Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 11/A Tipperary shot - Part 2


A TIPPERARY SHOT.

By the Author of “Myself and my Relatives,” “Little Flaggs,” &c.


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CHAPTER III. AN INVITATION THANKFULLY ACCEPTED.

As may be supposed I lost no time in trying to discover as much as possible concerning the family of the Barnetts from our unfailing source of information, Mrs. Conan; I learned that Sir Denis was a Roman Catholic, his sister a Protestant, and that they lived together, without any other relative or companion in the house. They saw a good deal of company occasionally, and sometimes had large parties staying at Knockgriffin when they were at home.

“Is Sir Denis liked in the county?” I asked.

“Oh, yes, very much; a great favourite with the gentlemen about.”

“And what kind of landlord does he make?”

“Pretty fair, sir.”

“His father met with an unhappy end, did he not?”

“Oh, no, sir; he died in a moment, without any suffering to speak of. They killed him at once, by the first shot.”

“And probably Sir Denis expects the same bright fate, Mrs. Conan?”

“I hope not, sir; he may chance to escape, at all events, for a number of years yet; he’s a very fine young man, and his sister is a sweet lady. For her sake I trust he may be spared many a long day over Knockgriffin.”

“Amen,” murmured I from the depths of my heart.

While so deeply pre-occupied as I now was with my love-dream, I became fond of solitary walks. The “Rock” was a special resort at that time, and it is partly owing to this that I still entertain a peculiar reverence and affection for the memory of the ancient ruins round which I wandered, thinking of her whose image was daily becoming more and more impressed upon my mind. How often have I emerged from the barrack gate and strolled out alone towards this favourite point, passing the wretched lanes and hovels that led to it, climbing the stile beside the old gate, gazed at curiously by the cow that was always grazing among the graves; sometimes sitting on a tombstone, sometimes looking at the view of the surrounding country, with the Galtee mountains—Slieve-na-muck, Slieve-naman, and the Comerragh Hills—bounding the landscape, or more frequently still, looking through my telescope in the direction of Knockgriffin, whose woods were thus brought distinctly to my eye. Heigh ho! those were happy hours, passed away for ever, with all else that is lovely in the days of our first youth, leaving only a bright remembrance to gild the later years of life.

Imagine my happiness on receiving at length the following note from Sir Denis Barnett:—

Dear Captain Stapleton,—Will you give us the pleasure of your company for a few days at Knockgriffin? We expect some friends to remain with us from Tuesday next for a few days’ fishing, &c., and would feel most happy if you would join our party. We will dine at seven o’clock on Tuesday next, and will hope to see you then.

“Yours truly,
Denis Barnett.”

I wrote an immediate reply accepting the invitation, and having deputed Travers to take my military duties during my absence from Cashel, made some slight preparations for the important visit. Infatuated though I was, my better sense often represented to me that it was an unwise act to throw myself thus rashly into the society of a woman to whom I could scarcely dare to aspire. Report said that Miss Barnett’s fortune was large (how I wished she had not a penny!), her brother was proud: her family had all been so. People had coupled her name with high alliances already. There were rumours afloat that she had refused a certain viscount, and was even now receiving the addresses of a man of very large fortune in the county, a Sir Percy Stedmole, an Englishman, who had lately become a landowner in Tipperary, though he only visited his estate there rarely, and was thinking of disposing of it. Mrs. Conan had told me all this, and it was not encouraging. Hopeless though my love might be, I could not resist plunging myself into deeper danger. Worlds would not have tempted me to refuse this invitation to Knockgriffin.

Behold me, then, duly entering the gateway of the demesne at half past six o’clock fine summer evening, my heart beating pleasant anticipations. A week of happiness was before me: beyond that I dared not venture to look.

I found the drawing-room at Knockgriffin full when I entered it. The guests had already assembled there. They were chiefly men; two elderly ladies in gorgeous caps being the only representatives of the fair sex, besides the peerless enchantress of the mansion. There were one or two dragoons from Cahir, three Tipperary gentlemen, and the (to me) odious baronet Sir Percy Stedmole, towards whom I instantly conceived a violent aversion. He was a fine-looking man about five-and-thirty, dressed well, and with the air of a well-bred gentleman; yet I did not like his countenance; perhaps I viewed him with green eyes, and was determined to find something wrong in his appearance. When I entered the room he was talking to Miss Barnett, and as she came forward to greet mo I saw that he stood watching us with curious eyes. In those days, reader, I was not a bad-looking young fellow, my height was above six feet, my features tolerably well cut, my tournure—well, I do not want to be thought too egotistical, so I will not go on farther than to say that, in my own estimation at least, I was a very fair specimen of humanity, and quite on a par as to looks with my rival Sir Percy, besides being about twelve years junior,—a great advantage in my opinion at that time. We have never such a respect for youth, perhaps, as when we are young ourselves. In going to the dining-room that evening Sir Denis escorted one of the elderly ladies I have mentioned, while Sir Percy was deputed to take charge of the other; and of the six other men present it fell to my happy lot to become the guardian of the young lady of the house. I can scarcely account for how this occurred, but I think it was owing to my own superior courage. Our host had left the room followed by Sir Percy and his companion, and there stood Miss Barnett, who had directed the proceedings so far, unable to appoint an escort for herself, and of course unwilling to leave the room against rule without one, albeit in her own house. A glance from her eye falling in my direction determined me in an instant. I approached and offered my arm while the other guests were looking at each other in mute indecision, and so won the prize. Never had I talked so much as that day at dinner, not having yet arrived at that stage of love when all animation is suppressed, all conversational powers put to flight. I felt in high spirits, and Miss Barnett seemed to enjoy my company. The dinner was unexceptionable, the appointments all proper, and the servants thoroughly well trained. Two or three times I wondered during the evening as I recollected that this was an Irish dinner-party in the proverbially wild uncivilized Tipperary county. We had a good deal of sporting talk, seasoned by a little sprinkling of general gossip, but few allusions to the propensity for shooting landlords which distinguished the peasantry of the locale, I would never have discovered by anything said or done around me that I was not in a hospitable English mansion, excepting perhaps the peculiar but not unpleasant accent of the three Tipperary guests assembled at the board.

Once or twice I was conscious that Sir Percy Stedmole was eyeing me pretty sharply across the table as I talked to Miss Barnett; but the more he looked the more animated I became, being determined to hold my ground bravely.

When the ladies retired from the dining-room, I was one of the first to rejoin them, and as Miss Barnett was intimate enough with her lady guests—to both of whom indeed she was nearly related—to take the liberty of leaving them together in the companionship of a somewhat elderly bachelor, named Nugent, she invited me to look over the conservatory opening from the drawing-room, accompanying me herself through long aisles of rare shrubs and exotics, all in full bloom.

“Are you learning to become reconciled to Tipperary, Captain Stapleton?” she asked, as we paused to admire an exquisite Grandiflorus.

“Oh, I like the country greatly,” I replied quickly; “the scenery is charming, and the people excessively pleasant. I am afraid we hear sad untruths about Ireland altogether across the Channel, Miss Barnett.”

She smiled a little sadly, I thought, and uttered a half-suppressed sigh.

“I wish we lived anywhere else,” she said, after a pause.

“Indeed! Then you fear the lawlessness of Tipperary tenants, perhaps.”

“And not without cause,” she added, fixing her eyes full on my face. “Our family have long been obnoxious to the people about here. You know already, perhaps, how my father fell a victim to the barbarous system of revenge which has become almost a religion of its followers. Of the three country gentlemen who dined with us to-day, there is not one who has not had a near relative murdered in this county—one a father, another a brother, a third an uncle. Is it any wonder I shudder as I think of such things?”

“The ladies at least, it is to be hoped, are deemed sacred from such assaults,” said I.

“Oh, they only murder women through their feelings,” she replied. “They never care how many widows’ and orphans’ hearts are broken. Revenge is their sole thought and aim.”

“It is a pity Sir Denis does not sell his property in Tipperary and reside elsewhere.”

“He can never do that,” she answered resolutely, “and even if he could he would not. Nothing would induce him to part with the home of his ancestors. I only wish most ardently that it lay in any other part of Ireland—anywhere else in the world!”

“I trust you have no reason to entertain fears about your brother’s safety.”

“Every day of my life I have fears; I can scarcely say I feel a moment’s peace, and now especially, as there is some difficulty in getting one or two tenants to move out of their houses on the estate, I am doubly anxious. My brother wishes to extend the plantations and take in part of the Cappamoyne lands that have always been previously let to tenants, and this must undoubtedly cause ill-feeling, though he has promised every compensation in his power.”

My companion spoke with great earnestness, and I saw tears standing in her eyes, though the evening light had now grown faint. My heart beat somewhat quicker as she thus made me the confidant of her anxiety, and I ardently wished that it was in my power to shield her from all care. At that moment I recalled to mind the incident I have before mentioned as occurring during my ride to Cashel from Knockgriffin after my first visit there, and it struck me more forcibly than ever that the man I had seen peering at me through the hedge might have been lying in wait for Sir Denis Barnett.

“Does your brother experience any anxiety at this time?” I asked.

“Not in the least. Like almost all Tipperary landlords who choose to live on their property, he finds it necessary to cast aside all doubts and fears. Unless armed with a never-failing courage, a landowner in this county would, as it were, suffer a hundred deaths in the year. Denis is determined to dread no one or nothing, and never to flinch from any act that ho thinks proper among his tenantry. Were I he I would just do the same; but you see, Captain Stapleton, the misfortune is our lot being cast as it is. We are Tipperary people. We do not wish to abandon our ancestral home; thus we must only be brave and bear things heroically, if possible.”

We were now at the further end of the conservatory, and opening the door that led to a tastefully planned pleasure-ground, my companion stepped out. The moon had already risen, a few stars trembled in the sky, the air was perfumed with many odours of fragrant shrubs glistening in the silvery softened light. There was not a breath of air stirring, no sound save the hoarse cry of the train coming from distant meadows. Had it been England we might have had the song of a nightingale to charm the ear, but one of the wants of Ireland is the absence of this warbler of summer evenings. As if unconsciously, Miss Barnett passed on through the grounds, and I could only follow her course obediently. She seemed rather pre-occupied, and this lent her a new interest in my eyes, but animated or pensive, grave or gay, sad or merry, it was all pretty much the same to me now. I was already very far on the way to falling in love, if not altogether arrived at that state. When we turned to go back to the house we met Sir Percy Stedmole who had also passed out of the conservatory to take a stroll in the moonlight “Not afraid of taking cold, Miss Barnett?” he asked, as he flung away the cigar he had commenced to smoke.

“Not on such a night as this, Sir Percy,” she replied, a little frigidly I thought; “you know we wild Tipperary women do not dread wind and weather like your English ladies.”

“I wish our English women were half as charming as their Irish sisters,” he added, in a low tone that jarred upon me.

“Do not be false even for compliment sake, Sir Percy. You know you have an undervaluing opinion of everything Irish. You have never got rid of your English prejudices.”

“Pardon, my fair traducer. Whatever I may think of this ill-starred country, I would be blind or a fool if I attempted to deny the beauty and grace of the gentler portion of its inhabitants.”

“But that much of concession will never satisfy a true-born Irish woman; we want more than admiration for ourselves,—we must have sympathy, justice, pity, and allowances made with sincerity for the failings of the whole people. The Sassenach who comes among us prepared only to see faults and condemn, will never find favour even though he make an exception on the side of feminine loveliness. You hear me, Captain Stapleton, so take warning in time.”

She opened the conservatory door while speaking and passed on towards the drawing-room, while I mentally exclaimed,—“She is peerless, let her belong to what country she may!”

We had music during the evening, and while Miss Barnett sang Sir Percy hung over her chair, turning the leaves of her music-book pertinaciously, and evidently desirous of being most agreeable and attentive; yet it seemed to my jealous fancy that she did not receive his advances encouragingly, though perhaps I could judge little from that. Women are so bound by conventional rules that they seldom permit observers to understand their real feelings with regard to an unacknowledged courtship. I was very uneasy about the matter, and at times full of despair when I thought of my paltry income and my want of any better prospect for the future. Of course I experienced many silly feelings that perhaps I might not at that time have confessed for worlds.

The chamber allotted to me at Knockgriffin was large, luxurious, and elegant, bespeaking the wealth and taste of the owner of the mansion, like the rest of the premises. As I was passing through the hall on my way to this room, when we had separated for the night, I observed Sir Denis making a survey of the doors and windows with some care.

“You are obliged to be careful in barricading the houses about here, I suppose?” said I en passant; “it would never do in Tipperary to trust marauders with any opening.”

My host shook his head and smiled.

“On the contrary, our care must be on the other title; we must not lock or bar our doors or windows at all. This large door will merely be fastened by a latch to-night, and all the windows except those of the occupied bedrooms will remain unshuttered. If we attempted to betray fear in Tipperary we would only hurry on what we dreaded.”

“And you are thus exposed to the mercy of any burglar or assassin who may choose to walk into the house?”

“It has always been our custom to act so, and no one has ever attempted to enter the house at night. We are murdered here in the broad light of day, Captain Stapleton. We have nothing to fear from night attacks in our own homes.”

“Pleasant quarters,” thought I, as I passed on to my room, glad that I was to be permitted to have shutters at least to the windows there, and I am not ashamed to say that I locked my door too. I could not divest myself of a certain uneasy feeling regarding the probability of having my throat cut before morning if I neglected to take measures for my safety. The idea of sleeping in a house whose doors and windows were left in such a state as to invite the easy ingress of robbers or other lawless ruffians, struck me as being singular in the extreme. I daresay I was as brave as most men, but I had no particular fancy for being murdered in my sleep.

“And so here I am, under the roof of an unpopular Tipperary landlord,” cogitated I as I opened my window and looked out, “in the heart of a lawless district, and obliged to seek repose with as much chance of security as if I were in a forest surrounded by wild beasts.”

Very peaceful was the prospect without. The moon was shining clearly on the park and distant woods, its pale light glancing on the narrow belt of the Suir that wound in and out through the trees. For a long time I stood looking on the silent scene before me, then I softly closed the window and hurried to bed, to dream of the fair enchantress of this Tipperary home.

CHAPTER IV. THE MOUNTAIN CAVES.

Next morning, as previously arranged, Sir Denis and his male guests were up at cockcrow to enjoy some capital trout-fishing. Our party consisted of the host, Sir Percy Stedmole, a certain Tom Nugent of a place called Ballindrummery, a somewhat antiquated bachelor who told wonderful stories on all subjects, and the two dragoons from Cahir, Captain St. John and Mr. Morley. We all enjoyed ourselves very much and returned home to breakfast as hungry as hawks. How charming Miss Barnett looked presiding over the breakfast table—how exquisite the repast with its fresh country delicacies, its adornments of fragant flowers, its cheerfulness adding to the vigour of our appetites.

“Have you settled on any sight-seeing for the afternoon, Denis?” asked Miss Barnett, as we were all seated at table.

“I was thinking of the Galtee Mountain Caves,” replied our host. “The ride would be a long one, but well repaid by the scenery on the way and the Caves are really wonderful. What do you say, Captain Stapleton? As the greatest stranger in these parts your vote will decide us.”

“I am all in favour of the Caves, provided Miss Barnett has no objection to the plan,” replied I.

“Will your horse be able for such a distance?” asked Sir Percy, bending his head towards Miss Barnett who sat next to him.

“Oh, yes, perfectly; its foot is quite well now, and a little exercise will be of use.”

“But such a number of miles,” remonstrated Sir Percy.

“Never fear,” said the lady positively. “Ryan says it is able for anything now.”

“We had better start early, Louisa,” observed Sir Denis. “We cannot afford to loiter over our preparations. Are we all agreed about the excursion to the Caves?”

St. John and Morley answered in the affirmative for themselves, and Nugent and Sir Percy had to give in also, though neither of them seemed to care for so long a ride. Most of us had our own horses, but even if we had not our host would have been able to provide us all with efficient steeds, for his stables were well supplied with some of the finest animals I ever saw. Orders having been given for the horses to be put in readiness, we lost no time after breakfast in setting forth on our long ride, and I ardently hoped that it might be my good fortune to get beside Miss Barnett on the way, but to my chagrin and disappointment I saw at once that Sir Percy Stedmole was determined to secure that happiness for himself. He rode immediately to her side, like a privileged individual, and going in advance of the party, both were soon out of hearing as regarded their conversation. I grew sulky on the spot, and lagging behind kept with Tom Nugent, while Sir Denis rode with the dragoons.

“Sir Percy Stedmole seems very intimate at Knockgriffin,” said I to Nugent.

“Oh, ay, you know he’s a distant relative of the Barnetts; one of them married a generation or two ago into an English family named Stedmole, and he’s a grandson or something of the kind.”

“Has he a large property?”

Nugent shook his head, and the corners of his mouth sank slightly as he answered, “Over head and ears in debt; his estate in England is mortgaged to the last acre, and he’s trying hard to sell off Shurraghnick, his place here in Tipperary, but that’s not altogether for difficulties; he don’t relish the notion of living in this county or having anything to say to the tenants down there. A man has no business in these parts unless he has a good stock of devil-me-carism in his composition; he must be born to it as it were. Poor Sir Percy doesn’t much fancy riding out in Tipperary, especially with Sir Denis, for he’s as good as a marked man now-a-days, all about those Cappamoyne lands that he’s wanting to take in as part of the demesne.”

“But that could not affect the safety of Sir Percy!” said I.

“Oh, it could. Sometimes people get killed in mistake, you know. Supposing a shot was fired at Sir Denis, it might chance to take a wrong aim. There have been instances of that in Tipperary. Watch Sir Percy now, and you’ll see he’ll keep close to Miss Barnett all day if he can, he won’t meddle with her brother at all. Ha! ha!”

And Nugent laughed heartily. His own uncle, be it known, had been shot some five years previously. He certainly appeared gifted with a happy amount of devil-may-carism. As to our handsome host, he seemed devoid of all anxiety upon any subject: he talked pleasantly all the way, pointing out every bit of scenery worth looking at with evident pride in his strange wild county.

“Sir Percy is deeply in debt to Barnett as well as to many another, you see,” continued Nugent; “and so he comes over to Knockgriffin now and then to keep friends with him. It’s always there he stays when he comes to Tipperary; though I daresay he won’t fancy the place long, since Barnett is beginning to quarrel with his tenants.”

“Was there not some idea of Miss Barnett marrying Sir Percy?” I asked, while my heart grew icy.

“A rumour merely, from his intimacy at the house. It’s my belief Barnett would not like him for a brother-in-law at all, though he may tolerate him as a guest.”

“But surely the lady herself is the best judge of her own choice in the matter,” said I.

“Oh, of course; but I don’t see much love on her part for him. She’s a good catch, that same Louisa Barnett. Thirty thousand pounds—every penny of it, and a lovely girl besides.”

Here I could not refrain from sighing almost audibly. I detested the thoughts of the thirty thousand pounds; yet there was something encouraging in Nugent’s statement concerning Stedmole’s difficulties and involments.

“Miss Barnett might barter her fortune for the baronetcy,” resumed my loquacious companion; “but otherwise I wouldn’t say she’d accept Sir Percy. He’s a fine-looking fellow enough; but somehow I think she’d prefer an Irishman to him. She’s terribly patriotic, as you’ll find out.”

My heart grew still more icy as I asked—

“And is there any Irishman in particular that you think Miss Barnett has a preference for?”

“Oh, not one at present. She has refused several offers already; but I think, from what she says, she will never marry an Englishman.”

“I should imagine she would not throw herself away on any Tipperary man,” thought I as I recalled her conversation of the previous evening. “It is bad enough for her to have a brother in danger of his life every hour, with out running the risk of suffering a like anxiety about a husband.”

Our ride was a long one, and took us through a wildly-picturesque part of the county. Southwards we obtained fine views of several ranges of mountains, and, as we approached the Galtees, beheld some bold and commanding scenery. Upon reaching the remarkable caves in these mountains two guides were procured for our benefit, with the necessary accompaniments of candles and lucifers.

“I do not suppose that such of us as have scrambled through these caverns need repeat the feat,” said Sir Percy, as we were preparing to enter a narrow sloping passage, three or four feet high and upwards of thirty in length, which presented a most dismal aspect, and terminated in a vertical precipice, to be descended by a ladder about sixteen feet in depth. The sight of this dull limestone lane was certainly not very promising, though it opened at length into one of the most splendid and wonderful caves in the world.

Stedmole had settled it that only Sir Denis and Morley should accompany me through the mountain hollows, when, probably to his chagrin, Miss Barnett declared her intention of making one of the explorers also, saying that there was a particular point of the cavern that she had never yet penetrated to.

“You can walk about with Mr. Nugent and Captain St. John,” she said to Sir Percy, “while we are encountering the fatigues of our subterranean journey,” and she took her brother’s arm as we followed the guides to the entrance of the foremost cave.

After considerable difficulty we managed to perform a somewhat hazardous descent through narrow winding passages, where we were sometimes obliged to twist ourselves in and out, with barely room enough to make the necessary turnings. The task required so much nerve as well as physical strength, that I was surprised at Miss Barnett’s courage in going through the labour and risk. In one passage, extending nearly one hundred yards, much of which we were obliged to traverse through a space barely two feet square, one could not help imagining the horror of being enclosed there beyond the hope of rescue by the rolling down of a stone or piece of the rocks surrounding us. We explored several caverns; and I was obliged to acknowledge that I had rarely seen anything grander than these natural halls, with their massive columns, pyramids of spar, and the glittering gems of stalactites and stalagmites, shining like immense diamonds in the candle-light. Sometimes the effect produced was as gorgeous as if conjured up by the wand of a magician. Reader, if ever you visit Tipperary, do not fail to try for a peep at these wonders of nature in the Galtee mountains. I, at least, would not have missed the sight for a good deal. Perhaps, however, I had more to interest me than the mere beauties of sparry pillars, glistening crystals, and shining stalagmites. Now and then it was my good fortune to touch the fair hand of the lady who accompanied us men in our explorations as I assisted her in some difficult ascent or descent. Often we stood together, uttering murmurs of wonder and admiration. The fairy-like scenes opened occasionally to our view had a subduing effect on the mind—at least it had on mine; and I felt a sort of exultation impossible to describe while in the presence of the fair enchantress, who might have been considered the presiding genius of the magic halls. Once I was very nearly on the point of a regular declaration of undying love, forgetting all common sense and discretion; but the voice of Sir Denis, calling to us to admire the effect of the candlelight shining upon a congregation of minute crystals, restored me to a sense of my position. I know not why it was, but the fact of Miss Barnett having accompanied the party that I was attached to during the excursion through the caves rather encouraged me; and perhaps it had an opposite effect upon Sir Percy Stedmole, who seemed somewhat out of sorts when we emerged from our explorations and rejoined him and the others. Miss Barnett was in high spirits, declaring more than once that she had never enjoyed a pleasanter day. We stopped at the little village of Cloghone to procure some refreshment, and put the poor landlord of the humble inn there at his wits’ ends to know what to do for us. Being pretty hungry, however, we were not so squeamish as he might have expected, and we drank atrocious wine, and devoured some fried trout with the best grace imaginable. Once again we were on horseback, en route for Knockgriffin, in the fading light of the summer evening; and as Miss Barnett had notes to compare with me respecting the day’s adventure, I was privileged to take my place by her side for the greater part of the way home. And now we spoke of natural curiosities in foreign lands—the wonders of Italy, France, Germany; and she promised to show me some drawings she had made of ruined castles on the Rhine, and other scenes. We became deeply buried in conversation, our mutual acquaintance with many continental landscapes and other subjects in common giving us plenty to speak of. Sir Percy rode pertinaciously with St. John and Nugent, while Sir Denis kept with young Morley. Miss Barnett and I seemed often to lag far behind the rest of the party, insomuch that I thought that evening ride over lonely Tipperary roads, with the warm breeze coming to us ever and anon loaded with the perfume of fresh grass and clover blossoms, or the wild roses in the hedgerows, one of the most delicious reminiscences of my life. I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that I would cheerfully undertake to be transformed into the most unpopular landlord in the county, with the chance of a bullet whizzing at me from behind every fragrant hedge we passed, if by doing so I could secure the favour of the beautiful Irishwoman at my side. When we came near the precincts of Knockgriffin I observed that Miss Barnett hurried the pace of her horse till we got near Sir Denis, and then she kept close beside him.

“These are the Cappamoyne lands, Captain Stapleton,” she said, pointing in the direction of a flat piece of ground, laid out in patches of meadow and fields of various crops, studded here and there with small cottages. “You see, they adjoin the north woods, and from this point of view look very badly; yet, for all that, I would not attempt to disturb the present occupants of the cabins, did I not agree with Sir Denis that they will be much better off in the new dwellings he intends to provide for them.”

The moon was now rising, and glancing with soft lustre upon that level stretch of land which might yet prove so disastrous a possession to its proprietor. I looked at it a little solemnly, and felt almost inclined to echo the sigh that my fair friend uttered as we slowly turned down the road leading to the principal gateway of Knockgriffin.