About twelve o’clock the same night, Lord Kilcullen and Mat Tierney were playing billiards, and were just finishing their last game: the bed-candles were lighted ready for them, and Tierney was on the point of making the final hazard.
“So you’re determined to go to-morrow, Mat?” said Kilcullen.
“Oh, yes, I’ll go to-morrow: your mother’ll take me for a second Paddy Rea, else,” said Mat.
“Who the deuce was Paddy Rea?”
“Didn’t you ever hear of Paddy Rea?—Michael French of Glare Abbey—he’s dead now, but he was alive enough at the time I’m telling you of, and kept the best house in county Clare—well, he was coming down on the Limerick coach, and met a deuced pleasant, good-looking, talkative sort of a fellow a-top of it. They dined and got a tumbler of punch together at Roscrea; and when French got down at Bird Hill, he told his acquaintance that if he ever found himself anywhere near Ennis, he’d be glad to see him at Glare Abbey. He was a hospitable sort of a fellow, and had got into a kind of way of saying the same thing to everybody, without meaning anything except to be civil—just as I’d wish a man good morning. Well, French thought no more about the man, whose name he didn’t even know; but about a fortnight afterwards, a hack car from Ennis made its appearance at Glare Abbey, and the talkative traveller, and a small portmanteau, had soon found their way into the hail. French was a good deal annoyed, for he had some fashionables in the house, but he couldn’t turn the man out; so he asked his name, and introduced Paddy Rea to the company. How long do you think he stayed at Glare Abbey?”
“Heaven only knows!—Three months.”
“Seventeen years!” said Mat. “They did everything to turn him out, and couldn’t do it. It killed old French; and at last his son pulled the house down, and Paddy Rea went then, because there wasn’t a roof to cover him. Now I don’t want to drive your father to pull down this house, so I’ll go to-morrow.”
“The place is so ugly, that if you could make him do so, it would be an advantage; but I’m afraid the plan wouldn’t succeed, so I won’t press you. But if you go, I shan’t remain long. If it was to save my life and theirs, I can’t get up small talk for the rector and his curate.”
“Well, good night,” said Mat; and the two turned off towards their bed-rooms.
As they passed from the billiard-room through the hall, Lord Cashel shuffled out of his room, in his slippers and dressing-gown.
“Kilcullen,” said he, with a great deal of unconcerned good humour affected in his tone, “just give me one moment—I’ve a word to say to you. Goodnight, Mr Tierney, goodnight; I’m sorry to hear we’re to lose you to-morrow.”
Lord Kilcullen shrugged his shoulders, winked at his friend and then turned round and followed his father.
“It’s only one word, Kilcullen,” said the father, who was afraid of angering or irritating his son, now that he thought he was in so fair a way to obtain the heiress and her fortune. “I’ll not detain you half a minute;” and then he said in a whisper, “take my advice, Kilcullen, and strike when the iron’s hot.”