Billeder på siden

twelve in extent (lying close inside the entrance), and greeted more senses than one of the incomer, with an intensity which it required no great fastidiousness to deprecate. The house itself, a square-roofed, lumpish-looking edifice, sadly out of repair, and destitute of even a solitary twig, or fir, to conceal its threadbare masonry; its line of red binding-tiles broken and blown away; its chimneys damaged and menacing; and its slated roof hospitably inviting, in divers apertures, the visitations of the winds and rain-all, together, presented as bleak and comfortless a spectacle as ever greeted even a provincial eye. Without detaining the adventurous youth any longer in his uncomfortable deshabille, we shall hasten to relieve the pain of our sympathizing reader, by informing him that Aylmer was not disappointed in his calculations on the services of old Ally Culhane, by whose assistance he was presently rid of his cumbersome habiliments, and introduced to the consolation of a well aired, well blanketted state bed, where he speedily lost all memory of his night's ramble, in a good, round, healthy, dreamless sleep.

The only immediately habitable rooms in the venerable mansion, were that in which its heritor at present slumbered, and the kitchen in which the aged Ally and her son had domiciliated since the house had been, in a great measure, abandoned to them by its original possessors. The others had been partly stript of their furniture and locked up, or appropriated to the Irish use of store-rooms and granaries for the produce of the adjacent acres, which were turned to the best possible account for the benefit of his ward, by Mr. Fitzmaurice, who seemed never happy, or even contented, unless when he was occupied in some way or other about the Aylmer property. Though he was a native of a country where more apologies are found for the shedding of human blood than would, if universally admitted, greatly further the interests of society; and although much of his life had passed amid scenes where homicide was familiar as the day-light, Cahill Fitzmaurice had, either from a natural quickness of feeling, or from the influence of that half-animal, halfchivalrous sense of moral honour, which is so often made to supply the place of system, of

principle, or of true religion in the minds of a neglected people, retained a tetchiness of spirit about what he was pleased to call his reputation, which would come with an ill grace enough from the lips of a smuggler of the present day. Notwithstanding his "honourable acquittal," too, by the county grand jury, of the horrible offence imputed to him, and the assurance of those his judges, that "he left his dungeon with as unstained a character as if he never had been called to it;" for speeches of this kind were among the specimens of cant in vogue then, as well as now,Aylmer felt convinced, and the conviction sunk deep into his soul, that suspicion was a shade of guilt, and that there was, in fact, no such thing as an "honourable acquittal" from a public accusation. The consequence of this feeling was, a total and marked alteration in the character of the man. His frankness-his hospitality- his broad-faced, laughing goodhumour,-all his social qualities were blasted, as if by a lightning shock. He was no longer to be seen at the fair or session; his steward being entrusted with an unlimited discretion, as to the fate of the flocks and droves which were trans

mitted to all places of public traffic. His farm was, in a great degree, neglected by him; and the only active business in which he still continued to take any thing like an active interest, was, as before alluded to, the improvement of his young ward's inheritance, in which he was vigorous and successful; having contrived, during the long period of the youth's minority, to amass for his future benefit a sum of money which might enable him, at the proper season, to take possession of his patrimony in a manner calculated to assure him of an influential station in his native county. His house and his board were still open to the traveller, and the welcome was not diminished either in its warmth or sincerity; but it came no longer from his own lips, -he never appeared among his guests-and was seldom visible even to an early acquaintance. His pride, in fact-his Irish pride-had been stabbed to the heart; he felt that it was in the power of any man who grudged him the fragment of reputation he still retained, to snatch it from him by a word-a look-a gesture. With this conviction full upon his own mind, he had, in the two or three efforts which he made imme

diately after his liberation, to regain his old place among his old friends, entered into their society with an almost morbid tremulousness of feeling a quickness to anticipate the intention of slight, which is alike the characteristic of the fiery and chivalrous, and of the weak and sensitive nature; and which, in various degrees, has been set down as the leading peculiarity of the veritable Milesian by all painters of national character, from the days of Captain Macmorris down to those of the knight of Blunderbuss Hall. The embarrassment which this feeling imparted to his own manner, naturally communicated itself to those whom he addressed, and the unfortunate Fitzmaurice, not possessed of sufficient philosophy to trace the effect to its real origin in his own demeanour, attributed it at once to the unquieted suspicions which his over-wrought susceptibility had led him to anticipate, and gave up the attempt at once in a paroxysm of despair. Thus it was that, with as kind, as generous, and as benevolent a heart as ever beat, Fitzmaurice found himself, in the vigour of his manhood, and in the full possession of all those qualities which had for a long series of

« ForrigeFortsæt »