounds!' says
he. He went away then, but I think he's not done with me."

"I'm sure the ring is our best chance, Patsey," said Fanny, her voice
thrilling with the ardour of conspiracy and of reawakened hope. "She
doesn't look so thin when she's moving. I'll go and stand by the rails,
and I'll call you in now and then just to make people look at her!"

"Sure I had Masther Freddy doing that to me yestherday," said Patsey;
but hope dies hard in an Irishman, and he saddled up with all speed.

For two long burning hours did the Connemara filly circle in Ring 3, and
during all that time not once did her owner's ears hear the longed-for
summons, "Hi! grey mare!" It seemed to her that every other horse in the
ring was called in to the rails, "and she doesn't look so very thin
to-day!" said Fanny indignantly to Captain Spicer, who, with Mr.
Gunning, had come to take her away for lunch.

"Oh, you'll see, you'll sell her on the last day; she's getting fitter
every minute," responded Captain Spicer. "What would you take for her?"

"I'm asking sixty," said Fanny dubiously. "What would _you_ take for
her, Mr. Gunning--on the last day, you know?"

"I'd take a ticket for her," said Rupert Gunning, "back to Craffroe--if
you haven't a return."

The second and third days crawled by unmarked by any incident of cheer,
but on the morning of the fourth, when Fanny arrived at the stall, she
found that Patsey had already gone out to exercise. She hurried to the
ring and signalled to him to come to her.

"There's a fella' afther her, miss!" said Patsey, bending very low and
whispering at close and tobacco-scented range. "He came last night to
buy her; a jock he was, from the Curragh, and he said for me to be in
the ring this morning. He's not come yet. He had a straw hat on him."

Fanny sat down under the trees and waited for the jockey in the straw
hat. All around were preoccupied knots of bargainers, of owners making
their final arrangements, of would-be-buyers hurrying from ring to ring
in search of the paragon that they had now so little time to find. But
the man from the Curragh came not. Fanny sent the mare in, and sat on
under the trees, sunk in depression. It seemed to her she was the only
person in the show who had nothing to do, who was not clinking handfuls
of money, or smoothing out banknotes, or folding up cheques and
interring them in fat and greasy pocket-books. She had never known this
aspect of the Horse Show before, and--so much is in the point of
view--it seemed to her sordid and detestable. Prize-winners with their
coloured rosettes were swaggering about everywhere. Every horse in the
show seemed to have got a prize except hers, thought Fanny. And not a
man in a straw hat came near Ring 3.

She went home to lunch, dead tired. The others were going to see the
polo in the park.

"I must go back and sell the mare," said Fanny valiantly, "or else take
that ticket to Craffroe, Mr. Gunning!"

"Well, we'll come down and pick you up there after the first match, you
poor, miserable thing," said Mrs. Spicer, "and I hope you'll find that
beast of a horse dead when you get there! You look half dead yourself!"

How sick Fanny was of signing her name at that turnstile! The pen was
more atrocious every time. How tired her feet were! How sick she was of
the whole thing, and how incredibly big a fool she had been! She was
almost too tired to know what she was doing, and she had actually walked
past stall No. 548 without noticing it, when she heard Patsey's voice
calling her.

"Miss Fanny! Miss Fanny! I have her sold! The mare's sold, miss! See
here! I have the money in me pocket!"

The colour flooded Fanny Fitz's face. She stared at Patsey with eyes
that more than ever suggested the Connemara trout-stream with the sun
playing in it; so bright were they, so changing, and so wet. So at least
thought a man, much addicted to fishing, who was regarding the scene
from a little way off.

"He was a dealer, miss," went on Patsey; "a Dublin fella'. Sixty-three
sovereigns I asked him, and he offered me fifty-five, and a man that was
there said we should shplit the differ, and in the latther end he gave
me the sixty pounds. He wasn't very stiff at all. I'm thinking he wasn't
buying for himself."

The man who had noticed Fanny Fitz's eyes moved away unostentatiously.
He had seen in them as much as he wanted; for that time at least.



THE CONNEMARA MARE

PART I


The grey mare who had been one of the last, if not the very last, of the
sales at the Dublin Horse Show, was not at all happy in her mind.

Still less so was the dealer's under-strapper, to whom fell the task of
escorting her through the streets of Dublin. Her late owner's groom had
assured him that she would "folly him out of his hand, and that whatever
she'd see she wouldn't care for it nor ask to look at it!"

It cannot be denied, however, that when an electric tram swept past her
like a terrace under weigh, closely followed by a cart laden with a
clanking and horrific reaping-machine, she showed that she possessed
powers of observation. The incident passed off with credit to the
under-strapper, but when an animal has to be played like a salmon down
the length of Lower Mount Street, and when it barn-dances obliquely
along the north side of Merrion Square, the worst may be looked for in
Nassau Street.

And it was indeed in Nassau Street, and, moreover, in full view of the
bow window of Kildare Street Club, that the cup of the under-strapper's
misfortunes brimmed over. To be sure he could not know that the new
owner of the grey mare was in that window; it was enough for him that a
quiescent and unsuspected piano-organ broke with three majestic chords
into Mascagni's "Intermezzo" at his very ear, and that, without any
apparent interval of time, he was surmounting a heap composed of a
newspaper boy, a sandwich man, and a hospital nurse, while his hands
held nothing save a red-hot memory of where the rope had been. The
smashing of glass and the clatter of hoofs on the pavement filled in
what space was left in his mind for other impressions.

"She's into the hat shop!" said Mr. Rupert Gunning to himself in the
window of the club, recognising his recent purchase and the full measure
of the calamity in one and the same moment.

He also recognised in its perfection the fact, already suspected by him,
that he had been a fool.

Upheld by this soothing reflection he went out into the street, where
awaited him the privileges of proprietorship. These began with the
despatching of the mare, badly cut, and apparently lame on every leg, in
charge of the remains of the under-strapper, to her destination. They
continued with the consolation of the hospital nurse, and embraced in
varying pecuniary degrees the compensation of the sandwich man, the
newspaper boy, and the proprietor of the hat shop. During all this time
he enjoyed the unfaltering attention of a fair-sized crowd, liberal in
comment, prolific of imbecile suggestion. And all these things were only
the beginning of the trouble.

Mr. Gunning proceeded to his room and to the packing of his portmanteau
for that evening's mail-boat to Holyhead in a mood of considerable
sourness. It may be conceded to him that circumstances had been of a
souring character. He had bought Miss Fanny Fitzroy's grey mare at the
Horse Show for reasons of an undeniably sentimental sort. Therefore,
having no good cause to show for the purchase, he had made it secretly,
the sum of sixty pounds, for an animal that he had consistently crabbed,
amounting in the eyes of the world in general to a rather advanced
love-token, if not a formal declaration. He had planned no future for
the grey mare, but he had cherished a trembling hope that some day he
might be in a position to restore her to her late owner without
considering the expression in any eyes save those which, a couple of
hours ago, had recalled to him the play of lights in a Connemara trout
stream.

Now, it appeared, this pleasing vision must go the way of many others.

The August sunlight illumined Mr. Gunning's folly, and his bulging
portmanteau, packed as brutally as only a man in a passion can pack;
when he reached the hall, it also with equal inappropriateness
irradiated the short figure and seedy tidiness of the dealer who had
been his confederate in the purchase of the mare.

"What did the vet say, Brennan?" said Mr. Gunning, with the brevity of
ill humour.

Mr. Brennan paused before replying, a pause laden with the promise of
evil tidings. His short silvery hair glistened respectably in the
sunshine: he had preserved unblemished from some earlier phase of his
career the air of a family coachman out of place. It veiled, though it
could not conceal, the dissolute twinkle in his eye as he replied:--

"He said sir, if it wasn't that she was something out of condition, he'd
recommend you to send her out to the lions at the Zoo!"

The specimen of veterinary humour had hardly the success that had been
hoped for it. Rupert Gunning's face was so remarkably void of
appreciation that Mr. Brennan abruptly relapsed into gloom.

"He said he'd only be wasting his time with her, sir; he might as well
go stitch a bog-hole as them wounds the window gave her; the tendon of
the near fore is the same as in two halves with it, let alone the
shoulder, that's worse again with her pitching out on the point of it."

"Was that all he had to say?" demanded the mare's owner.

"Well, beyond those remarks he passed about the Zoo, I should say it
was, sir," admitted Mr. Brennan.

There was another pause, during which Rupert asked himself what the
devil he was to do with the mare, and Mr. Brennan, thoroughly aware that
he was doing so, decorously thumbed the brim of his hat.

"Maybe we might let her get the night, sir," he said, after a respectful
interval, "and you might see her yourself in the morning--"

"I don't want to see her. I know well enough what she looks like,"
interrupted his client irritably. "Anyhow, I'm crossing to England
to-night, and I don't choose to miss the boat for the fun of looking at
an unfortunate brute that's cut half to pieces!"

Mr. Brennan cleared his throat. "If you were thinking to leave her in my
stables, sir," he said firmly, "I'd sooner be quit of her. I've only a
small place, and I'd lose too much time with her if I had to keep her
the way she is. She might be on my hands three months and die at the end
of it."

The clock here struck the quarter, at which Mr. Gunning ought to start
for his train at Westland Row.

"You see, sir--" recommenced Brennan. It was precisely at this point
that Mr. Gunning lost his temper.

"I suppose you can find time to shoot her," he said, with a very red
face. "Kindly do so to-night!"

Mr. Brennan's arid countenance revealed no emotion. He was accustomed to
understanding his clients a trifle better than they understood
themselves, and inscrutable though Mr. Gunning's original motive in
buying the mare had been, he had during this interview yielded to
treatment and followed a prepared path.

That night, in the domestic circle, he went so far as to lay the matter
before Mrs. Brennan.

"He picked out a mare that was as poor as a raven--though she's a good
enough stamp if she was in condition--and tells me to buy her. 'What
price will I give, sir?' says I. 'Ye'll give what they're askin',' says
he, 'and that's sixty sovereigns!' I'm thirty years buying horses, and
such a disgrace was never put on me, to be made a fool of before all
Dublin! Going giving the first price for a mare that wasn't value for
the half of it! Well; he sees the mare then, cut into garters below in
Nassau Street. Devil a hair he cares! Nor never came down to the stable
to put an eye on her! 'Shoot her!' says he, leppin' up on a car.
'Westland Row!' says he to the fella'. 'Drive like blazes!' and away
with him! Well, no matter; I earned my money easy, an' I got the mare
cheap!"

Mrs. Brennan added another spoonful of brown sugar to the porter that
she was mulling in a sauce-pan on the range.

"Didn't ye say it was a young lady that owned the mare, James?" she
asked in a colourless voice.

"Well, you're the devil, Mary!" replied Mr. Brennan in sincere
admiration.

The mail-boat was as crowded as is usual on the last night of the Horse
Show week. Overhead flowed the smoke river from the funnels, behind
flowed the foam river of wake; the Hill of Howth receded apace into the
west, and its lighthouse glowed like a planet in the twilight. Men with
cigars, aggressively fit and dinner-full, strode the deck in couples,
and thrashed out the Horse Show and Leopardstown to their uttermost
husks.

Rupert Gunning was also, but with excessive reluctance, discussing the
Horse Show. As he had given himself a good deal of trouble in order to
cross on this particular evening, and as any one who was even slightly
acquainted with Miss Fitzroy must have been aware that she would decline
to talk of anything else, sympathy for him is not altogether deserved.
The boat swung softly in a trance of speed, and Miss Fitzroy, better
known to a large circle of intimates as Fanny Fitz, tried to think the
motion was pleasant. She had made a good many migrations to England, by
various routes and classes. There had indeed been times of stress when
she had crossed unostentatiously, third class, trusting that luck and a
thick veil might save her from her friends, but the day after she had
sold a horse for sixty pounds was not the day for a daughter of Ireland
to study economics. The breeze brought warm and subtle wafts from the
machinery; it also blew wisps of hair into Fanny Fitz's eyes and over
her nose, in a manner much revered in fiction, but in real life usually
unbecoming and always exasperating. She leaned back on the bench and
wondered whether the satisfaction of crowing over Mr. Gunning
compensated her for abandoning the tranquil security of the ladies'
cabin.

Mr. Gunning, though less contradictious than his wont, was certainly one
of the most deliberately unsympathetic men she knew. None the less he
was a man, and some one to talk to, both points in his favour, and she
stayed on.

"I just missed meeting the man who bought my mare," she said, recurring
to the subject for the fourth time; "apparently _he_ didn't think her 'a
leggy, long-backed brute,' as other people did, or said they did!"

"Did many people say it?" asked Mr. Gunning, beginning to make a
cigarette.

"Oh, no one whose opinion signified!" retorted Fanny Fitz, with a glance
from her charming, changeful eyes that suggested that she did not always
mean quite what she said. "I believe the dealer bought her for a
Leicestershire man. What she really wants is a big country where she can
extend herself."

Mr. Gunning reflected that by this time the grey mare had extended
herself once for all in Brennan's back-yard: he had done nothing to be
ashamed of, but he felt abjectly guilty.

"If I go with Maudie to Connemara again next year," continued Fanny, "I
must look out for another. You'll come too, I hope? A little opposition
is such a help in making up one's mind! I don't know what I should have
done without you at Leenane last June!"

Perhaps it was the vision of early summer that the words called up;
perhaps it was the smile, half-seen in the semi-dark, that curved her
provoking lips; perhaps it was compunction for his share in the tragedy
of the Connemara mare; but possibly without any of these explanations
Rupert would have done as he did, which was to place his hand on Fanny
Fitz's as it lay on the bench beside him.

She was so amazed that for a moment she wildly thought he had mistaken
it in the darkness for his tobacco pouch. Then, jumping with a shock to
the conclusion that even the unsympathetic Mr. Gunning shared most men's
views about not wasting an opportunity, she removed her hand with a
jerk.

"Oh! I beg your pardon!" said Rupert pusillanimously. Miss Fitzroy fell
back again on the tobacco pouch theory.

At this moment the glowing end of a cigar deviated from its orbit on the
deck and approached them.

"Is that you, Gunning? I thought it was your voice," said the owner of
the cigar.

"Yes, it is," said Mr. Gunning, in a tone singularly lacking in
encouragement. "Thought I saw you at dinner, but couldn't be sure."

As a matter of fact, no one could have been more thoroughly aware than
he of Captain Carteret's presence in the saloon.

"I thought so too!" said Fanny Fitz, from the darkness, "Captain
Carteret wouldn't look my way!"

Captain Carteret gave a somewhat exaggerated start of discovery, and
threw his cigar over the side. He had evidently come to stay.

"How was it I didn't see you at the Horse Show?" he said.

"The only people one ever sees there are the people one doesn't want to
see," said Fanny, "I could meet no one except the auctioneer from
Craffroe, and he always said the same thing. 'Fearful sultry, Miss
Fitzroy! Have ye a purchaser yet for your animal, Miss Fitzroy? Ye have
not! Oh, fie, fie!' It was rather funny at first, but it palled."

"I was only there one day," said Captain Carteret; "I wish I'd known you
had a horse up, I might have helped you to sell."

"Thanks! I sold all right," said Fanny Fitz magnificently. "Did rather
well too!"

"Capital!" said Captain Carteret vaguely. His acquaintance with Fanny
extended over a three-day shooting party in Kildare, and a dance given
by the detachment of his regiment at Enniscar, for which he had come
down from the depôt. It was not sufficient to enlighten him as to what
it meant to her to own and sell a horse for the first time in her life.

"By-the-bye, Gunning," he went on, "you seemed to be having a lively
time in Nassau Street yesterday! My wife and I were driving in from the
polo, and we saw you in the thick of what looked like a street row. Some
one in the club afterwards told me it was a horse you had only just
bought at the Show that had come to grief. I hope it wasn't much hurt?"

There was a moment of silence--astonished, inquisitive silence on the
part of Miss Fitzroy temporary cessation of the faculty of speech on
that of Mr. Gunning. It was the moment, as he reflected afterwards, for
a clean, decisive lie, a denial of all ownership; either that, or the
instant flinging of Captain Carteret overboard.

Unfortunately for him, he did neither; he lied partially, timorously,
and with that clinging to the skirts of the truth that marks the novice.

"Oh, she was all right," he said, his face purpling heavily in the
kindly darkness. "What was the polo like, Carteret?"

"But I had no idea that you had bought a horse!" broke in Fanny Fitz, in
high excitement. "Why didn't you tell Maudie and me? What is it like?"

"Oh, it's--she's just a cob--a grey cob--I just picked her up at the end
of the show."

"What sort of a cob? Can she jump? Are you going to ride her with
Freddy's hounds?" continued the implacably interested Fanny.

"I bought her as--as a trapper, and to do a bit of carting," replied
Rupert, beginning suddenly to feel his powers of invention awakening;
"she's quite a common brute. She doesn't jump."

"She seems to have jumped pretty well in Nassau Street," remarked
Captain Carteret; "as well as I could see in the crowd, she didn't
strike me as if she'd take kindly to carting."

"Well, I do think you might have told us about it!" reiterated Fanny
Fitz. "Men are so ridiculously mysterious about buying or selling
horses. I simply named my price and got it. _I_ see nothing to make a
mystery about in a deal; do you, Captain Carteret?"

"Well, that depends on whether you are buying or selling," replied
Captain Carteret.

But Fate, in the shape of a turning tide and a consequent roll, played
for once into the hands of Rupert Gunning. The boat swayed slowly, but
deeply, and a waft of steam blew across Miss Fitzroy's face. It was not
mere steam; it had been among hot oily things, stealing and giving
odour. Fanny Fitz was not ill, but she knew that she had her limits, and
that conversation, save of the usual rudimentary kind with the
stewardess, were best abandoned.

Miss Fitzroy's movements during the next two and a half months need not
be particularly recorded. They included--

1. A week in London, during which the sixty pounds, or a great part of
it, acquired by the sale of the Connemara mare, passed imperceptibly
into items, none of which, on a strict survey of expenditure, appeared
to exceed three shillings and nine pence.

2. A month at Southsea, with Rupert Gunning's sister, Maudie Spicer,
where she again encountered Captain Carteret, and entered aimlessly upon
a semi-platonic and wholly unprofitable flirtation with him. During this
epoch she wore out the remnant of her summer clothes and laid in
substitutes; rather encouraged than otherwise by the fact that she had
long since lost touch with the amount of her balance at the bank.

3. An expiatory and age-long sojourn of three weeks with relatives at an
Essex vicarage, mitigated only by persistent bicycling with her uncle's
curate. The result, as might have been predicted by any one acquainted
with Miss Fitzroy, was that the curate's affections were diverted from
the bourne long appointed for them, namely, the eldest daughter of the
house, and that Fanny departed in blackest disgrace, with the single
consolation of knowing that she would never be asked to the vicarage
again.

Finally she returned, third-class, to her home in Ireland, with nothing
to show for the expedition except a new and very smart habit, and a
vague assurance that Captain Carteret would give her a mount now and
then with Freddy Alexander's hounds. Captain Carteret was to be on
detachment at Enniscar.



PART II


Mr. William Fennessy, lately returned from America, at present publican
in Enniscar and proprietor of a small farm on its outskirts, had taken a
grey mare to the forge.

It was now November, and the mare had been out at grass for nearly three
months, somewhat to the detriment of her figure, but very much to her
general advantage. Even in the south-west of Ireland it is not usual to
keep horses out quite so late in the year, but Mr. Fennessy, having
begun his varied career as a travelling tinker, was not the man to be
bound by convention. He had provided the mare with the society of a
donkey and two sheep, and with the shelter of a filthy and ruinous
cowshed. Taking into consideration the fact that he had only paid seven
pounds ten shillings for her, he thought this accommodation was as much
as she was entitled to.

She was now drooping and dozing in a dark corner of the forge, waiting
her turn to be shod, while the broken spring of a car was being patched,
as shaggy and as dirty a creature as had ever stood there.

"Where did you get that one?" inquired the owner of the car of Mr.
Fennessy, in the course of much lengthy conversation.

"I got her from a cousin of my own that died down in the County
Limerick," said Mr. Fennessy in his most agreeable manner. "'Twas
himself bred her, and she was near deshtroyed fallin' back on a harra'
with him. It's for postin' I have her."

"She's shlack enough yet," said the carman.

"Ah, wait awhile!" said Mr. Fennessy easily, "in a week's time when I'll
have her clipped out, she'll be as clean as amber."

The conversation flowed on to other themes.

It was nearly dark when the carman took his departure, and the smith, a
silent youth with sore eyes, caught hold of one of the grey mare's
fetlocks and told her to "lift!" He examined each hoof in succession by
the light of a candle stuck in a bottle, raked his fire together, and
then, turning to Mr. Fennessy, remarked:--

"Ye'd laugh if ye were here the day I put a slipper on this one, an' she
afther comin' out o' the thrain--last June it was. 'Twas one Connolly
back from Craffroe side was taking her from the station; him that
thrained her for Miss Fitzroy. She gave him the two heels in the face."
The glow from the fire illumined the smith's sardonic grin of
remembrance. "She had a sandcrack in the near fore that time, and
there's the sign of it yet."

The Cinderella-like episode of the slipper had naturally not entered
into Mr. Fennessy's calculations, but he took the unforeseen without a
change of countenance.

"Well, now," he said deliberately, "I was sayin' to meself on the road a
while ago, if there was one this side o' the counthry would know her
it'd be yerself."

The smith took the compliment with a blink of his sore eyes.

"Annyone'd be hard set to know her now," he said.

There was a pause, during which a leap of sparks answered each thump of
the hammer on the white hot iron, and Mr. Fennessy arranged his course
of action.

"Well, Larry," he said, "I'll tell ye now what no one in this counthry
knows but meself and Patsey Crimmeen. Sure I know it's as good to tell a
thing to the ground as to tell it to yerself!"

He lowered his voice.

"'Twas Mr. Gunning of Streamstown bought that one from Miss Fitzroy at
the Dublin Show, and a hundhred pound he gave for her!"

The smith mentally docked this sum by seventy pounds, but said, "By
dam!" in polite convention.

"'Twasn't a week afther that I got her for twinty-five pounds!"

The smith made a further mental deduction equally justified by the
facts; the long snore and wheeze of the bellows filled the silence, and
the dirty walls flushed and glowed with the steady crescendo and
diminuendo of the glow.

The ex-tinker picked up the bottle with the candle. "Look at that!" he
said, lowering the light and displaying a long transverse scar beginning
at the mare's knee and ending in an enlarged fetlock.

"I seen that," said the smith.

"And look at that!" continued Mr. Fennessy, putting back the shaggy hair
on her shoulder. A wide and shiny patch of black skin showed where the
hatter's plate glass had flayed the shoulder. "She played the divil
goin' through the streets, and made flitthers of herself this way, in a
shop window. Gunning give the word to shoot her. The dealer's boy told
Patsey Crimmeen. 'Twas Patsey was caring her at the show for Miss
Fitzroy. Shtan' will ye!"--this to the mare, whose eyes glinted white as
she flung away her head from the light of the candle.

"Whatever fright she got she didn't forget it," said the smith.

[Illustration: "MR. GUNNING WAS LOOKIN' OUT FOR A COB."]

"I was up in Dublin meself the same time," pursued Mr. Fennessy. "Afther
I seem' Patsey I took a sthroll down to Brennan's yard. The leg was in
two halves, barrin' the shkin, and the showldher swoll up as big as a
sack o' meal. I was three or four days goin' down to look at her this
way, and I seen she wasn't as bad as what they thought. I come in one
morning, and the boy says to me, 'The boss has three horses comin' in
to-day, an' I dunno where'll we put this one.' I goes to Brennan, and he
sitting down to his breakfast, and the wife with him. 'Sir,' says I,
'for the honour of God sell me that mare!' We had hard strugglin' then.
In the latther end the wife says, 'It's as good for ye to part her,
James,' says she, 'and Mr. Gunning'll never know what way she went. This
honest man'll never say where he got her.' 'I will not, ma'am,' says I.
'I have a brother in the postin' line in Belfast, and it's for him I'm
buyin' her.'"

The, process of making nail-holes in the shoe seemed to engross the
taciturn young smith's attention for the next minute or two.

"There was a man over from Craffroe in town yesterday," he observed
presently, "that said Mr. Gunning was lookin' out for a cob, and he'd
fancy one that would lep."

He eyed his work sedulously as he spoke.

Something, it might have been the light of the candle, woke a flicker in
Mr. Fennessy's eye. He passed his hand gently down the mare's quarter.

"Supposing now that the mane was off her, and something about six inches
of a dock took off her tail, what sort of a cob d'ye think she'd make,
Larry?"

The smith, with a sudden falsetto cackle of laughter, plunged the shoe
into a tub of water, in which it gurgled and spluttered as if in
appreciation of the jest.



PART III


Dotted at intervals throughout society are the people endowed with the
faculty for "getting up things". They are dauntless people, filled with
the power of driving lesser and deeper reluctant spirits before them;
remorseless to the timid, carneying to the stubborn.

Of such was Mrs. Carteret, with powers matured in hill-stations in
India, mellowed by much voyaging in P. and O. steamers. Not even an
environment as unpromising as that of Enniscar in its winter torpor had
power to dismay her. A public whose artistic tastes had hitherto been
nourished upon travelling circuses, Nationalist meetings, and missionary
magic lanterns in the Wesleyan schoolhouse, was, she argued, practically
virgin soil, and would ecstatically respond to any form of cultivation.

"I know there's not much talent to be had," she said combatively to her
husband, "but we'll just black our faces, and call ourselves the Green
Coons or something, and it will be all right!"

"Dashed if I'll black my face again," said Captain Carteret; "I call it
rot trying to get up anything here. There's no one to do anything."

"Well, there's ourselves and little Taylour" ("little Taylour," it may
be explained, was Captain Carteret's subaltern), "that's two banjoes and
a bones anyhow; and Freddy Alexander, and there's your dear friend Fanny
Fitz--she'll be home in a few days, and these two big Hamilton girls--"

"Oh, Lord!" ejaculated Captain Carteret.

"Oh, yes!" continued Mrs. Carteret, unheedingly, "and there's Mr.
Gunning; he'll come if Fanny Fitz does."

"He'll not be much advantage when he does come," said Captain Carteret
spitefully.

"Oh, he sings," said Mrs. Carteret, arranging her neat small fringe at
the glass--"rather a good voice. You needn't be afraid, my dear, I'll
arrange that the fascinating Fanny shall sit next you!"

Upon this somewhat unstable basis the formation of the troupe of Green
Coons was undertaken. Mrs. Carteret took off her coat to the work, or
rather, to be accurate, she put on a fur-lined one, and attended a
Nationalist meeting in the Town Hall to judge for herself how the voices
carried. She returned rejoicing--she had sat at the back of the hall,
and had not lost a syllable of the oratory, even during sundry heated
episodes, discreetly summarised by the local paper as "interruption".
The Town Hall was chartered, superficially cleansed, and in the space of
a week the posters had gone forth.

By what means it was accomplished that Rupert Gunning should attend the
first rehearsal he did not exactly understand; he found himself enmeshed
in a promise to meet every one else at the Town Hall with tea at the
Carterets' afterwards. Up to this point the fact that he was to appear
before the public with a blackened face had been diplomatically withheld
from him, and an equal diplomacy was shown on his arrival in the
deputing of Miss Fitzroy to break the news to him.

"Mrs. Carteret says it's really awfully becoming," said Fanny,
breathless and brilliant from assiduous practice of a hornpipe under
Captain Carteret's tuition, "and as for trouble! We might as well make a
virtue of necessity in this incredibly dirty place; my hands are black
already, and I've only swept the stage!"

She was standing at the edge of the platform that was to serve as the
stage, looking down at him, and it may be taken as a sufficient guide to
his mental condition that his abhorrence of the prospect for himself was
swallowed up by fury at the thought of it for her.

"Are you--do you mean to tell me you are going to dance _with a black
face_?" he demanded in bitter and incongruous wrath.

"No, I'm going to dance with Captain Carteret!" replied Fanny
frivolously, "and so can you if you like!"

She was maddeningly pretty as she smiled down at him, with her bright
hair roughened, and the afterglow of the dance alight in her eyes and
cheeks. Nevertheless, for one whirling moment, the old Adam, an Adam
blissfully unaware of the existence of Eve, asserted himself in Rupert.
He picked up his cap and stick without a word, and turned towards the
door. There, however, he was confronted by Mrs. Carteret, tugging at a
line of chairs attached to a plank, like a very small bird with a very
large twig. To refuse the aid that she immediately demanded was
impossible, and even before the future back row of the sixpennies had
been towed to its moorings, he realised that hateful as it would be to
stay and join in these distasteful revels, it would be better than going
home and thinking about them.

From this the intelligent observer may gather that absence had had its
traditional, but by no means invariable, effect upon the heart of Mr.
Gunning, and, had any further stimulant been needed, it had been
supplied in the last few minutes by the aggressive and possessive manner
of Captain Carteret.

The rehearsal progressed after the manner of amateur rehearsals. The
troupe, with the exception of Mr. Gunning, who remained wrapped in
silence, talked irrepressibly, and quite inappropriately to their rôle
as Green Coons. Freddy Alexander and Mr. Taylour bear-fought untiringly
for possession of the bones and the position of Corner Man; Mrs.
Carteret alone had a copy of the music that was to be practised, and in
consequence, the company hung heavily over her at the piano in a
deafening and discordant swarm. The two tall Hamiltons, hitherto
speechless by nature and by practice, became suddenly exhilarated at
finding themselves in the inner circle of the soldiery, and bubbled with
impotent suggestions and reverential laughter at the witticisms of Mr.
Taylour. Fanny Fitz and Captain Carteret finally removed themselves to a
grimy corner behind the proscenium, and there practised, _sotto voce_,
the song with banjo accompaniment that was to culminate in the hornpipe.
Freddy Alexander had gone forth to purchase a pack of cards, in the
futile hope that he could prevail upon Mrs. Carteret to allow him to
inflict conjuring tricks upon the audience.

"As if there were anything on earth that bored people as much as card
tricks!" said that experienced lady to Rupert Gunning. "Look here,
_would_ you mind reading over these riddles, to see which you'd like to
have to answer. Now, here's a local one. I'll ask it--'Why am dis room
like de Enniscar Demesne?'--and then _you'll_ say, 'Because dere am so
many pretty little deers in it'!"

"Oh, I couldn't possibly do that!" said Rupert hastily, alarmed as well
as indignant; "I'm afraid I really must go now--"

He had to pass by Fanny Fitz on his way out of the hall. There was
something vexed and forlorn about him, and, being sympathetic, she
perceived it, though not its cause.

"You're deserting us!" she said, looking up at him.

"I have an appointment," he said stiffly, his glance evading hers, and
resting on Captain Carteret's well-clipped little black head.

Some of Fanny's worst scrapes had been brought about by her incapacity
to allow any one to part from her on bad terms, and, moreover, she liked
Rupert Gunning. She cast about in her mind for something conciliatory to
say to him.

"When are you going to show me the cob that you bought at the Horse
Show?"

The olive branch thus confidently tendered had a somewhat withering
reception.

"The cob I bought at the Horse Show?" Mr. Gunning repeated with an
increase of rigidity, "Oh, yes--I got rid of it."

He paused; the twanging of Captain Carteret's banjo bridged the interval
imperturbably.

"Why had you to get rid of it?" asked Fanny, still sympathetic.

"She was a failure!" said Rupert vindictively; "I made a fool of myself
in buying her!"

Fanny looked at him sideways from under her lashes.

"And I had counted on your giving me a mount on her now and then!"

Rupert forgot his wrath, forgot even the twanging banjo.

"I've just got another cob," he said quickly; "she jumps very well, and
if you'd like to hunt her next Tuesday--"

"Oh, thanks awfully, but Captain Carteret has promised me a mount for
next Tuesday!" said the perfidious Fanny.

Mrs. Carteret, on her knees by a refractory footlight, watched with
anxiety Mr. Gunning's abrupt departure from the room.

"Fanny!" she said severely, "what have you been doing to that man?"

"Oh, nothing!" said Fanny.

"If you've put him off singing I'll never forgive you!" continued Mrs.
Carteret, advancing on her knees to the next footlight.

"I tell you I've done nothing to him," said Fanny Fitz guiltily.

"Give me the hammer!" said Mrs. Carteret. "Have I eyes, or have I not?"

"He's awfully keen about her!" Mrs. Carteret said that evening to her
husband. "Bad temper is one of the worst signs. Men in love are always
cross."

"Oh, he's a rotter!" said Captain Carteret conclusively.

In the meantime the object of this condemnation was driving his ten
Irish miles home, by the light of a frosty full moon. Between the shafts
of his cart a trim-looking mare of about fifteen hands trotted lazily,
forging, shying, and generally comporting herself in a way only possible
to a grass-fed animal who has been in the hands of such as Mr. William
Fennessy. The thick and dingy mane that had hung impartially on each
side of her neck, now, together with the major portion of her voluminous
tail, adorned the manure heap in the rear of the Fennessy public-house.
The pallid fleece in which she had been muffled had given place to a
polished coat of iron-grey, that looked black in the moonlight. A week
of over-abundant oats had made her opinionated, but had not, so far,
restored to her the fine lady nervousness that had landed her in the
window of the hat shop.

Rupert laid the whip along her fat sides with bitter disfavour. She was
a brute in harness, he said to himself, her blemished fetlock was uglier
than he had at first thought, and even though she had yesterday schooled
over two miles of country like an old stager, she was too small to carry
him, and she was not, apparently, wanted to carry any one else. Here the
purchase received a very disagreeable cut on the neck that interrupted
her speculations as to the nature of the shadows of telegraph-posts. To
have bought two useless horses in four months was pretty average bad
luck. It was also pretty bad luck to have been born a fool. Reflection
here became merged in the shapeless and futile fumings of a man badly in
love and preposterously jealous.

Known only to the elect among entertainment promoters are the methods
employed by Mrs. Carteret to float the company of The Green Coons. The
fact remains that on the appointed night the chosen troupe,
approximately word-perfect, and with spirits something chastened by
stage fright, were assembled in the clerk's room of the Enniscar Town
Hall, round a large basin filled horribly with a compound of burnt cork
and water.

"It's not as bad as it looks!" said Mrs. Carteret, plunging in her hands
and heroically smearing her face with a mass of black oozy matter
believed to be a sponge. "It's quite becoming if you do it thoroughly.
Mind, all of you, get it well into your ears and the roots of your
hair!"

The Hamiltons, giggling wildly, submitted themselves to the
ministrations of Freddy Alexander, and Mrs. Carteret, appallingly
transformed into a little West Indian coolie woman, applied the sponge
to the shrinking Fanny Fitz.

"Will you do Mr. Gunning, Fanny?" she whispered into one of the ears
that she had conscientiously blackened. "I think he'd bear it better
from you!"

"I shall do nothing of the kind!" replied Fanny, with a dignity somewhat
impaired by her ebon countenance and monstrous green turban.

"Why not?"

Mrs. Carteret's small neat features seemed unnaturally sharpened, and
her eyes and teeth glittered in her excitement.

"For goodness' sake, take your awful little black face away, Mabel!"
exclaimed Fanny hysterically. "It quite frightens me! I'm _very_ angry
with Mr. Gunning! I'll tell you why some other time."

"Well, don't forget you've got to say 'Buck up, Sambo!' to him after
he's sung his song, and you may fight with him as much as you like
afterwards," said Mrs. Carteret, hurrying off to paint glaring
vermilion mouths upon the loudly protesting Hamiltons.

During these vicissitudes, Rupert Gunning, arrayed in a green
swallow-tailed calico coat, short white cotton trousers, and a skimpy
nigger wig, presented a pitiful example of the humiliations which the
allied forces of love and jealousy can bring upon the just. Fanny Fitz
has since admitted that, in spite of the wrath that burned within her,
the sight of Mr. Gunning morosely dabbing his long nose with the
repulsive sponge that was shared by the troupe, almost moved her to
compassion.

A pleasing impatience was already betraying itself in cat-calls and
stampings from the sixpenny places, and Mrs. Carteret, flitting like a
sheep dog round her flock, arranged them in couples and drove them
before her on to the stage, singing in chorus, with a fair assumption of
hilarity, "As we go marching through Georgia".

For Fanny Fitz the subsequent proceedings became merged in a nightmare
of blinding heat and glare, made actual only by poignant anxiety as to
the length of her green skirt. The hope that she might be unrecognisable
was shattered by the yell of "More power, Miss Fanny!" that crested the
thunderous encore evoked by her hornpipe with Captain Carteret, and the
question of the skirt was decided by the fact that her aunts, in the
front row, firmly perused their programmes from the beginning of her
dance to its conclusion.

The entertainment went with varying success after the manner of its
kind. The local hits and personal allusions, toilfully compiled and
ardently believed in, were received in damping silence, while Rupert
Gunning's song, of the truculent order dedicated to basses, and sung by
him with a face that would have done credit to Othello, received an
ovation that confirmed Captain Carteret in his contempt for country
audiences. The performance raged to its close in a "Cake Walk," to the
inspiring strains of "Razors a-flying through the air," and the curtain
fell on what the Enniscar _Independent_ described cryptically as "a
_tout ensemble à la conversazione_ that was refreshingly unique".

"Five minutes more and I should have had heat apoplexy!" said Mrs.
Carteret, hurling her turban across the clerk's room, "but it all went
splendidly! Empty that basin out of the window, somebody, and give me
the vaseline. The last time I blacked my face it was covered with red
spots for a week afterwards because I used soap instead of vaseline!"

Rupert Gunning approached Fanny with an open note in his hand.

"I've had this from your aunt," he said, handing it to her; it was
decorated with sooty thumb marks, to which Fanny's black claw
contributed a fresh batch as she took it, but she read it without a
smile.

It was to the effect that the heat of the room had been too much for the
elder Misses Fitzroy, and they had therefore gone home, but as Mr.
Gunning had to pass their gate perhaps he would be kind enough to drive
their niece home.

"Oh--" said Fanny, in tones from which dismay was by no means
eliminated. "How stupid of Aunt Rachel!"

"I'm afraid there seems no way out of it for you," said Rupert
offendedly.

A glimpse of their two wrathful black faces in the glass abruptly
checked Fanny's desire to say something crushing. At this juncture she
would rather have died than laughed.

Burnt cork is not lightly to be removed at the first essay, and when,
half an hour later, Fanny Fitz, with a pale and dirty face, stood under
the dismal light of the lamp outside the Town Hall, waiting for Mr.
Gunning's trap, she had the pleasure of hearing a woman among the
loiterers say compassionately:--

"God help her, the crayture! She looks like a servant that'd be bate out
with work!"

Mr. Gunning's new cob stood hearkening with flickering ears to the
various commotions of the street--she understood them all perfectly
well, but her soul being unlifted by reason of oats, she chose to resent
them as impertinences. Having tolerated with difficulty the instalment
of Miss Fitzroy in the trap, she started with a flourish, and pulled
hard until clear of the town and its flaring public-houses. On the open
road, with nothing more enlivening than the dark hills, half-seen in the
light of the rising moon, she settled down. Rupert turned to his silent
companion. He had become aware during the evening that something was
wrong, and his own sense of injury was frightened into the background.

"What do you think of my new buy?" he said pacifically, "she's a good
goer, isn't she?"

"Very," replied Fanny.

Silence again reigned. One or two further attempts at conversation met
with equal discouragement. The miles passed by. At length, as the mare
slackened to walk up a long hill, Rupert said with a voice that had the
shake of pent-up injury:--

"I've been wondering what I've done to be put into Coventry like this!"

"I thought you probably wouldn't care to speak to me!" was Fanny's
astonishing reply, delivered in tones of ice.

"I!" he stammered, "not care to speak to _you_! You ought to know--"

"Yes, indeed, I do know!" broke in Fanny, passing from the frigid to the
torrid zone with characteristic speed, "I know what a _failure_ your
horse-dealing at the Dublin Show was! I've heard how you bought my mare,
and had her shot the same night, because you wouldn't take the trouble
even to go and look at her after the poor little thing was hurt! Oh! I
can't bear even to _think_ of it!"

Rupert Gunning remained abjectly and dumfoundedly silent.

"And then," continued Fanny, whirling on to the final point of her
indictment, "you pretended to Captain Carteret and me that the horse you
had bought was 'a common brute,' _a cob for carting_, and you said the
other night that you had made a fool of yourself over it! I didn't know
then all about it, but I do now. Captain Carteret heard about it from
the dealer in Dublin. Even the dealer said it was a pity you hadn't
given the mare a chance!"

"It's all perfectly true," said Rupert, in a low voice.

A soft answer, so far from turning away wrath, frequently inflames it.

"Then I think there's no more to be said!" said Fanny hotly.

There was silence. They had reached the top of the hill, and the grey
mare began to trot.

"Well, there's just one thing I should like to say," said Rupert
awkwardly, his breath coming very short, "I couldn't help everything
going wrong about the mare. It was just my bad luck. I only bought her
to please you. They told me she couldn't get right after the accident.
What was the good of my going to look at her? I wanted to cross in the
boat with you. Whatever I did I did for you. I would do anything in the
world for you--"

It was at this crucial moment that there arose suddenly from the dim
grey road in front of them a slightly greyer shadow, a shadow that
limped amid the clanking of chains. The Connemara mare, now masquerading
as a County Cork cob, asked for nothing better. If it were a ghost, she
was legitimately entitled to flee from it; if, as was indeed the case,
it was a donkey, she made a point of shying at donkeys. She realised
that, by a singular stroke of good fortune, the reins were lying in
loops on her back.

A snort, a sideways bound, a couple of gleeful kicks on the dashboard,
and she was away at full gallop, with one rein under her tail, and a
pleasant open road before her.

"It's all right!" said Rupert, recovering his balance by a
hair-breadth, and feeling in his heart that it was all wrong, "the
Craffroe Hill will stop her. Hold on to the rail."

Fanny said nothing. It was, indeed, all that she could do to keep her
seat in the trap, with which the rushing road was playing cup and ball;
she was, besides, not one of the people who are conversational in
emergencies. When an animal, as active and artful as the Connemara mare,
is going at some twenty miles an hour, with one of the reins under its
tail, endeavours to detach the rein are not much avail, and when the
tail is still tender from recent docking, they are a good deal worse
than useless. Having twice nearly fallen on his head, Rupert abandoned
the attempt and prayed for the long stiff ascent of the Craffroe Hill.

It came swiftly out of the grey moonlight. At its foot another road
forked to the right; instead of facing the hill that led to home and
stable, the mare swung into the side road, with one wheel up on the
grass, and the cushions slipping from the seat, and Rupert, just saving
the situation with the left rein that remained to him, said to himself
that they were in for a bad business.

For a mile they swung and clattered along it, with the wind striking and
splitting against their faces like a cold and tearing stream of water; a
light wavered and disappeared across the pallid fields to the left, a
group of starveling trees on a hill slid up into the skyline behind
them, and at last it seemed as if some touch of self-control, some
suggestion of having had enough of the joke, was shortening the mare's
grasping stride. The trap pitched more than ever as she came up into the
shafts and back into her harness; she twisted suddenly to the left into
a narrow lane, cleared the corner by an impossible fluke, and Fanny Fitz
was hurled ignominiously on to Rupert Gunning's lap. Long briars and
twigs struck them from either side, the trap bumped in craggy ruts and
slashed through wide puddles, then reeled irretrievably over a heap of
stones and tilted against the low bank to the right.

Without any exact knowledge of how she got there, Fanny found herself on
her hands and knees in a clump of bracken on top of the bank; Rupert was
already picking himself out of rugs and other jetsam in the field below
her, and the mare was proceeding up the lane at a disorderly trot,
having jerked the trap on to its legs again from its reclining position.

Fanny was lifted down into the lane; she told him that she was not hurt,
but her knees shook, her hands trembled, and the arm that was round her
tightened its clasp in silence. When a man is strongly moved by
tenderness and anxiety and relief, he can say little to make it known;
he need not--it is known beyond all telling by the one other person whom
it concerns. She felt suddenly that she was safe, that his heart was
torn for her sake, and that the tension of the last ten minutes had been
great. It went through her with a pang, and her head swayed against his
arm. In a moment she felt his lips on her hair, on her temple, and the
oldest, the most familiar of all words of endearment was spoken at her
ear. She recovered herself, but in a new world. She tried to walk on up
the lane, but stumbled in the deep ruts and found the supporting arm
again ready at need. She did not resist it.

A shrill neigh arose in front of them. The mare had pulled up at a
closed gate, and was apparently apostrophising some low farm buildings
beyond it. A dog barked hysterically, the door of a cowshed burst open,
and a man came out with a lantern.

"Oh, I know now where we are!" cried Fanny wildly, "it's Johnny
Connolly's! Oh, Johnny, Johnny Connolly, we've been run away with!"

"For God's sake!" responded Johnny Connolly, standing stock still in his
amazement, "is that Miss Fanny?"

"Get hold of the mare," shouted Rupert, "or she'll jump the gate!"

Johnny Connolly advanced, still calling upon his God, and the mare
uttered a low but vehement neigh.

"Ye're deshtroyed, Miss Fanny! And Mr. Gunning, the Lord save us! Ye're
killed the two o' ye! What happened ye at all? Woa, gerr'l, woa,
gerrlie! Ye'd say she knew me, the crayture."

The mare was rubbing her dripping face and neck against the farmer's
shoulder, with hoarse whispering snorts of recognition and pleasure. He
held his lantern high to look at her.

"Musha, why wouldn't she know me!" he roared, "sure it's yer own mare,
Miss Fanny! 'Tis the Connemara mare I thrained for ye! And may the divil
sweep and roast thim that has it told through all the counthry that she
was killed!"



A GRAND FILLY


I am an Englishman. I say this without either truculence or
vainglorying, rather with humility--a mere Englishman, who submits his
Plain Tale from the Western Hills with the conviction that the Kelt who
may read it will think him more mere than ever.

I was in Yorkshire last season when what is trivially called "the cold
snap" came upon us. I had five horses eating themselves silly all the
time, and I am not going to speak of it. I don't consider it a subject
to be treated lightly. It was in about the thickest of it that I heard
from a man I know in Ireland. He is a little old horse-coping sportsman
with a red face and iron-grey whiskers, who has kept hounds all his
life; or, rather, he has always had hounds about, on much the same
conditions that other men have rats. The rats are indubitably there, and
feed themselves variously, and so do old Robert Trinder's "Rioters,"
which is their _nom de guerre_ in the County Corkerry (the few who know
anything of the map of Ireland may possibly identify the two counties
buried in this cryptogram).

I meet old Robert most years at the Dublin Horse Show, and every now and
then he has sold me a pretty good horse, so when he wrote and renewed a
standing invitation, assuring me that there was open weather, and that
he had a grand four-year-old filly to sell, I took him at his word, and
started at once. The journey lasted for twenty-eight hours, going hard
all the time, and during the last three of them there were no
foot-warmers and the cushions became like stones enveloped in mustard
plasters. Old Trinder had not sent to the station for me, and it was
pelting rain, so I had to drive seven miles in a thing that only exists
south of the Limerick Junction, and is called a "jingle". A jingle is a
square box of painted canvas with no back to it, because, as was
luminously explained to me, you must have some way to get into it, and I
had to sit sideways in it, with my portmanteau bucking like a
three-year-old on the seat opposite to me. It fell out on the road twice
going uphill. After the second fall my hair tonic slowly oozed forth
from the seams, and added a fresh ingredient to the smells of the grimy
cushions and the damp hay that furnished the machine. My hair tonic
costs eight-and-sixpence a bottle.

There is probably not in the United Kingdom a worse-planned entrance
gate than Robert Trinder's. You come at it obliquely on the side of a
crooked hill, squeeze between its low pillars with an inch to spare
each side, and immediately drop down a yet steeper hill, which lasts for
the best part of a quarter of a mile. The jingle went swooping and
jerking down into the unknown, till, through the portholes on either
side of the driver's legs, I saw Lisangle House. It had looked decidedly
better in large red letters at the top of old Robert's notepaper than it
did at the top of his lawn, being no more than a square yellow box of a
house, that had been made a fool of by being promiscuously trimmed with
battlements. Just as my jingle tilted me in backwards against the flight
of steps, I heard through the open door a loud and piercing yell;
following on it came the thunder of many feet, and the next instant a
hound bolted down the steps with a large plucked turkey in its mouth.
Close in its wake fled a brace of puppies, and behind them, variously
armed, pursued what appeared to be the staff of Lisangle House. They
went past me in full cry, leaving a general impression of dirty aprons,
flying hair, and onions, and I feel sure that there were bare feet
somewhere in it. My carman leaped from his perch and joined in the
chase, and the whole party swept from my astonished gaze round or into a
clump of bushes. At this juncture I was not sorry to hear Robert
Trinder's voice greeting me as if nothing unusual were occurring.

[Illustration: ROBERT'S AUNT]

"Upon me honour, it's the Captain! You're welcome, sir, you're welcome!
Come in, come in, don't mind the horse at all; he'll eat the grass there
as he's done many a time before! When the gerr'ls have old Amazon cot
they'll bring in your things."

(Perhaps I ought to mention at once that Mr. Trinder belongs to the
class who are known in Ireland as "Half-sirs". You couldn't say he was a
gentleman, and he himself wouldn't have tried to say so. But, as a
matter of fact, I have seen worse imitations.)

Robert was delighted to see me, and I had had a whisky-and-soda and been
shown two or three more hound puppies before it occurred to him to
introduce me to his aunt. I had not expected an aunt, as Robert is well
on the heavenward side of sixty; but there she was: she made me think of
a badly preserved Egyptian mummy with a brogue. I am always a little
afraid of my hostess, but there was something about Robert's aunt that
made me know I was a worm. She came down to dinner in a bonnet and black
kid gloves--a circumstance that alone was awe-inspiring. She sat
entrenched at the head of the table behind an enormous dish of thickly
jacketed potatoes, and, though she scorned to speak to Robert or me, she
kept up a sort of whispered wrangle with the parlour-maid all the time.
The latter's red hair hung down over her shoulders--and at intervals
over mine also--in horrible luxuriance, and recalled the leading figure
in the pursuit of Amazon; there was, moreover, something about the heavy
boots in which she tramped round the table that suggested that Amazon
had sought sanctuary in the cow-house. I have done some roughing it in
my time, and I am not over-particular, but I admit that it was rather a
shock to meet the turkey itself again, more especially as it was the
sole item of the _menu_. There was no doubt of its identity, as it was
short of a leg, and half the breast had been shaved away. The aunt must
have read my thoughts in my face. She fixed her small implacable eyes on
mine for one quelling instant, then she looked at Robert. Her nephew was
obviously afraid to meet her eye; he coughed uneasily, and handed a
surreptitious potato to the puppy who was sitting under his chair.

"This place is rotten with dogs," said the aunt; with which announcement
she retired from the conversation, and fell again to the slaughter of
the parlour-maid. I timidly ate my portion of turkey and tried not to
think about the cow-house.

It rained all night. I could hear the water hammering into something
that rang like a gong; and each time I rolled over in the musty trough
of my feather-bed I fractiously asked myself why the mischief they had
left the tap running all night. Next morning the matter was explained
when, on demanding a bath, I was told that "there wasn't but one in the
house, and 'twas undher the rain-down. But sure ye can have it," with
which it was dragged in full of dirty water and flakes of whitewash, and
when I got out of it I felt as if I had been through the Bankruptcy
Court.

The day was windy and misty--a combination of weather possible only in
Ireland--but there was no snow, and Robert Trinder, seated at breakfast
in a purple-red hunting coat, dingy drab breeches, and woollen socks,
assured me that it was turning out a grand morning.

I distinctly liked the looks of my mount when Jerry the Whip pulled her
out of the stable for me. She was big and brown, with hindquarters that
looked like jumping; she was also very dirty and obviously underfed.
None the less she was lively enough, and justified Jerry's prediction
that "she'd be apt to shake a couple or three bucks out of herself when
she'd see the hounds". Old Robert was on an ugly brute of a yellow
horse, rather like a big mule, who began the day by bucking out of the
yard gate as if he had been trained by Buffalo Bill. It was at this
juncture that I first really respected Robert Trinder; his retention of
his seat was so unstudied, and his command of appropriate epithets so
complete.

Jerry and the hounds awaited us on the road, the latter as mixed a party
as I have ever come across. There were about fourteen couple in all, and
they ranged in style from a short-legged black-and-tan harrier, who had
undoubtedly had an uncle who was a dachshund, to a thing with a head
like a greyhound, a snow-white body, and a feathered stern that would
have been a credit to a setter. In between these extremes came several
broken-haired Welshmen, some dilapidated 24-inch foxhounds, and a lot of
pale-coloured hounds, whose general effect was that of the tablecloth on
which we had eaten our breakfast that morning, being dirty white,
covered with stains that looked like either tea or egg, or both.

"Them's the old Irish breed," said Robert, as the yellow horse
voluntarily stopped short to avoid stepping on one of them; "there's no
better. That Gaylass there would take a line up Patrick Street on a fair
day, and you'd live and die seeing her kill rats."

I am bound to say I thought it more likely that I should live to see her
and some of her relations killing sheep, judging by their manners along
the road; but we got to Letter cross-roads at last with no more than an
old hen and a wandering cur dog on our collective consciences. The road
and its adjacent fences were thronged with foot people, mostly
strapping young men and boys, in the white flannel coats and slouched
felt hats that strike a stranger with their unusualness and
picturesqueness.

"Do you ever have a row with Land Leaguers?" I asked, noting their
sticks, while the warnings of a sentimental Radical friend as to the
danger of encountering an infuriated Irish peasantry suddenly assumed
plausibility.

"Land League? The dear help ye! Who'd be bothered with the Land League
here?" said Robert, shoving the yellow horse into the crowd; "let the
hounds through, boys, can't ye? No, Captain, but 'tis Saint November's
Day, as they call it, a great holiday, and there isn't a ruffian in the
country but has come out with his blagyard dog to head the fox!"

A grin of guilt passed over the faces of the audience.

"There's plinty foxes in the hill, Mr. Thrinder," shouted one of them;
"Dan Murphy says there isn't a morning but he'd see six or eight o' them
hoppin' there."

"Faith, 'tis thrue for you," corroborated Dan Murphy. "If ye had thim
gethered in a quarther of ground and dhropped a pin from th' elements,
'twould reach one o' thim!"

(As a matter of fact, I haven't a notion what Mr. Murphy meant, but that
is what he said, so I faithfully record it.)

The riders were farmers and men of Robert's own undetermined class, and
there was hardly a horse out who was more than four years old, saving
two or three who were nineteen. Robert pushed through them and turned up
a bohireen--_i.e._, a narrow and incredibly badly made lane--and I
presently heard him cheering the hounds into covert. As to that covert,
imagine a hill that in any civilised country would be called a mountain:
its nearer side a cliff, with just enough slope to give root-hold to
giant furze bushes, its summit a series of rocky and boggy terraces,
trending down at one end into a ravine, and at the other becoming merged
in the depths of an aboriginal wood of low scrubby oak trees. It seemed
as feasible to ride a horse over it as over the roof of York Minster. I
hadn't the vaguest idea what to do or where to go, and I clave to Jerry
the Whip.

The hounds were scrambling like monkeys along the side of the hill; so
were the country boys with their curs; old Trinder moved parallel with
them along its base. Jerry galloped away to the ravine, and there
dismounting, struggled up by zig-zag cattle paths to the comparative
levels of the summit. I did the same, and was pretty well blown by the
time I got to the top, as the filly scorned the zigzags, and hauled me
up as straight as she could go over the rocks and furze bushes. A few
other fellows had followed us, and we all pursued on along the top of
the hill.

Suddenly Jerry stopped short and held up his hand. A hound spoke below
us, then another, and then came a halloa from Jerry that made the filly
quiver all over. The fox had come up over the low fence that edged the
cliff, and was running along the terrace in front of us. Old Robert
below us--I could almost have chucked a stone on to him--gave an
answering screech, and one by one the hounds fought their way up over
the fence and went away on the line, throwing their tongues in a style
that did one good to hear. Our only way ahead lay along a species of
trench between the hill, on whose steep side we were standing, and the
cliff fence. Jerry kicked the spurs into his good ugly little horse, and
making him jump down into the trench, squeezed along it after the
hounds. But the delay of waiting for them had got the filly's temper up.
When I faced her at the trench she reared, and whirled round, and
pranced backwards in, considering the circumstances, a highly
discomposing way. The rest of the field crowded through the furze past
me and down into the trench, and twice I thought the mare would land
herself and me on top of one of them. I don't wonder she was frightened.
I know I was. There was nothing between us and a hundred-foot drop but
this narrow trench and a low, rotten fence, and the fool behaved as
though she wanted to jump it all. I hope no one will ever erect an
equestrian statue in my honour; now that I have experienced the
sensation of ramping over nothing, I find I dislike it. I believe I
might have been there now, but just then a couple of hounds came up, and
before I knew what she was at, the filly had jumped down after them into
the trench as if she had been doing it all her life. I was not long
about picking the others up; the filly could gallop anyhow, and we
thundered on over ground where, had I been on foot, I should have liked
a guide and an alpenstock. At intervals we jumped things made of sharp
stones, and slates, and mud; I don't know whether they were banks or
walls. Sometimes the horses changed feet on them, sometimes they flew
the whole affair, according to their individual judgment. Sometimes we
were splashing over sedgy patches that looked and felt like buttered
toast, sometimes floundering through stuff resembling an ill-made
chocolate soufflé, whether intended for a ploughed field or a partially
drained bog-hole I could not determine, and all was fenced as carefully
as cricket-pitches. Presently the hounds took a swing to the left and
over the edge of the hill again, and our leader Jerry turned sharp off
after them, down a track that seemed to have been dug out of the face of
the hill. I should have liked to get off and lead, but they did not
give me time, and we suddenly found ourselves joined to Robert Trinder
and his company of infantry, all going hard for the oak wood that I
mentioned before.

It was pretty to see the yellow horse jump. Nothing came amiss to him,
and he didn't seem able to make a mistake. There was a stone stile out
of a bohireen that stopped every one, and he changed feet on the flag on
top and went down by the steps on the other side. No one need believe
this unless they like, but I saw him do it. The country boys were most
exhilarating. How they got there I don't know, but they seemed to spring
up before us wherever we went. They cheered every jump, they pulled away
the astounding obstacles that served as gates (such as the end of an
iron bedstead, a broken harrow, or a couple of cartwheels), and their
power of seeing the fox through a stone wall or a hill could only be
equalled by the Röntgen rays. We fought our way through the oak wood,
and out over a boggy bounds ditch into open country at last. The Rioters
had come out of the wood on a screaming scent, and big and little were
running together in a compact body, followed, like the tail of a kite,
by a string of yapping country curs. The country was all grass,
enchantingly green and springy; the jumps were big, yet not too big,
and there were no two alike; the filly pulled hard, but not too hard,
and she was jumping like a deer; I felt that all I had heard of Irish
hunting had not been overstated.

We had been running for half an hour when we checked at a farmhouse; the
yellow horse had been leading the hunt all the time, making a noise like
a steam-engine, but perfectly undefeated, and our numbers were reduced
to five. An old woman and a girl rushed out of the yard to meet us,
screaming like sea-gulls.

"He's gone south this five minutes! I was out spreadin' clothes, and I
seen him circling round the Kerry cow, and he as big as a man!" screamed
the girl.

"He was, the thief!" yelled the old woman. "I seen him firsht on the
hill, cringeing behind a rock, and he hardly able to thrail the tail
afther him!"

"Run now, like a good girl, and show me where did he cross the fence,"
said old Robert, puffing and blowing, as with a purple face he hurried
into the yard to collect the hounds, who, like practised foragers, had
already overrun the farmhouse, as was evidenced by an indignant and
shrieking flight of fowls through the open door.

The girl ran, snatching off her red plaid shawl as she went.

"Here's the shpot now!" she called out, flinging the shawl down on the
fence; "here's the very way just that he wint! Go south to the gap; I'll
pull the pole out for ye--this is a cross place."

The hunt gratefully accepted her good offices. She tore the monstrous
shaft of a cart out of a place that with it was impossible, and without
it was a boggy scramble, and as we began to gallop again, I began to
think there was a good deal to be said in favour of the New Woman.

I suppose we had had another quarter of an hour, when the mist, that had
been hanging about all day, came down on us, and it was difficult to see
more than a field ahead. We had got down on to lower ground, and we were
in a sort of marshy hollow when we were confronted by the most serious
obstacle of the day: a tall and obviously rotten bank clothed in briars,
with sharp stones along its top, a wide ditch in front of it, and a
disgustingly squashy take-off. Robert Trinder and the yellow horse held
their course undaunted: the rest of the field turned as one man, and
went for another way round--I, in my arrogance, followed the Master. The
yellow horse rose out of the soft ground with quiet, indescribable ease,
got a foothold on the side of the bank for his hind legs, and was away
into the next field without pause or mistake.

"Go round, Captain!" shouted Trinder; "it's a bad place!"

I hardly heard him; I was already putting the filly at it for the second
time. It took about three minutes for her to convince me that she and
Robert were right, and I was wrong, and by that time everybody was out
of sight, swallowed up in the mist. I tried round after the others, and
found their footmarks up a lane and across a field; a loose stone wall
confronted me, and I rode at it confidently; but the filly, soured by
our recent encounter, reared and would have none of it. I tried yet
another way round, and put her at a moderate and seemingly innocuous
bank, at which, with the contrariety of her sex, she rushed at a
thousand miles an hour. It looked somehow as if there might be a bit of
a drop, but the filly had got her beastly blood up, and I have been in a
better temper myself.

She rose to the jump when she was a good six feet from it. I knew she
would not put an iron on it, and I sat down for the drop. It came with a
vengeance. I had a glimpse of a thatched roof below me, and the next
instant we were on it or in it--I don't know which. It gave way with a
crash of rafters, the mare's forelegs went in, and I was shot over her
head, rolled over the edge of the roof, and fell on my face into a
manure heap. A yell and a pig burst simultaneously from the door, a calf
followed, and while I struggled up out of my oozy resting-place, I was
aware of the filly's wild face staring from the door of the shed in
which she so unexpectedly found herself. The broken reins trailed round
her legs, she was panting and shivering, and blood was trickling down
the white blaze on her nose. I got her out through the low doorway with
a little coaxing, and for a moment hardly dared to examine as to the
amount of damage done. She was covered with cobwebs and dirt out of the
roof, and, as I led her forward, she went lame on one foreleg; but
beyond this, and a good many scratches, there was nothing wrong. My own
appearance need not here be dilated upon. I was cleaning off what they
call in Ireland "the biggest of the filth" with a bunch of heather,
when from a cottage a little bit down the lane in which I was standing a
small barelegged child emerged. It saw me, uttered one desperate howl,
and fled back into the house. I abandoned my toilet and led the mare to
the cottage door.

"Is any one in?" I said to the house at large.

A fresh outburst of yells was the sole response; there was a pattering
of bare feet, and somewhere in the smoky gloom a door slammed. It was
clearly a case of "Not at Home" in its conventional sense. I scribbled
Robert Trinder's name on one of my visiting cards, laid it and half a
sovereign on a table by the door, and started to make my way home.

The south of Ireland is singularly full of people. I do not believe you
can go a quarter of a mile on any given road without meeting some one,
and that some one is sure to be conversationally disposed and glad of
the chance of answering questions. By dint of asking a good many, I
eventually found myself on the high road, with five miles between me and
Lisangle. The mare's lameness had nearly worn off, and she walked beside
me like a dog. After all, I thought, I had had the best of the day, had
come safely out of what might have been a nasty business, and was
supplied with a story on which to dine out for the rest of my life. My
only anxiety was as to whether I could hope for a bath when I got in--a
luxury that had been hideously converted by the _locale_ of my fall into
a necessity. I led the filly in the twilight down the dark Lisangle
drive, feeling all the complacency of a man who knows he has gone well
in a strange country, and was just at the turn to the yard when I came
upon an extraordinary group. All the women of the household were there,
gathered in a tight circle round some absorbing central fact; all were
shrieking at the tops of their voices, and the turkey cock in the yard
gobbled in response to each shriek.

"Ma'am, ma'am!" I heard, "ye'll pull the tail off him!"

"Twisht the tink-an now, Bridgie! Twisht it!"

"Holy Biddy! the masther'll kill us!"

What the deuce were they at? and what was a "tink-an"? I dragged the
filly nearer, and discovered that a hound puppy was the central point of
the tumult, and was being contended for, like the body of Moses, by Miss
Trinder and Bridgie the parlour-maid. Both were seated on the ground
pulling at the puppy for all they were worth; Miss Trinder had him by
the back of his neck and his tail, while Bridgie was dragging--what
_was_ she dragging at? Then I saw that the puppy's head was jammed in a
narrow-necked tin milk-can, and that, as things were going, he would
wear it, like the Man in the Iron Mask, for the rest of his life.

The small, grim face of Robert's aunt was scarlet with exertion; her
black bonnet had slipped off her head, and the thin grey hair that was
ordinarily wound round her little skull as tightly as cotton on a reel,
was hanging in scanty wisps from its central knot; nevertheless, she
was, metaphorically speaking, pulling Bridgie across the line every
time. I gave the filly to one of the audience, and took Bridgie's place
at the "tink-an". Miss Trinder and I put our backs into it, and suddenly
I found myself flat on mine, with the "tink-an" grasped in both hands
above my head.

A composite whoop of triumph rose from the spectators, and the filly
rose with it. She went straight up on her hind legs, and the next
instant she was away across the drive and into the adjoining field, and,
considering all things, I don't blame her. We all ran after her. I led,
and the various female retainers strung out after me like a flight of
wild-duck, uttering cries of various encouragement and consternation.
Miss Trinder followed, silent and indomitable, at the heel of the hunt,
and the released puppy, who had also harked in, could be heard throwing
his tongue in the dusky shrubbery ahead of us. It was all exasperatingly
absurd, as things seem to have a habit of being in Ireland. I never felt
more like a fool in my life, and the bitterest part of it was that it
was all I could do to keep ahead of Bridgie. As for the filly, she
waited till we got near her, and then she jumped a five-foot coped wall
into the road, fell, picked herself up, and clattered away into
darkness. At this point I heard Robert's horn, and sundry confused
shouts and sounds informed me that the filly had run into the hounds.

She was found next day on the farm where she was bred, fifteen miles
away. The farmer brought her back to Lisangle. She had injured three
hounds, upset two old women and a donkey-cart, broken a gate, and
finally, on arriving at the place of her birth, had, according to the
farmer, "fired the divil's pelt of a kick into her own mother's
stomach". Moreover, she "hadn't as much sound skin on her as would bait
a rat-trap"--I here quote Mr. Trinder--and she had fever in all her
feet.

Of course I bought her. I could hardly do less. I told Robert he might
give her to the hounds, but he sent her over to me in a couple of months
as good as new, and I won the regimental steeplechase cup with her last
April.



A NINETEENTH-CENTURY MIRACLE


Captain "Pat" Naylor, of the --th Dragoons, had the influenza. For three
days he had lain prostrate, a sodden and aching victim to the universal
leveller, and an intolerable nuisance to his wife. This last is perhaps
an over-statement; Mrs. Naylor was in the habit of bearing other
people's burdens with excellent fortitude, but she felt justly annoyed
that Captain Pat should knock up before they had fairly settled down in
their new quarters, and while yet three of the horses were out of sorts
after the crossing from England.

Pilot, however, was quite fit, a very tranquillising fact, and one that
Mrs. Pat felt was due to her own good sense in summering him on her
father's broad pastures in Meath, instead of "lugging him to Aldershot
with the rest of the string, as Pat wanted to do," as she explained to
Major Booth. Major Booth shed a friendly grin upon his fallen comrade,
who lay, a deplorable object, on the horrid velvet-covered sofa peculiar
to indifferent lodgings, and said vaguely that one of his brutes was
right anyhow, and he was going to ride him at Carnfother the next day.

"You'd better come too, Mrs. Pat," he added; "and if you'll drive me
I'll send my chap on with the horses. It's too far to ride. It's
fourteen Irish miles off; and fourteen Irish miles is just about the
longest distance I know."

Carnfother is a village in a remote part of the Co. Cork; it possesses a
small hotel--in Ireland no hostelry, however abject, would demean itself
by accepting the title of inn--a police barrack, a few minor
public-houses, a good many dirty cottages, and an unrivalled collection
of loafers. The stretch of salmon river that gleamed away to the distant
heathery hills afforded the _raison d'être_ of both hotel and loafers,
but the fishing season had not begun, and the attention of both was
therefore undividedly bestowed on Mrs. Naylor and Major Booth. The
former's cigarette and the somewhat Paradisaic dimensions of her apron
skirt would indeed at any time have rivalled in interest the landing of
a 20-lb. fish, and as she strode into the hotel the bystanders'
ejaculatory piety would have done credit to a revival meeting.

"Well, well, I'll say nothing for her but that she's quare!" said the
old landlady, hurrying in from her hens to attend to these rarer birds
whom fortune had sent to her net.

Mrs. Pat's roan cob had attacked and defeated the fourteen Irish miles
with superfluous zeal, and there were still several minutes before the
hounds could be reasonably expected on the scene. The soda was bad, the
whisky was worse. The sound of a riddle came in with the sunshine
through the open door, and our friends strolled out into the street to
see what was going on. In the centre of a ring of onlookers an old man
was playing, and was, moreover, dancing to his own music, and dancing
with serious, incongruous elegance. Round and round the circle he footed
it, his long thin legs twinkling in absolute accord with the complicated
jig that his long thin fingers were ripping out of the cracked and
raucous fiddle. A very plain, stout young woman, with a heavy red face
and discordantly golden hair, shuffled round after him in a clumsy
pretence of dancing, and as the couple faced Mrs. Pat she saw that the
old man was blind. Steam was rising from his domed bald head, and his
long black hair danced on his shoulders. His face was pale and strange
and entirely self-absorbed. Had Mrs. Pat been in the habit of
instituting romantic parallels between the past and the present she
might have thought of the priests of Baal who danced in probably just
such measures round the cromlechs in the hills above Carnfother; as she
wasn't, she remarked merely that this was all very well, but that the
old maniac would have to clear out of that before they brought Pilot
round, or there'd be trouble.

There was trouble, but it did not arise from Pilot, but from the
yellow-haired woman's pertinacious demands for money from Mrs. Naylor.
She had the offensive fluency that comes of long practice in alternate
wheedling and bullying, and although Major Booth had given her a
shilling she continued to pester Mrs. Pat for a further largesse. But,
as it happened, Mrs. Pat's purse was in her covert coat in the dog-cart,
and Mrs. Pat's temper was ever within easy reach, and on being too
closely pressed for the one she exhibited the other with a decision that
contracted the ring of bystanders to hear the fun, and loosened the
yellow-haired woman's language, till unfortunate Major Booth felt that
if he could get her off the field of battle for a sovereign it would be
cheap at the price. The old man continued to walk round and round,
fingering a dumb tune on his fiddle that he did not bow, while the
sunlight glistened hot and bright in his unwinking eyes; there was a
faint smile on his lips, he heard as little as he saw; it was evident
that he was away where "beyond these voices there is peace," in the
fairy country that his forefathers called the Tir na'n Oge.

At this juncture the note of the horn sounded very sweetly from across
the shining ford of the river. Hounds and riders came splashing up into
the village street, the old man and his daughter were hustled to one
side, and Mrs. Pat's affability returned as she settled her extremely
smart little person on Pilot's curveting back, and was instantly aware
that there was nothing present that could touch either of them in looks
or quality. Carnfother was at the extreme verge of the D---- Hounds'
country; there were not more than about thirty riders out, and Mrs. Pat
was not far wrong when she observed to Major Booth that there was not
much class about them. Of the four or five women who were of the field,
but one wore a habit with any pretensions to conformity with the sacred
laws of fashion, and its colour was a blue that, taken in connection
with a red, brass-buttoned waistcoat, reminded the severe critic from
Royal Meath of the head porter at the Shelburne Hotel. So she informed
Major Booth in one of the rare intervals permitted to her by Pilot for
conversation.

"All right," responded that gentleman, "you wait until you and that
ramping brute of yours get up among the stone walls, and you'll be jolly
glad if she'll call a cab for you and see you taken safe home. I tell
you what--you won't be able to see the way she goes."

"Rubbish!" said Mrs. Pat, and, whether from sympathy or from a petulant
touch of her heel, Pilot at this moment involved himself in so intricate
a series of plunges and bucks as to preclude further discussion.

The first covert--a small wood on the flank of a hill--was blank, and
the hounds moved on across country to the next draw. It was a land of
pasture, and in every fence was a deep muddy passage, through which the
field splashed in single file with the grave stolidity of the cows by
whom the gaps had been made. Mrs. Pat was feeling horribly bored. Her
escort had joined himself to two of the ladies of the hunt, and though
it was gratifying to observe that one wore a paste brooch in her tie and
the other had an imitation cavalry bit and bridle, with a leather tassel
hanging from her pony's throat, these things lost their savour when she
had no one with whom to make merry over them. She had left her
sandwiches in the dog-cart, her servant had mistaken whisky for sherry
when he was filling her flask; the day had clouded over, and already one
brief but furious shower had scourged the curl out of her dark fringe
and made the reins slippery.

At last, however, a nice-looking gorse covert was reached, and the
hounds threw themselves into it with promising alacrity. Pilot steadied
himself, and stood with pricked ears, giving an occasional snatch at his
bit, and looking, as no one knew better than his rider, the very picture
of a hunter, while he listened for the first note that should tell of a
find. He had not long to wait. There came a thin little squeal from the
middle of the covert, and a hound flung up out of the thicker gorse and
began to run along a ridge of rock, with head down, and feathering
stern.

"They've got him, my lady," said a young farmer on a rough
three-year-old to Mrs. Pat, as he stuffed his pipe in his pocket.
"That's Patience; we'll have a hunt out o' this."

Then came another and longer squeal as Patience plunged out of sight
again, and then, as the glowing chorus rose from the half-seen pack, a
whip, posted on a hillside beyond the covert, raised his cap high in the
air, and a wild screech that set Pilot dancing from leg to leg broke
from a country boy who was driving a harrow in the next field: "Ga--aane
awa--ay!"

Mrs. Pat forgot her annoyances. Her time had come. She would show that
idiot Booth that Pilot was not to be insulted with impunity, and--But
here retrospect and intention became alike merged in the present, and in
the single resolve to get ahead and stay there. Half a dozen of Pilot's
great reaching strides, and she was in the next field and over the low
bank without putting an iron on it. The horse with the harrow, deserted
by his driver, was following the hunt with the best of them, and,
combining business with pleasure, was, as he went, harrowing the field
with absurd energy. The Paste Brooch and the Shelburne Porter--so Mrs.
Pat mentally distinguished them--were sailing along with a good start,
and Major Booth was close at their heels. The light soil of the tilled
field flew in every direction as thirty or more horses raced across it,
and the usual retinue of foot runners raised an ecstatic yell as Mrs.
Pat forged ahead and sent her big horse over the fence at the end of the
field in a style that happily combined swagger with knowledge.

The hounds were streaking along over a succession of pasture fields, and
the cattle gaps which were to be found in every fence vexed the proud
soul of Mrs. Pat. She was too good a sportswoman to school her horse
over needless jumps when hounds were running, but it infuriated her to
have to hustle with these outsiders for her place at a gap. So she
complained to Major Booth, with a vehemence of adjective that, though it
may be forgiven to her, need not be set down here.

"Is _all_ the wretched country like this?" she inquired indignantly, as
the Shelburne Porter's pony splashed ahead of her through a muddy ford,
just beyond which the hounds had momentarily checked; "you told me to
bring out a big-jumped horse, and I might have gone the whole hunt on a
bicycle!"

Major Booth's reply was to point to the hounds. They had cast back to
the line that they had flashed over, and had begun to run again at
right angles from the grassy valley down which they had come, up towards
the heather-clad hills that lay back of Carnfother.

"Say your prayers, Mrs. Pat!" he said, in what Mrs. Pat felt to be a
gratuitously offensive manner, "and I'll ask the lady in the pretty blue
habit to have an eye to you. This is a hill fox and he's going to make
you and Pilot sit up!"

Mrs. Pat was not in a mood to be trifled with, and I again think it
better to omit her response to this inconvenient jesting. What she did
was to give Pilot his head, and she presently found herself as near the
hounds as was necessary, galloping in a line with the huntsman straight
for a three-foot wall, lightly built of round stones. That her horse
could refuse to jump it was a possibility that did not so much as enter
her head; but that he did so was a fact whose stern logic could not be
gainsaid. She had too firm a seat to be discomposed by the swinging
plunge with which he turned from it, but her mental balance sustained a
serious shake. That Pilot, at the head of the hunt should refuse, was a
thing that struck at the root of her dearest beliefs. She stopped him
and turned him at the wall again; again he refused, and at the same
instant Major Booth and the blue habit jumped it side by side.

"What did I tell you!" the former called back, with a laugh that grated
on Mrs. Pat's ear with a truly fiendish rasp; "do you want a lead?"

The incensed Mrs. Pat once more replied in forcible phraseology, as she
drove her horse again at the wall. The average Meath horse likes stones
just about as much as the average Co. Cork horse enjoys water, and the
train of running men and boys were given the exquisite gratification of
a contest between Pilot and his rider.

"Howld on, miss, till I knock a few shtones for ye!" volunteered one,
trying to interpose between Pilot and the wall.

"Get out of the way!" was Mrs. Pat's response to this civility, as she
crammed her steed at the jump again. The volunteer, amid roars of
laughter from his friends, saved his life only by dint of undignified
agility, as the big horse whirled round, rearing and plunging.

"Isn't he the divil painted?" exclaimed another in highest admiration;
"wait till I give him a couple of slaps of my bawneen, miss!" He dragged
off his white flannel coat and attacked Pilot in the rear with it, while
another of the party flung clods of mud vaguely into the battle, and
another persistently implored the maddened Mrs. Pat to get off and let
him lead the horse over "before she'd lose her life:" a suggestion that
has perhaps a more thoroughly exasperating effect than any other on
occasions such as this.

By the time that Pilot had pawed down half the wall and been induced to
buck over, or into, what remained of it, Mrs. Pat's temper was
irretrievably gone, and she was at the heel instead of the head of the
hunt. Thanks to this position there was bestowed on her the abhorred,
but not to be declined, advantage of availing herself of the gaps made
in the next couple of jumps by the other riders; but the stones they had
kicked down were almost as agitating to Pilot's ruffled nerves as those
that still remained in position. She found it the last straw that she
should have to wait for the obsequious runners to tear these out of her
way, while the galloping backs in front of her grew smaller and smaller,
and the adulatory condolences of her assistants became more and more
hard to endure. She literally hurled the shilling at them as she set off
once more to try to recover her lost ground, and by sheer force of
passion hustled Pilot over the next broken-down wall without a refusal.
For she had now got into that stony country whereof Major Booth had
spoken. Rough heathery fields, ribbed with rocks and sown with grey
boulders, were all round. The broad salmon river swept sleekly through
the valley below, among the bland green fields which were as far away
for all practical purposes as the plains of Paradise. No one who has
not ridden a stern chase over rough ground on a well-bred horse with his
temper a bit out of hand will be able at all fitly to sympathise with
the trials of Mrs. Naylor. The hunt and all that appertained to it had
sunk out of sight over a rugged hillside, and she had nothing by which
to steer her course save the hoof-marks in the occasional black and
boggy intervals between the heathery knolls. No one had ever accused her
of being short of pluck, and she pressed on her difficult way with the
utmost gallantry; but short of temper she certainly was, and at each
succeeding obstacle there ensued a more bitter battle between her and
her horse. Every here and there a band of crisp upland meadow would give
the latter a chance, but each such advantage would be squandered in the
war dance that he indulged in at every wall.

At last the summit of the interminable series of hills was gained, and
Mrs. Pat scanned the solitudes that surrounded her with wrathful eyes.
The hounds were lost, as completely swallowed up as ever were Korah,
Dathan and Abiram. Not the most despised of the habits or the feeblest
of the three-year-olds had been left behind to give a hint of their
course; but the hoof-marks showed black on a marshy down-grade of grass,
and with an angry clout of her crop on Pilot's unaccustomed ribs, she
set off again. A narrow road cut across the hills at the end of the
field. The latter was divided from it by a low, thin wall of sharp slaty
stones, and on the further side there was a wide and boggy drain. It was
not a nice place, and Pilot thundered down towards it at a pace that
suited his rider's temper better than her judgment. It was evident, at
all events, that he did not mean to refuse. Nor did he; he rose out of
the heavy ground at the wall like a rocketing pheasant, and cleared it
by more than twice its height; but though he jumped high he did not jump
wide, and he landed half in and out of the drain, with his forefeet
clawing at its greasy edge, and his hind legs deep in the black mud.

Mrs. Pat scrambled out of the saddle with the speed of light, and after
a few momentous seconds, during which it seemed horribly likely that the
horse would relapse bodily into the drain, his and Mrs. Pat's efforts
prevailed, and he was standing, trembling, and dripping, on the narrow
road. She led him on for a few steps; he went sound, and for one
delusive instant she thought he had escaped damage; then, through the
black slime on one of his hind legs the red blood began to flow. It came
from high up inside the off hind leg, above the hock, and it welled ever
faster and faster, a plaited crimson stream that made his owner's heart
sink. She dipped her handkerchief in the ditch and cleaned the cut. It
was deep in the fleshy part of the leg, a gaping wound, inflicted by one
of those razor slates that hide like sentient enemies in such boggy
places. It was large enough for her to put her hand in; she held the
edges together, and the bleeding ceased for an instant; then, as she
released them, it began again worse than ever. Her handkerchief was as
inadequate for any practical purpose as ladies' handkerchiefs generally
are, but an inspiration came to her. She tore off her gloves, and in a
few seconds the long linen hunting-scarf that had been pinned and tied
with such skilled labour in the morning was being used as a bandage for
the wound. But though Mrs. Pat could tie a tie with any man in the
regiment, she failed badly as a bandager of a less ornamental character.
The hateful stream continued to pump forth from the cut, incarnadining
the muddy road, and in despair she took Pilot by the head and began to
lead him down the hill towards the valley.

Another gusty shower flung itself at her. It struck her bare white neck
with whips of ice, and though she turned up the collar of her coat, the
rain ran down under the neckband of her shirt and chilled her through
and through. It was evident that an artery had been cut in Pilot's leg;
the flow, from the wound never ceased; the hunting-scarf drenched with
blood, had slipped down to the hock. It seemed to Mrs. Pat that her
horse must bleed to death, and, tough and unemotional though she was,
Pilot was very near her heart; tears gathered in her eyes as she led him
slowly on through the rain and the loneliness, in the forlorn hope of
finding help. She progressed in this lamentable manner for perhaps half
a mile; the rain ceased, and she stopped to try once more to readjust
the scarf, when, in the stillness that had followed the cessation of the
rain, she heard a faint and distant sound of music. It drew nearer, a
thin, shrill twittering, and as Mrs. Pat turned quickly from her task to
see what this could portend, she heard a woman's voice say harshly:--

"Ah, have done with that thrash of music; sure, it'll be dark night
itself before we're in to Lismore."

There was something familiar in the coarse tones. The weirdness fell
from the wail of the music as Mrs. Pat remembered the woman who had
bothered her for money that morning in Carnfother. She and the blind old
man were tramping slowly up the road, seemingly as useless a couple to
any one in Mrs. Pat's plight as could well be imagined.

"How far am I from Carnfother?" she asked, as they drew near to her. "Is
there any house near here?"

"There is not," said the yellow-haired woman; "and ye're four miles from
Carnfother yet."

"I'll pay you well if you will take a message there for me--" began Mrs.
Pat.

"Are ye sure have ye yer purse in yer pocket?" interrupted the
yellow-haired woman with a laugh that succeeded in being as nasty as she
wished; "or will I go dancin' down to Carnfother--"

"Have done, Joanna!" said the old man suddenly; "what trouble is on the
lady? What lamed the horse?"

He turned his bright blind eyes full on Mrs. Pat. They were of the
curious green blue that is sometimes seen in the eyes of a grey collie,
and with all Mrs. Pat's dislike and suspicion of the couple, she knew
that he was blind.

"He was cut in a ditch," she said shortly.

The old man had placed his fiddle in his daughter's hands; his own hands
were twitching and trembling.

"I feel the blood flowing," he said in a very low voice, and he walked
up to Pilot.

His hands went unguided to the wound, from which the steady flow of
blood had never ceased. With one he closed the lips of the cut, while
with the other he crossed himself three times. His daughter watched him
stolidly; Mrs. Pat, with a certain alarm, having, after the manner of
her kind, explained to herself the incomprehensible with the
all-embracing formula of madness. Yes, she thought, he was undoubtedly
mad, and as soon as the paroxysm was past she would have another try at
bribing the woman.

The old man was muttering to himself, still holding the wound in one
hand. Mrs. Pat could distinguish no words, but it seemed to her that he
repeated three times what he was saying. Then he straightened himself
and stroked Pilot's quarter with a light, pitying hand. Mrs. Pat stared.
The bleeding had ceased. The hunting-scarf lay on the road at the
horse's empurpled hoof. There was nothing to explain the mystery, but
the fact remained.

"He'll do now," said the blind man. "Take him on to Carnfother; but
ye'll want to get five stitches in that to make a good job of it."

"But--I don't understand--" stammered Mrs. Pat, shaken for once out of
her self-possession by this sudden extension of her spiritual horizon.
"What have you done? Won't it begin again?" She turned to the woman in
her bewilderment: "Is--is he mad?"

"For as mad as he is, it's him you may thank for yer horse," answered
the yellow-haired woman. "Why, Holy Mother! did ye never hear of Kane
the Blood-Healer?"

[Illustration: THE BLOOD-HEALER.]

The road round them was suddenly thronged with hounds, snuffing at
Pilot, and pushing between Mrs. Pat and the fence. The cheerful
familiar sound of the huntsman's voice rating them made her feel her
feet on solid ground again. In a moment Major Booth was there, the
Master had dismounted, the habits, loud with sympathy and excitement,
had gathered round; a Whip was examining the cut, while he spoke to the
yellow-haired woman.

Mrs. Pat tie-less, her face splashed with mud, her bare hands stained
with blood, told her story. It is, I think, a point in her favour that
for a moment she forgot what her appearance must be.

"The horse would have bled to death before the lady got to Carnfother,
sir," said the Whip to the Master; "it isn't the first time I seen life
saved by that one. Sure, didn't I see him heal a man that got his leg in
a mowing machine, and he half-dead, with the blood spouting out of him
like two rainbows!"

This is not a fairy story. Neither need it be set lightly down as a
curious coincidence. I know the charm that the old man said. I cannot
give it here. It will only work successfully if taught by man to woman
or by woman to man; nor do I pretend to say that it will work for every
one. I believe it to be a personal and wholly incomprehensible gift, but
that such a gift has been bestowed, and in more parts of Ireland than
one, is a bewildering and indisputable fact.



HIGH TEA AT McKEOWN'S


"Papa!" said the youngest Miss Purcell, aged eleven, entering the
drawing-room at Mount Purcell in a high state of indignation and a
flannel dressing-gown that had descended to her in unbroken line of
succession from her eldest sister, "isn't it my turn for the foxy mare
to-morrow? Nora had her at Kilmacabee, and it's a rotten shame--"

The youngest Miss Purcell here showed signs of the imminence of tears,
and rooted in the torn pocket of the dressing-gown for the hereditary
pocket-handkerchief that went with it.

Sir Thomas paused in the act of cutting the end off a long cigar, and
said briefly:--

"Neither of you'll get her. She's going ploughing the Craughmore."

The youngest Miss Purcell knew as well as her sister Nora that the
latter had already commandeered the foxy mare, and, with the connivance
of the cowboy, had concealed her in the cow-house; but her sense of
tribal honour, stimulated by her sister's threatening eye, withheld her
from opening this branch of the subject.

"Well, but Johnny Mulcahy won't plough to-morrow because he's going to
the Donovan child's funeral. Tommy Brien's just told me so, and he'll be
drunk when he comes back, and to-morrow'll be the first day that Carnage
and Trumpeter are going out--"

The youngest Miss Purcell paused, and uttered a loud sob.

"My darling baby," remonstrated Lady Purcell from behind a reading-lamp,
"you really ought not to run about the stable-yard at this hour of the
night, or, indeed, at any other time!"

"Baby's always bothering to come out hunting," remarked an elder sister,
"and you know yourself, mamma, that the last time she came was when she
stole the postman's pony, and he had to run all the way to Drinagh, and
you said yourself she was to be kept in the next day for a punishment."

"How ready you are with your punishments! What is it to you if she goes
out or no?" demanded Sir Thomas, whose temper was always within easy
reach.

"She can have the cob, Tom," interposed stout and sympathetic Lady
Purcell, on whom the tears of her youngest born were having their wonted
effect, "I'll take the donkey chaise if I go out."

"The cob is it?" responded Sir Thomas, in the stalwart brogue in which
he usually expressed himself. "The cob has a leg on him as big as your
own since the last day one of them had him out!" The master of the
house looked round with exceeding disfavour on his eight good-looking
daughters. "However, I suppose it's as good to be hanged for a sheep as
a lamb, and if you don't want him--"

The youngest Miss Purcell swiftly returned her handkerchief to her
pocket, and left the room before any change of opinion was possible.

Mount Purcell was one of those households that deserve to be subsidised
by any country neighbourhood in consideration of their unfailing supply
of topics of conversation. Sir Thomas was a man of old family, of good
income and of sufficient education, who, while reserving the power of
comporting himself like a gentleman, preferred as a rule to assimilate
his demeanour to that of one of his own tenants (with whom, it may be
mentioned, he was extremely popular). Many young men habitually dined
out on Sir Thomas's brogue and his unwearying efforts to dispose of his
eight daughters.

His wife was a handsome, amiable, and by no means unintelligent lady
upon whose back the eight daughters had ploughed and had left long
furrows. She was not infrequently spoken of as "that un_for_tunate Lady
Purcell!" with a greater or less broadening of the accent on the second
syllable according to the social standard of the speaker. Her tastes
were comprehended and sympathised with by her gardener, and by the
clerk at Mudie's who refilled her box. The view taken of her by her
husband and family was mainly a negative one, and was tinged throughout
by the facts that she was afraid to drive anything more ambitious than
the donkey, and had been known to mistake the kennel terrier for a hound
puppy. She had succeeded in transmitting to her daughters her very
successful complexion and blue eyes, but her responsibility for them had
apparently gone no further. The Misses Purcell faced the world and its
somewhat excessive interest in them with the intrepid _esprit de corps_
of a square of British infantry, but among themselves they fought, as
the coachman was wont to say--and no one knew better than the
coachman--"both bitther an regular, like man and wife!" They ranged in
age from about five and twenty downwards, sportswomen, warriors, and
buccaneers, all of them, and it would be difficult to determine whether
resentment or a certain secret pride bulked the larger in their male
parent's mind in connection with them.

"Are you going to draw Clashnacrona to-morrow?" asked Muriel, the second
of the gang (Lady Purcell, it should have been mentioned, had also been
responsible for her daughters' names), rising from her chair and pouring
what was left of her after dinner coffee into her saucer, a proceeding
which caused four pairs of lambent eyes to discover themselves in the
coiled mat of red setters that occupied the drawing-room hearthrug.

"No, I am not," said Sir Thomas, "and, what's more, I'm coming in early.
I'm a fool to go hunting at all at this time o' year, with half the
potatoes not out of the ground." He rose, and using the toe of his boot
as the coulter of a plough, made a way for himself among the dogs to the
centre of the hearthrug. "Be hanged to these dogs! I declare I don't
know am I more plagued with dogs or daughters! Lucy!"

Lady Purcell dutifully disinterred her attention from a catalogue of
Dutch bulbs.

"When I get in to-morrow I'll go call on that Local Government Board
Inspector who's staying in Drinagh. They tell me he's a very nice fellow
and he's rolling in money. I daresay I'll ask him to dinner. He was in
the army one time, I believe. They often give these jobs to soldiers. If
any of you girls come across him," he continued, bending his fierce
eyebrows upon his family, "I'll trouble you to be civil to him and show
him none of your infernal airs because he happens to be an Englishman! I
hear he's bicycling all over the country and he might come out to see
the hounds."

Rosamund, the eldest, delivered herself of an almost imperceptible wink
in the direction of Violet, the third of the party. Sir Thomas's
diplomacies were thoroughly appreciated by his offspring. "It's time
some of you were cleared out from under my feet!" he told them.
Nevertheless when, some four or five years before, a subaltern of
Engineers engaged on the Government survey of Ireland had laid his
career, plus fifty pounds per annum and some impalpable expectations, at
the feet of Muriel, the clearance effected by Sir Thomas had been that
of Lieutenant Aubrey Hamilton. "Is it marry one of my daughters to that
penniless pup!" he had said to Lady Purcell, whose sympathies had, as
usual, been on the side of the detrimental. "Upon my honour, Lucy,
you're a bigger fool than I thought you--and that's saying a good deal!"

It was near the beginning of September, and but a sleepy half dozen or
so of riders had turned out to meet the hounds the following morning, at
Liss Cranny Wood. There had been rain during the night and, though it
had ceased, a wild wet wind was blowing hard from the north-west. The
yellowing beech trees twisted and swung their grey arms in the gale.
Hats flew down the wind like driven grouse; Sir Thomas's voice, in the
middle of the covert, came to the riders assembled at the cross roads on
the outskirts of the wood in gusts, fitful indeed, but not so fitful
that Nora, on the distrained foxy mare, was not able to gauge to a
nicety the state of his temper. From the fact of her unostentatious
position in the rear it might safely be concluded that it, like the
wind, was still rising. The riders huddled together in the lee of the
trees, their various elements fused in the crucible of Sir Thomas's
wrath into a compact and anxious mass. There had been an unusually large
entry of puppies that season, and Sir Thomas's temper, never at its best
on a morning of cubbing, was making exhaustive demands on his stock of
expletives. Rabbits were flying about in every direction, each with a
shrieking puppy or two in its wake. Jerry, the Whip, was galloping
_ventre à terre_ along the road in the vain endeavour to overtake a
couple in headlong flight to the farm where they had spent their happier
earlier days. At the other side of the wood the Master was blowing
himself into apoplexy in the attempt to recall half a dozen who were
away in full cry after a cur-dog, and a zealous member of the hunt
looked as if he were playing polo with another puppy that doubled and
dodged to evade the lash and the duty of getting to covert. Hither and
thither among the beech trees went that selection from the Master's
family circle, exclusive of the furtive Nora, that had on this occasion
taken the field. It was a tradition in the country that there were never
fewer than four Miss Purcells out, and that no individual Miss Purcell
had more than three days' hunting in the season. Whatever may have been
the truth of this, the companion legend that each Miss Purcell slept
with two hound puppies in her bed was plausibly upheld by the devotion
with which the latter clung to the heels of their nurses.

In the midst of these scenes of disorder an old fox rightly judging that
this was no place for him, slid out of the covert, and crossed the road
just in front of where Nora, in a blue serge skirt and a red
Tam-o'-Shanter cap, lurked on the foxy mare. Close after him came four
or five couple of old hounds, and, prominent among her elders, yelped
the puppy that had been Nora's special charge. This was not cubbing, and
no one knew it better than Nora; but the sight of Carnage among the
prophets--Carnage, whose noblest quarry hitherto had been the Mount
Purcell turkey-cock--overthrew her scruples. The foxy mare, a ponderous
creature, with a mane like a Nubian lion and a mouth like steel,
required nearly as much room to turn in as a man-of-war, and while Nora,
by vigorous use of her heel and a reliable ash plant, was getting her
head round, her sister Muriel, on a raw-boned well-bred colt--Sir
Thomas, as he said, made the best of a bad job, and utilised his
daughters as roughriders--shot past her down the leafy road, closely
followed by a stranger on a weedy bay horse, which Nora instantly
recognised as the solitary hireling of the; neighbourhood.

Through the belt of wood and out into the open country went the five
couple, and after them went Muriel, Nora and the strange man. There had
been an instant when the colt had thought that it seemed a pity to leave
the road, but, none the less, he had the next instant found himself in
the air, a considerable distance above a low stone wall, with a tingling
streak across his ribs, and a bewildering sensation of having been
hustled. The field in which he alighted was a sloping one and he ramped
down it very enjoyably to himself, with all the weight of his sixteen
hands and a half concentrated in his head, when suddenly a tall grassy
bank confronted him, with, as he perceived with horror, a ditch in front
of it. He tried to swerve, but there seemed something irrevocable about
the way in which the bank faced him, and if his method of "changing
feet" was not strictly conventional, he achieved the main point and
found all four safely under him when he landed, which was as much--if
not more than as much--as either he or Muriel expected. The Miss
Purcells were a practical people, and were thankful for minor mercies.

It was at about this point that the stranger on the hireling drew level;
he had not been at the meet, and Muriel turned her head to see who it
was that was kicking old McConnell's screw along so well. He lifted his
cap, but he was certainly a stranger. She saw a discreetly clipped and
pointed brown beard, with a rather long and curling moustache.

"Fed on furze!" thought Muriel, with a remembrance of the foxy mare's
upper lip when she came in "off the hill".

Then she met the strange man's eyes--was he quite a stranger? What was
it about the greeny-grey gleam of them that made her heart give a
curious lift, and then sent the colour running from it to her face and
back again to her heart?

"I thought you were going to cut me--Muriel!" said the strange man.

In the meantime the five couple and Carnage were screaming down the
heathery side of Liss Cranny Hill, on a scent that was a real comfort to
them after nearly five miserable months of kennels and road-work, and a
glorious wind under their sterns. Jerry, the Whip, was riding like a
madman to stop them; they knew that well, and went the faster for it.
Sir Thomas was blowing his horn inside out. But Jerry was four fields
behind, and Sir Thomas was on the wrong side of the wood, and Miss
Muriel and the strange gentleman were coming on for all they were worth,
and were as obviously bent on having a good time as they were. Carnage
flung up her handsome head and squealed with pure joy, as she pitched
herself over the big bounds fence at the foot of the hill, and flopped
across the squashy ditch on the far side. There was grass under her now,
beautiful firm dairy grass, and that entrancing perfume was lying on it
as thick as butter--Oh! it was well to be hunting! thought Carnage, with
another most childish shriek, legging it after her father and mother and
several other blood relations in a way that did Muriel's heart good to
see.

The fox, as good luck would have it, had chosen the very pick of Sir
Thomas's country, and Muriel and the stranger had it all to themselves.
She looked over her shoulder. Away back in a half-dug potato field Nora
and a knot of labourers were engaged in bitter conflict with the foxy
mare on the subject of a bank with a rivulet in front of it. To refuse
to jump running water had been from girlhood the resolve of the foxy
mare; it was plain that neither Nora's ash plant, nor the stalks of
rag-wort, torn from the potato ridges, with which the countrymen
flagellated her from behind, were likely to make her change her mind.
Farther back still were a few specks, motionless apparently, but
representing, as Muriel was well aware, the speeding indignant forms of
those Miss Purcells who had got left. As for Sir Thomas--well, it was no
good going to meet the devil half-way! was the filial reflection; of
Sir Thomas's second daughter, as, with a clatter of stones, she and the
colt dropped into a road, and charged on over the bank on the other
side, the colt leaving a hind leg behind him in it, and sending thereby
a clod of earth flying into the stranger's face. The stranger only
laughed, and catching hold of the much enduring hireling he drove him
level with the colt, and lifted him over the ensuing bank and gripe in a
way subsequently described by Jerry as having "covered acres".

But the old fox's hitherto straight neck was getting a twist in it.
Possibly he had summered himself rather too well, and found himself a
little short of training for the point that he had first fixed on. At
all events, he swung steadily round, and headed for the lower end of the
long belt of Liss Cranny Wood; and, as he and his pursuers so headed,
Retributive Justice, mounted on a large brown horse, very red in the
face, and followed by a string of hounds and daughters, galloped
steadily toward the returning sinners.

It is probably superfluous to reproduce for sporting readers the exact
terms in which an infuriated master of hounds reproves an erring flock.
Sir Thomas, even under ordinary circumstances, had a stirring gift of
invective. It was currently reported that after each day's hunting Lady
Purcell made a house-to-house visitation of conciliation to all
subscribers of five pounds and upwards. On this occasion the Master,
having ordered his two daughters home without an instant's delay,
proceeded to a satiric appreciation of the situation at large and in
detail, with general reflections as to the advantage to tailors of
sticking to their own trade, and direct references of so pointed a
character to the mental abilities of the third delinquent, that that
gentleman's self-control became unequal to further strain, and he also
retired abruptly from the scene.

Nora and Muriel meanwhile pursued their humbled, but unrepentant, way
home. It was blowing as hard as ever. Muriel's hair had only been saved
from complete overthrow by two hair-pins yielded, with pelican-like
devotion, by a sister. Nora had lost the Tam-o'-Shanter, and had torn
her blue serge skirt. The foxy mare had cast a shoe, and the colt was
unaffectedly done.

"He's mad for a drink!" said Muriel, as he strained towards the side of
the bog road, against which the waters of a small lake, swollen by the
recent rains, were washing in little waves under the lash of the
wind--"I think I'll let him just wet his mouth."

She slackened the reins, and the thirsty colt eagerly thrust his muzzle
into the water. As he did so he took another forward step, and
instantly, with a terrific splash, he and his rider were floundering in
brown water up to his withers in the ditch below the submerged edge of
the road. To Muriel's credit it, must be said that she bore this
unlooked-for immersion with the nerve of a Baptist convert. In a second
she had pulled the colt round parallel with the bank, and in another she
had hurled herself from the saddle and was dragging herself, like a
wounded otter, up on to the level of the road.

"Well you've done it now, Muriel!" said Nora dispassionately. "How
pleased Sir Thomas will be when the colt begins to cough to-morrow
morning! He's bound to catch cold out of this. Look out! Here's that man
that went the run with us. I'd try and wipe some of the mud off my face
if I were you!"

A younger sister of fifteen is not apt to err on the side of over
sympathy, but the deficiencies of Nora were more than made up for by the
solicitude of the stranger with the pointed beard. He hauled the colt
from his watery nest, he dried him down with handfuls of rushes, he
wiped the saddle with his own beautiful silk pocket-handkerchief. For a
stranger he displayed--so it struck Nora--a surprising knowledge of the
locality. He pointed out that Mount Purcell was seven miles away, and
that the village of Drinagh, where he was putting up--("Oho! so he's the
inspector Sir Thomas was going to be so civil to!" thought the younger
Miss Purcell with an inward grin)--was only two or three miles away.

"You know, Nora," said Muriel with an unusually conciliatory manner, "it
isn't at all out of our way, and the colt _ought_ to get a proper rub
down and a hot drink."

"I should have thought he'd had about as much to drink as he wanted, hot
or cold!" said Nora.

But Nora had not been a younger sister for fifteen years for nothing,
and it was for Drinagh that the party steered their course.

Their arrival stirred McKeown's Hotel (so-called) to its depths. Destiny
had decreed that Mrs. McKeown, being, as she expressed it, "an epicure
about boots," should choose this day of all others to go to "town" to
buy herself a pair, leaving the direction of the hotel in the hands of
her husband, a person of minor importance, and of Mary Ann Whooly, a
grey-haired kitchen-maid, who milked the cows and made the beds, and at
a distance in the back-yard was scarcely distinguishable from the
surrounding heaps of manure.

[Illustration: "THE GREY-HAIRED KITCHEN-MAID."]

The Inspector's hospitality knew no limits, and failed to recognise that
those of McKeown's Hotel were somewhat circumscribed. He ordered hot
whisky and water, mutton chops, dry clothes for Miss Purcell, fires,
tea, buttered toast, poached eggs and other delicacies simultaneously
and immediately, and the voice of Mary Ann Whooly imploring Heaven's
help for herself and its vengeance upon her inadequate assistants was
heard far in the streets of Drinagh.

"Sure herself" (herself was Mrs. McKeown) "has her box locked agin me,
and I've no clothes but what's on me!" she protested, producing after a
long interval a large brown shawl and a sallow-complexioned blanket,
"but the Captain's after sending these. Faith, they'll do ye grand!
Arrah, why not, asthore! Sure he'll never look at ye!"

These consisted of a long covert coat, a still longer pair of yellow
knitted stockings, and a pair of pumps.

"Sure they're the only best we have," continued Mary Ann Whooly,
pooling, as it were, her wardrobe with that of the lodger. "God's will
must be, Miss Muriel, my darlin' gerr'l!"

It says a good deal for the skill of Nora as a tire-woman that her
sister's appearance ten minutes afterwards was open to no reproach, save
possibly that of eccentricity, and the Inspector's gaze--which struck
the tire-woman as being of a singularly enamoured character for so brief
an acquaintance--was so firmly fixed upon her sister's countenance that
nothing else seemed to signify. It was by this time past two o'clock,
and the repast, which arrived in successive relays, had, at all events,
the merit of || combining the leading features of breakfast, lunch and
afternoon tea in one remarkable procession, Julia Connolly, having
inaugurated the entertainment with tumblers of dark brown steaming
whisky and water, was impelled from strength to strength by her growing
sense of the greatness of the occasion, and it would be hard to say
whether the younger Miss Purcell was more gratified by the mound of
feather-light pancakes which followed on the tea and buttered toast, or
by the almost cringing politeness of her elder sister.

"How civil she is!" thought Nora scornfully; "for all she's so civil
she'll have to lend me her saddle next week, or I'll tell them the whole
story!" (Them meant the sisterhood.) "I bet he was holding her hand just
before the pancakes came in!"

At about this time Lady Purcell, pursuing her peaceful way home in her
donkey chaise, was startled by the sound of neighing and by the rattle
of galloping hoofs behind her, and her consternation may be imagined
when the foxy mare and the colt, saddled but riderless, suddenly ranged
up one on either side of her chaise. Having stopped themselves with one
or two prodigious bounds that sent the mud flying in every direction,
they proceeded to lively demonstrations of friendship towards the
donkey, which that respectable animal received very symptom of
annoyance. Lady Purcell had never in her life succeeded in knowing one
horse from another, and what horses these were she had not the faintest
idea; but the side saddles were suggestive of her Amazon brood; she
perceived that one of the horses had been under water, and by the time
she had arrived at her own hall door, with the couple still in close
attendance upon her, anxiety as to the fate of her daughters and
exhaustion from much scourging of the donkey, upon whom the heavy
coquetries of the foxy mare had had a most souring effect, rendered the
poor lady but just capable of asking if Sir Thomas had returned.

"He is, my Lady, but he's just after going down to the farm, and he's
going on to call on the English gentleman that's at Mrs. McKeown's."

"And the young ladies?" gasped Lady Purcell.

The answer suited with her fears. Lady Purcell was not wont to take the
initiative, still less one of her husband's horses, without his
approval; but the thought of the saturated side-saddle lent her
decision, and as soon as a horse and trap could be got ready she set
forth for Drinagh.

It need not for a moment be feared that such experienced campaigners as
the Misses Muriel and Nora Purcell had forgotten that their father had
settled to call upon their temporary host, what time the business of the
morning should be ended, or that they had not arranged a sound scheme
of retirement, but when the news was brought to them that during the
absence of the stable-boy--"to borrow a half score of eggs and a lemon
for pancakes," it was explained--their horses had broken forth from the
cowshed and disappeared, it may be admitted that even their stout hearts
quailed.

"Oh, it will be all right!" the Inspector assured them, with the easy
optimism of the looker-on in domestic tragedy; "your father will see
there was nothing else for you to do."

"That's all jolly fine," returned Nora, "but _I'm_ going out to borrow
Casey's car" (Casey was the butcher), "and I'll just tell old Mary Ann
to keep a sharp look out for Sir Thomas, and give us warning in time."

It is superfluous to this simple tale to narrate the conversation that
befel on the departure of Nora. It was chiefly of a retrospective
character, with disquisitions on such abstractions as the consolations
that sometimes follow on the loss of a wealthy great-aunt, the
difficulties of shaving with a "tennis elbow," the unchanging quality of
certain emotions. This later topic was still under discussion when Nora
burst into the room.

"Here's Sir Thomas!" she panted. "Muriel, fly! There's no time to get
downstairs, but Mary Ann Whooly said we could go into the room off this
sitting-room till he's gone."

Flight is hardly the term to be applied to the second Miss Purcell's
retreat, and it says a good deal for the Inspector's mental collapse
that he saw nothing ludicrous in her retreating back, clad as it was in
his own covert coat, with a blanket like the garment of an Indian brave
trailing beneath it. Nora tore open a door near the fireplace, and
revealed a tiny room containing a table, a broken chair, and a heap of
feathers near an old feather bed on the floor.

"Get in, Muriel!" she cried.

They got in, and as the door closed on them Sir Thomas entered the room.

During the morning the identity of the stranger on whom he had poured
the vials of his wrath, with the Local Government Board Inspector whom
he was prepared to be delighted to honour, had been brought home to Sir
Thomas, and nothing could have been more handsome and complete than the
apology that he now tendered. He generously admitted the temptation
endured in seeing hounds get away with a good fox on a day devoted to
cubbing, and even went so far as to suggest that possibly Captain
Clarke--

"Hamilton-Clarke," said the Inspector.

"Had ridden so hard in order to stop them."

"Er--quite so," said the Inspector.

Something caused the dressing-room door to rattle, and Captain
Hamilton-Clarke grew rather red.

"My wife and I hope," continued Sir Thomas, urbanely, "that you will
come over to dine with us to-morrow evening, or possibly to-night."

He stopped. A trap drove rapidly up to the door, and Lady Purcell's
voice was heard agitatedly inquiring "if Miss Muriel and Miss Nora were
there? Casey had just told her--"

The rest of the sentence was lost.

"Why, that _is_ my wife!" said Sir Thomas. "What the deuce does she want
here?"

A strange sound came from behind the door of the dressing-room:
something between a stifled cry and a laugh. The Inspector's ears became
as red as blood. Then from within there was heard a sort of rush, and
something fell against the door. There followed a wholly uncontrolled
yell and a crash, and the door was burst open.

It has, I think, been mentioned that in the corner of the dressing-room
in which the Misses Purcell had taken refuge there was on the floor the
remains of a feather bed. The feathers had come out through a ragged
hole in one corner of it; Nora, in the shock of hearing of Lady
Purcell's arrival, trod on the corner of the bed and squeezed more of
the feathers out of it. A gush of fluff was the result, followed by a
curious and unaccountable movement in the bed, and then from the hole
there came forth a corpulent and very mangy old rat. Its face was grey
and scaly, and horrid pink patches adorned its fat person. It gave one
beady glance at Nora, and proceeded with hideous composure to lope
heavily across the floor towards the hole in the wall by which it had at
some bygone time entered the room. But the hole had been nailed up, and
as the rat turned to seek another way of escape the chair upon which
Muriel had incontinently sprung broke down, depositing her and her
voluminous draperies on top of the rat.

I cannot feel that Miss Purcell is to be blamed that at this moment all
power of self-control, of reason almost, forsook her. Regardless of
every other consideration, she snatched the blankets and the covert-coat
skirts into one massive handful, and with, as has been indicated, a yell
of housemaid stridency, flung herself against the door and dashed into
the sitting-room, closely followed by Nora, and rather less closely by
the rat. The latter alone retained its presence of mind, and without an
instant's delay hurried across the room and retired by the half-open
door. Immediately from the narrow staircase there arose a series of
those acclaims that usually attend the progress of royalty, and, in
even an intenser degree, of rats. There came a masculine shout, a shrill
and ladylike scream, a howl from Mary Ann Whooly, accompanied by the
clang and rattle of a falling coal box, and then Lady Purcell, pale and
breathless, appeared at the doorway of the sitting-room.

"Sure the young ladies isn't in the house at all, your ladyship!" cried
the pursuing voice of Mary Ann Whooly, faithful, even at this supreme
crisis, to a lost cause.

Lady Purcell heard her not. She was aware only of her daughter Muriel,
attired like a scarecrow in a cold climate, and of the attendant fact
that the arm of the Local Government Board Inspector was encircling
Muriel's waist, as far as circumstances and a brown woollen shawl would
permit. Nora, leaning half-way out of the window, was calling at the top
of her voice for Sir Thomas's terrier; Sir Thomas was very loudly saying
nothing in particular, much as an angry elderly dog barks into the
night. Lady Purcell wildly concluded that the party was rehearsing a
charade--the last scene of a very vulgar charade.

"Muriel!" she exclaimed, "_what_ have you got on you? And who--" She
paused and stared at the Inspector. "Good gracious!" she cried, "why,
it's Aubrey Hamilton!"



THE BAGMAN'S PONY


When the regiment was at Delhi, a T.G. was sent to us from the 105th
Lancers, a bagman, as they call that sort of globe-trotting fellow that
knocks about from one place to another, and takes all the fun he can out
of it at other people's expense. Scott in the 105th gave this bagman a
letter of introduction to me, told me that he was bringing down a horse
to run at the Delhi races; so, as a matter of course, I asked him to
stop with me for the week. It was a regular understood thing in India
then, this passing on the T.G. from one place to another; sometimes he
was all right, and sometimes he was a good deal the reverse--in any
case, you were bound to be hospitable, and afterwards you could, if you
liked, tell the man that sent him that you didn't want any more from
him.

The bagman arrived in due course, with a rum-looking roan horse, called
the "Doctor"; a very good horse, too, but not quite so good as the
bagman gave out that he was. He brought along his own grass-cutter with
him, as one generally does in India, and the grass-cutter's pony, a sort
of animal people get because he can carry two or three more of these
beastly clods of grass they dig up for horses than a man can, and
without much regard to other qualities. The bagman seemed a decentish
sort of chap in his way, but, my word! he did put his foot in it the
first night at mess; by George, he did! There was somehow an idea that
he belonged to a wine merchant business in England, and the Colonel
thought we'd better open our best cellar for the occasion, and so we
did; even got out the old Madeira, and told the usual story about the
number of times it had been round the Cape. The bagman took everything
that came his way, and held his tongue about it, which was rather
damping. At last, when it came to dessert and the Madeira, Carew, one of
our fellows, couldn't stand it any longer--after all, it _is_
aggravating if a man won't praise your best wine, no matter how little
you care about his opinion, and the bagman was supposed to be a
_connoisseur_.

"Not a bad glass of wine that," says Carew to him; "what do you think of
it?"

"Not bad," says the bagman, sipping it, "Think I'll show you something
better in this line if you'll come and dine with me in London when
you're home next."

"Thanks," says Carew, getting as red as his own jacket, and beginning to
splutter--he always did when he got angry--"this is good enough for me,
and for most people here--"

"Oh, but nobody up here has got a palate left," says the bagman,
laughing in a very superior sort of way.

"What do you mean, sir?" shouted Carew, jumping up. "I'll not have any
d----d bagmen coming here to insult me!"

By George, if you'll believe me, Carew had a false palate, with a little
bit of sponge in the middle, and we all knew it, _except the bagman_.
There was a frightful shindy, Carew wanting to have his blood, and all
the rest of us trying to prevent a row. We succeeded somehow in the end,
I don't quite know how we managed it, as the bagman was very warlike
too; but, anyhow, when I was going to bed that night I saw them both in
the billiard room, very tight, leaning up against opposite ends of the
billiard table, and making shoves at the balls--with the wrong ends of
their cues, fortunately.

"He called me a d----d bagman," says one, nearly tumbling down with
laughing.

"Told me I'd no palate," says the other, putting his head down on the
table and giggling away there "best thing I ever heard in my life."

Every one was as good friends as possible next day at the races, and for
the whole week as well. Unfortunately for the bagman his horse didn't
pull off things in the way he expected, in fact he hadn't a look in--we
just killed him from first to last. As things went on the bagman began
to look queer and by the end of the week he stood to lose a pretty
considerable lot of money, nearly all of it to me. The way we arranged
these matters then was a general settling-up day after the races were
over; every one squared up his books and planked ready money down on the
nail, or if he hadn't got it he went and borrowed from some one else to
do it with. The bagman paid up what he owed the others, and I began to
feel a bit sorry for the fellow when he came to me that night to finish
up. He hummed and hawed a bit, and then asked if I should mind taking an
I.O.U. from him, as he was run out of the ready.

Of course I said, "All right, old man, certainly, just the same to me,"
though it's usual in such cases to put down the hard cash, but
still--fellow staying in my house, you know--sent on by this pal of mine
in the 11th--absolutely nothing else to be done.

Next morning I was up and out on parade as usual, and in the natural
course of events began to look about for my bagman. By George, not a
sign of him in his room, not a sign of him anywhere. I thought to
myself, this is peculiar, and I went over to the stable to try whether
there was anything to be heard of him.

The first thing I saw was that the "Doctor's" stall was empty.

"How's this?" I said to the groom; "where's Mr. Leggett's horse?"

"The sahib has taken him away this morning."

I began to have some notion then of what my I.O.U. was worth.

"The sahib has left his grass-cutter and his pony," said the _sais_, who
probably had as good a notion of what was up as I had.

"All right, send for the grass-cutter," I said.

The fellow came up, in a blue funk evidently, and I couldn't make
anything of him. Sahib this, and sahib that, and salaaming and general
idiotcy--or shamming--I couldn't tell which. I didn't know a nigger then
as well as I do now.

"This is a very fishy business," I thought to myself, "and I think it's
well on the cards the grass-cutter will be out of this to-night on his
pony. No, by Jove, I'll see what the pony's good for before he does
that. Is the grass-cutter's pony there?" I said to the _sais_.

"He is there, sahib, but he is only a _kattiawa tattoo_," which is the
name for a common kind of mountain pony.

I had him out, and he certainly was a wretched-looking little brute, dun
with a black stripe down his back, like all that breed, and all bony and
ragged and starved.

"Indeed, he is a _gareeb kuch kam ki nahin_," said the _sais_, meaning
thereby a miserable beast, in the most intensified form, "and not fit to
stand in the sahib's stable."

All the same, just for the fun of the thing, I put the grass-cutter up
on him, and told him to trot him up and down. By George! the pony went
like a flash of lightning! I had him galloped next; same thing--fellow
could hardly hold him. I opened my eyes, I can tell you, but no matter
what way I looked at him I couldn't see where on earth he got his pace
from. It was there anyhow, there wasn't a doubt about that. "That'll
do," I said, "put him up. And you just stay here," I said to the
grass-cutter; "till I hear from Mr. Leggett where you're to go to. Don't
leave Delhi till you get orders from me."

It got about during the day that the bagman had disappeared, and had had
a soft thing of it as far as I was concerned. The 112th were dining with
us that night, and they all set to work to draw me after dinner about
the business--thought themselves vastly witty over it.

"Hullo Paddy, so you're the girl he left behind him!" "Hear he went off
with two suits of your clothes, one over the other." "Cheer up, old man;
he's left you the grass-cutter and the pony, and what _he_ leaves must
be worth having, I'll bet!" and so on.

I suppose I'd had a good deal more than my share of the champagne, but
all of a sudden I began to feel pretty warm.

"You're all d----d funny," I said, "but I daresay you'll find he's left
me something that _is_ worth having."

"Oh, yes!" "Go on!" "Paddy's a great man when he's drunk," and a lot
more of the same sort.

"I tell you what it is," said I, "I'll back the pony he's left here to
trot his twelve miles an hour on the road."

"Bosh!" says Barclay of the 112th. "I've seen him, and I'll lay you a
thousand rupees even he doesn't."

"Done!" said I, whacking my hand down on the table.

"And I'll lay another thousand," says another fellow.

"Done with you too," said I.

Every one began to stare a bit then.

"Go to bed, Paddy," says the Colonel, "you're making an exhibition of
yourself."

"Thank you, sir; I know pretty well what I'm talking about," said I;
but, by George, I began privately to think I'd better pull myself
together a bit, and I got out my book and began to hedge--laid three to
one on the pony to do eleven miles in the hour, and four to one on him
to do ten--all the fellows delighted to get their money on. I was to
choose my own ground, and to have a fortnight to train the pony, and by
the time I went to bed I stood to lose about £1,000.

Somehow in the morning I didn't feel quite so cheery about things--one
doesn't after a big night--one gets nasty qualms, both mental and the
other kind. I went out to look after the pony, and the first thing I saw
by way of an appetiser was Biddy, with a face as long as my arm. Biddy,
I should explain, was a chap called Biddulph, in the Artillery; they
called him Biddy for short, and partly, too, because he kept a racing
stable with me in those days, I being called Paddy by every one, because
I was Irish--English idea of wit--Paddy and Biddy, you see.

"Well," said he, "I hear you've about gone and done it this time. The
112th are going about with trumpets and shawms, and looking round for
ways to spend that thousand when they get it. There are to be new polo
ponies, a big luncheon, and a piece of plate bought for the mess, in
memory of that benefactor of the regiment, the departed bagman. Well,
now, let's see the pony. That's what I've come down for."

I'm hanged if the brute didn't look more vulgar and wretched than ever
when he was brought out, and I began to feel that perhaps I was more
parts of a fool than I thought I was. Biddy stood looking at him there
with his under-lip stuck out.

"I think you've lost your money," he said. That was all, but the way he
said it made me feel conscious of the shortcomings of every hair in the
brute's ugly hide.

"Wait a bit," I said, "you haven't seen him going yet. I think he has
the heels of any pony in the place."

I got a boy on to him without any more ado, thinking to myself I was
going to astonish Biddy. "You just get out of his way, that's all," says
I, standing back to let him start.

If you'll believe it, he wouldn't budge a foot!--not an inch--no amount
of licking had any effect on him. He just humped his back, and tossed
his head and grunted--he must have had a skin as thick as three donkeys!
I got on to him myself and put the spurs in, and he went up on his hind
legs and nearly came back with me--that was all the good I got of that.

"Where's the grass-cutter," I shouted, jumping off him in about as great
a fury as I ever was in. "I suppose _he_ knows how to make this devil
go!"

"Grass-cutter went away last night, sahib. Me see him try to open stable
door and go away. Me see him no more."

I used pretty well all the bad language I knew in one blast. Biddy
began to walk away, laughin till I felt as if I could kick him.

"I'm going to have a front seat for this trotting match," he said,
stopping to get his wind. "Spectators along the route requested to
provide themselves with pitchforks and fireworks, I suppose, in case the
champion pony should show any of his engaging little temper. Never mind,
old man, I'll see you through this, there's no use in getting into a wax
about it. I'm going shares with you, the way we always do."

I can't say I responded graciously, I rather think I cursed him and
everything else in heaps. When he was gone I began to think of what
could be done.

"Get out the dog-cart," I said, as a last chance. "Perhaps he'll go in
harness."

We wheeled the cart up to him, got him harnessed to it, and in two
minutes that pony was walking, trotting, anything I wanted--can't
explain why--one of the mysteries of horseflesh. I drove him out through
the Cashmere Gate, passing Biddy on the way, and feeling a good deal the
better for it, and as soon as I got on to the flat stretch of road
outside the gate I tried what the pony could do. He went even better
than I thought he could, very rough and uneven, of course, but still
promising. I brought him home, and had him put into training at once, as
carefully as if he was going for the Derby. I chose the course, took
the six-mile stretch of road from the Cashmere gate to Sufter Jung's
tomb, and drove him over it every day. It was a splendid course--level
as a table, and dead straight for the most part--and after a few days he
could do it in about forty minutes out and thirty-five back. People
began to talk then, especially as the pony's look and shape were
improving each day, and after a little time every one was planking his
money on one way or another--Biddy putting on a thousand on his own
account--still, I'm bound to say the odds were against the pony. The
whole of Delhi got into a state of excitement about it, natives and all,
and every day I got letters warning me to take care, as there might be
foul play. The stable the pony was in was a big one, and I had a wall
built across it, and put a man with a gun in the outer compartment. I
bought all his corn myself, in feeds at a time, going here, there, and
everywhere for it, never to the same place for two days together--I
thought it was better to be sure than sorry, and there's no trusting a
nigger.

The day of the match every soul in the place turned out, such crowds
that I could scarcely get the dog-cart through when I drove to the
Cashmere gate. I got down there, and was looking over the cart to see
that everything was right, when a little half-caste _keranie_, a sort
of low-class clerk, came up behind me and began talking to me in a
mysterious kind of way, in that vile _chi-chi_ accent one gets to hate
so awfully.

"Look here, Sar," he said, "you take my car, Sar; it built for racing. I
do much trot-racing myself"--mentioning his name--"and you go much
faster my car, Sar."

I trusted nobody in those days, and thought a good deal of myself
accordingly. I hadn't found out that it takes a much smarter man to know
how to trust a few.

"Thank you," I said, "I think I'll keep my own, the pony's accustomed to
it."

I think he understood quite well what I felt, but he didn't show any
resentment.

"Well, Sar, you no trust my car, you let me see your wheels?"

"Certainly," I said "you may look at them," determined in my own mind I
should keep my eye on him while he did.

He got out a machine for propping the axle, and lifted the wheel off the
ground.

"Make the wheel go round," he said.

I didn't like it much, but I gave the wheel a turn. He looked at it till
it stopped.

"You lose match if you take that car," he said, "you take my car, Sar."

"What do you mean?" said I, pretty sharply.

"Look here," he said, setting the wheel going again. "You see here, Sar,
it die, all in a minute, it jerk, doesn't die smooth. You see _my_
wheel, Sar."

He put the lift under his own, and started the wheel revolving. It took
about three times as long to die as mine, going steady and silent and
stopping imperceptibly, not so much as a tremor in it.

"Now, Sar!" he said, "you see I speak true, Sar. I back you two hundred
rupee, if I lose I'm ruin, and I beg you, Sar, take my car! can no win
with yours, mine match car."

"All right!" said I with a sort of impulse, "I'll take it." And so I
did.

I had to start just under the arch of the Cashmere gate, by a pistol
shot, fired from overhead. I didn't quite care for the look of the
pony's ears while I was waiting for it--the crowd had frightened him a
bit I think. By Jove, when the bang came he reared straight up, dropped
down again and stuck his forelegs out, reared again when I gave him the
whip, every second of course telling against me.

"Here, let me help you," shouted Biddy, jumping into the trap. His
weight settled the business, down came the pony, and we went away like
blazes.

The three umpires rode with us, one each side and one behind, at least
that was the way at first, but I found the clattering of their hoofs
made it next to impossible to hold the pony. I got them to keep back,
and after that he went fairly steadily, but it was anxious work. The
noise and excitement had told on him a lot, he had a tendency to break
during all that six miles out, and he was in a lather before we got to
Sufter Jung's tomb. There were a lot of people waiting for me out there,
some ladies on horseback, too, and there was a coffee-shop going, with
drinks of all kinds. As I got near they began to call out, "You're done,
Paddy, thirty-four minutes gone already, you haven't the ghost of a
chance. Come and have a drink and look pleasant over it."

I turned the pony, and Biddy and I jumped out. I went up to the table,
snatched up a glass of brandy and filled my mouth with it, then went
back to the pony, took him by the head, and sent a squirt of brandy up
each nostril; I squirted the rest down his throat, went back to the
table, swallowed half a tumbler of curaçoa or something, and was into
the trap and off again, the whole thing not taking more than twenty
seconds.

The business began to be pretty exciting after that. You can see four
miles straight ahead of you on that road; and that day the police had
special orders to keep it clear, so that it was a perfectly blank,
white stretch as far as I could see. You know how one never seems to get
any nearer to things on a road like that, and there was the clock
hanging opposite to me on the splash board; I couldn't look at it, but I
could hear its beastly click-click through the trotting of the pony, and
that was nearly as bad as seeing the minute hand going from pip to pip.
But, by George, I pretty soon heard a worse kind of noise than that. It
was a case of preserve me from my friends. The people who had gone out
to Sufter Jung's tomb on horseback to meet me, thought it would be a
capital plan to come along after me and see the fun, and encourage me a
bit--so they told me afterwards. The way they encouraged me was by
galloping till they picked me up, and then hammering along behind me
like a troop of cavalry till it was all I could do to keep the pony from
breaking.

"You've got to win, Paddy," calls out Mrs. Harry Le Bretton, galloping
up alongside, "you promised you would!"

Mrs. Harry and I were great friends in those days--very sporting little
woman, nearly as keen about the match as I was--but at that moment I
couldn't pick my words.

"Keep back!" I shouted to her; "keep back, for pity's sake!"

It was too late--the next instant the pony was galloping. The penalty is
that you have to pull up, and make the wheels turn in the opposite
direction, and I just threw the pony on his haunches. He nearly came
back into the cart, but the tremendous jerk gave the backward turn to
the wheels and I was off again. Not even that kept the people back. Mrs.
Le Bretton came alongside again to say something else to me, and I
suddenly felt half mad from the clatter and the frightful strain of the
pony on my arms.

"D----n it all! Le Bretton!" I yelled, as the pony broke for the second
time, "can't you keep your wife away!"

They did let me alone after that--turned off the road and took a scoop
across the plain, so as to come up with me at the finish--and I pulled
myself together to do the last couple of miles. I could see that
Cashmere gate and the Delhi walls ahead of me; 'pon my soul I felt as if
they were defying me and despising me, just standing waiting there under
the blazing sky, and they never seemed to get any nearer. It was like
the first night of a fever, the whizzing of the wheels, the ding-dong of
the pony's hoofs, the silence all round, the feeling of stress and
insane hurrying on, the throbbing of my head, and the scorching heat.
I'll swear no fever I've ever had was worse than that last two miles.

As I reached the Delhi walls I took one look at the clock. There was
barely a minute left.

"By Jove!" I gasped, "I'm done!"

I shouted and yelled to the pony like a madman, to keep up what heart
was left in the wretched little brute, holding on to him for bare life,
with my arms and legs straight out in front of me. The gray wall and the
blinding road rushed by me like a river--I scarcely knew what
happened--I couldn't think of anything but the ticking of the clock that
I was somehow trying to count, till there came the bang of a pistol over
my head.

It was the Cashmere gate, and I had thirteen seconds in hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was never anything more heard of the bagman. He can, if he likes,
soothe his conscience with the reflection that he was worth a thousand
pounds to me.

But Mrs. Le Bretton never quite forgave me.



AN IRISH PROBLEM


Conversation raged on the long flanks of the mail-car.

An elderly priest, with a warm complexion and a controversial under-lip,
was expounding his native country to a fellow-traveller, with slight but
irrepressible pulpit gestures of the hand. The fellow traveller, albeit
lavender-hued from an autumn east wind, was obediently observing the
anæmic patches of oats and barley, pale and thin, like the hair of a
starving baby, and the huge slants of brown heather and turf bog, and
was interjecting "Just so!" at decent intervals. Now and then, as the
two tall brown mares slackened for a bout of collar-work at a hill, or
squeezed slowly past a cart stacked high with sods of turf, we, sitting
in silence, Irish wolves in the clothing of English tourists, could hear
across the intervening pile of luggage and bicycles such a storm of
conversation as bursts forth at a dinner-party after the champagne has
twice gone round.

The brunt of the talk was borne by the old lady in the centre. Her broad
back, chequered with red plaid, remained monumental in height and
stillness, but there was that in the tremor of the steel spray in her
bonnet that told of a high pressure of narrative. The bearded Dublin
tourist on her left was but little behind her in the ardour of giving
information. His wife, a beautifully dressed lady with cotton-wool in
her ears, remained abstracted, whether from toothache, or exclusiveness,
or mere wifely boredom, we cannot say. Among the swift shuttles of Irish
speech the ponderous questions and pronouncements of an English
fisherman drove their way. The talk was, we gathered, of sport and game
laws and their administration.

"Is it hares?" cried the Dublin tourist, perorating after a flight or
two into the subject of poachers; "what d'ye think would happen a hare
in Donegal?"

His handsome brown eye swept his audience, even, through the spokes of a
bicycle, gathering in our sympathies. It left no doubts as to the
tragedy that awaited the hare.

The east wind hunted us along the shore of the wide, bleak bay, rimmed
with yellow sea-weed, and black and ruffled like the innumerable
lakelets that lay along our route. The tall mountain over it was hooded
in cloud. It seemed as threatening and mysterious as Sinai; ready to
utter some awful voice of law to the brown solitudes and windy silences.

Far ahead of us a few houses rose suddenly above the low coast line, an
ugly family party of squat gables and whitewashed walls, with nothing
nearer them to westward than the homesteads of America.

Far and near there was not a tree visible, nor a touch of colour to tell
of the saving grace of flowers. The brown mares swung the car along with
something resembling enthusiasm; Letterbeg was the end of their stage;
it was the end of ours also. Numb with long sitting we dropped
cumbrously to earth from the high footboard, and found ourselves face to
face with the problem of how to spend the next three hours. It was
eleven o'clock in the morning, too early for lunch, though, apparently,
quite the fashionable hour in Letterbeg for bottled porter, judging by
the squeak of the corkscrew and the clash of glasses that issued from
the dark interior of the house in front of which we had been shed by the
mail-car. This was a long cottage with a prosperous slate roof, and a
board over its narrow door announcing that one Jas. Heraty was licensed
for the retail of spirits and porter.

The mail-car rolled away; as it crawled over the top of a hill and sank
out of sight a last wave of the priestly hand seemed to include us.
Doubtless we were being expounded as English tourists, and our great
economic value to the country was being expatiated upon. The _rôle_ is
an important one, and has its privileges; yet, to the wolf, there is
something stifling in sheep's clothing; certainly, on the occasions
when it was discarded by us, a sympathy and understanding with the
hotels was quickly established. Possibly they also are wolves.
Undoubtedly the English tourist, with his circular ticket and his
coupons, does not invariably get the best of everything. We write
surrounded by him and his sufferings. An earlier visit than usual to the
hotel sitting-room has revealed him, lying miserably on the sofa,
shrouded in a filthy _duvet_, having been flung there at some two in the
morning on his arrival, wet through, from heaven knows what tremendous
walk. Subsequently we hear him being haled from his lair by the
chambermaid, who treats him as the dirt under her feet (or, indeed, if
we may judge by our bedroom carpet, with far less consideration).

"Here!" she says, "go in there and wash yerself!"

We hear her slamming him into a room from which two others of his kind
have been recently bolted like rabbits, by the boots, to catch the 6
A.M. train. We can just faintly realise its atmosphere.

This, however, is a digression, but remotely connected with Letterbeg
and Mr. Heraty's window, to which in our forlorn state we turned for
distraction.

It was very small, about two feet square, but it made its appeal to all
the needs of humanity from the cradle to the grave. A feeding-bottle, a
rosary, a photograph of Mr. Kruger, a peg-top, a case of salmon flies,
an artistic letter-weight, consisting of a pigeon's egg carved in
Connemara marble, two seductively small bottles of castor-oil--these,
mounted on an embankment of packets of corn-flour and rat poison,
crowded the four little panes. Inside the shop the assortment ranged
from bundles of reaping-hooks on the earthen floor to bottles of
champagne in the murk of the top shelf. A few men leaned against the
tin-covered counter, gravely drinking porter. As we stood dubiously at
the door there was a padding of bare feet in the roadway, and a very
small boy with a red head, dressed in a long flannel frock of a rich
madder shade fluttered past us into the shop.

"Me dada says let yees be hurrying!" he gasped, between spasms of what
was obviously whooping-cough. "Sweeny's case is comin' on!"

Had the message been delivered by the Sergeant-at-Arms it could not have
been received with more respectful attention or been more immediately
obeyed. The porter was gulped down, one unfinished glass being bestowed
upon the Sergeant-at-Arms, possibly as a palliative for the
whooping-cough, and the party trooped up the road towards a thatched and
whitewashed cottage that stood askew at the top of a lane leading to the
seashore. Two tall constables of the R.I.C. stood at the door of the
cottage. It came to us, with a lifting of the heart, that we had
chanced upon Petty Sessions day in Letterbeg, and this was the
court-house.

It was uncommonly hot in what is called in newspapers "the body of the
court". Something of the nature of a rood-screen, boarded solidly up to
a height of about four feet, divided the long single room of the
cottage; we, with the rest of the public, were penned in the division
nearest the door. The cobwebbed boards of the loft overhead almost
rested on our hats; the public, not being provided with seats by the
Government, shuffled on the earthen floor and unaffectedly rested on us
and each other. Within the rood-screen two magistrates sat at a table,
with their suite, consisting of a clerk, an interpreter, and a district
inspector of police, disposed round them.

"The young fella with the foxy mustash is Docthor Lyden," whispered an
informant in response to a question, "and the owld lad that's lookin' at
ye now is Heraty, that owns the shop above--"

At this juncture an emissary from the Bench very kindly offered us seats
within the rood-screen. We took them, on a high wooden settle, beside
the magisterial table, and the business of the court proceeded.

Close to us stood the defendant, Sweeny, a tall elderly man, with a
long, composed, shaven face, and an all-observant grey eye: Irish in
type, Irish in expression, intensely Irish in the self-possession in
which he stood, playing to perfection the part of calm rectitude and
unassailable integrity.

Facing him, the plaintiff lounged against the partition; a man strangely
improbable in appearance, with close-cropped grey hair, a young,
fresh-coloured face, a bristling orange moustache, and a big, blunt
nose. One could have believed him a soldier, a German, anything but what
he was, a peasant from the furthest shores of Western Ireland, cut off
from what we call civilisation by his ignorance of any language save his
own ancient speech, wherein the ideas of to-day stand out in English
words like telegraph posts in a Connemara moorland.

Between the two stood the interpreter--small, old, froglike in profile,
full of the dignity of the Government official.

"Well, we should be getting on now," remarked the Chairman, Heraty,
J.P., after some explanatory politeness to his unexpected visitors.
"William, swear the plaintiff!"

The oath was administered in Irish, and the orange moustache brushed the
greasy Testament. The space above the dado of the partition became
suddenly a tapestry of attentive faces, clear-eyed, all-comprehending.

[Illustration: SWEENY.]

"This case," announced Mr. Heraty judicially yet not without a glance at
the visitors, "is a demand for compensation in the matter of a sheep
that was drowned. William"--this to the interpreter--"ask Darcy what he
has to say for himself?"

Darcy hitched himself round, still with a shoulder propped against the
partition, and uttered, without any enthusiasm, a few nasal and guttural
sentences.

"He says, yer worship," said William, with unctuous propriety, "that
Sweeny's gorsoons were ever and always hunting his sheep, and settin' on
their dog to hunt her, and that last week they dhrove her into the lake
and dhrownded her altogether."

"Now," said Mr. Heraty, in a conversational tone, "William, when ye
employ the word 'gorsoon,' do ye mean children of the male or female
sex?"

"Well, yer worship," replied William, who, it may incidentally be
mentioned, was himself in need of either an interpreter or of a new and
complete set of teeth, "I should considher he meant ayther the one or
the other."

"They're usually one or the other," said Doctor Lyden solemnly, and in a
stupendous brogue. It was the first time he had spoken; he leaned back,
with his hands in his pockets, and surveyed with quiet but very bright
eyes the instant grin that illumined the faces of the tapestry.

"Sure William himself is no bad judge of gorsoons," said Mr. Heraty.
"Hadn't he a christening in his own house three weeks ago?"

At this excursion into the family affairs of the interpreter the grin
broke into a roar.

"See now, we'll ask Mr. Byrne, the schoolmaster," went on Mr. Heraty
with owl-like gravity. "Isn't that Mr. Byrne that I see back there in
the coort? Come forward, Mr. Byrne!"

Thus adjured, a tall, spectacled man emerged from the crowd, and,
beaming with a pleasing elderly bashfulness through his spectacles, gave
it as his opinion that though gorsoon was a term usually applied to the
male child, it was equally applicable to the female. "But, indeed," he
concluded, "the Bench has as good Irish as I have myself, and better."

"The law requires that the thransactions of this coort shall take place
in English," the Chairman responded, "and we have also the public to
consider."

As it was pretty certain that we were the only persons in the court who
did not understand Irish, it was borne in upon us that we were the
public, and we appreciated the consideration.

"We may assume, then, that the children that set on the dog wor' of both
sexes," proceeded Mr. Heraty. "Well, now, as to the dog-- William, ask
Darcy what sort of dog was it."

The monotonous and quiet Irish sentences followed one another again.

"That'll do. Now, William--"

"He says, yer worship, that he was a big lump of a yalla dog, an' very
cross, by reason of he r'arin' a pup."

"And 'twas to make mutton-broth for the pup she dhrove Darcy's sheep in
the lake, I suppose?"

A contemptuous smile passed over Darcy's face as the Chairman's sally
was duly translated to him, and he made a rapid reply.

"He says there isn't one of the neighbours but got great annoyance by
the same dog, yer worship, and that when the dog'd be out by night
hunting, there wouldn't be a yard o' wather in the lakes but he'd have
it barked over."

"It appears," observed Dr. Lyden serenely, "that the dog, like the
gorsoons, was of both sexes."

"Well, well, no matther now; we'll hear what the defendant has to say.
Swear Sweeny!" said Mr. Heraty, smoothing his long grey beard, with
suddenly remembered judicial severity and looking menacingly over his
spectacles at Sweeny. "Here, now! you don't want an interpreter! You
that has a sisther married to a stationmaster and a brother in the
Connaught Rangers!"

"I have as good English as anny man in this coort," said Sweeny
morosely.

"Well, show it off man! What defence have ye?"

"I say that the sheep wasn't Darcy's at all," said Sweeny firmly,
standing as straight as a ramrod, with his hands behind his back, a
picture of surly, wronged integrity. "And there's no man livin' can
prove she was. Ask him now what way did he know her?"

The question evidently touched Darcy on a tender point. He squared his
big shoulders in his white flannel jacket, and turning his face for the
first time towards the magistrates delivered a flood of Irish, in which
we heard a word that sounded like _ullán_ often repeated.

"He says, yer worships," translated William, "why wouldn't he know her!
Hadn't she the _ullán_ on her! He says a poor man like him would know
one of the few sheep he has as well as yer worship'd know one o' yer own
gowns if it had sthrayed from ye."

It is probable that we looked some of the stupefaction that we felt at
this remarkable reference to Mr. Heraty's wardrobe.

"For the benefit of the general public," said Dr. Lyden, in his languid,
subtle brogue, with a side-glance at that body, "it may be no harm to
mention that the plaintiff is alluding to the Chairman's yearling calves
and not to his costume."

"Order now!" said Mr. Heraty severely.

"An' he says," continued William, warily purging his frog-countenance of
any hint of appreciation, "that Sweeny knew the _ullán_ that was on her
as well as himself did."

"_Ullán!_ What sort of English is that for an interpreter to be using!
Do ye suppose the general public knows what is an _ullán_?" interrupted
Mr. Heraty with lightning rapidity. "Explain that now!"

"Why, yer worship, sure anny one in the world'd know what the _ullán_ on
a sheep's back is!" said William, staggered by this sudden onslaught,
"though there's some might call it the _rebugh_."

"God help the Government that's payin' you wages!" said Mr. Heraty with
sudden and bitter ferocity (but did we intercept a wink at his
colleague?). "If it wasn't for the young family you're r'arin' in yer
old age, I'd commit ye for contempt of coort!"

A frank shout of laughter, from every one in court but the victim,
greeted this sally, the chorus being, as it were, barbed by a shrill
crow of whooping-cough.

"Mr. Byrne!" continued Mr. Heraty without a smile, "we must call upon
you again!"

Mr. Byrne's meek scholastic face once more appeared at the rood-screen.

"Well, I should say," he ventured decorously, "that the expression is
locally applied to what I may call a plume or a feather that is worn on
various parts of the sheep's back, for a mark, as I might say, of
distinction."

"Thank you, Mr. Byrne, thank you," said Mr. Heraty, to whose imagination
a vision of a plumed or feathered sheep seemed to offer nothing unusual,
"remember that now, William!"

Dr. Lyden looked at his watch.

"Don't you think Sweeny might go on with his defence?" he remarked.
"About the children, Sweeny--how many have ye?"

"I have four."

"And how old are they?"

"There's one o' thim is six years an another o' thim is seven--"

"Yes, and the other two eight and nine, I suppose?" commented Dr. Lyden.

The defendant remained silent.

"Do ye see now how well he began with the youngest--the way we'd think
'twas the eldest!" resumed Dr. Lyden. "I think we may assume that a
gorsoon--male or female--of eight or nine years is capable of setting a
dog on the sheep."

Here Darcy spoke again.

"He says," interpreted William, "there isn't pig nor ass, sheep nor
duck, belongin' to him that isn't heart-scalded with the same childhren
an' their dog."

"Well, I say now, an' I swear it," said Sweeny, his eye kindling like a
coal, and his voice rising as the core of what was probably an old
neighbourly grudge was neared, "my land is bare from his bastes
threspassing on it, and my childhren are in dread to pass his house
itself with the kicks an' the sthrokes himself an' his mother dhraws on
them! The Lord Almighty knows--"

"Stop now!" said Mr. Heraty, holding up his hand. "Stop! The Lord's not
intherferin' in this case at all! It's me an' Doctor Lyden has it to
settle."

No one seemed to find anything surprising in this pronouncement; it was
accepted as seriously as any similar statement of the Prophet Samuel to
the Children of Israel, and was evidently meant to imply that abstract
justice might be expected.

"We may assume, then," said Dr. Lyden amiably, "that the sheep walked
out into Sweeny's end of the lake and drowned herself there on account
of the spite there was between the two families."

The court tittered. A dingy red showed itself among the grizzled hairs
and wrinkles on Sweeny's cheek. In Ireland a point can often be better
carried by sarcasm than by logic.

"She was blind enough to dhrown herself, or two like her!" he said
angrily; "she was that owld and blind it was ayqual to her where she'd
go!"

"How d'ye know she was blind?" said Mr. Heraty quickly.

"I thought the defence opened with the statement that it wasn't Darcy's
sheep at all," put in Dr. Lyden, leaning back in his chair with his eyes
fixed on the rafters.

Sweeny firmly regarded Mr. Heraty.

"How would I know she was blind?" he repeated. "Many's the time when
she'd be takin' a sthroll in on my land I'd see her fallin' down in the
rocks, she was that blind! An' didn't I see Darcy's mother one time, an'
she puttin' something on her eyes."

"Was it glasses she was putting on the sheep's eyes?" suggested the
Chairman, with a glance that admitted the court to the joke.

"No, but an ointment," said Sweeny stubbornly. "I seen her rubbing it to
the eyes, an' she no more than thirty yards from me."

"Will ye swear that?" thundered Mr. Heraty; "will you swear that at a
distance of thirty yards you could tell what was between Darcy's
mother's fingers and the sheep's eyes? No you will not! Nor no man
could! William, is Darcy's mother in the coort? We'll have to take
evidence from her as to the condition of the sheep's eyes!"

"Darcy says, yer worship, that his mother would lose her life if she was
to be brought into coort," explained William, after an interlude in
Irish, to which both magistrates listened with evident interest; "that
ere last night a frog jumped into the bed to her in the night, and she
got out of the bed to light the Blessed Candle, and when she got back to
the bed again she was in it always between herself and the wall, an' she
got a wakeness out of it, and great cold--"

"Are ye sure it wasn't the frog got the wakeness?" asked Dr. Lyden.

A gale of laughter swept round the court.

"Come, come!" said Mr. Heraty; "have done with this baldherdash!
William, tell Darcy some one must go fetch his mother, for as wake as
she is she could walk half a mile!" Mr. Heraty here drew forth an
enormous white pocket-handkerchief and trumpeted angrily in its depths.

Darcy raised his small blue eyes with their thick lashes, and took a
look at his judge. There was a gabbled interchange of Irish between him
and the interpreter.

"He says she could not, yer worship, nor as much as one perch."

"Ah, what nonsense is this!" said Mr. Heraty testily; "didn't I see the
woman meself at Mass last Sunday?"

Darcy's reply was garnished with a good deal more gesticulation than
usual, and throughout his speech the ironic smile on Sweeny's face was a
masterpiece of quiet expression.

"He says," said William, "that surely she was at Mass last Sunday, the
same as your worship says, but 'twas on the way home that she was taking
a wall, and a stone fell on her and hurted her finger and the boot
preyed on it, and it has her desthroyed."

At this culmination of the misadventures of Mrs. Darcy the countenances
of the general public must; again have expressed some of the
bewilderment that they felt.

"Perhaps William will be good enough to explain," said Dr. Lyden,
permitting a faint smile to twitch the foxy moustache, "how Mrs. Darcy's
boot affected her finger?"

William's skinny hand covered his frog mouth with all a deserving
schoolboy's embarrassment at being caught out in a bad translation.

"I beg yer worships' pardon," he said, in deep confusion, "but sure your
worships know as well as meself that in Irish we have the one word for
your finger or your toe."

"There's one thing I know very well anyhow," said Dr. Lyden, turning to
his colleague, "I've no more time to waste sitting here talking about
old Kit Darcy's fingers and toes! Let the two o' them get arbitrators
and settle it out of court. There's nothing between them now only the
value of the sheep."

"Sure I was satisfied to leave it to arbithration, but Darcy wasn't
willin'." This statement was Sweeny's.

"So you were willin' to have arbithration before you came into coort at
all?" said Mr. Heraty, eyeing the tall defendant with ominous mildness.
"William, ask Darcy is this the case."

Darcy's reply, delivered with a slow, sarcastic smile, provoked a laugh
from the audience.

"Oh, ho! So that was the way, was it!" cried Mr. Heraty, forgetting to
wait for the translation. "Ye had your wife's cousin to arbithrate!
Small blame to Darcy he wasn't willin'! It's a pity ye didn't say your
wife herself should arbithrate when ye went about it! You would hardly
believe the high opinion Sweeny here has of his wife," continued the
Chairman in illuminative excursus to Dr. Lyden; "sure he had all the
women wild below at my shop th' other night sayin' his wife was the
finest woman in Ireland! Upon my soul he had!"

"If I said that," growled the unfortunate Sweeny, "it was a lie for me."

"Don't ye think it might be a good thing now," suggested the
indefatigable doctor, in his mournful tuneful voice, "to call a few
witnesses to give evidence as to whether Mrs. Michael Sweeny is the
finest woman in Ireland or no?"

"God knows, gentlemen, it's a pity ye haven't more to do this day," said
Sweeny, turning at length upon his tormentors, "I'd sooner pay the price
of the sheep than be losin' me time here this way."

"See, now, how we're getting to the rights of it in the latter end,"
commented Dr. Lyden imperturbably. "Sweeny began here by saying"--he
checked off each successive point on his fingers--"that the sheep wasn't
Darcy's at all. Then he said that his children of eight and nine years
of age were too young to set the dog on the sheep. Then, that if the dog
hunted her it was no more than she deserved for constant trespass. Then
he said that the sheep was so old and blind that she committed suicide
in his end of the lake in order to please herself and to spite him; and,
last of all, he tells us that he offered to compensate Darcy for her
before he came into court at all!"

"And on top of that," Mr. Heraty actually rose in his seat in his
exquisite appreciation of the position, "on top of that, mind you, after
he has the whole machinery of the law and the entire population of
Letterbeg attending on him for a matter o' two hours, he informs us that
we're wasting his valuable time!"

Mr. Heraty fixed his eyes in admirable passion--whether genuine or not
we are quite incapable of pronouncing--upon Sweeny, who returned the
gaze with all the gloom of an unfortunate but invincibly respectable
man.

Dr. Lyden once more pulled out his watch.

"It might be as well for us," he said languidly, "to enter upon the
inquiry as to the value of the sheep. That should take about another
three-quarters of an hour. William, ask Darcy the price he puts on the
sheep."

Every emotion has its limits. We received with scarce a stirring of
surprise the variations of sworn testimony as to the value of the sheep.
Her price ranged from one pound, claimed by Darcy and his adherents, to
sixpence, at which sum her skin was unhesitatingly valued by Sweeny. Her
age swung like a pendulum between two years and fourteen, and, finally,
in crowning proof of her worth and general attractiveness, it was stated
that her own twin had been sold for fifteen shillings to the police at
Dhulish, "ere last week". At this re-entrance into the case of the
personal element Mr. Heraty's spirits obviously rose.

"I think we ought to have evidence about this," he said, fixing the
police officer with a dangerous eye. "Mr. Cox, have ye anny of the
Dhulish police here?"

Mr. Cox, whose only official act up to the present had been the highly
beneficial one of opening the window, admitted with a grin that two of
the Dhulish men were in the court.

"Well, then!" continued the Chairman, "Mr. Cox, maybe ye'd kindly desire
them to step forward in order that the court may be able to estimate
from their appearance the nutritive qualities of the twin sisther of
Darcy's sheep."

At this juncture we perceived, down near the crowded doorway, two tall
and deeply embarrassed members of the R.I.C. hastily escaping into the
street.

"Well, well; how easy it is to frighten the police!" remarked the
Chairman, following them with a regretful eye. "I suppose, afther all,
we'd betther put a price on the sheep and have done with it. In my
opinion, when there's a difficulty like this--what I might call an
accident--between decent men like these (for they're both decent men,
and I've known them these years), I'd say both parties should share what
hardship is in it. Now, doctor, what shall we give Darcy? I suppose if
we gave him 8s. compensation and 2s. costs we'd not be far out?"

Dr. Lyden, already in the act of charging his pipe, nodded his head.

Sweeny began to fumble in his pockets, and drawing out a brownish rag,
possibly a handkerchief, knotted in several places, proceeded to untie
one of the knots. The doctor watched him without speaking. Ultimately,
from some fastness in the rag a half-sovereign was extracted, and was
laid upon the table by Sweeny. The clerk, a well-dressed young
gentleman, whose attitude had throughout been one of the extremest
aloofness, made an entry in his book with an aggressively business-like
air.

"Well, that's all right," remarked Dr. Lyden, getting lazily on his legs
and looking round for his hat; "it's a funny thing, but I notice that
the defendant brought the exact sum required into court with him."

"I did! And I'm able to bring more than it, thanks be to God!" said
Sweeny fiercely, with all the offended pride of his race. "I have two
pounds here this minute--"

"If that's the way with ye, may be ye'd like us to put a bigger fine on
ye!" broke in Mr. Heraty hotly, in instant response to Sweeny's show of
temper.

Dr. Lyden laughed for the first time.

"Mr. Heraty's getting cross now, in the latter end," he murmured
explanatorily to the general public, while he put on an overcoat, from
the pocket of which protruded the Medusa coils of a stethoscope.

       *       *       *       *       *

Long before the arrival of the mail-car that was to take us away, the
loafers and the litigants had alike been swallowed up, apparently by the
brown, hungry hillsides; possibly also, some of them, by Mr. Heraty's
tap-room. Again we clambered to our places among the inevitable tourists
and their inevitable bicycles, again the laden car lumbered heavily yet
swiftly along the bog roads that quivered under its weight, while the
water in the black ditches on either side quivered in sympathy. The
tourists spoke of the vast loneliness, unconscious of the intricate
network of social life that lay all around them, beyond their ken, far
beyond their understanding. They spoke authoritatively of Irish affairs;
mentioned that the Irish were "a bit 'ot tempered," but added that "all
they wanted was fair play".

They had probably been in Ireland for a week or fortnight. They had come
out of business centres in England, equipped with circular tickets, with
feeling hearts, and with the belief that two and two inevitably make
four; whereas in Ireland two and two are just as likely to make five, or
three, and are still more likely to make nothing at all.

Never will it be given to them to understand the man of whom our friend
Sweeny was no more than a type. How can they be expected to realise that
a man who is decorous in family and village life, indisputably
God-fearing, kind to the poor, and reasonably honest, will enmesh
himself in a tissue of sworn lies before his fellows for the sake of
half a sovereign and a family feud, and that his fellows will think none
the worse of him for it.

These things lie somewhere near the heart of the Irish problem.



THE DANE'S BREECHIN'

PART I


The story begins at the moment when my brother Robert and I had made our
final arrangements for the expedition. These were considerable. Robert
is a fisherman who takes himself seriously (which perhaps is fortunate,
as he rarely seems to take anything else), and his paraphernalia does
credit to his enthusiasm, if not to his judgment. For my part, being an
amateur artist, I had strapped together a collection of painting
materials that would enable me to record my inspiration in oil,
watercolour, or pastel, as the spirit might move me. We had ordered a
car from Coolahan's public-house in the village; an early lunch was
imminent.

The latter depended upon Julia; in fact it would be difficult to mention
anything at Wavecrest Cottage that did not depend on Julia. We, who were
but strangers and sojourners (the cottage with the beautiful name having
been lent to us, with Julia, by an Aunt), felt that our very existence
hung upon her clemency. How much more then luncheon, at the
revolutionary hour of a quarter to one? Even courageous people are
afraid of other people's servants, and Robert and I were far from being
courageous. Possibly this is why Julia treated us with compassion, even
with kindness, especially Robert.

"Ah, poor Masther Robert!" I have heard her say to a friend in the
kitchen, who was fortunately hard of hearing, "ye wouldn't feel him in
the house no more than a feather! An' indeed, as for the two o' thim,
sich gallopers never ye seen! It's hardly they'd come in the house to
throw the wet boots off thim! Thim'd gallop the woods all night like the
deer!"

At half-past twelve, all, as I have said, being in train, I went to the
window to observe the weather, and saw a covered car with a black horse
plodding along the road that separated Wavecrest Cottage from the
seashore. At our modest entrance gates it drew up, and the coachman
climbed from his perch with a dignity befitting his flowing grey beard
and the silver band on his hat.

A covered car is a vehicle peculiar to the south of Ireland; it
resembles a two-wheeled waggonette with a windowless black box on top of
it. Its mouth is at the back, and it has the sinister quality of totally
concealing its occupants until the irrevocable moment when it is turned
and backed against your front door steps. For this moment my brother
Robert and I did not wait. A short passage and a flight of steps
separated us from the kitchen; beyond the steps, and facing the kitchen
door, a door opened into the garden. Robert slipped up heavily in the
passage as we fled, but gained the garden door undamaged. The hall door
bell pealed at my ear; I caught a glimpse of Julia, pounding chops with
the rolling pin.

"Say we're out," I hissed to her--"gone out for the day! We are going
into the garden!"

"Sure ye needn't give yerself that much trouble," replied Julia affably,
as she snatched a grimy cap off a nail.

Nevertheless, in spite of the elasticity of Julia's conscience, the
garden seemed safer.

In the garden, a plot of dense and various vegetation, decorated with
Julia's lingerie, we awaited the sound of the departing wheels. But
nothing departed. The breathless minutes passed, and then, through the
open drawing-room window, we were aware of strange voices. The
drawing-room window overlooked the garden thoroughly and commandingly.
There was not a moment to lose. We plunged into the raspberry canes, and
crouched beneath their embowered arches, and the fulness of the
situation began to sink into our souls.

Through the window we caught a glimpse of a white beard and a portly
black suit, of a black bonnet and a dolman that glittered with jet, of
yet another black bonnet.

With Aunt Dora's house we had taken on, as it were, her practice, and
the goodwill of her acquaintance. The Dean of Glengad and Mrs. Doherty
were the very apex and flower of the latter, and in the party now
installed in Aunt Dora's drawing-room I unhesitatingly recognised them,
and Mrs. Doherty's sister, Miss McEvoy. Miss McEvoy was an elderly lady
of the class usually described as being "not all there". The expression,
I imagine, implies a regret that there should not be more. As, however,
what there was of Miss McEvoy was chiefly remarkable for a monstrous
appetite and a marked penchant for young men, it seems to me mainly to
be regretted that there should be as much of her as there is.

A drive of nine miles in the heat of a June morning is not undertaken
without a sustaining expectation of luncheon at the end of it. There
were in the house three mutton chops to meet that expectation. I
communicated all these facts to my brother. The consternation of his
face, framed in raspberry boughs, was a picture not to be lightly
forgotten. At such a moment, with everything depending on sheer nerve
and resourcefulness, to consign Julia to perdition was mere
self-indulgence on his part, but I suppose it was inevitable. Here the
door into the garden opened and Julia came forth, with a spotless apron
and a face of elaborate unconcern. She picked a handful of parsley, her
black eyes questing for us among the bushes; they met mine, and a glance
more alive with conspiracy it has not been my lot to receive. She moved
desultorily towards us, gathering green gooseberries in her apron.

"I told them the two o' ye were out," she murmured to the gooseberry
bushes. "They axed when would ye be back. I said ye went to town on the
early thrain and wouldn't be back till night."

Decidedly Julia's conscience could stand alone.

"With that then," she continued, "Miss McEvoy lands into the hall, an'
'O Letitia,' says she, 'those must be the gentleman's fishing rods!' and
then 'Julia!' says she, 'could ye give us a bit o' lunch?' That one's
the imp!"

"Look here!" said Robert hoarsely, and with the swiftness of panic, "I'm
off! I'll get out over the back wall."

At this moment Miss McEvoy put her head out of the drawing-room window
and scanned the garden searchingly. Without another word we glided
through the raspberry arches like departing fairies in a pantomine. The
kindly lilac and laurestina bushes grew tall and thick at the end of
the garden; the wall was high, but, as is usual with fruit-garden walls,
it had a well-worn feasible corner that gave on to the lane leading to
the village. We flung ourselves over it, and landed breathless and
dishevelled, but safe, in the heart of the bed of nettles that plumed
the common village ash-heap. Now that we were able, temporarily at all
events, to call our souls our own, we (or rather I) took further stock
of the situation. Its horrors continued to sink in. Driven from home
without so much as a hat to lay our heads in, separated from those we
loved most (the mutton chops, the painting materials, the fishing
tackle), a promising expedition of unusual charm cut off, so to speak,
in the flower of its youth--these were the more immediately obvious of
the calamities which we now confronted. I preached upon them, with
Cassandra eloquence, while we stood, indeterminate, among the nettles.

"And what, I ask you," I said perorating, "what on the face of the earth
are we to do now?"

"Oh, it'll be all right, my dear girl," said Robert easily. Gratitude
for his escape from the addresses of Miss McEvoy had apparently blinded
him to the difficulties of the future. "There's Coolahan's pub. We'll
get something to eat there--you'll see it'll be all right."

"But," I said, picking my way after him among the rusty tins and the
broken crockery, "the Coolahans will think we're mad! We've no hats, and
we can't tell them about the Dohertys."

"I don't care what they think," said Robert.

What Mrs. Coolahan may have thought, as we dived from the sunlight into
her dark and porter-sodden shop, did not appear; what she looked was
consternation.

"Luncheon!" she repeated with stupefaction, "luncheon! The dear help us,
I have no luncheon for the like o' ye!"

"Oh, anything will do," said Robert cheerfully. His experiences at the
London bar had not instructed him in the commissariat of his country.

"A bit of cold beef, or just some bread and cheese."

Mrs. Coolahan's bleared eyes rolled wildly to mine, as seeking sympathy
and sanity.

"With the will o' Pether!" she exclaimed, "how would I have cold beef?
And as for cheese--!" She paused, and then, curiosity over-powering all
other emotions. "What ails Julia Cronelly at all that your honour's
ladyship is comin' to the like o' this dirty place for your dinner?"

"Oh, Julia's run away with a soldier!" struck in Robert brilliantly.

"Small blame to her if she did itself!" said Mrs. Coolahan, gallantly
accepting the jest without a change of her enormous countenance, she's a
long time waiting for the chance! Maybe ourselves'd go if we were axed!
I have a nice bit of salt pork in the house," she continued, "would I
give your honours a rasher of it?"

Mrs. Coolahan had probably assumed that either Julia was incapably
drunk, or had been dismissed without benefit of clergy; at all events
she had recognised that diplomatically it was correct to change the
conversation.

We adventured ourselves into the unknown recesses of the house, and sat
gingerly on greasy horsehair-seated chairs, in the parlour, while the
bubbling cry of the rasher and eggs arose to heaven from the frying-pan,
and the reek filled the house as with a grey fog. Potent as it was, it
but faintly foreshadowed the flavour of the massive slices that
presently swam in briny oil on our plates. But we had breakfasted at
eight; we tackled them with determination, and without too nice
inspection of the three-pronged forks. We drank porter, we achieved a
certain sense of satiety, that on very slight provocation would have
broadened into nausea or worse. All the while the question remained in
the balance as to what we were to do for our hats, and for the myriad
baggage involved in the expedition.

We finally decided to write a minute inventory of what was
indispensable, and to send it to Julia by the faithful hand of Mrs.
Coolahan's car-driver, one Croppy, with whom previous expeditions had
placed us upon intimate terms. It would be necessary to confide the
position to Croppy, but this we felt, could be done without a moment's
uneasiness.

By the malignity that governed all things on that troublous day, neither
of us had a pencil, and Mrs. Coolahan had to be appealed to. That she
had by this time properly grasped the position was apparent in the
hoarse whisper in which she said, carefully closing the door after
her:--

"The Dane's coachman is inside!"

Simultaneously Robert and I removed ourselves from the purview of the
door.

"Don't be afraid," said our hostess reassuringly, "he'll never see
ye--sure I have him safe back in the snug! Is it a writing pin ye want,
Miss?" she continued, moving to the door. "Katty Ann! Bring me in the
pin out o' the office!"

The Post Office was, it may be mentioned, a department of the Coolahan
public-house, and was managed by a committee of the younger members of
the Coolahan family. These things are all, I believe, illegal, but they
happen in Ireland. The committee was at present, apparently, in full
session, judging by the flood of conversation that flowed in to us
through the open door. The request for the pen caused an instant hush,
followed at an interval by the slamming of drawers and other sounds of
search.

"Ah, what's on ye delaying this way?" said Mrs. Coolahan irritably,
advancing into the shop. "Sure I seen the pin with Helayna this
morning."

At the moment all that we could see of the junior postmistress was her
long bare shins, framed by the low-browed doorway, as she stood on the
counter to further her researches on a top shelf.

"The Lord look down in pity on me this day!" said Mrs. Coolahan, in
exalted and bitter indignation, "or on any poor creature that's striving
to earn her living and has the likes o' ye to be thrusting to!"

We here attached ourselves to the outskirts of the search, which had by
this time drawn into its vortex a couple of countrywomen with shawls
over their heads, who had hitherto sat in decorous but observant
stillness in the background. Katty Ann was rapidly examining tall
bottles of sugar-stick, accustomed receptacles apparently for the pen.
Helayna's raven fringe showed traces of a dive into the flour-bin. Mrs.
Coolahan remained motionless in the midst, her eyes fixed on the
ceiling, an exposition of suffering and of eternal remoteness from the
ungodly.

We were now aware for the first time of the presence of Mr. Coolahan, a
taciturn person, with a blue-black chin and a gloomy demeanour.

"Where had ye it last?" he demanded.

"I seen Katty Ann with it in the cow-house, sir," volunteered a small
female Coolahan from beneath the flap of the counter.

Katty Ann, with a vindictive eye at the tell-tale, vanished.

"That the Lord Almighty might take me to Himself!" chanted Mrs.
Coolahan. "Such a mee-aw! Such a thing to happen to me--the pure, decent
woman! G'wout!" This, the imperative of the verb to retire, was hurtled
at the tell-tale, who, presuming on her services, had incautiously left
the covert of the counter, and had laid a sticky hand on her mother's
skirts.

"Only that some was praying for me," pursued Mrs. Coolahan, "it might as
well be the Inspector that came in the office, asking for the pin, an'
if that was the way we might all go under the sod! Sich a mee-aw!"

"Musha! Musha!" breathed, prayerfully, one of the shawled women.

At this juncture I mounted on an up-ended barrel to investigate a
promising lair above my head, and from this altitude was unexpectedly
presented with a bird's-eye view of a hat with a silver band inside the
railed and curtained "snug". I descended swiftly, not without an
impression of black bottles on the snug table, and Katty Ann here slid
in from the search in the cow-house.

[Illustration: "MUSHA! MUSHA!"]

"'Twasn't in it," she whined, "nor I didn't put it in it."

"For a pinny I'd give ye a slap in the jaw!" said Mr. Coolahan with
sudden and startling ferocity.

"That the Lord Almighty might take me to Himself!" reiterated Mrs.
Coolahan, while the search spread upwards through the house.

"Look here!" said Robert abruptly, "this business is going on for a
week. I'm going for the things myself."

Neither I nor my remonstrances overtook him till he was well out into
the street. There, outside the Coolahan door, was the Dean's inside car,
resting on its shafts; while the black horse, like his driver, restored
himself elsewhere beneath the Coolahan roof. Robert paid no heed to its
silent warning.

"I must go myself. If I had forty pencils I couldn't explain to Julia
the flies that I want!"

There comes, with the most biddable of men, a moment when argument
fails, the moment of dead pull, when the creature perceives his own
strength, and the astute will give in, early and imperceptibly, in order
that he may not learn it beyond forgetting.

The only thing left to be done now was to accompany Robert, to avert
what might be irretrievable disaster. It was now half-past one, and the
three mutton chops and the stewed gooseberries must have long since
yielded their uttermost to our guests. The latter would therefore have
returned to the drawing-room, where it was possible that one or more of
them might go to sleep. Remembering that the chops were loin-chops, we
might at all events hope for some slight amount of lethargy. Again we
waded through the nettles, we scaled the garden-wall, and worked our way
between it and the laurestinas towards the door opposite the kitchen.
'There remained between us and the house an open space of about fifteen
yards, fully commanded by the drawing-room window, veiling which,
however, the lace curtains met in reassuring stillness. We rushed the
interval, and entered the house softly. Here we were instantly met by
Julia, with her mouth full, and a cup of tea in her hand. She drew us
into the kitchen.

"Where are they, Julia?" I whispered. "Have they had lunch?"

"Is it lunch?" replied Julia, through bread and butter; "there isn't a
bit in the house but they have it ate! And the eggs I had for the
fast-day for myself, didn't That One"--I knew this to indicate Miss
McEvoy--"ax an omelette from me when she seen she had no more to get!"

"Are they out of the dining-room?" broke in Robert.

"Faith, they are. 'Twas no good for them to stay in it! That One's lying
up on the sofa in the dhrawing-room like any owld dog, and the Dane and
Mrs. Doherty's dhrinking hot water--they have bad shtomachs, the
craytures."

Robert opened the kitchen door and crept towards the dining-room,
wherein, not long before the alarm, had been gathered all the
essentials of the expedition. I followed him. I have never committed a
burglary, but since the moment when I creaked past the drawing-room
door, foretasting the instant when it would open, my sympathies are
dedicated to burglars.

In two palpitating journeys we removed from the dining-room our
belongings, and placed them in the kitchen; silence, fraught with dire
possibilities, still brooded over the drawing-room. Could they all be
asleep, or was Miss McEvoy watching us through the keyhole? There
remained only my hat, which was upstairs, and at this, the last moment,
Robert remembered his fly-book, left under the clock in the dining-room.
I again passed the drawing-room in safety, and got upstairs, Robert
effecting at the same moment his third entry into the dining-room. I was
in the act of thrusting in the second hat pin when I heard the
drawing-room door open. I admit that, obeying the primary instinct of
self-preservation, my first impulse was to lock myself in; it passed,
aided by the recollection that there was no key. I made for the landing,
and from thence viewed, in a species of trance, Miss McEvoy crossing the
hall and entering the dining-room. A long and deathly pause followed.
She was a small woman; had Robert strangled her? After two or three
horrible minutes a sound reached me, the well-known rattle of the
side-board drawer. All then was well--Miss McEvoy was probably looking
for the biscuits, and Robert must have escaped in time through the
window. I took my courage in both hands and glided downstairs. As I
placed my foot on the oilcloth of the hall, I was confronted by the
nightmare spectacle of my brother creeping towards me on all-fours
through the open door of the dining-room, and then, crowning this
already over-loaded moment, there arose a series of yells from Miss
McEvoy as blood-curdling as they were excusable, yet, as even in my
maniac flight to the kitchen I recognised, something muffled by Marie
biscuit.

It seems to me that the next incident was the composite and shattering
collision of Robert, Julia and myself in the scullery doorway, followed
by the swift closing of the scullery-door upon us by Julia; then the
voice of the Dean of Glengad, demanding from the house at large an
explanation, in a voice of cathedral severity. Miss McEvoy's reply was
to us about as coherent as the shrieks of a parrot, but we plainly heard
Julia murmur in the kitchen:--

"May the devil choke ye!"

Then again the Dean, this time near the kitchen door. "Julia! Where is
the man who was secreted under the dinner-table?"

I gripped Robert's arm. The issues of life and death were now in Julia's
hands.

"Is it who was in the dining-room, your Reverence?" asked Julia, in
tones of respectful honey; "sure that was the carpenter's boy, that came
to quinch a rat-hole. Sure we're destroyed with rats."

"But," pursued the Dean, raising his voice to overcome Miss McEvoy's
continuous screams of explanation to Mrs. Doherty, "I understand that he
left the room on his hands and knees. He must have been drunk!"

"Ah, not at all, your Reverence," replied Julia, with almost
compassionate superiority, "sure that poor boy is the gentlest crayture
ever came into a house. I suppose 'tis what it was he was ashamed like
when Miss McEvoy comminced to screech, and faith he never stopped nor
stayed till he ran out of the house like a wild goose!"

We heard the Dean reascend the kitchen steps, and make a statement of
which the words "drink" and "Dora" alone reached us. The drawing-room
door closed, and in the release from tension I sank heavily down upon a
heap of potatoes. The wolf of laughter that had been gnawing at my
vitals broke loose.

"Why did you go out of the room on your hands and knees?" I moaned,
rolling in anguish on the potatoes.

"I got under the table when I heard the brute coming," said Robert,
with the crossness of reaction from terror, "then she settled down to
eat biscuits, and I thought I could crawl out without her seeing me"

"_Ye can come out_!" said Julia's mouth, appearing at a crack of the
scullery door, "I have as many lies told for ye--God forgive me!--as'd
bog a noddy!"

This mysterious contingency might have impressed us more had the artist
been able to conceal her legitimate pride in her handiwork. We emerged
from the chill and varied smells of the scullery, retaining just
sufficient social self-control to keep us from flinging ourselves with
grateful tears upon Julia's neck. Shaken as we were, the expedition
still lay open before us; the game was in our hands. We were winning by
tricks, and Julia held all the honours.



PART II


Perhaps it was the clinging memory of the fried pork, perhaps it was
because all my favourite brushes were standing in a mug of soft soap on
my washing stand, or because Robert had in his flight forgotten to
replenish his cigarette case, but there was no doubt but that the
expedition languished.

There was no fault to be found with the setting. The pool in which the
river coiled itself under the pine-trees was black and brimming, the
fish were rising at the flies that wrought above it, like a spotted net
veil in hysterics, the distant hills lay in sleepy undulations of every
shade of blue, the grass was warm, and not unduly peopled with ants. But
some impalpable blight was upon us. I ranged like a lost soul along the
banks of the river--a lost soul that is condemned to bear a burden of
some two stone of sketching materials, and a sketching umbrella with a
defective joint--in search of a point of view that for ever eluded me.
Robert cast his choicest flies, with delicate quiverings, with
coquettish withdrawals; had they been cannon-balls they could hardly
have had a more intimidating effect upon the trout. Where Robert fished
a Sabbath stillness reigned, beyond that charmed area they rose like
notes of exclamation in a French novel. I was on the whole inclined to
trace these things back to the influence of the pork, working on systems
weakened by shock; but Robert was not in the mood to trace them to
anything. Unsuccessful fishermen are not fond of introspective
suggestions. The member of the expedition who enjoyed himself beyond any
question was Mrs. Coolahan's car-horse. Having been taken out of the
shafts on the road above the river, he had with his harness on his
back, like Horatius, unhesitatingly lumbered over a respectable bank and
ditch in the wake of Croppy, who had preceded him with the reins. He was
now grazing luxuriously along the river's edge, while his driver smoked,
no less luxuriously, in the background.

"Will I carry the box for ye, Miss?" Croppy inquired compassionately,
stuffing his lighted pipe into his pocket, as I drifted desolately past
him. "Sure you're killed with the load you have! This is a rough owld
place for a lady to be walkin'. Sit down, Miss. God knows you have a
right to be tired."

It seemed that with Croppy also the day was dragging, doubtless he too
had lunched on Mrs. Coolahan's pork. He planted my camp-stool and I sank
upon it.

"Well, now, for all it's so throublesome," he resumed, "I'd say painting
was a nice thrade. There was a gintleman here one time that was a
painther--I used to be dhrivin' him. Faith! there wasn't a place in the
counthry but he had it pathrolled. He seen me mother one day--cleaning
fish, I b'lieve she was, below on the quay--an' nothing would howld him
but he should dhraw out her picture!" Croppy laughed unfilially. "Well,
me mother was mad. 'To the divil I pitch him!' says she; 'if I wants me
photograph drew out I'm liable to pay for it,' says she, 'an' not to be
stuck up before the ginthry to be ped for the like o' that!' 'Tis for;
you bein' so handsome!' says I to her. She was black mad altogether
then. 'If that's the way,' says she, 'it's a wondher he wouldn't ax
yerself, ye rotten little rat,' says she, 'in place of thrying could he
make a show of yer poor little ugly little cock-nosed mother!' 'Faith!'
says I to her, 'I wouldn't care if the divil himself axed it, if he give
me a half-crown and nothing to do but to be sittin' down!'"

The tale may or may not have been intended to have a personal
application, but Croppy's fat scarlet face and yellow moustache,
bristling beneath a nose which he must have inherited from his mother,
did not lend themselves to a landscape background, and I fell to
fugitive pencil sketches of the old white car-horse as he grazed round
us. It was thus that I first came to notice a fact whose bearing upon
our fortunes I was far from suspecting. The old horse's harness was of
dingy brown leather, with dingier brass mountings; it had been
frequently mended, in varying shades of brown, and, in remarkable
contrast to the rest of the outfit, the breeching was of solid and
well-polished black leather, with silver buckles. It was not so much the
discrepancy of the breeching as its respectability that jarred upon me;
finally I commented upon it to Croppy.

[Illustration: "CROPPY."]

His cap was tilted over the maternal nose, he glanced at me sideways
from under its peak.

"Sure the other breechin' was broke, and if that owld shkin was to go
the lin'th of himself without a breechin' on him he'd break all before
him! There was some fellas took him to a funeral one time without a
breechin' on him, an' when he seen the hearse what did he do but to rise
up in the sky."

Wherein lay the moral support of a breeching in such a contingency it is
hard to say. I accepted the fact without comment, and expressed a regret
that we had not been indulged with the entire set of black harness.

Croppy measured me with his eye, grinned bashfully, and said:--

"Sure it's the Dane's breechin' we have, Miss! I daresay he'd hardly get
home at all if we took any more from him!"

The Dean's breeching! For an instant a wild confusion of ideas deprived
me of the power of speech. I could only hope that Croppy had left him
his gaiters! Then I pulled myself together.

"Croppy," I said in consternation, "how did you get it? Did you borrow
it from the coachman?"

"Is it the coachman!" said Croppy tranquilly. "I did not, Miss. Sure he
was asleep in the snug."

"But can they get home without it?"

A sudden alarm chilled me to the marrow.

"Arrah, why not, Miss? That black horse of the Dane's wouldn't care if
there was nothing at all on him!"

I heard Robert reeling in his line--had he a fish? Or, better still, had
he made up his mind to go home?

As a matter of fact, neither was the case; Robert was merely fractious,
and in that particular mood when he wished to have his mind
imperceptibly made up for him, while prepared to combat any direct
suggestion. From what quarter the ignoble proposition that we should go
home arose is immaterial. It is enough to say that Robert believed it to
be his own, and that, before he had time to reconsider the question, the
tactful Croppy had crammed the old white horse into the shafts of the
car.

It was by this time past five o'clock, and a threatening range of clouds
was rising from seaward across the west. Things had been against us from
the first, and if the last stone in the sling of Fate was that we were
to be wet through before we got home, it would be no more than I
expected. The old horse, however, addressed himself to the eight Irish
miles that lay between him and home with unexpected vivacity. We swung
in the ruts, we shook like jellies on the merciless patches of broken
stones, and Croppy stimulated the pace with weird whistlings through
his teeth, and heavy prods with the butt of his whip in the region of
the borrowed breeching.

Now that the expedition had been shaken off and cast behind us, the
humbler possibilities of the day began to stretch out alluring hands.
There was the new box from the library; there was the afternoon post;
there was a belated tea, with a peaceful fatigue to endear all. We
reached at last the welcome turn that brought us into the coast road. We
were but three miles now from that happy home from which we had been
driven forth, years ago as it seemed, at such desperate hazard. We drove
pleasantly along the road at the top of the cliffs. The wind was behind
us; a rising tide plunged and splashed far below. It was already raining
a little, enough to justify our sagacity in leaving the river, enough to
lend a touch of passion to the thought of home and Julia.

The grey horse began to lean back against the borrowed breeching, the
chains of the traces clanked loosely. We had begun the long zig-zag
slant down to the village. We swung gallantly round the sharp turn
half-way down the hill.

And there, not fifty yards away, was the Dean's inside car, labouring
slowly, inevitably, up to meet us. Even in that stupefying moment I was
aware that the silver-banded hat was at a most uncanonical angle.
Behind me on the car was stowed my sketching umbrella; I tore it from
the retaining embrace of the camp-stool, and unfurled its unwieldy tent
with a speed that I have never since achieved. Robert, on the far side
of the car, was reasonably safe. The inestimable Croppy quickened up.
Cowering beneath the umbrella, I awaited the crucial moment at which to
shift its protection from the side to the back. The sound of the
approaching wheels told me that it had almost arrived, and then,
suddenly, without a note of warning, there came a scurry of hoofs, a
grinding of wheels, and a confused outcry of voices. A violent jerk
nearly pitched me off the car, as Croppy dragged the white horse into
the opposite bank; the umbrella flew from my hand and revealed to me the
Dean's bearded coachman sitting on the road scarcely a yard from my
feet, uttering large and drunken shouts, while the covered car hurried
back towards the village with the unforgettable yell of Miss McEvoy
bursting from its curtained rear. The black horse was not absolutely
running away, but he was obviously alarmed, and with the long hill
before him anything might happen.

"They're dead! They're dead!" said Croppy, with philosophic calm; "'twas
the parasol started him."

As he spoke, the black horse stumbled, the laden car ran on top of him
like a landslip, and, with an abortive flounder, he collapsed beneath
it. Once down, he lay, after the manner of his kind, like a dead thing,
and the covered car, propped on its shafts, presented its open mouth to
the heavens. Even as I sped headlong to the rescue in the wake of Robert
and Croppy, I fore-knew that Fate had after all been too many for us,
and when, an instant later, I seated myself in the orthodox manner upon
the black horse's winker, and perceived that one of the shafts was
broken, I was already, in spirit, making up beds with Julia for the
reception of the party.

To this mental picture the howls of Miss McEvoy during the process of
extraction from the covered car lent a pleasing reality.

Only those who have been in a covered car under similar circumstances
can at all appreciate the difficulty of getting out of it. It has once,
in the streets of Cork, happened to me, and I can best compare it to
escaping from the cabin of a yacht without the aid of a companion
ladder. From Robert I can only collect the facts that the door jammed,
and that, at a critical juncture, Miss McEvoy had put her arms round his
neck.

       *       *       *       *       *

The programme that Fate had ordained was carried out to its ultimate
item. The party from the Deanery of Glengad spent the night at Wavecrest
Cottage, attired by subscription, like the converts of a Mission; I
spent it in the attic, among trunks of Aunt Dora's old clothes, and
rats; Robert, who throughout had played an unworthy part, in the night
mail to Dublin, called away for twenty-four hours on a pretext that
would not have deceived an infant a week old.

Croppy was firm and circumstantial in laying the blame on me and the
sketching umbrella.

"Sure, I seen the horse wondhering at it an' he comin' up the hill to
us. 'Twas that turned him."

The dissertation in which the Dean's venerable coachman made the entire
disaster hinge upon the theft of the breeching was able, but cannot
conveniently be here set down.

For my part, I hold with Julia.

"'Twas Helayna gave the dhrink to the Dane's coachman! The low curséd
thing! There isn't another one in the place that'd do it! I'm told the
priest was near breaking his umbrella on her over it."



"MATCHBOX"


It was the event of Mr. John Denny's life that he valued highest. It is
twenty years now since it took place, and many other things have
happened to him, such as going to England to give evidence in the
Parnell Commission, and matrimony, and taking the second prize in the
Lightweight Hunter Class at the Dublin Horse Show. But none of them, not
even the trip to London, possesses quite the same fortunate blend of the
sublime and the ridiculous that gives this incident such a perennial
success at the Hunt and Agricultural Show dinners which are the dazzling
breaks in the monotony of Mr. Denny's life, and he prized it
accordingly.

Mr. Johnny Denny--or Dinny Johnny as he was known to his wittier
friends--was a young man of the straightest sect of the Cork buckeens, a
body whose importance justifies perhaps a particular description of one
of their number. His profession was something imperceptibly connected
with the County Grand Jury Office, and was quite over-shadowed in winter
by the gravities of hunting, and in summer by the gallantries of the
Militia training; for, like many of his class, he was a captain in the
Militia. He was always neatly dressed; his large moustache looked as if
it shared with his boots the attention of the blacking brush. No cavalry
sergeant in Ballincollig had a more delicately bowed leg, nor any
creature, except, perhaps, a fox-terrier interviewing a rival, a more
consummate swagger. He knew every horse and groom in all the leading
livery stables, and, in moments of expansion, would volunteer to name
the price at which any given animal could be safeguarded from any given
veterinary criticism. With all these not specially attractive qualities,
however, Dinny Johnny was, and is, a good fellow in his way. His temper
was excellent, his courage indisputable; he has never been known to give
any horse--not even a hireling--less than fair play, and a tendency to
ride too close to hounds has waned since time, like an Irish elector,
has taken to emphasising himself by throwing stones, and Dinny Johnny,
once ten stone, now admits to riding 13.7.

In those days, before the inertia that creeps like mildew over country
householders had begun to form, Mr. Denny was in the habit of making
occasional excursions into remote parts of the County Cork in search of
those flowers of pony perfection that are supposed to blush unseen in
any sufficiently mountainous and unknown country, and the belief in
which is the touch of wild poetry that keeps alive the soul of the
amateur horse coper. He had never met the pony of his dreams, but he had
not lost faith in it, and though he would range through the Bantry fair
with a sour eye, behind the sourness there was ever a kindling spark of
hope.

Towards the end of October, in the year '83, Mr. Denny received an
invitation from an old friend to go down to "the West"--thus are those
regions east of the moon, and west of the sun, and south-west of
Drimoleague Junction, designated in the tongue of Cork civilisation--to
"look at a colt," and with a saddle and bridle in the netting and a
tooth-brush in his pocket he set his face for the wilderness. I have no
time to linger over the circumstances of the deal. Suffice it to say
that, after an arduous haggle, Mr. Denny bought the colt, and set forth
the same day to ride him by easy stages to his future home.

It was a wet day, wet with the solid determination of a western day, and
the loaded clouds were flinging their burden down on the furze, and the
rocks, and the steep, narrow road, with vindictive ecstacy. They also
flung it upon Mr. Denny, and both he and his new purchase were glad to
find a temporary shelter in one of the many public-houses of a village
on the line of march. He was sitting warming himself at an indifferent
turf fire, and drinking a tumbler of hot punch, when the sound of loud
voices outside drew him to the window. In front of a semi-circle of blue
frieze coats, brown frieze trousers and slouched black felt hats, stood
a dejected grey pony, with a woman at its head and a lanky young man on
its back; and it was obvious to Mr. Denny that a transaction, of an even
more fervid sort than that in which he had recently engaged, was toward.

"Fifteen pound!" screamed the woman, darting a black head on the end of
a skinny neck out of the projecting hood of her cloak with the swiftness
of a lizard; "fifteen pound, James Hallahane, and the divil burn the
ha'penny less that I'll take for her!"

The elderly man to whom this was addressed continued to gaze steadily at
the ground, and turning his head slightly away, spat unostentatiously.
The other men moved a little, vaguely, and one said in a tone of remote
soliloquy:--

"She wouldn't go tin pound in Banthry fair."

"Tin pound!" echoed the pony's owner shrilly. "Ah, God help ye, poor
man! Here, Patsey, away home wid ye out o' this. It'll be night, and
dark night itself before--"

"I'll give ye eleven pounds," said James Hallahane, addressing the toes
of his boots. The young man on the pony turned a questioning eye towards
his mother, but her sole response was a drag at the pony's head to set
it going; swinging her cloak about her, she paddled through the slush
towards the gate, supremely disregarding the fact that a gander, having
nerved himself and his harem to the charge, had caught the ragged skirt
of her dress in his beak, and being too angry to let go, was being
whirled out of the yard in her train.

Dinny Johnny ran to the door, moved by an impulse for which I think the
hot whisky and water must have been responsible.

"I'll give you twelve pounds for the pony, ma'am!" he called out.

A quarter of an hour later, when he and the publican were tying a
tow-rope round the pony's lean neck, Mr. Denny was aware of a sinking of
the heart as he surveyed his bargain. It looked, and was, an utterly
degraded little object, as it stood with its tail tucked in between its
drooping hindquarters, and the rain running in brown streams down its
legs. Its lips were decorated with the absurd, the almost incredible
moustache that is the consequence among Irish horses of a furze diet (I
would hesitatingly direct the attention of the male youth of Britain to
this singular but undoubted fact), and although the hot whisky and
water had not exaggerated the excellence of its shoulder and the iron
soundness of its legs, it had certainly reversed the curve of its neck
and levelled the corrugations of its ribs.

"You could strike a bally match on her, this minute, if it wasn't so
wet!" thought Mr. Denny, and with the simple humour that endeared him to
his friends he christened the pony "Matchbox" on the spot.

"And it's to make a hunther of her ye'd do?" said the publican, pulling
hard at the knot of the tow-rope. "Begor', I know that one. If there was
forty men and their wives, and they after her wid sticks, she wouldn't
lep a sod o' turf. Well, safe home, sir, safe home, and mind out she
wouldn't kick ye. She's a cross thief," and with this valediction Dinny
Johnny went on his way.

There was no disputing the fact of the pony's crossness.

"She's sourish-like in her timper," Jimmy, Mr. Denny's head man,
observed to his subordinate not long after the arrival, and the
subordinate, tenderly stroking a bruised knee, replied:--

"Sour! I niver see the like of her! Be gannies, the divil's always busy
with her!"

On one point, however, the grey pony proved better than had been
anticipated. Without the intervention of the forty married couples she
took to jumping at once.

"It comes as aisy to her as lies to a tinker," said Jimmy to a
criticising friend; "the first day ever I had her out on a string she
wint up to the big bounds fence between us and Barrett's as indipindant
as if she was going to her bed; and she jumped it as flippant and as
crabbéd--By dam, she's as crabbéd as a monkey!"

In those days Mr. Standish O'Grady, popularly known as "Owld Sta'," had
the hounds, and it need scarcely be said that Mr. Denny was one of his
most faithful followers. This season he had not done as well as usual.
The colt was only turning out moderately, and though the pony was
undoubtedly both crabbéd and flippant, she could not be expected to do
much with nearly twelve stone on her back. It happened, therefore, that
Mr. Denny took his pleasure a little sadly, with his loins girded in
momentary expectation of trouble, and of a sudden refusal from the colt
to jump until the crowd of skirters and gap-hunters drew round, and
escape was impossible until Mrs. Tom Graves's splinty old carriage horse
had ploughed its way through the bank, and all those whom he most
contemned had flaunted through the breach in front of him. He rode the
pony now and then, but he more often lent her to little Mary O'Grady,
"Owld Sta's" untidy, red-cheeked, blue-eyed, and quite uneducated
little girl. It was probable that Mary could only just write her name,
and it was obvious that she could not do her hair; but she was afraid of
nothing that went on four legs--in Ireland, at least--and she had the
divine gift of "hands". From the time when she was five, up till now,
when she was fifteen, Mr. Denny had been her particular adherent, and
now he found a chastened pleasure in having his eye wiped by Mary, on
the grey pony; moreover, experience showed him that if anything would
persuade the colt to jump freely, it was getting a lead from the little
mare.

"Upon my soul, she wasn't such a bad bargain after all," he thought one
pleasant December day as he jogged to the Meet, leading "Matchbox," who
was fidgeting along beside him with an expression of such shrewishness
as can only be assumed by a pony mare; "if it wasn't that Mary likes
riding her I'd make her up a bit and she'd bring thirty-five anywhere."

There had been, that autumn, a good deal of what was euphemistically
described as "trouble" in that district of the County Cork which Mr.
Denny and the Kilcronan hounds graced with their society, and when Mr.
O'Grady and his field assembled at the Curragh-coolaghy cross-roads, it
was darkly hinted that if the hounds ran over a certain farm not far
from the covert, there might be more trouble.

Dinny Johnny, occupied with pulling up Mary O'Grady's saddle girths, and
evading the snaps with which "Matchbox" acknowledged the attention,
thought little of these rumours.

"Nonsense!" he said; "whatever they do they'll let the hounds alone.
Come on, Mary, you and me'll sneak down to the north side of the wood.
He's bound to break there, and we've got to take every chance we can
get."

Curragh-coolaghy covert was a large, ill-kept plantation that straggled
over a long hillside fighting with furze-bushes and rocks for the right
of possession; a place wherein the young hounds could catch and eat
rabbits to their heart's content comfortably aware that the net of
brambles that stretched from tree to tree would effectually screen them
from punishment. From its north-east side a fairly smooth country
trended down to a river, and if the fox did not fulfil Mr. Denny's
expectations by breaking to the north, the purplish patch that showed
where, on the further side of the river, Madore Wood lay, looked a point
for which he would be likely to make. Conscious of an act which he would
have loudly condemned in any one else, Mr. Denny, followed by Mary, like
his shadow, rode quietly round the long flank of the covert to the
north-east corner. They sat in perfect stillness for a few minutes, and
then there came a rustling on the inside of the high, bracken-fringed
fence which divided them from the covert. Then a countryman's voice said
in a cautious whisper:--

"Did he put in the hounds yit?"

"He did," said another voice, "he put them in the soud-aisht side;
they'll be apt to get it soon."

"Get what?" thought Dinny Johnny, all his bristles rising in wrath as
the idea of a drag came to him.

"There! they're noising now!" said the first voice, while a whimper or
two came from far back in the wood. "Maybe there'll not be so much chat
out o' thim afther once they'll git to Madore!"

"'Twas a pity Scanlan wouldn't put the mate in here and have done with
it," said the second voice. "Owld Sta'll niver let them run a dhrag."

"Yirrah, what dhrag man! 'Twas the fox himself they had, and he cut open
to make a good thrail, and the way Scanlan laid it the devil himself
wouldn't know 'twas a dhrag, and they have little Danny Casey below to
screech he seen the fox--"

At the same instant the whimpers swelled into a far-away chorus, that
grew each moment fainter and more faint. Much as Mr. Denny desired to
undertake the capture of the imparters of these interesting facts, he
knew that he had now no time to attempt it, and, with a shout to Mary,
he started the colt at full gallop up the rough hillside, round the
covert, while the grey pony scuttled after him as nimbly as a rabbit.
The colt seemed to realise the stress of the occasion, and jumped
steadily enough; but the last fence on to the road was too much for his
nerves, and, having swerved from it with discomposing abruptness, he
fell to his wonted tactics of rearing and backing.

Mr. Denny permitted himself one minute in which to establish the
fruitlessness of spurs, whip and blasphemy in this emergency, and then,
descending to his own legs, he climbed over the fence into the road and
ran as fast as boots and tops would let him towards the point whence the
cry of the hounds was coming, ever more and more faintly. In a moment or
two he returned, out of breath, to where the faithful Mary awaited him.

"It's no good, Mary," he said, wiping the perspiration from his
forehead; "they're running like blazes to the south along through the
furze. I suppose the devils took it that way to humbug your father, and
then they'll turn for the bridge and run into Madore; and there's the
end of the hounds."

Mary, who regarded the hounds as the chief, if not the only, object of
existence, looked at him with scared eyes, while the colour died out of
her round cheeks.

"Will they be poisoned, Mr. Denny?" she gasped.

"Every man jack of them, if your father doesn't twig it's a drag, and
whip 'em off," replied Mr. Denny, with grim brevity.

"Couldn't we catch them up?" cried Mary, almost incoherent from
excitement and horror.

"They've gone half-a-mile by this, and that brute," this with an eye of
concentrated hatred at the colt, "won't jump a broom-stick."

"But let me try," urged Mary, maddened by the assumption of masculine
calm which Mr. Denny's despair had taken on; "or--oh, Mr. Denny, if you
rode 'Matchbox' yourself straight to Madore across the river, you'd be
in time to whip them off!"

"By Jove!" said Dinny Johnny, and was silent. I believe that was the
moment at which the identity of the future Mrs. Denny was made clear to
him.

"And you'll have to ride her in my saddle!" went on Mary at lightning
speed, taking control of the situation in a manner prophetic of her
future successful career as a matron. "There isn't time to change--"

"The devil I shall!" said Dinny Johnny, and an unworthy thought of what
his friends would say flitted across his mind.

"And you'll have to sit sideways, because the lowest crutch is so far
back there's not room for your leg if you sit saddleways," continued his
preceptor breathlessly. "I know it--Jimmy said so when he rode her to
the meet for me last week. Oh hurry--hurry! How slow you are!"

Mr. Denny never quite knew how he got into the horrors of the saddle,
still less how he and "Matchbox" got into the road. At one acute moment,
indeed, he had believed he was going to precede her thither, but they
alighted more or less together, and turning her, by a handy gap, into
the field on the other side of the road, he set off at a precarious
gallop, followed by the encouraging shrieks of Mary.

"Thank the Lord there's no one looking, and it's a decent old saddle
with a pommel on the offside," he said to himself piously, while he
grasped the curving snout of the pommel in question, "I'd be a dead man
this minute only for that."

He felt as though he were wedged in among the claws of a giant crab, but
without the sense of retention that might be hoped for under such
circumstances. The lowest crutch held one leg in aching durance; there
was but just room for the other between the two upper horns, and the
saddle was so short and hollow in the seat that its high-ridged cantle
was the only portion from which he derived any support--a support that
was suddenly and painfully experienced after each jump. He could see,
very far off, the pink coat of "Owld Sta'" following a line which seemed
each moment to be turning more directly for Madore, and in his agony he
gave the pony an imprudent dig of the spur that sent her on and off a
boggy fence in two goat-like bounds, and gave the sunlight opportunity
to play intermittently upon the hollow seat of the saddle. She had never
carried him so well, and as she put her little head down and raced at
the fences, the unfortunate Dinny Johnny felt that though he was
probably going to break his neck, no one would ever be able to mention
his early demise without a grin.

Field after field fled by him in painful succession till he found
himself safe on the farther side of a big stone-faced "double," the last
fence before the river.

"Please God I'll never be a woman again!" ejaculated Mr. Denny as he
wedged his left leg more tightly in behind the torturing leaping horn,
"that was a hairy old place! I wish Mary saw the pair of us coming up on
to it like new-born stags!"

Had Mary seen him and "Matchbox" a moment later, emerging separately
from a hole in mid stream, her respect might not have prevented her
from laughing, but the fact remains that the pair got across somehow.
At the top of the hill beyond the river Dinny Johnny saw the hounds for
the first time. They had checked on the road by the bridge, but now he
heard them throwing their tongues as they hit the line again, the fatal
line that was leading them to the covert. Even at this moment, Mr. Denny
could not restrain an admiration that would appear to most people
ill-timed.

"Aren't they going the hell of a docket!" he exclaimed fondly, "and good
old Chantress leading the lot of them, the darling! It'll be a queer
thing now, if I don't get there in time!"

Blown though the pony was, he knew instinctively that he had not yet
come to the end of her, and he drove her along at a canter until he
reached a lane that encircled the covert, along which he would have to
go to intercept the hounds. As he jumped into it he was suddenly aware
of a yelling crowd of men and boys, who seemed, with nightmare
unexpectedness, to fill all the lane behind him. He knew what they were
there for, and oblivious of the lamentable absurdity of his appearance,
he turned and roared out a defiance as he clattered at full speed down
the stony lane. It seemed like another and almost expected episode in
the nightmare when he became aware of a barricade of stones, built
across the road to a height of about four feet, with along the top of
it--raising it to what, on a fourteen hand pony, looked like
impossibility--the branch of a fir-tree, with all its bristling twigs
left on it.

He heard the cry of the hounds clearly now; they were within a couple of
fields of the covert. Dinny Johnny drove his left spur into the little
mare's panting side, let go the crutch, took hold of her head in the way
that is unmistakable, and faced her at the barricade. As he did so a
countryman sprang up at his right hand and struck furiously at him with
a heavy potato spade. The blow was aimed at Dinny Johnny, but the moment
was miscalculated, and it fell on "Matchbox" instead. The sharp blade
gashed her hind quarter, but with a spring like a frightened deer she
rose to the jump. For one supreme moment Dinny Johnny thought she had
cleared it, but at the next her hind legs had caught in the branch, and
with a jerk that sent her rider flying over her head, she fell in a heap
on the road. Fortunately for Mr. Denny, he was a proficient in the art
of falling, and though his hands were cut, and blood was streaming down
his face, he was able to struggle up, and run on towards the cry of the
hounds. There was still time; panting and dizzy, and half-blinded with
his own blood, he knew that there was still time, and he laboured on,
heedless of everything but the hounds. A high wall divided the covert
from the lane, and he could see the gate that was the sole entrance to
the wood on this side standing open. It was an iron gate, very high,
with close upright iron bars and Chantress was racing him to get there
first, Chantress, with all the pack at her heels.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dinny Johnny won. It was a very close thing between him and Chantress,
and that good hound's valuable nose came near being caught as the gates
clanged together, but Dinny Johnny was in first. Then he flung himself
at the pack, whipping, slashing, and swearing like a madman, as indeed
he was for the moment. He had often whipped for Mr. O'Grady, and the
hounds knew him, but without the solid abetting of the wall and the
gate, he would have had but a poor chance. As it was, he whipped them
back into the field up which they had run, and as he did so, "Owld Sta'"
came puffing up the hill, with about a dozen of the field hard at his
heels.

"Poison!" gasped Dinny Johnny, falling down at full length on the grass,
"the wood's poisoned!"

When they went back to look for "Matchbox" she was still lying in the
bohireen. Her bridle had vanished, and so had the pursuing countrymen.
Mary O'Grady's saddle was broken, and could never be used again, and no
more could "Matchbox," because she had broken her neck.

And so the hounds, whom she had saved, subsequently ate her; but one of
her little hoofs commemorates her name, and as Mr. Denny, with its
assistance, lights his after-dinner pipe, he often heaves an appropriate
sigh, and remarks: "Well, Mary, we'll never get the like of that pony
again".



"AS I WAS GOING TO BANDON FAIR"


The first glimpse was worthy the best traditions of an Irish horse-fair.
The train moved slowly across a bridge; beneath it lay the principal
street of Bandon, seething with horses, loud with voices, and as the
engine-driver, with the stern humour of his kind, let loose the usual
assortment of sounds, it seemed as though the roadway below boiled over.
Horses reared, plunged and stampeded, while high above the head of a
long-tailed chestnut a countryman floated forth into space, a vision, in
its brief perfectness, delightfully photographed on the retina.

From the moment of leaving the railway station the fair was all
pervading. It appeared that the whole district had turned horse dealer.
The cramped side pavements of the town failed to accommodate the
ceaseless promenade of those whose sole business lay in criticising the
companion promenade of horses in the narrow street. They haled horses
before them with the aplomb of a colonel of cavalry buying remounts.

"Hi! bay horse! Pull in here! Foxy mare! Hi, boy, bring up that foxy
mare!"

The ensuing comments, though mainly of a damaging nature, were
understood on both sides to be no more than conventional dismissals. The
bay horse and the foxy mare were re-absorbed in the stream; their
critics directed their attentions elsewhere with unquenched assiduity.

It is the truest, most changeless trait of Irish character, the desire
to stand well with the horse, to be his confidant, his physician, his
exponent. It is comparable to the inborn persuasion in the heart of
every man that he is a judge of wine.

The procession of horses in the long, narrow street makes the brain
swim. Hardly has the eye taken in the elderly and astute hunter with the
fired hocks, whose forelegs look best in action, when it is dazzled by
the career of a cart-horse, scourged to a mighty canter by a boy with a
rope's end, or it is horrified by the hair-breadth escape of a group of
hooded countrywomen from before the neighing charge of a two-year-old in
a halter and string. Yet these things are the mere preliminary to the
fair. At the end of the town a gap broken in a fence admits to a long
field on a hillside. The entrance is perilous, and before it is achieved
may involve more than one headlong flight to the safe summit of a
friendly wall, as the young horses protest, and whirl, and buck with the
usual fatuity of their kind. Once within the fair field there befal the
enticements of the green apple, of the dark-complexioned sweetmeat
temptingly denominated "Peggy's leg," of the "crackers"--that is, a
confection resembling dog biscuit sown with caraway seeds--and, above
all, of the "crubeens," which, being interpreted, means "pigs' feet,"
slightly salted, boiled, cold, wholly abominable. Here also is the
three-card trick, demonstrated by a man with the incongruous accent of
Whitechapel and a defiant eye, that even through the glaze of the second
stage of drunkenness held the audience and yet was 'ware of the
disposition of the nine of hearts. Here is the drinking booth, and here
sundry itinerant vendors of old clothes, and--of all improbable
commodities to be found at a horse-fair--wall-paper. Neither has much
success. The old-clothes woman casts down a heap of singularly repellant
rags before a disparaging customer; she beats them with her fists,
presumably to show their soundness in wind and limb: a cloud of
germ-laden dust arises.

"Arrah!" she says; "the divil himself wouldn't plaze ye in clothes."

The wall-paper man is not more fortunate. "Look at that for a nate
patthern!" he says ecstatically, "that'd paper a bed! Come now, ma'am,
wan an' thrippence!"

The would-be purchaser silently tests it with a wrinkled finger and
thumb, and shakes her head.

"Well, I declare to ye now, that's a grand paper. If ye papered a room
with that and put a hen in it she'd lay four eggs!" But not even the
consideration of its value as an æsthetic stimulant can compass the
sale of the one-and-threepenny wall-paper.

Down at this end of the fair field congregate the three-year-olds and
two-year-olds; they pierce the air with their infant squeals and neighs,
they stamp, and glare, and strike attitudes with absurd statuesqueness,
while their owners sit on a bank above them, playing them like fish on
the end of a long rope, and fabling forth their perfections with
tireless fancy. The perils of the way increase at every moment. In and
out among the restless heels the onlooker must steer his course, up into
the ampler space on the hill-top, where the horses stand in more open
order and a general view is possible.

Much may be learned at Bandon Fair of how the County Cork hunter is
arrived at, of the Lord Hastings colt out of a high-bred Victor mare; of
New Laund, of Speculation, of Whalebone, of the ancient and well-nigh
mythical Druid, whose name adds a lustre to any pedigree. These things
are matters far more real and serious than English history to every man
and boy in the fair field, whether he is concerned in practical
horse-dealing or not. Even the mere visitor is fired with the
acquisition of knowledge, and, in the intervals of saving his life,
casts a withering eye on hocks and forelegs, and cultivates the gloomy
silence that distinguishes the buyer.

It can hardly fail to attract the attention of the inquirer that, in the
highest walks of horsiness, the desire to appear horsey has been left
behind. These shining ones have passed beyond symbols of canes, of
gaiters, of straws in the mouth; it is as though they craved that
incognito which for them is for ever impossible. Bandon Fair was
privileged to have drawn two such into its shouting vortex. One wears a
simple suit of black serge, with trousers of a godly fulness; in it he
might fitly hand round the plate in church. His manner is almost
startlingly candid, his speech, what there is of it, is ungarnished with
stable slang, his face might belong to an imperfectly shaved archbishop.
Yesterday he bought twenty young horses; next week he will buy forty
more; next year he will place them in the English shires at prices never
heard of in Bandon, and, be it added, they will as a rule be worth the
money. Here is another noted judge of horseflesh, in knickerbocker
breeches that seem to have been made at home for some one else, in
leather gaiters of unostentatious roominess and rusticity. Though the
August day is innocent of all suggestion of rain, he carries instead of
a riding cane a matronly umbrella. When he rides a horse, and he rides
several with a singularly intimate and finished method, he hands the
umbrella to a reverential bystander; when the trial is over the umbrella
is reassumed. If anything were needed to accent its artless domesticity,
it would be the group of boys, horse copers in ambition, possibly in
achievement, who sit in a row under a fence, with their teeth grimly
clenched upon clay pipes, their eyes screwed up in perpetual and
ungenial observation. Their conversation is telegraphic, smileless,
esoteric, and punctuated with expectoration. If Phaeton and the horses
of the sun were to take a turn round the fair field these critics would
find little in them to commend. They are in the primary phase of a
life-long art; perhaps with time and exceptional favours of fortune it
may be given to them to learn the disarming mildness, the simplicity,
that, like a water-lily, is the perfected outcome of the deep.

[Illustration: A HIERARCH OF HORSE-DEALING.]

Before two o'clock the magnates of the fair had left it, taking with
them the cream of its contents, and in humbler people such a hunger
began to assert itself as came near bringing even crubeens and Peggy's
leg within the sphere of practical politics. While slowly struggling
through the swarming street the perfume of mutton chops stole
exquisitely forth from the door of one of the hotels, accompanied by the
sound of a subdued fusillade of soda-water corks; over the heads of
the filthy press of people round the entrance and the thirsty throng at
the bar might be seen a procession of gaitered legs going upstairs to
luncheon. It seemed an excellent idea. The air within was blue with
tobacco smoke, flushed henchwomen staggered to and fro with arms spread
wide across trays of whiskies and sodas, opening doors revealed rooms
full of men, mutton chops and mastication. There was wildness in the eye
of the attendant as she took the order for yet another luncheon. She
fled, with the assurance that it would be ready immediately, yet
subsequent events suggested that even while she spoke the sheep that was
to respond to that thirty-fifth order for mutton chops was browsing in
the pastures of Bandon.

For eyes that had last looked on food at 7 A.M., neither the view of the
street obtainable from the first floor parlour window, nor even the
contemplation of the remarkable sacred pictures that adorned its walls,
had the interest they might have held earlier in the day, and the dirty
cruet-stand on the dirtier tablecloth was endued with an almost hypnotic
fascination in its suggestion of coming sustenance. At the end of the
first hour a stupor verging on indifference had set in; it was far on in
the second when the dish of fried mutton chops, the hard potatoes, and
the tepid whiskies and sodas were flung upon the board. No preliminary
to a week's indigestion had been neglected, and a deserved success was
the result.

The business of the fair was still transacted at large throughout the
hotel. From behind the mound of mutton chops a buyer shoved a roll of
dirty one-pound notes round the potato dish, and after due haggling
received back one, according to the mystic Irish custom of "luck-penny".
On the sofa two farmers carried on a transaction in which the swap of a
colt, boot money, and luck-penny were blended into one trackless maze of
astuteness and arithmetic. On the wall above them a print in which
Ananias and Sapphira were the central figures gave a simple and suitable
finish to the scene.



THE ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY PRESS LIMITED.





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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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