Bart touched me to caution silence, and I, seeing at once that there was nothing to fear, waited developments.
As soon as he could keep his eyes open against the sudden glare, the little man tried to grasp the column of light in his fingers, then darted out of it, and I thought he had bolted from the barn; but no, he was instantly back again, and dilapidated as he was, he did not look like a professional tramp.
"No, yez don't fool Larry McManus agin! Yez are a mane, cold light with all yer blinking and no fire beneath to give 'im the good uv a cup o' tay or put a warm heart in 'im! Two nights agone 'twas suspicion o' rats kep' me from shlapin', yesternight 'twas thought o' what wud become of poor Oireland (Mary rest her) had we schnakes there ter fill the drames o' nights loike they do here whin a man's a drap o'er full o' comfort. 'Tis a good roof above! Heth, thin, had I a whisp o' straw and a bite, wid this moonlight fer company, I'd not shog from out this the night to be King!
"Saints! but there's a dog beyant the bark!" he cried a minute after, as the pup crept over to him and began to be friendly, - "I wonder is a mon sinsible to go to trustin' the loight o' any moon that shines full on a pitch-black noight whin 'tis rainin'? Och hone! but me stomach's that empty, gin I don't put on me shoes me lungs'll lake trou the soles o' me fate, and gin I do, me shoes they're that sopped, I'll cough them up - o-whurra-r-a! whurra-a! but will I iver see Old Oireland agin, - I don't know!"
Bart shut off the light, slipped on his shoes, and drawing a coat over his pajamas lighted the oil stable lantern, hung it with its back toward me, on a long hook that reached down from one of the rafters, and bore down upon Larry, whose face was instantly wreathed in puckered Smiles at the sight of a fellow-human who, though big, evidently had no intention of being aggressive.
"Well, Larry McManus," said Bart, cheerfully, "how came you in this barn so far away from Oireland a night like this?"
"Seem' as yer another gintleman o' the road in the same ploice, what more loike than the misfortune's the same?" replied he, lengthening his lower lip and stretching his stubby chin, which he scratched cautiously. Then, as he raised his eyes to Bart's, he evidently read something in his general air, touselled and tanned as he was, that shifted his opinion at least one notch.
"Maybe, sor, you're an actor mon, sor, that didn't suit the folks in the town beyant, sor, but I'd take it as praise, so I would, for shure they're but pigs there, - I couldn't stop wid thim meself! Thin agin, mayhap yer jest a plain gintleman, a bit belated, as it were, - a little belated on the way home, sor, - loike me, sor, that wus moinded to be in Kildare, sor, come May-day, and blessed Peter's day's nigh come about an' I'm here yit!"
"You are getting on the right scent, Larry," said Bart, struggling with laughter, and yet, as he said after, not wishing possibly to huff this curious person. "I hope I'm a gentleman, but I'm not tramping about; this is my barn, in which my wife and I are sleeping, so if I were you, I wouldn't take off that shirt until I can find you a dry one!"
The change that came over the man was comical. In a lightning flash he had fastened the few buttons in his blouse that it had taken his fumbling fingers several moments to unloose, and dropping one hand to his side, he held it there rigid as he saluted with two fingers at the brim of an imaginary hat; while his roving eye quickly .took in the various motley articles of furniture of our camp, - a small kitchen table with oil-stove and tea outfit of plain white ware, some plates and bowls, a few saucepans, half a dozen chairs, no two alike, and the two cots huddled in the shadows, - his voice, that had been pitched in a confidential key, arose to a wail: -
"The Saints luv yer honor, but do they be afther havin' bad landlords in Meriky too, that evicted yer honor from yer house, sor? I thought here nigh every poor body owned their own bit, ground and roof, sor, let alone a foine man loike yerself that shows the breedin' down to his tin toes, sor. Oi feel fer yer honor, fer there wuz I meself set out wid pig and cow both, sor (for thim bein' given Kathy by her aunt fer her fortin could not be took), six years ago Patrick's tide, sor, and hadn't she married Mulqueen that same week, sor (he bein' gardener a long time to his Riverence over in England, sor, and meetin' Kathy only at his mother's wakin'), I'd maybe been lodged in a barn meself, sor! Sure, hev ye the cow below ud let me down a drap o' milk?"
Then did Bart laugh long and heartily, for this new point of view in regard to our doings amused him immensely. Of all the local motives attributed to our garden vacation, none had been quite so naive and unexpected as this!
"But we haven't been evicted," said Bart, unconsciously beginning to apologize to an unknown straggler. "I own this place and my home is yonder; we are camping here for our health and pleasure. Come, it's time you gave an account of yourself, as you are trespassing." That the situation suddenly began to annoy Bart was plain.
Ignoring the tail of the speech, Larry saluted anew: "Sure, sor, I knew ye at first fer gintleman and leddy, which this same last proves; a rale gintleman and his leddy can cut about doin' the loikes of which poor folks ud be damned fer! I mind well how Lord Kilmartin 's youngest - she wid the wild red hair an' eyes that wud shame a doe - used to go barefoot through the dew down to Biddie Macks's cabin to drink fresh buttermilk, whin they turned gallons o' it from their own dairy. Some said, underbreath, she was touched, and some wild loike, but none spoke loud but to wish her speed, fer that's what it is to be a leddy!
"Meself, is it? Och, it's soon told. Six years lived I there wid Kathy and Mulqueen, workin' in the garden, he keepin' before me, until one day his Riverence come face agin me thruble. Oh, yis, sor, that same, that bit sup that's too much for the stomick, sor, and so gets into the toes and tongue, sor! Four times a year the spell's put on me, sor, and gin I shlape it over, I'm a good man in between, sor, but that one time, sor, Mulqueen was sint to Lunnon, sor, and I missed me shlape fer mischief.
"Well, thinks I, I'll go to Meriky and see me Johnny, me youngest; most loike they're more used to the shlapin' spells out there where all is free; but they wasn't! Johnny's a sheriff and got money wid his woman, and she's no place in her house fit fer the old man resting the drap off. So he gives me money to go home first class, and says he'll sind another bit along to Kathy fer me keepin'.
"This was come Easter, and bad cess, one o' me shlapeswas due, and so I've footed it to get a job to take me back to Kathy. If I could strike a port just right, Hiven might get me home between times in a cattle boat.
"I'm that well listed now I could do good work if I had full feed, maybe till Michaelmas. Hiven rest ye, sor, but have ye ever a job o' garden work now on yer estate, sor, that would kape me until I got the bit to cross to Kathy?"
As Bart hesitated, I burst forth, "Have you ever tended flowers, Larry?"
" Flowers, me leddy? - that's what I did fer his River-ence, indoors and out, and dressed them fer the shows, mem, and not few's the prize money we took. His River-ence, he called a rose for Kathy, that is to say Kathleen; 'twas that big 'twould hide yer face. Flowers, is it? Well, I don't know!"
Bart, meanwhile, had made a plan, telling Larry that he would draw a cup of tea and give him something to eat, while he thought the matter over. He soon had the poor fellow wrapped in an old blanket and snoring comfortably in the straw, while, as the rain had stopped and dawn began to show the outlines of Opal Farm, Bart suggested that I had best go indoors and finish my broken sleep, while he had a chance to scrutinize Larry by daylight before committing himself.
When he rejoined me several hours later for an indoor breakfast, for it had turned to rain again and promised several days of the saturate weather that makes even a mountain camp utterly dreary, he brought me the news that Larry was to work for me especially, beginning on the rose bed, - that he would lodge with Amos Opie and take his meals with Anastasia, who thinks it likely that they are cousins on the mothers' side, as they are both of the same parish and name. The exact way of our meeting with him need not be dwelt upon domestically, for the sake of discipline, as he will have more self-respect among his fellows in the combination clothes we provided, "until his baggage arrives." He is to be paid no money, and allowed to "shlape" if a spell unhappily arrives. When the season is over, Bart agrees to see him on board ship with a prepaid passage straight to Kathy, and whatever else is his due sent to her! Meanwhile he promised to " fit the leddy with the tastiest garden off the old sod!"
So here we are!
This chronicle should have a penny-dreadful title, "Their Midnight Adventure, or How it Rained a Rose Gardener!" Tell me about the ferns next time; we have only moved the glossy Christmas and evergreen-crested wood ferns as yet, being sure of these.
How about our fencing? Ask Evan. You remember that we have a picket-fence toward the road, but on three sides the boundary is only a tumble-down stone wall in which bird cherries have here and there found footing. We have a chance to sell the stones, and Bart is thinking of it, as it will be too costly to rebuild on a good foundation. The old wall was merely a rough-laid pile.