TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY
BY WILLIAM CARLETON
Phelim O'toole's Courtship Wildgoose Lodge Tubber Derg; Or, The Red Well. Neal Malone Art Maguire; Or, The Broken Pledge.
PHELIM O'TOOLE'S COURTSHIP.
Phelim O'Toole, who had the honor of being that interesting personage, an only son, was heir to a snug estate of half an acre, which had been the family patrimony since the time of his grandfather, Tyrrell O'Toole, who won it from the Sassenah at the point of his reaping-hook, during a descent once made upon England by a body of "spalpeens," in the month of August. This resolute little band was led on by Tyrrell, who, having secured about eight guineas by the excursion, returned to his own country, with a coarse linen travelling-bag slung across his shoulder, a new hat in one hand, and a staff in the other. On reaching once more his native village of Teernarogarah, he immediately took half an acre, for which he paid a moderate rent in the shape of daily labor as a cotter. On this he resided until death, after which event he was succeeded by his son, Larry O'Toole, the father of the "purty boy" who is about to shine in the following pages.
Phelim's father and mother had been married near seven years without the happiness of a family. This to both was a great affliction. Sheelah O'Toole was melancholy from night to morning, and Larry was melancholy from morning to night. Their cottage was silent and solitary; the floor and furniture had not the appearance of any cottage in which Irish children are wont to amuse themselves. When they rose in the morning, a miserable stillness prevailed around them; young voices were not heard—laughing eyes turned not on their parents—the melody of angry squabbles, as the urchins, in their parents' fancy, cuffed and scratched each other—half, or wholly naked among the ashes in the morning, soothed not the yearning hearts of Larry and his wife. No, no; there was none of this.
Morning passed in a quietness hard to be borne: noon arrived, but the dismal dreary sense of childlessness hung upon the house and their hearts; night again returned, only to add its darkness to that which overshadowed the sorrowful spirits of this disconsolate couple.
For the first two or three years, they bore this privation with a strong confidence that it would not last. The heart, however, sometimes becomes tired of hoping, or unable to bear the burthen of expectation, which time only renders heavier. They first began to fret and pine, then to murmur, and finally to recriminate.
Sheelah wished for children, "to have the crathurs to spake to," she said, "and comfort us when we'd get ould an' helpless."
Larry cared not, provided they had a son to inherit the "half acre." This was the burthen of his wishes, for in all their altercations, his closing observation usually was—"well, but what's to become of the half acre?"
"What's to become of the half acre? Arrah what do I care for the half acre? It's not that you ought to be thinkin' of, but the dismal poor house we have, wid not the laugh or schreech of a single pastiah (* child) in it from year's end to year's end."
"Well, yourself, Larry? To the diouol I pitch your half acre, man."
"To the diouol you—pitch—What do you fly at me for?"
"Who's flyin' at you? They'd have little tow on their rock that 'ud fly at you."
"You are flyin' at me; an' only you have a hard face, you wouldn't do it."
"A hard face! Indeed it's well come over wid us, to be tould that by the likes o' you! ha!"
"No matther for that! You had betther keep a soft tongue in your head, an' a civil one, in the mane time. Why did the divil timpt you to take a fancy to me at all?"
"That's it. Throw the grah an' love I once had for you in my teeth, now. It's a manly thing for you to do, an' you may be proud, of it. Dear knows, it would be betther for me I had fell in consate wid any face but yours."
"I wish to goodness you had! I wouldn't be as I am to-day. There's that half acre—"
"To the diouol, I say, I pitch yourself an' your half acre! Why do you be comin' acrass me wid your half acre? Eh?—why do you?"
"Come now; don't be puttin' your hands agin your sides, an waggin' your impty head at me, like a rockin' stone."
"An' why do you be aggravatin' at me wid your half acre?"
"Bekase I have a good right to do it. What'll become of it when I d—"
"——That for you an' it, you poor excuse!"
"When I di—"
"——That for you an' it, I say! That for you an' it, you atomy!"
"What'll become of my half acre when I die? Did you hear that?"
"You ought to think of what'll become of yourself, when you die; that's what you ought to think of; but little it throubles you, you sinful reprobate! Sure the neighbors despises you."
"That's falsity; but they know the life I lade wid you. The edge of your tongue's well known. They pity me, for bein' joined to the likes of you. Your bad tongue's all you're good for."
"Aren't you afeard to be flyin' in the face o' Providence the way you are? An' to be ladin' me sich a heart-scalded life for no rason?"
"It's your own story you're tellin'. Sure I haven't a day's pace wid you, or ever had these three years. But wait till next harvest, an' if I'm spared, I'll go to England. Whin I do, I've a consate in my head, that you'll never see my face agin."
"Oh, you know that's an' ould story wid you. Many a time you threatened us wid that afore. Who knows but you'd be dhrowned on your way, an' thin we'd get another husband."
"An' be these blessed tongs, I'll do it afore I'm much oulder!"
"An' lave me here to starve an' sthruggle by myself! Desart me like a villain, to poverty an' hardship! Marciful Mother of Heaven, look down upon me this day! but I'm the ill-thrated, an' ill-used poor crathur, by a man that I don't, an' never did, desarve it from! An' all in regard that that 'half acre' must go to strangers! Och! oh!"
"Ay! now take to the cryin', do; rock yourself over the ashes, an' wipe your eyes wid the corner of your apron; but, I say agin, what's to become of the half acre?"
"Oh, God forgive you, Larry! That's the worst I say to you, you poor half-dead blaguard!"
"Why do you massacray me wid your tongue as you do?"
"Go. an—go an. I won't make you an answer, you atomy! That's what I'll do. The heavens above turn your heart this day, and give me strinth to bear my throubles an' heart burnin', sweet Queen o' Consolation! Or take me into the arms of Parodies, sooner nor be as I am, wid a poor baste of a villain, that I never turn my tongue on, barrin' to tell him the kind of a man he is, the blaguard!"
"You're betther than you desarve to be!"
To this, Sheelah made no further reply; on the contrary, she sat smoking her pipe with a significant silence, that was only broken by an occasional groan, an ejaculation, or a singularly devout upturning of the eyes to heaven, accompanied by a shake of the head, at once condemnatory and philosophical; indicative of her dissent from what he said, as well as of her patience in bearing it.
Larry, however, usually proceeded to combat all her gestures by viva voce argument; for every shake of her head he had an appropriate answer: but without being able to move her from the obstinate silence she maintained. Having thus the field to himself, and feeling rather annoyed by the want of an antagonist, he argued on in the same form of dispute, whilst she, after first calming her own spirit by the composing effects of the pipe, usually cut him short with—
"Here, take a blast o' this, maybe it'll settle you."
This was received in silence. The good man smoked on, and every puff appeared, as an evaporation of his anger. In due time he was as placid as herself, drew his breath in a grave composed manner, laid his pipe quietly on the hob, and went about his business as if nothing had occurred between them.
These bickerings were strictly private, with the exception of some disclosures made to Sheelah's mother and sisters. Even these were thrown out rather as insinuations that all was not right, than as direct assertions that they lived unhappily. Before strangers they were perfect turtles.
Larry, according to the notices of his life furnished by Sheelah, was "as good a husband as ever broke the world's bread;" and Sheelah "was as good a poor man's wife as ever threw a gown over her shoulders." Notwithstanding all this caution, their little quarrels took wind; their unhappiness became known. Larry, in consequence of a failing he had, was the cause of this. He happened to be one of those men who can conceal nothing when in a state of intoxication. Whenever he indulged in liquor too freely, the veil which discretion had drawn over their recriminations was put aside, and a dolorous history of their weaknesses, doubts, hopes, and wishes, most unscrupulously given to every person on whom the complainant could fasten. When sober, he had no recollection of this, so that many a conversation of cross-purposes took place between him and his neighbors, with reference to the state of his own domestic inquietude, and their want of children.
One day a poor mendicant came in at dinner hour, and stood as if to solicit alms. It is customary in Ireland, when any person of that description appears during meal times, to make him wait until the meal is over, after which he is supplied with the fragments. No sooner had the boccagh—as a certain class of beggars is termed—advanced past the jamb, than he was desired to sit until the dinner should be concluded. In the mean time, with the tact of an adept in his calling, he began to ingratiate himself with Larry and his wife; and after sounding the simple couple upon their private history, he discovered that want of children was the occasion of their unhappiness.
"Well good people," said the pilgrim, after listening to a dismal story on the subject, "don't be cast down, sure, whether or not. There's a Holy Well that I can direct yez to in the county—. Any one, wid trust in the Saint that's over it, who'll make a pilgrimage to it on the Patthern day, won't be the worse for it. When you go there," he added, "jist turn to a Lucky Stone that's at the side of the well, say a Rosary before it, and at the end of every dicken (decade) kiss it once, ache of you. Then you're to go round the well nine times, upon your bare knees, sayin' your Pathers and Avers all the time. When that's over, lave a ribbon or a bit of your dress behind you, or somethin' by way of an offerin', thin go into a tent an' refresh yourselves, an' for that matther, take a dance or two; come home, live happily, an' trust to the holy saint for the rest."
A gleam of newly awakened hope might be discovered lurking in the eyes of this simple pair, who felt that natural yearning of the, heart incident to such as are without offspring.
They looked forward with deep anxiety to the anniversary of the Patron Saint; and when it arrived, none certainly who attended it, felt a more absorbing interest in the success of the pilgrimage than they did.
The days on which these pilgrimages are performed at such places are called Pattern or Patron days. The journey to holy wells or holy lakes is termed a Pilgrimage, or more commonly a Station. It is sometimes enjoined by the priest, as an act of penance; and sometimes undertaken voluntarily, as a devotional, work of great merit in the sight of God. The crowds in many places amount to from five hundred to a thousand, and often to two, three, four, or five thousand people.
These Stations have, for the most part, been placed in situations remarkable for wild and savage grandeur, or for soft, exquisite, and generally solitary beauty. They may be found on the high and rugged mountain top; or sunk in the bottom of some still and lonely glen, far removed from the ceaseless din of the world. Immediately beside them, or close in their vicinity, stand the ruins of probably a picturesque old abbey, or perhaps a modern chapel. The appearance of these gray, ivy-covered walls is strongly calculated to stir up in the minds of the people the memory of bygone times, when their religion, with its imposing solemnities, was the religion of the land. It is for this reason, probably, that patrons are countenanced; for if there be not a political object in keeping them up, it is beyond human ingenuity to conceive how either religion or morals can be improved by debauchery, drunkenness, and bloodshed.
Let the reader, in order to understand the situation of the place we are describing, imagine to himself a stupendous cliff overhanging a green glen, into which tumbles a silver stream down a height of two or three hundred feet. At the bottom of this rock, a few yards from the basin formed by the cascade, in a sunless nook, was a well of cool, delicious water. This was the "Holy Well," out of which issued a slender stream, that joined the rivulet formed by the cascade. On the shrubs which grew out of the crag-cliffs around it, might be seen innumerable rags bleached by the weather out of their original color, small wooden crosses, locks of human hair, buttons, and other substitutes for property; poverty allowing the people to offer it only by fictitious emblems. Lower down in the glen, on the river's bank, was a smooth green, admirably adapted for the dance, which, notwithstanding the religious rites, is the heart and soul of a Patron.
On that morning a vast influx of persons, male and female, old and young, married and single, crowded eagerly towards the well. Among them might be noticed the blind, the lame, the paralytic, and such as were afflicted with various other diseases; nor were those good men and their wives who had no offspring to be omitted. The mendicant, the pilgrim, the boccagh, together with every other description of impostors, remarkable for attending such places, were the first on the ground, all busy in their respective vocations. The highways, the fields, and the boreens, or bridle-roads, were filled with living streams of people pressing forward to this great scene of fun and religion. The devotees could in general be distinguished from the country folks by their Pharisaical and penitential visages, as well as by their not wearing shoes; for the Stations to such places were formerly made with bare feet: most persons now, however, content themselves with stripping off their shoes and stockings on coming within the precincts of the holy ground. Human beings are not the only description of animals that perform pilgrimages to holy wells and blessed lakes. Cows, horses, and sheep are made to go through their duties, either by way of prevention, or cure, of the diseases incident to them. This is not to be wondered at, when it is known that in their religion every domestic animal has its patron saint, to whom its owner may at any time pray on its behalf. When the crowd was collected, nothing in the shape of an assembly could surpass it in the originality of its appearance. In the glen were constructed a number of tents, where whiskey and refreshments might be had in abundance. Every tent had a fiddler or a piper; many two of them. From the top of the pole that ran up from the roof of each tent, was suspended the symbol by which the owner of it was known by his friends and acquaintances. Here swung a salt herring or a turf; there a shillelah; in a third place a shoe, in a fourth place a whisp of hay, in a fifth an old hat, and so on with the rest.
The tents stood at a short distance from the scene of devotion at the well, but not so far as to prevent the spectator from both seeing and hearing what went on in each. Around the well, on bare knees, moved a body of people thickly wedged together, some praying, some screaming, some excoriating their neighbors' shins, and others dragging them out of their way by the hair of the head. Exclamations of pain from the sick or lame, thumping oaths in Irish, recriminations in broken English, and prayers in bog Latin, all rose at once to the ears of the patron saint, who, we are inclined to think—could he have heard or seen his worshippers—would have disclaimed them altogether.
"For the sake of the Holy Virgin, keep your sharp elbows out o' my ribs."
"My blessin' an you, young man, an' don't be lanin' an me, i' you plase!"
"Damnho sherry orth a rogarah ruah!* what do you mane? Is it my back you're brakin'?"
* Eternal perdition on you, you red rogue.
"Hell pershue you, you ould sinner, can't you keep the spike of your crutch out o' my stomach! If you love me tell me so; but, by the livin' farmer, I'll take no such hints as that!"
"I'm a pilgrim, an' don't brake my leg upon the rock, an' my blessin' an you!"
"Oh, murdher sheery! my poor child'll be smothered!"
"My heart's curse an you! is it the ould cripple you're trampin' over?"
"Here, Barny, blood alive, give this purty young girl a lift, your sowl, or she'll soon be undhermost!"
"'Och, 'twas on a Christmas mornin' That Jeroosillim was born in The Holy Land'——'
"Oh, my neck's broke!—the curse——Oh! I'm kilt fairly, so I am! The curse o' Cromwell an you, an' hould away—
'The Holy Land adornin' All by the Baltic Say. The angels on a Station, Wor takin' raycrayation, All in deep meditation, All by the'——
contints o' the book if you don't hould away, I say agin, an' let me go on wid my rann it'll be worse force for you!—
'Wor takin' raycraytion, All by the Baltic Say!"
"Help the ould woman there."
"Queen o' Patriots pray for us!—St. Abraham——go to the divil, you bosthoon; is it crushin' my sore leg you are?—St. Abraham pray for us! St. Isinglass, pray for us! St. Jonathan,——musha, I wisht you wor in America, honest man, instid o' twistin' my arm like a gad f— St. Jonathan, pray for us; Holy Nineveh, look down upon us wid compression an' resolution this day. Blessed Jerooslim, throw down compuncture an' meditation upon us Chrystyeens assembled here afore you to offer up our sins! Oh, grant us, blessed Catasthrophy, the holy virtues of Timptation an' Solitude, through the improvement an' accommodation of St. Kolumbdyl! To him I offer up this button, a bit o' the waistband o' my own breeches, an' a taste of my wife's petticoat, in remimbrance of us having made this holy Station; an' may they rise up in glory to prove it for us at the last day! Amin!"
Such was the character of the prayers and ejaculations which issued from the lips of the motley group that scrambled, and crushed, and screamed, on their knees around the well. In the midst of this ignorance and absurdity, there were visible, however, many instances of piety, goodness of heart, and simplicity of character. From such you could hear neither oath nor exclamation. They complied with the usages of the place modestly and attentively: though not insensible, at the same time, to the strong disgust which the general conduct of those who were both superstitious and wicked was calculated to excite. A little from the well, just where its waters mingled with those of the cascade, men and women might be seen washing the blood off their knees, and dipping such parts of their body as Were afflicted with local complaints into the stream. This part' of the ceremony was anything but agreeable to the eye. Most of those who went round the well drank its waters; and several of them filled flasks and bottles with it, which they brought home for the benefit of such members of the family as could not attend in person.
Whilst all this went forward at the well, scenes of a different kind were enacted lower down among the tents. No sooner had the penitents got the difficult rites of the Station over, than they were off to the whiskey; and decidedly, after the grinding of their bare knees upon the hard rock—after the pushing, crushing, and exhaustion of bodily strength which they had been forced to undergo—we say, that the comforts and refreshments to be had in the tents were very seasonable. Here the dancing, shouting, singing, courting, drinking, and fighting, formed one wild uproar of noise, that was perfectly astounding. The leading boys and the prettiest girls of the parish were all present, partaking in the rustic revelry. Tipsy men were staggering in every direction; fiddles were playing, pipes were squeaking, men were rushing in detached bodies to some fight, women were doctoring the heads of such as had been beaten, and factions were collecting their friends for a fresh battle. Here you might see a grove of shillelahs up, and hear the crash of the onset; and in another place, the heads of the dancing parties bobbing up and down in brisk motion among the crowd that surrounded them.
The pilgrim, having now gone through his Station, stood hemmed in by a circle of those who wanted to purchase his beads or his scapulars. The ballad-singer had his own mob, from among whom his voice might be heard rising in its purest tones to the praise of—
"Brave O'Connell, the Liberathur, An' great Salvathur of Ireland's Isle!"
As evening approached, the whiskey brought out the senseless prejudices of parties and factions in a manner quite consonant to the habits of the people. Those who, in deciding their private quarrels, had in the early part of the day beat and abused each other, now united as the subordinate branches of a greater party, for the purpose of opposing in one general body some other hostile faction. These fights are usually commenced by a challenge from one party to another, in which a person from the opposite side is simply, and often very good-humoredly, invited to assert, that "black is the white of his enemy's eye;" or to touch the old coat which he is pleased to trail after him between the two opposing powers. This characteristic challenge is soon accepted; the knocking down and yelling are heard; stones fly, and every available weapon is pressed into the service on both sides. In this manner the battle proceeds, until, probably, a life or two is lost. Bones, too, are savagely broken, and blood copiously spilled, by men who scarcely know the remote cause of the enmity between the parties.
Such is a hasty sketch of the Pattern, as it is called in Ireland, at which Larry and Sheelah duly performed their station. We, for our parts, should be sorry to see the innocent pastimes of a people abolished; but, surely, customs which perpetuate scenes of profligacy and crime should not be suffered to stain the pure and holy character of religion.
It is scarcely necessary to inform our readers that Larry O'Toole and Sheelah complied with every rite of the Station. To kiss the "Lucky Stone," however, was their principal duty. Larry gave it a particularly honest smack, and Sheelah impressed it with all the ardor of a devotee. Having refreshed themselves in the tent, they returned home, and, in somewhat less than a year from that period, found themselves the happy parents of an heir to the half-acre, no less a personage than young Phelim, who was called after St. Phelim, the patron of the "Lucky Stone."
The reader perceives that Phelim was born under particularly auspicious influence. His face was the herald of affection everywhere.
From the moment of his birth, Larry and Sheelah were seldom known to have a dispute. Their whole future life was, with few exceptions, one unchanging honeymoon. Had Phelim been deficient in comeliness, it would have mattered not a crona baun. Phelim, on the contrary, promised to be a beauty; both, his parents thought it, felt it, asserted it; and who had a better right to be acquainted, as Larry said, "wid the outs an' ins, the ups an' downs of his face, the darlin' swaddy!"
For the first ten years of his life Phelim could not be said to owe the tailor much; nor could the covering which he wore be, without more antiquarian loire than we can give to it, exactly classed under any particular term by which the various parts of human dress are known. He himself, like some of our great poets, was externally well acquainted with the elements. The sun and he were particularly intimate; wind and rain were his brothers, and frost also distantly related to him. With mud he was hand and glove, and not a bog in the parish, or a quagmire in the neighborhood, but sprung up under Phelim's tread, and threw him forward with the brisk vibration of an old acquaintance. Touching his dress, however, in the early part of his life, if he was clothed with nothing else, he was clothed with mystery. Some assert that a cast-off pair of his father's nether garments might be seen upon him each Sunday, the wrong side foremost, in accommodation with some economy of his mother's, who thought it safest, in consequence of his habits, to join them in this inverted way to a cape which he wore on his shoulders. We ourselves have seen one, who saw another, who saw Phelim in a pair of stockings which covered him from his knee-pans to his haunches, where, in the absence of waistbands, they made a pause—a breach existing from that to the small of his back. The person who saw all this affirmed, at the same time, that there was a dearth of cloth about the skirts of the integument which stood him instead of a coat. He bore no bad resemblance, he said, to-a moulting fowl, with scanty feathers, running before a gale in the farm yard.
Phelim's want of dress in his merely boyish years being, in a great measure, the national costume of some hundred thousand young Hibernians in his rank of life, deserves a still more, particular notice. His infancy we pass over; but from the period at which he did not enter into small clothes, he might be seen every Sunday morning, or on some important festival, issuing from his father's mansion, with a piece of old cloth tied about him from the middle to the knees, leaving a pair of legs visible, that were mottled over with characters which would, if found on an Egyptian pillar, put an antiquary to the necessity of constructing a new alphabet to decipher them. This, or the inverted breeches, with his father's flannel waistcoat, or an old coat that swept the ground at least two feet behind him, constituted his state dress. On week days he threw off this finery, and contented himself, if the season were summer, with appearing in a dun-colored shirt, which resembled a noun-substantive, for it could stand alone. The absence of soap and water is sometimes used as a substitute for milling linen among the lower Irish; and so effectually had Phelim's single change been milled in this manner, that, when disenshirting at night, he usually laid it standing at his bedside where it reminded one of frosted linen in everything but whiteness.
This, with but little variation, was Phelim's dress until his tenth year. Long before that, however, he evinced those powers of attraction which constituted so remarkable a feature in his character. He won all hearts; the chickens and ducks were devotedly attached to him; the cow, which the family always intended to buy, was in the habit of licking Phelim in his dreams; the two goats which they actually did buy, treated him like I one of themselves. Among the first and last he spent a great deal of his early life; for as the floor of his father's house was but a continuation of the dunghill, or the dunghill a continuation of the floor, we know not rightly which, he had a larger scope, and a more unsavory pool than usual, for amusement. Their dunghill, indeed, was the finest of it size and kind to be seen; quite a tasteful thing, and so convenient, that he could lay himself down at the hearth, and roll out to its foot, after which he ascended it on his legs, with all the elasticity of a young poet triumphantly climbing Parnassus.
One of the greatest wants which Phelim experienced in his young days, was the want of a capacious pocket. We insinuate nothing; because with respect to his agility in climbing fruit-trees, it was only a species of exercise to which he was addicted—the eating and carrying away of the fruit being merely incidental, or, probably, the result of abstraction, which, as every one knows, proves what is termed "the Absence of Genius." In these ambitious exploits, however, there is no denying that he bitterly regretted the want of a pocket; and in connection with this we have only to add, that most of his solitary walks were taken about orchards and gardens, the contents of which he has been often seen to contemplate with deep interest. This, to be sure, might proceed from a provident regard to health, for it is a well-known fact that he has frequently returned home in the evenings, distended like a Boa-Constrictor after a gorge; yet no person was ever able to come at the cause of his inflation. There were, to be sure, suspicions abroad, and it was mostly found that depredations in some neighboring orchard or garden had been committed a little before the periods in which it was supposed the distention took place. Wo mention these things after the example of those "d——d good-natured" biographers who write great men's lives of late, only for the purpose of showing that there could be no truth in such suspicions. Phelim, we assure an enlightened public, was voraciously fond of fruit; he was frequently inflated, too, after the manner of those who indulge therein to excess; fruit was always missed immediately after the periods of his distention, so that it was impossible he could have been concerned in the depredations then made upon the neighboring orchards. In addition to this, we would beg modestly to add, that the pomonian temperament is incompatible with the other qualities for which he was famous. His parents were too ignorant of those little eccentricities which, had they known them, would have opened up a correct view of the splendid materials for village greatness which he possessed, and which, probably, were nipped in their bud for the want of a pocket to his breeches, or rather by the want of a breeches to his pocket; for such was the wayward energy of his disposition, that he ultimately succeeded in getting the latter, though it certainly often failed him to procure the breeches. In fact, it was a misfortune to him that he was the Son of his father and mother at all. Had he been a second Melchizedec, and got into breeches in time, the virtues which circumstances suppressed in his heart might have flourished like cauliflowers, though the world would have lost all the advantages arising from the splendor of his talents at going naked.
Another fact, in justice to his character, must not be omitted. His penchant for fruit was generally known; but few persons, at the period we are describing, were at all aware that a love of whiskey lurked as a predominant trait in his character, to be brought out at a future era in his life.
Before Phelim reached his tenth year, he and his parents had commenced hostilities. Many were their efforts to subdue some peculiarities of his temper which then began to appear. Phelim, however, being an only son, possessed high vantage ground. Along with other small matters which he was in the habit of picking up, might be reckoned a readiness at swearing. Several other things also made their appearance in his parents' cottage, for whose presence there, except through his instrumentality, they found it rather difficult to account. Spades, shovels, rakes, tubs, frying-pans, and many other-articles of domestic use, were transferred, as if by magic, to Larry's cabin.
As Larry and his wife were both honest, these things were, of course, restored to their owners, the moment they could be ascertained. Still, although this honest couple's integrity was known, there were many significant looks turned upon Phelim, and many spirited prophecies uttered with especial reference to him, all of which hinted at the probability of his dying something in the shape of a perpendicular death. This habit, then, of adding to their furniture, was one cause of the hostility between him and his parents; we say one, for there were at least, a good round dozen besides. His touch, for instance, was fatal to crockery; he stripped his father's Sunday clothes of their buttons, with great secrecy and skill; he was a dead shot at the panes of his neighbors' windows; a perfect necromancer at sucking eggs through pin-holes; took great delight in calling home the neighboring farmers' workingmen to dinner an hour before it was ready; and was in fact a perfect master in many other ingenious manifestations of character, ere he reached his twelfth year.
Now, it was about this period that the small-pox made its appearance in the village. Indescribable was the dismay of Phelim's parents, lest he among others might become a victim to it. Vaccination, had not then surmounted the prejudices with which every discovery beneficial to mankind is at first met; and the people were left principally to the imposture of quacks, or the cunning of certain persons called "fairy men" or "sonsie women." Nothing remained now but that this formidable disease should be met by all the power and resources of superstition. The first thing the mother did was to get a gospel consecrated by the priest, for the purpose of guarding Phelim against evil. What is termed a Gospel, and worn as a kind of charm about the person, is simply a slip of paper, on which are written by the priest the few first verses of the Gospel of St. John. This, however, being worn for no specific purpose, was incapable of satisfying the honest woman. Superstition had its own peculiar remedy for the small-pox, and Sheelah was resolved to apply it. Accordingly she borrowed a neighbor's ass, drove it home with Phelim, however, on its back, took the interesting youth by the nape of the neck, and, in the name of the Trinity, shoved him three times under it, and three times over it. She then put a bit of bread into its mouth, until the ass had mumbled it a little, after which she gave the savory morsel to Phelim, as a bonne bouche. This was one preventive against the small-pox; but another was to be tried.
She next clipped off the extremities of Phelim's elf locks, tied them in linen that was never bleached, and hung them beside the Gospel about his neck. This was her second cure; but there was still a third to be applied. She got the largest onion possible, which, having cut into nine parts, she hung from the roof tree of the cabin, having first put the separated parts together. It is supposed that this has the power of drawing infection of any kind to itself. It is permitted to remain untouched, until the disease has passed from the neighborhood, when it is buried as far down in the earth as a single man can dig. This was a third cure; but there was still a fourth. She borrowed ten asses' halters from her neighbors, who, on hearing that they were for Phelim's use, felt particular pleasure in obliging her. Having procured these, she pointed them one by one at Phelim's neck, until the number nine was completed. The tenth, she put on him, and with the end of it in her hand, led him like an ass, nine mornings, before sunrise, to a south-running stream, which he was obliged to cross. On doing this, two conditions were to be fulfilled on the part of Phelim; he was bound, in the first place, to keep his mouth filled, during the ceremony, with a certain fluid which must be nameless: in the next, to be silent from the moment he left home until his return.
Sheelah having satisfied herself that everything calculated to save her darling from the small-pox was done, felt considerably relieved, and hoped that whoever might be infected, Phelim would escape. On the morning when the last journey to the river had been completed, she despatched him home with the halters. Phelim, however, wended his way to a little hazel copse, below the house, where he deliberately twined the halters together, and erected a swing-swang, with which he amused himself till hunger brought him to his dinner.
"Phelim, you idle thief, what kep you away till now?"
"Oh; mudher, mudher, gi' me a piece o' arran? (* bread.)
"Why, here's the praties done for your dinner. What kep you?"
"Oh, be gorra, it's well you ever seen me at all, so it is!"
"Why," said his father, "what happened you?"
"Oh, bedad, a terrible thing all out. As I was crassin' Dunroe Hill, I thramped on hungry grass. First, I didn't know what kem over me, I got so wake; an' every step I wint, 'twas waker an' waker I was growin', till at long last, down I dhrops, an' couldn't move hand or fut. I dunna how long I lay there, so I don't; but anyhow, who should be sthreelin' acrass the hill, but an old baccagh.
"'My bouchaleen dhas,' says he—'my beautiful boy,' says he—'you're in a bad state I find. You've thramped upon Dunroe hungry grass, an' only for somethin' it's a prabeen you'd be, afore ever you'd see home. Can you spake at all?' says he.
"'Oh, murdher,' says I,' I b'lieve not.'
"'Well here,' says the baccagh, 'open your purty gub, an' take in a thrifle of this male, an' you'll soon be stout enough.' Well, to be sure, it bates the world! I had hardly tasted the male, whin I found myself as well as ever; bekase you know, mudher, that's the cure for it. 'Now,' says the baccagh, 'this is the spot the fairies planted their hungry grass, an' so you'll know it agin when you see it. What's your name?' says he.
"'Phelim O'Toole,' says I.
"'Well,' says he, 'go home an' tell your father an' mother to offer up a prayer to St. Phelim, your namesake, in regard that only for him you'd be a corp before any relief would a come near you; or, at any rate, wid the fairies.'"
The father and mother, although with a thousand proofs before them that Phelim, so long as he could at all contrive a lie, would never speak truth, yet were so blind to his well-known propensity, that they always believed the lie to be truth, until they discovered it to be a falsehood. When he related a story, for instance, which carried not only improbability, but impossibility on the face of it, they never questioned his veracity. The neighbors, to be sure, were vexed and nettled at the obstinacy of their credulity; especially on reflecting that they were as sceptical in giving credence to the narrative of any other person, as all rational people ought to be. The manner of training up Phelim, and Phelim's method of governing them, had become a by-word in the village. "Take a sthraw to him, like Sheelah O'Toole," was often ironically said to mothers remarkable for mischievous indulgence to their children.
The following day proved that no charm could protect Phelim from the small-pox. Every symptom of that disease became quite evident; and the grief of his doting parents amounted to distraction. Neither of them could be declared perfectly sane; they knew not how to proceed—what regimen to adopt for him, nor what remedies to use. A week elapsed, but each succeeding day found him in a more dangerous state. At length, by the advice of some of the neighbors, an old crone, called "Sonsy Mary," was called in to administer relief through the medium of certain powers which were thought to be derived from something holy and also supernatural. She brought a mysterious bottle, of which he was to take every third spoonful, three times a day; it was to be administered by the hand of a young girl of virgin innocence, who was also to breathe three times down his throat, holding his nostrils closed with her fingers. The father and mother were to repeat a certain number of prayers; to promise against swearing, and to kiss the hearth-stone nine times—the one turned north, and the other south. All these ceremonies were performed with care, but Phelim's malady appeared to set them at defiance; and the old crone would have lost her character in consequence, were it not that Larry, on the day of the cure, after having promised not to swear, let fly an oath at a hen, whose cackling disturbed Phelim. This saved her character, and threw Larry and Sheelah into fresh despair.
They had nothing now for it but the "fairy man," to whom, despite the awful mystery of his character, they resolved to apply rather than see their only son taken from them for ever. Larry proceeded without delay to the wise man's residence, after putting a small phial of holy water in his pocket to protect himself from fairy influence. The house in which this person lived was admirably in accordance with his mysterious character. One gable of it was formed by the mound of a fairy Rath, against the cabin, which stood endwise; within a mile there was no other building; the country around it was a sheep-walk, green, and beautifully interspersed with two or three solitary glens, in one of which might be seen a cave that was said to communicate under ground with the rath. A ridge of high-Peaked mountains ran above it, whose evening shadow, in consequence of their form, fell down on each side of the rath, without obscuring its precincts. It lay south; and, such was the power of superstition, that during summer, the district in which it stood was thought to be covered with a light decidedly supernatural. In spring, it was the first to be in verdure, and in autumn the last. Nay, in winter itself, the rath and the adjoining valleys never ceased to be green, these circumstances were not attributed to the nature of the soil, to its southern situation, nor to the fact of its being pasture land; but simply to the power of the fairies, who were supposed to keep its verdure fresh for their own revels.
When Larry entered the house, which had an air of comfort and snugness beyond the common, a tall thin pike of a man, about sixty years of age, stood before him. He wore a brown great-coat that fell far short of his knees; his small-clothes were closely fitted to thighs not thicker than hand telescopes; on his legs were drawn gray woollen stockings, rolled up about six inches over his small-clothes; his head was covered by a bay bob-wig, on which was a little round, hat, with the edge of the leaf turned up in every direction. His face was short and sallow; his chin peaked; his nose small and turned up. If we add to this, a pair of skeleton-like hands and arms projecting about eight inches beyond the sleeves of his coat; two fiery ferret-eyes; and a long small holly wand, higher than himself, we have the outline of this singular figure.
"God save you, nabor," said Larry.
"Save you, save you, neighbor," he replied, without pronouncing the name of the deity.
"This is a thryin' time," said Larry, "to them that has childhre."
The fairy-man fastened his red glittering eyes upon him, with a sinister glance that occasioned Larry to feel rather uncomfortable.
"So you venthured to come to the fairy-man?"
"It is about our son, an' he all we ha—"
"Whisht!" said the man, waving his hand with a commanding air. "Whisht; I wish you wor out o' this, for it's a bad time to be here. Listen! Listen! Do you hear nothing?"
Larry changed color. "I do," he replied—"The Lord protect me: Is that them?"
"What did you hear?" said the man.
"Why," returned the other, "I heard the bushes of the rath all movin', jist as if a blast o' wind came among them!"
"Whisht," said the fairy-man, "they're here; you mustn't open your lips while you're in the house. I know what you want, an' will see your son. Do you hear anything more? If you do, lay your forefinger along your nose; but don't spake."
Larry heard with astonishment, the music of a pair of bagpipes. The tune played was one which, according to a popular legend, was first played by Satan; it is called: "Go to the Devil and shake yourself." To our own knowledge, the peasantry in certain parts of Ireland refuse to sing it for the above reason. The mystery of the music was heightened too by the fact of its being played, as Larry thought, behind the gable of the cabin, which stood against the side of the rath, out of which, indeed, it seemed to proceed.
Larry laid his finger along his nose, as he had been desired; and this appearing to satisfy the fairy-man, he waved his hand to the door, thus intimating that his visitor should depart; which he did immediately, but not without observing that this wild-looking being closed and bolted the door after him.
It is unnecessary to say that he was rather anxious to get off the premises of the good people; he therefore lost little time until he arrived at his own cabin; but judge of his wonder when, on entering it, he found the long-legged spectre awaiting his return.
"Banaght dhea orrin!" he exclaimed, starting back; "the blessing of God be upon us! Is it here before me you are?"
"Hould your tongue, man," said the other, with a smile of mysterious triumph. "Is it that you wondher at? Ha, ha! That's little of it!"
"But how did you know my name? or who I was? or where I lived at all? Heaven protect us! it's beyant belief, clane out."
"Hould your tongue," replied the man; "don't be axin' me any thing o' the kind. Clear out, both of ye, till I begin my pisthrogues wid the sick child. Clear out, I say."
With some degree of apprehension, Larry and Sheelah left the house as they had been ordered, and the Fairy-man having pulled out a flask of poteen, administered a dose of it to Phelim; and never yet did patient receive his medicine with such a relish. He licked his lips, and fixed his eye upon it with a longing look.
"Be Gorra," said he, "that's fine stuff entirely. Will you lave me the bottle?"
"No," said the Fairy-man, "but I'll call an' give you a little of it wanst a day."
"Ay do," replied Phelim; "the divil a fear o' me, if I get enough of it. I hope I'll see you often."
The Fairy-man kept his word; so that what with his bottle, a hardy constitution, and light bed-clothes, Phelim got the upper hand of his malady. In a month he was again on his legs; but, alas! his complexion though not changed to deformity, was wofully out of joint. His principal blemish, in addition to the usual marks left by his complaint, consisted in a drooping of his left eyelid, which gave to his whole face a cast highly ludicrous.
When Phelim felt thoroughly recovered, he claimed a pair of "leather crackers," * a hare-skin cap, and a coat, with a pertinacity which kept the worthy couple in a state of inquietude, until they complied with his importunity. Henceforth he began to have everything his own way. His parents, sufficiently thankful that he was spared to them, resolved to thwart him no more.
* Breeches made of sheep's skin, so called from the noise they make in walking or running.
"It's well we have him at all," said his mother; "sure if we hadn't him, we'd be breakin' our hearts, and sayin' if it 'ud plase God to send him back to us, that we'd be happy even wid givin' him his own way."
"They say it breaks their strinth, too," replied his father, "to be crubbin' them in too much, an' snappin' at thim for every hand's turn, an' I'm sure it does too."
"Doesn't he become the pock-marks well, the crathur?" said the mdther.
"Become!" said the father; "but doesn't the droop in his eye set him off all to pieces!"
"Ay," observed the mother, "an' how the crathur went round among all the neighbors to show them the 'leather crackers!' To see his little pride out o' the hare-skin cap, too, wid the hare's ears stickin' out of his temples. That an' the droopin: eye undher them makes him look so cunnin' an' ginteel, that one can't help havin' their heart fixed upon him."
"He'd look betther still if that ould coat wasn't sweepin' the ground behind him; an' what 'ud you think to put a pair o' martyeens on his legs to hide the mazles! He might go anywhere thin."
"Throth he might; but Larry, what in the world wide could be in the Fairy-man's bottle that Phelim took sich a likin' for it. He tould me this mornin' that he'd suffer to have the pock agin, set in case he was cured wid the same bottle."
"Well, the Heaven be praised, any how, that we have a son for the half-acre, Sheelah.'
"Amin! An' let us take good care of him, now that he's spared to us."
Phelim's appetite, after his recovery, was anything but a joke to his father. He was now seldom at home, except during meal times; for wherever fun or novelty was to be found, Phelim was present. He became a regular attendant upon all the sportsmen. To such he made himself very useful by his correct knowledge of the best covers for game, and the best pools for fish. He was acquainted with every rood of land in the, parish; knew with astonishing accuracy where coveys were to be sprung, and hares started. No hunt was without him; such was his wind and speed of foot, that to follow a chase and keep up with the horsemen was to him only a matter of sport. When daylight passed, night presented him with amusements suitable to itself. No wake, for instance, could escape him; a dance without young Phelim O'Toole would have been a thing worthy to be remembered. He was zealously devoted to cock-fighting; on Shrove-Tuesday he shouted loudest among the crowd that attended the sport of throwing at cooks tied to a stake; foot-ball and hurling never occurred without him. Bull-baiting—for it was common in his youth—was luxury to him; and, ere he reached fourteen, every one knew Phelim O'Toole as an adept at card-playing. Wherever a sheep, a leg of mutton, a dozen of bread, or a bottle of whiskey was put up in a shebeen house, to be played for by the country gamblers at the five and ten, or spoil'd five, Phelim always took a hand and was generally successful. On these occasions he was frequently charged with an over-refined dexterity; but Phelim usually swore, in vindication of his own innocence, until he got black in the face, as the phrase among such characters goes.
The reader is to consider him now about fifteen—a stout, overgrown, unwashed cub. His parents' anxiety that he should grow strong, prevented them from training him to any kind of employment. He was eternally going about in quest of diversion; and wherever a knot of idlers was to be found, there was Phelim. He had, up to this period, never worn a shoe, nor a single article of dress that had been made for himself, with the exception of one or two pair of sheepskin small-clothes. In this way he passed his time, bare-legged, without shoes, clothed in an old coat much too large for him, his neck open, and his sooty locks covered with the hare-skin cap, the ears as usual sticking out above his brows. Much of his time was spent in setting the idle boys of the village to fight; and in carrying lying challenges from one to another. He himself was seldom without a broken head or a black eye; for in Ireland, he who is known to be fond of quarrelling, as the people say, usually "gets enough an' lavins of it." Larry and Sheelah, thinking it now high time that something should be done with Phelim, thought it necessary to give him some share of education. Phelim opposed this bitterly as an unjustifiable encroachment upon his personal liberty; but, by bribing him with the first and only suit of clothes he had yet got, they at length succeeded in prevailing on him to go.
The school to which he was sent happened to be kept in what is called an inside Kiln. This kind of kiln is usually—but less so now than formerly—annexed to respectable farmers' outhouses, to which, in agricultural districts, it forms a very necessary appendage. It also serves at the same time as a barn, the kiln-pot being sunk in the shape of an inverted cone at one end, but divided from the barn floor by a wall about three feet high. From this wall beams run across the kiln-pot, over which, in a transverse direction, are laid a number of rafters like the joists of a loft, but not fastened. These ribs are covered with straw, over which again is spread a winnow-cloth to keep the grain from being lost. The fire is sunk on a level with the bottom of the kiln-pot, that is, about eight or ten feet below the floor of the barn. The descent to it is by stairs formed at the side wall. We have been thus minute in describing it, because, as the reader will presently perceive, the feats of Phelim render it necessary.
On the first day of his entering the school he presented himself with a black eye; and as his character was well known to both master and scholars, the former felt no hesitation in giving him a wholesome lecture upon the subject of his future conduct. For at least a year before this time, he had gained the nick-name of "Blessed Phelim," and "Bouncing," epithets bestowed on him by an ironical allusion to his patron saint, and his own habits.
"So, Blessed Phelim," said the master, "you are comin' to school!!! Well, well! I only say that miracles will never cease. Arrah, Phelim, will you tell us candidly—ah—I beg your pardon; I mean, will you tell us the best lie you can coin upon the cause of your coming to imbibe moral and literary knowledge? Silence, boys, till we hear Blessed Phelim's lie."
"You must hear it, masther," said Phelim. "I'm comin' to larn to read an' write."
"Bravo! By the bones of Prosodius, I expected a lie, but not such a thumper as that. And you're comin' wid a black eye to prove it! A black eye, Phelim, is the blackguard's coat of arms; and to do you justice, you are seldom widout your crest."
For a few days Phelim attended the school, but learned not a letter. The master usually sent him to be taught by the youngest lads, with a hope of being able to excite a proper spirit of pride and emulation in a mind that required some extraordinary impulse. One day he called him up to ascertain what progress he had actually made; the unsuspecting teacher sat at the time upon the wall which separated the barn-floor from the kiln-pot, with his legs dangling at some distance from the ground. It was summer, any rafters used in drying the grain had been removed. On finding that Blessed Phelim, notwithstanding all the lessons he had received, was still in a state of the purest ignorance, he lost his temper, and brought him over between his knees, that he might give him an occasional cuff for his idleness. The lesson went on, and the master's thumps were thickening about Phelim's ears, much to the worthy youth's displeasure.
"Phelim," said the master, "I'll invert you a scarecrow for dunces. I'll lay you against the wall, with your head down and your heels up like a forked carrot."
"But how will you manage that?" said Phelim. "What 'ud I be doin' in the mane time?"
"I'll find a way to manage it," said the master.
"To put my head down an' my heels up, is it?" inquired Phelim.
"You've said it, my worthy," returned his teacher.
"If you don't know the way," replied the pupil, "I'll show you;" getting his shoulder under the master's leg, and pitching him heels over his head into the kiln-pot. He instantly seized his cap, and ran out of the school, highly delighted at his feat; leaving the scholars to render the master whatever assistance was necessary. The poor man was dangerously hurt, for in addition to a broken arm, he received half a dozen severe contusions on the head, and in different parts of the body.
This closed Phelim's education; for no persuasion could ever induce him to enter a school afterwards; nor could any temptation prevail on the neighboring teachers to admit him as a pupil.
Phelim now shot up rapidly to the stature of a young man; and a graceful slip was he. From the period of fifteen until nineteen, he was industriously employed in idleness. About sixteen he began to look after the girls, and to carry a cudgel. The father in vain attempted to inoculate him with a love of labor; but Phelim would not receive the infection. His life was a pleasanter one. Sometimes, indeed, when he wanted money to treat the girls at fairs and markets, he would prevail on himself to labor a week or fortnight with some neighboring farmer; but the moment he had earned as much as he deemed sufficient, the spade was thrown aside. Phelim knew all the fiddlers and pipers in the barony; was master of the ceremonies at every wake and dance that occurred within several miles of him. He was a crack dancer, and never attended a dance without performing a horn-pipe on a door or a table; no man could shuffle, or treble, or cut, or spring, or caper with him. Indeed it was said that he could dance "Moll Roe" upon the end of a five-gallon keg, and snuff a mould candle with his heels, yet never lose the time. The father and mother were exceedingly proud of Phelim, The former, when he found him grown up, and associating with young men, began to feel a kind of ambition in being permitted to join Phelim and his companions, and to look upon the society of his own son as a privilege. With the girls Phelim was a beauty without paint. They thought every wake truly a scene of sorrow, if he did not happen to be present. Every dance was doleful without him. Phelim wore his hat on one side, with a knowing but careless air; he carried his cudgel with a good-humored, dashing spirit, precisely in accordance with the character of a man who did not care a traneen whether he drank with you as a friend or fought with you as a foe. Never were such songs heard as Phelim could sing, nor such a voice as that with which he sang them. His attitudes and action were inimitable. The droop in his eye was a standing wink at the girls; and when he sang his funny songs, with what practised ease he gave the darlings a roguish chuck under the chin! Then his jokes! "Why, faix," as the fair ones often said of him, "before Phelim speaks at all, one laughs at what he says." This was fact. His very appearance at a wake, dance, or drinking match, was hailed by a peal of mirth. This heightened his humor exceedingly; for say what you will, laughter is to wit what air is to fire—the one dies without the other.
Let no one talk of beauty being on the surface. This is a popular error, and no one but a superficial fellow would defend it Among ten thousand you could not get a more unfavorable surface than Phelim's. His face resembled the rough side of a cullender, or, as he was often told in raillery, "you might grate potatoes on it." The lid of his left eye, as the reader knows, was like the lid of a salt-box, always closed; and when he risked a wink with the right, it certainly gave him the look of a man shutting out the world, and retiring into himself for the purpose of self-examination. No, no; beauty is in the mind; in the soul; otherwise Phelim never could have been such a prodigy of comeliness among the girls. This was the distinction the fair sex drew in his favor. "Phelim," they would say, "is not purty, but he's very comely. Bad end to the one of him but would stale a pig off a tether, wid his winnin' ways." And so he would, too, without much hesitation, for it was not the first time he had stolen his father's.
From nineteen until the close of his minority, Phelim became a distinguished man in fairs and markets. He was, in fact, the hero of the parish; but, unfortunately, he seldom knew on the morning of the fair-day the name of the party or faction on whose side he was to fight. This was merely a matter of priority; for whoever happened to give him the first treat uniformly secured him. The reason of this pliability on his part was, that Phelim being every person's friend, by his good nature, was nobody's foe, except for the day. He fought for fun and for whiskey. When he happened to drub some companion or acquaintance on the opposite side, he was ever ready to express his regret at the circumstance, and abused, them heartily for not having treated him first.
Phelim was also a great Ribbonman; and from the time he became initiated into the system, his eyes were wonderfully opened to the oppressions of the country. Sessions, decrees, and warrants he looked upon as I gross abuses; assizes, too, by which so many of his friends were put to some inconvenience, he considered as the result of Protestant Ascendancy—cancers that ought to be cut out of the constitution. Bailiffs, drivers, tithe-proctors, tax-gatherers, policemen, and parsons, he thought were vermin that ought to be compelled to emigrate to a much warmer country than Ireland.
There was no such hand in the county as Phelim at an alibi. Just give him the outline—a few leading particulars of the fact—and he would work wonders. One would think, indeed, that he had been born for that especial purpose; for, as he was never known to utter a syllable of truth but once, when he had a design in not being believed, so there was no risk of a lawyer getting truth out of him. No man was ever afflicted with such convenient maladies as Phelim; even his sprains, tooth-aches, and colics seemed to have entered into the Whiteboy system. But, indeed, the very diseases in Ireland are seditious. Many a time has a tooth-ache come in to aid Paddy in obstructing the course of justice; and a colic been guilty of misprision of treason. Irish deaths, too, are very disloyal, and frequently at variance with the laws: nor are our births much better; for although more legitimate than those of our English neighbors, yet they are in general more illegal. Phelim, in proving his alibis, proved all these positions. On one occasion, "he slep at the prisoner's house, and couldn't close his eye with a thief of a tooth-ache that parsecuted him the whole night;" so, that in consequence of having the tooth-ache, it was impossible that the prisoner could leave the house without his knowledge.
Again, the prisoner at the bar could not possibly have shot the deceased, "bekase Mickey slept that very night at Phelim's, an' Phelim, bein' ill o' the colic, never slep at all durin' the whole night; an', by the vartue of his oath, the poor boy couldn't go out o' the house unknownst to him. If he had, Phelim would a seen him, sure."
Again, "Paddy Cummisky's wife tuck ill of a young one, an' Phelim was sent for to bring the midwife; but afore he kem to Paddy's, or hard o' the thing at all, the prisoner, airly in the night, comin' to sit awhile wid Paddy, went for the midwife instead o' Phelim, an' thin they sot up an' had a sup in regard of the 'casion; an' the prisoner never left them at all that night until the next mornin'. An' by the same token, he remimbered Paddy Cummisky barrin' the door, an' shuttin' the windies, bekase it's not lucky to have them open, for fraid that the fairies 'ud throw their pishthrogues upon the young one, an' it not christened."
Phelim was certainly an accomplished youth. As an alibist, however, his career was, like that of all alibists, a short one. The fact was, that his face soon became familiar to the court and the lawyers, so that his name and appearance were ultimately rather hazardous to the cause of his friends.
Phelim, on other occasions, when summoned as evidence against his well-wishers or brother Ribbonmen, usually forgot his English, and gave his testimony by an interpreter. Nothing could equal his ignorance and want of common capacity during these trials. His face was as free from every visible trace of meaning as if he had been born an idiot. No block was ever more impenetrable than he.
"What is the noble gintleman sayin'?" he would ask in Irish; and on having that explained, he would inquire, "what is that?" then demand a fresh explanation of the last one, and so on successively, until he was given up in despair.
Sometimes, in cases of a capital nature, Phelim, with the consent of his friends, would come forward and make disclosures, in order to have them put upon their trial and acquitted; lest a real approver, or some one earnestly disposed to prosecute, might appear against them. Now the alibi and its usual accompaniments are all of old standing in Ireland; but the master-stroke to which we have alluded is a modern invention. Phelim would bear evidence against them; and whilst the government—for it was mostly in government prosecutions he adventured this—believed they had ample grounds for conviction in his disclosures, it little suspected that the whole matter was a plan to defeat itself. In accordance with his design, he gave such evidence upon the table as rendered conviction hopeless. His great object was to damn his own character as a witness, and to make such blunders, premeditated slips, and admissions, as just left him within an inch of a prosecution for perjury. Having succeeded in acquitting his friends, he was content to withdraw amid a volley of pretended execrations, leaving the Attorney-General, with all his legal knowledge, outwitted and foiled.
All Phelim's accomplishments, however, were nothing when compared to his gallantry. With personal disadvantages which would condemn any other man to old bachelorship, he was nevertheless the whiteheaded boy among the girls. He himself was conscious of this, and made his attacks upon their hearts indiscriminately. If he met an unmarried female only for five minutes, be she old or ugly, young or handsome, he devoted at least four minutes and three-quarters to the tender passion; made love to her with an earnestness that would deceive a saint; backed all his protestations with a superfluity of round oaths; and drew such a picture of her beauty as might suit the Houries of Mahomet's paradise.
Phelim and his father were great associates. No two agreed better. They went to fairs and markets together; got drunk together; and returned home with their arms about each other's neck in the most loving and affectionate manner. Larry, as if Phelim were too modest to speak for himself, seldom met a young girl without laying siege to her for the son. He descanted upon his good qualities, glossed over his defects, and drew deeply upon invention in his behalf. Sheelah, on the other hand, was an eloquent advocate for him. She had her eye upon half a dozen of the village girls, to every one of whom she found something to say in Phelim's favor.
But it is time the action of our story should commence. When Phelim had reached his twenty-fifth year, the father thought it was high time for him to marry. The good man had, of course, his own motives for this. In the first place, Phelim, with all his gallantry and cleverness, had never contributed a shilling, either toward his own support or that of the family. In the second place, he was never likely to do so. In the third place, the father found him a bad companion; for, in good truth, he had corrupted the good man's morals so evidently, that his character was now little better than that of his son. In the fourth place, he never thought of Phelim, that he did not see a gallows in the distance; and matrimony, he thought, might save him from hanging, as one poison neutralizes another. In the fifth place, the half-acre Was but a shabby patch to meet the exigencies of the family, since Phelim grew up. "Bouncing Phelim," as he was called for more reasons than one, had the gift of a good digestion, along with his other accomplishments; and with such energy was it exercised, that the "half-acre" was frequently in hazard of leaving the family altogether. The father, therefore, felt quite willing, if Phelim married, to leave him the inheritance, and seek a new settlement for himself. Or, if Phelim preferred leaving him, he agreed to give him one-half of it, together with an equal division of all his earthly goods; to wit—two goats, of which Phelim was to get one; six hens and a cock, of which Phelim was to get three hens, and the chance of a toss-up for the cock; four stools, of which Phelim was to get two; two pots—a large one and a small one—the former to go with Phelim; three horn spoons, of which Phelim was to get one, and the chance of a toss-up for a third. Phelim was to bring his own bed, provided he did not prefer getting a bottle of fresh straw as a connubial luxury. The blanket was a tender subject; for having been fourteen years in employment, it entangled the father and Phelim, touching the prudence of the latter claiming it all. The son was at length compelled to give it up, at least in the character of an appendage to his marriage property. He feared that the wife, should he not be able to replace it by a new one, or should she herself not be able to bring him one, as part of her dowry, would find the honeymoon rather lively. Phelim's bedstead admitted of no dispute, the floor of the cabin having served him in that capacity ever since he began to sleep in a separate bed. His pillow was his small clothes, and his quilt his own coat, under which he slept snugly enough.
The father having proposed, and the son acceded to these arrangements, the next thing to be done was to pitch upon a proper girl as his wife. This being a more important matter, was thus discussed by the father and son, one evening, at their own fireside, in the presence of Sheelah.
"Now, Phelim," said the father, "look about you, an' tell us what girl in the neighborhood you'd like to be married to."
"Why," replied Phelim, "I'll lave that to you; jist point out the girl you'd like for your daughter-in-law, an' be she rich, poor, ould, or ugly, I'll delude her. That's the chat."
"Ah, Phelim, if you could put your comedher an Gracey Dalton, you'd be a made boy. She has the full of a rabbit-skin o' guineas."
"A made boy! Faith, they say I'm that as it is, you know. But would you wish me to put my comedher on Gracey Dalton? Spake out."
"To be sure I would."
"Ay," observed the mother, "or what 'ud you think of Miss Pattherson? That 'ud be the girl. She has a fine farm, an' five hundre pounds. She's a Protestant, but Phelim could make a Christian of her."
"To be sure I could," said Phelim, "have her thumpin' her breast, and countin' her Padareens in no time. Would you wish me to have her, mudher?"
"Throth an' I would, avick."
"That 'ud never do," observed the father. "Sure you don't think she'd ever think of the likes o' Phelim?"
"Don't make a goose of yourself, ould man," observed Phelim. "Do you think if I set about it, that I'd not manufacture her senses as asy as I'd peel a piatee?"
"Well, well," replied the father, "in the name o' Goodness make up to her. Faith it ud' be somethin' to have a jauntin' car in the family!"
"Ay, but what the sorra will I do for a suit o' clo'es?" observed Phelim. "I could never go near her in these breeches. My elbows, too, are out o' this ould coat, bad luck to it! An' as for a waistcoat, why, I dunna but it's a sin to call what I'm wearin' a waistcoat at all. Thin agin—why, blood alive, sure I can't go to her barefooted, an' I dunna but it 'ud be dacenter to do that same, than to step out in sich excuses for brogues as these. An' in regard o' the stockins', why, I've pulled them down, strivin' to look dacent, till one 'ud think the balls o' my legs is at my heels."
"The sorra word's in that but thruth, any how," observed the father; "but what's to be done? For we have no way of gettin' them."
"Faith, I don't know that," said Phelim. "What if we'd borry? I could get the loan of a pair of breeches from Dudley Dwire, an' a coat from Sam Appleton. We might thry Billy Brady for a waistcoat, an' a pair of stockings. Barny Buckram-back, the pinsioner, 'ud lend me his pumps; an' we want nothing now but a hat."
"Nothin' under a Caroline 'ud do, goin' there," observed the father.
"I think Father O'Hara 'ud oblige me wid the loan o' one for a day or two;" said Phelim; "he has two or three o' them, all as good as ever."
"But, Phelim," said the father, "before we go to all this trouble, are you sure you could put your comedher on Miss Pattherson?"
"None o' your nonsense," said Phelim, "don't you know I could? I hate a man to be puttin' questions to me, when he knows them himself. It's a fashion you have got, an' you ought to dhrop it."
"Well thin," said the father, "let us set about it to-morrow. If we can borry the clo'es, thry your luck."
Phelim and the father, the next morning, set out each in a different direction, to see how far they could succeed on the borrowing system. The father was to make a descent on Dudley Dwire for the breeches, and appeal to the generosity of Sam Appleton for the coat. Phelim himself was to lay his case before the priest, and to assail Buckram-back, the pensioner, on his way home, for the brogues.
When Phelim arrived at the priest's house, he found none of the family up but the housekeeper. After bidding her good morrow, and being desired to sit down, he entered into conversation with the good woman, who felt anxious to know the scandal of the whole parish.
"Aren't you a son of Larry Toole's, young man?"
"I am, indeed, Mrs. Doran. I'm Phelim O'Toole, my mother says."
"I hope you're comin' to spake to the priest about your duty."
"Why, then, be gorra, I'm glad you axed me, so I am—for only you seen the pinance in my face, you'd never suppose sich a thing. I want to make my confishion to him, wid the help o' Goodness."
"Is there any news goin', Phelim?"
"Divil a much, barrin' what you hard yourself, I suppose, about Frank Fogarty, that went mad yesterday, for risin' the meal on the poor, an' ate the ears off himself afore anybody could see him."
"Vick na hoiah, Phelim; do you tell me so?"
"Why man o' Moses, is it possible you did not hear it, ma'am?"
"Oh, worra, man alive, not a syllable! Ate the ears off of himself! Phelim, acushla, see what it is to be hard an the poor!"
"Oh, he was ever an' always the biggest nagar livin', ma'am. Ay, an' when he was tied up, till a blessed priest 'ud be brought to maliwgue the divil out of him, he got a scythe an' cut his own two hands off."
"No thin, Phelim!"
"Faitha, ma'am, sure enough. I suppose, ma'am, you hard about Biddy Duignan?"
"Who is she, Phelim?"
"Why the misfortunate crathurs a daughter of her father's, ould Mick Duignan, of Tavenimore."
"An' what about her, Phehm! What happened her?"
"Faix, ma'am, a bit of a mistake she met wid; but, anyhow, ould Harry Connolly's to stand in the chapel nine Sundays, an' to make three Stations to Lough Dergh for it. Bedad, they say it's as purty a crathur as you'd see in a day's thravellin'."
"Harry Connolly! Why, I know Harry, but I never heard of Biddy Duiguan, or her father at all. Harry Connolly! Is it a man that's bent over his staff for the last twenty years! Hut, tut, Phelim, don't say sich a thing."
"Why, ma'am, sure he takes wid it himself; he doesn't deny it at all, the ould sinner."
"Oh, that I mayn't sin, Phelim, if one knows who to thrust in this world, so they don't. Why the desateful ould—hut, Phelim, I can't give into it."
"Faix, ma'am, no wondher; but sure when he confesses it himself! Bedad, Mrs. Doran, I never seen you look so well. Upon my sowl, you'd take the shine out o' the youngest o' thim!"
"Is it me, Phelim? Why, you're beside yourself."
"Beside myself, am I? Faith, an' if I am, what I said's thruth, anyhow. I'd give more nor I'll name, to have so red a pair of cheeks as you have. Sowl, they're thumpers."
"Ha, ha, ha! Oh, that I mayn't sin, but that's a good joke! An ould woman near sixty!"
"Now, Mrs. Doran, that's nonsense, an' nothing else. Near sixty! Oh, by my purty, that's runnin' away wid the story entirely—No, nor thirty. Faith, I know them that's not more nor five or six-an'-twenty, that 'ud be glad to borry the loan of your face for a while. Divil a word o' lie in that."
"No, no, Phelim, aroon, I seen the day; but that's past. I remimber when the people did say I was worth lookin' at. Won't you sit near the fire? You're in the dhraft there."
"Thank you kindly, ma'am; faith, you have the name, far an' near, for bein' the civilest woman alive this day. But, upon my sowl, if you wor ten times as civil, an' say that you're not aquil to any young girl in the parish, I'd dispute it wid you; an' say it was nothin' else than a bounce."
"Arrah, Phelim, darlin, how can you palaver me that way? I hope your dacent father's well, Phelim, an' your honest mother."
"Divil a fear o' them. Now, I'd hould nine to one that the purtiest o' them hasn't a sweeter mout' than you have. By dad, you have a pair o' lips, God bless them that—well, well—"
Phelim here ogled her with looks particularly wistful.
"Phelim, you're losin' the little sense you had."
"Faix, an' it's you that's taken them out o' me, then. A purty woman always makes a fool o' me. Divil a word o' lie in it. Faix, Mrs. Doran, ma'am, you have a chin o' your own! Well, well! Oh, be Gorra, I wish I hadn't come out this mornin' any how!"
"Arrah, why, Phelim? In throth, it's you that's the quare Phelim!"
"Why, ma'am—Oh bedad it's a folly to talk. I can't go widout tastin' them. Sich a pair o' timptations as your lips, barrin' your eyes, I didn't see this many a day."
"Tastin' what, you mad crathur?"
"Why, I'll show you what I'd like to be afther tastin'. Oh! bedad, I'll have no refusin'; a purty woman always makes a foo——"
"Keep away, Phelim; keep off; bad end to you; what do you mane? Don't you see Fool Art lyin' in the corner there undher the sacks? I don't think he's asleep."
"Fool Art! why, the misfortunate idiot, what about him? Sure he hasn't sinse to know the right hand from the left. Bedad, ma'am the truth is, that a purty woman always makes a——"
"Throth an' you won't," said she struggling.
"Throth an' I will, thin, taste the same lips, or we'll see whose strongest!"
A good-humored struggle took place between the housekeeper and Phelim, who found her, in point of personal strength, very near a match for him. She laughed heartily, but Phelim attempted to salute her with a face of mock gravity as nearly resembling that of a serious man as he could assume. In the meantime, chairs were overturned, and wooden dishes trundled about; a crash was heard here, and another there. Phelim drove her to the hob, and from the hob they both bounced into the fire, the embers and ashes of which were kicked up into a cloud about them.
"Phelim, spare your strinth," said the funny housekeeper, "it won't do. Be asy now, or I'll get angry. The priest, too, will hear the noise, and so will Fool Art."
"To the divil wid Fool Art an' the priest, too," said Phelim, "who cares abuckey about the priest when a purty woman like you is consarn—
"What's this?" said the priest, stepping down from the parlor—"What's the matter? Oh, ho, upon my word, Mrs. Doran! Very good, indeed! Under my own roof, too! An' pray, ma'am, who is the gallant? Turn round young man. Yes, I see! Why, better and better! Bouncing Phelim O'Toole, that never spoke truth! I think, Mr. O'Toole, that when you come a courting, you ought to consider it worth your while to appear somewhat more smooth in your habiliments. I simply venture to give that as my opinion."
"Why sure enough," replied Phelim, without a moment's hesitation; "your Reverence has found us out."
"Found you out! Why, is that the tone you speak in?"
"Faith, sir, thruth's best. I wanted her to tell it to you long ago, but she wouldn't. Howsomever, it's still time enough.—Hem! The thruth, sir, is, that Mrs. Doran an' I is goin' to get the words said as soon as we can; so, sir, wid the help o' Goodness, I came to see if your Reverence 'ud call us next Sunday wid a blessin'."
Mrs. Doran had, for at least a dozen round years before this, been in a state-of hopelessness upon the subject of matrimony; nothing in the shape of a proposal having in the course of that period come in her way. Now we have Addison's authority for affirming, that an old woman who permits the thoughts of love to get into her head, becomes a very odd kind of animal. Mrs. Doran, to do her justice, had not thought of it for nearly three lustres, for this reason, that she had so far overcome her vanity as to deem it possible that a proposal could be ever made to her. It is difficult, however, to know what a day may bring forth. Here was an offer, dropping like a ripe plum into her mouth. She turned the matter over in her mind with a quickness equal to that of Phelim himself. One leading thought struck her forcibly: if she refused to close with this offer, she would never get another.
"Is it come to this, Mrs. Doran?" inquired the priest.
"Oh, bedad, sir, she knows it is," replied Phelim, giving her a wink with the safe eye.
Now, Mrs. Doran began to have her suspicions. The wink she considered as decidedly ominous. Phelim, she concluded with all the sagacity of a woman thinking upon that subject, had winked at her to assent only for the purpose of getting themselves out of the scrape for the present. She feared that Phelim would be apt to break off the match, and take some opportunity, before Sunday should arrive, of preventing the priest from calling them. Her decision, however, was soon made. She resolved, if possible to pin down Phelim to his own proposal.
"Is this true, Mrs. Doran?" inquired the priest, a second time.
Mrs. Doran could not, with any regard to the delicacy of her sex, give an assent without proper emotion. She accordingly applied her apron to her eyes, and shed a few natural tears in reply to the affecting query of the pastor.
Phelim, in the meantime, began to feel mystified. Whether Mrs. Doran's tears were a proof that she was disposed to take the matter seriously, or whether they were tears of shame and vexation for having been caught in the character of a romping old hoyden, he could not then exactly decide. He had, however, awful misgivings upon the subject.
"Then," said the priest, "it is to be understood that I'm to call you both on Sunday."
"There's no use in keepin' it back from you," replied Mrs. Doran. "I know it's foolish of me; but we have all our failins, and to be fond of Phelim there, is mine. Your Reverence is to call us next Sunday, as Phelim tould you. I am sure I can't tell you how he deluded me at all, the desaver o' the world!"
Phelim's face during this acknowledgment was, like Goldsmith's Haunch of Venison, "a subject for painters to study." His eyes projected like a hare's until nothing could be seen but the balls. Even the drooping lid raised itself up, as if it were never to droop again.
"Well," said the priest, "I shall certainly not use a single argument to prevent you. Your choice, I must say, does you credit, particularly when it is remembered that you have come at least to years of discretion. Indeed, many persons might affirm that you have gone beyond them; but I say nothing. In the meantime your wishes must be complied with. I will certainly call Phelim O'Toole and Bridget Doran on Sunday next; and one thing I know, that we shall have a very merry congregation."
Phelim's eyes turned upon the priest and the old woman alternately, with an air of bewilderment which, had the priest been a man of much observation, might have attracted his attention.
"Oh murdher alive, Mrs. Doran," said Phelim, "how am I to do for clo'es? Faith, I'd like to appear dacent in the thing, anyhow."
"True," said the priest. "Have you made no provision for smoothing the externals of your admirer? Is he to appear in this trim?"
"Bedad, sir," said Phelim, "we never thought o' that. All the world knows, your Reverence, that I might carry my purse in my eye, an' never feel a mote in it. But the thruth is, sir, she was so lively on the subject—in a kind of a pleasant, coaxin' hurry of her own—an' indeed I was so myself, too. Augh, Mrs. Doran! Be gorra, sir, she put her comedher an me entirely, so she did. Well, be my sowl, I'll be the flower of a husband to her anyhow. I hope your Reverence 'll come to the christ'nin'? But about the clo'es;—bad luck saize the tack I have to put to my back, but what you see an me, if we wor to be married to-morrow."
"Well, Phelim, aroon," said Mrs. Doran, "his Reverence here has my little pences o' money in his hands, an' the best way is for you to get the price of a suit from him. You must get clo'es, an' good ones, too, Phelim, sooner nor any stop should be put to our marriage."
"Augh, Mrs. Doran," said Phelim, ogling her from the safe eye, with a tender suavity of manner that did honor to his heart; "be gorra, ma'am, you've played the puck entirely wid me. Faith, I'm gettin' fonder an' fonder of her every minute, your Reverence."
He set his eye, as he uttered this, so sweetly and significantly upon the old house-keeper, that the priest thought it a transgression of decorum in his presence.
"I think," said he, "you had better keep your melting looks to yourself, Phelim. Restrain your gallantry, if you please, at least until I withdraw."
"Why, blood alive! sir, when people's fond of one another, it's hard to keep the love down. Augh, Mrs. Doran! Faith, you've rendhored my heart like a lump o' tallow."
"Follow me to the parlor," said the priest, "and let me know, Bridget, what sum I am to give to this melting gallant of yours."
"I may as well get what'll do the weddin' at wanst," observed Phelim. "It'll save throuble, in the first place; an' sackinly, it'll save time; for, plase Goodness, I'll have everything ready for houldin' the weddin' the Monday afther the last call. By the hole o' my coat, the minute I get the clo'es we'll be spliced, an' thin for the honeymoon!"
"How much money shall I give him?" said the priest.
"Indeed, sir, I think you ought to know that; I'm ignorant o' what 'ud make a dacent weddin'. We don't intend to get married undher a hedge; we've frinds an both sides, an' of course, we must have them about us, plase Goodness."
"Be gorra, sir, it's no wondher I'm fond of her, the darlin'? Bad win to you, Mrs. Doran, how did you come over me at all?"
"Bridget," said the priest, "I have asked you a simple question, to which I expect a plain answer. What money am I to give this tallow-hearted swain of yours?"
"Why, your Reverence, whatsomever you think may be enough for full, an' plinty, an' dacency, at the weddin'."
"Not forgetting the thatch for me, in the mane time," said Phelim. "Nothin' less will sarve us, plase your Reverence. Maybe, sir, you'd think 'of comin' to the weddin' yourself?"
"There are in my hands," observed the priest, "one hundred and twenty-two guineas of your money, Bridget. Here, Phelim, are ten for your wedding suit and wedding expenses. Go to your wedding! No! don't suppose for a moment that I countenance this transaction in the slightest degree. I comply with your wishes, because I heartily despise you both; but certainly this foolish old woman most. Give me an acknowledgment for this, Phelim."
"God bless you, sir!" said Phelim, as if he had paid them a compliment. "In regard o' the acknowledgment, sir, I acknowledge it wid all my heart; but bad luck to the scrape at all I can write."
"Well, no matter. You admit, Bridget, that I give this money to this blessed youth by your authority and consent."
"Surely, your Reverence; I'll never go back of it."
"Now, Phelim," said the priest, "you have the money; pray get married as soon as possible."
"I'll give you my oath," said Phelim; "an' be the blessed iron tongs in the grate there, I'll not lose a day in gettin' myself spliced. Isn't she the tendher-hearted sowl, your Reverence? Augh, Mrs. Doran!"
"Leave my place," said the priest. "I cannot forget the old proverb, that one fool makes many, but an old fool is worse than any. So it is with this old woman."
"Ould woman! Oh, thin, I'm sure I don't desarve this from your Reverence!" exclaimed the housekeeper, wiping her eyes: "if I'm a little seasoned now, you know I wasn't always so. If ever there was a faithful sarvant, I was that, an' managed your house and place as honestly as I'll manage my own, plase Goodness."
As they left the parlor, Phelim became the consoler.
"Whisht, you darlin'!" he exclaimed. "Sure you'll have Bouncin' Phelim to comfort you. But now that he has shut the door, what—hem—I'd take it as a piece o' civility if you'd open my eyes a little; I mane—hem—was it—is this doin' him, or how? Are you—hem—do you undherstand me, Mrs. Doran?"
"What is it you want to know, Phelim? I think everything is very plain."
"Oh, the divil a plainer, I suppose. But in the mane time, might one axe, out o' mere curiosity, if you're in airnest?"
"In airnest! Arrah, what did I give you my money for, Phelim? Well, now that everything is settled, God forgive you if you make a bad husband to me."
"A bad what?"
"I say, God forgive you if you make a bad husband to me. I'm afeard, Phelim, that I'll be too foolish about you—that I'll be too fond of you."
Phelim looked at her in solemn silence, and then replied—"Let us trust in God that you may be enabled to overcome the weakness. Pray to Him to avoid all folly, an' above everything, to give you a dacent stock of discration, for it's a mighty fine thing for a woman of your yea—hem—a mighty fine thing it is, indeed, for a sasoned woman, as you say you are."
"When will the weddin' take place, Phelim?"
"The what?" said Phelim, opening his brisk eye with a fresh stare of dismay.
"Why, the weddin', acushla. When will it take place? I think the Monday afther the last call 'ud be the best time. We wouldn't lose a day thin. Throth, I long to hear my last call over, Phelim, jewel."
Phelim gave her another look.
"The last call! Thin, by the vestment, you don't long half as much for your last call as I do."
"Arrah, Phoilim, did you take the—the—what you wor wantin' awhile agone? Throth, myself disremimbers."
"Ay, around dozen o' them. How can you forget it?"
The idiot in the corner here gave a loud snore, but composed himself to sleep, as if insensible to all that passed.
"Throth, an' I do forget it. Now, Phelim, you'll not go till you take a cup o' tay wid myself. Throth, I do forget it, Phelim darlin', jewel."
Phelim's face now assumed a very queer expression. He twisted his features into all possible directions; brought his mouth first round to one ear and then to the other; put his hand, as if in great pain, on the pit of his stomach; lifted one knee up till it almost touched his chin, then let it down, and instantly brought up the other in a similar manner.
"Phelim, darlin', what ails you?" inquired the tender old nymph. "Wurrah, man alive, aren't you well?"
"Oh, be the vestment," said Phelim, "what's this at all? Murdher, sheery, what'll I do! Oh, I'm very bad! At death's door, so I am! Be gorra, Mrs. Doran, I must be off."
"Wurrah, Phelim dear, won't you stop till we settle everything?"
"Oh, purshuin' to the ha'p'orth I can settle till I recover o' this murdherin' colic! All's asthray wid me in the inside. I'll see you—I'll see you—Hanim an dioul! what's this?—I must be off like a shot—oh, murdher sheery?—but—but—I'll see you to-morrow. In the mane time, I'm—I'm—for ever oblaged to you for—for—lendin' me the—loan of—oh, by the vestments, I'm a gone man!—for lendin' me the loan of the ten guineas—Oh, I'm gone!"
Phelim disappeared on uttering these words, and his strides on passing out of the house were certainly more rapid and vigorous than those of a man laboring under pain. In fact, he never looked behind him until one-half the distance between the priest's house and his father's cabin had been fairly traversed.
Some misgivings occurred to the old housekeeper, but her vanity, having been revived by Phelim's blarney, would not permit her to listen to them. She had, besides, other motive to fortify her faith in his attachment. First, there was her money, a much larger sum than ever Phelim could expect with any other woman, young or old; again, they were to be called on the following Sunday, and she knew that when a marriage affair proceeds so far, obstruction or disappointment is not to be apprehended.
When Phelim reached home, he found the father returned after having borrowed a full suit of clothes for him. Sam Appleton on hearing from Larry that Bouncing Phelim was about to get a "Great Match,"* generously lent him coat, waistcoat, hat, and small-clothes.
* When a country girl is said to have a large fortune, the peasantry, when speaking of her in reference to matrimony, say she's a "Great Match."
When Phelim presented himself at home, he scarcely replied to the queries put to him by his father and mother concerning his interview with the priest. He sat down, rubbed his hands, scratched his head, rose up, and walked to and fro, in a mood of mind so evidently between mirth and chagrin, that his worthy parents knew not whether to be merry or miserable.