by George Fitzmaurice
''Tis his praisin' that did it', said Jaymony in doleful tones. 'I mightn't be the way I am now, but for it-- that I can't put her out of my head mornin' or evenin'. I do be thinkin' of her even when I'm drivin' the spade through the ground, and, God knows! Lanty, I do drame of her regular'.
'Well now, that's 'mazin',' said Lanty Muldoon, screwing his mouth towards his left ear. 'I never heard tell of a man goin' wild about a girl through praisin'.'
''Tisn't exactly that, Lanty, but it riz my curiosity, you see. I was down in Mike Donoghue's garden diggin' out praties, a week after she come to him, and Peter rowls over me out in the day a bit. "Wel", sez I, after we were spakin' for a while, "how is your niece" sez I. "She's fine, thank you" sez he, that way. "She'll be company for you, Peter" sez I, "and indeed, you wanted it, your mother bein' so old and helpless, and she'll be handy to you. At the same time", sez I, "you did a great act of charity to take her in whin her aunt away in County Cork threw her out over the half-doore", sez I. At that Peter looked at me. "Jaymony", sez he, "I was niver so happy as now". "You aren't lonesome whatever", sez I. "Ah", sez he, catchin' me by the sleeve. "you don't the half of it. 'Tisn't alone havin' a wan to talk to, but I have an angel down from heaven" sez he'.
'That was the beggenin' of it', continued Jaymony sadly. 'The house bein' on the height, you know, at the other side of the spring an' facin' the garden, there wasn't a day for the remainder of the week, but I'd rise my head every now and thin to see if she'd come out in the doore. She never did, however, but Peter used to come hether to me every morning' and 'twas the same story with him, he couldn't lave her out of his mouth for a minnit. On the following Monday I was workin' there again, and I jest got a sight of her wance as she come out to the ind of the house. Of course, I couldn't get a good view of her, she bein' so far, but the very moment she seen me looking' away with her in again. "Yerra", sez Peter--he was with me "she's the timidest little girl I ever see; she does be ashamed of her life of the lads". He axed me to turn in for a smoke after working', only somehow I felt shy-like, and I didn't. But I began to be all curiosity, and I'd give a sight to get a good peep into her face. 'Twas on the next Sunday, and I was walkin' down the road, when I seen herself and Peter walkin' towards me, comin' from first Mass. I didn't know why, but all of a sudden my heart begins to flutter and whin we met for the first time, then it fluttered more. I fell dead in love with her that minnit, Lanty, and I have not a moment's paice ever since'.
'Sure isn't it a pleasant thing to be in love, Jaymony? Thirty years ago when I was courting' Ma--'
'Yes', interrupted Jaymony bitterly, 'but my courtin' is the quare courtin' . I never yet was able to have a chat with her by herself, he keeps sich a watch over her. And, of course, I may as well be cryin' for the moon as to think I can ever get her'.
'And why not?' said Lanty. 'What has she? Nothin'. But Peter, I suppose, will give her up some time or another the house and the three-quarters of ground. Well, who will she ever get as good as you, a splendid airner, and havin' three heifers that will make twenty pounds aisily. You'd get better than her, Jaymony'.
'Ah, if Peter did not think so much of her! All the world knows she's a complate saint in his eyes; and 'tis no wonder, for she's more parfect than a princess--a pure little dove, and the lovely eyes meltin' out of her. Oh, Lanty, 'tis out of my mind I'll go, and that's the whole of it, if you don't do something for me'.
'Yes. Sure yourself and Peter are related, and as fond as brothers. You could say a thing when another wan couldn't. If you may say to him what you are jest after saying to me about them heifers, and that I was sich a dacent , hard-working man;--you could bring it down in your way, and come around him, and palaver him, and place things this way and that way in his eyes--I'd do a service for you hereafter'.
Lanty's jaw dropped. He appeared quite taken aback.
'As for the service', he replied at length, 'you did it before whin you lint me that three-pound note. But at the same time this is a very timorous business. Peter is an obstinate man in some things, and 'tis no joke to face him about it, and the way he's dotin' down on her'.
'You're givin' me the refuse, then, Lanty Muldoon?'
'Och, no Jaymony Macnamara', replied the other quickly, remembering that he still owed most of the three pounds. 'I wouldn't refuse you for my weight. If you like, as I am taking a stroll that way, I'll mintion it to him to-night'.
'The Lord reward ye!' cried the young man, grasping him by the hand. 'Though I feel all in a trimble, knowin' the small chance there's for me'.
Jaymony looked up with pale, excited face as Lanty crossed the threshold on the following evening.
'You needn't tell me', he cried hoarsely; 'I know by you. He only ran for the pike for you last night, of course, when you gave him the hint'.
'Take it aisy', replied Mr. Muldoon in a complacent tone, 'and give me time. But you had better throw off the old duds and settle yourself up nice and tidy'.
'You don't mane it, Lanty; 'tis only hum--'
'I only mane that we are to go down there to-night'.
'To go down there!' cried Jaymony, almost fainting with joy.
'Wheest, man', shouted the other, giving him a shake; ''Twill be time for you to go wild with delight when ye have a right to. Wan would you think the contract was finished altogither, and the matchmakin' not even cominced yet'.
'But to go down there!' shouted Jaymony.
'Anamon doul! Weren't you in the house tin times since she come, and where's the wonder now?'
'Isn't it matchmakin', then?' queried the swain in a tone of utter disappointment.
'Course it is; but that's all that's in it yet. I did no beating about the bush but mentioned your wish out plain. I can tell ye that for a minnit he turned as red as a turkey-cock, and I near made for the doore. However, he cooled off, but not a word did he say till Onnie comes in, and he pulls her aside and whispers. Then he moves hether to me, and says, bitter: "You can bring him here to-morra night if he likes;" and not another word come from him. But I suppose Onnie has the grah for you'.
'Onnie!--Oh, Lanty!' and Jaymony's eyes swam.
Mr. Muldoon was slightly disgusted.
'I'll wait abroad be the ditch for ye', he said curtly, arising from his chair. 'And, mind, don't be long dressin' yerself'.
'Now', said Lanty afterwards, as they strolled along in the direction of Peter M'Assy's dwelling, 'you must try and compose your faytures, and not be so fidgety. It would be no way to face in the people for matchmakin' with a countenance a foot in length, and it is gettin' whiter and whiter every instant by you'.
'I'm gettin' nervous somehow, in spite of meself'.
Muldoon gave his shoulders an expressive shrug, and there was silence between them until they reached within a few yards of the house, when Jaymony all of a sudden came to a standstill.
'What's the matter with ye?' cried Lanty, with unconcealed impatience and anger.
'I'm in dread', he answered huskily. 'I'm 'shamed of Onnie and in dread of Peter'.
'Let us go back again, thin', said his companion, with a sardonic grin.
That settled Jaymony, though it was with no determined strides he followed Lanty into the cabin.
He wasn't at his ease till he found himself on a chair at the right-hand side of the hearth, between Onnie and her uncle, the deep frown on the latter's forehead betraying the fact that the present movement on the part of Jaymony was anything but pleasing to him. Beyond a few commonplace remarks, there was silence for about ten minutes or so, when Peter, getting off his stool, commenced to rummage about the house. Presently, from somewhere or another, he pulled out a pint bottle of whiskey; then, taking three breakfast cups from the third shelf of the dresser, he poured into them, in equal proportions, most of the contents of the bottle. Jaymony, after disposing of his liquor, got a sudden and wonderful access of courage, with the consequence that he began to tickle Onnie, who gave a weak scream and told him to 'behave' several times--which advise he didn't take, however. But the 'dhrop' having unloosened Peter's tongue, business commenced immediately.
'Well, what are ye going to do?' he said abruptly, turning to Lanty.
'Och, it ought to be a simple matter. There are them three heifers of his; they'll make a load at the Big Fair'.
'What do ye mane by that, eh?'
Lanty opened his eyes wide
'What do I mane by it?' he muttered, looking perplexed.
'Isn't my language simple enough, Lanty Muldoon'
'Glory, Peter! won't their value be enough to bring him here? His sister won't be expictin' so much in their own three-quarters, I'm thinkin'.'
'If that's what he's at there'll be no marryin',' said Peter, in a loud, decisive voice, as he slapped his knee.
'Why? How? What?' cried Jaymony, twisting sharply around from his contemplation of Onnie.
'I'm sayin' that with them conditions you need's have come here. My poor wife--God rest her sowl--as my mother, only for she bein' gone up to bed, could tell you, on her dyin' bed made me promise niver to lave this place, nor niver to give it up to anywan durin' my lifetime. I wish she didn't make that requisht , for I needn't mind my little darlin' niece gettin' married thin, as the man could come here and we'd all live togither; but in wan sinse I'm glad he's axin' it, for now, Onnie, you'll have to remain with us for another while'.
'Indeed, Uncle Peter, if ye'd like, I'd remain with yourself and my grand'mother always', cooed Onnie.
'Why, I'm axin' nothin',' uttered Jaymony, in consternation, and giving an indignant glance at Lanty. 'I'm not axin' a cross, nor a ha'porth. Nor a perch, nor a cint, Peter M'Assy, nor had no notion, nayther'.
'You'll take her with you, thin, minus of everything but the clothes on her back?'
'I'd take her if she hadn't a shoe to her foot, and I'd put thim on her'.
'But glory be to God, Jaymony!' ejaculated Lanty. 'What'll your sister do?'
'My sister to the divil', he replied, with a snap. 'As I said, Peter, I want nothing but herself, and that's enough'.
'It lies altogether with Onnie, so', said Peter sadly; 'she can decide the matter. If you like to get married asthore, 'tisn't me that'll stop ye'.
'I'd like to marry Jaymony, uncle, he's so nice. But I'll come down to see you three times a day'.
''Tis I that'll suffer anyhow', said Lanty, gloomily, half to himself. 'His sister'll niver forgive me, sayin' 'tis all my fault, and I'll be in hot water for a while. If I knew this was to be his canter, I wouldn't have put a finger in it for half the county, I--'
'Shut up', interrupted Jaymony, in a threatening voice.
Peter had poured the remainder of the spirits into the cups. His face had a somber shade over it, and even when he was handing them the drink, he gave a black look at both Jaymony and Lanty.
'Murder', the former whispered into his sweetheart's ear--'he's turning terrible. We'll get it settled as soon as we can, or he might change his mind. I'll go for the licence to-morrow, and we'll be married on Saturday, Onnie, will we?'
'Yes', she answered, and just then Muldoon stood up to go.
"I'll by your inimy for ever more', said Peter as he wished him goodnight.
'I'm afeerd I'll have more than one inimy out of it', replied Lanty, with a sigh; 'but sure 'twas the price of me to take part in such quare matchmakin'.'
Jaymony was true to his word with regard to procuring the licence without delay, and some days afterwards--how long they seemed to Jaymony!--the P. P. said the few solemn words that made Onnie his very, very own.
Anticipations were pleasant in his neighbourhood, for he had promised his well-wishers a great night, while many of those who were not honoured with an invitation, consoled themselves with the resolve to go to the house as 'suppers'.
Lanty, however, was full of misgivings notwithstanding; he had seen the miserable Peter, instead of going away to Jaymony's domicile with the rest of the wedding party--Peter's mother had been taken there early in the day--leave the car he was in on the return journey and turn into the fields towards his own lonely home. Muldoon himself, who had not gone to the chapel, and did not intend to join in the fun 'till night, could not take his eyes off his old friend 'till he disappeared behind the blackthorn fence at the bottom of the field to the left side of the road. Then he sighed deeply, yea, even letting down a solitary tear for the trouble that had come on the poor man, at the same time cursing that three-pound note that was the cause of his having a hand in it.
A half-an-hour afterwards, Mrs. Muldoon, shading her eyes against the western sun with her right hand, saw her husband taking his course along through the fields--but not in the direction of Jaymony's.
'Well, if Lanty isn't the best man!' she murmured in loving tones. 'The cratur's heart is bleeding about Peter, and his mind isn't aisy 'till he sees him--the cratur!'
He was indeed going to console with the man he had wounded, though he doubted his reception by that individual. When he came to Peter's door he paused before he put his hand to raise the latch, for there was a loud tatterara going on within, whilst the sound of a lively tune hummed by a hoarse voice also fell on his ears. With some feeling of perturbation, at last he opened the door, but he was almost struck dumb when he saw that 'twas Peter practicing his steps on the hearth-flag.
The thought struck him with a sudden horror that the man opposite him had surely gone off his head, and he was about to make an instant retreat when the dancer's glittering eye, meeting his own, screwed him to the floor, metaphorically speaking.
'Come along', shouted Peter, 'and dance opposite me. I'll whistle'.
More dead than alive, Lanty mechanically obeyed him, and the wild hornpipe was kept up between them for upwards of three-quarters of an hour ere the two evidently-demented men at last gave the word to stop.
Then Muldoon, with streams of perspiration running from every pore, half fell on a sack filled with hay that was lying nearby, his horrified gaze meanwhile lighting on the hatchet that was standing upright against the stool, and within a half-foot of Peter's right hand.
'Turil-uril-loo, Lanty!' suddenly yelled the latter, as having scarce rested himself for two seconds he cut a few extraordinary capers around the room, and then, seating himself on a chair near the table he went into yells of laughter.
'Oh, for the love of God, Peter', at length screamed Lanty, his eyes almost hopping out of his head, don't kill me--don't--'
'Kill ye!--ha, ha, ha! Och, Lanty--ho, ho, ho! Poor Jaymony, poor Jaymony! And sweet little Onnie!' And here, Peter, tumbling off his seat, rolled round and round the floor in a terrific attack of risibility.
'A rare little saint', he continued, when, having recovered his composure, he brought himself to a sitting position. 'A little dove, a little thrish, a little pidgeon. As soft as butther, she wouldn't melt in your mouth, barrin' week-days and Sundays, and thin she was pison, pison, pison'.
Lanty jumped off the sack.
'Peter!' he shouted, terror giving place to utter amazement.
'Didn't I tell ye?' replied the other with a chuckle. 'She was pison, rale pison; every inch of her was pison. She was wan lump of gall and wormwood and vinegar mixed, and in another month I'd be in my grave from her tongue; and my poor ould mother'll niver be the betther of her. 'Twas Providence sint Softy this way, for she'd niver go 'less she'd get into a snug spot. Well, there's nothin' like praisin'; but all the praisin' in the world won't praise her away from Jaymony. Ha, ha, ha!'
But 'twas Lanty himself that was rolling around the floor now.