Frontispiece to the 1861 edition.
Bessy Conway; or, The Irish Girl in America
As the three walked on together down the road, Billy skipped along like a lamplighter, his spindle shanks hopping over the ground as lightly as though they propelled a grasshopper. He was in a great hurry home, was Billy, if true to himself, whereas Herbert and Bessy lagged lazily behind. Still they managed to keep Billy in sight, and the little man very prudently moderated his pace at times so as to remain within earshot. It was strange that Bessy did not seem the least afraid of being seen in Herbert's company, but walked on Fide by side with him as composedly as though his character had always been above suspicion. She had all at once (314) acquired an easy confidence of manner and a perfect selfpossession that were very remarkable in one so modest and retiring. It seemed as if by anticipation she felt herself mistress of Ivy Lodge, looked up to by all the country round, and scattering blessings on every side. Now that Herbert was converted from his evil ways, she cared not who saw them together, for in her heart she was proud of his affection, And well she might, for with his fortune and personal advantages there were few ladies in the country that would not have been flattered by those attentions so long and so devotedly bestowed on her.
" Bessy!" said Herbert after they had walked a little way in silence. "Bessy! what have I to hope for now? will you trust me?"
She raised her eyes and looked him in the face one moment steadily. It was enough. The soul that beamed on her through those clear hazel eyes was all that she could desire.
"I? trust you, Mr. Herbert !" she replied.
" Even to become my wife?"
" Even to become your wife!"
Herbert took the hand which she held out to him, and pressed it to his lips in silence. The color came and went on his cheek like clouds over an April sky, and his eyes filled with tears as he turned them on Bessy.
" This moment repays me for all," he said in a voice quivering with emotion, " may Leaven grant me grace to make you as happy as you deserve to be all your life long !"
The round full moon was rising over the valley of the Suir and gilding St. Finian's ruined pile and the ancient Castle of Ardfinnan when Henry Herbert and Bessy Conway appeared before the astonished parents of the latter, Billy Potts bidding them " good night" at the door. Hearing how the matter stood, the old people were, of course, very willing to give their consent that their daughter should become the wedded (315) wife of their handsome young landlord, and before Herbert left the house the day of days was appointed. Just two weeks from that evening Father Daly blessed their union, and Bessy Conway left her humble home for the elegant dwelling of the Herberts.
That was the making of the Conways, as the neighbors used to say. Denis Conway's farm was secured by lease to the family for " ninety-nine years" at a nominal rent. One of the young men was made steward up at the Lodge, and the other remained at home to assist their father. Nancy was well married a few months after Bessy, to a " gentleman farmer" in the vicinity, who would not have looked at her before. Bessy and her husband would fain have the old couple go and live with them but this they would never consent to do. A grand house like that wouldn't answer them at all, they said and they were sure they'd never find themselves at home in it. So the old man and the old woman jogged along in their own lowly path just the same as if Bessy were Bessy Conway still and they tenants at will as in former times. Ellen, of course, remained at home to assist her mother in keeping house.
As for Henry Herbert, he was in all respects an altered man. If he had sown his wild oats, as the people said, and his real character was matured under the saving influence of religion. His accession to the estate was a blessing to the tenantry, for now that the impulses of his generous nature were regulated by prudence and good sense, he became an example to the surrounding gentry, and was generally acknowledged to be one of the best landlords in the county Tipperary. And Bessy was the happiest of wives, as she said herself to Mrs. Walters when that lady and her worthy husband came to spend some weeks at the Lodge the summer after Bessy's marriage.
Captain Walters was at first a little shy of Herbert on account (316) of what had passed between them in Mrs. Hibbard's house in New York, but Herbert's frank cordiality speedily reassured him. When they pledged each other after dinner in champagne that sparkled like the cataract's foam, Herbert extended his hand to the Captain and said: " No welcomer guests ever crossed the threshold of Ivy Lodge than you and Mrs. Walters. Think no more of what passed-in treating me as you did, it was Bessy's welfare you studied, and the guardians of her honor and fair name are entitled to my lasting gratitude."
There was no mistaking his sincerity, and the Captain was thenceforward quite at his ease in their future intercourse. So pleased, indeed, was he with his new friend, and the other acquaintances made during this visit, that he willingly acceded to his wife's request that he should buy a property then to be sold in the neighborhood and settle there for life.
Ivy Lodge was soon as famous for hospitality as it had before been for griping parsimony. The neighboring poor were well acquainted with its precincts, and were always sure of having their bag replenished "at the big house." Bid McGuigan was a frequent visitor there, and many a timid the young mistress of the mansion entertained her visitors with an account of Bid's curt description of " the putty gentleman," and the ruby that sparkled in his scarf-pin In the long yearns of Happiness that glided by so smoothly, the famine and an the dreary past seemed like a troubled dream, only remembered in blissful contrast with the present, and as a motive for more fervent gratitude to the Giver of an good.
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