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the bridegroom yet tarried. The board was cleared of the eatables, and the copious jugs of punch going their round, but the usual toast of the united healths of the happy pair could not be given, for one of them was absent.–Father Phil hardly knew what to do, for even his overflowing cheerfulness began to forsake him, and a certain air of embarrassment began to pervade the whole assembly, till Jack Dwyer could bear it no longer, and standing up, he thus addressed the company.
“ Friends and neighbours—you see the disgrace that's put on me and my child."
A murmur of “ No, no," ran round the board.
“No, he wont,” said Jack, “I see he wont-I know he wont. He wanted to have every thing all his own way, and he thinks to disgrace me into doing what he likes, but he sha’nt !”—and he struck the table fiercely as he spoke, for Jack, when once his blood was up, was a man of desperate determination. “He's a greedy chap, the same James Casey, and he loves his bargain betther than he loves you, Matty, so don't look glum about what I'm saying—I say he's greedy, he's just the fellow that if you gave him the roof aff your house, would ax you for the rails before your door—and he goes back of his bargain now, bekase I would not let him have it all his own way, and puts the disgrace on me, thinkin' I'll give in to him, through that same—but I wont. And I tell you what it is, friends and neighbours ; there's the lease of the three-cornered field below there,"--and he held up a parchment as he spoke,—"and a snug cottage on it, and it's all ready for the girl to walk into with the man that will have her, and if there's a man among you here that's willing, let him say the word now, and I'll give her to
The girl could not resist an exclamation of surprise, which her father hushed by a word and look so peremptory, that she saw remonstrance was in vain, and a silence of some moments ensued; for it was rather startling, this immediate offer of a girl who had been so strangely slighted, and the men were not quite prepared to make advances until they knew something more of the why and wherefore of her sweetheart's desertion.
“Are yiz all dumb ?” exclaimed Jack in surprise. “Faix, it's not every day a snug little field and cottage, and a good-looking girl falls in a man's way;--I say again, I'll give her and the lase to the man that will say the word.”
Still no one spoke, and Andy began to think they were using Jack Dwyer and his daughter very ill, but what business had he to think of offering himself—" a poor devil like him?" But the silence still continuing, Andy took heart of grace, and as the profit and pleasure of a snug match and a handsome wife flashed upon him, he got up and said, “ Would I do, sir?”
Every one was taken by surprise-even old Jack himself; and Matty could not suppress a faint exclamation, which every one but Andy understood to mean “she didn't like it at all;" but which Andy interpreted quite the other way, and he grinned his loutish admiration at Matty, who turned away her head from him in sheer distaste, which action Andy took for mere coyness.
Jack was in a dilemma-for Andy was just the very last man he would have chosen as a husband for his daughter ; but what could he do?-he was taken at his word, and even at the worst he was determined that some one should marry the girl out of hand, and show Casey the “ disgrace should not be put on him ;" but anxious to have another chance, he stammered something about the fairness of “ letting the girl choose," and that “ some one else might wish to spake ;' but the end of all was, that no one rose to rival Andy, and Father Phil bore witness to the satisfaction he had that day in finding so much uprightness and fidelity in “the boy,'—that he had raised his character much in his estimation by his conduct that day—and if he was a little giddy betimes, there was nothing like a wife to steady him; and if he was rather poor, sure Jack Dwyer could mend that.
“ Then come up here,” says Jack; and Andy left his place at the very end of the board, and marched up to the head, amidst clapping of hands and thumping of the table, and laughing and shouting.
“Silence!” cried Father Phil, “this is no laughing matther, but a serious engagement—and John Dwyer, I tell you—and you, Andy Rooney, that girl must not be married against her own free will; but if she has no objection, well and good.”
“My will is her pleasure, I know,” said Jack, resolutely.
To the surprise of every one, Matty said, “ Oh, I'll take the boy, with all my heart !
Handy Andy threw his arms round her neck, and gave her a most vigorous salute which came smacking off, and thereupon arose a hilarious shout which made the old rafters of the barn ring again.
“There's the lase for you,” said Jack, handing the parchment to Andy, who was now installed in the place of honour beside the bride elect, at the head of the table, and the punch circulated rapidly in filling to the double toast of health, happiness, and prosperity, to “the happy pair;" and after some few more circuits of the enlivening liquor had been performed, the women retired to the dwelling-house, whose sanded parlour was put in immediate readiness for the celebration of the nuptial knot between Matty and the adventurous Andy.
In half an hour the ceremony was performed, and the rites and blessings of the church dispensed between two people, who, an hour before, had never looked on each other with thoughts of matrimony.
Under such circumstances, it was wonderful with what lightness of spirit Matty went through the honours consequent on a peasant bridal in Ireland :-these, it is needless to detail ; our limits would not permit; but suffice it to say, that a rattling country dance was led off by Andy and Matty in the barn, intermediate jigs were indulged in by the “ picked dancers” of the parish, while the country dancers were resting and making love (if making love can be called rest) in the corners, and that the pipers and punch-makers had quite enough to do until the night was far spent, and it was considered time for the bride and bridegroom to be escorted by a chosen party of friends to the little cotiage which was to be their future home. The pipers stood at the threshold of Jack Dwyer, and his daughter departed from under the “roof-tree" to the tune of “ Joy be with you ;" and then the lilters heading the body-guard of the bride, plied drone and chanter right merrily until she had entered her new home, thanked her old friends, (who did all the established civilities, and cracked all the usual jokes attendant on the occasion,) and Andy bolted the door of the snug cottage of which he had so suddenly become master, and placed a seat for the bride beside the fire, requesting “ Miss Dwyer" to sit down for Andy could not bring himself to call her “Matty" yet, and found himself in an awkward position in being “lord and master” of a girl he considered so far above him a few hours before : Matty sat quiet and looked at the fire.
“ It's very quare, isn't it?" says Andy with a grin, looking at her tenderly, and twiddling his thumbs.
“What's quare ?” inquired Matty, very drily.
“Sure you don't call the three-cornered field my father gave us, an estate, you fool ?" answered Matty.
“Oh no,” said Andy. “I mane the blessed and holy estate of matrimony the priest put us in possession of ;” and Andy drew a stool near the heiress, on the strength of the hit he thought he had made.
“Sit at the other side of the fire,” said Matty, very coldly.
“Yes, Miss,” responded Andy very respectfully; and in shoving his seat backwards, the legs of the stool caught in the earthen floor, and Andy tumbled heels over head.
Matty laughed, while Andy was picking himself up with increased confusion at his mishap; for even amidst rustics, there is nothing more humiliating than a lover placing himself in a ridiculous position at the moment he is doing his best to make himself agreeable.
“ It is well your coat's not new," said Matty, with a contemptuous look at Andy's weather-beaten vestment.
“I hope I'll soon have a betther,” said Andy, a little piqued, with all his reverence for the heiress, at this allusion to his poverty—“ But sure, it wasn't the coat you married, but the man that's in it; and sure I'll take off my clothes as soon as you plase, Matty, my dear-Miss Dwyer, I mane—I beg your pardon."
“You had better wait till you get better," answered Matty, very drily—“ You know the old saying, 'Don't throw out your dirty wather until you get in fresh.'”
“Ah darlin', dont be cruel to me,” said Andy in a supplicating tone“ “I know I'm not desarvin' of you, but sure I did not make so bowld as to make up to you, until I seen that nobody else would have you."
“Nobody else have me!" exclaimed Matty, as her eyes flashed with anger.
“I beg your pardon, Miss," said poor Andy, who in the extremity of his own humility had committed such an offence against Matty's pride. “I only meant that"
“ Say no more about it,” said Matty, who recovered her equanimity. _“Didn't my father give you the lase of the field and house?”
“ Yis, Miss."