CROSS AND THE SHAMROCK,
HOW TO DEFEND THE FAITH.
IRISH-AMERICAN CATHOLIC TALE
OF REAL LIFE,
DESCRIPTIVE OF THE
TEMPTATIONS, SUFFERINGS, TRIALS, AND TRIUMPHS
CHILDREN OF ST. PATRICK
GREAT REPUBLIC OF WASHINGTON.
FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT AND SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS OF
THE CATHOLIC MALE AND FEMALE SERVANTS OF THE UNITED STATES.
A MISSIONARY PRIEST.
[Transcriber's Note: a pseudonym for Hugh Quigley.]
3 FRANKLIN STREET.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1853, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
STEREOTYPED AT THE BOSTON STEREOTYPE FOUNDRY.
To the faithful Irish-American Catholic citizens of the whole Union, and especially to the working portion of them, on account of their piety, their liberality, their patriotism, and their steady loyalty to the virtues symbolized by the "Cross and the Shamrock,"—on account of their attachment to the land of St. Patrick, and to the religion of her patriot princes and martyrs,—this work, written for their encouragement and instruction, is respectfully inscribed by
Their humble servant, And devoted friend and fellow-citizen, THE AUTHOR.
"There are moments when every citizen who feels that he can say something promotive of the welfare of his countrymen and of advantage to his country is authorized to give public utterance to his sentiments, how humble soever he may be."—Letter of Archbishop Hughes on the Madiai, February, 1853.
"There may be, in public opinion, an Inquisition a thousand times more galling to the soul than the gloomy prison or the weight of chains."—National Democrat, March, 1853.
1st. The above extracts, from different but respectable sources, comprise the author's chief motives in the publication of the following work. It is a well-known fact, that thousands of our fellow-Christians, in all parts of this vast free country, are continually subjected to a most trying ordeal of temptation and persecution on account of their religion, and that the wonderful progress of Catholicity and renewed power of the church only add to the malice, if not to the influence, of sectarians, in their efforts to make use of this odious persecution of servant boys and servant girls, of widows and orphans, to build up their own tottering conventicles, and to circumscribe the giant strides of what they call "the man of sin."
A very intelligent American lawyer lately remarked to the writer of this, "that, about twenty-five years ago, the parsons fulminated all their eloquence against Satan; but they seem to have formed a league with him now, for all their vengeance is directed against the pope, who, they say, is far more dangerous than Old Harry."
When we know this to be literally true, and find our poor, neglected, and uninstructed brethren in danger accordingly, how can any thing that can be said, written, or done, to alleviate their condition, or to remove prejudice from the public mind, be counted a work of supererogation?
2d. The corruption of the cheap trash literature, that is now ordinarily supplied for the amusement and instruction of the American people,—and that threatens to uproot and annihilate all the notions of virtue and morals that remain, in spite of sectarianism,—calls for some antidote, some remedy. In every rail car, omnibus, stage coach, steamboat, or canal packet, publications, containing the most poisonous principles and destructive errors, are presented to, and are purchased by, passengers of both sexes, whose minds, like the appetites of hungry animals, will take to eating the filthiest stuff, rather than want food for rumination. It is for the philanthropists of the present day, and for those who are paid for making such inquiries, to trace the connection between the roues of your cities, your Bloomer women, your spiritual rappers, and other countless extravagances of a diseased public mind, and between the abominable publications to which we allude.
3d. Our people are not generally great readers of the trashy newspapers of the day; and in this respect they show their good sense, or at least have happened on good luck: it is therefore our duty to supply them with cheap and amusing literature, to entertain them during the few hours they are disengaged from work. And what reading can afford the Irish Catholic greater pleasure than any work, however imperfect, having for its end the exaltation and defence of his glorious old faith, and the vindication of his native land—his beloved "Erin-go-bragh"? Impress on his susceptible mind the honor and advantage of defence and fidelity to the CROSS and the SHAMROCK, and you give him two ideas that will come to his aid in most of his actions through life. We are ashamed here of the cross of Christ, when we see it continually dishonored and trampled on by heretics and modern pagans, in their scramble for money and pleasures. On the other hand, the poverty, humiliation, and rags of old Erin, of the kings, saints, and martyrs, scandalize us; and from these two false notions the degradation and apostasy of many Irishmen commence. Hence they no sooner land on the shores of America than they endeavor to clip the musical and rich brogue of fatherland, to make room for the bastard barbarisms and vulgar slang of Yankeedom. The remainder of the course of the apostate is easily traced, till, ashamed of creed and country, he ends by being ashamed of his Creator and Redeemer, and barters the inheritance of heaven for the miserable and short enjoyments of this earth.
A fourth, and a leading motive in the publication of this work, is to record the manly defences which the people among whom the author lives have made of the creed of their fathers, and to enable them to refute, in a simple, practical manner, for the edification of their opponents, the many objections proposed to them about the faith. By placing a copy of this work in the hands of every head of a family in the congregation in which he presides, the author thinks he will have done something towards the salvation of that parent and his house, by showing him how he may educate his children, and save them from those subtle snares laid to rob them and him of happiness here and hereafter; for, without true religion and virtue, there is neither enjoyment nor happiness even in this world.
But are the principles sound, and the estimate he has formed of American character and the conduct and motives of the sectarian parsons correct? There may be, and undoubtedly there is, great variety in American character; and, so far, what may be true of the people of one state or county, may not at all be applicable to those of the rest; but as far as regards sectarianism and its slanders of the church, and the low character, intellectually and morally, of the parsons, ministers, dominies, and preachers, with few honorable exceptions, it may be said, in the words of the poet,—
"Ex uno disce omnes."
"They are all chips of the same block;" and the description in the following pages of their attempts to proselytize, seduce, and corrupt, is not at all exaggerated, as thousands of candid American Protestants can testify. Perhaps the sectarian dominies do not see the sad consequences that are infallibly produced on the minds of their hearers, after they come to detect the frauds and falsehoods which the parsons inculcate on them when children; but they are in the cause, and morally responsible for that doubt, irreligion, and downright infidelity which are the well-known characteristics of the male and female youth of our great country, and which threaten such disastrous consequences to society.
Yes, dominies, you are responsible for all the extravagances of modern times, for the irreparable loss to virtue and society of the noble youth of your country. You hate the church of God because she is a witness against you. The priest, the nun, and the recluse are objects of your malice; for they are living examples of what you call impossible morals, and refuters of the code of low virtue you practise and preach. The faith of the Catholic laity, too, you endeavor to destroy, in order more securely to deceive your hearers, and to secure your children, your wives, and yourselves, that bread which you eat by the dissemination of error, contradiction, and contention, and which you are too lazy to "earn by the sweat of your brow."
Finally. This work is submitted to the reader by one who will be well pleased if it affords the former any pleasure or amusement during one or two of such few hours of leisure as it took the latter to write it. Regarding style, method, and arrangement of the matter, the author has no apology to offer, except that the work has been written in great haste, and by one who, in five years, has not had a single entire day for recreation or unoccupied by severe missionary duty. Let not the critics forget this.
PAGE CHAPTER I. A DEATH BED SCENE, 13
CHAPTER II. GETTING THE MOTHER'S BLESSING, 23
CHAPTER III. AN OFFICIAL, 32
CHAPTER IV. THE POORHOUSE, 41
CHAPTER V. THE O'CLERYS, 52
CHAPTER VI. THE COUNCIL, 60
CHAPTER VII. A RUDE LOVER OF NATURE, 69
CHAPTER VIII. THE ORPHANS IN THEIR NEW HOME, 77
CHAPTER IX. THE PRYING FAMILY, 87
CHAPTER X. A RAY OF HOPE, 97
CHAPTER XI. VAN STINGEY AGAIN.—HOW HE GETS RICH AND ENDS, 106
CHAPTER XII. MASS IN A SHANTY, 117
CHAPTER XIII. THE TEMPTER AT THE WOMAN, 129
CHAPTER XIV. THE FRUITS OF THE CROSS, 136
CHAPTER XV. THE CONVERSION, 145
CHAPTER XVI. THE ENLIGHTENED CITIZENS, 155
CHAPTER XVII. "HE AND HIS WHOLE HOUSE BELIEVED," 164
CHAPTER XVIII. "TRUTH STRANGER THAN FICTION," 178
CHAPTER XIX. WHAT HAPPENED TO LITTLE EUGENE O'CLERY, 187
CHAPTER XX. THE SAME, CONTINUED, 201
CHAPTER XXI. CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS, 213
CHAPTER XXII. THE DESERTED HOME OF THE ORPHANS, 223
CHAPTER XXIII. IN WHICH THE SCENE OF OUR TALE IS CHANGED, 240
CHAPTER XXIV. SHOWS HOW THE CROSS AND SHAMROCK WERE PERMANENTLY UNITED AFTER A LONG SEPARATION, 251
CHAPTER XXV. CONCLUSION, 260
A DEATH-BED SCENE.
A cold evening in the month of January, a drizzling rain storm blowing from the south-west, a cheerless sky, a dull, threatening atmosphere, together with almost impassable roads,—these are the chilling and uninviting circumstances with which, if we pay regard to truth, we must introduce our narrative to our readers. It is usual, with writers of fiction and romance, to preface their literary exhibitions with high-wrought and dazzling descriptions of natural and artificial objects—the sun, moon, and stars; the clouds, meteors, and other fantastic creations of the atmosphere; the seas, rivers, and lakes; the mountains, fields, and gardens; the birds, fishes, and the inhabitants of the savage forests, as well as the forests, groves, and woods themselves,—in a word, all nature seems as if conscious of the effects likely to result to the morals, habits, and projects of men, while some of your modern novelists are arranging their matter, sharpening their scissors, preparing pen, ink, and paper, and taking indigestible suppers to make way into the world for the offspring of their creative fancies. Ours being a tale of truth,—yes, of bare, unvarnished truth, yet of truth more interesting, if not "stranger, than fiction,"—it is not to be wondered that, when we acknowledge the homely dame, and her alone, as our guide, inspirer, and preceptor, we lack the advantage of romancers, and cannot command "a special sunset," or a storm made to order, or other enchanting scenery, to introduce us to our patrons.
We must take things as we find them; and this is why cold, rain, and frost, the whistling of merciless winds, together with false and pitiless ice, constitute the principal features of our introductory chapter. The merry chimes of sleigh bells, as if to add gloom to the scene, were silent, no snow having fallen this winter, and the ice being irregular and lumpy. The streets of the city of T—— were almost entirely deserted of foot passengers, owing to the danger of walking over the slippery pavement; while cabmen and omnibus conductors had cautiously driven their teams to the stable or smithy, to have them "sharpened" for the frozen coat of mail which enveloped the earth. When about dusk, an aged gentleman, in a cloak, with a sharp-pointed cane in his hand, might be observed moving along the gutter of a narrow street. Occasionally he would slip so as to come on one knee, and now he would steer himself along by taking hold of the sills of windows, and of the railings which here and there were erected in front of a few houses on the retired and deserted street on which he crept along.
At length he approaches an old three-story, red, frame-built house, which, from its shattered and dilapidated windows, at first seemed to be deserted, but which, from the description left by a messenger with his domestic in the forenoon, he could not doubt was the place where he heard the emigrant widow lay at the point of death.
"Is this where the sick woman is?" said he to an old woman who opened the door.
"Yes, your reverence," answered Mrs. Doherty, at once recognizing the priest; "and thank God you are come. The Lord never deserts his own, praise be to his holy name."
"Is she very ill?" said Father O'Shane; for thus was named the sole pastor of the city of T—— in those days.
"That she is, your reverence, and callin' for the priest this three days; but as we heard your reverence say that you would be in the country till this day, we thought it no use to give in the sick call sooner. I myself gave it in this morning afore my poor, sick old man got up."
"God help the poor!" muttered the tender-hearted priest, as he ascended to the third floor, where the dying woman lay.
"Amen!" answered Mrs. Doherty, aloud. "You would pity her, your reverence, if you seen the misery they are in this two months; and it is easily telling they saw better days in the ould country. It is easily knowing that, by the dacent, mannerly children she has around her, God help 'em."
"Pax huic domui, et omnibus habitantibus in ea"—"Peace to this house, and all that dwell therein," uttered the priest of God, as he opened the latchless door of the room on the third story of the old "Oil Mill House," where the patient was extended on her "pallet of straw." For a moment he stood on the threshold, for within an unusual and solemn sight presented itself to his view. A woman of fair and comely features, between about thirty and forty years of age, lay as described on the floor, with four children kneeling around her. The eldest, a lad of about fifteen years, read aloud the litanies and prayers of the church for the dying, while the three younger children repeated the responses in fervent but trembling accents.
"Lord, have mercy on her," cried Paul, the eldest boy.
"Christ, have mercy on her," answered the younger children.
"Holy Mary." R. "Pray for her."
"All ye holy angels and archangels." R. "Pray for her."
"All ye choirs of the just." R. "Pray for her."
"All ye saints of God." R. "Make intercession for her."
"From thy anger, from an unhappy death, from the pains of hell." R. "Deliver her, O Lord."
"By thy cross and passion, by thy death and burial, by thy glorious resurrection, in the day of judgment." R. "Deliver her, O Lord."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant from all danger of hell, and from all pain and tribulation." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst Enoch and Elias from the common death of the world." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst Noah from the flood." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst Abraham from the midst of the Chaldeans." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst Job from all his afflictions." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst Isaac from being sacrificed by his father." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst Lot from Sodom and the flames of fire." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst Moses from the hands of Pharaoh, King of Egypt." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst Daniel from the lions' den." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst the three children from the fiery furnace and from the hands of an unmerciful king." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst Susanna from her false accusers." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst David from the hands of Goliah and Saul." R. "Amen."
"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of thy servant, as thou deliveredst Peter and Paul out of prison." R. "Amen."
"And as thou deliveredst that blessed virgin and martyr, St. Thecla, from most cruel torments, so vouchsafe, O Lord, to deliver the soul of this thy servant, and bring it to the participation of thy heavenly joys." R. "Amen."
"Depart, Christian soul, out of this world, in the name of God, the Father Almighty, who created thee; in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who suffered for thee; in the name of the Holy Ghost, who sanctified thee; in the name of the angels, archangels, thrones and dominations, cherubims and seraphims; in the name of the patriarchs and prophets, of the holy martyrs and confessors, of the holy monks and hermits, of the holy virgins, and of all the saints of God. Let thy place be this day in peace, and thy abode in Sion, through Christ, our Lord." R. "Amen."
The offering up of this most beautiful prayer by the children for their dying parent was not unattended with several breaks and pauses, caused by the overwhelming grief of the poor orphans. They "gave out" the short prayers of the litany very well, and without much interruption; but when they came to the more solemn portion of that beautiful service, the "recommendation of a departing soul," they could no longer restrain their tears or suppress their lamentations.
Small blame to the poor children for this manifestation of grief, since we have known instances of the most hardened hearts being touched, and the most manly eyes yielding their tribute of tears, at the bare recital of the most beautiful form of prayer for the "soul departing." We have ourselves read this service a thousand times, at least, by the death bedsides of many "departing souls;" and never could we once go through the form of it entire without yielding to the weakness of nature, and becoming speechless by the violence of our tears. Let the most obstinate unbeliever attend but a few times by the bedside of a dying Catholic, and observe the piety and faith of the priest and people around the bed of the "soul departing;" and if he be not an atheist or a blasphemer of God's providence, it is impossible for him not to perceive the superiority of the Catholic religion to all other forms of worship that ever existed. But to be present at the death hour of a Christian is a privilege which Protestants and unbelievers seldom or never enjoy; their levity and want of devotion, with their impiety and irreverence, being sufficiently powerful obstacles to their admittance into such sacred places as the chamber in which the sacred offices of religion are administered to the "departing soul." It is only the true believers, and not "those outside," who have the privilege of hearing the "prayer of faith" that saves the sick man—it is only they who enjoy occasionally the consolation from the inspiring words of the church to join their tears, and unite their sighs, sobs, and sorrows with those of their pastors and fellow-Christians, for the happy passage and merciful judgment for their departing brother. Such were the tears and sadness that Paul O'Clery and his little attendants shed around the bed of their dying mother.
"Paul, my child, why do you act so?" said she, gently chiding him.
"O mother! mother! how can I help it? Stop ye your crying there," said he, taking courage, and turning to his younger associates. "Silence Bridget, Patrick, and Eugene. Answer me distinctly, and hold your grief. It will vex mother." And he continued the prayer from where he left off with as good grace as he could.
The venerable priest, though inside the door, was unperceived during this affecting scene; and the heavy tears might be seen stealing down his furrowed cheeks as he surveyed the group before him.
"O, faith of my Lord, O, best gift of God, how precious thou art! Thou canst change men into angels, earth into paradise, and convert the misery and poverty of the poor emigrant into a picture like this, that heaven itself must delight to gaze on. That's right, my darling son," said he, "you have finished well; you have done your duty towards your mother, for which God will bless you, and I bless you in his name. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen."
"The priest, mother!" whispered Bridget. "I know him by his cloak."
"Glory, honor, and praise be to the Almighty," said the calm and now rejoicing widow, as she saw the face of the venerable minister of religion. "The Lord is too good to me, not to let me die in a strange land, without the consolations of my holy religion," she continued, kissing the silver crucifix of her beads.
The heart of the good man was too full to give utterance to many words; and seeing that Death was at hand, that already he was master of all but the heart,—for the extremes were cold and without feeling,—he ordered the children down to Mrs. Doherty's, while he heard the short and humble confession of the poor departing soul, administered the most holy viaticum, with extreme unction, and read the last benediction of the church—"In articulo mortis."
He then strengthened her soul with a few words of exhortation, and having prescribed a few short, ejaculatory prayers, bidding her to have the name, as well as the image, of Jesus ever in her heart and lips, he departed, promising to call again as soon as possible, taking the precaution to leave two dollars in silver and a three dollar bill on the little stool that stood by her bed. He had now, he said, to go about forty miles into the country; and he would, after his return, call to see how she was, and to comply with her request about the children.
"I commend you now to the care of God and his angel. God bless you," said he, departing.
"Into thy hands I commend my spirit. O Lord, receive my soul. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, have mercy on me. O God of love, goodness, and mercy, accept my imperfect thanksgiving; save my soul, redeemed by thy precious blood, and make me worthy to see thy glory. I believe in thee, O Lord, I hope in thee, and I love thee. O my God and my Lord, who am I that thou shouldst visit me!"
With these and other fervent aspirations, this pure and exalted soul prepared for the manifestation of the glory of her Lord, and sighed to be dissolved, and to fly to the beatific vision that faith promised her, and through the merits of Christ she expected to obtain. After this, the symptoms of her disease became sensibly less dangerous than before the visit of the priest; but this calm, this seeming relief, was only temporary. Presently the impress of pale death was unmistakably settled on her calm brow.
GETTING THE MOTHER'S BLESSING.
When the priest departed from the precincts of "Oil Mill House," in company with the impatient messenger that required his services in the country, after a few words of encouragement and advice spoken to Paul, Bridget, Patrick, and Eugene,—for so were widow O'Clery's children named,—they returned to the bedside of their dying mother. Little Bridget was the first to observe on the small bench by the bedside the money left there by Father O'Shane.
"Paul," she whispered, "look here! This is money left, I suppose, by the priest." Paul, who was acquainted with American coin, took up the eight pieces, or quarters, in silver, and the bill, and examining them by the candle, said, "O Bid, see how good the priest is! He has left us five dollars, or one pound, without saying a word about it. Mother, how do you feel? Look! the priest left us a deal of money here quietly."
"God reward him for it," answered she, with a hoarse and broken voice. "Paul, darling, go on your knees, you and your sister and brothers, till I give ye my blessing before I die. Quick, children, quick, while I have strength."
"O mother! mother! sure you aren't going to leave us orphans? May be you will get better now, after extreme unction."
"Kneel down here by my side, my children," said she, feeling that her time was now short. "Paul, do you promise me you will be a good boy, love God, and keep his commandments?"
"Yes, mother, with God's help. O woe!"
"Will you watch over your brothers, and sister Bridget, and go with them to the priest, telling him not to forget that I gave ye all up to his care, and the care of God and his blessed mother?"
"O, I will."
"Bridget, Patrick, and Eugene, will ye obey, and be said by Paul, who is the oldest?"
"Yes, mother, please God," they answered, amidst sobbing and tears that half choked them.
"God bless ye, and guard ye, and save ye from all dangers of soul and body. I give ye up to God. I place ye under the holy care of the blessed mother of God. I pray that ye may preserve pure the faith of Saint Patrick. I bless ye. O, pray for me. Jesus, into thy hands—Jesus—Mary—Jesus——." There was a sigh, and by a single effort the soul extricated itself from its prison of clay to join the ranks of its kindred spirits. The widow O'Clery is no more, and Paul and his brethren are orphans indeed.
For a few minutes there was a deep silence in that chamber of death, and Paul repeated the "De Profundis," in English, out of his Prayer Book; but when the cold and ghastly form of death was perceived by this poor company to be all that was left of their darling and affectionate mother, loud and mournful were their lamentations. Then, and not till then, did the forlorn state to which they were reduced reveal itself even to their juvenile minds. There they were, helpless and destitute, without father or mother, friend or relation; on every side strangers, cold, hunger, and want. The mysterious hand of Providence conducted them from comparative comfort, if not luxury, through several stages of trial, danger, and trouble, till they were now entirely stripped, like Job, of all but an existence to which death was preferable. Many are the phases of misery and crosses with which the life of man is surrounded in this vale of tears; but we think the condition of the orphan, deprived of both parents, and thrown for support or existence on a strange and selfish world, the most desolate of all. A policeman was the first who was attracted to the house of mourning by the wailing and cries of those whom this night saw alone and desolate. Mrs. Doherty, attended by an Irish servant maid from a neighboring house, were the next visitors; and, after piously kneeling around the corpse to offer their fervent prayers for the soul, they prepared to "lay out" the body. This consists, as all are probably aware, of washing the corpse, clothing it in clean linen, extending it on a table or bed, and putting up such temporary fixtures as would deprive the room in which it lies of the gloom and repulsiveness attendant on such an event. After arranging all things so that she looked "a decent corpse," with the religious habit around her, Mrs. Doherty hung up the crucifix, pinned to a white linen sheet at the head of where she lay, placed her "Ursuline Manual" on her breast, and her beads on her arms, crossed on the body.
"She was a handsome, fine woman, in her day, God bless her," said Mrs. Doherty.
"Yes, any body can tell that," answered Norry. "I wonder how they came here at all."
"I know it well," answered old Peggy Doherty. "She telled me all about it afore she took bad entirely. Her man was well off, and had a brother next to the bishop in the church, in the county of C——. When landlords began to root out the people from their homes, the brother of Mr. O'Clery, her husband, wrote letters in the newspapers about the cruelty of the landlord, who was called 'Lord Mandemon;' and on that account, and because the priest took part with the poor,—as they always do, God bless 'em!—the landlord came down on Mr. O'Clery, sold out his sixty milch cows, after being twenty-one days in pound; and though the cows were worth ten pounds each, Lord Mandemon's agent sold them by auction, and he bought them back himself for two pounds each; and so the poor family was ruined. After that, O'Clery sold out another farm he had; and, collecting all that was due to him, he came to America, against the advice of the priest, his brother. He thought, he said, to live with his family in 'a free country,' where there were no landlords or tyrants, and, while he had some means, to buy a farm which he could call his own. But he took the cholera when within sight of land, and he only lived a few days. God rest his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed. And God help those poor orphans," she said, piously, looking to where the little group, wearied from grief and crying, lay asleep on a straw bed.
"I do really pity the poor creatures," said Norry. "I suppose they will have to go to the poorhouse."
"I hope not; God forbid, asthore, the poorhouse is such a dangerous place for Catholics. I heard the priest say he would call to-morrow; and may be he will do for the little dears."
"'Tis hard for him to provide for all that are in distress," said Norry.
"I know it; but it would be a murther to let such well-reared and decent children into the hands of those poormasters, but especially that Van Stingey, whose great delight is, they say, to convart the children of Catholics to his own sect. See what he done to the little Cronin children, whose father and mother died lately."
"I heard of that; but I am afraid the priest won't be able to call on to-morrow, as he promised, if it continue to snow so."
"O yea, God forbid; but it is a terrible night. Do ye hear how it blows? O Heirna Dioa."
"Yes, and the snow is falling in mountains; the roads will be blocked up, and hills and hollows will be on a level in the morning."
"God help every poor Christian that is out to-night," said Mrs. Doherty. "I hope the Lord will save his reverence from all harm."
"Amen!" answered Norry. "He will have a hard night of it. Had he far to go?"
"He had, agra, forty miles out in Vermont; but sure he could not refuse going. The woman is just dying; and besides, she is a Protestant, who wants to die in the faith."
"Happy for her," said Norry, "if he overtakes her alive. How good the priests are to these Yankees, although they are always ridiculing the clergy; yet, if one of them is going to die, the priest not only forgives them, but is willing to travel any distance to do them a service."
"Sure that's the orders of God and the church," said Mrs. Doherty. "It is not for them alone they are working, but for God, you know."
"That's true," said Norry. "But still and all, when one hears how they are always ridiculing priests and nuns, and sees how they hate our religion, it is very hard, I think, to forgive them."
"Yes, agra," said Peggy, who was better informed than Norry; "so it is hard for flesh and blood to forgive the heretics; but, unless we forgive them, God won't forgive us. The priest knows this well; and so, if there were two sick calls to come at one time to him, as happened lately, one a Protestant and the other a Catholic, he would go to the Protestant first."
"That beats all," said Norry, "and is more than I would do, if I were the priest; for I know well all that is said of him behind his back."
"What harm will all that scandalous talk do the priest?" said Peggy. "It only does him good; and he has a blessing for being 'spoken evil of' like our Lord. He forgives all those whom God forgives; and so, if his enemy, the Protestant, falls sick, and wants his services, he goes to him first, in order that he may be brought into the church, where alone he can be saved."
"Thanks be to God," said Norry. "Is not it a wonder the Protestants don't understand this, and look on the priests and the church as their best friends, seeing that the priests are as ready, and readier, to attend to them than to the Catholics themselves?"
"How can they understand it when they are blinded by love of money, impurity, and the hatred that the ministers excite against the church in the minds of their hearers? Wasn't our Lord himself hated by those whom he most loved, and put to death by them? It is so with every priest who follows his steps, now as well as then. The world will always hate good."
This Christian philosophy was a little too sublime for poor Norry's mind, who was a long time among the Yankees, sufficiently instructed in the customs of this "free country" to be ready to observe the law of "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and life for life;" and who, besides, had her naturally warm temper rather spoiled from her continual rencontres with her mistress on such subjects as confession, priests' celibacy, purgatory, and other subjects too profound for the understanding of her mistress to know any thing about them, and too sacred in the eyes of Norry to allow them to be irreverently handled without saying something in their defence. It requires not only a perfect acquaintance with the sublime and heavenly tenets of Catholicity to speak of them with precision and propriety, but, in addition to a deep study of the truths of true religion, the practice of her precepts, and the frequent reception of the sacraments, are necessary to imbue the mind with the true Christian notions regarding her high commands.
Poor Norry "had not a chance," she said, of going to her duties for several years; and that is why she considered "Peggy Doherty's" talk about forgiveness so strange and unaccountable.
"Yes, a Greffour," resumed "old Peggy," "we must forgive all the world; and myself would forgive any thing sooner than kidnappin' or stealing away the children of Catholics, which these Yankee parsons are so fond of doing."
"O, so they are, the villains," said Norry. "Did they take away or steal any of this poor woman's children? 'Tis a wonder if they didn't."
"Well, besides the four children you see here, asthore, she had another neat child, one year old, named Aloysia, whom a lady up town took with her, two months since, to rear her up along with her own children; and it was only about ten days since she got news of her death. When the poor woman heard this, the heart broke entirely within her, especially as she could not be present at the child's death bed or at the funeral."
"Why, that's rather strange," said Norry. "Did they send her word that she was sick?"
"Not a word. It was only when I went up to Mrs. Sillerman's, the other day, to inquire about the child, she comes out and tells me the child died, and was decently interred. When I told the mother, she cried out, 'O Aloysia, Aloysia, my darling! are you, too, gone?' And she was not herself since."
"I do think there must be something wrong in the matter," said Norry. "Did you tell the priest?"
"No, I did not, for I had not time," said Mrs. Doherty. "God forgive me. I have a doubt in my own mind that the lady of the house (I renounce judging her) was not honest when she told me of the child's death. 'Perhaps,' says I to myself, 'she is kidnapped.' And she was such a purty angel, with a face you would delight looking on; and on her right hand,—the Lord save us!—a circle like a ring was on her middle finger. She was too good to live; and was made for heaven, I suppose. Glory be to God."
Our poormaster, Van Stingey, was a very conscientious officer. He never squandered what he called the people's property, the commonwealth. He was none of your vulgar, ordinary poormasters. He did not want the office; they only forced it on to him. Like some of your great statesmen, he acted for man, as he emphatically said; not for poor widows and orphans, taken one by one; that was only a secondary consideration. His whole duty, his very existence, seemed to be needed for the good of man, or humanity in general. The question with him was, not how to relieve this or that poor man or woman. That might engage the attention of a man of no intelligence, no education, or no philosophy: what he aspired to was, always to act by principle; to act so that the state, or the people who owned real estate, and who elected him against his will, to see that their interests were attended to, whatever became of the poor. Accordingly, when he heard of any case of particular distress, such as that a poor emigrant died of misery in a cold, deserted house, our poormaster regretted it, as an individual; but, as an officer, he said, he acted according to principle. He could not betray his constituents, who elected him against his will, by any act of extravagance; and the good of the many must be consulted. "Even the Lord," he used to say,—for he was a religious man,—"when he created the sun, left spots in it." The best statesman must sometimes do what may be cruel to the few; but, in the end, it would turn out for the good of man. This district, since his election, now twice successively, had made a saving of some two hundred a year since he became its officer; and that would, in time, open the eyes of the people as to who were proper candidates for office, tend to diminish taxes, and, in fact, be a work for man—progress and virtue. Besides this, Mr. Poormaster Van Stingey had "got religion," by which he was wonderfully enlightened, having been so lucky as to gain that valuable accomplishment just six months, and only six months, before his election, at a camp meeting held near the village of M——ville.
"I tell you what, the fact of the matter is, Mr. Knicks," said he, "there is nothin' like religion. Before I got religion, and jined the church, I didn't have any knowledge of God. I used to pity these emigrants, seeing them poor and pale looking as death; but now, sir, I reads my Bible, and finds that the Lord must not regard nor love these Papists, wher'n he lets them run down so. The word of life is great."
"Wal, I do not know. I care not a straw about any church; but my old mother used to teach us, when children, that poverty and crosses were no sign of the Lord's displeasure; as witness holy Job and Christ himself, who were poor. In fact, she never stopped telling us, when boys, that riches were dangerous, the love of money the root of all evil, and that 'whom he chastiseth the Lord loveth.'"
"O, but your mother was a stiff Papist, you know, and did not understand the word of God."
"Yes, sir-ee, she did that; for I well recollect that, in the many arguments she had with father, she always had the best of it. That she had."
"She may argue from Jesuit books and the like; but the Bible she durst not look at, you know, Knicks."
"I know better, Van. Don't you talk so. I have got the very Bible she used and read every day—a great large one, printed in London. Mother was English, and herself a convert to the church of Rome, though father was Dutch."
"Why, I never knowed that, Knicks. That was a great misfortune. These priests, by the arts of Antichrist, will come round simple folks so, that they often succeed in leading them down to destruction."
"Well, sir," said Knicks, "I can tell you I never met a Christian but my mother; and I cannot believe or listen to you say she went to destruction, but to heaven, if there is such a place. And again: if I were to embrace any religion, it would be the Roman Catholic religion; for it is the only honest religion there is. Father often brought Methodist and Presbyterian ministers to make mother give up her'n; but it was no go. She always treated them civil; but they had the worst of the argument, I can tell you. They brought their Bibles, and she her'n; and then they would set to, and be at it, till at last they were obliged to give up. The only difference between her Bible and theirs is, that her'n contained some fourteen or fifteen books more than the Protestant Bible. The end of it was, that father turned with mother, and had the Irish priest O'Shane to attent him afore he died. Mother got us all baptized too."
"Indeed!" carelessly ejaculated our official. "I must call and see that Bible of yours some day."
This conversation—which happened a few days before the death of our emigrant widow—between his neighbor "Knicks" and our official shows what an enlightened gentleman he was. Since his elevation to office, he also got promotion to another situation, which, though not so lucrative as that of poormaster, in the course of time, by proper management, promised to come to something. In a certain school house in his vicinity, where the faithful were too poor, too irreligious, or too pernicious to hire a preacher, our official held forth every Sunday, and several evenings on the week days, at prayer meetings, protracted meetings, and other roaring exercises. And to do him credit, his nasal accent and piercing shrill voice made him a capital substitute for the hired regular Methodist preacher. He could be heard for nearly a mile distant calling on the brethern and sistern to come to heaven.
"O, let us come!" he would cry; "we were made and intended for heaven. I see the shining seats, I see the crystal fountains, I see the Lord sitting on the throne. Come, sisters, come! I could embrace ye all for the Lord's sake. I could hide ye in my bosom. O! O!"
There were some whose faith was not strong enough to place implicit reliance on the veracity of this very enlightened "minister of the word;" but the great majority believed, or pretended to believe, and expressed their faith by crying out, "Glory! glo-ry! glo-r-y!"
If a more particular or personal description of our official is required, we can state, from minute observation, that Mr. Van Stingey was of the middle size, of thin, cadaverous appearance, short neck, snake head, with lank, sandy hair, nose flat and simex-like, small eyes, one of which he kept continually shut, as if he supposed himself a match for the poor whom he had to deal with by keeping one "eye skinned," reserving the other for some important office in church or state, to which he unquestionably aspired. Several times during the two months the destitute widow and her family were reduced to penury and sickness. Our worthy master was apprised of their condition by the neighbors; but he always answered that the law did not allow him to spend any more, just now; that these emigrants ought to remain at home; that they had no right to this country; that he heard a very godly minister foretell last year, at camp meeting, that the Romanists would yet have this country; that too many were coming by millions; that he feared that they could not be converted as fast as they were arriving; that they ought to be made pay a heavy sum, or sent back. "In short," said he one day to poor Mrs. Doherty, "I was not elected by them Irish paupers, and I never expect to be."
"If every thing you say was as true as that last word, I think you would be an honest man for wonst," said Mrs. Doherty; "for there is no fear that an Irishman's or a Christian's vote will ever elect the like of you. God forgive you this day!"
To suppose that any man could display such bona fide ignorance as this official did in the foregoing, would be to form an incorrect and inadequate estimate of the human mind. The fact was that Van Stingey was a false, low, cruel man, whose soul, steeped in the sensuality of his past life, had lost all that was divine in its nature. His circumstances were so reduced by his crimes and dissipation, that, being "too lazy to work, and ashamed to beg," he assumed first the guise of religion to gain popularity; and when he had "got religion," then the teachers of the stuff which they call by that noble name, to keep it respectable, procured him this office as a reward for his hypocrisy.
This was the official who startled the inmates of our house of mourning about five o'clock in the morning, when, thrusting his head inside the door, he cried out, "A corpse there, eh?"
"The Lord save us! Who are you, or what brings you here this hour o' night?" said old granny Doherty, suspecting him as "nothing good."
"Like you Irish, allers asking questions," said he, discharging a mass of tobacco almost in her face. "I am the poormaster; and, having received a report that there was a dead pauper here, thought I would have it put out of the way early, before the folks would get up."
"You are a very polite gintleman, God bless you. I hope she won't be buried so soon. This is not the custom in any Christian country. After to-morrow will be soon enough. You need not be in a hurry. We expect the priest here to see to the children, as he has already left some help, God bless him."
"She must be enterred this morning, having died with the ship fever, I suppose. The citizens expect me to do my dooty; and that I will do, if the Lord spares me."
"The dickens a ship fever nor no other fever she had; but the poor woman's heart broke, seeing what she had come to in a strange country," said Mrs. Doherty, pityingly.
"Wal, wal, if she had trusted in the Lord, and knew the word of God, he would not have deserted her as he has," hypocritically answered the official.
"I beg your pardon, sir, don't judge rashly. She was not deserted by God, but died content and happy, after all the rites of her holy religion were administered to her," was the prompt reply.
"You think so; but I want to know how she could love God without the Bible; and you Roman Catholics are not allowed its use."
"God help those that can't read so," said Mrs. Doherty. "There is no chance for me or my old man, for neither of us can read it; but not so Mrs. O'Clery, God be good to her. She had her Bible, and many more good books."
"Yes, sir," said Paul, joining in the dialogue. "We have always had the true Catholic Bible, and mother always read it on her knees."
"Wal, my good lad, you are pooty smart; and now get you ready, with the rest of you little critters, and come on the sleigh I will send for you. Let's see how many of you there are. One, two, three, four—a great lot of ye. As I was saying, be ready to come up to the county house till I can get some folks to take ye in to keep till ye are of age."
"The priest, sir," said Paul, "promised to call to-day; and as he already has left us a good sum of money, I know the good man will provide for us till he writes to my uncle, who would be very sorry to hear of our going to the poorhouse or the county house, though it may be a better place."
"My young lad, you will be provided for by law, and don't fail to be ready by ten o'clock," said the official, sternly, as he left the room.
In a few hours after, the body of the widow O'Clery was deposited in a rough, unplaned pine coffin, and placed on board a two-horse, open sleigh. The four orphans were stowed around in the same vehicle, and, in care of a constable, the cortege drove off at full speed to the cemetery. By half past eleven, the remains of the widow were consigned to their kindred earth, the few lumps of hard frozen clay on the surface her only monument—the sobs, sighs, and prayers of her own dear children the only requiem uttered over her lowly and soon-to-be-forgotten tomb. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth now, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors." (Apoc. xiv. 13.)
When Father O'Shane left for the village of B——, in Vermont, to administer the rites of Christian unction to a departing soul, the roads were very hard to travel, and his progress, in company with his faithful guide, was tedious and slow in the extreme. The call was to a sick woman named Finmore, who was in the last stage of consumption, and who had often, during her illness, expressed a desire that she should be attended by a priest before she would die. Her husband did not oppose her wish, but was yet either too indifferent on the subject, or too lazy, to go such a journey as to the city of T—— in search of a personage of whom he stood in such awe, and knew so little of, as the Catholic priest. A neighboring Irish farmer, named O'Leary, hearing of the wish of the dying woman, volunteered to bring the priest, if "there was one to be found in all America," he said, "provided he got a horse and wagon from the stable of the rich Yankee." And it was in company with this simple but brave and faithful man that Father O'Shane set out on the evening of the widow's death. They had not advanced many miles, however, when the wind veered round to the north-west, and a most violent snow storm blew quite in their face. Slow and unpleasant was their progress over the hard, icy road; but in the course of a few hours their farther advance became an utter impossibility with a wagon. They had, therefore, to stop at a tavern; and after a good deal of entreaty, and after having fed their horse, they succeeded in hiring from the boss the use of a sleigh to carry them along to Vermont.
"Ye can't travel nohow to-night," said the boss; "the roads will be blocked up, chuck full."
"We'll have to travel, sir," said the Irishman, "or die in the attempt; so let us have the cutter. Charge what you have a mind to."
"Why, what in the world can be the matter? Ye ain't subpoenaed, or going to arrest somebody?" said the jolly boss.
"Ah, no such thing, man," said the farmer; "but there is a woman dangerously ill, and yon gentleman in the sitting room is a doctor, going to visit her. Cost what it may, we must go ahead."
"O, that alters the case. Why did you not say so at first? and you should have had it and welcome. It will be ready in no time. Hitch on to that new, light cutter in the shed, Sam," said he to the hostler.
"Ya, ya," said Sam; and in five minutes the priest and his guide were again proceeding on their charitable mission. They reached their destination about two o'clock in the night, just one hour before the death of her on whose account they had come such a journey. Father O'Shane—poor old gentleman!—suffered terribly; had his ears frostbitten, and two of his fingers frozen. But no matter; a soul was to be saved, and that consideration alleviated all his sufferings, and rendered him dead to every thing—cold, pain, watchings, hunger, thirst, and weariness; nay, even death itself was but a trivial, inadequate price to be paid by a mortal man to gain an immortal soul to Christ and eternal happiness.
"'Tis an awful night, reverend sir," said O'Leary. "I fear we can't go ahead."
"What matter, O'Leary," said Father O'Shane, "as we reached in time? What is this night and all its violence compared with the sufferings of a poor soul in the next world? All I regret is that you did not send me in the sick call sooner. All is well, however; she was perfectly conscious, and, I hope, worthily received all the rites of religion. Hold up! you will rest well to-night, your conscience at ease, after having been engaged in such a meritorious act of charity."
In nothing does the church of God manifest the divinity of her origin and mission more than in the care which she bestows on her children, the adopted brethren of Jesus Christ, at the awful hour of death. She reserves all her good things for this her last service to her children. She sends her keys there, to the bedside of the dying man, to open to him the gate to the calm and peaceful walks of justification. She sends her oils thither, too, to anoint the Christian gladiator for his last and final struggle with his powerful enemies. She sends her divine manna, to strengthen him and sustain him for the trying and unknown journey; and she sends the music of her sweet hymns and litanies to cheer him on, and the light of indulgences and benedictions to guide his soul, illumine his understanding, and shed the rays of their heavenly reflection on the difficult passage that he has to traverse. And this food, these blessings, gifts, and graces, she has ready for all repentant sinners without exception, be they the inmates of the true fold, or straying without the boundaries of the city of God; be they the timorous souls who are already washed, or the negligent, who have followed the hard ways of the world. If, in her other functions, the spouse of Christ is "terrible as an army set in array," "fair as the moon, and beautiful as the setting sun," in this, her last office at the death bedside, she is all mercy, tenderness, and goodness. O, how cold, selfish, and intolerable would life be, if the Catholic church was not present, on all occasions, with the graces, blessings, and consolations of Christ!
"O Lord, if it be thy will, deprive us of every thing—riches, health, renown, pleasure; but never leave thy creatures, thy inheritance, thy children, without the consolations of thy church! O Lord, the many sheep that are here not of thy fold gather and bring in speedily, that there may be but one fold and one Shepherd, as thou thyself hast foretold." Thus prayed this pious priest of God, after having added another strayed sheep to the fold of his divine Master; and his soul was at peace.
For two days the storm continued unabated, the whole country becoming like an undulating ocean of snow. Drift snow, mountain high, was accumulated in the valleys between hills; whole herds of sheep and cattle were suffocated; and the bodies of several teamsters, whose teams were overset, were dug out lifeless from under the drifts by the men who had assembled with their ox teams and shovels to open the interrupted communication with the city.
Father O'Shane bemoaned his fate in doleful terms; the more so as Sunday was approaching, when he feared he should be absent from his congregation; and he also regretted that he had it not in his power, according to his promise to the widow O'Clery, to visit her next day, and provide for her poor orphans among the benevolent of his flock. And, well aware of the character of the hard-hearted Van Stingey, he shuddered for the fate of the children.
The apprehensions of the good priest were not groundless; for no sooner was the body of Mrs. O'Clery consigned to its narrow, cold habitation, than the official, assisting the children into the sleigh that had borne their mother's body to the tomb, drove off in a rapid trot towards the poorhouse.
"Have we far to go yet, sir?" said Paul, thinking that the "county house" was something different from the much dreaded poorhouse. "I am afraid Bridget will perish with cold, sir."
"No fears of her; she's hardy, I guess."
"Yes, sir, but her dress is so very light."
"Well, she can pull that ere buffalo around her."
"Ou, hou, hou!" cried Bridget, breathing on her little bare hands, which she kept pressed to her lips.
"I hope, sir, you are not going to take us to the poorhouse," said Paul; "we don't want to go there. The priest that attended my mother—God rest her soul!—told us he would provide for us."
"Indeed! How can he do so?" said Van Stingey.
"Why, sir, I don't know; but perhaps he will write to my uncle, who is a vicar general in Ireland, and he will send us money to take us back home."
"Is your uncle in the British sarvice, then, and a general in the army?"
"No, sir, but he is a priest next to the bishop in station in the church."
"That's it, eh? Wal, I guess you better not talk of going back, any how. You must live here in this free country, and learn to be a man and a Christian—a thing you could not be at home, in the old country."
"I beg your pardon, sir," replied Paul; "the very best Christians are in Ireland, which was once called the 'Isle of Saints,' when all the people were Catholics; and where I came from, even now, they are all mostly Catholics. There are in the whole parish but two peelers, the minister and his wife, and the tithe proctor, or collector of tithes; in all, five Protestants."
"You are a lad, I see," said the official, as he dismounted from the sleigh and ordered the children to enter their new home.
"O, woe, woe, woe!" cried they, as they found themselves admitted as paupers, and enclosed within the precincts of the terrible poorhouse. "O Lord, what will we do?" cried they. "O sir, don't keep us here, or send word to the priest first. I will go to his house, myself," said Paul.
"Shet up, ye little fools!" said the official; "this is a better place nor ye think. Ye ain't going to get no potatoes, nohow, but something better than ye ever were used to. Take these young 'uns to the stove in the kitchen," said he to an under official. And the sobs and groans of the destitute orphans were drowned in the uproarious rumbling of the gong that called the officers of the establishment to dinner, it being now noon.
The repugnance of the Irishman to the poorhouse is proverbial. Neither prison, dungeon, nor death is invested with greater horror, in the minds of the peasantry of Ireland, than this institution. Solely founded, as they are told, for their special use and benefit, there are instances, countless, on record, where the affectionate mother has thanked Heaven, when by fever, plague, or hunger it deprived her of her darling infant, rather than that it should become an inmate of the poorhouse!
"Is not this prejudice unreasonable and strange?" it will be asked. "And why is it that the Irishman shuns and abhors an institution which his English neighbor enjoys and petitions to enter?" The reasons are numerous, and the difference in the feelings of both obvious and palpable. It must be first remarked, that the Irish are a traditional people, and remarkably conservative of the customs and usages of their ancestors. They look back into the history of their country, or consult their fathers and grandfathers, and in vain look back for the existence of a poorhouse, or any necessity for its existence, before the advent of the "godly reformation" and the established church in their midst. They heard of such establishments as the ancient "beataghs," or houses of hospitality, which were provided for the stranger and destitute in every townland, the doors of which were open day and night, and on the boards of which cooked victuals for scores of men were continually ready. These were the substitute for the poorhouse in the days when England and all Europe sent their poor scholars to receive a gratuitous education among the inhabitants of the Island of Saints. There the poor and the hungry could come in and eat, and be filled, and go his way, without being questioned who he was, without being asked for a pauper ticket to admit him, without being obliged or compelled to lead a life of celibacy, or running the risk of his soul's salvation, to keep his body from perishing of hunger.
In a word, when Brian Boru expelled the Danes from Ireland, when Hugh O'Niel triumphed over the troops of Elizabeth, as well as when Dathi held the sceptre, or Nial of the hostages planted his colors on the Alps, there was enough to feed the poor of Ireland. There was no necessity for a poorhouse; and there is no need of it now, says the Irish peasant, if justice was done to Ireland. "Give us back our monasteries and abbeys, and we will bestow you the poorhouses."
Besides these considerations, the English poorhouse has this advantage over the Irish one—that the former is conducted and presided over by Englishmen, who have a sympathy for, or at least are of, the same blood, religion, and race with its inmates. But in Ireland the case is different. The poorhouses, prison-like edifices, in Elizabethan style of architecture, presided over by Englishmen, generally, and nominees of the crown, are a monument of conquest and tyranny.
The inmates being principally "mere Irish," and the cost of their support derived chiefly from the land, the landlords consider their health, comfort, or life of only secondary importance. Hence we find the number of deaths in these charnel houses averaging that of years of plague; and each pauper is allowed far less weekly for his support than the lord of the soil allows the meanest dog in his kennel. Add to these the separation of man and wife, the isolation of members of the same family, the dangers of perversion and proselytism to the thinning ranks of the "law church;" and then, if you can, blame the poor Irishman for his horror of the dreadful poorhouse of England. He saw hundreds of his neighbors enter the gates of the poorhouse, but he never saw one return back. Less active imaginations than that of the Irish peasant would be worked on so as to conclude that some means more active than sickness or old age were had recourse to, for the purpose of lessening the taxes on land, by getting rid of the poor.
In truth, the British poorhouse is a great government establishment, where the sons of the low squirearchy are provided for—a terrible mill, where the bodies and souls of Irishmen and women are ground up and annihilated—a labor-saving machine of political economy, introduced into the world by the robbers of the reformation, in order to get rid of surplus population, and in order that the Lazaruses of society might not disturb the false repose of their hypocrisy, by begging the crums that fall from their plunder-burdened tables!
The American poorhouse, however, is of quite a different description, and the promptitude and unanimity of the public mind regarding the necessity of a law to provide for the support of the poor are among the most laudable traits in the American character. In America, the patrimony of the poor was never wrested from the church, to which God committed their care; the charities and bequests of ages were not plundered and squandered by the vilest of the human race, as in Britain; hospitals, churches, abbeys, monasteries, convents, and other endowed provisions for the poor, were not robbed and confiscated by the sectarians of the new world, (probably because they did not exist there;) and hence the essential difference between the English and American poorhouse. There is no part of the Scripture the reformation people so rigidly adhered to, or now pretend to adhere to, as the advice of Judas, "Let this be sold and given to the poor." They made the sale, but the poor they left unprovided for, till their numbers increased so as to threaten the ill-gotten goods of the plunderers, who at length passed laws compelling the poor to support the poor. And this was the origin of poorhouses—a true Protestant creation.
The O'Clery family was an ancient and honored one in Ireland. Princes, chieftains, and warriors of the name were renowned before Charlemagne or Alfred ascended the throne, or before any of the petty princes of the heptarchy ruled over the barbarous Saxons. Like all the royal and noble houses of Europe, the O'Clerys, after ages of glory and prosperity, had their hour of decline and decay also. But it was a question whether the virtues of this renowned house were more brilliant or conspicuous in the zenith of its glory, or in its fallen or humbled state. The Irish church founded by Saint Patrick never wanted an O'Clery to adorn her sanctuary or to record her victories. The annals of the Four Masters will stand to the end of the world as a proud monument of the services rendered to the Irish church and to history by these illustrious annalists; and when the deeds of the most renowned knights and chieftains of this royal house shall have been obliterated by the merciless chisel of time, the authors of the Four Masters' Annals will become only brighter among the shining stars that adorn the literary firmament of old Ireland.
The martyrology of the Irish church can attest the virtues of constancy and patriotism with which the O'Clerys bore their share of the wrongs of Erin and of her faithful sons. Whether or not the subjects of our narrative, the poor emigrant orphans, had any of this royal and noble blood flowing in their veins, is a thing that we cannot genealogically vouch. But that they were not degenerate sons of Erin, or faithless to their allegiance to the glorious old church of their fathers, we trust this history will amply demonstrate. At all events, the uncle of our hero, Paul O'Clery, held a very high station in the Irish hierarchy. Having, with eclat, finished his ecclesiastical and literary primary studies in the colleges of his native land, he subsequently repaired to Rome, where he won with distinction the title of "doctor in divinity and canon law," and carried the first premium from many French, German, and even Italian competitors. Hence, soon after his return from abroad, on account of his learning, as well as his tried virtues, he was appointed the vicar general of the diocese of Kil——, a promotion which, far from exciting the envy, gained the unanimous approval, of the diocesan clergy. During the horrors of the general landlord persecution of the Irish Catholics, (for it is nothing else than a persecution of Catholics,) the O'Clerys found their name on the roll of the proscribed, and got notice to quit the homestead of their fathers. The principal cause for this proscription by the landlord was, that Dr. O'Clery, in the newspapers, exposed the system of cruel and barbarous extermination which took place on the extensive estates of Lord Mandemon—a gentleman who said he thought it far more honorable, as well as profitable, to have his princely estates in Munster tenanted by fat cattle than by Irish Papists. His lordship had also the mortification to learn that all the meat, money, and clothing he had employed for the last five years could not make one single sincere convert to his rich "law establishment." When the "praties" were dear, and the crops failed, there were a few, to be sure, who would profess themselves ready to "ate the mate" on Friday; but as soon as plenty returned, the "new lights" went out, or returned to ask pardon of God, the priest, and the people; and Lord Mandemon and his soup were pitched to the "seventy-nine devils." This failure, this result, so often before seen and felt, and so certain to follow, was, in his zeal for proselytism, attributed by his lordship to Dr. O'Clery's zeal and learning. For, whenever or wherever he went among the peasantry to preach to them in their own sweet and loved dialect, the "jumpers, the new lights, and the soupers" disappeared like the locusts from Egypt when exorcised by the magic rod of Moses. Hence the hatred with which the O'Clerys were persecuted. Hence, also, the oath of Lord Mandemon, that he would never return to his home in England till every Papist on his estates was rooted out. This oath was kept by his lordship, probably the only true one he ever swore; for in less than a fortnight he fell a victim to the cholera, and expired on board the Princess Royal steamboat on her return to Liverpool.
Arthur O'Clery, father to the subject of our tale, sold out a second farm he held near Limerick, turned all his effects into money, bade adieu to his beloved brother, Dr. O'Clery, who was averse to his emigration, and, in the autumn, set sail from Liverpool for New York, in the ship Hottinguer. He had all his family with him: they were comfortably provided with all necessaries, and, besides, had one thousand pounds, in hard cash, to start with in the new world. They were not long out at sea, when, owing to the crowd on board, the lack of proper arrangements, and room, or ventillation, as well as on account of the cruelly of the inhuman captain, ship fever and cholera broke out on board.
The number of bodies consigned to the ocean from that unlucky vessel was from five to ten daily, and among the victims of the plague was Arthur O'Clery. He was the only one of the cabin passengers who was attacked by the epidemic, which, in the ardor of his charity, he contracted while attending on, and ministering to, the wants of the poor steerage passengers.
Sad and impressive was the scene when the Rev. H. O'Q——, a young Irish priest on board, in the middle hold of the ship, where O'Clery had been removed by order of the captain, called on the six hundred surviving passengers to kneel while he was administering the rites of the church to the benefactor of them all. Never was a call on the piety and faith of any number of men more cheerfully obeyed. Instantaneously that mixed, nondescript crowd—Irish, English, Scotch, Welsh, Dutch—Catholic, Protestant, infidel—fell on their knees, and, if they did not pray, they paid that outward homage to Religion which sometimes the most indifferent and irreligious cannot resist paying her. Infidelity is a great coward, as well as a false guide. In her hour of ease and satiety, she pretends to scorn the threats and judgments of the Most High, and, like Satan in his pandemonium, to make war on Heaven; but no sooner does the roaring of the thunderbolt shake the earth, or the vast abyss open its devouring throat to swallow her unhappy victims, than she hides her head in the caves of the earth, or, flying to some secure place, abandons her votaries to the forlorn hope of trusting to the weakness of their own minds for resources to extricate themselves from the evils that threaten them. It was so on board the ill-fated Hottinguer. Those who, under the influence of the security offered by the prosperous sailing of the few first days, were bold, independent, and defiant of danger, no sooner did they see their comrades thrown overboard, after a few hours' sickness, than their hearts failed within them, their tone of defiance was turned into despair, their mockery of religion ceased, and that priest of God, whom they ridiculed, insulted, and despised for the first few days, was now respected, confided in, and regarded by them with sentiments bordering on religious homage.
Fervently did that priest, who thanked God that he was on hand, pray, not that God would restore him to his wife and children,—for all hope of recovery was now gone,—but that, in accordance with the anxious desire of the dying man, he should have the privilege of burial in a Christian, consecrated tomb.
"Pray, father," said he, "that, if it be God's holy will, I may be buried in a consecrated soil. It seems to me a sort of profanation, that the cruel fishes and those monsters of the deep, which we see leaping around the vessel, should devour my flesh, united with, and I hope sanctified now by, the flesh and blood of my Lord."
The priest did pray, and the people joined in that impulsive prayer of faith, and that prayer was heard; for, though O'Clery breathed his last on board, and, by the captain's orders, the sailors—poor fellows!—were standing around his berth, prepared, as soon as the last breath left him, to throw him overboard, yet he lingered for three days after; and they reached quarantine before that pure soul quitted its tenement of clay and winged its flight to heaven. The wife and her children had the body conveyed to shore and interred in the Catholic cemetery of New York, where a neat marble monument could be seen with these words inscribed:—
"Pray for the soul of Arthur O'Clery, whose body lies underneath. Requiescat in pace. Amen."
It was thus that the O'Clerys were deprived of their good and virtuous father, and the widow of her husband; but this, as already has been partly seen, was but the beginning of their woes; for, after their arrival in New York, an individual, who, during the voyage, ingratiated himself with the family by his attention around the sick man's bed, joined them at their lodgings. But in a few days they found him gone one morning, after their return from mass at Barclay Street Church, and with him the canvas bag, containing the thousand pounds in gold and Bank of England notes left by them in a trunk. Thus were six persons, strangers and destitute in a great city, reduced from competency to poverty at "one fell swoop" by the villany of a pretended friend and associate.
"O Lord, pity me! One misfortune never comes alone," groaned the now poor and afflicted widow O'Clery, when she was informed by little Bridget that the "trunk was broke open," and all the things ransacked "through and fro."
She soon saw that all she had was gone, and concluded that Cunningham, as he was absent from breakfast contrary to his wont, must be the thief. The police got immediate notice; advertisements were issued, and rewards offered, and in a day or two after Cunningham was arrested; but as none of the money was found on his person, and as there was no direct evidence of his guilt, the magistrate discharged him. The articles of dress in her well-supplied wardrobe were detained, in payment of her board bill, by the hotel keeper where she lodged in New York; and with the few shillings that remained in her purse, she, with her children, took passage on one of the Hudson River boats, hoping to make out certain acquaintances of her husband, whom she heard were settled in the vicinity of T——. The rest has been already told—namely, how she took sick and died after great sufferings; how her children were left destitute, and next to naked; how they were now reduced to the rank of paupers, and secured within the precincts of the county house.
"Of all the things which we brought from home with us, we have nothing of value now left, Bridget," said Paul, "but this silver crucifix, which belonged to my grandfather. Glory be to God. Let us be glad that this has been left," said he, kissing it with religious affection. "This is all we have now left. Let us defend it."
Father O'Shane was now several days weather bound and laid up sick in Vermont, where, with great anxiety, he waited the first opportunity to return home to his mission; and the orphans were safely lodged in the poorhouse, where our friend Paul, to calm the anxiety and dispel the grief of his younger companions, began to contrast, with an air of satisfaction, the aspect of things here with what he had heard of the horrors of the Irish poorhouse.
"What nice men we have in America over the poorhouse," said he; "they are very kind to us."
"Yes; but I don't like that man with the great beard," said Bridget; "he frightens me when I meet him. O, such a feesage; a robin redbreast could make her nest in it," said she, smiling.
"He might be a nice man for all that, Bid. Most people here don't shave at all, you know, as we saw in New York. And did you notice that sailor that saved the boy who fell overboard, what a long beard he had? And he must be a brave, good man, to risk his own life to save another's."
"Yes, Paul; but he was a Catholic, and from Ireland, too; for he made the sign of the cross on himself in Irish before he leaped out, for I was near him; and besides, I saw him going to confession to the same priest we went to the day after we landed."
"And are not they all Catholics here, Paul?" said Patsy. "I seen crosses on three churches, the time I went with Mrs. Doherty for the priest for mother, God be good to her."
"No, Patsy, they are not; for if they were, there would be more than one priest for this large town; and you heard Father O'Shane say that there was only himself for all the city and a great part of the country," said Paul.
"I hope somebody will take us to mass on Sunday," said little Patrick; "and, Paul, will you ask the priest to allow me to answer mass? You know Father Doyle told us never to forget the lessons we learned of him."
"I'd know are there any nuns here," said Bridget. "O, how beautiful the convent chapel in Limerick was! I hope I have not lost my beautiful little silver medals and crucifix they gave me when I was coming away. No; here they are, and my Agnus Dei, too," she said, kissing them. "God rest mother's soul, how glad she was when I got these from the holy nuns!" And the tears streamed down her fair cheeks in floods.
"Hold your tongue, Bridget, again," said Paul, with emphasis. "Don't you know that mother told us not to grieve, but pray for her soul? And besides, in the 'Imitation of Christ,' which I read for you this morning and last night, it is said that grief kills devotion, and excessive, sorrow is a sin. You can serve mother, or rejoice her soul, by praying, but not by crying, Bridget."
"O, how can I help it? 'Tis against me will, Paul," said she, wiping her eyes.
"Always look attentively at that crucifix," said Paul, "and you need never grieve for any thing except sin. This is what Father Doyle used to say."
"O Paul, we have no father or mother now."
"Yes we have, Bridget—our Father in heaven, and the blessed virgin mother of God, our mother also," said the young preacher.
"How well the priest did not call as he said he would."
"May be he could not help it; he had to go far into the country, and the snow might stop him. You know he will find us out. The priest always visits the poorhouse in Ireland."
While this conversation was going on between the members of this poor orphan family, Paul acting the meritorious part of a comforter, (I say acting, for his own noble soul was almost crushed with grief, which he thought it better to disguise than to have his little charge rendered quite stupid and almost dead from crying and sobbing;) while this was the way Paul entertained his little charge, in another part of the poorhouse, in a well-furnished room, were seated around a table containing the "reliquiae" or remnants of a good dinner, five persons, engaged in earnest chat about the late importation of orphans.
"Really they are likely young 'uns, and no mistake," said Mr. Van Stingey, wiping his mouth with the corner of the tablecloth.
"Dear me!" said a lady who formed one of the council. "Charles, if you saw them, they are perfect beauties, you would say. The oldest boy is as noble-looking a lad as ever you did see—Roman nose, raven hair, delightfully-carved mouth, and lips, and eyes, and eyelashes quite indescribable, so beautiful are they. The little girl is a perfect Venus; while the two younger children, Patrick and Eugene, are as if they came from the chisel of Powers, or some renowned artist of antiquity."
"Why, my love," said Parson Burly, "you are quite classical in your description; whether or not it is a correct one, is another thing."
"I assure you, Mr. Burly," said Van Stingey, "that your lady has not described them beyond what is true. They are almighty fine young 'uns."
"I want you to adopt that eldest one, Mr. Burly," said the parson's wife, who was president of the council. "He would make such an elegant preacher, I am sure. You must also change the name of the second boy from Patrick, which is so Irish, to Ebenezer, Zerubabbel, or some Scripture name, or even classical one."
"Why, madam, I am beginning to get jealous, and to think you don't sufficiently admire my powers of oratory," said her husband.
"Well, my dear, putting aside jokes," she solemnly remarked, "you know how much we need Irish ministers to preach to the Irish amongst us, who are the best church attenders on earth, I believe. And it is notorious, that those whom we can take out from the ranks of Papacy while young become the greatest ornaments to our denomination. Witness Kirvoin, Maclown, Moffat, and several others."
"Well, well, my fair refuter," said the parson, who really feared his wife would rivet her affections on the young orphan if adopted; "you know it would never do to keep that little fellow with us. How old did you say he was—about fifteen? Well, fifteen or sixteen—ya—you recollect how that old priest acted last July, at the village of Scurvy? A little girl I sent out to Brother Prim this priest smelt and hunted out; and actually broke in the room door where she was confined, and took her off by physical force to a Roman Catholic orphan house. These priests are terrible fellows; and your young fancy orphan, Paul, would soon find out the priest, and have his grievance redressed. And what is worse, this priest got Americans—ay, members of my own church—to applaud his conduct, and defend him from prosecution! The Irish are getting so powerful in this country," said the parson, after a pause, "from their admirable union of purpose and the perfect organization of their church, that I dread their influence. In fact, 'you catch a Tartar' when you get one of them into your family. Ten to one, instead of converting this young Papist, he would convert our whole family to his own creed."
"O Burly," said the disappointed wife, "you are always a prophet of evils. I tell you, I must have that young lad, for I want him."
"You do? Cynthia, my dear," said the parson, "we cannot have the lad in our family. We dare not, without the consent of the trustees, who pay us our salary. Do you understand that, my fair disputant?" said he, triumphantly.
"Well, Burly, as soon as I recover the means my father willed me, I shall have that young man—already almost fully educated, as you can perceive—brought up for the church."
"O, then you can try it, madam," said the man in white neckcloth, in a sharp, sarcastic style; "but as for me, and I think my opinion is of some weight, I tell you much can never be made out of that shrewd boy." There was a solemn, ominous silence, for a moment, in the company. "Did you remark the sort of dignified and independent motions of the fellow," continued he, "when you had him here just now?"
"Fellow!" said his wife, looking at her husband, in anger. "Is that a proper term to apply to the child?"
"It is not an improper or inappropriate one, not more so than calling him 'child,'" said he. "I was just going to remark the coolness of his reply when you introduced my name as the parish clergyman. 'A Catholic clergyman, I hope, sir,' said he; 'as such, I am very glad to see you.' Did you observe how sad and demure he looked when told he was to be sent to school, where he could read the Bible, and become acquainted with the word of God?' O sir,' said he, 'much obliged to you; I have got a Bible already, and other good books of devotion, which we brought from home. I should be very glad to learn what is good,' said he; 'but I trust I have got my catechism well committed to memory; and having made my first communion and been confirmed, I was discharged from class, and appointed a Sunday school teacher, by our good priest, Father Doyle.' And on my telling him that he could be a teacher here of a better religion than that of his country, he shook his head, declining the honor of the post offered, and remarking that 'it was impossible to have a better religion than that which had God for its author—the Catholic religion.' With this bit he retired (ye all saw him, I need not repeat more) from our presence, a blush of mental triumph playing on his smooth cheek."
"Sartain there was such a feelin'," said an old gray-headed Yankee, who sat at the head of the table, and who was guardian of the establishment. "You can't do nothin' with these Papists," continued he. "I have seed the attempts made time and agin, but allers fail. The very children, only five years of age, of that ere religion, refuse to eat flesh on Friday, or to disobey such other darned ceremonies of their church as they are brought up to."