THE EMIGRANTS OF AHADARRA.
By William Carleton
CHAPTER I.—A strong Farmer's Establishment and Family.
It was one summer morning, about nine o'clock, when a little man, in the garb and trim of a mendicant, accompanied by a slender but rather handsome looking girl about sixteen, or it may be a year more, were upon their way to the house of a man, who, from his position in life, might be considered a wealthy agriculturist, and only a step or two beneath the condition of a gentleman farmer, although much more plain and rustic in his manners. The house and place had about them that characteristic appearance of abundance and slovenly neglect which is, unfortunately, almost peculiar to our country. The house was a long slated one, and stood upon a little eminence, about three or four hundred yards from the highway. It was approached by a broad and ragged boreen or mock avenue, as it might be called, that was in very good keeping with the premises to which it led. As you entered it from the road, you had to pass through an iron gate, which it was a task to open, and which, when opened, it was another task to shut. In consequence of this difficulty, foot passengers had made themselves a way upon each side of it, through which they went to and came from the house; and in this they were sanctioned by the example of the family themselves, who, so long as these side paths were passable, manifested as much reluctance to open or close the gate as any one else.
The month was May; and nothing could be more delightful and exhilarating than the breeze which played over the green fields that were now radiant with the light which was flooded down upon them from the cloudless sun. Around them, in every field, were the tokens of that pleasant labor from which the hopes of ample and abundant harvests always spring. Here, fixed in the ground, stood the spades of a boon* of laborers, who, as was evident from that circumstance, were then at breakfast; in another place might be seen the plough and a portion of the tackle lying beside it, being expressive of the same fact. Around them, on every side, in hedges, ditches, green fields, and meadows, the birds seemed animated into joyous activity or incessant battle, by the business of nest-building or love. Whilst all around, from earth and air, streamed the ceaseless voice of universal melody and song.
* A considerable number of men working together.
On reaching the gate, Peety Dhu and his pretty daughter turned up towards the house we have alluded to—which was the residence of a man named Burke. On reaching it they were observed by a couple of large dogs, who, partaking of the hospitable but neglected habits of the family, first approached and looked at them for a moment, then wagged their tails by way of welcome, and immediately scampered off into the kitchen to forage for themselves.
Burke's house and farmyard, though strongly indicative of wealth and abundance in the owner, were, notwithstanding, evidently the property of a man whose mind was far back in a knowledge of agriculture, and the industrial pursuits that depend upon it. His haggard was slovenly in the extreme, and his farmyard exceedingly offensive to most of the senses; everything lay about in a careless and neglected manner;—wheelbarrows without their trundles—sacks for days under the rain that fell from the eaves of the houses—other implements embedded in mud—car-houses tumbling down—the pump without a handle—the garden-gate open, and the pigs hard at work destroying the vegetables, and rooting up the garden in all directions. In fact, the very animals about the house were conscious of the character of the people, and acted accordingly. If one of the dogs, for instance, was hunted at the pigs, he ran in an apparent fury towards that which happened to be nearest him, which merely lifted its head and listened for a time—the dog, with loud and boisterous barking, seizing its ear, led it along for three or four yards in that position, after which, upon the pig demurring to proceed any further, he very quietly dropped it and trotted in again, leaving the destructive animal to resume its depredations.
The house inside bore the same character. Winter and summer the hall-door, which had long lost the knocker, lay hospitably open. The parlor had a very equivocal appearance; for the furniture, though originally good and of excellent materials, was stained and dinged and hacked in a manner that denoted but little sense of care or cleanliness. Many of the chairs, although not worn by age, wanted legs or backs, evidently from ill-usage alone—the grate was without fire-irons—a mahogany bookcase that stood in a recess to the right of the fireplace, with glass doors and green silk blinds, had the glass all broken and the silk stained almost out of its original color; whilst inside of it, instead of books, lay a heterogeneous collection of garden seeds in brown paper—an almanac of twenty years' standing, a dry ink-bottle, some broken delf, and a large collection of blue-moulded shoes and boots, together with an old blister of French flies, the lease of their farm, and a great number of their receipts for rent. To crown all, the clock in the other recess stood cobwebbed about the top, deprived of the minute hand, and seeming to intimate by its silence that it had given note of time's progress to this idle and negligent family to no purpose.
On the drawing-room stairs there lay what had once been a carpet, but so inseparable had been their connection that the stairs were now worn through it, and it required a sharp eye to distinguish such fragments of it as remained from the color of the dirty boards it covered and the dust that lay on both.
On entering the kitchen, Peety and his little girl found thirteen or fourteen, in family laborers and servants of both sexes, seated at a long deal table, each with a large wooden noggin of buttermilk and a spoon of suitable dimensions, digging as if for a wager into one or other of two immense wooden bowls of stirabout, so thick and firm in consistency that, as the phrase goes, a man might dance on it. This, however, was not the only picture of such enjoyment that the kitchen afforded. Over beside the dresser was turned upon one side the huge pot in which the morning meal had been made, and at the bottom of which, inside of course, a spirit of rivalry equally vigorous and animated, but by no means so harmonious, was kept up by two dogs and a couple of pigs, which were squabbling and whining and snarling among each other, whilst they tugged away at the scrapings, or residuum, that was left behind after the stirabout had been emptied out of it. The whole kitchen, in fact, had a strong and healthy smell of food—the dresser, a huge one, was covered with an immense quantity of pewter, wood, and delf; and it was only necessary to cast one's eye towards the chimney to perceive, by the weighty masses of black hung beef and the huge sides and flitches of deep yellow bacon which lined it, that plenty and abundance, even to overflowing, predominated in the family.
The "chimney-brace" projected far out over the fire-place towards the floor, and under it on each side stretched two long hobs or chimney corner seats, on which nearly a dozen persons could sit of a winter evening. Mrs. Burke, a smart, good-looking little woman, though somewhat advanced in years, kept passing in a kind of perpetual motion from one part of the house to the other, with a large bunch of bright keys jingling at one side, and a huge house-wife pocket, with a round pin-cushion dangling beside it, at the other. Jemmy Burke himself, a placid though solemn-faced man, was sitting on the hob in question complacently smoking his pipe, whilst over the glowing remnants of an immense turf fire hung a singing kettle, and beside it on three crushed coals was the teapot, "waitin'," as the servants were in the habit of expressing it, "for the masther and misthress's breakfast."
Peety, who was well known and a great favorite on his rounds, received a warm and hospitable welcome from Jemmy Burke, who made him and the girl sit upon the hob, and immediately ordered them breakfast.
"Here, Nancy Devlin, get Peety and the girsha their skinfuls of stirabout an' milk. Sit over to the fire, alanna, an' warm yourself."
"Warm, inagh!" replied Peety; "why, sure it's not a fire sich a blessed mornin' as this she'd want—an' a blessed mornin' it is, glory be to God!"
"Troth, an' you're right, sure enough, Peety," replied the good-natured farmer; "a blessed saison it is for gettin' down the crops. Go over there, now, you an' the girsha, to that other table, an'—whish!—kick them pigs an' dogs out o' the house, an' be d—d to them! One can't hear their ears for them—you an' the girsha, an' let us see what you can do. Nancy, achora, jist dash a gawliogue o' sweet milk into their noggins—they're not like us that's well fed every day—. it's but seldom they get the likes, the creatures—so dash in a brave gawliogue o' the sweet milk for them. Take your time, Peety,—aisy, alanna, 'till you get what I'm sayin; it'll nourish an put strinth in you."
"Ah, Misther Burke," replied Peety, in a tone of gratitude peculiar to his class, "you're the ould* man still—ever an' always the large heart an' lavish hand—an' so sign's on it—full an' plinty upon an' about you—an' may it ever be so wid you an' yours, a chierna, I pray. An how is the misthress, sir?"
* That is to say, the same man still.
"Throth, she's very well, Peety—has no raison to complain, thank God!"
"Thank God, indeed! and betther may she be, is my worst wish to her—an' Masther Hycy, sir?—but I needn't ax how he is. Isn't the whole country ringin' wid his praises;—the blessin' o' God an you, acushla"—this was to Nancy Devlin, on handing them the new milk—"draw over, darlin', nearer to the table—there now"—this to his daughter, whom he settled affectionately to her food. "Ay, indeed," he proceeded, "sure there's only the one word of it over the whole Barony we're sittin' in—that there's neither fetch nor fellow for him through the whole parish. Some people, indeed, say that Bryan M'Mahon comes near him; but only some, for it's given up to Masther Hycy all to pieces."
"Faix, an' I for one, although I'm his father—amn't I, Rosha?" he added, good-humoredly addressing his wife, who had just come into the kitchen from above stairs.
"Throth," said the wife, who never replied with good humor unless when addressed as Mrs. Burke, "you're ill off for something to speak about. How are you, Peety? an' how is your little girl?"
"In good health, ma'am, thank God an' you; an' very well employed at the present time, thanks to you still!"
To this Mrs. Burke made no reply; for it may be necessary to state here, that although she was not actually penurious or altogether without hospitality, and something that might occasionally be termed charity, still it is due to honest Jemmy to inform the reader in the outset, that, as Peety Dhu said, "the large heart and the lavish hand" were especially his own. Mrs. Burke was considered to have been handsome—indeed, a kind of rustic beauty in her day—and, like many of that class, she had not been without a due share of vanity, or perhaps we might say coquetry, if we were to speak the truth. Her teeth were good, and she had a very pretty dimple in one of her cheeks when she smiled, two circumstances which contributed strongly to sustain her good humor, and an unaccountable tendency to laughter, when the poverty of the jest was out of all proportion to the mirth that followed it. Notwithstanding this apparently light and agreeable spirit, she was both vulgar and arrogant, and labored under the weak and ridiculous ambition of being considered a woman of high pretensions, who had been most unfortunately thrown away, if not altogether lost, upon a husband whom she considered as every way unworthy of her. Her father had risen into the possession of some unexpected property when it was too late to bestow upon her a suitable education, and the consequence was that, in addition to natural vanity, on the score of beauty, she was a good deal troubled with purse-pride, which, with a foolish susceptibility of flattery, was a leading feature in her disposition. In addition to this, she was an inveterate and incurable slattern, though a gay and lively one; and we need scarcely say that whatever she did in the shape of benevolence or charity, in most instances owed its origin to the influences of the weaknesses she was known to possess.
Breakfast, at length, was over, and the laborers, with an odd hiccup here and there among them, from sheer repletion, got their hats and began to proceed towards the farm.
"Now, boys," said Jemmy, after dropping a spittle into his pipe, pressing it down with his little finger, and putting it into his waistcoat pocket, "see an' get them praties down as soon as you can, an' don't work as if you intended to keep your Christmas there; an' Paddy the Bounce, I'll thank you to keep your jokes an' your stories to yourself, an' not to be idlin' the rest till afther your work's done. Throth it was an unlucky day I had anything to do wid you, you divartin' vagabone—ha! ha! ha! When I hired him in the Micklemas fair," proceeded Jemmy, without addressing himself to any particular individual, "he killed me wid laughin' to such a degree, that I couldn't refuse the mehony whatsomever wages he axed; an' now he has the men, insteed o' mindin' their work, dancin' through the field, an' likely to split at the fun he tells them, ha! ha! ha! Be off, now, boys. Pettier Murphy, you randletree, let,the girl alone. That's it Peggy, lay on him; ha! devil's cure to you! take what you've got any way—you desarve it."
These latter observations were occasioned by a romping match that took place between a young laborer and a good-looking girl who was employed to drop potatoes for the men.
At length those who were engaged in the labor of the field departed in a cheerful group, and in a few minutes the noise of a horse's feet, evidently proceeding at a rapid trot, was heard coming up the boreen or avenue towards the house.
"Ay," exclaimed Burke, with a sigh, "there comes Hycy at a trot, an' the wondher is it's not a gallop. That's the way he'll get through life, I fear; an' if God doesn't change him he's more likely to gallop himself to the Staff an' Bag (* Beggary.) than to anything else I know. I can't nor I won't stand his extravagance—but it's his mother's fault, an' she'll see what it'll come to in the long run."
He had scarcely concluded when his son entered the kitchen, alternately singing and whistling the Foxhunter's jig in a manner that betokened exuberant if not boisterous spirits. He was dressed in top boots, a green riding-coat, yellow waistcoat, and drab cassimere small clothes—quite in jockey trim, in fact.
Hycy rather resembled his father in the lineaments of his face, and was, consequently, considered handsome. He was about the middle size, and remarkably well proportioned. In fact, it would be exceedingly difficult to find a young fellow of manlier bearing or more striking personal attractions. His features were regular, and his complexion fresh and youthful looking, and altogether there was in his countenance and whole appearance a cheerful, easy, generous, unreflecting dash of character that not only made him a favorite on first acquaintance, but won confidence by an openness of manner that completely disarmed suspicion. It might have been observed, however, that his laugh, like his mother's, never, or at least seldom, came directly from the heart, and that there was a hard expression about his otherwise well-formed mouth, such as rarely indicated generosity of feeling, or any acquaintance with the kinder impulses of our nature. He was his mother's pet and favorite, and her principal wish was that he should be looked upon and addressed as a gentleman, and for that purpose she encouraged him to associate with those only whose rank and position in life rendered any assumption of equality on his part equally arrogant and obtrusive. In his own family his bearing towards his parents was, in point of fact, the reverse of what it ought to have been. He not only treated his father with something bordering on contempt, but joined his mother in all that ignorant pride which kept her perpetually bewailing the fate by which she was doomed to become his wife. Nor did she herself come off better at his hands. Whilst he flattered her vanity, and turned her foibles to his own advantage, under the guise of a very dutiful affection, his deportment towards her was marked by an ironical respect, which was the more indefensible and unmanly because she could not see through it. The poor woman had taken up the opinion, that difficult and unintelligible language was one test of a gentleman; and her son by the use of such language, let no opportunity pass of confirming her in this opinion, and establishing his own claims to the character.
"Where did you ride to this mornin' Misther Hycy?"
"Down to take a look at Tom Burton's mare, Crazy Jane, ma'am:—
"'Away, my boys, to horse away, The Chase admits of no delay—'"
"Tom Burton!" re-echoed the father with a groan; "an so you're in Tom Burton's hands! A swindlin', horse-dalin' scoundrel that would chate St. Pether. Hycy, my man, if you go to look for wool to Tom you'll come home shorn."
"'Our vicar still preaches that Peter and Poule Laid a swinging long curse on the bonny brown bowl, That there's wrath and despair—"
Thank you, father—much obliged; you entertain a good opinion of me."
"Do I, faith? Don't be too sure of that."
"I've bought her at any rate," said Hycy—"thirty-five's the figure; but she's a dead bargain at fifty."
"Bought her!" exclaimed the father; "an' how, in God's name, do you expect to pay for her?"
"By an order on a very excellent, worthy man and gentleman-farmer—ycleped James Burke, Esquire—who has the honor of being father to that ornament of the barony, Hycy Burke, the accomplished. My worthy sire will fork out."
"If I do, that I may—"
"Silence, poor creature!" said his wife, clapping her hand upon his mouth—"make no rash or vulgar oaths. Surely, Misther Burke—"
"How often did I bid you not to misther me? Holy scrapers, am I to be misthered and pesthered this way, an' my name plane Jemmy Burke!"
"You see, Hycy, the vulgarian will come out," said his mother. "I say, Misther Burke, are you to see your son worse mounted at the Herringstown Hunt than any other gentleman among them? Have you no pride?
"No, thank God! barin' that I'm an honest man an' no gentleman; an', as for Hycy, Rosha—"
"Mrs. Burke, father, if you please," interposed Hycy; "remember who your wife is at all events."
"Faith, Hycy, she'll come better off if I forget that same; but I tell you that instead of bein' the laughin'-stock of the same Hunt, it's betune the stilts of a plough you ought to be, or out in the fields keepin' the men to their business."
"I paid three guineas earnest money, at all events," said the son; "but 'it matters not,' as the preacher says—
"'When I was at home I was merry and frisky, My dad kept a pig and my mother sold whiskey'—
Beg pardon, mother, no allusion—my word and honor none—to you I mean—
"'My uncle was rich, but would never be aisy Till I was enlisted by Corporal Casey.'
Fine times in the army, Mr. Burke, with every prospect of a speedy promotion. Mother, my stomach craves its matutinal supply—I'm in excellent condition for breakfast."
"It's ready. Jemmy, you'll—Misther Burke, I mane—you'll pay for Misther Hycy's mare."
"If I do—you'll live to see it, that's all. Give the boy his breakwhist."
"Thank you, worthy father—much obliged for your generosity—
"'Oh, love is the soul of a nate Irishman He loves all that's lovely, loves all that he can, With his sprig of—'
Ah, Peety Dhu, how are you, my worthy peripatetic? Why, this daughter of yours is getting quite a Hebe on our hands. Mrs. Burke, breakfast—breakfast, madam, as you love Hycy, the accomplished." So saying, Hycy the accomplished proceeded to the parlor we have described, followed by his maternal relative, as he often called his mother.
"Well, upon my word and honor, mother," said the aforesaid Hycy, who knew and played upon his mother's weak points, "it is a sad thing to see such a woman as you are, married to a man who has neither the spirit nor feelings of a gentleman—my word and honor it is."
"I feel that, Hycy, but there's no help for spilt milk; we must only make the best of a bad bargain. Are you coming to your breakfast," she shouted, calling to honest Jemmy, who still sat on the hob ruminating with a kind of placid vexation over his son's extravagance—"your tay's filled out!"
"There let it," he replied, "I'll have none of your plash to-day; I tuck my skinful of good stiff stirabout that's worth a shipload of it. Drink it yourselves—I'm no gintleman."
"Arrah, when did you find that out, Misther Burke?" she shouted back again.
"To his friends and acquaintances it is anything but a recent disco very," added Hycy; and each complimented the observation of the other with a hearty laugh, during which the object of it went out to the fields to join the men.
"I'm afraid it's no go, mother," proceeded the son, when breakfast was finished—"he won't stand it. Ah, if both my parents were of the same geometrical proportion, there would be little difficulty in this business; but upon my honor and reputation, my dear mother, I think between you and me that my father's a gross abstraction—a most substantial and ponderous apparition."
"An' didn't I know that an' say that too all along?" replied his mother, catching as much of the high English from him as she could manage: "however, lave the enumeration of the mare to me. It'll go hard or I'll get it out of him."
"It is done," he replied; "your stratagetic powers are great, my dear mother, consequently it is left in your hands."
Hycy, whilst in the kitchen, cast his eye several times upon the handsome young daughter of Peety Dhu, a circumstance to which we owe the instance of benevolent patronage now about to be recorded.
"Mother," he proceeds, "I think it would be a charity to rescue that interesting little girl of Peety Dhu's from a life of mendicancy."
"From a what?" she asked, staring at him.
"Why," he replied, now really anxious to make himself understood—"from the disgraceful line of life he's bringin' her up to. You should take her in and provide for her."
"When I do, Hycy," replied his mother, bridling, "it won't be a beggar's daughter nor a niece of Philip Hogan's—sorrow bit."
"As for her being a niece of Hogan's, you know it is by his mother's side; but wouldn't it be a feather in her cap to get under the protection of a highly respectable woman, though? The patronage of a person like you, Mrs. Burke, would be the making of her—my word and honor it would."
"Hem!—ahem!—do you think so, Hycy?"
"Tut, mother—that indeed!—can there be a doubt about it?"
"Well then, in that case, I think she may stay—that is, if the father will consent to it."
"Thank you, mother, for that example of protection and benevolence. I feel that all my virtues certainly proceed from your side of the house and are derived from yourself—there can be no doubt of that."
"Indeed I think so myself, Hycy, for where else would you get them? You have the M'Swiggin nose; an' it can't be from any one else you take your high notions. All you show of the gentleman, Hycy, it's not hard to name them you have it from, I believe."
"Spoken like a Sybil. Mother, within the whole range of my female acquaintances I don't know a woman that has in her so much of the gentleman as yourself—my word and honor, mother."
"Behave, Hycy—behave now," she replied, simpering; "however truth's truth, at any rate."
We need scarcely say that the poor mendicant was delighted at the notion of having his daughter placed in the family of so warm and independent a man as Jemmy Burke. Yet the poor little fellow did not separate from the girl without a strong manifestation of the affection he bore her. She was his only child—the humble but solitary flower that blossomed for him upon the desert of life.
"I lave her wid you," he said, addressing Mrs. Burke with tears in his eyes, "as the only treasure an' happiness I have in this world. She is the poor man's lamb, as I have hard read out of Scripture wanst; an' in lavin' her undher your care, I lave all my little hopes in this world wid her. I trust, ma'am, you'll guard her an' look afther her as if she was one of your own."
This unlucky allusion might have broken up the whole contemplated arrangement, had not Hycy stepped in to avert from Peety the offended pride of the patroness.
"I hope, Peety," he said, "that you are fully sensible of the honor Mrs. Burke does you and your daughter by taking the girl under her protection and patronage?"
"I am, God knows."
"And of the advantage it is to get her near so respectable a woman—so highly respectable a woman?"
"I am, in troth."
"And that it may be the making of your daughter's fortune?"
"It may, indeed, Masther Hycy."
"And that there's no other woman of high respectability in the parish capable of elevating her to the true principles of double and simple proportion?"
"No, in throth, sir, I don't think there is."
"Nor that can teach her the newest theories in dogmatic theology and metaphysics, together with the whole system of Algebraic Equations if the girl should require them?"
"Divil another woman in the barony can match her at them by all accounts," replied Peety, catching the earnest enthusiasm of Hycy's manner.
"That will do, Peety; you see yourself, mother," he added, taking her aside and speaking in a low voice, "that the little fellow knows right well the advantages of having her under your care and protection; and it's very much to his credit, and speaks very highly for his metempsychosis that he does so—hem!"
"He was always a daicent, sinsible, poor creature of his kind," replied his mother "besides, Hycy, between you and me, she'll be more than worth her bit."
"There now, Peety," said her son, turning towards the mendicant; "it's all settled—wait now for a minute till I write a couple of notes, which you must deliver for me."
Peety sat accordingly, and commenced to lay down for his daughter's guidance and conduct such instructions as he deemed suitable to the situation she was about to enter and the new duties that necessarily devolved upon her.
In due time Hycy appeared, and placing two letters in Peety's hands, said—"Go, Peety, to Gerald Cavanagh's, of Fenton's Farm, and if you can get an opportunity, slip that note into Kathleen's hands—this, mark, with the corner turned down—you won't forget that?"
"Very well—you're then to proceed to Tom M'Mahon's, and if you find Bryan, his son, there, give him this; and if he's at the mountain farm of Ahadarra, go to him. I don't expect an answer from Kathleen Cavanagh, but I do from Bryan M'Mahon; and mark me, Peety."
"I do, sir."
"Are you sure you do?"
"Silent as the grave then is the word in both cases—but if I ever hear—"
"That's enough, Masther Hycy; when the grave spakes about it so will I."
Peety took the letters and disappeared with an air rendered important by the trust reposed in him; whilst Mrs. Burke looked inquiringly at her son, as if her curiosity were a good deal excited.
"One of them is to Kate or Kathleen Cavanagh, as they call her," said Hycy, in reply to her looks; "and the other for Bryan M'Mahon, who is soft and generous—probatum est. I want to know if he'll stand for thirty-five—and as for Kate, I'm making love to her, you must know."
"Kathleen Cavanagh," replied his mother; "I'll never lend my privileges to sich match."
"Match!" exclaimed Hycy, coolly.
"Ah," she replied warmly; "match or marriage will never—"
"Marriage!" he repeated, "why, my most amiable maternal relative, do you mean to insinuate to Hycy the accomplished, that he is obliged to propose either match or marriage to every girl he makes love to? What a prosaic world you'd have of it, my dear Mrs. Burke. This, ma'am, is only an agreeable flirtation—not but that it's possible there may be something in the shape of a noose matrimonial dangling in the background. She combines, no doubt, in her unrivalled person, the qualities of Hebe, Venus, and Diana—Hebe in youth, Venus in beauty, and Diana in wisdom; so it's said, but I trust incorrectly, as respects one of them—good-bye, mother—try your influence as touching Crazy Jane, and report favorably—
"'Friend of my soul, this goblet sip, 'Twill chase the pensive tear. &c.'"
CHAPTER II.—Gerald Cavanagh and his Family
—Tom M'Mahon's return from Dublin.
The house of Gerald Cavanagh, though not so large as that of our kind-hearted friend, Jemmy Burke, was a good specimen of what an Irish farmer's residence ought to be. It was distant from Burke's somewhat better than two miles, and stood almost, immediately inside the highway, upon a sloping green that was vernal through the year. It was in the cottage style, in the form of a cross, with a roof ornamentally thatched, and was flanked at a little distance by the office-houses. The grass was always so close on this green, as to have rather the appearance of a well kept lawn. The thorn-trees stood in front of it, clipped in the shape of round tables, on one of which, exposed to all weathers, might be seen a pair of large churn-staves, bleached into a white, fresh color, that caused a person to long for the butter they made. On the other stood a large cage, in which was imprisoned a blackbird, whose extraordinary melody had become proverbial in the neighborhood. Down a little to the right of the hall-door, a pretty winding gravelled pathway led to a clear spring well that was overshadowed by a spreading white-thorn; and at each gable stood a graceful elder or mountain-ash, whose red berries during the autumn had a fine effect, and contrasted well with the mass of darker and larger trees, by which the back portion of the house and the offices was almost concealed. Both the house and green were in an elevated position, and commanded a delightful expanse of rich meadows to the extent of nearly one hundred acres, through which a placid river wound its easy way, like some contented spirit that glides calmly and happily through the gentle vicissitudes of an untroubled life.
As Peety Dhu, whilst passing from the residence of our friend Jemmy Burke to that of Gerald Cavanagh, considered himself in his vocation, the reader will not be surprised to hear that it was considerably past noon! when he arrived at Fenton's Farm; for by this name the property was known on a portion of which the Cavanaghs lived. It might be about the hours of two or three o'clock, when Peety, on arriving at the gate which led into Cavanagh's house, very fortunately saw his daughter Kathleen, in the act of feeding the blackbird aforementioned; and prudently deeming this the best opportunity of accomplishing his mission, he beckoned her to approach him. The good-natured girl did so: saying at the same time—"What is the matter, Peety?—do you want me? Won't you come into the kitchen?"
"Thank you, avourneen, but I can't; I did want you, but it was only to give you this letther. I suppose it will tell you all. Oh, thin, is it any wondher that you should get it, an' that half the parish should be dyin' in love wid you? for, in troth, it's enough to make an ould man feel young agin even to look at you. I was afraid they might see me givin' you the letther from the windy, and that's what made me sign to you to come to me here. Good-bye a colleen dhas (* Pretty girl.)—an' it's you that's that sure enough."
The features, neck, and bosom of the girl, on receiving this communication, were overspread with one general blush, and she stood, for a few moments, irresolute and confused. In the mean time Peety had passed on, and after a pause of a few minutes, she looked at the letter more attentively, and slowly broke it open. It was probably the first epistle she had ever received, and we need scarcely say that, as a natural consequence, she was by no means quick in deciphering written hand. Be this as it may, after having perused a few lines she started, looked at the bottom for the name, then at the letter again; and as her sister Hanna joined her, that brow on which a frown had been seldom ever seen to sit, was now crimson with indignation.
"Why, gracious goodness!" exclaims Hanna, "what is this, Kathleen? Something has vexed you!—ha! a love-letter, too! In airnest, what ails you? an' who is the letter from, if it's fair to ax?"
"The letter is not for me," replied Kathleen, putting it into her sister's hand, "but when you read it you won't wonder that I'm angry."
As Hanna began to go slowly through it, she first laughed, but on proceeding a little further her brow also reddened, and her whole features expressed deep and unequivocal resentment. Having concluded the perusal of this mysterious document, she, looked at her sister, who, in return, gazed upon her.
"Well, Kathleen, after all," said Hanna, "it's not worth while losing one's temper about it. Never think of it again; only to punish him, I'd advise you, the next time you see Peety, to send it back."
"You don't suppose, Hanna, that I intended to keep it; but indeed," she added, with a smile; "it is not worth while bein' angry about."
As the sisters stood beside each other, holding this short conversation, it would be difficult to find any two females more strikingly dissimilar both in figure, features, and complexion. Hanna was plain, but not disagreeable, especially when her face became animated with good humor. Her complexion, though not at all of a sickly hue, was of that middle tint which is neither pale nor sallow, but holds an equivocal position between both. Her hair was black, but dull, and without that peculiar gloss which accompanies either the very snowy skin of a fair beauty, or, at least, the rich brown hue of a brunette. Her figure was in no way remarkable, and she was rather under the middle size.
Her sister, however, was a girl who deserves at our hands a more accurate and lengthened description. Kathleen Cavanagh was considerably above the middle size, her figure, in fact, being of the tallest; but no earthly form could surpass it in symmetry, and that voluptuous fulness of outline, which, when associated with a modest and youthful style of beauty, is, of all others, the most fascinating and irresistible. The whiteness of her unrivalled skin, and the gloss of health which shone from it were almost dazzling. Her full bust, which literally glowed with light and warmth, was moulded with inimitable proportion, and the masses of rich brown hair that shaded her white and expansive forehead, added incredible attractions to a face that was remarkable not only for simple beauty in its finest sense, but that divine charm of ever-varying expression which draws its lights and shadows, and the thousand graces with which it is accompanied, directly from the heart. Her dark eyes were large and flashing, and reflected by the vivacity or melancholy which increased or over-shadowed their lustre, all those joys or sorrows, and various shades of feeling by which she was moved, whilst her mouth gave indication of extraordinary and entrancing sweetness, especially when she smiled.
Such was Kathleen Cavanagh, the qualities of whose mind were still superior to the advantages of her person. And yet she shone not forth at the first view, nor immediately dazzled the beholder by the brilliancy of her charms. She was unquestionably a tall, fine looking country girl, tastefully and appropriately dressed; but it was necessary to see her more than once, and to have an opportunity of examining her, time after time, to be able fully to appreciate the surprising character of her beauty, and the incredible variety of those changes which sustain its power and give it perpetual novelty to the heart and eye. It was, in fact, of that dangerous description which improves on inspection, and gradually develops itself upon the beholder, until he feels the full extent of its influence, and is sensible, perhaps, when too late, that he is its helpless and unresisting victim.
Around the two thorn-trees we have alluded to were built circular seats of the grassy turf, on which the two sisters, each engaged in knitting, now sat chatting and laughing with that unrestrained good humor and familiarity which gave unquestionable proof of the mutual confidence and affection that subsisted between them. Their natural tempers and dispositions were as dissimilar as their persons. Hanna was lively and mirthful, somewhat hasty, but placable, quick in her feelings of either joy or sorrow, and apparently not susceptible of deep or permanent impressions; whilst Kathleen, on the other hand, was serious, quiet, and placid—difficult to be provoked, of great sweetness of temper, with a tinge of melancholy that occasionally gave an irresistible charm to her voice and features, when conversing upon any subject that was calculated to touch the heart, or in which she felt deeply. Unlike her sister, she was resolute, firm, and almost immutable in her resolutions; but that was because her resolutions were seldom hasty or unadvised, but the result of a strong feeling of rectitude and great good sense. It is true she possessed high feelings of self-respect, together with an enthusiastic love for her religion, and a most earnest zeal for its advancement; indeed, so strongly did these predominate in her mind, that any act involving a personal slight towards herself, or indifference to her creed and its propagation, were looked upon by Kathleen as crimes for which there was no forgiveness. If she had any fellings, it was in these two points they lay. But at the same time, we are bound to say, that the courage and enthusiasm of Joan of Arc had been demanded of her by the state and condition of her country and her creed, she would have unquestionably sacrificed her life, if the sacrifice secured the prosperity of either.
Something of their difference of temperament might have been observed during their conversation, while sitting under the white thorn. Every now and then, for instance, Hanna would start up and commence a series of little flirtations with the blackbird, which she called her sweetheart, and again resume her chat and seat as before; or she would attempt to catch a butterfly as it fluttered about her, or sometimes give it pursuit over half the green, whilst Kathleen sat with laughing and delighted eyes, and a smile of unutterable sweetness on her lips, watching the success of this innocent frolic. In this situation we must now leave them, to follow Peety, who is on his way to deliver the other letter to Bryan M'Mahon.
Our little black Mercury was not long in arriving at the house of Tom M'Mahon, which he reached in company with that worthy man himself, whom he happened to overtake near Carriglass where he lived. M'Mahon seemed fatigued and travel-worn, and consequently was proceeding at a slow pace when Peety overtook him. The latter observed this.
"Why, thin, Tom," said he, after the first salutations had passed, "you look like a man that had jist put a tough journey over him."
"An' so I ought, Peety," he replied, "for I have put a tough journey over me."
"Musha where were you, thin, if it's fair to ax?" inquired Peety; "for as for me that hears everything almost, the never a word I heard o' this."
"I was in Dublin, thin, all the way," replied the farmer, "strivin' to get a renewal o' my laise from ould Squire Chevydale, the landlord; an' upon my snuggins, Peety, you may call a journey to Dublin an' home agin a tough one—devil a doubt of it. However, thank God, here we are at home; an' blessed be His name that we have a home to come to; for, afther all, what place is like it? Throth, Peety, my heart longed for these brave fields of ours—for the lough there below, and the wild hills above us; for it wasn't until I was away from them that I felt how strong the love of them was in my heart."
M'Mahon was an old but hale man, with a figure and aspect that were much above the common order even of the better class of peasants. There could be no mistaking the decent and composed spirit of integrity which was evident in his very manner; and there was something in his long flowing locks, now tinged with gray, as they rested upon his shoulders, that gave an air of singular respect to his whole appearance.
On uttering the last words he stood, and looking around him became so much affected that his eyes filled with tears. "Ay," said he, "thank God that we have our place to come to, an' that we will still have it to come to, and blessed be His name for all things! Come, Peety," he added, after a pause, "let us see how they all are inside; I'm longin' to see them, especially poor, dear Dora; an'—God bless me! here she is!—no, she ran back to tell them—but ay—oh, ay! here she is again, my darlin' girl, comin' to meet me."
He had scarcely uttered the words when an interesting, slender girl, about eighteen, blushing, and laughing, and crying, all at once, came flying towards him, and throwing her white arms about his neck, fell upon his bosom, kissed him, and wept with delight at his return.
"An' so, father dear, you're back to us! My gracious, we thought you'd never come home! Sure you worn't sick? We thought maybe that you took ill, or that—that—something happened you; and we wanted to send Bryan after you—but nothing happened you?—nor you worn't sick?"
"You affectionate, foolish darlin', no, I wasn't sick; nor nothing ill happened me, Dora."
"Oh, thank God! Look at them," she proceeded, directing his attention to the house, "look at them all crowdin' to the door—and here's Shibby, too, and Bryan himself—an' see my mother ready to lep out of herself wid pure joy—the Lord be praised that you're safe back!"
At this moment his second daughter ran to him, and a repetition of welcome similar to that which he received from Dora took place. His son Bryan grasped his hand, and said, whilst a tear stood even in his eye, that he was glad to see him safe home. The old man, in return, grasped his hand with an expression of deep feeling, and after having inquired if they had been all well in his absence, he proceeded with them to the house. Here the scene was still more interesting. Mrs. M'Mahon stood smiling at the door, but as he came near, she was obliged once or twice to wipe away the tears with the corner of her handkerchief. We have often observed how much fervid piety is mingled with the affections of the Irish people when in a state of excitement; and this meeting between the old man and his wife presented an additional proof of it.
"Blessed be God!" exclaimed his wife, tenderly embracing* him, "blessed be God, Tom darlin', that you're safe back to us! An' how are you, avourueen? an' wor you well ever since? an' there was nothin—musha, go out o' this, Ranger, you thief—oh, God forgive me! what am I sayin'? sure the poor dog is as glad as the best of us—arrah, thin, look at the affectionate crathur, a'most beside himself! Dora, avillish, give him the could stirabout that's in the skillet, jist for his affection, the crathur. Here, Ranger—Ranger, I say—oh no, sorra one's in the house now but yourself, Tom. Well, an' there was nothing wrong wid you?"
"Nothin', Nancy, thanks be to the Almighty—down, poor fellow—there now, Ranger—och, behave, you foolish dog—musha, see this!"
"Throth, Tom," continued his loving wife, "let what will happen, it's the last journey ever we'll let you take from us. Ever an' ever, there we wor thinkin' an' thinkin' a thousand things about you. At one time that something happened you; then that you fell sick an' had none but strangers about you. Throth we won't; let what will happen, you must stay wid vis."
"Indeed an' I never knew how I loved the place, an' you all, till I went; but, thank God, I hope it's the last journey ever I'll have to take from either you or it."
"Shibby, run down to—or do you, Dora, go, you're the souplest—to Paddy Mullen's and Jemmy Kelly's, and the rest of the neighbors, an' tell them to come up, that your father's home. Run now, acushla, an' if you fall don't wait to rise; an' Shibby, darlin', do you whang down a lot o' that bacon into rashers, 'your father must be at death's door wid hunger; but wasn't it well that I thought of having the whiskey in, for you see afther Thursday last we didn't know what minute you'd dhrop in on us, Tom, an' I said it was best to be prepared. Give Peety a chair, the crature; come forrid, Peety, an' take a sate; an' how are you? an' how is the girsha wid you, an' where is she?"
To these questions, thus rapidly put, Peety returned suitable answers; but indeed Mrs. M'Mahon did not wait to listen to them, having gone to another room to produce the whisky she had provided for the occasion.
"Here," she said, reappearing with a huge bottle in one hand and a glass in the other, "a sip o' the right sort will help you afther your long journey; you must be tired, be coorse, so take this."
"Aisy, Bridget," exclaimed her husband, "don't fill it; you'll make me hearty." (* tipsy)
"Throth an' I will fill it," she replied, "ay, an' put a heap on it. There now, finish that bumper."
The old man, with a smiling and happy face, received the glass, and taking his wife's hand in his, looked at her, and then upon them all, with an expression of deep emotion. "Bridget, your health; childre', all your healths; and here's to Carriglasa, an' may we long live happy in it, as we will, plase God! Peety, not forgettin' you!"
We need hardly say that the glass went round, nor that Peety was not omitted in the hospitality any more than in the toast.
"Here, Bryan," said Mrs. M'Mahon, "lay that bottle on the dresser, it's not worth while puttin' it past till the neighbors comes up; an' it's they that'll be the glad neighbors to see you safe back agin, Tom."
In this she spoke truth. Honest and hearty was the welcome he received from them, as with sparkling eyes and a warm grasp they greeted him on his return. Not only had Paddy Mullin and Jemmy Kelly run up in haste—the latter, who had been digging in his garden, without waiting to put on his hat or coat—but other families in the neighborhood, young and old, crowded in to welcome him home—-from Dublin—for in that lay the principal charm. The bottle was again produced, and a holiday spirit now prevailed among them. Questions upon questions were put to him with reference to the wonders they had heard of the great metropolis—of the murders and robberies committed upon travellers—the kidnapping of strangers from the country—the Lord Lieutenant's Castle, with three hundred and sixty-four windows in it, and all the extraordinary sights and prodigies which it is supposed to contain. In a few minutes after this friendly accession to their numbers had taken place, a youth entered about nineteen years of age—handsome, tall, and well-made—in fact, such a stripling as gave undeniable promise of becoming a fine, powerful young man. On being handed a glass of whiskey he shook hands with M'Mahon, welcomed him home, and then drank all their healths by name until he came to that of Dora, when he paused, and, coloring, merely nodded towards her. We cannot undertake to account for this omission, nor do more than record what actually happened. Neither do we know why Dora blushed so deeply as she did, nor why the sparkling and rapid glance which she gave him in return occasioned him to look down with an appearance of confusion and pain. That some understanding subsisted between young Cavanagh—for he was Gerald's son—and Dora might have been evident to a close observer; but in truth there was at that moment no such thing as a close observer among them, every eye being fixed with impatience and curiosity upon Tom M'Mahon, who had now most of the conversation to himself, little else being left to the share of his auditors than the interjectional phrases and exclamations of wonder at his extraordinary account of Dublin.
"But, father," said Bryan, "about the business that brought you there? Did you get the Renewal?"
"I got as good," replied the simple-hearted old man, "an' that was the, word of a gintleman—an' sure they say that that's the best security in the world."
"Well, but how was it?" they exclaimed, "an' how did it happen that you didn't get the Lease itself?"
"Why, you see," he proceeded in reply, "the poor gintleman was near his end—an' it was owin' to Pat Corrigan that I seen him at all—for Pat, you know, is his own man. When I went in to where he sat I found Mr. Fethertonge the agent wid him: he had a night-cap on, an' was sittin' in a big armchair, wid one of his feet an' a leg swaythed wid flannel. I thought he was goin' to write or sign papers. 'Well, M'Mahon,' says he—for he was always as keen as a briar, an' knew me at once—'what do you want? an' what has brought you from the country?' I then spoke to him about the new lease; an' he said to Fethertonge, 'prepare M'Mahon's lease, Fothertonge;—you shall have a new lease, M'Mahon. You are an honest man, and your family have been so for many a long year upon our property. As my health is unsartin,' he said, turning to Mr. Fethertonge, 'I take Mr. Fethertonge here to witness, that in case anything should happen me I give you my promise for a renewal—an' not only in my name alone, but in my son's; an' I now lave it upon him to fulfil my intentions an' my words, if I should not live to see it done myself. Mr. Fethertonge here has brought me papers to sign, but I am not able to hould a pen, or if I was I'd give you a written promise; but you have my solemn word, I fear my dyin' word, in Mr. Fethertonge's presence—that you shall have a lease of your farm at the ould rint. It is such tenants as you we want, M'Mahon, an' that we ought to encourage on our property. Fethertonge, do you in the mane time see that a lease is prepared for M'Mahon; an' see, at all events, that my wishes shall be carried into effect.' Sich was his last words to me, but he was a corpse on the next day but one afterwards."
"It's jist as good," they exclaimed with one voice; "for what is betther, or what can be betther than the word of an Irish gentleman?"
"What ought to be betther, at all events?" said Bryan. "Well, father, so far everything is right, for there is no doubt but his son will fulfil his words—Mr. Fethertonge himself isn't the thing; but I don't see why he should be our enemy. We always stood well with the ould man, an' I hope will with the son. Come, mother, move the bottle again—there's another round in it still; an' as everything looks so well and our mind is aisy, we'll see it to the bottom."
The conversation was again resumed, questions were once more asked concerning the sights and sounds of Dublin, of which one would imagine they could scarcely ever hear enough, until the evening was tolerably far advanced, when the neighbors withdrew to their respective homes, and left M'Mahon and his family altogether to themselves.
Peety, now that the joy and gratulation for the return of their father had somewhat subsided, lost no time in delivering Hycy Burke's communication into the hands of Bryan. The latter, on opening it, started with surprise not inferior to that with which Kathleen Cavanagh had perused the missive addressed to her. Nor was this all. The letter received by Bryan, as if the matter had been actually designed by the writer, produced the selfsame symptoms of deep resentment upon him that the mild and gentle Kathleen Cavanagh experienced on the perusal of her own. His face became flushed and his eye blazed with indignation as he went through its contents; after which he once more looked at the superscription, and notwithstanding the vehement passion into which it had thrown him, he was ultimately obliged to laugh.
"Peety," said he, resuming his gravity, "you carried a letter from Hycy Burke to Kathleen Cavanagh to-day?"
"Who says that?" replied Peety, who could not but remember the solemnity of his promise to that accomplished gentleman.
"I do, Peety."
"Well, I can't help you, Bryan, nor prevent you from thinking so, sure—stick to that."
"Why, I know you did, Peety."
"Well, acushla, an' if you do, your only so much the wiser."
"Oh, I understand," continued Bryan, "it's a private affair, or intended to be so—an' Mr. Hycy has made you promise not to spake of it."
"Sure you know all about it, Bryan; an' isn't that enough for you? Only what answer am I to give him?"
"None at present, Peety; but say I'll see himself in a day or two."
"That's your answer, then?"
"That's all the answer I can give till I see himself, as I said."
"Well, good-bye, Bryan, an' God be wid you!"
"Good-bye, Peety!" and thus they parted.
CHAPTER III.—Jemmy Burke Refuses to be, Made a Fool Of
—Hycy and a Confidant
Hycy Burke was one of those persons who, under the appearance of a somewhat ardent temperament, are capable of abiding the issue of an event with more than ordinary patience. Having not the slightest suspicion of the circumstance which occasioned Bryan M'Mahon's resentment, he waited for a day of two under the expectation that his friend was providing the sum necessary to accommodate him. The third and fourth days passed, however, without his having received any reply whatsoever; and Hycy, who had set his heart upon Crazy Jane, on finding that his father—who possessed as much firmness as he did of generosity—absolutely refused to pay for her, resolved to lose no more time in putting Bryan's friendship to the test. To this, indeed, he was urged by Burton, a wealthy but knavish country horse-dealer, as we said, who wrote to him that unless he paid for her within a given period, he must be under the necessity of closing with a person who had offered him a higher price. This message was very offensive to Hycy, whose great foible, as the reader knows, was to be considered a gentleman, not merely in appearance, but in means and circumstances. He consequently had come to the determination of writing again to M'Mahon upon the same subject, when chance brought them together in the market of Ballymacan.
After the usual preliminary inquiries as to health, Hycy opened the matter:—
"I asked you to lend me five-and-thirty pounds to secure Crazy Jane," said he, "and you didn't even answer my letter. I admit I'm pretty deeply in your debt, as it is, my dear Bryan, but you know I'm safe."
"I'm not at this moment thinking much of money matters, Hycy; but, as you like plain speaking, I tell you candidly that I'll lend you no money."
Hycy's manner changed all at once; he looked at M'Mahon for nearly a minute, and said in quite a different tone—
"What is the cause of this coldness, Bryan? Have I offended you?"
"Not knowingly—but you have offended me; an' that's all I'll say about it."
"I'm not aware of it," replied the other—-"my word and honor I'm not."
Bryan felt himself in a position of peculiar difficulty; he could not openly quarrel with Hycy, unless he made up his mind to disclose the grounds of the dispute, which, as matters then stood between him and Kathleen Cavanagh, to whom he had not actually declared his affection, would have been an act of great presumption on his part.
"Good-bye, Hycy," said he; "I have tould you my mind, and now I've done with it."
"With all my heart!" said the other—"that's a matter of taste on your part. You're offended, you say; yet you choose to put the offence in your pocket. It's all right, I suppose—but you know best. Good-bye to you, at all events," he added; "be a good boy and take care of yourself."
M'Mahon nodded with good-humored contempt in return, but spoke not.
"By all that deserves an oath," exclaimed Hycy, looking bitterly after him, "if I should live to the day of judgment I'll never forgive you your insulting conduct this day—and that I'll soon make you feel to your cost!"
This misunderstanding between the two friends caused Hycy to feel much mortification and disappointment. After leaving M'Mahon, he went through the market evidently with some particular purpose in view, if one could judge from his manner. He first proceeded to the turf-market, and looked with searching eye among those who stood waiting to dispose of their loads. From this locality he turned his steps successively to other parts of the town, still looking keenly about him as he went along. At length he seemed disappointed or indifferent, it was difficult to say which, and stood coiling the lash of his whip in the dust, sometimes quite unconsciously, and sometimes as if a wager depended on the success with which he did it—when, on looking down the street, he observed a little broad, squat man, with a fiery red head, a face almost scaly with freckles, wide projecting cheek-bones, and a nose so thoroughly of the saddle species, that a rule laid across the base of it, immediately between the eyes, would lie close to the whole front of his face. In addition to these personal accomplishments, he had a pair of strong bow legs, terminating in two broad, flat feet, in complete keeping with his whole figure, which, though not remarkable for symmetry, was nevertheless indicative of great and extraordinary strength. He wore neither stockings nor cravat of any kind, but had a pair of strong clouted brogues upon his feet; thus disclosing to the spectator two legs and a breast that were covered over with a fell of red close hair that might have been long and strong enough for a badger. He carried in his hand a short whip, resembling a carrot in shape, and evidently of such a description as no man that had any regard for his health would wish to come in contact with, especially from the hand of such a double-jointed but misshapen Hercules as bore it.
"Ted, how goes it, my man?"
"Ghe dhe shin dirthu, a dinaousal?" replied Ted, surveying him with a stare.
"D—n you!" was about to proceed from Hycy's lips when he perceived that a very active magistrate, named Jennings, stood within hearing. The latter passed on, however, and Hycy proceeded:—"I was about to abuse you, Ted, for coming out with your Irish to me," he said, "until I saw Jennings, and then I had you."
"Throgs, din, Meeisther Hycy, I don't like the Bairlha (* English tongue)—'caise I can't sphake her properly, at all, at all. Come you 'out wid the Gailick fwhor me, i' you plaise, Meeisther Hycy."
"D—n your Gaelic!" replied Hycy—"no, I won't—I don't speak it."
"The Laud forget you for that!" replied Ted, with a grin; "my ould grandmudher might larn it from you—hach, ach, ha!"
"None of your d—d impertinence, Ted. I want to speak to you."
"Fwhat would her be?" asked Ted, with a face in which there might be read such a compound of cunning, vacuity, and ferocity as could rarely be witnessed in the same countenance.
"Can you come down to me to-night?"
"No; I'll be busy."
"Where are you at work now?"
"In Glendearg, above."
"Well, then, if you can't come to me, I must only go to you. Will you be there tonight? I wish to speak to you on very particular business."
"Shiss; you will, dhin, wanst more?" asked the other, significantly.
"I think so."
"Shiss—ay—vary good. Fwen will she come?"
"About eleven or twelve; so don't be from about the place anywhere."
"Shiss—-dhin—vary good. Is dhat all?"
"That's all now. Are your turf dry or wet* to-day?"
* One method of selling Poteen is by bringing in kishes of turf to the neighboring markets, when those who are up to the secret purchase the turf, or pretend to do so; and while in the act of discharging the load, the Keg of Poteen is quickly passed into the house of him who purchases the turf.—Are your turf wet or dry? was, consequently, a pass- word.
"Not vary dhry," replied Ted, with a grin so wide that, as was humorously said by a neighbor of his, "it would take a telescope to enable a man to see from the one end of it to the other."
Hycy nodded and laughed, and Ted, cracking his whip, proceeded up the town to sell his turf.
Hycy now sauntered about through the market, chatting here and there among acquaintances, with the air of a man to whom neither life nor anything connected with it could occasion any earthly trouble. Indeed, it mattered little what he felt, his easiness of manner was such that not one of his acquaintances could for a moment impute to him the possibility of ever being weighed down by trouble or care of any kind; and lest his natural elasticity of spirits might fail to sustain this perpetual buoyancy, he by no means neglected to fortify himself with artificial support. Meet him when or where you might, be it at six in the morning or twelve at night, you were certain to catch from his breath the smell of liquor, either in its naked simplicity or disguised and modified in some shape.
His ride home, though a rapid, was by no means a pleasing one. M'Mahon had not only refused to lend him the money he stood in need of, but actually quarrelled with him, as far as he could judge, for no other purpose but that he might make the quarrel a plea for refusing him. This disappointment, to a person of Hycy's disposition, was, we have seen, bitterly vexatious, and it may be presumed that he reached home in anything but an agreeable humor. Having dismounted, he was about to enter the hall-door, when his attention was directed towards that of the kitchen by a rather loud hammering, and on turning his eyes to the spot he found two or three tinkers very busily engaged in soldering, clasping, and otherwise repairing certain vessels belonging to that warm and spacious establishment. The leader of these vagrants was a man named Philip Hogan, a fellow of surprising strength and desperate character, whose feats of hardihood and daring had given him a fearful notoriety over a large district of the country. Hogan was a man whom almost every one feared, being, from confidence, we presume, in his great strength, as well as by nature, both insolent, overbearing, and ruffianly in the extreme. His inseparable and appropriate companion was a fierce and powerful bull-dog of the old Irish breed, which he had so admirably trained that it was only necessary to give him a sign, and he would seize by the throat either man or beast, merely in compliance with the will of his master. On this occasion he was accompanied by two of his brothers, who were, in fact, nearly as impudent and offensive ruffians as himself. Hycy paused for a moment, seemed thoughtful, and tapped his boot with the point of his whip as he looked at them. On entering the parlor he found dinner over, and his father, as was usual, waiting to get his tumbler of punch.
"Where's my mother?" he asked—"where's Mrs. Burke?"
On uttering the last words he raised his voice so as she might distinctly hear him.
"She's above stairs gettin' the whiskey," replied his father, "and God knows she's long enough about it."
Hycy ran up, and meeting her on the lobby, said, in a low, anxious voice—
"Well, what news? Will he stand it?"
"No," she replied, "you may give up the notion—he won't do it, an' there's no use in axin' him any more."
"He won't do it!" repeated the son; "are you certain now?"
"Sure an' sartin. I done all that could be done; but it's worse an' worse he got."
Something escaped Hycy in the shape of an ejaculation, of which we are not in possession at present; he immediately added:—
"Well, never mind. Heavens! how I pity you, ma'am—to be united to such a d—d—hem!—to such a—a—such a—gentleman!"
Mrs. Burke raised her hands as if to intimate that it was useless to indulge in any compassion of the kind.
"The thing's now past cure," she said; "I'm a marthyr, an' that's all that's about it. Come down till I get you your dinner."
Hycy took his seat in the parlor, and began to give a stave of the "Bay of Biscay:"—
"'Loud roar'd the dreadful thunder, The rain a deluge pours; The clouds were rent asunder By light'ning's vivid—'
By the way, mother, what are those robbing ruffians, the Hogans, doing at the kitchen door there?"
"Troth, whatever they like," she replied. "I tould that vagabond, Philip, that I had nothing for them to do, an' says he, 'I'm the best judge of that, Rosha Burke.' An, with that he walks into the kitchen, an' takes everything that he seen a flaw in, an' there he and them sat a mendin' an' sotherin' an' hammerin' away at them, without ever sayin' 'by your lave.'"
"It's perfectly well known that they're robbers," said Hycy, "and the general opinion is that they're in connection with a Dublin gang, who are in this part of the country at present. However, I'll speak to the ruffians about such conduct."
He then left the parlor, and proceeding to the farmyard, made a signal to one of the Hogans, who went down hammer in hand to where he stood. During a period of ten minutes, he and Hycy remained in conversation, but of what character it was, whether friendly or otherwise, the distance at which they stood rendered it impossible for any one to ascertain. Hycy then returned to dinner, whilst his father in the meantime sat smoking his pipe, and sipping from time to time at his tumbler of punch. Mrs. Burke, herself, occupied an arm-chair to the left of the fire, engaged at a stocking which was one of a pair that she contrived to knit for her husband during every twelve months; and on the score of which she pleaded strong claims to a character of most exemplary and indefatigable industry.
"Any news from the market, Hycy?" said his father.
"Yes," replied Hycy, in that dry ironical tone which he always used to his parents—"rather interesting—Ballymacan is in the old place."
"Bekaise," replied his father, with more quickness than might be expected, as he whiffed away the smoke with a face of very sarcastic humor; "I hard it had gone up a bit towards the mountains—but I knew you wor the boy could tell me whether it had or not—ha!—ha!—ha!"
This rejoinder, in addition to the intelligence Hycy had just received from his mother, was not calculated to improve his temper. "You may laugh," he replied; "but if your respectable father had treated you in a spirit so stingy and beggarly as that which I experience at your hands, I don't know how you might have borne it."
"My father!" replied Burke; "take your time, Hycy—my hand to you, he had a different son to manage from what I have."
"God sees that's truth," exclaimed his wife, turning the expression to her son's account.
"I was no gentleman, Hycy," Burke proceeded.
"Ah, is it possible?" said the son, with a sneer. "Are you sure of that, now?"
"Nor no spendthrift, Hycy."
"No," said the wife, "you never had the spirit; you were ever and always a molshy." (* A womanly, contemptible fellow)
"An' yet molshy as I was," he replied, "you wor glad to catch me. But Hycy, my good boy, I didn't cost my father at the rate of from a hundre'-an'-fifty to two-hundre'-a-year, an' get myself laughed at and snubbed by my superiors, for forcin' myself into their company."
"Can't you let the boy ait his dinner in peace, at any rate?" said his mother. "Upon my credit I wouldn't be surprised if you drove him away from us altogether."
"I only want to drive him into common sense, and the respectful feeling he ought to show to both you an' me, Rosha," said Burke; "if he expects to have either luck or grace, or the blessing of God upon him, he'll change his coorses, an' not keep breakin' my heart as he's doin'."
"Will you pay for the mare I bought, father?" asked Hycy, very seriously. "I have already told you, that I paid three guineas earnest; I hope you will regard your name and family so far as to prevent me from breaking my word—besides leading the world to suppose that you are a poor man."
"Regard my name and family!" returned the father, with a look of bitterness and sorrow; "who is bringin' them into disgrace, Hycy?"
"In the meantime," replied the son, "I have asked a plain question, Mr. Burke, and I expect a plain answer; will you pay for the mare?"
"An' supposin' I don't?"
"Why, then, Mr. Burke, if you don't you won't, that's all."
"I must stop some time," replied his father, "an' that is now. I wont pay for her."
"Well then, sir, I shall feel obliged, as your respectable wife has just said, if you will allow me to eat, and if possible, live in peace."
"I'm speakin' only for your—"
"That will do now—hush—silence if you please."
"Hycy dear," said the mother; "why would you ax him another question about it? Drop the thing altogether."
"I will, mother, but I pity you; in the meantime, I thank you, ma'am, of your advice."
"Hycy," she continued, with a view of changing the conversation; "did you hear that Tom M'Bride's dead?"
"No ma'am, but I expected it; when did he die?"
Before his father could reply, a fumbling was heard at the hall-door; and, the next moment, Hogan, thrust in his huge head and shoulders began to examine the lock by attempting to turn the key in it.
"Hogan, what are you about?" asked Hycy.
"I beg your pardon," replied the ruffian; "I only wished to know if the lock wanted mendin'—that was all, Misther Hycy."
"Begone, sirra," said the other; "how dare you have the presumption to take such a liberty? you impudent scoundrel! Mother, you had better pay them," he added; "give the vagabonds anything they ask, to get rid of them."
Having dined, her worthy son mixed a tumbler of punch, and while drinking it, he amused himself, as was his custom, by singing snatches of various songs, and drumming with his fingers upon the table; whilst every now and then he could hear the tones of his mother's voice in high altercation with Hogan and his brothers. This, however, after a time, ceased, and she returned to the parlor a good deal chafed by the dispute.
"There's one thing I wonder at," she observed, "that of all men in the neighborhood, Gerald Cavanagh would allow sich vagabonds as they an Kate Hogan is, to put in his kiln. Troth, Hycy," she added, speaking to him in a warning and significant tone of voice, "if there wasn't something low an' mane in him, he wouldn't do it."
"'Tis when the cup is smiling before us. And we pledge unto our hearts—'
"Your health, mother. Mr. Burke, here's to you! Why I dare say you are right, Mrs. Burke. The Cavanagh family is but an upstart one at best; it wants antiquity, ma'am—a mere affair of yesterday, so what after all could you expect from it?"
Honest Jemmy looked at him and then groaned. "An upstart family!—that'll do—oh, murdher—well, 'tis respectable at all events; however, as to havin' the Hogans about them—they wor always about them; it was the same in their father's time. I remember ould Laghlin Hogan, an' his whole clanjamfrey, men an' women, young an' old, wor near six months out o' the year about ould Gerald Cavanagh's—the present man's father; and another thing you may build upon—that whoever ud chance to speak a hard word against one o' the Cavanagh family, before Philip Hogan or any of his brothers, would stand a strong chance of a shirtful o' sore bones. Besides, we all know how Philip's father saved Mrs. Cavanagh's life about nine or ten months after her marriage. At any rate, whatever bad qualities the vagabonds have, want of gratitude isn't among them."
"'———That are true, boys, true, The sky of this life opens o'er us, And heaven—'
M'Bride, ma'am, will be a severe loss to his family."
"Throth he will, and a sarious loss—for among ourselves, there was none o' them like him."
"'Gives a glance of its blue—'
"I think I ought to go to the wake to-night. I know it's a bit of a descent on my part, but still it is scarcely more than is due to a decent neighbor. Yes, I shall go; it is determined on."
"'I ga'ed a waefu' gate yestreen, A gate I fear I'll dearly rue; I gat my death frae twa sweet een, Twa lovely een o' bonnie blue.'
"Mine are brown, Mrs. Burke—the eyes you wot of; but alas! the family is an upstart one, and that is strongly against the Protestant interest in the case. Heigho!"
Jemmy Burke, having finished his after-dinner pipe and his daily tumbler both together, went out to his men; and Hycy, with whom he had left the drinking materials, after having taken a tumbler or two, put on a strong pair of boots, and changed the rest of his dress for a coarser 'suit, bade his mother a polite good-bye, and informed her, that as he intended to be present at M'Bride's wake he would most probably not return until near morning.
CHAPTER IV.—A Poteen Still-House at Midnight—Its Inmates.
About three miles in a south-western direction from Burke's residence, the country was bounded by a range of high hills and mountains of a very rugged and wild, but picturesque description. Although a portion of the same landscape, yet nothing could be more strikingly distinct in character than the position of the brown wild hills, as contrasted with that of the mountains from which they abutted. The latter ran in long and lofty ranges that were marked by a majestic and sublime simplicity, whilst the hills were of all shapes and sizes, and seemed as if cast about at random. As a matter of course the glens and valleys that divided them ran in every possible direction, sometimes crossing and intersecting each other at right angles, and sometimes running parallel, or twisting away in opposite directions. In one of those glens that lay nearest the mountains, or rather indeed among them, was a spot which from its peculiar position would appear to have been designed from the very beginning as a perfect paradise for the illicit distiller. It was a kind of back chamber in the mountains, that might, in fact, have escaped observation altogether, as it often did. The approach to it was by a long precipitous glen, that could be entered only at its lower end, and seemed to terminate against the abrupt side of the mountain, like a cul de sac. At the very extremity, however, of this termination, and a little on the right-hand side, there was a steep, narrow pass leading into a recess which was completely encompassed by precipices. From this there was only one means of escape independently of the gut through which it was entered. The moors on the side most approachable were level, and on a line to the eye with that portion of the mountains which bounded it on the opposite side, so that as one looked forward the space appeared to be perfectly continuous, and consequently no person could suspect that there lay so deep and precipitous a glen between them.
In the northern corner of this remarkable locality, a deep cave, having every necessary property as a place for private distillation, ran under the rocks, which met over it in a kind of gothic arch. A stream of water just sufficient for the requisite purposes, fell in through a fissure from above, forming such a little subterraneous cascade in the cavern as human design itself could scarcely have surpassed in felicity of adaptation to the objects of an illicit distiller.
To this cave, then, we must take the liberty of transporting our readers, in order to give them an opportunity of getting a peep at the inside of a Poteen Still-house, and of hearing a portion of conversation, which, although not remarkable for either elegance or edification, we are, nevertheless, obliged to detail, as being in some degree necessary to the elucidation of our narrative. Up in that end which constituted the termination of the cave, and fixed upon a large turf fire which burned within a circle of stones that supported it, was a tolerably-sized Still, made of block-tin. The mouth of this Still was closed by an air-tight cover, also of tin, called the Head, from which a tube of the same metal projected into a large keeve, or condenser, that was kept always filled with cool water by an incessant stream from the cascade we have described, which always ran into and overflowed it. The arm of this head was fitted and made air-tight, also, into a spiral tube of copper, called the Worm, which rested in the water of the cooler; and as it consisted of several convolutions, like a cork-screw, its office was to condense the hot vapor which was transmitted to it from the glowing Still into that description of spirits known as poteen. At the bottom of this cooler, the Worm terminated in a small cock or spigot, from which the spirits projected in a slender stream, about the thickness of a quill, into a vessel placed for its reception. Such was the position of the Still, Head, and Worm, when in full operation. Fixed about the cave, upon rude stone stillions, were the usual vessels requisite for the various processes through which it was necessary to put the malt, before the wort, which is its first liquid shape, was fermented, cleared off, and thrown into the Still to be singled; for our readers must know that distillation is a double process, the first product being called singlings, and the second or last, doublings—which is the perfect liquor. Sacks of malt, empty vessels, piles of turf, heaps of grains, tubs of wash, and kegs of whiskey, were lying about in all directions, together with pots, pans, wooden trenchers, and dishes, for culinary uses. The seats were round stones and black bosses which were made of a light hard moss found in the mountains and bogs, and frequently used as seats in rustic chimney corners. On entering, your nose was assailed by such a mingled stench of warm grains, sour barm, putrid potato skins, and strong whiskey, as required considerable fortitude to bear without very unequivocal tokens of disgust.
The persons assembled were in every way worthy of the place and its dependencies. Seated fronting the fire was our friend Teddy Phats, which was the only name he was ever known by, his wild, beetle brows lit into a red, frightful glare of savage mirth that seemed incapable, in its highest glee, to disengage itself entirely from an expression of the man's unquenchable ferocity. Opposite to him sat a tall, smut-faced, truculent-looking young fellow, with two piercing eyes and a pair of grim brows, which, when taken into conjunction with a hard, unfeeling mouth, from the corners of which two right lines ran down his chin, giving that part of his face a most dismal expression, constituted a countenance that matched exceedingly well with the visage of Teddy Phats. This worthy gentleman was a tinker, and one of Hogan's brothers, whom we have already introduced to our readers. Scattered about the fire and through the cavern were a party of countrymen who came to purchase whiskey for a wedding, and three or four publicans and shebeenmen who had come on professional business. Some were drinking, some indulging in song, and some were already lying drunk or asleep in different parts of this subterraneous pandemonium. Exalted in what was considered the position of honor sat a country hedge-schoolmaster, his mellow eye beaming with something between natural humor, a sense of his own importance, and the influence of pure whiskey, fresh it is called, from the Still-eye.
"Here, Teddy," said one of the countrymen, "will you fill the bottle again."
"No," replied Teddy, who though as cunning as the devil himself, could seldom be got to speak anything better than broken English, and that of such a character that it was often scarcely intelligible.
"No," he replied; "I gav'd you wan bottle 'idout payment fwhor her, an' by shapers I won't give none oder."
"Why, you burning beauty, aren't we takin' ten gallons, an' will you begrudge us a second bottle?"
"Shiss—devil purshue de bottle more ye'll drunk here 'idout de airigad, (* Money) dat's fwhat you will."
"Teddy," said the schoolmaster, "I drink propitiation to you as a profissional gintle-man! No man uses more indepindent language than you do. You are under no earthly obligation to Messrs. Syntax and Prosody. Grammar, my worthy friend, is banished as an intruder from your elocution, just as you would exclude a gauger from your Still-house."
"Fwhat about de gagur!" exclaimed Teddy, starting; "d—n him an' shun-tax an' every oder tax, rint an' all—hee! hee! hee!"
We may as well let our readers know, before we proceed farther, that in the opinion of many, Teddy Phats understood and could speak English as well as any man of his station in the country. In fairs or markets, or other public places, he spoke, it is true, nothing but Irish unless in a private way, and only to persons in whom he thought he could place every confidence. It was often observed, however, that in such conversations he occasionally arranged the matter of those who could use only English to him, in such a way as proved pretty clearly that he must have possessed a greater mastery over that language than he acknowledged. We believe the fact to be, however, that Teddy, as an illicit distiller, had found it, on some peculiar occasions connected with his profession, rather an inconvenient accomplishment to know English. He had given some evidence in his day, and proved, or attempted to prove, a few alibies on behalf of his friends; and he always found, as there is good reason to believe, that the Irish language, when properly enunciated through the medium of an interpreter, was rather the safer of the two, especially when resorted to within the precincts of the country court-house and in hearing of the judge.
"You're a fool, Teddy," said Hogan; "let them drink themselves; blind—this liquor's paid for; an' if they lose or spill it by the 'way, why, blazes to your purty mug, don't you know they'll have to pay for another cargo."
Teddy immediately took the hint.
"Barney Brogan," he shouted to a lubberly-looking, bullet-headed cub, half knave, half fool, who lived about such establishments, and acted as messenger, spy, and vidette; "listen hedher! bring Darby Keenan dere dat bottle, an' let 'em drink till de grace o' God comes on 'em—ha, ha, ha!"
"More power to you, Vaynus," exclaimed Keenan; "you're worth a thousand pounds, quarry weight."
"I am inclined to think, Mr. Keenan," said the schoolmaster, "that you are in the habit occasionally of taking slight liberties wid the haythen mythology. Little, I'll be bound, the divine goddess of beauty ever dreamt she'd find a representative in Teddy Phats."
"Bravo! masther," replied Keenan, "you're the boy can do—only that English is too tall for me. At any rate," he added, approaching the worthy preceptor, "take a spell o' this—it's a language we can all understand."
"You mane to say, Darby," returned the other, "that it's a kind of universal spelling-book amongst us, and so it is—an alphabet aisily larned. Your health, now and under all circumstances! Teddy, or Thaddeus, I drink to your symmetry and inexplicable proportions; and I say for your comfort, my worthy distillator, that if you are not so refulgent in beauty as Venus, you are a purer haythen."
"Fwhat a bloody fwhine Bairlha man the meeisther is," said Teddy, with a grin. "Fwhaicks, meeisthur, your de posey of Tullyticklem, spishilly wid Captain Fwhiskey at your back. You spake de Bairlha up den jist all as one as nobody could understand her—ha, ha, ha!"
The master, whose name was Finigan, or, as he wished to be called, O'Finigan, looked upon Teddy and shook his head very significantly.
"I'm afraid, my worthy distallator," he proceeded, "that the proverb which says 'latet anguis in herba,' is not inapplicable in your case. I think I can occasionally detect in these ferret-like orbs that constitute such an attractive portion of your beauty, a passing scintillation of intelligence which you wish to keep a secretis, as they say."
"Mr. Finigan," said Keenan, who had now returned to his friends, "if you wouldn't be betther employed to-morrow, you'd be welcome to the weddin'."
"Many thanks, Mr. Keenan," replied Finigan; "I accept your hospitable offer wid genuine cordiality. To-morrow will be a day worthy of a white mark to all parties concerned. Horace calls it chalk, which is probably the most appropriate substance with which the records of matrimonial felicity could be registered, crede experto."
"At any rate, Misther Finigan, give the boys a holiday to-morrow, and be down wid us airly."
"There is not," replied Finigan, who was now pretty well advanced, "I believe widin the compass of written or spoken language—and I might on that subject appeal to Mr. Thaddeus O'Phats here, who is a good authority on that particular subject, or indeed on any one that involves the beauty of elocution—I say, then, there is not widin the compass of spoken language a single word composed of two syllables so delectable to human ears, as is that word 'dismiss,' to the pupils of a Plantation Seminary; (* A modest periphrasis for a Hedge-School) and I assure you that those talismanic syllables shall my youthful pupils hear correctly pronounced to-morrow about ten o'clock."
Whilst O'Finigan was thus dealing out the king's English with such complacent volubility—a volubility that was deeply indebted to the liquor he had taken—the following dialogue took place in a cautious under-tone between Batt Hogan and Teddy.
"So Hycy the sportheen is to be up here to-night?"
"B—t your shiss! can't you spake like a Christian?"
"No, I won't," replied the other, angrily; "I'll spake as I likes."
"What brings him up, do you know?"
"Bekaise he's goin' to thry his misfortune upon her here," he replied, pointing to the still. "You'll have a good job of her, fwhedher or no."
"Why, will he want a new one, do you think?"
"Shiss, to be sure—would ye tink I'd begin to run (* A slang phrase for distilling) for him on dis ould skillet? an' be de token moreover, dat wouldn't be afther puttin' nothin' in your pockets—hee! hee! hee!"
"Well, all that's right—don't work for him widout a new one complate, Teddy—Still, Head, and Worm."
"Shiss, I tell you to be sure I won't—he thried her afore, though."
"Nonsense!—no he didn't."
"Ah, ha! ay dhin—an' she milked well too—a good cow—a brave cheehony she was for him."
"An' why did he give it up?"
"Fwhy—fwhy, afeard he'd be diskivered, to be sure; an' dhin shure he couldn't hunt wid de dinnaousais—wid de gentlemans."
"An' what if he's discovered now?"
"Fwhat?—fwhy so much the worsher for you an' me: he's ginerous now an' den, anyway; but a great rogue afther all, fwher so high a hid as he carries."
"If I don't mistake," proceeded Hogan, "either himself or his family, anyhow, will be talked of before this time to-morrow."
"Eh, Batt?" asked the other, who had changed his position and sat beside him during this dialogue—"how is dhat now?"
"I don't rightly know—I can't say," replied Hogan, with a smile murderously grim but knowing—"I'm not up; but the sportheen's a made boy, I think."
"Dher cheerna! you are up," said Teddy, giving him a furious glance as he spoke; "there must be no saycrits, I say."
"You're a blasted liar, I tell you—I am not, but I suspect—that's all."
"What brought you up dhis night?" asked Teddy, suspiciously.
"Because I hard he was to come," replied his companion; "but whether or not I'd be here."
"Tha sha maigh—it's right—may be so—shiss, it's all right, may be so—well?"
Teddy, although he said it was all right, did not seem however to think so. The furtive and suspicious glance which he gave Hogan from under his red beetle brows should be seen in order to be understood.
"Well?" said Hogan, re-echoing him—"it is well; an' what is more, my Kate is to be up here wid a pair o' geese to roast for us, for we must make him comfortable. She wint to thry her hand upon somebody's roost, an' it'll go hard if she fails!"
"Fwhail!" exclaimed Teddy, with a grin—"ah, the dioual a fwhail!"
"An' another thing—he's comin' about Kathleen Cavanagh—Hycy is. He wants to gain our intherest about her!"
"Well, an' what harm?"
"Maybe there is, though, it's whispered that he—hut! doesn't he say himself that there isn't a girl of his own religion in the parish he'd marry—now I'd like to see them married, Teddy, but as for anything else—"
"Hee! hee! hee!—well," exclaimed Teddy, with a horrible grimace that gave his whole countenance a facequake, "an' maybe he's right. Maybe it 'udn't be aisy to get a colleen of his religion—I tink his religion is fwhere Phiddher Fwhite's estate is—beyant the beyands, Avhere the mare foaled the fwhiddler—hee! hee! hee!"
"He had better thry none of his sckames wid any of the Cavanaghs," said Bat, "for fraid he might be brought to bed of a mistake some fine day—that's all I say; an' there's more eyes than mine upon him."
This dialogue was nearly lost in the loudness of a debate which had originated with Keenan and certain of his friends in the lower part of the still-house. Some misunderstanding relative to the families of the parties about to be united had arisen, and was rising rapidly into a comparative estimate of the prowess and strength of their respective factions, and consequently assuming a very belligerent aspect, when a tall, lank, but powerful female, made her appearance, carrying a large bundle in her hand.
"More power, Kate!" exclaimed Hogan. "I knew she would," he added, digging Teddy's ribs with his elbow.
"Aisy, man!" said his companion; "if you love me, say so, but don't hint it dat way."
"Show forth, Kate!" proceeded her husband; "let us see the prog—hillo!—oh, holy Moses! what a pair o' beauties!"
He then whipped up a horn measure, that contained certainly more than a naggin, and putting it under the warm spirits that came out of the still-eye, handed it to her. She took it, and coming up towards the fire, which threw out a strong light, nodded to them, and, without saying a word, literally pitched it down her throat, whilst at the same time one of her eyes presented undeniable proofs of a recent conflict. We have said that there were several persons singing and dancing, and some asleep, in the remoter part of the cave; and this was true, although we refrained from mingling up either their mirth or melody with the conversation of the principal personages. All at once, however, a series of noises, equally loud and unexpected, startled melodists, conversationalists, and sleepers all to their legs. These were no other than the piercing cackles of two alarmed geese which Hogan's wife had secured from some neighboring farmer, in order to provide a supper for our friend Hycy.
"Ted," said the female, "I lost my knife since I came out, or they'd be quiet enough before this; lend me one a minute, you blissed babe."
"Shiss, to be sure, Kate," he replied, handing her a large clasp knife with a frightful blade; "an', Kate, whisper, woman alive—you're bought up, I see."
"How is that, you red rascal?"
"Bekaise, don't I see dat de purchaser has set his mark upon ye?—hee! hee! hee!" and he pointed to her eye* as he spoke.
* A black eye is said to be the devil's mark.
"No," she replied, nodding towards her husband, "that's his handy work; an' ye divil's clip!" she added, turning to Teddy, "who has a betther right?"
She then bled the geese, and, looking about her, asked—
"Have you any wet hay or straw in the place?"
"Ay, plenty of bote," replied Teddy; "an' here's de greeshavigh ready."
She then wrapped the geese, feathers and all, separately in a covering of wet hay, which she bound round them with thumb-ropes of the same material, and clearing away a space among the burning ashes, placed each of them in it, and covered them up closely.
"Now," said she, "put down a pot o' praities, and we won't go to bed fastin'."
The different groups had now melted into one party, much upon the same principle that the various little streamlets on the mountains around them all run, when swollen by a sudden storm, into some larger torrent equally precipitous and turbulent. Keenan, who was one of those pertinacious fellows that are equally quarrelsome and hospitable when in liquor, now resumed the debate with a characteristic impression of the pugilistic superiority of his family:—
"I am right, I say: I remember it well, for although I wasn't there myself, my father was, an' I often h'ard him say—God rest his sowl!"—here he reverently took off his hat and looked upwards—"I often h'ard him say that Paddy Keenan gave Mullin the first knock-down blow, an' Pether—I mane no disrespect, but far from it—give us your hand, man alive—you're going to be married upon my shisther to-morrow, plaise God!—masther, you'll come, remimber? you'll be as welcome as the flowers o' May, masther—so, Pether, as I was sayin'—I mane no offince nor disrespect to you or yours, for you are, an' ever was, a daisent family, an' well able to fight your corner when it came upon you—but still, Pether—an' for all that—I say it—an' I'll stand to it—I'll stand it—that's the chat!—that, man for man, there never was one o' your seed, breed, or generation able to fight a Keenan—that's the chat!—here's luck!
"'Oh, 'twas in the month of May, When the lambkins sport and play, As I walked out to gain raycrayation, I espied a comely maid. Sequestrin' in the shade— On her beauty I gazed wid admiraytion,'
No, Pether, you never could; the Mullins is good men—right good men, but they couldn't do it."
"Barney," said the brother of the bridegroom, "you may thank God that Pether is going to be married to your sisther to-morrow as you say, or we'd larn you another lesson—eh, masther? That's the chat too—ha! ha! ha! To the divil wid sich impedence!"
"Gintlemen," said Finigan, now staggering down towards the parties, "I am a man of pacific principles, acquainted wid the larned languages, wid mathematics, wid philosophy, the science of morality according to Fluxions—I grant you, I'm not college-bred; but, gintlemen, I never invied the oysther in its shell—for, gintlemen, I'm not ashamed of it, but I acquired—I absorbed my laming, I may say, upon locomotive principles."