‘The pole is broke; how are we to get on?’ said Lord Colambre.
’Murder! murder!—and no smith nearer than Clonbrony; nor rope even. It’s a folly to talk, we can’t get to Clonbrony, nor stir a step backward or forward the night.’
’What, then, do you mean to leave me all night in the middle of the road?’ cried Lord Colambre, quite exasperated.
’Is it me! please your honour? I would not use any jantleman so ill, barring I could do no other,’ replied the postillion, coolly; then, leaping across the ditch, or, as he called it, the Gripe of the ditch, he scrambled up, and while he was scrambling, said, ’If your honour will lend me your hand till I pull you up the back of the ditch, the horses will stand while we go. I’ll find you as pretty a lodging for the night, with a widow of a brother of my shister’s husband that was, as ever you slept in your life; for old Nick or St. Dennis has not found ’em out yet; and your honour will be, no compare, snugger than the inn at Clonbrony, which has no roof, the devil a stick. But where will I get your honour’s hand; for it’s coming on so dark, I can’t see rightly. There, you’re up now safe. Yonder candle’s the house.’
‘Go and ask whether they can give us a night’s lodging.’
’Is it ask? when I see the light!—Sure they’d be proud to give the traveller all the beds in the house, let alone one. Take care of the potato furrows, that’s all, and follow me straight. I’ll go on to meet the dog, who knows me and might be strange to your honour.’
‘Kindly welcome,’ were the first words Lord Colambre heard when he approached the cottage; and ‘kindly welcome’ was in the sound of the voice and in the countenance of the old woman who came out, shading her rush-candle from the wind, and holding it so as to light the path. When he entered the cottage, he saw a cheerful fire and a neat pretty young woman making it blaze: she curtsied, put her spinning-wheel out of the way, set a stool by the fire for the stranger, and repeating, in a very low tone of voice, ’Kindly welcome, retired.
‘Put down some eggs, dear, there’s plenty in the bowl,’ said the old woman, calling to her; ’I’ll do the bacon. Was not we lucky to be up—The boy’s gone to bed, but waken him,’ said she, turning to the postillion; ’and he’ll help you with the chay, and put your horses in the bier for the night.’
No; Larry chose to go on to Clonbrony with the horses, that he might get the chaise mended betimes for his honour. The table was set; clean trenchers, hot potatoes, milk, eggs, bacon, and ‘kindly welcome to all.’
’Set the salt, dear; and the butter, love; where’s your head, Grace, dear!’
‘Grace!’ repeated Lord Colambre, looking up; and, to apologise for his involuntary exclamation, he added, ‘Is Grace a common name in Ireland?’
’I can’t say, plase your honour, but it was give her by Lady Clonbrony, from a niece of her own that was her foster-sister, God bless her! and a very kind lady she was to us and to all when she was living in it; but those times are gone past,’ said the old woman, with a sigh. The young woman sighed too; and, sitting down by the fire, began to count the notches in a little bit of stick, which she held in her hand; and, after she had counted them, sighed again.