Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
How Mr. Daly the Middleman Rose up from Breakfast
By Gerald Griffin (1803–1840)
From ‘The Collegians’

THE PERSON who opened the door acted as a kind of herdsman or out-door servant to the family, and was a man of a rather singular appearance. The nether parts of his frame were of a size considerably out of proportion with the trunk and head which they supported. His feet were broad and flat like those of a duck; his legs long and clumsy, with knees and ankles like the knobs on one of those grotesque walking-sticks which were in fashion among the fine gentlemen of our own day, some time since; his joints hung loosely like those of a pasteboard Merry Andrew; his body was very small, his chest narrow, and his head so diminutive as to be even too little for his herring shoulders. It seemed as if Nature, like an extravagant projector, had laid the foundation of a giant, but running short of material as the structure proceeded, had been compelled to terminate her undertaking within the dimensions of a dwarf. So far was this economy pursued that the head, small as it was, was very scantily furnished with hair, and the nose with which the face was garnished might be compared for its flatness to that of a young kid. “It looked,” as the owner of this mournful piece of journey-work himself facetiously observed, “as if his head was not thought worth a roof nor his countenance worth a handle.” His hands and arms were likewise of a smallness which was much to be admired, when contrasted with the hugeness of the lower members, and brought to mind the fore-paws of a kangaroo or the fins of a seal; the latter similitude prevailing when the body was put in motion, on which occasions they dabbled about in a very extraordinary manner. But there was one feature in which a corresponding prodigality had been manifested; namely, the ears, which were as long as those of Riquet with the Tuft, or of any ass in the barony.  1
  The costume which enveloped this singular frame was no less anomalous than was the nature of its own construction. A huge riding-coat of gray frieze hung lazily from his shoulders, and gave to view in front a waistcoat of calfskin with the hairy side outward; a shirt of a texture almost as coarse as sail-cloth, made from the refuse of flax; and a pair of corduroy nether garments, with two bright new patches upon the knees. Gray worsted stockings, with dogskin brogues well paved in the sole and greased until they shone again, completed the personal adornments of this unaspiring personage. On the whole, his appearance might have brought to the recollection of a modern beholder one of those architectural edifices so fashionable in our time, in which the artist, with an admirable ambition, seeks to unite all that is excellent in the Tuscan, Doric, Corinthian, and Ionic orders, in one coup d’œil.  2
  The expression of the figure, though it varied with circumstances, was for the most part thoughtful and deliberative; the effect, in a great measure, of habitual penury and dependence. At the time of Lord Halifax’s administration, Lowry Looby, then a very young man, held a spot of ground in the neighborhood of Limerick, and was well-to-do in the world; but the scarcity which prevailed in England at the time, and which occasioned a sudden rise in the price of bere, butter, and other produce of grazing land in Ireland, threw all the agriculturists out of their little holdings and occasioned a general destitution, similar to that produced by the anti-cottier system in the present day. Lowry was among the sufferers. He was saved, however, from the necessity of adopting one of the three ultimata of Irish misery—begging, enlisting, or emigrating—by the kindness of Mr. Daly, who took him into his service as a kind of runner between his farms; an office for which Lowry, by his long and muscular legs and the lightness of the body that incumbered them, was qualified in an eminent degree. His excelling honesty, one of the characteristics of his country, which he was known to possess, rendered him a still more valuable acquisition to the family than had been at first anticipated. He had moreover the national talent for adroit flattery, a quality which made him more acceptable to his patron than the latter would willingly admit; and every emulsion of this kind was applied under the disguise of a simpleness which gave it a wonderful efficacy.  3
  “Ha, Lowry!” said Mr. Daly. “Well, have you made your fortune since you have agreed with the postmaster?”  4
  Lowry put his hands behind his back, looked successively at the four corners of the room, then round the cornice; then cast his eyes down at his feet, turned up the soles a little, and finally, straightening his person and gazing on his master, replied, “To lose it I did, sir, for a place.”  5
  “To lose what?”  6
  “The place of postman, sir, through the country westwards. Sure, there I was a gentleman for life, if it wasn’t my luck.”  7
  “I do not understand you, Lowry.”  8
  “I’ll tell you how it was, masther. After the last postman died, sir, I took your ricommendation to the postmasther an’ axed him for the place. ‘I’m used to thravelin’, sir,’ says I, ‘for Misther Daly, over, and—’ ‘Ay,’ says he, takin’ me up short, ‘an’ you have a good long pair o’ legs, I see.’ ‘Middlin’, sir,’ says I (he’s a very pleasant gentleman); ‘it’s equal to me any day, winther or summer, whether I go ten miles or twenty, so as I have the nourishment.’ ‘’Twould be hard if you didn’t get that, anyway,’ says he: ‘well, I think I may as well give you the place, for I don’t know any gentleman that I’d sooner take his ricommendation than Misther Daly’s, or one that I’d sooner pay him a compliment, if I could.’”  9
  “Well, and what was your agreement?”  10
  “Ten pounds a year, sir,” answered Lowry, opening his eyes as if he announced something of wonderful importance, and speaking in a loud voice, to suit the magnitude of the sum; “besides my clothing and shoes throughout the year.”  11
  “’Twas very handsome, Lowry.”  12
  “Handsome, masther? ’Twas wages for a prince, sir. Sure, there I was, a made gentleman all my days, if it wasn’t my luck, as I said before.”  13
  “Well, and how did you lose it?”  14
  “I’ll tell you, sir,” answered Lowry: “I was going over to the postmasther yesterday, to get the Thralee mail from him, and to start off with myself on my first journey. Well an’ good, of all the world who should I meet above upon the road, just at the turn down to the post-office, but that red-headed woman that sells the freestone in the sthreets? So I turned back.”  15
  “Turned back! for what?”  16
  “Sure, the world knows, masther, that it isn’t lucky to meet a red-haired woman, and you going of a journey.”  17
  “And you never went for the mail-bags?”  18
  “Faiks, I’m sure I didn’t that day.”  19
  “Well, and the next morning?”  20
  “The next morning, that’s this morning, when I went, I found they had engaged another boy in my place.”  21
  “And you lost the situation?”  22
  “For this turn, sir, anyway. ’Tis luck that does it all. Sure, I thought I was cocksure of it, an’ I having the postmasther’s word. But indeed, if I meet that freestone crathur again, I’ll knock her red head against the wall.”  23
  “Well, Lowry, this ought to show you the folly of your superstition. If you had not minded that woman when you met her, you might have had your situation now.”  24
  “’Twas she was in fault still, begging your pardon, sir,” said Lowry; “for sure, if I didn’t meet her at all, this wouldn’t have happened me.”  25
  “Oh,” said Mr. Daly laughing, “I see you are well provided against all argument. I have no more to say, Lowry.”  26
  The man now walked slowly towards Kyrle, and bending down with a look of solemn importance as if he had some weighty intelligence to communicate, he said, “The horse, sir, is ready this way, at the door abroad.”  27
  “Very well, Lowry. I shall set out this instant.”  28
  Lowry raised himself erect again, turned slowly round, and walked to the door, with his eyes on the ground and his hand raised to his temple, as if endeavoring to recollect something further which he had intended to say.  29
  “Lowry!” said Mr. Daly, as the handle of the door was turned a second time. Lowry looked round.  30
  “Lowry, tell me, did you see Eily O’Connor, the ropemaker’s daughter, at the fair of Garryowen yesterday?”  31
  “Ah, you’re welcome to your game, masther.”  32
  “’Pon my word, then, Eily is a very pretty girl, Lowry; and I’m told the old father can give her something besides her pretty face.”  33
  Lowry opened his huge mouth (we forgot to mention that it was a huge one), and gave vent to a few explosions of laughter which much more nearly resembled the braying of an ass. “You are welcome to your game, masther,” he repeated; “long life to your Honor.”  34
  “But is it true, Lowry, as I have heard it insinuated, that old Mihil O’Connor used, and still does, twist ropes for the use of the county jail?”  35
  Lowry closed his lips hard, while the blood rushed into his face at this unworthy allegation. Treating it however as a new piece of “the masther’s game,” he laughed and tossed his head.  36
  “Folly on, sir, folly on.”  37
  “Because if that were the case, Lowry, I should expect to find you a fellow of too much spirit to become connected, even by affinity, with such a calling. A ropemaker! a manufacturer of rogues’ last neckcloths—an understrapper to the gallows—a species of collateral hangman!”  38
  “Ah then, missiz, do you hear this? and all rising out of a little ould fable of a story that happened as good as five years ago, because Moriarty the crooked hangman (the thief!) stepped into Mihil’s little place of a night, and nobody knowin’ of him, an’ bought a couple o’ pen’orth o’ whipcord for some vagary or other of his own. And there’s all the call Mihil O’Connor had ever to gallowses or hangmen in his life. That’s the whole toto o’ their insiniwaytions.”  39
  “Never mind your master, Lowry,” said Mrs. Daly: “he is only amusing himself with you.”  40
  “Oh, ha! I’m sure I know it, ma’am: long life to him, and ’tis he that’s welcome to his joke.”  41
  “But, Lowry—”  42
  “Ah, Heaven bless you now, masther, an’ let me alone. I’ll say nothing to you.”  43
  “Nay, nay, I only wanted to ask you what sort of a fair it was at Garryowen yesterday.”  44
  “Middling, sir, like the small piatees, they tell me,” said Lowry, suddenly changing his manner to an appearance of serious occupation; “but ’tis hard to make out what sort a fair is, when one has nothing to sell himself. I met a huxter, an’ she told me ’twas a bad fair, because she could not sell her piggins; an’ I met a pig-jobber, an’ he told me ’twas a dear fair, pork ran so high; an’ I met another little meagre creatur, a neighbor that has a cabin on the road above, an’ he said ’twas the best fair that ever come out o’ the sky, because he got a power for his pig. But Mr. Hardress Cregan was there, an’ if he didn’t make it a dear fair to some of ’em, you may call me an honest man.”  45
  “A very notable undertaking that would be, Lowry. But how was it?”  46
  “Some o’ them boys,—them Garryowen lads, sir,—to get about Danny Mann, the Lord, Mr. Hardress’s boatman, as he was comin’ down from Mihil’s with a new rope for some part o’ the boat, and to begin reflecting on him in regard o’ the hump on his back, poor creatur! Well, if they did, Masther Hardress heerd ’em; and he having a stout blackthorn in his hand, this way, and he made up to the foremost of ’em. ‘What’s that you’re saying, you scoundrel?’ says he. ‘What would you give to know?’ says the other, mighty impudent. Masther Hardress made no more, only up with the stick, and without saying this or that, or by your leave, or how do you do, he stretched him. Well, such a scuffle as began among ’em was never seen. They all fell upon Masther Hardress, but faix, they had only the half of it, for he made his way through the thick of ’em without as much as a mark. Aw, indeed, it isn’t a goose or a duck they had to do with when they came across Mr. Cregan, for all.”  47
  “And where were you all this while, Lowry?”  48
  “Above in Mihil’s door, standin’ and lookin’ about the fair for myself.”  49
  “And Eily?”  50
  “Ah, hear to this again, now! I’ll run away out o’ the place entirely from you, masther, that’s what I’ll do;” and suiting the action to the phrase, exit Lowry Looby.  51

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