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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849)

Sir Kit’s Honeymoon

From “Castle Rackrent”

IT was a very spirited letter, to be sure. Sir Kit sent his service, and the compliments of the season, in return to the agent, and he would fight him with pleasure to-morrow, or any day, for sending him such a letter, if he was born a gentleman, which he was sorry (for both their sakes) to find (too late) he was not. Then, in a private postscript, he condescended to tell us that all would be speedily settled to his satisfaction, and we should turn over a new leaf, for he was going to be married in a fortnight to the grandest heiress in England, and had only immediate occasion at present for £200, as he would not choose to touch his lady’s fortune for travelling expenses home to Castle Rackrent, where he intended to be, wind and weather permitting, early in the next month; and desired fires, and the house to be painted, and the new building to go on as fast as possible, for the reception of him and his lady before that time; with several words besides in the letter, which we could not make out because—God bless him!—he wrote in such a flurry. My heart warmed to my new lady when I read this. I was almost afraid it was too good news to be true; but the girls fell to scouring, and it was well they did, for we soon saw his marriage in the paper, to a lady with I don’t know how many tens of thousand pounds to her fortune. Then I watched the post-office for his landing; and the news came to my son of his and the bride being in Dublin, and on the way home to Castle Rackrent. We had bonfires all over the country, expecting him down the next day, and we had his coming of age still to celebrate, which he had not time to do properly before he left the country. Therefore a great ball was expected, and great doings upon his coming, as it were, fresh to take possession of his ancestors’ estate.

I never shall forget the day he came home. We had waited and waited all day long till eleven o’clock at night, and I was thinking of sending the boy to lock the gates, and giving them up for that night, when there came the carriages thundering up to the great hall-door. I got the first sight of the bride; for when the carriage-door opened, just as she had her foot on the steps, I held the torch full in her face to light her, at which she shut her eyes; but I had a full view of the rest of her, and greatly shocked I was, for by that light she was little better than a blackamoor, and seemed crippled; but that was only sitting so long in the chariot.

“You’re kindly welcome to Castle Rackrent, my lady,” says I, recollecting who she was.—“Did your Honour hear of the bonfires?”

His Honour spoke never a word, nor so much as handed her up the steps. He looked to me no more like himself than nothing at all. I know I took him for the skeleton of his Honour. I was not sure what to say next to one or t’other, but seeing she was a stranger in a foreign country, I thought it but right to speak cheerful to her; so I went back again to the bonfires.

“My lady,” says I, as she crossed the hall, “there would have been fifty times as many; but for fear of the horses, and frightening your ladyship, Jason and I forbid them, please your Honour.”

With that she looked at me a little bewildered.

“Will I have a fire lighted in the state-room to-night?” was the next question I put to her, but never a word she answered. So I concluded she could not speak a word of English, and was from foreign parts. The short and the long of it was, I couldn’t tell what to make of her; so I left her to herself, and went straight down to the servants’ hall to learn something for certain about her. Sir Kit’s own man was tired, but the groom set him a-talking at last, and we had it all out before ever I closed my eyes that night. The bride might well be a great fortune. She was a Jewish by all accounts, who are famous for their great riches. I had never seen any of that tribe or nation before, and could only gather that she spoke a strange kind of English of her own; that she could not abide pork or sausages, and went neither to church or mass. Mercy upon his Honour’s poor soul, thought I. What will become of him and his, and all of us, with his heretic blackamoor at the head of the Castle Rackrent estate? I never slept a wink all night for thinking of it; but before the servants I put my pipe in my mouth, and kept my mind to myself, for I had a great regard for the family. And after this, when strange gentlemen’s servants came to the house, and would begin to talk about the bride, I took care to put the best foot foremost, and passed her for a nabob in the kitchen, which accounted for her dark complexion and everything.

The very morning after they came home, however, I saw plain enough how things were between Sir Kit and my lady, though they were walking together arm in arm after breakfast, looking at the new building and the improvements.

“Old Thady,” said my master, just as he used to do, “how do you do?”

“Very well, I thank your Honour’s honour,” said I. But I saw he was not well pleased, and my heart was in my mouth as I walked along after him.

“Is the large room damp, Thady?” said his Honour.

“Oh, damp, your Honour! How should it be but as dry as a bone,” says I, “after all the fires we have kept in it day and night? It’s the barrack-room your Honour’s talking on.”

“And what is a barrack-room, pray, my dear?” were the first words I ever heard out of my lady’s lips.

“No matter, my dear,” said he, and went on talking to me, ashamed-like I should witness her ignorance. To be sure, to hear her talk one might have taken her for an innocent, for it was, “What’s this, Sir Kit?” and “What’s that, Sir Kit?” all the way we went. To be sure, Sir Kit had enough to do to answer her.

“And what do you call that, Sir Kit?” said she, “that looks like a pile of black bricks, pray, Sir Kit?”

“My turf-stack, my dear,” said my master, and bit his lip.

“Where have you lived, my lady, all your life, not to know a turf-stack when you see it?” thought I, but I said nothing.

Then by-and-by she takes out her glass, and begins spying over the country.

“And what’s all that black swamp out yonder, Sir Kit?” says she.

“My bog, my dear,” says he, and went on whistling.

“It’s a very ugly prospect, my dear,” says she.

“You don’t see it, my dear,” says he; “for we’ve planted it out. When the trees grow up in summer-time—” says he.

“Where are the trees, my dear?” said she, still looking through her glass.

“You are blind, my dear,” says he; “what are these under your eyes?”

“These shrubs?” said she.

“Trees,” said he.

“Maybe they are what you call trees in Ireland, my dear,” said she; “but they are not a yard high, are they?”

“They were planted out but last year, my lady,” says I, to soften matters between them, for I saw she was going the way to make his Honour mad with her. “They are very well grown for their age, and you’ll not see the bog of Allyballycarricko’shaughlin at all, at all through the screen, when once the leaves come out. But, my lady, you must not quarrel with any part or parcel of Allyballycarricko’shaughlin, for you don’t know how many hundred years that same bit of bog has been in the family. We would not part with the bog of Allyballycarricko’shaughlin upon no account at all. It cost the late Sir Murtagh two hundred good pounds to defend his title to it and boundaries against the O’Learys, who cut a road through it.”

Now one would have thought this would have been hint enough for my lady, but she fell to laughing like one out of their right mind, and made me say the name of the bog over, for her to get it by heart, a dozen times; and then she must ask me how to spell it, and what was the meaning of it in English—Sir Kit standing by whistling all the while. I verily believed she laid the corner-stone of all her future misfortunes at that very instant; but I said no more, only looked at Sir Kit.

There were no balls, no dinners, no doings; the country was all disappointed. Sir Kit’s gentleman said in a whisper to me it was all my lady’s own fault, because she was so obstinate about the cross.

“What cross?” says I. “Is it about her being a heretic?”

“Oh, no such matter,” says he. “My master does not mind her heresies, but her diamond cross—it’s worth I can’t tell you how much, and she has thousands of English pounds concealed in diamonds about her, which she as good as promised to give up to my master before he married; but now she won’t part with any of them, and she must take the consequences.”

Her honeymoon, at least her Irish honeymoon, was scarcely well over, when his Honour one morning said to me, “Thady, buy me a pig!” And then the sausages were ordered, and here was the first open breaking-out of my lady’s troubles. My lady came down herself into the kitchen to speak to the cook about the sausages, and desired never to see them more at her table. Now my master had ordered them, and my lady knew that. The cook took my lady’s part, because she never came down into the kitchen, and was young and innocent in housekeeping, which raised her pity; besides, said she, at her own table, surely my lady should order and disorder what she pleases. But the cook soon changed her note, for my master made it a principle to have the sausages, and swore at her for a Jew herself, till he drove her fairly out of the kitchen. Then, for fear of her place, and because he threatened that my lady should give her no discharge without the sausages, she gave up, and from that day forward always sausages, or bacon, or pig-meat in some shape or other, went up to table; upon which my lady shut herself up in her own room, and my master said she might stay there, with an oath. And to make sure of her, he turned the key in the door, and kept it ever after in his pocket.