The kettle was on the fire, tea-things set, everything prepared for her guest by the hospitable hostess, who, thinking the gentleman would take tea to his breakfast, had sent off a gossoon by the first light to Clonbrony, for an ounce of tea, a quarter of Sugar, and a loaf of white bread; and there was on the little table good cream, milk, butter, eggs—all the promise of an excellent breakfast. It was a fresh morning, and there was a pleasant fire on the hearth, neatly swept up. The old woman was sitting in her chimney corner, behind a little skreen of whitewashed wall, built out into the room, for the purpose of keeping those who sat at the fire from the blast of the door. There was a loophole in this wall, to let the light in, just at the height of a person’s head, who was sitting near the chimney. The rays of the morning sun now came through it, shining across the face of the old woman, as she sat knitting; Lord Colambre thought he had seldom seen a more agreeable countenance, intelligent eyes, benevolent smile, a natural expression of cheerfulness, subdued by age and misfortune.
’A good-morrow to you kindly, sir, and I hope you got the night well?—A fine day for us this Sunday morning; my Grace is gone to early prayers, so your honour will be content with an old woman to make your breakfast. Oh, let me put in plenty, or it will never be good; and if your honour takes stir-about, an old hand will engage to make that to your liking, anyway; for, by great happiness, we have what will just answer for you of the nicest meal the miller made my Grace a compliment of, last time she went to the mill.’
Lord Colambre observed, that this miller had good taste; and his lordship paid some compliment to Grace’s beauty, which the old woman received with a smile, but turned off the conversation. ‘Then,’ said she, looking out of the window, ’is not that there a nice little garden the boy dug for her and me, at his breakfast and dinner hours? Ah! he’s a good boy, and a good warrant to work; and the good son DESARVES the good wife, and it’s he that will make the good husband; and with my goodwill he, and no other, shall get her, and with her goodwill the same; and I bid ’em keep up their heart, and hope the best, for there’s no use in fearing the worst till it comes.’
Lord Colambre wished very much to know the worst.
‘If you would not think a stranger impertinent for asking,’ said he, ‘and if it would not be painful to you to explain.’
’Oh, impertinent, your honour! it’s very kind—and, sure, none’s a stranger to one’s heart, that feels for one. And for myself, I can talk. of my troubles without thinking of them. So, I’ll tell you all—if the worst comes to the worst—all that is, is, that we must quit, and give up this little snug place, and house, and farm, and all, to the agent—which would be hard on us, and me a widow, when my husband