TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY
BY WILLIAM CARLETON
GOING TO MAYNOOTH.
Young Denis O'Shaughnessy was old Denis's son; and old Denis, like many great men before him, was the son of his father and mother in particular, and a long line of respectable ancestors in general. He was, moreover, a great historian, a perplexing controversialist, deeply read in Dr. Gallagher and Pastorini, and equally profound in the history of Harry the Eighth, and Luther's partnership with the devil. Denis was a tall man, who, from his peculiar appearance, and the nature of his dress, a light drab-colored frieze, was nicknamed the Walking Pigeon-house; and truly, on seeing him at a distance, a man might naturally enough hit upon a worse comparison. He was quite straight, carried both his arms hanging by his sides, motionless and at their full length, like the pendulums of a clock that has ceased going. In his head, neck, and chest there was no muscular action visible; he walked, in fact, as if a milk-pail were upon his crown, or as if a single nod of his would put the planets out of order. But the principal cause of the similarity lay in his roundness, which resembled that of a pump, running to a point, or the pigeon-house aforesaid, which is still better.
Denis, though a large man, was but a small farmer, for he rented only eighteen acres of good land. His family, however, like himself, was large, consisting of thirteen children, among whom Denis junior stood pre-eminent. Like old Denis, he was exceedingly long-winded in argument, pedantic as the schoolmaster who taught him, and capable of taking a very comprehensive grasp of any tangible subject.
Young Denis's display of controversial talents was so remarkably precocious, that he controverted his father's statements upon all possible subjects, with a freedom from embarrassment which promised well for that most distinguished trait in a controversialist—hardihood of countenance. This delighted old Denis to the finger ends.
"Dinny, if he's spared," he would say, "will be a credit to us all yet. The sorra one of him but's as manly as anything, and as longheaded as a four-footed baste, so he is! nothing daunts or dashes him, or puts him to an amplush: but he'll look you in the face so stout an' cute, an' never redden or stumble, whether he's right or wrong, that it does one's heart good to see him. Then he has such a laning to it, you see, that the crathur 'ud ground an argument on anything, thin draw it out to a norration an' make it as clear as rock-water, besides incensing you so well into the rason of the thing, that Father Finnerty himself 'ud hardly do it betther from the althar."
The highest object of an Irish peasant's ambition is to see his son a priest. Whenever a farmer happens to have a large family, he usually destines one of them for the church, if his circumstances are at all such as can enable him to afford the boy a proper education. This youth becomes the centre in which all the affections of the family meet. He is cherished, humored in all his caprices, indulged in his boyish predilections, and raised over the heads of his brothers, independently of all personal or relative merit in himself. The consequence is, that he gradually became self-willed, proud, and arrogant, often to an offensive degree; but all this is frequently mixed up with a lofty bombast, and an under-current of strong disguised affection, that render his early life remarkably ludicrous and amusing. Indeed, the pranks of pedantry, the pretensions to knowledge, and the humor with which it is mostly displayed, render these scions of divinity, in their intercourse with the people until the period of preparatory education is completed, the most interesting and comical class, perhaps, to be found in the kingdom. Of these learned priestlings young Denis was undoubtedly a first-rate specimen. His father, a man of no education, was, nevertheless, as profound and unfathomable upon his favorite subjects as a philosopher; but this profundity raised him mightily in the opinion of the people, who admired him the more the less they understood him.
Now old Denis was determined that young Denis should tread in his own footsteps; and, sooth to say, young Denis possessed as bright a talent for the dark and mysterious as the father himself. No sooner had the son commenced Latin with the intention of adorning the church, than the father put him in training for controversy. For a considerable time the laurels were uniformly borne away by the veteran: but what will not learning do? Ere long the son got as far as syntax, about which time the father began to lose ground, in consequence of some ugly quotations which the son threw into his gizzard, and which unfortunately stuck there. By and by the father receded more and more, as the son advanced in his Latin and Greek, until, at length, the encounters were only resorted to for the purpose of showing off the son.
When young Denis had reached the age of sixteen or seventeen, he was looked upon by his father and his family, as well as by all their relations in general, as a prodigy. It was amusing to witness the delight with which the worthy man would call upon his son to exhibit his talents, a call to which the son instantly attended. This was usually done by commencing a mock controversy, for the gratification of some neighbor to whom the father was anxious to prove the great talents of his son. When old Denis got the young sogarth fairly in motion, he gently drew himself out of the dispute, but continued a running comment upon the son's erudition, pointed out his good things, and occasionally resumed the posture of the controversialist to reinspirit the boy if he appeared to flag.
"Dinny, abouchal, will you come up till Phadrick Murray hears you arguin' Scripthur wid myself, Dinny. Now, Phadrick, listen, but keep your tongue sayin' nothin'; just lave us to ourselves. Come up, Dinny, till you have a hate at arguin' wid myself."
"Fadher, I condimnate you at once—I condimnate you as being a most ungrammatical ould man, an' not fit to argue wid any one that knows Murray's English Grammar, an' more espaciously the three concords of Lily's Latin one; that is the cognation between the nominative case and the verb, the consanguinity between the substantive and the adjective, and the blood-relationship that irritates between the relative and the antecedent."
"I tould you, Phadrick!! There's the boy that can rattle off the high English, and the larned Latin, jist as if he was born wid an English Dictionary in one cheek, a Latin Neksuggawn in the other, an Doctor Gallagher's Irish Sarmons nately on the top of his tongue between the two."
"Fadher, but that unfortunately I am afflicted wid modesty, I'd blush crocus for your ignorance, as Virgil asserts in his Bucolics, ut Virgilius ait in Bucolids; and as Horatius, a book that I'm well acquainted wid, says in another place, Huc pertinent verba, says he, commodandi, comparandi, dandi, prornittendi, soluendi imperandi nuntiandi, fidendi, obsequendi, minandi irascendi, et iis contraria."
"That's a good boy, Dinny; but why would you blush for my ignorance, avourneen? Take care of yourself now an' spake deep, for I'll outargue you at the heel o' the hunt, cute as you are."
"Why do I blush for your ignorance, is it? Why thin, I'm sure I have sound rasons for it; only think of the gross persivarance wid which you call that larned work, the Lexicon in Greek, a neck-suggan. Fadher, never, attimpt to argue or display your ignorance wid me again. But, moreover, I can probate you to be an ungrammatical man from your own modus of argument."
"Go an, avourneen. Phadrick!!"
"I'm listenin'. The sorra's no match for his cuteness, an' one's puzzled to think where he can get it all."
"Why, you don't know at all what I could do by larnin'. It would be no throuble to me to divide myself into two halves, an' argue the one agin the other."
"You would, in throth, Dinny."
"Ay, father, or cut myself acrass, an' dispute my head, maybe, agin my heels."
"Throth, would you!"
"Or practise logic wid my right hand, and bate that agin wid my left."
"The sarra lie in it."
"Or read the Greek Tistament wid my right eye, an thranslate it at the same time wid my left, according to the Greek an' English sides of my face, wid my tongue constrein' into Irish, unknownst to both o' them."
"Why, Denis, he must have a head like a bell to be able to get into things."
"Throth an' he has that, an' 'ill make a noise in conthroversy yet, if he lives. Now, Dinny, let us have a hate at histhory."
"A hate at histhory?—wid all my heart; but before we begin, I tell you that I'll confound you precipitately; for you see, if you bate me in the English, I'll scarify you wid Latin, and give you a bang or two of Greek into the bargain. Och! I wish you'd hear the sackin' I gave Tom Reilly the other day; rubbed him down, as the masther says, wid a Greek towel, an' whenever I complimented him with the loan of a cut on the head, I always gave him a plaster of Latin to heal it; but the sorra worse healin' flesh in the world than Tom's is for the Latin, so I bruised a few Greek roots and laid them to his caput so nate, that you'd laugh to see him. Well is it histhory we are to begin wid? If it is, come on—advance. I'm ready for you—in protection—wid my guards up."
"Ha, ha, ha! Well, if he isn't the drollest crathur, an' so cute! But now for the histhory. Can you prove to me, upon a clear foundation, the differ atween black an' white, or prove that Phadrick Murray here, long life to him, is an ass? Now, Phadrick, listen, for you must decide betune us."
"Orra, have you no other larnin' than that to argue upon? Sure if you call upon me to decide, I must give it agin Dinny. Why my judgment won't be worth a hap'orth, if he makes an ass of me!"
"What matther how you decide, man alive, if he proves you to be one; sure that is all we want. Never heed shakin' your head—listen an' it will be well worth your while. Why, man, you'll know more nor you ever knew or suspected before, when he proves you to be an ass."
"In the first place, fadher, you're ungrammatical in one word; instead of sayin' 'prove,' always say probate, or probe; the word is descended, that is, the ancisthor of it, is probo, a deep Greek word—probo, probas, prob-ass, that is to say, I'm to probe Phadrick here to be an ass. Now, do you see how pat I brought that in? That's the way, Phadrick, I chastise my fadher with the languages."
"In throth it is; go an avick. Phadrick!"
"Phadrick, do you know the differ atween black an' white'?"
"Atween black an' white? Hut, gorsoon, to be sure I do."
"Well, an' what might it be, Phadrick, my larned Athiop? What might it be, I negotiate?"
"Why, thin, the differ atween them is this, Dinny, that black is—let me see—why—that black is not red—nor yallow—nor brown—nor green—nor purple—not cut-beard—nor a heather color—nor a grog-ram"—
"Nor a white?"
"Surely, Dinny, not a white, abouchal; don't think to come over me that way."
"But I want to know what color it is, most larned sager."
"All rasonable, Dinny, Why, thin, black is—let me see—hut, death alive!—it's—a—a—why, it's black, an' that's all I can say about it; yes, faix, I can—black is the color of Father Curtis's coat."
"An' what color is that, Phadrick?"
"Why, it's black, to be sure."
"Well, now, what color is white, Phadrick?"
"Why, it's a snow-color: for all the world the color of snow."
"Ay, is it."
"The dear help your head, Phadrick, if that's all you know about snow. In England, man, snow is an Oxford gray, an' in Scotland, a pepper an' salt, an' sometimes a cut-beard, when they get a hard winther. I found that much in the Greek, any way, Phadrick. Thry agin, you imigrant, I'll give you another chance—what color is white?"
"Why, thin, it's—white—an' nothin' else. The sorra one but you'd puzzle a saint wid your long-headed screwtations from books."
"So, Phadrick, your preamble is, that white is white, an' black is black?"
"Asy avick. I said, sure enough, that white is white; but the black I deny—I said it was the color of Father Curtis's black coat."
"Oh, you barbarian of the world, how I scorn your profundity an' emotions! You're a disgrace to the human sex by your superciliousness of knowledge, an' your various quotations of ignorance. Ignorantia, Phadrick, is your date an' superscription. Now, stretch out your ears, till I probate, or probe to you the differ atween black an' white."
"Phadrick!!" said the father.
"Now, Phadrick, here's the griddle, an' here's a clane plate. Do you see them here beside one another?"
"I'm lookin' at them."
"Now, shut your eyes."
"Is that your way, Denis, of judgin' colors?"
"Shut your eyes, I say, till I give you ocular demonstration of the differ atween these two respectable colors."
"Well, they're shut."
"An' keep them so. Now, what differ do you see atween them?"
"The sorra taste, man alive; I never seen anything in my whole life so clearly of a color as they are both this minute."
"Don't you see now, Phadrick, that there's not the smallest taste o' differ in them, an' that's accordin' to Euclid."
"Sure enough, I see the divil a taste o' differ atween the two."
"Well, Phadrick, that's the point settled. There's no discrimination at all atween black an' white. They're both of the same color—so long as you keep your eyes shut."
"But if a man happens to open his eyes, Dinny?"
"He has no right to open them, Phadrick, if he wants to prove the truth of a thing. I should have said probe—but it does not significate."
"The heavens mark you to grace, Dinny. You did that in brave style. Phadrick, ahagur, he'll make the darlin' of an arguer whin he gets the robes an him."
"I don't deny that; he'll be aquil to the best o' thim: still, Denis, I'd rather, whin I want to pronounce upon colors, that he'd let me keep my eyes open."
"Ay, but he did it out o' the books, man alive; an' there's no goin' beyant thim. Sure he could prove it out of the Divinity, if you went to that. An' what is still more, he could, by shuttin' your eyes, in the same way prove black to be white, an' white black, jist as asy."
"Surely myself doesn't doubt it. I suppose, by shuttin' my eyes, the same lad could prove anything to me."
"But, Dinny, avourneen, you didn't prove Phadrick to be an ass yit. Will you do that by histhory, too, Dinny, or by the norrations of Illocution?"
"Father, I'm surprised at your gross imperception. Why, man, if you were not a rara avis of somnolency, a man of most frolicsome determinations, you'd be able to see that I've proved Phadrick to be an ass already."
"Throth, I deny that you did; there wasn't a word about my bein' an ass, in the last discoorse. It was all upon the differ atween black an' white."
"Oh, how I scorn your gravity, man! Ignorantia, as I said, is your date an' superscription; an' when you die, you ought to go an' engage a stone-cutter to carve you a headstone, an' make him write on it, Hic jacet Ignorantius Redivicus. An' the translation of that is, accordin' to Publius Virgilius Maro—'here lies a quadruped who didn't know the differ atween black an' white.'"
"Well, by the livin', Dinny, I dunna where you get all this deep readin'."
"Sure he gets it all in the Dixonary."
"Bedad, that Dixonary must be a fine book entirely, to thim that undherstand it."
"But, Dinny, will you tell Phadrick the Case of Conscience atween Barny Branagan's two goats an' Parra Ghastha's mare?"
"Fadher, if you were a grammarian, I'd castigate your incompatability as it desarves—I'd lay the scourge o' syntax upon you, as no man ever got it since the invintion o' the nine parts of speech. By what rule of logic can you say that aither Barny Branagan's goats or Parra Ghastha's mare had a conscience? I tell you it wasn't they had the conscience, but the divine who decided the difficulty. Phadrick, lie down till I illusthrate."
"How is that, Dinny? I can hear you sittin'."
"Lie down, you reptile, or I shall decline the narration altogether."
"Arra, lie down, Phadrick; sure he only wants to show you the rason o' the thing."
"Well, well; I'm down. Now Dinny, don't let your feet be too larned, if you plase."
"Silence!—taceto! you reptile. Now, Phadrick, here, on this side o' you, lies Barny Branagan's field; an' there, on that side, lies a field of Parra Ghastha's; you're the ditch o' mud betuxt them."
"The ditch o' mud! Faix that's dacent!"
"Now here, on Barny Branagan's side, feeds Parra Ghastha's mare; an' there, on Parra Ghastha's side, feed Barny Branagan's goats. Do you comprehend? Do you insinuate?"
"I do—I do. Death alive! there's no use in punchin' my sides wid your feet that way."
"Well, get up now an' set your ears."
"Now listen to him, Phadrick!"
"It was one night in winter, when all nature shone in the nocturnal beauty of tenebrosity: the sun had set about three hours before; an', accordin' to the best logicians, there was a dearth of light. It's the general opinion of philosophers—that is, of the soundest o' them—that when the sun is down the moon an' stars are usually up; an' so they were on the night that I'm narratin' about. The moon was, wid great respect to her character, night-walkin' in the sky; and the stars vegetated in celestial genuflexion around her. Nature, Phadrick, was in great state; the earth was undher our feet, an' the sky above us. The frost, too, was hard, Phadrick, the air keen, an' the grass tendher. All things were enrobed wid verisimilitude an' scrupulosity. In this manner was the terraqueous part of our system, when Parra Ghastha's mare, after havin' taken a cowld collation on Barny Branagan's grass, was returnin' to her master's side o' the merin; an' Barny Branagan's goats, havin' tasted the sweets of Parra Ghastha's cabbages, were on their way acrass the said merin to their own side. Now it so happened that they met exactly at a narrow gap in the ditch behind Rosha Halpin's house. The goats, bein' coupled together, got one on each side of the rift, wid the rope that coupled them extended acrass it. The mare stood in the middle of it, so that the goats were in the way of the mare, an' the mare in the way of the goats. In the meantime they surveyed one another wid great composure, but had neither of them the politeness to stir, until Rosha Halpin came suddenly out, an' emptied a vessel of untransparent wather into the ditch. The mare, who must have been an animal endowed wid great sensibility of soul, stooped her head suddenly at the noise; an' the goats, who were equally sentimental, gave a start from nervishness. The mare, on raisin' her head, came in contact wid the cord that united the goats; an' the goats, havin' lost their commandin' position, came in contact wid the neck o' the mare. Quid multis? They pulled an' she pulled, an' she pulled an' they pulled, until at length the mare was compelled to practise the virtue of resignation in the ditch, wid the goats about her neck. She died by suspinsion; but the mettlesome ould crathur, wid a love of justice that did her honor, hanged the goat's in requital; for they departed this vale of tears on the mountain side along wid her, so that they had the satisfaction of dyin' a social death together.—Now, Phadrick, you quadruped, the case of conscience is, whether Parra Ghastha has a right to make restitution to Barny Branagan for the loss of his goats, or Barny Branagan to Parra Ghastha for the loss of his mare?"
"Bedad, that's a puzzler!"
"Isn't it, Phadrick? But wait till you hear how he'll clear it up! Do it for Phadrick, Dinny."
"Yis, Phadrick, I'll illusthrate your intellects by divinity. You see, Phadrick, you're to suppose me to be in the chair, as confessor. Very well,—or valde, in the larned languages—Parra Ghastha comes to confess to me, an' tells me that Barny Branagan wants to be paid for his goats. I tell him it's a disputed point, an that the price o' the goats must go to the church. On the other hand, Barny Branagan tells me that Parra Ghastha wishes to be paid for his mare. I say again, it's a disputed point, an' that the price o' the mare must go to the church—the amount of the proceeds to be applied in prayer towards the benefit of the parties, in the first instance, an' of the faithful in general afterwards."
"Oh, that I may never, but he bates the globe!"
Denny's character is a very common one in the remote parts of Ireland, where knowledge is novelty, and where the slightest tinge of learning is looked upon with such reverence and admiration, as can be properly understood only by those who have an opportunity of witnessing it. Indeed, few circumstances prove the great moral influence which the Irish priesthood possesses over the common people more forcibly, than the extraordinary respect paid by the latter to such as are designed for the "mission." The moment the determination is made, an incipient sanctity begins, as it were, to consecrate the young priest; and a high opinion of his learning and talents to be entertained, no matter how dull he may be so far as honest nature is concerned. Whatever he says is sure to have some hidden meaning in it, that would be' highly edifying, if they themselves understood it. But their own humility comes in here to prop up his talents; and whatsoever perplexity there may be in the sense of what he utters, is immediately attributed to learning altogether beyond their depth.
Love of learning is a conspicuous principle in an Irish peasant; and in no instance is it seen to greater advantage, than when the object of it appears in the "makins of a priest." Among all a peasant's good and evil qualities, this is not the least amiable. How his eye will dance in his head with pride, when the young priest thunders out a line of Virgil or Homer, a sentence from Cicero, or a rule from Syntax! And with what complacency and affection will the father and relations of such a person, when sitting during a winter evening about the hearth, demand from him a translation of what he repeats, or a grammatical analysis, in which he must show the dependencies and relations of word upon word—the concord, the verb, the mood, the gender, and the case; into every one and all of which the learned youth enters with an air of oracular importance, and a pollysyllabicism of language that fails not in confounding them with astonishment and edification. Neither does Paddy confine himself to Latin or Greek, for his curiosity in hearing a little upon all known branches of human learning is boundless. When a lad is designed for the priesthood, he is, as if by a species of intuition, supposed to know more or less of everything—astronomy, fluxions, Hebrew, Arabic, and the black art, are subjects upon which he is frequently expected to dilate; and vanity scruples not, under the protection of their ignorance, to lead the erudite youth through what they believe to be the highest regions of imagination, or the profoundest depths of science and philosophy.
It is, indeed, in those brilliant moments, when the young priest is launching out in full glory upon some topic of which he knows not a syllable, that it would be a learned luxury to catch him. These flights, however, are very pardonable, when we consider the importance they give him in the eyes of his friends, and reflect upon that lofty and contemptuous pride, and those delectable sensations which the appearance of superior knowledge gives to the pedant, whether raw or trained, high or low, in this profession or the other. It matters little that such a feeling dilates the vanity in proportion to the absence of real knowledge or good sense: it is not real, but affected knowledge, we are writing about. Pride is confined to no condition; nor is the juvenile pedantry of a youth upon the hob of an Irish chimney-corner much different from the pride which sits upon the brow of a worthy Lord Mayor, freshly knighted, lolling with strained dignity beside his honorable brother, the mace, during a city procession; or of a Lady Mayoress, when she reads upon a dead wall her own name flaming in yellow capitals, at the head of a subscription ball; or, what is better still, the contemptuous glance which, while about to open the said ball, her ladyship throws at that poor creature—the Sheriff's wife.
In addition, however, to the enjoyment of this assumption of profound learning which characterizes the young priest, a different spirit, considerably more practical, often induces him to hook in other motives. The learning of Denis O'Shaughnessy, for instance, blazed with peculiar lustre whenever he felt himself out at elbows; for the logic with which he was able to prove the connection between his erudition and a woollen-draper's shop, was, like the ignorance of those who are to be saved, invincible. Whenever his father considered a display of the son's powers in controversy to be capital, Denis, who knew the mollia tempora fandi, applied to him for a hat. Whenever he drew a heretic, as a person who will be found hereafter without the wedding garment, and clinched the argument with half a dozen quotations from syntax or Greek grammar, he uniformly came down upon the father for a coat, the cloth of which was finer in proportion to the web of logic he wove during the disputation. Whenever he seated himself in the chair of rhetoric, or gave an edifying homily on prayer, with such eloquence as rendered the father's admiration altogether inexpressible, he applied for a pair of smallclothes; and if, in the excursiveness of his vigorous imagination he travelled anywhere beyond the bounds of common sense, he was certain to secure a pair of shoes.
This, of course, did not escape the satirical observation of the neighbors, who commented upon the circumstance with that good humor which renders their mother-wit so pleasant and spicy. The scenes where many of these displays took place, varied according to the occurrence of those usual incidents which diversify country life. Sometimes old Denis's hearth was selected; at others, a neighboring wakehouse, and not unfrequently the chapel-green, where, surrounded by a crowd of eager listeners, the young priest and his Latin would succeed in throwing the hedge-schoolmaster and his problems completely into the shade.
The father's pride, on these occasions, always prompted him to become the aggressor; but he only did this to draw out the talents of his son to more advantage. Never was man foiled with less regret than old Denis; nor did ever man more bitterly repent those little touches of vanity, which, sometimes induced him, when an opportunity of prostrating Denny arrived, to show what he could have done, by giving the son's argument an unexpected brainblow. These accidental defeats always brought the son! more than he lost by them; for the father usually made him a peace-offering in the shape of pocket-money, books, or clothes. The great amusement of the peasantry around the chapel-green of a Sunday, was to hear the father and son engaged in argument; and so simple was the character of both, that their acquaintances declared, they could know by the state of young Denis's coat, and the swaggering grasp with which old Denis held his staff, that an encounter was about to take place.
"Young O'Shaughnessy's gettin' bare," they would observe; "there'll be hard arguin' till he gets the clothes. He's puttin' in for a black coat now, he's so grave. Go on, Denny," they would say again: "more power an' a dacenter sleeve to your elbow. Stick to him!—very good!—that's a clincher!—you're gone beyond the skirts, Denny!—let him pocket that larnin'. Dinis, you're bate, body and slaves! (* altogether; completely)—you're no match for the gorsoon, Dinis. Good agin, abouchal!—that's puttin' the collar on it!"—And so on, varying the phrase according to the whim of the moment.
Nothing gave the father greater pleasure than these observations, although the affected earnestness with which he encountered the son, and his pretended indignation at those who affirmed him to have been beaten, were highly amusing to the bystanders.
Such discussions were considered highly edifying and instructive by them, and they were sometimes at a loss whether to give the palm of ingenuity and eloquence to the father or Denny. The reader, however, must not suppose that the contemptuous expressions scattered over Denny's rhetorical flourishes; when discussing these points with his father, implied want of reverence or affection—far from it. On the contrary, the father always liked him the better for them, inasmuch as they proved Denny's vast superiority over himself. They were, therefore, only the licenses and embellishments of discussion, tolerated and encouraged by him to whom they were applied.
Denny at length shot up to the stature of a young man, probably about eighteen; and during the two last years of his school studies he presented a considerable, if not a decidedly marked change in his character and external appearance. His pride became more haughty, and the consciousness of his learning, and of the influence annexed to the profession for which he was intended, put itself forth with less discussion, but more energy. His manners and attitude became constrained; the expression of his face began to darken, and to mould itself into a stiff, gloomy formality, that was strongly calculated to conceal the natural traits of his character. His dress, too, had undergone a great improvement; for instead of wearing shop blue or brown, he wore good black broad-cloth, had a watch in his fob, a respectable hat, and finer linen.
This change, now necessary in consequence of his semiclerical character, influenced him through every relation of life. His nearest friends, whilst their pride in him increased, fell off to a more respectful distance; and his deportment, so far from being that of a good-humored Bobadil of polemics and pedantry upon all known and unknown subjects, became silent and solemn, chequered only during the moments of family conviviality by an excessive flow of that pleasant and still incomprehensible learning for the possession of which he had so honestly earned himself a character. Much of his pedantry was now lopped off, it is true, because the pride of his station prevented him from entering into discussions with the people. It cost him, however, some trouble to overcome his early tendencies; nor, after all, can it be affirmed that he altogether succeeded in eradicating them. Many a grave shrug, and solemn wink, and formal nod, had he to answer for, when his foot touched the debatable land of controversy. Though contrary to the keeping and dignity of his position in life, yet did honest Denny then get desperately significant, and his face amazingly argumentative. Many a pretender has he fairly annihilated by a single smile of contempt that contained more logic than a long argument from another man. In fact, the whole host of rhetorical figures seemed breaking out of his face. By a solitary glance of his eye he could look a man into a dilemma, and practise a sorites, or a homemade syllogism, by the various shiftings of his countenance, as clearly as if he had risen to the full flight of his former bombast. He had, in short, a prima facie disposition to controversy; his nose was set upon his face in a kind of firm defiance against infidels, heretics, and excommunicated persons; and when it curled with contempt of another, or with pride in the power that slumbered in itself, it seemed to give the face from which it projected, and the world at large, the assurance of a controversialist. Nor did his negative talents rest here: a twist of his mouth to the right or left ear, was nicely shaded away into a negative or affirmative, according as he intended it should be taken; and when he used his pocket-handkerchief, he was certain, though without uttering a syllable, to silence his opponent, so contemptuously did his intonations rout the arguments brought against him. The significance and force of all these was heightened by the mystery in which they were wrapped; for whenever unbending decorum constrained him to decline the challenges of the ignorant, with whom discussion would now be degradation, what could he do to soothe his vanity, except, as the poet says, with folded arms and a shaking of the head to exclaim—"Well, well we know; or, if we could, and if we would; or, if we list to speak; or, there be an if they might;" which left the imaginations of his hearers at liberty to conceive more fully of those powers which his modesty declined exhibiting. For some time before he got absolutely and finally into black, even his father gave up his accustomed argument in despair. The son had become an adept in all the intricacies and obscurities of Latin, and literally overwhelmed the old man with small inundations of that language, which though, like all inundations, rather muddy, yet were they quite sufficient to sweep the worthy veteran before them.
Young Denis O'Shaughnessy was now pretty nearly finished at school, that is to say, almost fit for Maynooth; his studies, though higher, were less assiduous; his leisure was consequently greater; and it is well known, that a person of his character is never asked to work, except it be his own pleasure to labor a day or two, by way of amusement. He might now be seen walking of a warm day along the shady sides of the hedges, with a book in his hand, or stretched listlessly upon the grass, at study; or sauntering about among the neighboring workmen, with his forefinger between the leaves of his book, a monument of learning and industry.
It is not to be supposed, however, that Denis, who was an Irishman of eighteen, handsome and well made, could be altogether insensible to female beauty, and seductive charms of the sex. During his easy saunterings—or, as the Scotch say, "daunerings"—along the roads and about the green hedges, it often happened that he met a neighbor's daughter; and Denis, who, as a young gentleman of breeding, was bound to be courteous, could not do less than accost her with becoming urbanity.
"Good-mornin', Miss Norah," we will suppose him to say, when meeting a good-looking arch girl of his acquaintance.
"Good-morrow, Mr. O'Shaughnessy. I hope you're well, sir."
"Indeed I am, at present, in superlatively ecclesiastical health, Miss Norah. I hope all your family are well?"
"All very well, I thank you, sir, barrin' myself."
"An' pray what's the matther wid you, Miss Norah? I hope" (with an exceeding grave but complacent smile) "you're not affected wid the amorous passion of love?"
"Oh, that 'ud be tellin', Mr. O'Shaughnessy! But supposin' I am, what ought I to do?"
"That's really a profound question, Miss Norah. But though I cannot tell you what to do, I can tell you what I think."
"An' what is that, sir?"
"Why, Miss Norah, that he who is so beatified as to secure you in the matrimonial paction—compactum it is in the larned languages—in other words—to condescend to your capacity—he who is married to you will be a happy man. There is a juvenility about your eyes, and an efflorescence of amaranthine odoriferousness about your cheeks and breath that are enough to communicate the centrifugal motion to any brain adorned with the slightest modicum of sentiment."
"He who marries me will be a happy man!" she exclaimed, repeating these expressions, probably because they were the only words she understood. "I hope so, Misther O'Shaughnessy. But, sure enough, who'd expect to hear sich soft talk from the makins of a priest? Very well, sir! Upon my word I'll be tellin' Father Finnerty that you do be spakin' up to the girls!—Now!!"
"No, no, Miss Norah; you wouldn't do that merely for my sayin' that you're the handsomest girl in the parish. Father Finnerty himself might say as much, for it would be nothing but veracity—nothing but truth, Miss Norah."
"Ah! but he wouldn't be pattin' me on the cheek! Be asy, Mr. O'Shaughnessy; there's Darby Brady lookin' at you, an' he'll be tellin'!"
"Where?" said Denis, starting.
The girl replied only by an arch laugh.
"Upon my classicality, Miss Norah, you're a rogue; there's nobody lookin', you seraphim!"
"Then there's a pair of us rogues, Misther Dinis."
"No, no, Miss Norah; I was only feeling your cheek as a philosophical experiment. Philosophers often do it, in order to make out an hypothesis."
"Misther Dinis, if I'm not marrid till you're a priest, won't you say the words for me for nothing?"
"So long as you ask it wid such a brilliant smiled Miss Norah, do you think that any educated young man who has read about beauty an' sentimentality in books, could refuse you? But you know, Miss Norah, that the clergyman who marries a couple has always the right of kissing the bride. Now I wouldn't claim my right then; but it might be possible by a present compromise to—to——. What would you think, for instance, to give me that now?"
"To give you what?"
"Why the——indeed it's but a slight recompense, the—k—— the salutation—the kiss. You know what tasting the head means?"
"Faix, Misther Dinis, you're a great rogue. Who'd think it indeed? Sure enough, they say smooth water runs deep! Why one 'ud suppose butther wouldn't melt in your mouth to look at you; an' yet you want to be toyin' wid the girls! Indeed an' faix, it's a great shame for the likes o' you, that's bint on Maynooth, to be thinkin' of coortin' at all. But wait! Upon my word, I'll have a fine story agin you, plase goodness!"
This latter threat the mischievous girl threw out with a grave face, in order to bring Denis into a more ridiculous dilemma; for she saw clearly that he labored under a heavy struggle between timidity and gallantry. The ruse succeeded. Denis immediately changed his tone, and composed his face into a grave admonitory aspect, nearly equal to a homily on prudence and good conduct.
"Miss Norah," said he, "perhaps I acted wrong in carrying my trial of your disposition too far. It's a thing, however, which we who are intended for the church are ordered to do, that we may be able to make out what are called in this very book you see wid me, cases of conscience. But the task is now over, Miss Norah; and, in requital for your extrame good nature, I am bound to administer to you a slight lecture on decorum.
"In the first place, attend your duties regularly. I will soon be goin' to Maynooth; an' as you are one of the girls for whom I have the greatest regard, I will expect on my return to hear a good account of you. It is possible that you'll be introduced in my absence to the honors of matrimony; but even so, I know that peace, an' taciturnity, an' submission will be your most signal qualifications. You will then be in a situation equal to that of a Roman matron. As for us, Miss Norah, we are subject to the dilapidations of occasional elevation. The ambrosia of sentiment lies in our path. We care not for the terrestrialities of life, when separated from the great principle of the poet—
'Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori.'
That's Hebrew, Miss Norah!"
"They say you know a power of larnin', Misther Dinis."
"Yes, I know the seven languages; but what is all that compared to the cardinal virtues. This world is a mere bird of passage, Miss Norali; and it behooves us to be ever on the wing for futurity and premeditation. Now, will you remember the excellent moral advice I have given you?"
"Indeed I will, sir," replied the roguish minx, tripping away; "particularly that you promised to marry me for nothin' if I'd give you a kiss!"
"Give up everything like levity, Miss Norah. Attend your du—"
"You're a fool, Misther O'Shaughnessy! Why didn't you take the kiss, an' spare the king's English?"
On making this observation she redoubled her pace, and left Denis now perfectly sensible that he was a proper subject for her mirth. He turned about, and called after her—
"Had I known that you were only in jocosity, Miss Nora, upon my classicality, I'd have given you the k——."
He now perceived that she was beyond hearing, and that it was unnecessary to finish the sentence.
These accidental meetings between Denis and the pretty daughters of the neighboring farmers were, somehow, very frequent. Our hero, however, was always extremely judicious in tempering his gallantry and moral advice to his young female acquaintances. In the beginning of the conversation he was sly and complimentary, afterwards he became more insinuating, then more direct in his praises of their beauty; but as his timidity on the point of character was known, the mischief-loving girls uniformly ended with a threat of exposing him to the priest, to his friends, or to the neighbors, as the whim directed them. This brought him back to his morality again; he immediately commenced an exhortation touching their religious duties, thus hoping to cover, by a trait more becoming his future destination, the little harmless badinage in which he had indulged.
The girls themselves frequently made him the topic of conversation, a proof that he was not altogether indifferent to them. In these little conclaves he came very well off. Among them all it was admitted "that there was a rogue in his coat;" but this was by no means uttered in a tone of voice that betrayed any disrelish to him. On the contrary, they often said—and many of them with an involuntary sigh—that "he was too purty to be made a priest of;" others, that "it was a pity to make a priest of so fine a young man;" others, again, that "if he must be a priest, the colleens would be all flockin' to hear his sarmons." There was one, however, among them who never mentioned him either in praise or censure; but the rapid changes of her expressive countenance gave strong indications to an observing eye that his name, person, and future prospects were capable of exciting a deep and intense interest in her heart.
At length he began to appear on horseback; and as he had hitherto been in the habit of taking that exercise bare-backed, now he was resolved to get into a saddle, and ride like a gentleman. Henceforth he might be seen mounted upon one of his father's horses, quite erect, and with but one spur, which was, in fact, the only spur, except the whiskey bottle, that had been in the family for three generations. This was used, he declared, for no other purpose in life than that of "stimulating the animal to the true clerical trot."
From the moment he became a mounted man he assumed an air of less equivocal command in the family; and not only to his own relations was this authority manifested, but to his more distant acquaintances, and, in short, to the whole parish. The people now began to touch their hats to him, which act of respect he returned as much in imitation of the parish priest as possible. They also began to ask him what o'clock it was, and Denis, with a peculiar condescension, balanced still with becoming dignity, stopped, pulled out his watch, and told the hour, after which he held it for a few seconds to his ear with an experienced air, then put it in a dignified manner in his fob, touched the horse with the solitary spur, put himself more erect, and proceeded with—as he himself used to say, when condemning the pride of the curate—"all the lordliness of the parochial priest."
The notions which the peasantry entertain of a priest's learning are as extravagant as they are amusing, and such, indeed, as would be too much for the pedantic vanity inseparable from a half-educated man to disclaim. The people are sufficiently reasonable, however, to admit gradations in the extent of knowledge acquired by their pastors; but some of the figures and illustrations which they use in estimating their comparative merits are highly ludicrous. I remember a young man, who, at the age of twenty-two, set about preparing himself for the church. He lived in the bosom of a mountain, whose rugged breast he cultivated with a strength proportioned to the difficulty of subduing it. He was a powerful young fellow, quiet and inoffensive in his manners, and possessed of great natural talents. It was upon a Monday morning, in the month of June, that the school-room door opened a foot and a half wider than usual, and a huge, colossal figure stalked in, with a kind of bashful laugh upon his countenance, as if conscious of the disproportion betwixt his immense size and that of the other schoolboys. His figure, without a syllable of exaggeration, was precisely such as I am about to describe. His height six feet, his shoulders of an enormous breadth, his head red as fire; his body-coat made after the manner of his grandfather's—the skirts of it being near his heels—and the buttons behind little less than eighteen inches asunder. The pockets were cut so low, that when he stretched his arm to its full length, his fingers could not get further than the flaps; the breast of it was about nine inches longer than was necessary, so that when he buttoned it, he appeared all body. He wore no cravat, nor was his shirt-collar either pinned or buttoned, but lay open as if to disclose an immense neck and chest scorched by the sun into a rich and healthy scarlet. His chin was covered with a sole of red-dry bristles, that appeared to have been clipped about a fortnight before; and as he wore neither shoe nor stocking, he exhibited a pair of legs to which Rob Roy's were drumsticks. They gave proof of powerful strength, and the thick fell of bristly hair with which they were covered argued an amazing hardihood of constitution and tremendous physical energy.
"Sure, Masther, I'm comin' to school to you!" were the first words he uttered.
Now there ran beneath the master's solemnity of manner a broad but shallow under-current of humor, which agreed but poorly with his pompous display of learning. On this occasion his struggle to retain the grave and overcome the ludicrous was unavailing. The startling fact thus uncouthly announced by so grotesque a candidate for classical knowledge occasioned him to receive the intelligence with more mirth than was consistent with good breeding. His pupils, too, who were hitherto afraid to laugh aloud, on observing his countenance dilate into an expression of laughter which he could not conceal, made the roof of the house ring with their mirth.
"Silence, gintlemen," said he; "legite, perlegite, et relegite—study, gintlemen, study—pluck the tree of knowledge, I say, while the fruit is in season. Denny O'Shaughnessy, what are you facetious for? Quid rides, Dionysi And so, Pether—is Pettier your pronomen—quo nomine gowdes? Silence, boys!—perhaps he was at Latin before, and we'll try him—quo nomine gowdes, Pethre?"
A stare of awkward perplexity was the only reply he could get from the colossus he addressed.
"And so you're fished up from the Streights (* Alluding to the Colossus of Rhodes) at last, Pether?"
"Sir, my name's not Pether. My father's name is Paddy Doorish, but my own is Franky. I was born in Lisnagh; but we lived double as long as I can mind in the Mountain Bar."
"And, Franky, what put Latin into your head?"
"There was no Latin put into my head; I'm comin' to you for that."
"And, you graceful sprig of juvenility, have you the conscience to think that I'd undhertake to fill what you carry on your showlders on the same terms that I'd take for replenishing the head of a rasonable youth? Would you be so unjust in all the principles of correct erudition as to expect that, my worthy Man-mountain?"
"I don't expect it," said Frank; "all that's in your head wouldn't fill the corner of mine, if you go accordin' to size; but I'll pay you for tachin' me as much as you know yourself, an' the more I larn the less pains you'll have wid me."
Franky, however, made an amazing progress—so very rapid, indeed, that in about three years from that day he found himself in Maynooth, and in three years more was an active curate, to whom that very teacher appeared as slavishly submissive as if he had never ridiculed his vulgarity or ungainly dimensions. Poor Frank, however, in consequence of the rapid progress he made, and of the very short interval which elapsed from the period of his commencing Latin until that of his ordination, was assigned by the people the lowest grade in learning. The term used to designate the rank which they supposed him to hold, was both humorous and expressive.
"Franky," they would say, "is no finished priest in the larnin'; he's but a scowdher."
Now a scowdher is an oaten cake laid upon a pair of tongs placed over the greeshaugh, or embers, that are spread out for the purpose of baking it. In a few minutes the side first laid down is scorched: it is then turned, and the other side is also scorched; so that it has the appearance of being baked, though it is actually quite raw within. It is a homely, but an exceedingly apt illustration, when applied to such men as Frank.
"Poor Frank," they would observe, "is but a scowdher—the sign of the tongs—No. 11, is upon him; so that it is asy known he never was laid to the muddha arran,"*—that is to say, properly baked—or duly and thoroughly educated.
* The Muddha Arran is literally "the bread stick," a term in opposition to the scowdher. It is a forked stick with three legs, that stands opposite the fire, and supports the cake, which is placed on the edge until it is gradually baked. The Scowdher is, for the most part, made in cases of hurry.
Denis, however, to resume more directly the thread of our narrative, on finding himself mounted, took an inveterate prejudice against walking. There was something, he thought, far more dignified in riding than in pacing slowly upon the earth, like a common man who had not the justification of Latin and Greek for becoming an equestrian. Besides this accomplishment, there were also many other habits to be broken off, and more genteel ones to be adopted in their place. These were all suggested by his rising pride; and, in sooth, they smacked strongly of that adroitness with which the Irish priest, and every priest, contrives to accomplish the purpose of feeding well through the ostensible medium of a different motive.
He accordingly took his father aside one morning, after he had eaten a more meagre breakfast that usual, and, after licking his lips, addressed him in these words:—
"I think, father, that upon considerating the consequence to which I am now entitled, and the degree of respectability which, in my own person—in propria persona—I communicate to the vulgarians with whom I am connected—I call them vulgarians from no derogatory motive; but you will concede yourself, that they are ignorant of the larned languages, an' consequently, though dacent enough, still, in reference to Latin and Greek, but vulgarians. Well! Quid multis?—I say, that taking all these things into speculation, looking at them—veluti in speculum—it is neither dacent nor becoming that I should ate in the manner I have done, as vulgarly as themselves—that I should ate, I say, any longer, without knife and fork. Neither, I announce, shall I in future drink my milk any longer, as I have with all humility done hitherto, out of a noggin; nor continue to disrobe, my potatoes any longer without a becoming instrument. I must also have better viands to consume. You are not to be ininformed that I am in that situation of life, in which, from my education and other accomplishments, I must be estimated as duly qualified to ate beef and mutton instead of bacon, an' to have my tay breakfast instead of stirabout, which, in polite society, is designated porridge. You know yourself, and must acknowledge, that I'm soon likely to confer distinction and preeminence upon the poor illiterate, but honest creatures, with whom I am associated in the bonds of blood-relationship. If I were a dunce, or a booby, or a leather head, the case might be different; but you yourself are well acquainted with my talents of logic and conthroversy; an' I have sound rasons and good authority, which I could quote, if necessary, for proving that nothing increases the weight of the brain, and accelerates to gravity and solidity more than good feeding. Pay attention, therefore, to my words, for I expect that they will be duly observed:—buy me a knife and fork; and when I get them, it's not to lay them past to rust, you consave. The beef and mutton must follow; and in future I'm resolved to have my tay breakfast. There are geese, and turkeys, and pullets enough about the yard, and I am bent on accomplishing myself in the art of carving them. I'm not the man now to be placed among the other riff-raff' of the family over a basket of potatoes, wid a black clerical coat upon me, and a noggin of milk under my arm! I tell you the system must be changed: the schoolmaster is abroad, and I'll tolerate such vulgarity no longer. Now saddle the horse till I ride across the bog to Pether Rafferty's Station, where I'm to sarve mass; plase heaven, I'll soon be able to say one myself, and give you all a lift in spirituals—ehem!"
"Throth, Dinny, I b'lieve you're right, avick; and——"
"Vick me no longer, father—that's another thing I forgot. It's full time that I should be sirred; and if my own relations won't call me Sir instead of Dinny, it's hardly to be expected that strangers will do it. I wish to goodness you had never stigmatized me wid so vulgar an epithet as Dinny. The proper word is Dionysius; and, in future, I'll expect to be called Misther Dionysius."
"Sure, I or your mother needn't be sirrin' you, Dinny?"
"I haven't made up my mind as to whether I'll demand that proof of my respectability from you and my mother, or not; but on this I'm immovable, that instead of Dinny, you must, as I said, designate me Dionysius."
"Well, well, avourneen, I suppose only it's right you wouldn't be axin' us; but I'm sure your poor mother will never be able to get her tongue about Dionnisis, it's so long and larned a word."
"It is a larned word, no doubt; but she must persevere until she's able to masther it. I wouldn't for three tenpennies that the priest would hear one of you call me Dinny; it would degradate me very much in his estimation. At all events, if my mother cannot manage the orthography of Dionysius, let it be Denis, or anything but that signature of vulgarity, Dinny. Now, father, you won't neglect to revale what I've ordered to the family?"
"No, indeed, I will not, avick—I mane—Dionnisis, avourneen—I'll tell them everything as you ordhered; but as to Dionnisis, I'm cock sure that poor Mave will never be able to get her ould tongue about so newfangled a piece of larnin' as that is. Well, well, this knowledge bates the world!"
When the horse was saddled, and Dionysius on his way with all due pomp to the Station, old Denis broke the matter to his wife.
"Mave, achora," said,he, "I have sthrange news to tell you: sure Dionnisis is goin' to make himself a gintleman."
"Dionnisis, our son Dionnisis, is goin' to make himself a gintleman; he'll ate no longer widout a knife and fork."
"Saints about us!" exclaimed Mave, rising and looking with alarm into her husband's face—"saints about us, Denis, what is it ails you? Sure there would be nothin' wrong wid you about the head, Denis? or maybe it's a touch of a faver you've got, out riddling that corn bare-headed, yistherday? I remimber the time my Aunt Bridget tuck the scarlet faver, she begun to rave and spake foolish in the same way."
"Why, woman, if your Aunt Bridget had a faver made up of all the colors in the rainbow, I tell you I'm spakin' sinse! Our son Dionnisis proved himself a gintleman out in the garden wid me about an hour ago."
"I suppose so, Denis," she replied, humoring' him, for she was still doubly convinced that he labored under some incipient malady, if not under actual insanity; "an' what son is this, Dinny? I've never heard of him before."
"Our son Denis, woman alive! You must know he's not to be called Dinny or Dinis any more, but Dionnisis; he's to begin atin' wid a knife an' fork to-morrow; we must get him beef and mutton, and a tay breakfast. He say's it's not fair play in any one that's so deep read in the larnin' as he is, to ate like a vulgarian, or to peel his phaties wid his fingers, an' him knows so much Latin an' Greek; an' my sowl to happiness but he'll stick to the gintlemanly way of livin', so far as the beef, an' mutton, and tay is consamed."
"He will! An', Dinis O'Shaughnessy, who has a betther right to turn gintleman, nor the gorsoon that studied for that! Isn't it proud you ought to be that he has the spirit to think of sich things?"
"I'll engage, Mave, on that point you'll find him spirited enough; for my part, I don't begrudge him what he wants; but I heard the people say, that no man's a gintleman who's not College-bred; and you know he's not that yet."
"You forget that he has gentle blood in his veins, Denis. There was a day when my family, the Magennises, held their heads up; and Kolumkill says that the same time is to come back agin to all the ould families. Who knows if it's altogether from himself he's takin' to the beef an' mutton, but from prophecy; he knows what he's about, I'll warrant him. For our part, it's not right for us to cross him in it; it's for the good of the church, no doubt, an' we might lose more by a blast upon the corn or the cattle, than he'd ate the other way. That's my dhrame out that I had last night about him. I thought we were all gother somewhere that I can't rightly remimber; but anyhow there was a great sight of people in it, an' high doin's goin' an in the atin' way. I looked about me, an' seen ever so many priests dressed all like the Protestant clargy; our Dinis was at the head of them, wid a three-cocked hat, an' a wig upon him; he was cuttin' up beef an' mutton at the rate of a weddin', an' dhrinkin' wine in metherfuls."
"'Musha, Dinis,' says myself, 'what's all this for?'
"'Why,' says he, 'it's all for the good of the church an' the faithful. I'm now Archbishop of the county,' says he; 'the Protestants are all banished, an' we are in their place.'
"The sorra one o' myself all this time but thought he was a priest still; so says I, 'Dinny, you're a wantin' to anoint Paddy Diarmud, who's given over, an' if you don't I make haste, you won't overtake him?'
"'He must wait then till mornin',' says Dinny; 'or if he chooses to die against my will, an' the will o' the church, let him take the quensequences. Were wealthy now.'
"I was so much frightened at the kind of voice that he spoke to me in, that I awoke; an' sure enough, the first thing I heard was the fizzin' o' bacon on the pan. I wondered! who could be up so early, an' puttin' my head through the door, there was Dinny busy at it, wid an ould knife in one hand, an' an iron skiver in the other imitatin' a fork.
"'What are you doin' so early, Dinny?' says I.
"'I'm practisin',' says he.
"'What for?' says I.
"'Oh, I'm practisin',' says he, back again, 'go to bed; I'm practisin' for the church, an' the Station that's to be in Pether Rafferty's to-day.'
"Now, Dinny, between you an' me, that dhrame didn't come for nothin'. So give the gorsoon his way, an' if he chooses to be a gintleman, why let him; he'll be the more honor to thim that reared him."
"Thrue for you, indeed,—Mave; he always had a high spirit ever since he was intinded for the robes, and would have his own way and will in whatever he took into his head, right or wrong, as cleverly as if he had the authority for it."
"An' so he ought, seein' he wasn't to be slavin' at the spade, like the rest o' the family. The ways o' them that have great larnin' as he has, isn't like other people's ways—they must be humored, and have their own will, otherwise what 'ud they be betther than their neighbors?"
The other arrangements laid down by Denis, touching his determination not to be addressed so familiarly by his brothers and sisters, were next discussed in this conversation, and, of course, the same prejudice in his favor was manifested by his indulgent parents. The whole code of his injunctions was subsequently disclosed to the family in all its extent and rigor. Some of them heard it with surprise, and other with that kind of dogged indignation evinced by those who are in some degree prepared for the nature of the communication about to be laid before them. Altogether, the circumstances in which it placed them were peculiar and embarrassing. The Irish peasant can seldom bear to have the tenderness of domestic affection tampered with, whether from pride, caprice, or any other motive not related to his prejudices. In this instance the strongest feelings of the O'Shaughnessys were brunted, as it were, in hostile array against each other; and although the moral force on each side was nearly equal, still the painful revulsion produced by Denis's pride, as undervaluing their affection, and substituting the cold forms of artificial life for the warmth of honest hearts like theirs, was, in the first burst of natural fervor, strongly, and somewhat indignantly expressed.
Denis had been their pride, the privileged person among them—the individual whose talents were to throw lustre upon a nameless and unknown family; the future priest—the embryo preacher of eminence—the resistless controversialist—the holy father confessor—and, perhaps, for with that vivacity of imagination peculiar to the Irish, they could scarcely limit his exaltation—perhaps the bishop of a whole diocese. Had not the Lord Primate himself been the son of as humble a man? "And who knows," said his youngest and fairest sister, who of all the family was most devoted to him, "but Dinny might yet be a primate?" And as she spoke, the tear of affection, pride, and enthusiasm glistened in her eye. Denis, therefore, had been much, even in his youth, to their simple hearts, and far more to their hopes and expectations, than he was in all the pride of his petty polemics; but when he, before whose merits, both real and imaginary, every heart among them bowed as before the shrine of a tutelar saint, turned round, ere the destined eminence he aimed at was half attained, and laid upon their fervent affection the icy chain of pride and worldly etiquette—the act was felt keenly and unexpectedly as the acute spasm of some sudden malady. The father and mother, however, both, defended him with great warmth; and by placing his motives in that point of view which agreed best with their children's prejudices, they eventually succeeded in reconciling his brothers and sisters in some degree to the necessity of adopting the phraseology he proposed—that they might treat him with suitable respect in the eye of the world.
"It's proud of him we ought to be," said his father, "and delighted that he has sich a risin' spirit; an' sure the more respect is paid to him the greater credit he will be to ourselves."
"But, sure he has no right," said his eldest brother, "to be settin' up for a gentleman till he's priested. I'm willin' enough to sir him, only that it cuts me more than I'll say, to think that I must be callin' the boy that I'd spill the dhrop of my blood for, afther I the manner of a sthranger; and besides," he added, "I'm not clear but the neighbors will be passin' remarks upon us, as they did when you and he used to be arguin'."
"I'd like to see them that 'ud turn it into a joke," said his father; "I would let them know that Dinis O'Shaughnessy's dog is neither to be made or meddled wid in a disrespectful manner, let alone his son. We are not widout friends and connections that 'ud take our quarrel upon them in his defince, if there was a needcessity for it; but there will not, for didn't my heart lep the other day to my throat wid delight, when I saw Larry Neil put his hand to his hat to him, comin' up the Esker upon the mare; and may I never do an ill turn, if he didn't answer the bow to Larry, as if he was the priest of the parish already. It's the wondher of the world how he picks up a jinteel thing any how, an' ever did, since he was the hoith o' that."
"Why," said the mother, "what a norration yez rise about thratin' the boy as every one like him ought to be thrated. Wait till ye see him a parish priest, and then yell be comin' round him to get your daughters to keep house for him, and your sons edicated and made priests of; but now that the child takes a ginteel relish for beef and mutton, and wants to be respected, ye are mane an' low spirited enough to grumble about it."
"No mother," said his youngest sister, bursting into tears, "I'd beg it for him, sooner nor he should want; but I can't bear to be callin' my brother Dinny—sir—like a stranger. It looks as if I didn't love him, or as if he was forgettin' us, or carin' less about us nor he used to do."
This, in fact, was the root and ground of the opposition which Denis's plan received at the hands of his relations; it repressed the cordial and affectionate intercourse which had hitherto subsisted between them; but the pride of life, and, what is more, the pride of an office which ought always to be associated with humility, had got into his heart; the vanity of learning, too, thin and shallow though it was, inflated him; and the effect of both was a gradual induration of feeling—an habitual sense of his own importance, and a notion of supreme contempt for all who were more ignorant than himself.
After the first impression of pain and mortification had passed away from the minds of his brothers and sisters, it was, however, unanimously admitted that he was right; and ere long, no other feeling than one of good-humor, mingled with drollery, could be perceived among them. They were clearly convinced, that he claimed no more from strangers than was due to him; but they certainly were not prepared to hear that he had brought the exactions of personal respect so completely and unexpectedly home to themselves as he had done. The thing, too, along with being unreasonable, was awkward and embarrassing in the extreme; for there is a kind of feeling among brothers and sisters, which, though it cannot be described, is very trying to their delicacy and shamefacedness under circumstances of a similar nature. In humble life you will see a married woman who cannot call her husband after his Christian name; or a husband, who, from some extraordinary restraint, cannot address his wife, except in that distant manner which the principle I allude to dictates, and habit confirms.
Denis, however, had overcome this modesty, and felt not a whit too shamefaced to arrogate to his own learning and character the most unhesitating manifestation of their deference and respect, and they soon scrupled not to pay it.
The night of that evening was pretty far advanced, when a neighbor's son, named Condy Callaghan, came to inform the family, that Denis, when crossing the bog on his way home, had rode into a swamp, from which he found much difficulty in extricating himself, but added, "the mare is sunk to the saddle-skirts, and cannot get out widout men and ropes," In a short time a sufficient number of the neighbors were summoned together, and proceeded to the animal's relief. Denny's importance, as well as his black dress, was miserably tarnished; he stood, however, with as dignified an air as possible, and, in a bombastic style, proceeded to direct the men as to the best manner of relieving her.
"Asy, Dinny," said his brother, with a good-humored but significant smile—"larning may be very good in its place; in the mane time, lave the business in our hands rather than in your own head—or if you have e'er a scrap of Greek or Latin that 'ud charm ould Sobersides out, where was the use of sendin' for help?"
"I say," replied Dennis, highly offended, "I'll not tolerate vulgarity any longer; you must larn to address me in a more polite style. If the animal—that purblind quadruped—walked into the mire, by what logic can you produce an association between her blindness and my knowledge of Latin and Greek? But why do I degradate my own consequence by declaiming to you an eulogium upon logic? It's only throwing pearls before swine."
"I didn't mane to offind you," replied the warm-hearted brother; "I meant you no offince in what I said, so don't take it ill—we'll have Sobersides out in no time—and barrin' an extra rubbin' down to both of you, neither will be the worse, I hope."
"As to what you hope or despair, Brian, it could produce no other impression on the subtility of my fancy than pity for the man who could compare me—considering the brilliancy of my career, and the extent of my future speculations—to a quadruped like Sobersides, by asserting that I, as well as she, ought to be rubbed down! And were it not that I confront the offince with your own ignorance, I would expose you before the townland in which we stand; ay, to the whole parish—but I spare you, out of respect to my own consequence."
"I ax your pardon," said the brother, "I won't offind you in the same way again. What I said, I said to you as I thought a brother might—I ax your pardon!"
There was a slight agitation approaching to a tremor in his brother's voice, that betokened sorrow for his own impropriety in too familiarly addressing Denis, and perhaps regret that so slight and inoffensive a jest should have been so harshly received in the presence of strangers, by a brother who in reality had been his idol. He reflected upon the conversation held on that morning in the family, touching Denny's prerogative in claiming a new and more deferential deportment from them all; and he could not help feeling that there was in it a violation of some natural principle long sacred to his heart. But the all-prevading and indefinite awe felt for that sacerdotal character into which his brother was about to enter, subdued all, and reconciled him to those inroads upon violated Nature, despite her own voice, loudly expressed as it was in his bosom.
When the family was once more assembled that night, Denis addressed them in a tone, which implied that the odium theologicum had not prevented the contrition expressed by his brother from altogether effacing from his mind the traces of his offence.
"Unworthy of respect," he proceeded, "as it appears by some of my relations I am held," and he glanced at his brother, "yet I beg permission to state, that our worthy parochial priest, or I should rather say, the Catholic Rector of this parish, is of a somewhat different habit of thought or contemplation. I dined with him to-day—ehem—dined with him upon an excellent joint of mutton—I say, father—the mutton was good—and with his proud, pertinacious curate, whom I do not at all relish; whether, as Homer says—I enumerate his scurrilous satire, or his derogatory insinuations. His parochial pastor and spiritual superior is a gentleman, or, as Horace says, homo factus ad unguem—which is paraphrastically—every inch a gentleman—or more literally, a gentleman to the tops of his fingers—ehem—hem—down to the very nails—as it were.
"Well—having discussed that—observatis observandis, quoad sacerdolem—having passed my eulogium upon Father Finnerty—upon my word and credit though, punch is prima facie drink—and father, that brings me to remember an omission which I committed in my dialogue with you this morning. I forgot to say, that after my dinner, in the manner I expounded to you, it will be necessary to have a tumbler of punch—for, as Father Finnerty says, there is nothing which so effectually promotes the organs of digestion. Now, my introduction of this, in the middle of my narrative, is what the hypercritics call a Parenthesis, which certainly betrays no superficial portion of literary perusal on my part, if you could at all but understand it as well as Father Finnerty, our Worthy parochial incumbent, does. As for the curate, should I ever come to authority in the Irish hierarchy, I shall be strongly disposed to discountenance him; if it were only for his general superciliousness of conduct. So there's another clause disposed of.
"Well—to proceed—I say I have intelligence regarding myself, that will be by no means unsavory to you all. Father Finnerty and I had, about an hour before dinner this day, a long and tedious conversation, the substance of which was my future celebrity in the church. He has a claim on the Bishop, which he stated to me will be exercised in my favor, although there are several candidates for it in this parish, not one of whom, however, is within forty-five degree's of being so well qualified for college as myself. Father, is there not a jar—an amphora—as that celebrated satirist Juvenile has it—an amphora—in the chimly-brace, filled with liquor—get it, and let us inter animosity—I'll not be long a member of the domestic circle with you—so, upon the basis of the communication I have to make, let us, as I said, be—become sextons to animosity and care. 'Dionysius,' said Father Finnerty, addressing me, which shows, at all events, that I am not so unimportant as some of my friends would suppose—'Dionysius,' said he 'inter nos—between you and me, I believe I have it in my power to send up a candidate to Maynooth. 'Tis true, I never make a promise—nunquam facio votum, except in certain cases, or, in other words, Dionysius, exceptis excipiendis—in which is the essence, as it were, of a proper vow.' In the meantime he proceeded—'With regard to your prospects in the church, I can only say, in the first place, and I say it with much truth and sincerity—that I'm badly off for a horse; that, however, is, as I said, inter nos—sub sigillo. The old garran I have is fairly worn out—and, not that I say it, your father has as pretty a colt as there is within the bounds—intra terminos parochii mei, within the two ends of my parish: verbum sat—which is, I'm sure you're a sensible and discreet young man. Your father, Dionysius, is a parishioner whom I regard and esteem to the highest degree of comparison, and you will be pleased to report my eulogium to himself and to his dacent family—and proud may they be of having so brilliant a youth among them as you are—ehem!'
"Now, you may all think that this was plain conversation; but I had read too much for that. In fact, it was logic—complate, convincing logic, every word of it. So I responded to him in what is called in the books, the argumentum ad crumenam; although I question but it ought to be designated here the argumentum ad bestiam. Said I, 'Father Finnerty, the colt, my paternal property, which you are pleased to eulogize so highly, is a good one; it was designed for myself when I should come out on the mission; however, I will undertake to say, if you get me into Maynooth, that my father, on my authority, will lend you the colt tomorrow, and the day of his claiming it will be dependent upon the fulfilment of your promise or votum.'
"'Signatum et sigttlatum est,' said he—for, indeed, the best part of the discussion was conducted in Latin; 'and now,' he continued, 'my excellent Dionysius, nothing remains but that the colt be presented—'
—"'Lent,' I responded, correcting him, 'you see, even although he was the priest—'lent,' said I; 'and your Reverence will be good enough to give the votum before one or two of my friends.'
"He looked at me sharply, not expecting to find such deep logic in one he conjectured to be but a tyro.
"'You will be a useful man in the church,' he added, 'and you deserve to be pushed on at all events. In the meantime, tell your father that I'll ride up and breakfast with him to-morrow, and he can have a friend or two to talk over the compactum.'
"So, father, there's the state of the question at present; the accomplishment of the condition is dependent upon yourself."
My readers may perceive that Denis, although a pedant, was not a fool. It has been said that no man is a hero to his valet-de-chambre; but I think the truth of the sentiment contained in that saying is questionable. Denis, on the contrary, was nowhere so great a man as in his own chimney-corner, surrounded by his family. It was there he was learned, accomplished, profound; next to that, he was great among those who, although not prejudiced in his favor by the bonds of affection, were too ignorant to discover those literary pranks which he played off, because he knew he could do so without detection. The basis, however, of his character was shrewd humor and good sense; and even at the stage of life which we have just described, it might have been evident to a close observer that, when a proper knowledge of his own powers, joined to a further acquaintance with the world, should enable him to cast off the boyish assumption of pedantry, a man of a keen, ready intellect and considerable penetration would remain.
Many of my readers may be inclined to exclaim that the character of Denny is not to be found in real life; but they are mistaken who think so. They are not to suppose that Denis O'Shaughnessy was the same person in his intercourse with intelligent men and scholars, that he appeared among the illiterate peasantry, or his own relations. Far from it. With the former, persons like him are awkward and bashful, or modest and unassuming, according to the bent of their natural disposition. With scholars Denis made few pretensions to superior knowledge; but, on the contrary, took refuge, if he dreaded a scrutiny into his acquirements, in the humblest acknowledgment of his limited reading, and total unacquaintance with those very topics on which he was, under other circumstances, in the habit of expatiating so fluently. In fact, were I to detail some of the scenes of his exhibitions as they were actually displayed, then I have no doubt I might be charged with coloring too highly.
When Denis had finished the oration from the chimney-corner, delivered with suitable gesticulations while he stood drying himself at the fire after the catastrophe of the swamp, a silence of some minutes followed. The promise of the colt made to the priest with such an air of authority, was a finale which the father did not expect, and by which he was not a little staggered.
"I could like it all very well," replied the father, "save an' except givin' away the coult that's worth five-an'-twenty guineas, if he's worth a 'crona-bawn. To tell the blessed thruth, Dinis, if you had settled the business widout that, I'd be betther plased."
"Just exercise your contemplation upon it for a short period," replied Denis, "and you will perceive that I stipulated to lend him before witnesses; and if Father Finnerty does not matriculate me into Maynooth, then do you walk down some brilliant morning or other, and take your baste by the head, direct yourself home, hold the bridle as you proceed, and by the time you're at the rack, you'll find the horse at the manger. I have now stated the legality of the matter, and you may act as your own subtility of perception shall dictate. I have laid down the law, do you consider the equity."
"Why," said the father, "if I thought he would get you into"—
"Correct, quite correct: the cardinal point there is the if. If he does, give him the horse; but if not, reclaim the quadruped without hesitation. I am not to be kept back, if profundity and erudition can substantiate a prospect. Still, father, the easiest way is the safest, and the shortest the most expeditious."
The embarrassing situation in which the other members of the family were placed, imposed upon them a profound silence, in reference to the subject of conversation. Yet, while Denny delivered the aforesaid harangue from the chimney-corner, every eye was fixed upon him with an expression of pride and admiration which escaped not his own notice. Their deportment towards him was affectionate and respectful; but none of them could so far or so easily violate old habits as to address him according to his own wishes; they therefore avoided addressing him at all.
The next morning Father Finnerty paid them his purposed visit, and, as he had promised, arrived in time for breakfast. A few of Denis's relations were assembled, and in their presence the arrangements respecting the colt and Denny's clerical prospects were privately concluded. So far everything was tight; the time of Denny's departure for Maynooth was to be determined by the answer which Father Finnerty should receive from the bishop; for an examination must, of course, take place, which was to be conducted by the prelate, or by some other clergyman appointed for that purpose. This and the necessary preparation usual on such occasions, were the only impediments in the way of his departure for Maynooth, a place associated with so many dreams of that lowly ambition which the humble circumstances of the peasantry permit them to entertain.
The Irish people, I need scarcely observe, are a poor people; they are, also, very probably, for the same reason, an imaginative people; at all events, they are excited by occurrences which would not produce the same vivacity of emotion which they experience upon any other people in the world. This, after all, is but natural; a long endurance of hunger will render the coarsest food delicious; and, on the contrary, when the appetite is glutted with the richest viands, it requires a dish whose flavor is proportionably high and spicy to touch the jaded palate. It is so with our moral enjoyments. In Ireland, a very simple accession to their hopes or comforts produces an extraordinary elevation of mind, and so completely unlocks the sluices of their feelings, that every consideration is lost in the elation of the moment. At least it was so in Denis O'Shaughnessy's family upon this occasion.
No sooner had Father Finnerty received the colt, and pledged himself that Denny should have the place at Maynooth that was then vacant, than a tumultuous expression of delight burst from his family and relations, business was then thrown aside for the day; the house was scoured and set in order, as if it were for a festival; their best apparel was put on; every eye was bright, every heart throbbed with a delightful impulse, whilst kindness and hilarity beamed from their faces. In a short time they all separated themselves among their neighbors to communicate the agreeable tidings; and the latter, with an honest participation in their happiness, instantly laid aside their avocations, and flocked to Denis O'Shaughnessy's, that they might congratulate him and his friends upon what was considered the completion of their hopes. When the day was more advanced, several of Denny's brothers and sisters returned, and the house was nearly filled with their acquaintances and relations. Ere one o'clock had passed they wore all assembled, except old Denis, of whom, no person could give any intelligence. Talk, loud laughter, pure poteen, and good-humor, all circulated freely? the friendly neighbor unshaved, and with his Sunday coat thrown hastily over his work-day apparel, drank to Denny's health, and wished that he might "bate all Maynewth out of the face; an' sure there's no doubt of that, any how—doesn't myself remimber him puttin' the explanations to Pasthorini before he was the bulk o' my fist?" His brothers and sisters now adopted with enthusiasm the terms of respect which he had prescribed for them through his father; he was Sirred and Misthered, and all but Reverenced, with a glow of affectionate triumph which they strove not to conceal. He was also overwhelmed with compliments of all hues and complexions: one reminded him of the victory he obtained over a hedge-schoolmaster who came one Sunday a distance of fifteen miles to sack him in English Grammar on the chapel-green; but as the man was no classical scholar, "Sure," observed his neighbor, "I remember well that he couldn't get a word out of Misther Denis's head there but Latin; so that the poor crathur, afther travellin' fifteen long miles, had to go home agin, the show o' the world, widout undherstandin' a sintence of the larnin' that was put an him; an' so here's wishin' you health, Misther Dinis, agra, an' no fear in life but you'll be the jewel at the prachin,' sir, plase Goodness!"
Another reminded him of "how often he proved Phaidrick Murray to be an ass, and showed him how he couldn't make out the differ atween black an' white."
"Sure, an' he did," said Phadrick, scratching his head, for he was one of the first at the house; "an' no wondher, wid his long-headed screwtations from the books. Throth, his own father was the best match, barrin' Father Lawdher that was broke of his bread, he ever met wid, till he got too many for him by the Latin an' Greek."
This allusion to old Denis occasioned his absence to be noticed.
"Can nobody tell where Denis More is?" said the wife; "my gracious, but it's quare he should be from about the place this day, any way. Brian, mavourneen, did you see him goin' any where?
"No," said Brian, "but I see him comin' down there carryin' some aitables in a basket."
Brian had scarcely ended when his father entered, bearing beef and mutton, as aforesaid, both of which he deposited upon the kitchen table, with a jerk of generosity and pride, that seemed to say, as he looked significantly at Denny—and, in fact, as he did say afterwards—"Never spare, Dinny; ate like a gintleman; make yourself as bright an' ginteel as you can; you won't want for beef an' mutton!"
Old Denis now sat down, and, after wiping the perspiration from his forehead, took the glass of poteen which the wife handed him: he held it between his finger and thumb for a moment, glanced around him upon the happy faces present, then laid it down again, fixed his eyes upon his son, and cast them once more upon the company. The affectionate father's heart was full; his breast heaved, and the large tears rolled slowly down his cheeks. By a strong effort, however, he mastered his emotion; and taking the glass again, he said in broken voice:—
"Neighbors!—God bless yez!—God bless yez!—Dinny—Dinny—I"—
The last words he pronounced with difficulty; and drinking off his glass, set it down empty upon the table. He then rose up, and shook his neighbors by the hand—
"I am," said he, "a happy man, no doubt of it, an' we're all happy; an' it's proud any father might be to hear the account of his son, that I did of mine, as I was convoyin' Father Finnerty a piece o' the way home. 'Your son,' says he, when he took that bit of a coult out o' my hand, 'will be an honor to you all. I tell you,' says he, 'that he's nearly as good a scholar, as myself, an' spakes Latin not far behind my own; an' as for a pracher,' says he, 'I can tell you that he'll be hard farther nor any man I know.' He tould me them words wid his own two lips. An' surely, neighbors," said he, relapsing into strong feeling, "you can't blame me for bein' both proud and happy of sich a son."
My readers, from the knowledge already given them of Denny's character, are probably disposed to think that his learning was thrown out on this occasion in longer words and more copious quotations than usual. This, however, was not the case; so far from that, he never displayed less pedantry, nor interspersed his conversation with fewer scraps of Latin. In fact, the proceedings of the day appeared to affect him with a tone of thought, decidedly at variance with the exuberance of joy experienced by the family. He was silent, moody, and evidently drawn by some secret reflection from the scene around him. He held a book in his hand, into which he looked from time to time, with the air of a man who balances some contingency in his mind. At length, when the conversation of those who were assembled became more loud and boisterous, he watched an opportunity of gliding out unperceived; having accomplished this, he looked cautiously about him, and finding himself not observed, he turned his steps to a glen which lay about half a mile below his father's house.
At the lowest skirt of this little valley, protected, by a few spreading hawthorns, stood a small white farm-house, more immediately shaded by a close row of elder or boor-tree, which hung over one of the gables, and covered the garden gate, together with a neat grassy seat, that was built between the gate, and the gable. It was impervious to sun and rain: one of those pretty spots which present themselves on the road-side in the country, and strike the eye with a pleasing notion of comfort; especially when, during a summer shower, the cocks and hens of the little yard are seen by the traveller who takes shelter under it, huddled up in silence, the white dust quite dry, whilst the heavy shower patters upon the leaves above, and upon the dark drenched road beside him.
Under the shade of this sat an interesting girl, aged about seventeen, named Susan Connor. She was slender, and not above the middle size; but certainly, in point of form and feature, such as might be called beautiful—handsome she unquestionably was; but be that as it may, with this rustic beauty the object of Denis's stolen visit was connected. She sat knitting under the shade of elder which we have described, a sweet picture of innocence and candor. Our hero's face, as he approached her, was certainly a fine study for any one who wished to embody the sad and the ludicrous. Desperate was the conflict between pedantry and feeling which he experienced. His manner appeared more pompous and affected than ever; yet was there blended with the flush of approaching triumph as a candidate, such woe-begone shades of distress flitting occasionally across his feature, as rendered his countenance inscrutably enigmatical.
When the usual interchange of preliminary conversation had passed, Denis took his seat beside her on the grassy bench; and after looking in several directions, and giving half a dozen hems, he thus accosted her:—
"Susan, cream of my affections, I may venture to conjecture that the fact, or factum, of my being the subject of fama clamosa today, has not yet reached your ears?"
"Now, Denis, you are at your deep larning from the books again. Can't you keep your reading for them that undherstands it, an' not be spakin' so Englified to a simple girl like me?"
"There is logic in that same, however. Do you know, Susan, I have often thought that, provided always you had resaved proper instruction, you would have made a first-rate classical scholar."
"So you tould me, Denis, the Sunday we exchanged the promise. But sure when you get me, I can larn it. Won't you tache me, Denis?"
She turned her laughing eyes archly at him as she spoke, with a look of joy and affection: it was a look, indeed, that staggered for the moment every ecclesiastical resolution within him. He returned her glance, and ran over the features of her pure and beautiful countenance for some minutes; then, placing his open hand upon his eyes, he seemed buried in reflection. At length he addressed her:—
"Susan, I am thinking of that same Sunday evening on which we exchanged the hand-promise. I say, Susan,—dimidium animae meae—I am in the act of meditating upon it; and sorry am I to be compel—to be under the neces—to be reduced, I say—that is redact as in the larned langua—: in other words—or terms, indeed, is more elegant—in other terms, then, Susan, I fear that what I just now alluded to, touching the fama clamosa which is current about me this day, will render that promise a rather premature one on both our parts. Some bachelors in my situation might be disposed to call it foolish, but I entertain a reverence—a veneration for the feelings of the feminine sex, that inclines me to use the mildest and most classical language in divulging the change that has taken place in my fortunes since I saw you last."
"What do you mane, Denis?" inquired Susan, suddenly ceasing to knit, and fixing her eyes upon him with a glance of alarm.
"To be plain, Susy, I find that Maynooth is my destination. It has been arranged between my father and Docthor Finnerty, that I must become a laborer in the vineyard; that is, that I must become a priest, and cultivate the grape. It's a sore revelation to make to an amorous maiden; but destiny will be triumphant:—