The O'Conors of Castle Conor
by Anthony Trollope
I shall never forget my first introduction to country life in
Ireland, my first day's hunting there, or the manner in which I
passed the evening afterwards. Nor shall I ever cease to be grateful
for the hospitality which I received from the O'Conors of Castle
Conor. My acquaintance with the family was first made in the
following manner. But before I begin my story, let me inform my
reader that my name is Archibald Green.
I had been for a fortnight in Dublin, and was about to proceed into
county Mayo on business which would occupy me there for some weeks.
My head-quarters would, I found, be at the town of Ballyglass; and I
soon learned that Ballyglass was not a place in which I should find
hotel accommodation of a luxurious kind, or much congenial society
indigenous to the place itself.
"But you are a hunting man, you say," said old Sir P- C-; "and in
that case you will soon know Tom O'Conor. Tom won't let you be dull.
I'd write you a letter to Tom, only he'll certainly make you out
without my taking the trouble."
I did think at the time that the old baronet might have written the
letter for me, as he had been a friend of my father's in former days;
but he did not, and I started for Ballyglass with no other
introduction to any one in the county than that contained in Sir P-'s
promise that I should soon know Mr. Thomas O'Conor.
I had already provided myself with a horse, groom, saddle and bridle,
and these I sent down, en avant, that the Ballyglassians might know
that I was somebody. Perhaps, before I arrived Tom O'Conor might
learn that a hunting man was coming into the neighbourhood, and I
might find at the inn a polite note intimating that a bed was at my
service at Castle Conor. I had heard so much of the free hospitality
of the Irish gentry as to imagine that such a thing might be
But I found nothing of the kind. Hunting gentlemen in those days
were very common in county Mayo, and one horse was no great evidence
of a man's standing in the world. Men there as I learnt afterwards,
are sought for themselves quite as much as they are elsewhere; and
though my groom's top-boots were neat, and my horse a very tidy
animal, my entry into Ballyglass created no sensation whatever.
In about four days after my arrival, when I was already infinitely
disgusted with the little Pot-house in which I was forced to stay,
and had made up my mind that the people in county Mayo were a
churlish set, I sent my horse on to a meet of the fox-hounds, and
followed after myself on an open car.
No one but an erratic fox-hunter such as I am,a fox-hunter, I mean,
whose lot it has been to wander about from one pack of hounds to
another,can understand the melancholy feeling which a man has when
he first intrudes himself, unknown by any one, among an entirely new
set of sportsmen. When a stranger falls thus as it were out of the
moon into a hunt, it is impossible that men should not stare at him
and ask who he is. And it is so disagreeable to be stared at, and to
have such questions asked! This feeling does not come upon a man in
Leicestershire or Gloucestershire where the numbers are large, and a
stranger or two will always be overlooked, but in small hunting
fields it is so painful that a man has to pluck up much courage
before he encounters it.
We met on the morning in question at Bingham's Grove. There were not
above twelve or fifteen men out, all of whom, or nearly all were
cousins to each other. They seemed to be all Toms, and Pats, and
Larrys, and Micks. I was done up very knowingly in pink, and thought
that I looked quite the thing, but for two or three hours nobody
I had my eyes about me, however, and soon found out which of them was
Tom O'Conor. He was a fine-looking fellow, thin and tall, but not
largely made, with a piercing gray eye, and a beautiful voice for
speaking to a hound. He had two sons there also, short, slight
fellows, but exquisite horsemen. I already felt that I had a kind of
acquaintance with the father, but I hardly knew on what ground to put
in my claim.
We had no sport early in the morning. It was a cold bleak February
day, with occasional storms of sleet. We rode from cover to cover,
but all in vain. "I am sorry, sir, that we are to have such a bad
day, as you are a stranger here," said one gentleman to me. This was
Jack O'Conor, Tom's eldest son, my bosom friend for many a year
after. Poor Jack! I fear that the Encumbered Estates Court sent him
altogether adrift upon the world.
"We may still have a run from Poulnaroe, if the gentleman chooses to
come on," said a voice coming from behind with a sharp trot. It was
"Wherever the hounds go, I'll follow," said I.
"Then come on to Poulnaroe," said Mr. O'Conor. I trotted on quickly
by his side, and before we reached the cover had managed to slip in
something about Sir P. C.
"What the deuce!" said he. "What! a friend of Sir P-'s? Why the
deuce didn't you tell me so? What are you doing down here? Where
are you staying?" &c. &c. &c.
At Poulnaroe we found a fox, but before we did so Mr. O' Conor had
asked me over to Castle Conor. And this he did in such a way that
there was no possibility of refusing himor, I should rather say, of
disobeying him. For his invitation came quite in the tone of a
"You'll come to us of course when the day is overand let me see;
we're near Ballyglass now, but the run will be right away in our
direction. Just send word for them to send your things to Castle
"But they're all about, and unpacked," said I.
"Never mind. Write a note and say what you want now, and go and get
the rest to-morrow yourself. Here, Patsey!Patsey! run into
Ballyglass for this gentleman at once. Now don't be long, for the
chances are we shall find here." And then, after giving some further
hurried instructions he left me to write a line in pencil to the
innkeeper's wife on the back of a ditch.
This I accordingly did. "Send my small portmanteau," I said, "and
all my black dress clothes, and shirts, and socks, and all that, and
above all my dressing things which are on the little table, and the
satin neck-handkerchief, and whatever you do, mind you send my
PUMPS;" and I underscored the latter word; for Jack O'Conor, when his
father left me, went on pressing the invitation. "My sisters are
going to get up a dance," said he; "and if you are fond of that kind
of things perhaps we can amuse you." Now in those days I was very
fond of dancingand very fond of young ladies too, and therefore
glad enough to learn that Tom O'Conor had daughters as well as sons.
On this account I was very particular in underscoring the word pumps.
"And hurry, you young divil," Jack O'Conor said to Patsey.
"I have told him to take the portmanteau over on a car," said I.
"All right; then you'll find it there on our arrival."
We had an excellent run, in which I may make bold to say that I did
not acquit myself badly. I stuck very close to the hounds, as did
the whole of the O'Conor brood; and when the fellow contrived to
earth himself, as he did, I received those compliments on my horse,
which is the most approved praise which one fox-hunter ever gives to
"We'll buy that fellow of you before we let you go," said Peter, the
"I advise you to look sharp after your money if you sell him to my
brother," said Jack.
And then we trotted slowly off to Castle Conor, which, however, was
by no means near to us. "We have ten miles to go;good Irish
miles," said the father. "I don't know that I ever remember a fox
from Poulnaroe taking that line before."
"He wasn't a Poulnaroe fox," said Peter.
"I don't know that;" said Jack; and then they debated that question
Our horses were very tired, and it was late before we reached Mr.
O'Conor's house. That getting home from hunting with a thoroughly
weary animal, who has no longer sympathy or example to carry him on,
is very tedious work. In the present instance I had company with me;
but when a man is alone, when his horse toes at every ten steps, when
the night is dark and the rain pouring, and there are yet eight miles
of road to be conquered,at such time a man is almost apt to swear
that he will give up hunting.
At last we were in the Castle Conor stable yard;for we had
approached the house by some back way; and as we entered the house by
a door leading through a wilderness of back passages, Mr. O'Conor
said out loud, "Now, boys, remember I sit down to dinner in twenty
minutes." And then turning expressly to me, he laid his hand kindly
upon my shoulder and said, "I hope you will make yourself quite at
home at Castle Conor, and whatever you do, don't keep us waiting for
dinner. You can dress in twenty minutes, I suppose?"
"In ten!" said I, glibly.
"That's well. Jack and Peter will show you your room," and so he
turned away and left us.
My two young friends made their way into the great hall, and thence
into the drawing-room, and I followed them. We were all dressed in
pink, and had waded deep through bog and mud. I did not exactly know
whither I was being led in this guise, but I soon found myself in the
presence of two young ladies, and of a girl about thirteen years of
"My sisters," said Jack, introducing me very laconically; "Miss
O'Conor, Miss Kate O'Conor, Miss Tizzy O'Conor."
"My name is not Tizzy," said the younger; "it's Eliza. How do you
do, sir? I hope you had a fine hunt! Was papa well up, Jack?"
Jack did not condescend to answer this question, but asked one of the
elder girls whether anything had come, and whether a room had been
made ready for me.
"Oh yes!" said Miss O'Conor; "they came, I know, for I saw them
brought into the house; and I hope Mr. Green will find everything
comfortable." As she said this I thought I saw a slight smile steal
across her remarkably pretty mouth.
They were both exceedingly pretty girls. Fanny the elder wore long
glossy curls,for I write, oh reader, of bygone days, as long ago as
that, when ladies wore curls if it pleased them so to do, and
gentlemen danced in pumps, with black handkerchiefs round their
necks,yes, long black, or nearly black silken curls; and then she
had such eyes;I never knew whether they were most wicked or most
bright; and her face was all dimples, and each dimple was laden with
laughter and laden with love. Kate was probably the prettier girl of
the two, but on the whole not so attractive. She was fairer than her
sister, and wore her hair in braids; and was also somewhat more
demure in her manner.
In spite of the special injunctions of Mr. O'Conor senior, it was
impossible not to loiter for five minutes over the drawing-room fire
talking to these hourismore especially as I seemed to know them
intimately by intuition before half of the five minutes was over.
They were so easy, so pretty, so graceful, so kind, they seemed to
take it so much as a matter of course that I should stand there
talking in my red coat and muddy boots.
"Well; do go and dress yourselves," at last said Fanny, pretending to
speak to her brothers but looking more especially a me. "You know
how mad papa will be. And remember Mr. Green, we expect great things
from your dancing to-night. Your coming just at this time is such a
Godsend." And again that soupcon of a smile passed over her face.
I hurried up to my room, Peter and Jack coming with me to the door.
"Is everything right?" said Peter, looking among the towels and
water-jugs. "They've given you a decent fire for a wonder," said
Jack, stirring up the red hot turf which blazed in the grate. "All
right as a trivet," said I. "And look alive like a good fellow,"
said Jack. We had scowled at each other in the morning as very young
men do when they are strangers; and now, after a few hours, we were
I immediately turned to my work, and was gratified to find that all
my things were laid out ready for dressing; my portmanteau had of
course come open, as my keys were in my pocket, and therefore some of
the excellent servants of the house had been able to save me all the
trouble of unpacking. There was my shirt hanging before the fire; my
black clothes were spread upon the bed, my socks and collar and
handkerchief beside them; my brushes were on the toilet table, and
everything prepared exactly as though my own man had been there. How
I immediately went to work at getting off my spurs and boots, and
then proceeded to loosen the buttons at my knees. In doing this I
sat down in the arm-chair which had been drawn up for me, opposite
the fire. But what was the object on which my eyes then fell;the
objects I should rather say!
Immediately in front of my chair was placed, just ready for may feet,
an enormous pair of shooting-bootshalf-boots made to lace up round
the ankles, with thick double leather soles, and each bearing half a
stone of iron in the shape of nails and heel-pieces. I had
superintended the making of these shoes in Burlington Arcade with the
greatest diligence. I was never a good shot; and, like some other
sportsmen, intended to make up for my deficiency in performance by
the excellence of my shooting apparel. "Those nails are not large
enough," I had said; "nor nearly large enough." But when the boots
came home they struck even me as being too heavy, too metalsome.
"He, he, he," laughed the boot boy as he turned them up for me to
look at. It may therefore be imagined of what nature were the
articles which were thus set out for the evening's dancing.
And then the way in which they were placed! When I saw this the
conviction flew across my mind like a flash of lightning that the
preparation had been made under other eyes than those of the servant.
The heavy big boots were placed so prettily before the chair, and the
strings of each were made to dangle down at the sides, as though just
ready for tying! They seemed to say, the boots did, "Now, make
haste. We at any rate are readyyou cannot say that you were kept
waiting for us." No mere servant's hand had ever enabled a pair of
boots to laugh at one so completely.
But what was I to do? I rushed at the small portmanteau, thinking
that my pumps also might be there. The woman surely could not have
been such a fool as to send me those tons of iron for my evening
wear! But, alas, alas! no pumps were there. There was nothing else
in the way of covering for my feet; not even a pair of slippers.
And now what was I to do? The absolute magnitude of my misfortune
only loomed upon me by degrees. The twenty minutes allowed by that
stern old paterfamilias were already gone and I had done nothing
towards dressing. And indeed it was impossible that I should do
anything that would be of avail. I could not go down to dinner in my
stocking feet, nor could I put on my black dress trousers, over a
pair of mud-painted top-boots. As for those iron-soled horrors;
and then I gave one of them a kick with the side of my bare foot
which sent it half way under the bed.
But what was I to do? I began washing myself and brushing my hair
with this horrid weight upon my mind. My first plan was to go to
bed, and send down word that I had been taken suddenly ill in the
stomach; then to rise early in the morning and get away unobserved.
But by such a course of action I should lose all chance of any
further acquaintance with those pretty girls! That they were already
aware of the extent of my predicament, and were now enjoying itof
that I was quite sure.
What if I boldly put on the shooting-boots, and clattered down to
dinner in them? What if I took the bull by the horns, and made,
myself, the most of the joke? This might be very well for the
dinner, but it would be a bad joke for me when the hour for dancing
came. And, alas! I felt that I lacked the courage. It is not every
man that can walk down to dinner, in a strange house full of ladies,
wearing such boots as those I have described.
Should I not attempt to borrow a pair? This, all the world will say,
should have been my first idea. But I have not yet mentioned that I
am myself a large-boned man, and that my feet are especially well
developed. I had never for a moment entertained a hope that I should
find any one in that house whose boot I could wear. But at last I
rang the bell. I would send for Jack, and if everything failed, I
would communicate my grief to him.
I had to ring twice before anybody came. The servants, I well knew,
were putting the dinner on the table. At last a man entered the
room, dressed in rather shabby black, whom I afterwards learned to be
"What is your name, my friend?" said I, determined to make an ally of
"My name? Why Larry sure, yer honer. And the masther is out of his
sinses in a hurry, becase yer honer don't come down."
"Is he though? Well now, Larry; tell me this; which of all the
gentlemen in the house has got the largest foot?"
"Is it the largest foot, yer honer?" said Larry, altogether surprised
by my question.
"Yes; the largest foot," and then I proceeded to explain to him my
misfortune. He took up first my top-boot, and then the shooting-
bootin looking at which he gazed with wonder at the nails;and
then he glanced at my feet, measuring them with his eye; and after
this he pronounced his opinion.
"Yer honer couldn't wear a morsel of leather belonging to ere a one
of 'em, young or ould. There niver was a foot like that yet among
"But are there no strangers staying here?"
"There's three or four on 'em come in to dinner; but they'll be
wanting their own boots I'm thinking. And there's young Misther
Dillon; he's come to stay. But Lord love you" and he again looked
at the enormous extent which lay between the heel and the toe of the
shooting apparatus which he still held in his hand. "I niver see
such a foot as that in the whole barony," he said, "barring my own."
Now Larry was a large man, much larger altogether than myself, and as
he said this I looked down involuntarily at his feet; or rather at
his foot, for as he stood I could only see one. And then a sudden
hope filled my heart. On that foot there glittered a shoenot
indeed such as were my own which were now resting ingloriously at
Ballyglass while they were so sorely needed at Castle Conor; but one
which I could wear before ladies, without shameand in my present
frame of mind with infinite contentment.
"Let me look at that one of your own," said I to the man, as though
it were merely a subject for experimental inquiry. Larry, accustomed
to obedience, took off the shoe and handed it to me.
My own foot was immediately in it, and I found that it fitted me like
"And now the other," said Inot smiling, for a smile would have put
him on his guard; but somewhat sternly, so that that habit of
obedience should not desert him at this perilous moment. And then I
stretched out my hand.
"But yer honer can't keep 'em, you know," said he. "I haven't the
ghost of another shoe to my feet." But I only looked more sternly
than before, and still held out my hand. Custom prevailed. Larry
stooped down slowly, looking at me the while, and pulling off the
other slipper handed it to me with much hesitation. Alas! as I put
it to my foot I found that it was old, and worn, and irredeemably
down at heel;that it was in fact no counterpart at all to that
other one which was to do duty as its fellow. But nevertheless I put
my foot into it, and felt that a descent to the drawing-room was now
"But yer honer will give 'em back to a poor man?" said Larry almost
crying. "The masther's mad this minute becase the dinner's not up.
Glory to God, only listhen to that!" And as he spoke a tremendous
peal rang out from some bell down stairs that had evidently been
shaken by an angry hand.
"Larry," said Iand I endeavoured to assume a look of very grave
importance as I spoke"I look to you to assist me in this matter."
"Ochwirra sthrue then, and will you let me go? just listhen to
that," and another angry peal rang out, loud and repeated.
"If you do as I ask you," I continued, "you shall be well rewarded.
Look here; look at these boots," and I held up the shooting-shoes new
from Burlington Arcade. "They cost thirty shillingsthirty
shillings! and I will give them to you for the loan of this pair of
"They'd be no use at all to me, yer honer; not the laist use in
"You could do with them very well for to-night, and then you could
sell them. And here are ten shillings besides," and I held out half
a sovereign which the poor fellow took into his hand.
I waited no further parley but immediately walked out of the room.
With one foot I was sufficiently pleased. As regarded that I felt
that I had overcome my difficulty. But the other was not so
satisfactory. Whenever I attempted to lift it from the ground the
horrid slipper would fall off, or only just hang by the toe. As for
dancing, that would be out of the question.
"Och, murther, murther," sang out Larry, as he heard me going down
stairs. "What will I do at all? Tare and 'ounds; there, he's at it
agin, as mad as blazes." This last exclamation had reference to
another peal which was evidently the work of the master's hand.
I confess I was not quite comfortable as I walked down stairs. In
the first place I was nearly half an hour late, and I knew from the
vigour of the peals that had sounded that my slowness had already
been made the subject of strong remarks. And then my left shoe went
flop, flop, on every alternate step of the stairs. By no exertion of
my foot in the drawing up of my toe could I induce it to remain
permanently fixed upon my foot. But over and above and worse than
all this was the conviction strong upon my mind that I should become
a subject of merriment to the girls as soon as I entered the room.
They would understand the cause of my distress, and probably at this
moment were expecting to hear me clatter through the stone hall with
those odious metal boots.
However, I hurried down and entered the drawing-room, determined to
keep my position near the door, so that I might have as little as
possible to do on entering and as little as possible in going out.
But I had other difficulties in store for me. I had not as yet been
introduced to Mrs. O'Conor; nor to Miss O'Conor, the squire's
"Upon my word I thought you were never coming," said Mr. O'Conor as
soon as he saw me. "It is just one hour since we entered the house.
Jack, I wish you would find out what has come to that fellow Larry,"
and again he rang the bell. He was too angry, or it might be too
impatient to go through the ceremony of introducing me to anybody.
I saw that the two girls looked at me very sharply, but I stood at
the back of an arm-chair so that no one could see my feet. But that
little imp Tizzy walked round deliberately, looked at my heels, and
then walked back again. It was clear that she was in the secret.
There were eight or ten people in the room, but I was too much
fluttered to notice well who they were.
"Mamma," said Miss O'Conor, "let me introduce Mr. Green to you."
It luckily happened that Mrs. O'Conor was on the same side of the
fire as myself, and I was able to take the hand which she offered me
without coming round into the middle of the circle. Mrs. O'Conor was
a little woman, apparently not of much importance in the world, but,
if one might judge from first appearance, very good-natured.
"And my aunt Die, Mr. Green," said Kate, pointing to a very straight-
backed, grim-looking lady, who occupied a corner of a sofa, on the
opposite side of the hearth. I knew that politeness required that I
should walk across the room and make acquaintance with her. But
under the existing circumstances how was I to obey the dictates of
politeness? I was determined therefore to stand my ground, and
merely bowed across the room at Miss O'Conor. In so doing I made an
enemy who never deserted me during the whole of my intercourse with
the family. But for her, who knows who might have been sitting
opposite to me as I now write?
"Upon my word, Mr. Green, the ladies will expect much from an Adonis
who takes so long over his toilet," said Tom O'Conor in that cruel
tone of banter which he knew so well how to use.
"You forget, father, that men in London can't jump in and out of
their clothes as quick as we wild Irishmen," said Jack.
"Mr. Green knows that we expect a great deal from him this evening.
I hope you polk well, Mr. Green," said Kate.
I muttered something about never dancing, but I knew that that which
I said was inaudible.
"I don't think Mr. Green will dance," said Tizzy; "at least not
much." The impudence of that child was, I think, unparalleled by any
that I have ever witnessed.
"But in the name of all that's holy, why don't we have dinner?" And
Mr. O'Conor thundered at the door. "Larry, Larry, Larry!" he
"Yes, yer honer, it'll be all right in two seconds," answered Larry,
from some bottomless abyss. "Tare an' ages; what'll I do at all," I
heard him continuing, as he made his way into the hall. Oh what a
clatter he made upon the pavement,for it was all stone! And how
the drops of perspiration stood upon my brow as I listened to him!
And then there was a pause, for the man had gone into the dining-
room. I could see now that Mr. O'Conor was becoming very angry, and
Jack the eldest sonoh, how often he and I have laughed over all
this sinceleft the drawing-room for the second time. Immediately
afterwards Larry's footsteps were again heard, hurrying across the
hall, and then there was a great slither, and an exclamation, and the
noise of a falland I could plainly hear poor Larry's head strike
against the stone floor.
"Ochone, ochone!" he cried at the top of his voice"I'm murthered
with 'em now intirely; and d 'em for bootsSt. Peter be good to
There was a general rush into the hall, and I was carried with the
stream. The poor fellow who had broken his head would be sure to
tell how I had robbed him of his shoes. The coachman was already
helping him up, and Peter good-naturedly lent a hand.
"What on earth is the matter?" said Mr. O'Conor.
"He must be tipsy," whispered Miss O'Conor, the maiden sister.
"I aint tipsy at all thin," said Larry, getting up and rubbing the
back of his head, and sundry other parts of his body. "Tipsy
indeed!" And then he added when he was quite upright, "The dinner is
And he bore it all without telling! "I'll give that fellow a guinea
to-morrow morning," said I to myself"if it's the last that I have
in the world."
I shall never forget the countenance of the Miss O'Conors as Larry
scrambled up cursing the unfortunate boots"What on earth has he got
on?" said Mr. O'Conor.
"Sorrow take 'em for shoes," ejaculated Larry. But his spirit was
good and he said not a word to betray me.
We all then went in to dinner how we best could. It was useless for
us to go back into the drawing-room, that each might seek his own
partner. Mr. O'Conor "the masther," not caring much for the girls
who were around him, and being already half beside himself with the
confusion and delay, led the way by himself. I as a stranger should
have given my arm to Mrs. O'Conor; but as it was I took her eldest
daughter instead, and contrived to shuffle along into the dining-room
without exciting much attention, and when there I found myself
happily placed between Kate and Fanny.
"I never knew anything so awkward," said Fanny; "I declare I can't
conceive what has come to our old servant Larry. He's generally the
most precise person in the world, and now he is nearly an hour late
and then he tumbles down in the hall."
"I am afraid I am responsible for the delay," said I.
"But not for the tumble I suppose," said Kate from the other side. I
felt that I blushed up to the eyes, but I did not dare to enter into
"Tom," said Tizzy, addressing her father across the table, "I hope
you had a good run to-day." It did seem odd to me that young lady
should call her father Tom, but such was the fact.
"Well; pretty well," said Mr. O'Conor.
"And I hope you were up with the hounds."
"You may ask Mr. Green that. He at any rate was with them, and
therefore he can tell you."
"Oh, he wasn't before you, I know. No Englishman could get before
you;I am quite sure of that."
"Don't you be impertinent, miss," said Kate. "You can easily see,
Mr. Green, that papa spoils my sister Eliza."
"Do you hunt in top-boots, Mr. Green?" said Tizzy.
To this I made no answer. She would have drawn me into a
conversation about my feet in half a minute, and the slightest
allusion to the subject threw me into a fit of perspiration.
"Are you fond of hunting, Miss O'Conor?" asked I, blindly hurrying
into any other subject of conversation.
Miss O'Conor owned that she was fond of huntingjust a little; only
papa would not allow it. When the hounds met anywhere within reach
of Castle Conor, she and Kate would ride out to look at them; and if
papa was not there that day,an omission of rare occurrence,they
would ride a few fields with the hounds.
"But he lets Tizzy keep with them the whole day," said she,
"And has Tizzy a pony of her own?"
"Oh yes, Tizzy has everything. She's papa's pet, you know."
"And whose pet are you?" I asked.
"OhI am nobody's pet, unless sometimes Jack makes a pet of me when
he's in a good humour. Do you make pets of your sisters, Mr. Green?"
"I have none. But if I had I should not make pets of them."
"Not of your own sisters?"
"No. As for myself, I'd sooner make a pet of my friend's sister; a
"How very unnatural," said Miss O'Conor, with the prettiest look of
"Not at all unnatural I think," said I, looking tenderly and lovingly
into her face. Where does one find girls so pretty, so easy, so
sweet, so talkative as the Irish girls? And then with all their
talking and all their ease who ever hears of their misbehaving? They
certainly love flirting, as they also love dancing. But they flirt
without mischief and without malice.
I had now quite forgotten my misfortune, and was beginning to think
how well I should like to have Fanny O'Conor for my wife. In this
frame of mind I was bending over towards her as a servant took away a
plate from the other side, when a sepulchral note sounded in my ear.
It was like the memento mori of the old Roman;as though some one
pointed in the midst of my bliss to the sword hung over my head by a
thread. It was the voice of Larry, whispering in his agony just
above my head -
"They's disthroying my poor feet intirely, intirely; so they is! I
can't bear it much longer, yer honer." I had committed murder like
Macbeth; and now my Banquo had come to disturb me at my feast.
"What is it he says to you?" asked Fanny.
"Oh nothing," I answered, once more in my misery.
"There seems to be some point of confidence between you and our
Larry," she remarked.
"Oh no," said I, quite confused; "not at all."
"You need not be ashamed of it. Half the gentlemen in the county
have their confidences with Larry;and some of the ladies too, I can
tell you. He was born in this house, and never lived anywhere else;
and I am sure he has a larger circle of acquaintance than any one
else in it."
I could not recover my self-possession for the next ten minutes.
Whenever Larry was on our side of the table I was afraid he was
coming to me with another agonised whisper. When he was opposite, I
could not but watch him as he hobbled in his misery. It was evident
that the boots were too tight for him, and had they been made
throughout of iron they could not have been less capable of yielding
to the feet. I pitied him from the bottom of my heart. And I pitied
myself also, wishing that I was well in bed upstairs with some
feigned malady, so that Larry might have had his own again.
And then for a moment I missed him from the room. He had doubtless
gone to relieve his tortured feet in the servants' hall, and as he
did so was cursing my cruelty. But what mattered it? Let him curse.
If he would only stay away and do that, I would appease his wrath
when we were alone together with pecuniary satisfaction.
But there was no such rest in store for me. "Larry, Larry," shouted
Mr. O'Conor, "where on earth has the fellow gone to?" They were all
cousins at the table except myself, and Mr. O'Conor was not therefore
restrained by any feeling of ceremony. "There is something wrong
with that fellow to-day; what is it, Jack?"
"Upon my word, sir, I don't know," said Jack.
"I think he must be tipsy," whispered Miss O'Conor, the maiden
sister, who always sat at her brother's left hand. But a whisper
though it was, it was audible all down the table.
"No, ma'am; it aint dhrink at all," said the coachman. "It is his
feet as does it."
"His feet!" shouted Tom O'Conor.
"Yes; I know it's his feet," said that horrid Tizzy. "He's got on
great thick nailed shoes. It was that that made him tumble down in
I glanced at each side of me, and could see that there was a certain
consciousness expressed in the face of each of my two neighbours;on
Kate's mouth there was decidedly a smile, or rather, perhaps, the
slightest possible inclination that way; whereas on Fanny's part I
thought I saw something like a rising sorrow at my distress. So at
least I flattered myself.
"Send him back into the room immediately," said Tom, who looked at me
as though he had some consciousness that I had introduced all this
confusion into his household. What should I do? Would it not be
best for me to make clean breast of it before them all? But alas! I
lacked the courage.
The coachman went out, and we were left for five minutes without any
servant, and Mr. O'Conor the while became more and more savage. I
attempted to say a word to Fanny, but failed. Vox faucibus haesit.
"I don't think he has got any others," said Tizzy"at least none
On the whole I am glad I did not marry into the family, as I could
not have endured that girl to stay in my house as a sister-in-law.
"Where the d has that other fellow gone to?" said Tom. "Jack, do
go out and see what is the matter. If anybody is drunk send for me."
"Oh, there is nobody drunk," said Tizzy.
Jack went out, and the coachman returned; but what was done and said
I hardly remember. The whole room seemed to swim round and round,
and as far as I can recollect the company sat mute, neither eating
nor drinking. Presently Jack returned.
"It's all right," said he. I always liked Jack. At the present
moment he just looked towards me and laughed slightly.
"All right?" said Tom. "But is the fellow coming?"
"We can do with Richard, I suppose," said Jack.
"NoI can't do with Richard," said the father. "And will know what
it all means. Where is that fellow Larry?"
Larry had been standing just outside the door, and now he entered
gently as a mouse. No sound came from his footfall, nor was there in
his face that look of pain which it had worn for the last fifteen
minutes. But he was not the less abashed, frightened and unhappy.
"What is all this about, Larry?" said his master, turning to him. "I
insist upon knowing."
"Och thin, Mr. Green, yer honer, I wouldn't be afther telling agin
yer honer; indeed I wouldn't thin, av' the masther would only let me
hould my tongue." And he looked across at me, deprecating my anger.
"Mr. Green!" said Mr. O'Conor.
"Yes, yer honer. It's all along of his honer's thick shoes;" and
Larry, stepping backwards towards the door, lifted them up from some
corner, and coming well forward, exposed them with the soles
uppermost to the whole table.
"And that's not all, yer honer; but they've squoze the very toes of
me into a jelly."
There was now a loud laugh, in which Jack and Peter and Fanny and
Kate and Tizzy all joined; as too did Mr. O'Conorand I also myself
after a while.
"Whose boots are they?" demanded Miss O'Conor senior, with her
severest tone and grimmest accent.
"'Deed then and the divil may have them for me, Miss," answered
Larry. "They war Mr. Green's, but the likes of him won't wear them
agin afther the likes of mebarring he wanted them very particular,"
added he, remembering his own pumps.
I began muttering something, feeling that the time had come when I
must tell the tale. But Jack with great good nature, took up the
story and told it so well, that I hardly suffered in the telling.
"And that's it," said Tom O'Conor, laughing till I thought he would
have fallen from his chair. "So you've got Larry's shoes on"
"And very well he fills them," said Jack.
"And it's his honer that's welcome to 'em," said Larry, grinning from
ear to ear now that he saw that "the masther" was once more in a good
"I hope they'll be nice shoes for dancing," said Kate.
"Only there's one down at the heel I know," said Tizzy.
"The servant's shoes!" This was an exclamation made by the maiden
lady, and intended apparently only for her brother's ear. But it was
clearly audible by all the party.
"Better that than no dinner," said Peter.
"But what are you to do about the dancing?" said Fanny, with an air
of dismay on her face which flattered me with an idea that she did
care whether I danced or no.
In the mean time Larry, now as happy as an emperor, was tripping
round the room without any shoes to encumber him as he withdrew the
plates from the table.
"And it's his honer that's welcome to 'em," said he again, as he
pulled off the table-cloth with a flourish. "And why wouldn't he,
and he able to folly the hounds betther nor any Englishman that iver
war in these parts before,anyways so Mick says!"
Now Mick was the huntsman, and this little tale of eulogy from Larry
went far towards easing my grief. I had ridden well to the hounds
that day, and I knew it.
There was nothing more said about the shoes, and I was soon again at
my ease, although Miss O'Conor did say something about the
impropriety of Larry walking about in his stocking feet. The ladies
however soon withdrew,to my sorrow, for I was getting on swimmingly
with Fanny; and then we gentlemen gathered round the fire and filled
In about ten minutes a very light tap was heard, the door was opened
to the extent of three inches, and a female voice which I readily
recognised called to Jack.
Jack went out, and in a second or two put his head back into the room
and called to me"Green," he said, "just step here moment, there's a
good fellow." I went out, and there I found Fanny standing with her
"Here are the girls at their wits' ends," said he, "about your
dancing. So Fanny has put a boy upon one of the horse and proposes
that you should send another line to Mrs. Meehan at Ballyglass. It's
only ten miles, and he'll be back in two hours."
I need hardly say that I acted in conformity with this advice, I went
into Mr. O'Conor's book room, with Jack and his sister, and there
scribbled a note. I was delightful to feel how intimate I was with
them, and how anxious they were to make me happy.
"And we won't begin till they come," said Fanny.
"Oh, Miss O'Conor, pray don't wait," said I.
"Oh, but we will," she answered. "You have your wine to drink, and
then there's the tea; and then we'll have a song two. I'll spin it
out; see if I don't." And so we went to the front door where the boy
was already on his horseher own nag as I afterwards found.
"And Patsey," said she, "ride for your life; and Patsey, whatever you
do, don't come back without Mr. Green's pumpshis dancing-shoes you
And in about two hours the pumps did arrive; and I don't think I ever
spent a pleasanter evening or got more satisfaction out of a pair of
shoes. They had not been two minutes on my feet before Larry was
carrying a tray of negus across the room in those which I had worn at
"The Dillon girls are going to stay here," said Fanny as I wished her
good night at two o'clock. "And we'll have dancing every evening as
long as you remain."
"But I shall leave to-morrow," said I.
"Indeed you won't. Papa will take care of that."
And so he did. "You had better go over to Ballyglass yourself to-
morrow," said he, "and collect your own things. There's no knowing
else what you may have to borrow of Larry."
I stayed there three weeks, and in the middle of the third I thought
that everything would be arranged between me and Fanny. But the aunt
interfered; and in about a twelvemonth after my adventures she
consented to make a more fortunate man happy for his life.