’Well, sir, what are you following and sticking to me, like my shadow, for?’ said Mr. Dennis, turning suddenly upon Lord Colambre.
His lordship bowed low. ’Waiting for my answer, sir, when you are at leisure.
Or, may I call upon you tomorrow?’
’You seem to be a civil kind of fellow; but, as to boring, I don’t know—if you undertake it at your own expense. I dare say there may be minerals in the ground. Well, you may call at the castle to-morrow, and when my brother has done with the tenantry, I’ll speak to him for you, and we’ll consult together, and see what we think. It’s too late to-night. In Ireland, nobody speaks to a gentleman about business after dinner—your servant, sir; anybody can show you the way to the castle in the morning.’ And, pushing by his lordship, he called to a man on the other side of the street, who had obviously been waiting for him; he went under a gateway with this man, and gave him a bag of guineas. He then called for his horse, which was brought to him by a man whom Colambre had heard declaring that he would bid for the land that was advertised; whilst another, who had the same intentions, most respectfully held St. Dennis’s stirrup, whilst he mounted without thanking either of these men. St. Dennis clapped spurs to his steed, and rode away. No thanks, indeed, were deserved; for the moment he was out of hearing, both cursed him after the manner of their country.
’Bad luck go with you, then!—And may you break your neck before you get home, if it was not for the lase I’m to get, and that’s paid for.’
Lord Colambre followed the crowd into a public-house, where a new scene presented itself to his view.
The man to whom St. Dennis gave the bag of gold was now selling this very gold to the tenants, who were to pay their rent next day at the castle.
The agent would take nothing but gold. The same guineas were bought and sold several times over, to the great profit of the agent and loss of the poor tenants; for, as the rents were paid, the guineas were resold to another set, and the remittances made through bankers to the landlord; who, as the poor man who explained the transaction to Lord Colambre expressed it, ’gained nothing by the business, bad or good, but the ill-will of the tenantry.’
The higgling for the price of the gold; the time lost in disputing about the goodness of the notes, among some poor tenants, who could not read or write, and who were at the mercy of the man with the bag in his hand; the vexation, the useless harassing of all who were obliged to submit ultimately—Lord Colambre saw; and all this time he endured the smell of tobacco and whisky, and of the sound of various brogues, the din of men wrangling, brawling, threatening, whining, drawling, cajoling, cursing, and every variety of wretchedness.