TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY
BY WILLIAM CARLETON
Phil Purcel, The Pig-Driver.
The Geography Of An Irish Oath.
The Lianhan Shee.
PHIL PURCEL, THE PIG-DRIVER.
Phil Purcel was a singular character, for he was never married; but notwithstanding his singularity, no man ever possessed, for practical purposes, a more plentiful stock of duplicity. All his acquaintances knew that Phil was a knave of the first water, yet was he decidedly a general favorite. Now as we hate mystery ourselves, we shall reveal the secret of this remarkable popularity; though, after all, it can scarcely be called so, for Phil was not the first cheat who has been popular in his day. The cause of his success lay simply in this; that he never laughed; and, none of our readers need be told, that the appearance of a grave cheat in Ireland is an originality which almost runs up into a miracle. This gravity induced every one to look upon him as a phenomenon. The assumed simplicity of his manners was astonishing, and the ignorance which he feigned, so apparently natural, that it was scarcely possible for the most keen-sighted searcher into human motives to detect him. The only way of understanding the man was to deal with him: if, after that, you did not comprehend him thoroughly, the fault was not Phil's, but your own. Although not mirthful himself, he was the cause of mirth in others; for, without ever smiling at his own gains, he contrived to make others laugh at their losses. His disposition, setting aside laughter, was strictly anomalous. The most incompatible, the most unamalgamatible, and the most uncomeatable qualities that ever refused to unite in the same individual, had no scruple at all to unite in Phil. But we hate metaphysics, which we leave to the mechanical philosophers, and proceed to state that Phil was a miser, which is the best explanation we can give of his gravity.
Ireland, owing to the march of intellect, and the superiority of modern refinement, has been for some years past, and is at present, well supplied with an abundant variety of professional men, every one of whom will undertake, for proper considerations, to teach us Irish all manner of useful accomplishments. The drawing-master talks of his profession; the dancing-master of his profession; the fiddler, tooth-drawer, and corn-cutter (who by the way, reaps a richer harvest than we do), since the devil has tempted the schoolmaster to go abroad, are all practising in his absence, as professional men.
Now-Phil must be included among this class of grandiloquent gentlemen, for he entered life as a Professor of Pig-driving; and it is but justice towards him to assert, that no corn-cutter of them all ever elevated his profession so high as Phil did that in which he practised. In fact, he raised it to the most exalted pitch of improvement of which it was then susceptible; or to use the cant of the day, he soon arrived at "the head of his profession."
In Phil's time, however, pig-driving was not so general, nor had it made such rapid advances as in modern times. It was, then, simply, pig-driving, unaccompanied by the improvements of poverty, sickness, and famine. Political economy had not then taught the people how to be poor upon the most scientific principles; free trade had not shown the nation the most approved plan of reducing itself to the lowest possible state of distress; nor liberalism enabled the working classes to scoff at religion, and wisely to stop at the very line that lies between outrage and rebellion. Many errors and inconveniences, now happily exploded, were then in existence. The people, it is true, were somewhat attached to their landlords, but still they were burdened with the unnecessary appendages of good coats and stout shoes; were tolerably industrious, and had the mortification of being able to pay their rents, and feed in comfort. They were not, as they are now, free from new coats and old prejudices, nor improved by the intellectual march of politics and poverty. When either a man or a nation starves, it is a luxury to starve in an enlightened manner; and nothing is more consolatory to a person acquainted with public rights and constitutional privileges, than to understand those liberal principles upon which he fasts and goes naked.
From all we have said, the reader sees clearly that pig-driving did not then proceed upon so extensive a scale as it does at present. The people, in fact, killed many of them for their own use; and we know not how it happened, but political ignorance and good bacon kept them in more flesh and comfort than those theories which have since succeeded so well in introducing the science of starvation as the basis of national prosperity. Irishmen are frequently taxed with extravagance, in addition to their other taxes; but we should be glad to know what people in Europe reduce economy in the articles of food and clothing to such close practice as they do.
Be this as it may, there was, in Ireland, an old breed of swine, which is now nearly extinct, except in some remote parts of the country, where they are still useful in the hunting season, particularly if dogs happen to be scarce.* They were a tall, loose species, with legs of an unusual length, with no flesh, short ears, as if they had been cropped for sedition, and with long faces of a highly intellectual cast. They were also of such activity that few greyhounds could clear a ditch or cross a field with more agility or speed. Their backs formed a rainbow arch, capable of being contracted or extended to an inconceivable degree; and their usual rate of travelling in droves was at mail-coach speed, or eight Irish miles an hour, preceded by an outrider to clear the way, whilst their rear was brought up by another horseman, going at a three-quarter gallop.
* We assure John Bull, on the authority of Purcel himself, that this is a fact.
In the middle of summer, when all nature reposed under the united influence of heat and dust, it was an interesting sight to witness a drove of them sweeping past, like a whirlwind, in a cloud of their own raising; their sharp and lengthy outlines dimly visible through the shining haze, like a flock of antelopes crossing the deserts of the East.
But alas! for those happy days! This breed is now a curiosity—few specimens of it remaining except in the mountainous parts of the country, whither these lovers of liberty, like the free natives of the back settlements of America, have retired to avoid the encroachments of civilization, and exhibit their Irish antipathy to the slavish comforts of steamboat navigation, and the relaxing luxuries of English feeding.
Indeed, their patriotism, as evinced in an attachment to Ireland and Irish habits, was scarcely more remarkable than their sagacity. There is not an antiquary among the members of that learned and useful body, the Irish Academy, who can boast such an intimate knowledge of the Irish language in all its shades of meaning and idiomatic beauty, as did this once flourishing class of animals. Nor were they confined to the Irish tongue alone, many of them understood English too; and it was said of those that belonged to a convent, the members of which, in their intercourse with each other, spoke only in Latin, that they were tolerable masters of that language, and refused to leave a potato field or plot of cabbages, except when addressed in it. To the English tongue, however, they had a deep-rooted antipathy; whether it proceeded from the national feeling, or the fact of its not being sufficiently guttural, I cannot say; but be this as it may, it must be admitted that they were excellent Irish scholars, and paid a surprising degree of deference and obedience to whatever was addressed to them in their own language. In Munster, too, such of them as belonged to the hedge-schoolmasters were good proficients in Latin; but it is on a critical knowledge of their native tongue that I take my stand. On this point they were unrivalled by the most learned pigs or antiquaries of their day; none of either class possessing, at that period, such a knowledge of Irish manners, nor so keen a sagacity in tracing out Irish roots.
Their education, it is true, was not neglected, and their instructors had the satisfaction of seeing that it was not lost. Nothing could present a finer display of true friendship founded upon a sense of equality, mutual interest, and good-will, than the Irishman and his pig. The Arabian and his horse are proverbial; but had our English neighbors known as much of Ireland as they did of Arabia, they would have found as signal instances of attachment subsisting between the former as between the latter; and, perhaps, when the superior comforts of an Arabian hut are contrasted with the squalid poverty of an Irish cabin, they would have perceived a heroism and a disinterestedness evinced by the Irish parties, that would have struck them with greater admiration.
The pigs, however, of the present day are a fat, gross, and degenerate breed; and more like well-fed aldermen, than Irish pigs of the old school. They are, in fact, a proud, lazy, carnal race, entirely of the earth, earthy. John Bull assures us it is one comfort, however, that we do not eat, but ship them out of the country; yet, after all, with, great respect to John, it is not surprising that we should repine a little on thinking of the good old times of sixty years since, when every Irishman could kill his own pig, and eat it when he pleased. We question much whether any measure that might make the eating of meat compulsory upon us, would experience from Irishmen a very decided opposition. But it is very condescending in John to eat our beef and mutton; and as he happens to want both, it is particularly disinterested in him to encourage us in the practice of self-denial. It is possible, however, that we may ultimately refuse to banquet by proxy on our own provisions; and that John may not be much longer troubled to eat for us in that capacity.
The education of an Irish pig, at the time of which we write, was an important consideration to an Irishman. He, and his family, and his pig, like the Arabian and his horse, all slept in the same bed; the pig generally, for the sake of convenience, next the "stock" (* at the outside). At meals the pig usually was stationed at the serahag, or potato-basket; where the only instances of bad temper he ever displayed broke out in petty and unbecoming squabbles with the younger branches of the family. Indeed, if he ever descended from his high station as a member of the domestic circle, it was upon these occasions, when, with a want of dignity, accounted for only by the grovelling motive of self-interest, he embroiled himself in a series of miserable feuds and contentions about scraping the pot, or carrying off from the jealous urchins about him more than came to his share. In these heart-burnings about the good things of this world, he was treated with uncommon forbearance: in his owner he always had a friend, from whom, when he grunted out his appeal to him, he was certain of receiving redress: "Barney, behave, avick: lay down the potstick, an' don't be batin' the pig, the crathur."
In fact, the pig was never mentioned but with this endearing epithet of "crathur" annexed. "Barney, go an' call home the pig, the crathur, to his dinner, before it gets cowld an him." "Barney, go an' see if you can see the pig, the crathur, his buckwhist will soon be ready." "Barney, run an' dhrive the pig, the crathur, out of Larry Neil's phatie-field: an', Barney, whisper, a bouchal bawn, don't run too hard, Barney, for fraid you'd lose your breath. What if the crathur does get a taste o' the new phaties—small blame to him for the same!"
In short, whatever might have been the habits of the family, such were those of the pig. The latter was usually out early in the morning to take exercise, and the unerring regularity with which he returned at mealtime gave sufficient proof that procuring an appetite was a work of supererogation on his part. If he came before the meal was prepared, his station was at the door, which they usually shut to keep him out of the way until it should be ready. In the meantime, so far as a forenoon serenade and an indifferent voice could go, his powers of melody were freely exercised on the outside. But he did not stop here: every stretch of ingenuity was tried by which a possibility of gaining admittance could be established. The hat and rags were repeatedly driven in from the windows, which from practice and habit he was enabled to approach on his hind legs; a cavity was also worn by the frequent grubbings of his snout under the door, the lower part of which was broken away by the sheer strength of his tusks, so that he was enabled, by thrusting himself between the bottom of it and the ground, to make a most unexpected appearance on the hearth, before his presence was at all convenient or acceptable.
But, independently of these two modes of entrance, i. e., the door and window, there was also a third, by which he sometimes scrupled not to make a descent upon the family. This was by the chimney. There are many of the Irish cabins built for economy's sake against slopes in the ground, so that the labor of erecting either a gable or side-wall is saved by the perpendicular bank that remains after the site of the house is scooped away. Of the facilities presented by this peculiar structure, the pig never failed to avail himself. He immediately mounted the roof (through which, however, he sometimes took an unexpected flight), and traversing it with caution, reached the chimney, into which he deliberately backed himself, and with no small share of courage, went down precisely as the northern bears are said to descend the trunks of trees during the winter, but with far different motives.
In this manner he cautiously retrograded downwards with a hardihood, which set furze bushes, brooms, tongs, and all other available weapons of the cabin at defiance. We are bound, however, to declare, that this mode of entrance, which was only resorted to when every other failed, was usually received by the cottager and his family with a degree of mirth and good-humor that were not lost upon the sagacity of the pig. In order to save him from being scorched, which he deserved for his temerity, they usually received him in a creel, often in a quilt, and sometimes in the tattered blanket, or large pot, out of which he looked with a humorous conception of his own enterprise, that was highly diverting. We must admit, however, that he was sometimes received with the comforts of a hot poker, which Paddy pleasantly called, "givin' him a warm welcome."
Another trait in the character of these animals, was the utter scorn with which they treated all attempts to fatten them. In fact, the usual consequences of good feeding were almost inverted in their case; and although I might assert that they became leaner in proportion to what they received, yet I must confine myself to truth, by stating candidly that this was not the fact; that there was a certain state of fleshlessness to which they arrived, but from which they neither advanced nor receded by good feeding or bad. At this point, despite of all human ingenuity, they remained stationary for life, received the bounty afforded them with a greatness of appetite resembling the fortitude of a brave man, which rises in energy according to the magnitude of that which it has to encounter. The truth is, they were scandalous hypocrites; for with the most prodigious capacity for food, they were spare as philosophers, and fitted evidently more for the chase than the sty; rather to run down a buck or a hare for the larder, than to have a place in it themselves. If you starved them, they defied you to diminish their flesh; and if you stuffed them like aldermen, they took all they got, but disdained to carry a single ounce more than if you gave them whey thickened with water. In short, they gloried in maceration and liberty; were good Irish scholars, sometimes acquainted with Latin; and their flesh, after the trouble of separating it from a superfluity of tough skin, was excellent venison so far as it went.
Now Phil Purcel, whom we will introduce more intimately to the reader by and by, was the son of a man who always kept a pig.
His father's house had a small loft, to which the ascent was by a step-ladder through a door in the inside gable. The first good thing ever Phil was noticed for he said upon the following occasion. His father happened to be called upon, one morning before breakfast, by his landlord, who it seems occasionally visited his tenantry to encourage, direct, stimulate, or reprove them, as the case might require. Phil was a boy then, and sat on the hob in the corner, eyeing the landlord and his father during their conversation. In the mean time the pig came in, and deliberately began to ascend the ladder with an air of authority that marked him as one in the exercise of an established right. The landlord was astonished at seeing the animal enter the best room in the house and could not help expressing his surprise to old Purcel:
"Why, Purcel, is your pig in the habit of treating himself to the comforts of your best room?"
"The pig is it, the crathur? Why, your haner," said Purcel, after a little hesitation, "it sometimes goes up of a mornin' to waken the childhre, particularly when the buckwhist happens to be late. It doesn't like to be waitin'; and sure none of us likes to be kept from the male's mate, your haner, when we want it, no more than it, the crathur!"
"But I wonder your wife permits so filthy an animal to have access to her rooms in this manner."
"Filthy!" replied Mrs. Purcel, who felt herself called upon to defend the character of the pig, as well as her own, "why, one would think, sir, that any crathur that's among Christyen childhre, like one o' themselves, couldn't be filthy. I could take it to my dyin' day, that there's not a claner or dacenter pig in the kingdom, than the same pig. It never misbehaves, the crathur, but goes out, as wise an' riglar, jist by a look, an' that's enough for it, any day—a single look, your haner, the poor crathur!"
"I think," observed Phil, from the hob, "that nobody has a betther right to the run of the house, whedher up stairs or down stairs, than him that pays the rint."
"Well said, my lad!" observed the landlord, laughing at the quaint ingenuity of Phil's defence. "His payment of the rent is the best defence possible, and no doubt should cover a multitude of his errors."
"A multitude of his shins, you mane, sir," said Phil, "for thruth he's all shin."
In fact, Phil from his infancy had an uncommon attachment to these animals, and by a mind naturally shrewd and observing, made himself as intimately acquainted with their habits and instincts, and the best modes of managing them, as ever the celebrated Cahir na Cappul* did with those of the horse. Before he was fifteen, he could drive the most vicious and obstinate pig as quietly before him as a lamb; yet no one knew how, nor by what means he had gained the secret that enabled him to do it. Whenever he attended a fair, his time was principally spent among the pigs, where he stood handling, and examining, and pretending to buy them, although he seldom had half-a-crown in his pocket. At length, by hoarding up such small sums as he could possibly lay his hand on, he got together the price of a "slip," which he bought, reared, and educated in a manner that did his ingenuity great credit. When this was brought to its ne plus ultra of fatness, he sold it, and purchased two more, which he fed in the same way. On disposing of these, he made a fresh purchase, and thus proceeded, until, in the course of a few years, he was a well-known pig-jobber.
* I subjoin from Townsend's Survey of the county of Cork a short but authentic account of this most extraordinary character:—"James Sullivan was a native of the county of Cork, and an awkward ignorant rustic of the lowest class, generally known by the appellation of the Whisperer, and his profession was horse- breaking. The credulity of the vulgar bestowed that epithet upon him, from an opinion that he communicated his wishes to the animal by means of a whisper; and the singularity of his method gave some color to the superstitious belief. As far as the sphere of his control extended, the boast of Veni, Vidi, Vici, was more justly claimed by James Sullivan, than by Caesar, or even Bonaparte himself. How his art was acquired, or in what it consisted, is likely to remain for ever unknown, as he has lately left the world without divulging it. His son, who follows the same occupation, possesses but a small portion of the art, having either never learned its true secret, or being incapable of putting it in practice. The wonder of his skill consisted in the short time requisite to accomplish his design, which was performed in private, and without any apparent means of coercion. Every description of horse, or even mule, whether previously broke, or unhandled, whatever their peculiar vices or ill habits might have been, submitted, without show of resistance, to the magical influence of his art, and, in the short space of half an hour, became gentle and tractable. The effect, though instantaneously produced, was generally durable. Though more submissive to him than to others, yet they seemed to have acquired a docility, unknown before. When sent for to tame a vicious horse, he directed the stable in which he and the object of his experiment were placed, to be shut, with orders not to open the door until a signal given. After a tete-a- tete between him and the horse for about half an hour, during which little or no bustle was heard, the signal was made; and upon opening the door, the horse was seen, lying down, and the man by his side, playing familiarly with him, like a child with a puppy dog. From that time he was found perfectly willing to submit to discipline, however repugnant to his nature before. Some saw his skill tried on a horse, which could never be brought to stand for a smith to shoe him. The day after Sullivan's half hour lecture, I went, not without some incredulity, to the smith's shop, with many other curious spectators, where we were eye-witnesses of the complete success of his art. This, too, had been a troop-horse; and it was supposed, not without reason, that after regimental discipline had failed, no other would be found availing. I observed that the animal seemed afraid, whenever Sullivan either spoke or looked at him. How that extraordinary ascendancy could have been obtained, it is difficult to conjecture, in common eases, this mysterious preparation was unnecessary. He seemed to possess an instinctive power of inspiring awe, the result, perhaps, of natural intrepidity, in which, I believe, a great part of his art consisted; though the circumstance of his tete-a-tete shows, that, upon particular occasions, something more must have been added to it. A faculty like this would, in other hands, have made a fortune, and great offers have been made to him for the exercise of his art abroad; but hunting, and attachment to his native soil, were his ruling passions. He lived at home, in the style most agreeable to his disposition, and nothing could induce him to quit Dunhalow and the fox-hounds."
Phil's journeys as a pig-driver to the leading seaport towns nearest him, were always particularly profitable. In Ireland, swine are not kept in sties, as they are among English feeders, but permitted, to go at liberty through pasture fields, commons, and along roadsides, where they make up as well as they can for the scanty pittance allowed them at home during meal-times. We do not, however, impeach Phil's honesty; but simply content ourselves with saying, that when his journey was accomplished, he mostly found the original number with which he had set out increased by three or four, and sometimes by half a dozen. Pigs in general resemble each other, and it surely was not Phil's fault if a stray one, feeding on the roadside or common, thought proper to join his drove and see the world. Phil's object, we presume, was only to take care that his original number was not diminished, its increase being a matter in which he felt little concern. He now determined to take a professional trip to England, and that this might be the more productive, he resolved to purchase a lot of the animals we have been describing. No time was lost in this speculation. The pigs were bought up as cheaply as possible, and Phil sat out, for the first time in his life, to try with what success he could measure his skill against that of a Yorkshireman. On this occasion, he brought with him a pet, which he had with considerable pains trained up for purposes hereafter to be explained.
There was nothing remarkable in the passage, unless that every creature on board was sea-sick, except the pigs; even to them, however, the change was a disagreeable one; for to be pent up in the hold of a ship was a deprivation of liberty, which, fresh as they were from their native hills, they could not relish. They felt, therefore, as patriots, a loss of freedom, but not a whit of appetite; for, in truth, of the latter no possible vicissitude short of death could deprive them.
Phil, however, with an assumed air of simplicity absolutely stupid, disposed of them to a Yorkshire dealer at about twice the value they would have brought in Ireland, though as pigs went in England it was low enough. He declared that they had been fed on tip-top feeding: which was literally true, as he afterwards admitted that the tops of nettles and potato stalks constituted the only nourishment they had got for three weeks before.
The Yorkshireman looked with great contempt upon what he considered a miserable essay to take him in.
"What a fule this Hirishmun mun bea;" said he, "to think to teake me in! Had he said that them there Hirish swoine were badly feade, I'd ha' thought it fairish enough on un; but to seay that they was oll weal feade on tip-top feeadin'! Nea, nea! I knaws weal enough that they was noat feade on nothin' at oll, which meakes them loak so poorish! Howsomever, I shall fatten them. I'se warrant—I'se warrant I shall!"
When driven home to sties somewhat more comfortable than the cabins of unfortunate Irishmen, they were well supplied with food which would have been very often considered a luxury by poor Paddy himself, much less by his pigs.
"Measter," said the man who had seen them fed, "them there Hirish pigs ha' not feasted nout for a moonth yet: they feade like nout I seed o' my laife!!"
"Ay! ay!" replied the master, "I'se warrant they'll soon fatten—I'se warrant they shall, Hodge—they be praime feeders—I'se warrant they shall; and then, Hodge, we've bit the soft Hirishmun."
Hodge gave a knowing look at his master, and grinned at this observation.
The next morning Hodge repaired to the sties to see how they were thriving; when, to his great consternation, he found the feeding-troughs clean as if they had been washed, and, not a single Irish pig to be seen or heard about the premises; but to what retreat the animals could have betaken themselves, was completely beyond his comprehension. He scratched his head, and looked about him in much perplexity.
"Dang un!" he exclaimed, "I never seed nout like this."
He would have proceeded in a strain of cogitation equally enlightened, had not a noise of shouting, alarm, and confusion in the neighborhood, excited his attention. He looked about him, and to his utter astonishment saw that some extraordinary commotion prevailed, that the country was up, and the hills alive with people, who ran, and shouted, and wheeled at full flight in all possible directions. His first object was to join the crowd, which he did as soon as possible, and found that the pigs he had shut up the preceding night in sties whose enclosures were at least four feet high, had cleared them like so many chamois, and were now closely pursued by the neighbors, who rose en masse to hunt down and secure such dreadful depredators.
The waste and mischief they had committed in one night were absolutely astonishing. Bean and turnip fields, and vegetable enclosures of all descriptions, kitchen-gardens, corn-fields, and even flower-gardens, were rooted up and destroyed with an appearance of system which would have done credit to Terry Alt himself.
Their speed was the theme of every tongue. Hedges were taken in their flight, and cleared in a style that occasioned the country people to turn up their eyes, and scratch their heads in wonder. Dogs of all degrees bit the dust, and were caught up dead in stupid amazement by their owners, who began to doubt whether or not these extraordinary animals were swine at all. The depredators in the meantime had adopted the Horatian style of battle. Whenever there was an ungenerous advantage taken in the pursuit, by slipping dogs across or before their path, they shot off, at a tangent through the next crowd; many of whom they prostrated in their flight; by this means they escaped the dogs until the latter were somewhat exhausted, when, on finding one in advance of the rest, they turned, and, with standing bristles and burning tusks, fatally checked their pursuer in his full career. To wheel and fly until another got in advance, was then the plan of fight; but, in fact the conflict was conducted on the part of the Irish pigs with a fertility of expediency that did credit to their country, and established for those who displayed it, the possession of intellect far superior to that of their opponents. The pigs now began to direct their course towards the sties in which they had been so well fed the night before. This being their last flight they radiated towards one common centre, with a fierceness and celerity that occasioned the woman and children to take shelter within doors. On arriving at the sties, the ease with which they shot themselves over the four-feet walls was incredible. The farmer had caught the alarm, and just came out in time to witness their return; he stood with his hands driven down into the pockets of his red, capacious waistcoat, and uttered not a word. When the last of them came bounding into the sty, Hodge approached, quite breathless and exhausted:
"Oh, measter," he exclaimed, "these be not Hirish pigs at oll, they be Hirish devils; and yau mun ha' bought 'em fra a cunning mon!"
"Hodge," replied his master, "I'se be bit—I'se heard feather talk about un. That breed's true Hirish: but I'se try and sell 'em to Squoire Jolly to hunt wi' as beagles, for he wants a pack. They do say all the swoine that the deevils were put into ha' been drawn; but for my peart, I'se sure that some on un must ha' escaped to Hireland."
Phil during the commotion excited by his knavery in Yorkshire, was traversing the country, in order to dispose of his remaining pig; and the manner in which he effected his first sale of it was as follows:
A gentleman was one evening standing with some laborers by the wayside when a tattered Irishman, equipped in a pair of white dusty brogues, stockings without feet, old patched breeches, a bag slung across his shoulder, his coarse shirt lying open about a neck tanned by the sun into a reddish yellow, a hat nearly the color of the shoes, and a hay rope tied for comfort about his waist; in one hand he also held a straw rope, that depended from the hind leg of a pig which he drove before him; in the other was a cudgel, by the assistance of which he contrived to limp on after it, his two shoulder-blades rising and falling alternately with a shrugging motion that indicated great fatigue.
When he came opposite where the gentleman stood he checked the pig, which instinctively commenced feeding upon the grass by the edge of the road.
"Och," said he, wiping his brow with the cuff of his coat, "mavrone orth a muck,* but I'm kilt wit you. Musha, Gad bless yer haner, an' maybe ye'd buy a slip of a pig fwhrom me, that has my heart bruck, so she has, if ever any body's heart was bruck wit the likes of her; an' sure so there was, no doubt, or I wouldn't be as I am wid her. I'll give her a dead bargain, sir; for it's only to get her aff av my hands I'm wanting plase yer haner—husth amuck—husth, a veehone!** Be asy, an' me in conwersation wid his haner here!"
* My sorrow on you for a pig.
** Silence pig! Silence, you pig! Silence, you vagabond!
"You are an Irishman?" the gentleman inquired.
"I am, sir, from Connaught, yer haner, an' ill sell the crathur dag cheap, all out. Asy, you thief!"
"I don't want the pig, my good fellow," replied the Englishman, without evincing curiosity enough to inquire how he came to have such a commodity for sale.
"She'd be the darlint in no time wid you, sir; the run o' your kitchen 'ud make her up a beauty, your haner, along wit no trouble to the sarvints about sweepin' it, or any thing. You'd only have to lay down the potato-basket on the flure, or the misthress, Gad bless her, could do it, an' not lave a crumblin' behind her, besides sleepin, your haner, in the carner beyant, if she'd take the throuble."
The sluggish phlegm of the Englisman was stirred up a little by the twisted, and somewhat incomprehensible nature of these instructions.
"How far do you intend to proceed tonight, Paddy?" said he.
"The sarra one o' myself knows, plaze yer haner: sure we've an ould sayin' of our own in Ireland beyant—that he's a wise man can I tell how far he'll go, sir, till he comes to his journey's ind. I'll give this crathur to you at more nor her value, yer haner."
"More!—why the man knows not what he's saying," observed the gentleman; "less you mean, I suppose, Paddy?"
"More or less, sir: you'll get her a bargain; an' Gad bless you, sir!"
"But it is a commodity which I don't want at present. I am very well stocked with pigs, as it is. Try elsewhere."
"She'd flog the counthry side, sir; an' if the misthress herself, sir, 'ud shake the wishp o' sthraw fwor her in the kitchen, sir, near the whoire. Yer haner could spake to her about it; an' in no time put a knife into her whin you plazed. In regard o' the other thing, sir—she's like a Christyeen, yer haner, an' no throuble, sir, if you'd be seein' company or any thing."
"It's an extraordinary pig, this, of yours."
"It's no lie fwhor you, sir; she's as clane an' dacent a crathur, sir! Och, if the same pig 'ud come into the care o' the misthress, Gad bliss her! an' I'm sure if she has as much gudness in her face as the hanerable dinnha ousahl (* gentleman)—the handsome gintleman she's married upon!—you'll have her thrivin' bravely, sir, shartly, plase Gad, if you'll take courage. Will I dhrive her up the aveny fwor you, sir? A good gintlewoman I'm sure, is the same misthriss! Will I dhrive her up fwor you, sir? Shadh amuck—shadh dherin!"*
*Behave yourself pig—behave, I say!
"No, no; I have no further time to lose; you may go forward."
"Thank your haner; is it whorid toarst the house abow, sir? I wouldn't be standin' up, sir, wit you about a thrifle; an you'll have her, sir, fwhor any thing you plase beyant a pound, yer haner; an' 'tis throwin' her away it is: but one can't be hard wit a rale gintleman any way."
"You only annoy me, man; besides I don't want the pig; you lose time; I don't want to buy it, I repeat to you."
"Gad bliss you, sir—Gad bliss you. Maybe if I'd make up to the mishthress, yer haner! Thrath she wouldn't turn the crathur from the place, in regard that the tindherness ow the feelin' would come ower her—the rale gintlewoman, any way! 'Tis dag chape you have her at what I said, sir; an' Gad bliss you!"
"Do you want to compel me to purchase it whether I will or no?"
"Thrath, it's whor next to nothin' I'm giv-in' her to you, sir; but sure you can make your own price at any thing beyant a pound. Huerish amuck—sladh anish!—be asy, you crathur, sure you're gettin' into good quarthers, any how—go into the hanerable English gintleman's kitchen, an' God knows it's a pleasure to dale wit 'em. Och, the world's differ there is betuxt them, an' our own dirty Irish buckeens, that 'ud shkin a bad skilleen, an' pay their debts wit the remaindher. The gateman 'ud let me in, yer haner, an' I'll meet you at the big house, abow."
"Upon my honor this is a good jest," said the gentleman, absolutely teased into a compliance; "you are forcing me to buy that which I don't want."
"Sure you will, sir; you'll want more nor that yit, please Gad, if you be spared. Come, amuck—come, you crathur; faix you're in luck so you are—gettin' so good a place wit his haner, here, that you won't know yourself shortly, plase God."
He immediately commenced driving his pig towards the gentleman's residence with such an air of utter simplicity, as would have imposed upon any man not guided by direct inspiration. Whilst he approached the house, its proprietor arrived there by another path a few minutes before him, and, addressing his lady, said:
"My dear, will you come and look at a purchase which an Irishman has absolutely compelled me to make? You had better come and see himself, too, for he is the greatest simpleton of an Irishman I have ever met with."
The lady's curiosity was more easily excited than that of her husband. She not only came out, but brought with her some ladies who had been on a visit, in order to hear the Irishman's brogue, and to amuse themselves at his expense. Of the pig, too, it appeared she was determined to know something.
"George, my love, is the pig also from Ireland?"
"I don't know, my dear; but I should think so from its fleshless appearance. I have never seen so spare an animal of that class in this country."
"Juliana," said one of the ladies to her companion, "don't go too near him. Gracious! look at the bludgeon, or beam, or something he carries in his hand, to fight' and beat the people, I suppose: yet," she added, putting up her glass, "the man is actually not ill-looking; and, though not so tall as the Irishman in Sheridan's Rivals, he is well made."
"His eyes are good," said her companion—"a bright gray, and keen; and were it not that his nose is rather short and turned up, he would be handsome."
"George, my love," exclaimed the lady of the mansion, "he is like most Irishmen of his class that I have seen; indeed, scarcely so intelligent, for he does appear quite a simpleton, except, perhaps, a lurking kind of expression, which is a sign of their humor, I suppose. Don't you think so, my love?"
"No, my dear; I think him a bad specimen of the Irishman. Whether it is that he talks our language but imperfectly, or that he is a stupid creature, I cannot say; but in selling the pig just now, he actually told me that he would let me have it for more than it was worth."
"Oh, that was so laughable! We will speak to him, though."
The degree of estimation in which these civilized English held Phil was so low, that this conversation took place within a few yards of him, precisely as if he had been an animal of an inferior species, or one of the aborigines of New Zealand.
"Pray what is your name?" inquired the matron.
"Phadhrumshagh Corfuffle, plase yer haner: my fadher carried the same name upon him. We're av the Corfuflies av Leatherum Laghy, my lady; but my grandmudher was a Dornyeen, an' my own mudher, plase yer haner, was o' the Shudhurthagans o' Ballymadoghy, my ladyship, Sladh anish, amuck bradagh!*—be asy, can't you, an' me in conwersation wit the beauty o' the world that I'm spakin' to."
* Be quiet now, you wicked pig.
"That's the Negus language," observed,one of the young ladies, who affected to be a wit and a blue-stocking; "it's Irish and English mixed."
"Thrath, an' but that the handsome young lady's so purty," observed Phil, "I'd be sayin' myself that that's a quare remark upon a poor unlarned man; but, Gad bless her, she is so purty what can one say for lookin' an her!"
"The poor man, Adelaide, speaks as well as he can," replied the lady, rather reprovingly: "he is by no means so wild as one would have expected."
"Candidly speaking, much tamer than I expected," rejoined the wit. Indeed, I meant the poor Irishman no offence."
"Where did you get the pig, friend? and how came you to have it for sale so far from home?"
"Fwhy it isn't whor sale, my lady," replied Phil, evading the former question; "the masther here, Gad bless him an' spare him to you, ma'am!—thrath, an' it's his four quarthers that knew how to pick out a wife, any how, whor beauty an' all hanerable whormations o' grandheur—so he did; an' well he desarves you, my lady: faix, it's a fine houseful o' thim you'll have, plase Gad—an' fwhy not? whin it's all in the coorse o' Providence, bein' both so handsome:—he gev me a pound note whor her my ladyship, an' his own plisure aftherwards; an' I'm now waitin' to be ped."
"What kind of a country is Ireland, as I understand you are an Irishman?"
"Thrath, my lady, it's like fwhat maybe you never seen—a fool's purse, ten guineas goin' out whor one that goes in."
"Upon my word that's wit," observed the young blue-stocking.
"What's your opinion of Irishwomen?" the lady continued; "are they handsomer than the English ladies, think you?"
"Murdher, my lady," says Phil, raising his caubeen, and scratching his head in pretended perplexity, with his linger and thumb, "fwhat am I to say to that, ma'am, and all of yez to the fwhore? But the sarra one av me will give it agin the darlin's beyant."
"But which do you think the more handsome?"
"Thrath, I do, my lady; the Irish and English women would flog the world, an' sure it would be a burnin' shame to go to sot them agin one another fwhor beauty."
"Whom do you mean by the 'darlin's beyant?'" inquired the blue-stocking, attempting to pronounce the words.
"Faix, miss, who but the crathers ower the wather, that kills us entirely, so they do."
"I cannot comprehend him," she added to the lady of the mansion.
"Arrah, maybe I'd make bould to take up the manners from you fwhor a while, my lady, Plase yer haner?" said Phil, addressing the latter.
"I do not properly understand you," she replied, "speak plainer."
"Troth, that's fwhat they do, yer haner; they never go about the bush wit yez—the gintlemen, ma'am, of our country, fwhin they do be coortin' yez; an' I want to ax, ma'am, if you plase, fwhat you think of thim, that is if ever any of them had the luck to come acrass you, my lady?"
"I have not been acquainted with many Irish gentlemen," she replied, "but I hear they are men of a remarkable character."
"Faix, 'tis you may say that," replied Phil; "sowl, my lady, 'tis well for the masther here, plase yer haner, sir, that none o' them met wit the misthress before you was both marrid, or, wit riverence be it spoken, 'tis the sweet side o' the tongue they'd be layin' upon you, ma'am, an' the rough side to the masther himself, along wit a few scrapes of a pen on a slip o' paper, jist to appoint the time and place, in regard of her ladyship's purty complexion—an' who can deny that, any way? Faix, ma'am, they've a way wit them, my counthrymen, that the ladies like well enough to thravel by. Asy, you deludher, an' me in conwersaytion wit the quality."
"I am quite anxious to know how you came by the pig, Paddy," said the wit.
"Arrah, miss, sure 'tisn't pigs you're thinkin' on, an' us discoorsin' about the gintlemen from Ireland, that you're all so fond ow here; faix, miss, they're the boys that fwoight for yees, an' 'ud rather be bringing an Englishman to the sad fwhor your sakes, nor atin' bread an' butther. Fwhy, now, miss, if you were beyant wit us, sarra ounce o' gunpqwdher we'd have in no time, for love or money."
"Upon my word I should like to see Ireland!" exclaimed the blue-stocking; "but why would the gunpowder get scarce, pray?"
"Faix, fightin' about you, miss, an' all of yez, sure; for myself sees no differ at all in your hanerable fwhormations of beauty and grandheur, an' all high-flown admirations."
"But tell us where you got the pig, Paddy?" persisted the wit, struck naturally enough with the circumstance. "How do you come to have an Irish pig so far from home?"
"Fwhy thin, miss, 'twas to a brother o' my own I was bringing it, that was livin' down the counthry here, an' fwhin I came to fwhere he lived, the sarra one o' me knew the place, in regard o' havin' forgotten the name of it entirely, an' there was I wit the poor crathur an my hands, till his haner here bought it from me—Gad bless you, sir!"
"As I live, there's a fine Irish blunder," observed the wit; "I shall put in my commonplace-book—it will be so genuine. I declare I'm quite delighted!"
"Well, Paddy," said the gentleman, "here's your money. There's a pound for you, and that's much more than the miserable animal is worth."
"Troth, sir, you have the crathur at what we call in Ireland a bargain.* Maybe yer haner 'ud spit upon the money fwhor luck, sir. It's the way we do, sir, beyant."
* Ironically—a take in.
"No, no, Paddy, take it as it is. Good heavens! what barbarous habits these Irish have in all their modes of life, and how far they are removed from anything like civilization!"
"Thank yer haner. Faix, sir, this'll come so handy for the landlord at kome, in regard o' the rint for the bit o' phatie ground, so it will, if I can get home agin widout brakin' it. Arrah, maybe yer haner 'ud give me the price o' my bed, an' a bit to ate, sir, an' keep me from brakin' in upon this, sir, Gad bless the money! I'm thinkin' o' the poor wife an' childher, sir—strivin', so I am, to do fwhor the darlins."
"Poor soul," said the lady, "he is affectionate in the midst of his wretchedness and ignorance."
"Here—here," replied the Englishman, anxious to get rid of him, "there's a shilling, which I give because you appear to be attached to your family."
"Och, och, fwhat can I say, sir, only that long may you reign ower your family, an' the hanerable ladies to the fwore, sir. Gad fwhorever bliss you, sir, but you're the kind, noble gintleman, an' all belongin' to you, sir!"
Having received the shilling, he was in the act of departing, when, after turning it deliberately in his hand, shrugging his shoulders two or three times, and scratching his head, with a vacant face he approached the lady.
"Musha, ma'am, an maybe ye'd have the tindherness in your heart, seein' that the gudness is in yer hanerable face, any way, an' it would save the skillyeen that the masther gev'd for payin' my passage, so it would, jist to bid the steward, my ladyship, to ardher me a bit to ate in the kitchen below. The hunger, ma'am, is hard upon me, my lady; an' fwhat I'm doin', sure, is in regard o' the wife at home, an' the childher, the crathurs, an' me far fwhrom them, in a sthrange country, Gad help me!"
"What a singular being, George! and how beautifully is the economy of domestic affection exemplified, notwithstanding his half-savage state, in the little plans he devises for the benefit of his wife and children!" exclaimed the good lady, quite unconscious that Phil was a bachelor. "Juliana, my love, desire Timmins to give him his dinner. Follow this young lady, good man, and she will order you refreshment."
"Gad's blessin' upon your beauty an' gudness, my lady; an' a man might thravel far afore he'd meet the likes o' you for aither o' them. Is it the other handsome young lady I'm to folly, ma'am?"
"Yes," replied the young wit, with an arch smile; "come after me."
"Thrath, miss, an' it's an asy task to do that, any way; wit a heart an' a half I go, acushla; an' I seen the day, miss, that it's not much of mate an' dhrink would thruble me, if I jist got lave to be lookin' at you, wit nothing but yourself to think an. But the wife an' childher, miss, makes great changes in us entirely."
"Why you are quite gallant, Paddy."
"Trath, I suppose I am now, miss; but you see, my honerable young lady, that's our fwhailin' at home: the counthry's poor, an' we can't help it, whedor or not. We're fwhorced to it, miss, whin we come ower here, by you, an' the likes o' you, mavourneen!"
Phil then proceeded to the house, was sent to the kitchen by the young lady, and furnished through the steward with an abundant supply of cold meat, bread, and beer, of which he contrived to make a meal that somewhat astonished the servants. Having satisfied his hunger, he deliberately—but with the greatest simplicity of countenance—filled the wallet which he carried slung across his back, with whatever he had left, observing as he did it:—
"Fwhy, thin, 'tis sthrange it is, that the same custom is wit us in Ireland beyant that is here: fwhor whinever a thraveller is axed in, he always brings fwhat he doesn't ate along wit him. An sure enough it's the same here amongst yez," added he, packing up the bread and beef as he spoke, "but Gad bliss the custom, any how, fwhor it's a good one!"
When he had secured the provender, and was ready to resume his journey, he began to yawn, and to exhibit the most unequivocal symptoms of fatigue.
"Arrah, sir," said he to the steward, "you wouldn't have e'er an ould barn that I'd throw myself in fwhor the night? The sarra leg I have to put undher me, now that I've got stiff with the sittin' so lang; that, an' a wishp o' sthraw, to sleep an, an' Gad bliss you!"
"Paddy, I cannot say," replied the steward; "but I shall ask my master, and if he orders it, you shall have the comfort of a hard floor and clean straw, Paddy—that you shall."
"Many thanks to you, sir: it's in your face, in thrath, the same gudness an' ginerosity."
The gentleman, on hearing Phil's request to be permitted a sleeping-place in the barn, was rather surprised at his wretched notion of comfort than at the request itself.
"Certainly, Timmins, let him sleep there," he replied; "give him sacks and straw enough. I dare say he will feel the privilege a luxury, poor devil, after his fatigue. Give him his breakfast in the morning, Timmins. Good heavens," he added, "what a singular people! What an amazing progress civilization must make before these Irish can be brought at all near the commonest standard of humanity!"
At this moment Phil, who was determined to back the steward's request, approached them.
"Paddy," said the gentleman, anticipating him, "I have ordered you sacks and straw in the barn, and your breakfast in the morning before you set out."
"Thrath," said Phil, "if there's e'er a stray blissin' goin', depind an it, sir, you'll get it fwhor your hanerable ginerosity to the sthranger. But about the 'slip,' sir—if the misthress herself 'ud shake the whisp o' sthraw fwhor her in the far carner o' the kitchen below, an' see her gettin' her supper, the crathur, before she'd put her to bed, she'd be thrivin' like a salmon, sir, in less than no time; and to ardher the sarwints, sir, if you plase, not to be defraudin' the crathur of the big phaties. Fwhor in regard it cannot spake fwhor itself, sir, it frets as wise as a Christyeen, when it's not honestly thrated."
"Never fear, Paddy; we shall take good care of it."
"Thank you, sir, but I aften heered, sir, that you dunno how to feed pigs in this counthry in ardher to mix the fwhat an' lane, lair (layer) about."
"And how do you manage that in Ireland, Paddy?"
"Fwhy, sir, I'll tell you how the misthress Gad bless her, will manage it fwhor you. Take the crathur, sir, an' feed it to-morrow, till its as full as a tick—that's for the fwhat, sir; thin let her give it nothin' at all the next day, but keep it black fwhastin'—that's fwhor the lane (leap). Let her stick to that, sir, keepin' it atin' one day an' fastin' an-odher, for six months, thin put a knife in it, an' if you don't have the fwhat an' lane, lair about, beautiful all out, fwhy nirer bl'eve Phadrumshagh Corfuffle agin. Ay, indeed!"
The Englishman looked keenly at Phil, but could only read in his countenance a thorough and implicit belief in his own recipe for mixing the fat and lean. It is impossible to express his contempt for the sense and intellect of Phil; nothing could surpass it but the contempt which Phil entertained for him.
"Well," said he to the servant, "I have often heard of the barbarous habits of the Irish, but I must say that the incidents of this evening have set my mind at rest upon the subject. Good heavens! when will ever this besotted country rise in the scale of nations! Did ever a human being hear of such a method of feeding swine! I should have thought it incredible had I heard it from any but an Irishman!"
Phil then retired to the kitchen, where his assumed simplicity highly amused the servants, who, after an hour or two's fun with "Paddy," conducted him in a kind of contemptuous procession to the barn, where they left him to his repose.
The next morning he failed to appear at the hour of breakfast, but his non-appearance was attributed to his fatigue, in consequence of which he was supposed to have overslept himself. On going, however, to call him from the barn, they discovered that he had decamped; and on looking after the "slip," it was found that both had taken French leave of the Englishman. Phil and the pig had actually travelled fifteen miles that morning, before the hour on which he was missed—Phil going at a dog's trot, and the pig following at such a respectful distance as might not appear to identify them as fellow-travellers. In this manner Phil sold the pig to upwards of two dozen intelligent English gentlemen and farmers, and after winding up his bargains successfully, both arrived in Liverpool, highly delighted by their commercial trip through England.
The passage from Liverpool to Dublin, in Phil's time, was far different to that which steam and British enterprise have since made it. A vessel was ready to sail for the latter place on the very day of Phil's arrival in town; and, as he felt rather anxious to get out of England as soon as he could, he came, after selling his pig in good earnest, to the aforesaid vessel to ascertain if it were possible to get a deck passage. The year had then advanced to the latter part of autumn; so that it was the season when those inconceivable hordes of Irishmen who emigrate periodically for the purpose of lightening John Bull's labor, were in the act of returning to that country in which they find little to welcome them—but domestic affection and misery.
When Phil arrived at the vessel, he found the captain in a state of peculiar difficulty. About twelve or fourteen gentlemen of rank and property, together with a score or upwards of highly respectable persons, but of less consideration, were in equal embarrassment. The fact was, that as no other vessel left Liverpool that day, about five hundred Irishmen, mostly reapers and mowers, had crowded upon deck, each determined to keep his place at all hazards. The captain, whose vessel was small, and none of the stoutest, flatly refused to put to sea with such a number. He told them it was madness to think of it; he could not risk the lives of the other passengers, nor even their own, by sailing with five hundred on the deck of so small a vessel. If the one-half of them would withdraw peaceably, he would carry the other half, which was as much as he could possibly accomplish. They were very willing to grant that what he said was true; but in the meantime, not a man of them would move, and to clear out such a number of fellows, who loved nothing better than fighting, armed, too, with sickles and scythes, was a task beyond either his ability or inclination to execute. He remonstrated with them, entreated, raged, swore, and threatened; but all to no purpose. His threats and entreaties were received with equal good-humor. Gibes and jokes were broken on him without number, and as his passion increased, so did their mirth, until nothing could be seen but the captain in vehement gesticulation, the Irishmen huzzaing him so vociferously, that his damns and curses, uttered against them, could not reach even his own ears.
"Gentlemen," said he to his cabin passengers, "for the love of Heaven, tax your invention to discover some means whereby to get one-half of these men out of the vessel, otherwise it will be impossible that we can sail to-day. I have already proffered to take one-half of them by lot, but they will not hear of it; and how to manage I am sure I don't know."
The matter, however, was beyond their depth; the thing seemed utterly impracticable, and the chances of their putting to sea were becoming fainter and fainter.
"Bl—t their eyes!" he at length exclaimed, "the ragged, hungry devils! If they heard me with decency I could bear their obstinacy bettor: but no, they must turn me into ridicule, and break their jests, and turn their cursed barbarous grins upon me in my own vessel. I say, boys," he added, proceeding to address them once more—"I say, savages, I have just three observations to make. The first is,"—
"Arrah, Captain, avourneen, hadn't you betther get upon a stool," said a voice, "an' put a text before it, thin divide it dacently into three halves, an' make a sarmon of it."
"Captain, you wor intended for the church," added another. "You're the moral (* model) of a Methodist preacher, if you wor dressed in black."
"Let him alone," said a third; "he'd be a jinteel man enough in a wildherness, an' 'ud make an illigant dancin'-masther to the bears."
"He's as graceful as a shaved pig on its hind legs, dancin' the 'Baltithrum Jig.'"
The captain's face was literally black with passion: he turned away with a curse, which produced another huzza, and swore that he would rather encounter the Bay of Biscay in a storm, than have anything to do with such an unmanageable mob.
"Captain," said a little, shrewd-looking Connaught man, "what 'ud you be willin' to give anybody, ower an' abow his free passage, that 'ud tell you how to get one half o' them out?"
"I'll give him a crown," replied the captain, "together with grog and rations to the eyes: I'll be hanged if I don't."
"Then I'll do it fwhor you, sir, if you keep your word wit me."
"Done!" said the captain; "it's a bargain, my good fellow, if you accomplish it; and, what's more, I'll consider you a knowing one."
"I'm a poor Cannaught man, your haner," replied our friend Phil; "but what's to prevent me thryin'? Tell thim," he continued, "that you must go; purtind to be for takin' thim all wit you, sir. Put Munster agin Connaught, one-half on this side, an' the odher an that, to keep the crathur of a ship steady, your haner; an' fwhin you have thim half an' half, wit a little room betuxt thim, 'now,' says yer haner, 'boys, you're divided into two halves; if one side kicks the other out o' the ship, I'll bring the conquirors.'"
The captain said not a word in reply to Phil, but immediately ranged the Munster and Connaught men on each side of the deck—a matter which he found little difficulty in accomplishing, for each party, hoping that he intended to take themselves, readily declared their province, and stood together. When they were properly separated, there still remained about forty or fifty persons belonging to neither province; but, at Phil's suggestion, the captain paired them off to each division, man for man, until they were drawn up into two bodies.
"Now" said he, "there you stand: let one-half of you drub the other out of the vessel, and the conquerors shall get their passage."
Instant was the struggle that ensued for the sake of securing a passage, and from the anxiety to save a shilling, by getting out of Liverpool on that day. The saving of the shilling is indeed a consideration with Paddy which drives him to the various resources of begging, claiming kindred with his resident countrymen in England, pretended illness, coming to be passed from parish to parish, and all the turnings and shiftings which his reluctance to part with money renders necessary. Another night, therefore, and probably another day, in Liverpool, would have been attended with expense. This argument prevailed with all: with Munster as well as with Connaught, and they fought accordingly.
When the attack first commenced, each, party hoped to be able to expel the other without blows. This plan was soon abandoned. In a few minutes the sticks and fists were busy. Throttling, tugging, cuffing, and knocking down—shouting, hallooing, huzzaing, and yelling, gave evident proofs that the captain, in embracing Phil's proposal, had unwittingly applied the match to a mine, whose explosion was likely to be attended with disastrous consequences. As the fight became warm, and the struggle more desperate, the hooks and scythes were resorted to; blood began to flow, and men to fall, disabled and apparently dying. The immense crowd which had now assembled to witness the fight among the Irishmen, could not stand tamely by, and see so many lives likely to be lost, without calling in the civil authorities. A number of constables in a few minutes attended; but these worthy officers of the civil authorities experienced very uncivil treatment from the fists, cudgels, and sickles of both parties. In fact, they were obliged to get from among the rioters with all possible celerity, and to suggest to the magistrates the necessity of calling ir the military.
In the meantime the battle rose into a furious and bitter struggle for victory. The deck of the vessel was actually slippery with blood, and many were lying in an almost lifeless state. Several were pitched into the hold, and had their legs and arms broken by the fall; some were tossed over the sides of the vessel, and only saved from drowning by the activity of the sailors; and not a few of those who had been knocked down in the beginning of the fray were trampled into insensibility.
The Munster men at length gave way; and their opponents, following up their advantage, succeeded in driving them to a man out of the vessel, just as the military arrived. Fortunately their interference was unnecessary. The ruffianly captain's object was accomplished; and as no lives were lost, nor any injury more serious than broken bones and flesh-wounds sustained, he got the vessel in readiness, and put to sea.
Who would not think that the Irish were a nation of misers, when our readers are informed that all this bloodshed arose from their unwillingness to lose a shilling by remaining in Liverpool another night? Or who could believe that these very men, on reaching home, and meeting their friends in a fair or market, or in a public-house after mass on a Sunday, would sit down and spend, recklessly and foolishly, that very money which in another country they part with as if it were their very heart's blood? Yet so it is! Unfortunately, Paddy is wiser anywhere than at home, where wisdom, sobriety, and industry are best calculated to promote his own interests.
This slight sketch of Phil Purcel we have presented to our readers as a specimen of the low, cunning Connaught-man; and we have only to add, that neither the pig-selling scene, nor the battle on the deck of the vessel in Liverpool, is fictitious. On the contrary, we have purposely kept the tone of our description of the latter circumstance beneath the reality. Phil, however, is not drawn as a general portrait, but as one of that knavish class of men called "jobbers," a description of swindlers certainly not more common in Ireland than in any other country. We have known Connaughtmen as honest and honorable as it was possible to be; yet there is a strong prejudice entertained against them in every other province of Ireland, as is evident by the old adage, "Never trust a Connaugtaman."
THE GEOGRAPHY OF AN IRISH OATH.
No pen can do justice to the extravagance and frolic inseparable from the character of of the Irish people; nor has any system of philosophy been discovered that can with moral fitness be applied to them. Phrenology fails to explain it; for, so far as the craniums of Irishmen are concerned, according to the most capital surveys hitherto made and reported on, it appears that, inasmuch as their moral and intellectual organs predominate over the physical and sensual, the people ought, therefore, to be ranked at the very tip-top of morality. We would warn the phrenologists, however, not to be too sanguine in drawing inferences from an examination of Paddy's head. Heaven only knows the scenes in which it is engaged, and the protuberances created by a long life of hard fighting. Many an organ and development is brought out on it by the cudgel, that never would have appeared had Nature been left to herself.
Drinking, fighting, and swearing, are the three great characteristics of every people. Paddy's love of fighting and of whiskey has been long proverbial; and of his tact in swearing much has also been said. But there is one department of oath-making in which he stands unrivalled and unapproachable; I mean the alibi. There is where he shines, where his oath, instead of being a mere matter of fact or opinion, rises up into the dignity of epic narrative, containing within itself, all the complexity of machinery, harmony of parts, and fertility of invention, by which your true epic should be characterized.
The Englishman, whom we will call the historian in swearing, will depose to the truth of this or that fact, but there the line is drawn; he swears his oath so far as he knows, and stands still. "I'm sure, for my part, I don't know; I've said all I knows about it," and beyond this his besotted intellect goeth not.
The Scotchman, on the other hand, who is the metaphysician in swearing, sometimes borders on equivocation. He decidedly goes farther than the Englisman, not because he has less honesty, but more prudence. He will assent to, or deny a proposition; for the Englishman's "I don't know," and the Scotchman's "I dinna ken," are two very distinct assertions when properly understood. The former stands out a monument of dulness, an insuperable barrier against inquiry, ingenuity, and fancy; but the latter frequently stretches itself so as to embrace hypothetically a particular opinion.
But Paddy! Put him forward to prove an alibi for his fourteenth or fifteenth cousin, and you will be gratified by the pomp, pride, and circumstance of true swearing. Every oath with him is an epic—pure poetry, abounding with humor, pathos, and the highest order of invention and talent. He is not at ease, it is true, under facts; there is something too commonplace in dealing with them, which his genius scorns. But his flights—his flights are beautiful; and his episodes admirable and happy. In fact, he is an improvisatore at oath-taking; with this difference, that his extempore oaths possess all the ease and correctness of labor and design.
He is not, however, altogether averse to facts: but, like your true poet, he veils, changes, and modifies them with such skill, that they possess all the merit and graces of fiction. If he happen to make an assertion incompatible with the plan of the piece, his genius acquires fresh energy, enables him to widen the design, and to create new machinery, with such happiness of adaptation, that what appeared out of proportion of character is made, in his hands, to contribute to the general strength and beauty of the oath.
'Tis true, there is nothing perfect under the sun; but if there were, it would certainly be Paddy at an alibi. Some flaws, no doubt, occur; some slight inaccuracies may be noticed by a critical eye; an occasional anachronism stands out, and a mistake or so in geography; but let it be recollected that Paddy's alibi is but a human production; let us not judge him by harsher rules than those which we apply to Homer, Virgil, or Shakspeare.
"Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus," is allowed on all hands. Virgil made Dido and AEneas contemporary, though they were not so; and Shakspeare, by the creative power of his genius, changed an inland town into a seaport. Come, come, have bowels. Let epic swearing be treated with the same courtesy shown to epic poetry, that is, if both are the production of a rare genius. I maintain, that when Paddy commits a blemish he is too harshly admonished for it. When he soars out of sight here, as occasionally happens, does he not frequently alight somewhere about Sydney Bay, much against his own inclination? And if he puts forth a hasty production, is he not compelled, for the space of seven or fourteen years, to revise his oath? But, indeed, few words of fiction are properly encouraged in Ireland.
It would be unpardonable in us, however, to overlook the beneficial effects of Paddy's peculiar genius in swearing alibis. Some persons, who display their own egregious ignorance of morality, may be disposed to think that it tends to lessen the obligation of an oath, by inducing a habit among the people of swearing to what is not true. We look upon such persons as very dangerous to Ireland and to the repeal of the Union; and we request them not to push their principles too far in the disturbed parts of the country. Could society hold together a single day, if nothing but truth were spoken, would not law and lawyers soon become obsolete, if nothing but truth were sworn what would become of parliament if truth alone were uttered there? Its annual proceedings might be dispatched in a month. Fiction is the basis of society, the bond of commercial prosperity, the channel of communication between nation and nation, and not unfrequently the interpreter between a man and his own conscience.
For these, and many other reasons which we could adduce, we say with Paddy, "Long life to fiction!" When associated with swearing, it shines in its brightest colors. What, for instance, is calculated to produce the best and purest of the moral virtues so beautifully, as the swearing an alibi? Here are fortitude and a love of freedom resisting oppression; for it is well known that all law is oppression in Ireland.
There is compassion for the peculiar state of the poor boy, who, perhaps, only burned a family in their beds; benevolence to prompt the generous effort in his behalf; disinterestedness to run the risk of becoming an involuntary absentee; fortitude in encountering a host of brazen-faced lawyers; patience under the unsparing gripe of a cross-examiner; perseverance in conducting the oath to its close against a host of difficulties; and friendship, which bottoms and crowns them all.
Paddy's merits, however, touching the alibi, rest not here. Fiction on these occasions only teaches him how to perform a duty. It may be, that he is under the obligation of a previous oath not to give evidence against certain of his friends and associates. Now, could anything in the whole circle of religion or ethics be conceived that renders the epic style of swearing so incumbent upon Paddy? There is a kind of moral fitness in all things; for where the necessity of invention exists, it is consolatory to reflect that the ability to invent is bestowed along with it.
Next to the alibi comes Paddy's powers in sustaining a cross-examination. Many person thinks that this is his forte; but we cannot yield to such an opinion, nor compromise his originality of conception in the scope and plan of an alibi. It is marked by a minuteness of touch, and a peculiarity of expression which give it every appearance of real life. The circumstances are so well imagined, the groups so naturally disposed, the coloring so finished, and the background in such fine perspective, that the whole picture presents you with such keeping and vraisemblance, as could be accomplished only by the genius of a master.
In point of interest, however, we must admit that his ability in a cross-examination ranks next to his skill in planning an alibi. There is, in the former, a versatility of talent that keeps him always ready; a happiness of retort, generally disastrous to the wit of the most established cross-examiner; an apparent simplicity, which is quite as impenetrable as the lawyer's assurance; a vis comica, which puts the court in tears; and an originality of sorrow, that often convulses it with laughter. His resources, when he is pressed, are inexhaustible; and the address, with which he contrives to gain time, that he may suit his reply to the object of his evidence, is beyond all praise. And yet his appearance when he mounts the table is anything but prepossessing; a sheepish look, and a loose-jointed frame of body, wrapped in a frieze great-coat, do not promise much. Nay, there is often a rueful blank expression in his visage, which might lead a stranger to anticipate nothing but blunders and dulness. This, however, is hypocrisy of the first water. Just observe the tact with which he places his caubeen upon the table, his kippeen across it, and the experienced air with which he pulls up the waistbands of his breeches, absolutely girding his loins for battle. 'Tis true his blue eye has at present nothing remarkable in it, except a drop or to of the native; but that is not remarkable.
When the direct examination has been concluded, nothing can be finer than the simplicity with which he turns round to the lawyer who is to cross-examine him. Yet, as if conscious that firmness and caution are his main guards, he again pulls up his waistbands with a more vigorous hitch, looks shyly into the very eyes of his opponent, and awaits the first blow.
The question at length comes; and Paddy, after having raised the collar of his big coat on his shoulder, and twisted up the shoulder along with it, directly puts the query back to the lawyer, without altering a syllable of it, for the purpose of ascertaining more accurately whether that is the precise question that has been put to him; for Paddy is conscientious. Then is the science displayed on both sides. The one, a veteran, trained in all the technicalities of legal puzzles, irony, blarney, sarcasm, impudence, stock jokes, quirks, rigmarolery, brow-beating, ridicule, and subtlety; the other a poor peasant, relying only upon the justice of a good cause and the gifts of nature; without either experience, or learning, and with nothing but his native modesty to meet the forensic effrontery of his antagonist.
Our readers will perceive that the odds are a thousand to one against Paddy; yet, when he replies to a hackneyed genius at cross-examination, how does it happen that he uniformly elicits those roars of laughter which rise in the court, and convulse it from the judge to the crier? In this laugh, which is usually at the expense of the cross-examiner, Paddy himself always joins, so that the counsel has the double satisfaction of being made not only the jest of the judge and his brother lawyers, but of the ragged witness whom he attempted to make ridiculous.
It is not impossible that this merry mode of dispensing justice may somewhat encourage Paddy in that independence of mind which relishes not the idea of being altogether bound by oaths that are too often administered with a jocular spirit. To most of the Irish in general an oath is a solemn, to some, an awful thing. Of this wholesome reverence for its sanction, two or three testimonies given in a court of justice usually cured them. The indifferent, business-like manner in which the oaths are put, the sing-song tone of voice, the rapid utterance of the words, give to this solemn act an appearance of excellent burlesque, which ultimately renders the whole proceedings remarkable for the absence of truth and reality; but, at the same time, gives them unquestionable merit as a dramatic representation, abounding with fiction, well related and ably acted.
Thumb-kissing is another feature in Paddy's adroitness too important to be passed over in silence. Here his tact shines out again! It would be impossible for him, in many cases, to meet the perplexities of a cross-examination so cleverly as he does, if he did not believe that he had, by kissing his thumb instead of the book, actually taken no oath, and consequently given to himself a wider range of action. We must admit, however, that this very circumstance involves him in difficulties which are sometimes peculiarly embarrassing. Taking everything into consideration, the prospect of freedom for his sixth cousin, the consciousness of having kissed his thumb, or the consoling reflection that he swore only on a Law Bible, it must be granted that the opportunities presented by a cross-examination are well calculated to display his wit, humor, and fertility of invention. He is accordingly great in it; but still we maintain that his execution of an alibi is his ablest performance, comprising, as it does, both the conception and construction of the work.
Both the oaths and imprecations of the Irish display, like those who use them, indications of great cruelty and great humor. Many of the former exhibit that ingenuity which comes out when Paddy is on his cross-examination in a court of justice. Every people, it is true, have resorted to the habit of mutilating or changing in their oaths the letters which form the Creator's name; but we question if any have surpassed the Irish in the cleverness with which they accomplish it. Mock oaths are habitual to Irishmen in ordinary conversation; but the use of any or all of them is not considered to constitute an oath: on the contrary, they are in the mouths of many who would not, except upon a very solemn occasion indeed, swear by the name of the Deity in its proper form.
The ingenuity of their mock oaths is sufficient to occasion much perplexity to any one disposed to consider it in connection with the character and moral feelings of the people. Whether to note it as a reluctance on their part to incur the guilt of an oath, or as a proof of habitual tact in evading it by artifice, is manifestly a difficulty hard to be overcome. We are decidedly inclined to the former; for although there is much laxity of principle among Irishmen, naturally to be expected from men whose moral state has been neglected by the legislature, and deteriorated by political and religious asperity, acting upon quick passions and badly regulated minds—yet we know that they possess, after all, a strong, but vague undirected sense of devotional feeling and reverence, which are associated with great crimes and awfully dark shades of character. This explains one chief cause of the sympathy which is felt in Ireland for criminals from whom the law exacts the fatal penalty of death; and it also accounts, independently of the existence of any illegal association, for the terrible retribution inflicted upon those who come forward to prosecute them. It is not in Ireland with criminals as in other countries, where the character of a murderer or incendiary is notoriously bad, as resulting from a life of gradual profligacy and villany. Far from it. In Ireland you will find those crimes perpetrated by men who are good fathers, good husbands, good sons, and good neighbors—by men who would share their last morsel or their last shilling with a fellow-creature in distress—who would generously lose their lives for a man who had obliged them, provided he had not incurred their enmity—and who would protect a defenseless stranger as far as lay in their power. There are some mock oaths among Irishmen which must have had their origin amongst those whose habits of thought were much more elevated than could be supposed to characterize the lower orders. "By the powers of death" is never now used as we have written it; but the ludicrous travestie of it, "by the powdhors o' delf," is quite common. Of this and other mock oaths it may be right to observe, that those who swear by them are in general ignorant of their proper origin. There are some, however, of this description whose original form is well known. One of these Paddy displays considerable ingenuity in using. "By the cross" can scarcely be classed under the mock oaths, but the manner in which it is pressed into asseverations is amusing. When Paddy is affirming a truth he swears "by the crass" simply, and this with him is an oath of considerable obligation. He generally, in order to render it more impressive, accompanies it with suitable action, that is, he places the forefinger of each hand across, that he may assail you through two senses instead of one. On the contrary, when he intends to hoax you by asserting what is not true, he ingeniously multiplies the oath, and swears "by the five crashes," that is by his own five fingers, placing at the same time his four fingers and his thumbs across each other in a most impressive and vehement manner. Don't believe him then—the knave is lying as fast as possible, and with no remorse. "By the crass o' Christ" is an oath of much solemnity, and seldom used in a falsehood. Paddy also often places two bits of straws across, and sometimes two sticks, upon which he swears with an appearance of great heat and sincerity—sed caveto!
Irishmen generally consider iron as a sacred metal. In the interior of the country, the thieves (but few in number) are frequently averse to stealing it. Why it possesses this hold upon their affections it is difficult to say, but it is certain that they rank it among their sacred things, consider that to find it is lucky, and nail it over their doors when found in the convenient shape of a horse-shoe. It is also used as a medium of asserting truth. We believe, however, that the sanction it imposes is not very strong. "By this blessed iron!"—"by this blessed an' holy iron!" are oaths of an inferior grade; but if the circumstance on which they are founded be a matter of indifference, they seldom depart from truth in using them.
We have said that Paddy, when engaged in a fight, is never at a loss for a weapon, and we may also affirm that he is never at a loss for an oath. When relating a narrative, or some other circumstance of his own invention, if contradicted, he will corroborate it, in order to sustain his credit or produce the proper impression, by an abrupt oath upon the first object he can seize. "Arrah, nonsense! by this pipe in my hand, it's as thrue as"—and then, before he completes the illustration, he goes on with a fine specimen of equivocation—"By the stool I'm sittin' an, it is; an' what more would, you have from me barrin' I take my book oath of it?" Thus does he, under the mask of an insinuation, induce you to believe that he has actually sworn it, whereas the oath is always left undefined and incomplete.
Sometimes he is exceedingly comprehensive in his adjurations, and swears upon a magnificent scale; as, for instance,—"By the contints of all the books that ever wor opened an' shut, it's as thrue as the sun to the dial." This certainly leaves "the five crasses" immeasurably behind. However, be cautious, and not too confident in taking so sweeping and learned an oath upon trust, notwithstanding its imposing effect. We grant, indeed, that an oath which comprehends within its scope all the learned libraries of Europe, including even the Alexandrian of old, is not only an erudite one, but establishes in a high degree the taste of the swearer, and displays on his part an uncommon grasp of intellect. Still we recommend you, whenever you hear an alleged fact substantiated by it, to set your ear as sharply as possible; for, after all, it is more than probable that every book by which he has sworn might be contained in a nutshell. The secret may be briefly explained:—Paddy is in the habit of substituting the word never for ever. "By all the books that never wor opened or shut," the reader perceives, is only a nourish of trumpets—a mere delusion of the enemy.