Vexed as I was with the idea of passing the night in this horrid place, there was no help for it: so I took up my portmanteau and followed the landlady to a small room, if it deserved the appellation, which had been built after the cottage, and a door broken through the wall into it. Ceiling there was none, it had only lean-to rafters, with tiles over head. I took a seat on the only stool that was in the room, and leant my elbow on the table in no very pleasant humour, when I heard the girl say, “And why don’t you let him go on to the castle? Sure the chaise is in the yard, and the horses are in the stable.”
“There’s orders ’gainst it, Kathleen,” replied the landlady. “Mr M’Dermott was here this blessed day, and who can deny him?”
“Who is he then?” replied the girl.
“An attorney with a warrant against Sir Henry; and, moreover, they say that he’s coming to’strain upon the cattle of Jerry O’Toole for the tithes.”
“He’s a bould young chap, at all events,” replied the girl, “to come here all by himself.”
“Oh! but it’s not till to-morrow morning, and then we’ll have the troops here to assist him.”
“And does Jerry O’Toole know of this?”
“Sure enough he does; and I hope there’ll be no murder committed in my house this blessed night. But what can a poor widow do when M’Dermott holds up his finger? Now, go light the fire, Kathleen, and see if the poor young man wants anything; it’s a burning pity that he shouldn’t have something to comfort him before his misfortunes fall upon him.”
Kathleen made no reply. The horror that I felt at this discourse may easily be imagined. That it was intended that I should meet with foul play was certain, and I knew very well that, in such a desolate part of the country, the murder of an individual, totally unknown, would hardly be noticed. That I had been held up to the resentment of the inhabitants as a tithe collector and an attorney with a warrant, was quite sufficient, I felt conscious, to induce them to make away with me. How to undeceive them was the difficulty.
No hopes of rising next
morning alive, as a last chance—I get
Kathleen came in with fuel to light the fire, and looking rather hard at me, passed by, and was soon, busy blowing up the turf. She was a very handsome dark-eyed girl, about nineteen years of age, stout and well made. “What is your name?” said I.
“Kathleen, at your service, sir.”
“Listen to me, Kathleen,” said I, in a low voice. “You are a woman, and all women are kind-hearted. I have overheard all that passed between your mistress and you, and that M’Dermott has stated that I am a tithe collector and an attorney, with a warrant. I am no such thing. I am a gentleman who wishes to speak to Sir Henry de Clare on a business which he does not like to be spoken to about; and to show you what I say is the truth, it is about the daughter of his elder brother, who was killed when hunting, and who is supposed to be dead. I am the only evidence to the contrary; and, therefore, he and M’Dermott have spread this report that I may come to harm.”