E-text prepared by Delphine Lettau and Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D.
THE MACDERMOTS OF BALLYCLORAN.
Author of "Dr. Thorne," "Orley Farm," "Miss Mackenzie," "Can You Forgive Her?" Etc.
London: Chapman & Hall, 193, Piccadilly. 1866.
I. BALLYCLORAN HOUSE AS FIRST SEEN BY THE AUTHOR II. THE MACDERMOT FAMILY III. THE TENANTRY OF BALLYCLORAN IV. MYLES USSHER V. FATHER JOHN VI. THE BROTHER AND SISTER VII. THE PRIEST'S DINNER PARTY VIII. MISS MACDERMOT AT HOME IX. MOHILL X. MR. KEEGAN XI. PAT BRADY XII. THE WEDDING XIII. HOW THE WEDDING PARTY WAS CONCLUDED XIV. DENIS McGOVERY'S TIDINGS XV. THE McKEONS XVI. PROMOTION XVII. SPORT IN THE WEST XVIII. HOW PAT BRADY AND JOE REYNOLDS WERE ELOQUENT IN VAIN XIX. THE RACES XX. HOW CAPTAIN USSHER SUCCEEDED XXI. THE CORONER'S INQUEST XXII. THE ESCAPE XXIII. AUGHACASHEL XXIV. THE SECOND ESCAPE XXV. RETROSPECTIVE XXVI. THE DUEL XXVII. FEEMY RETURNS TO BALLYCLORAN XXVIII. ASSIZES AT CARRICK-ON-SHANNON XXIX. THADY'S TRIAL IS COMMENCED XXX. THE PRISONER'S DEFENCE XXXI. THE LAST WITNESS XXXII. THE VERDICT XXXIII. THE END
THE MACDERMOTS OF BALLYCLORAN.
BALLYCLORAN HOUSE AS FIRST SEEN BY THE AUTHOR.
In the autumn, 184—, business took me into the West of Ireland, and, amongst other places, to the quiet little village of Drumsna, which is in the province of Connaught, County Leitrim, about 72 miles W.N.W. of Dublin, on the mail-coach road to Sligo. I reached the little inn there in the morning by the said mail, my purpose being to leave it late in the evening by the day coach; and as my business was but of short duration, I was left, after an early dinner, to amuse myself. Now, in such a situation, to take a walk is all the brightest man can do, and the dullest always does the same. There is a kind of gratification in seeing what one has never seen before, be it ever so little worth seeing; and the gratification is the greater if the chances be that one will never see it again. Now Drumsna stands on a bend in the Shannon; the street leads down to a bridge, passing over which one finds oneself in the County Roscommon; and the road runs by the well-wooded demesne of Sir G—— K——; moreover there is a beautiful little hill, from which the demesne, river, bridge, and village can all be seen; and what farther agremens than these could be wanted to make a pretty walk? But, alas! I knew not of their existence then. One cannot ask the maid at an inn to show one where to find the beauties of nature. So, trusting to myself, I went directly away from river, woods, and all,—along as dusty, ugly, and disagreeable a road as is to be found in any county in Ireland.
After proceeding a mile or so, taking two or three turns to look for improvement, I began to perceive evident signs on the part of the road of retrograding into lane-ism; the county had evidently deserted it, and though made for cars and coaches, its traffic appeared to be now confined to donkeys carrying turf home from the bog, in double kishes on their back. Presently the fragments of a bridge presented themselves, but they too were utterly fallen away from their palmy days, and in their present state afforded but indifferent stepping-stones over a bog stream which ran, or rather crept, across the road. These, however, I luckily traversed, and was rewarded by finding a broken down entrance to a kind of wood on the right hand. In Ireland, particularly in the poorer parts—to rank among which, County Leitrim has a right which will not be disputed—a few trees together are always the recognised sign of a demesne, of a gentleman's seat, or the place where a gentleman's seat has been; and I directly knew that this must be a demesne. But ah! how impoverished, if one might judge from outward appearances. Two brick pillars, from which the outside plaster had peeled off and the coping fallen, gave evidence of former gates; the space was closed up with a loose built wall, but on the outer side of each post was a little well worn footpath, made of soft bog mould. I of course could not resist such temptation, and entered the demesne. The road was nearly covered with that short dry grass which stones seem to throw up, when no longer polished by the wealthier portion of man or brute kind.
About thirty feet from the gap a tall fir had half fallen, and lay across the road, so that a man should stoop to walk under it; it was a perfect barrier to any equipage, however humble, and the roots had nearly refixed themselves in their reversed position, showing that the tree had evidently been in that fallen state for years.
The usual story, thought I, of Connaught gentlemen; an extravagant landlord, reckless tenants, debt, embarrassment, despair, and ruin. Well, I walked up the deserted avenue, and very shortly found myself in front of the house. Oh, what a picture of misery, of useless expenditure, unfinished pretence, and premature decay!
The house was two stories high, with large stone steps up to the front door, with four windows in the lower, and six in the upper story, and an area with kitchens, &c., below. The entire roof was off; one could see the rotting joists and beams, some fallen, some falling, the rest ready to fall, like the skeleton of a felon left to rot on an open gibbet. The stone steps had nearly dropped through into the area, the rails of which had been wrenched up. The knocker was still on the door,—a large modern lion-headed knocker; but half the door was gone; on creeping to the door-sill, I found about six feet of the floor of the hall gone also—stolen for fire wood. But the joists of the flooring were there, and the whitewash of the walls showed that but a few, a very few years back, the house had been inhabited. I leaped across the gulf, at great risk of falling into the cellar, and reached the bottom of the stairs; here my courage failed me; all that was left was so damp and so rotten, so much had been gradually taken away, that I did not dare to go up: the doors on the ground floor would not open; the ceiling above me was all gone, and I could see the threatening timbers of the roof, which seemed only hanging till they had an opportunity of injuring some one by their fall. I crept out of the demi-door again, and down the ruined steps, and walked round the mansion; not only was there not a pane of glass in the whole, but the window frames were all gone; everything that wanted keeping was gone; everything that required care to preserve it had perished. Time had not touched it. Time had evidently not yet had leisure to do his work. He is sure, but slow. Ruin works fast enough unaided, where once he puts his foot. Time would have pulled down the chimneys—Ruin had taken off the slates; Time would have bulged the walls—Ruin brought in the rain, rotted the timbers, and assisted the thieves. Poor old Time will have but little left him at Ballycloran! The gardens had been large; half were now covered by rubbish heaps, and the other half consisted of potato patches; and round the out-houses I saw clustering a lot of those wretched cabins which the poor Irish build against a deserted wall, when they can find one, as jackdaws do their nests in a superannuated chimney. In the front there had been, I presume, a tolerably spacious lawn, with a drive through it, surrounded on all sides, except towards the house, by thick trees. The trees remained, but the lawn, the drive, and the flower patches, which of course once existed there, were now all alike, equally prolific in large brown dock weeds and sorrels. There were two or three narrow footpaths through and across the space, up to the cabins behind the house, but other marks of humanity were there none.
A large ash, apparently cut down years ago, with the branches still on it, was stretched somewhat out of the wood: on this I sat, lighted a cigar, and meditated on this characteristic specimen of Irish life. The sun was setting beautifully behind the trees, and its imperfect light through the foliage gave the unnatural ruin a still stronger appearance of death and decay, and brought into my mind thoughts of the wrong, oppression, misery, and despair, to which some one had been subjected by what I saw before me.
I had not been long seated, when four or five ragged boys and girls came through the wood, driving a lot of geese along one of the paths. When they saw me, they all came up and stood round me, as if wondering what I could be. I could learn nothing from them—the very poor Irish children will never speak to you; but a middle aged man soon followed them. He told me the place was called Ballycloran: "he did not know who it belonged to; a gintleman in Dublin recaved the rints, and a very stiff gintleman he was too; and hard it was upon them to pay two pound tin an acre for the garden there, and that half covered with the ould house and the bricks and rubbish, only on behalf of the bog that was convaynient, and plinty of the timber, tho' that was rotten, and illigant outhouses for the pigs and the geese, and the ould bricks of the wall wor good manure for the praties" (this, in all my farming, I had never dreamt of); "but times was very hard on the poor, the praties being ninepence a stone in Carrick all last summer; God help the poor, the crayturs! for the gintlemin, their raal frinds, that should be, couldn't help thimselves now, let alone others"—and so on, now speaking of his sorrow and poverty, and again descanting on the "illigance" of his abode. I could only learn that a family called the Macdermots had lived there some six or seven years back, that they were an unfortunate people, he had heard tell, but he had not been in the country then, and it was a bloody story, &c. &c. &c. The evening was drawing on, and the time for my coach to come was fast approaching; so I was obliged to leave Ballycloran, unsatisfied as to its history, and to return to Drumsna.
Here I had no time to make further inquiries, as Mr. Hartley's servants always keep their time; and very shortly the four horses clattered down the hill into the village. I got up behind, for McC——, the guard, was an old friend of mine; and after the usual salutations and strapping of portmanteaus, and shifting down into places, as McC—— knows everything, I began to ask him if he knew anything of a place called Ballycloran.
"'Deed then, Sir, and I do," said he, "and good reason have I to know; and well I knew those that lived in it, ruined, and black, and desolate, as Ballycloran is now:" and between Drumsna and Boyle, he gave me the heads of the following story. And, reader, if I thought it would ever be your good fortune to hear the history of Ballycloran from the guard of the Boyle coach, I would recommend you to get it from him, and shut my book forthwith.
THE MACDERMOT FAMILY.
McC——'s story runs thus. About sixty years ago, a something Macdermot, true Milesian, pious Catholic, and descendant of king somebody, died somewhere, having managed to keep a comfortable little portion of his ancestors' royalties to console him for the loss of their sceptre. He having two sons, and disdaining to make anything but estated gentlemen of them, made over in some fictitious manner (for in those righteous days a Roman Catholic could make no legal will) to his eldest, the estate on which he lived, and to the youngest, that of Ballycloran—about six hundred as bad acres as a gentleman might wish to call his own. But Thaddeus, otherwise Thady Macdermot, being an estated gentleman, must have a gentleman's residence on his estate, and the house of Ballycloran was accordingly built. Had Thady Macdermot had ready money, it might have been well built; but though an estated gentleman, he had none. He had debts even when his father died; and though he planned, ordered, and agreed for a house, such as he thought the descendant of a Connaught Prince might inhabit without disgrace, it was ill built, half finished, and paid for by long bills. This, however, is so customary in poor Ireland that it but little harassed Thady. He had a fine, showy house, with stables, &c., gardens, an avenue, and a walk round his demesne; and his neighbours had no more. It was little he cared for comfort, but he would not be the first of the Macdermots that would not be respectable. When his house was finished, Thady went into County Galway, and got himself a wife with two thousand pounds fortune, for which he had to go to law with his brother-in-law. The lawsuit, the continual necessity of renewing the bills with which the builder in Carrick on Shannon every quarter attacked him, the fruitless endeavour to make his tenants pay thirty shillings an acre for half-reclaimed bog, and a somewhat strongly developed aptitude for potheen, sent poor Thady to another world rather prematurely, and his son and heir, Lawrence, came to the throne at the tender age of twelve. The Galway brother-in-law compromised the lawsuit; the builder took a mortgage on the property from the boy's guardian; the mother gave new leases to the tenants; Larry went to school at Longford; and Mrs. Mac kept up the glory of Ballycloran.
At the age of twenty, Lawrence, or Larry, married a Milesian damsel, portionless, but of true descent. The builder from Carrick had made overtures about a daughter he had at home, and offered poor Larry his own house, as her fortune. But the blood of the Macdermots could not mix with the lime and water that flowed in a builder's veins; he therefore made an enemy where he most wanted a friend, and brought his wife home to live with his mother. In order that we may quickly rid ourselves of encumbrances, it may be as well to say that during the next twenty-five years his mother and wife died; he had christened his only son Thaddeus, after his grandfather, and his only daughter had been christened Euphemia, after her grandmother. He had never got over that deadly builder, with his horrid percentage coming out of the precarious rents; twice, indeed, had writs been out against him for his arrears, and once he had received notice from Mr. Hyacinth Keegan, the oily attorney of Carrick, that Mr. Flannelly meant to foreclose. Rents were greatly in arrear, his credit was very bad among the dealers in Mohill, with Carrick he had no other dealings than those to which necessity compelled him with Mr. Flannelly the builder, and Larry Macdermot was anything but an easy man.
Thady was at this time about twenty-four. As had been the case with his father, he had been educated at a country school; he could read and write, but could do little more: he was brought up to no profession or business; he acted as his father's agent over the property—by which I mean to signify that he occupied himself in harrowing the tenantry for money which they had no means of paying; he was occasionally head driver and ejector; and he considered, as Irish landlords are apt to do, that he had an absolute right over the tenants, as feudal vassals. Still, they respected and to a certain extent loved him; "for why? wasn't he the masther's son, and wouldn't he be the masther hisself?" And he had a regard, perhaps an affection, for the poor creatures; against any one else he would defend them; and would they but coin their bones into pounds, shillings, and pence, he would have been as tender to them as a man so nurtured could be. With all his faults, Thady was perhaps a better man than his father; he was not so indomitably idle; had he been brought up to anything, he would have done it; he was more energetic, and felt the degradation of his position; he felt that his family was sinking lower and lower daily; but as he knew not what to do, he only became more gloomy and more tyrannical. Beyond this, he had acquired a strong taste for tobacco, which he incessantly smoked out of a dhudheen; and was content to pass his dull life without excitement or pleasure.
Euphemia, or Feemy, was about twenty; she was a tall, dark girl, with that bold, upright, well-poised figure, which is so peculiarly Irish. She walked as if all the blood of the old Irish Princes was in her veins: her step, at any rate, was princely. Feemy, also, had large, bright brown eyes, and long, soft, shining dark hair, which was divided behind, and fell over her shoulders, or was tied with ribands; and she had a well-formed nose, as all coming of old families have; and a bright olive complexion, only the olive was a little too brown, the skin a little too coarse; and then Feemy's mouth was, oh! half an inch too long; but her teeth were white and good, and her chin was well turned and short, with a dimple on it large enough for any finger Venus might put there. In all, Feemy was a fine girl in the eyes of a man not too much accustomed to refinement. Her hands were too large and too red, but if Feemy got gloves sufficient to go to mass with, it was all she could do in that way; and though Feemy had as fine a leg as ever bore a pretty girl, she was never well shod,—her shoes were seldom clean, often slipshod, usually in holes; and her stockings—but no! I will not further violate the mysteries of Feemy's wardrobe. But if the beautiful girls of this poor country knew but half the charms which neatness has, they would not so often appear as poor Feemy too usually appeared.
Like her brother, she was ardent and energetic, if she had aught to be ardent about; she was addicted to novels, when she could get them from the dirty little circulating library at Mohill; she was passionately fond of dancing, which was her chief accomplishment; she played on an old spinnet which had belonged to her mother; and controlled the motions and actions of the two barefooted damsels who officiated as domestics at Ballycloran.
Such was the family at Ballycloran in the summer of 183—, and though not perfect, I hope they have charms enough to make a further acquaintance not unacceptable.
THE TENANTRY OF BALLYCLORAN.
"Thady," said old Macdermot, as he sat eating stirabout and thick milk, over a great turf fire, one morning about the beginning of October, "Thady, will you be getting the money out of them born divils this turn, and they owing it, some two, some three years this November, bad cess to them for tenants? Thady, I say," shouted, or rather screamed, the old man, as his son continued silently eating his breakfast, "Thady, I say; have they the money, at all at all, any of them; or is it stubborn they are? There's Flannelly and Keegan with their d——d papers and bills and costs; will you be making out the L142 7s. 6d. before Christmas for the hell-hounds; or it's them'll be masters in Ballycloran? Then let the boys see the landlord they'll have over them, that time!"
"Well, Larry," said the son (unless in a passion, he always called his father by his baptismal name, or rather by its abbreviation), "what's the use going on that way before the girls there, and Feemy too." Feemy, however, was reading the "Mysterious Assassin," and paying little heed to her father's lamentations. "When we're done, and the things is out, we'll have a look at the rent-book, and send for the boys to come in; and if they haven't it, why, Pat Brady must go round agin, and see what he can do with the potatoes and oats, and the pigs; but the times, Larry, is very hard on them; too hard entirely, so it is, poor things—"
"Poor things!" said the father, "and aint I a poor thing? and won't you and Feemy be poor things? Hard times, too! who is the times hardest on? See that sneaking ould robber, Flannelly, that cozened my father—good father for him—with such a house as this, that's falling this day over his son's head, and it not hardly fifty years built, bad luck to it for a house! See that ould robber, Flannelly, who has been living and thriving on it for all them years, and a stone or stick not as good as paid for yet; and he getting two hundred a year off the land from the crayturs of tenants."
True enough it was, that Mr. Joe Flannelly, of Carrick-on-Shannon, whatever might have been the original charge of building the Ballycloran mansion, now claimed L200 a year from that estate, to which his ingenious friend and legal adviser, Mr. Hyacinth Keegan usually managed to add certain mysterious costs and ceremonious expenses, which made each half year's rent of Larry Macdermot's own house about L140, before the poor man had managed to scrape it together. To add to this annoyance, Mr. Macdermot had continually before his eyes the time, which he could not but foresee was not distant, when this hated Flannelly would come down on the property itself, insist on being paid his principal, and probably not only sell, but buy, Ballycloran itself. And whither, then, would the Macdermots betake themselves?
Often and often did Larry, in his misfortunes, regret the slighted offers of Sally Flannelly's charms and cash. Oh, had he but then condescended to have married the builder's daughter, he would not now have been the builder's slave. But Sally Flannelly was now Sally Keegan, the wife of Hyacinth Keegan, Esq., Attorney; who, if he had not the same advantages as Larry in birth and blood, had compensation for his inferiority in cash and comforts. When the poor man thought of these things—and he did little else now but think of them—bitterly, though generally in silence, he cursed him whom he looked upon as his oppressor and incubus. It never occurred to him that if Mr. Flannelly built the house he lived in, he should be paid for it. He never reflected that he had lived to the extent of, and above his precarious income, as if his house had been paid for; that, instead of passing his existence in hating the Carrick tradesman, he should have used his industry in finding the means to pay him. He sometimes blamed his father, having an indefinite feeling that he ought not to have permitted Flannelly to have anything to do with Ballycloran, after building it; but himself he never blamed; people never do; it is so much easier to blame others,—and so much more comfortable. Mr. Macdermot thus regarded his creditor as a vulgar, low-born blood-sucker, who, having by chicanery obtained an unwarrantable hold over him, was determined, if possible, to crush him. The builder, on the other hand, who had spent a long life of constant industry, but doubtful honesty, in scraping up a decent fortune, looked on his debtor as one who gave himself airs to which his poverty did not entitle him; and was determined to make him feel that though he could not be the father, he could be the master of a "rale gintleman."
After the short conversation between father and son the breakfast passed over in silence. The father finished his stirabout, and turned round to the blazing turf, to find consolation there. Feemy descended into the kitchen, to scold the girls, give out the dinner,—if there was any to give out; and to do those offices, whatever they be, in performing which all Irish ladies, bred, born, and living in moderate country-houses, pass the first two hours after breakfast in the kitchen. Thady took his rent-book and went into an outhouse, which he complimented by the name of his office, at the door of which he was joined by Pat Brady. Now Pat was an appendage, unfortunately very necessary in Ireland to such an estate as Macdermot's; and his business was not only to assist in collecting the rents, by taking possession of the little crops, and driving the cows, or the pig; but he was, moreover, expected to know who could, and who could not, make out the money; to have obtained, and always have ready, that secret knowledge of the affairs of the estate, which is thought to be, and is so, necessary to the managing of the Irish peasantry in the way they are managed. Pat Brady was all this; moreover, he had as little compunction in driving the cow or the only pig from his neighbour or cousin, and in selling off the oats or potatoes of his uncle or brother-in-law, as if he was doing that which would be quite agreeable to them. But still he was liked on the estate; he had a manner with him which had its charms to them; he was a kind of leader to them in their agrarian feelings and troubles; and though the tenants of Ballycloran half feared, they all liked and courted Pat Brady.
The most remarkable feature in his personal appearance was a broken nose; not a common, ordinary broken nose, such as would give it an apparent partiality to the right or left cheek, nor such as would, by indenting it, give the face that good-natured look which Irish broken noses usually possess. Pat Brady's broken nose was all but flattened on to his face, as if it had never lifted its head after the fatal blow which had laid it low. He was strong-built, round-shouldered, bow-legged, about five feet six in height, and he had that kind of external respectability about him, which a tolerably decent hat, strong brogues, and worsted stockings give to a man, when those among whom he lives are without such luxuries. When I add to the above particulars that Pat was chief minister, adviser, and confidential manager in young Macdermot's affairs, I have said all that need be said. The development of his character must be left to disclose itself.
"Well, Pat," began his master, seating himself on the solitary old chair, which, with a still older looking desk on four shaking legs, comprised the furniture of Macdermot's rent-office, "what news from Mohill to-day? was there much in the fair at all?"
"Well, yer honor, then, for them as had money to buy, the fair was good enough; but for them as had money to get, it was as bad as them that wor afore it, and as them as is likely to come afther it."
"Were the boys in it, Pat?"
"They wor, yer honor, the most of 'em."
"Oh, they wor just there, that's all."
"Tim Brady should have got the top price for that oats of his, Pat."
"Maybe he might, Masther Thady."
"What did he get? there should be twelve barrels there."
"Eleven, or thereabouts, yer honor."
"Did he sell it all, yesterday?"
"Divil a grain, then, at all at all, he took to the fair yesterday."
"Bad manners to him, and why didn't he? why he owes" (and Thady turned over the old book) "five half years this gale, and there's no use gammoning; father must get the money off the land, or Flannelly will help himself."
"I knows, Masther Thady; I knows all about it. Tim has between five and six acres, and he owes twenty-two pound tin; his oats is worth, maybe, five pound fifteen,—from that to six pound, and his cow about six pound more; that's all Tim has, barring the brats and the mother of them. An' he knows right well, yer honor, if he brings you the price of the oats, you wouldn't let him off that way; for the cow should folly the oats, as is nathural; the cabin would be saized next; so Tim ses, if you choose to take the corn yourself, you can do so;—well an' good, and save him the throuble of bringin' it to Mohill."
"Did the widow Reynolds sell her pig?"
"She did, yer honor, for two pound tin."
"And she owes seven pound. And Dan Coulahan—"
"Dan didn't cut the oats, good or bad."
"I'll cut it for him, then. Was ould Tierney there?"
"He war, yer honor; and I was tellin' him yer honor 'id be wantin' the money this week, an' I axed him to stip up o' Friday mornin'; an', sis I, 'Misthur Tierney'—for since he made out the mare and the ould car, it's Misthur Tierney he goes by—'it's a fine saison any way for the corn,' sis I, 'the Lord be praised; an' the hay all saved on thim illigant bottoms of yours, Misthur Tierney. The masther was glad to hear the cocks was all up afore the heavy rain was come.' 'Well, Pat,' sis he, 'I'll be at Ballycloran o' Friday, plase God, but it's little I'll have with me but myself; an' if the masthur likes the corn an' the hay, he may just take them av' it's plazin' to him, for the divil a cock or grain will I sell, an' the prices so bad.'"
"Obstinate ould fool! why, Pat, he must have the money."
"Money, to be shure he has the money, Misthur Thady; but maybe he'd be the bigger fool if he gave it to your father."
"Do the boys mane to say they won't pay the rent at all?"
"They mane to say they can't; an' it's nearly thrue for them."
"Was Joe Reynolds at the fair, Pat?"
"He wor not; that's to say, he wor not at the fair, but I seen him in the evening, with the other boys from Drumleesh, at Mrs. Mulready's."
"Them boys has always the money when they want a drop of whiskey. By dad, if they go to Mulready's with the money in their pockets on a Tuesday, where's the wonder they come here with them empty on a Friday? Fetch me a coal for the pipe, Pat."
Whilst Pat walked into the kitchen for a lighted piece of turf (Hibernice, coal) to kindle his patron's pipe, Thady stuck the said pipe in his jaw, and continued poring over the unsatisfactory figures of the Ballycloran rent-book.
"I tell you what it is, Pat," said he, after finishing the process of blowing, and drawing, and throwing the coal on the earthen floor, and pressing down the hot burning tobacco with the top of his forefinger repeatedly, "Misthur Joe Reynolds will out of that. I told him so last April, and divil a penny of his we've seen since; he don't do the best he can for us; and my belief is, he hinders the others; eh, Brady?" and he looked up into Brady's face for confirmation or refutation of this opinion. But that gentleman, contrary to his usual wont, seemed to have no opinion on the matter; he continued scratching his head, and swinging one leg, while he stood on the other. Thady, finding that his counsellor said nothing, continued,
"Joe Reynolds will out of that this time, d'you hear? what has he on that bit of land of his?"
"Pratees mostly, Misthur Thady. He had half an acre of whate; he parted that on the ground to ould Tierney; he owed Tierney money."
"An' so the tenants buy the crops from one another, and yet won't pay their own rents. Well, my father's to blame himself; av he'd put a man like Keegan over them, or have let the land to some rough hand as would make them pay, divil a much he need care for Flannelly this day."
"An' you'd be for puttin' a stranger over thim, Misthur Thady; an' they that would stand between you an' all harum, or the masthur, or the old masthur afore him; becaze of the dirthy money, and becaze a blagguard and a black ruffian like Flannelly has an ould paper signed by the masthur, or the like? An' as for Mr. Hyacinth Keegan,—I'm thinking, the first time he goes collectin' on the lands of Drumleesh, it's a warm welcome he'll be gettin'; at any rate, he'd have more recates in his carcass than in his pocket, that day."
"That's very fine talk, Pat; but if Keegan had them, he'd tame them, as he has others before; not but I'd be sorry they should be in his hands, the robber, bad as they are. But it'll come to that, whether or no. How's my father to get this money for Flannelly?"
"D——n Flannelly!" was Brady's easy solution of the family difficulties. "Let him take the house he built, and be d——d to him; and if we can't build a betther one for the masthur and Miss Feemy and you, without his help, may praties choke me!"
"By dad, if he'd take the house, and leave the ground, he's my welcome, and ceade mille faltha, Pat. But the land will stick to the house; and mark me, when ould Flannelly dies (an' the divil die along with him), Mr. Keegan of Carrick will write himself, Hyacinth Keegan, Esquire, of Ballycloran."
"May I nivir see that day, an' he an' I alive, amen," said Brady, as he crossed himself in sign of the sacred truth of his wish; "but I think, Masthur Thady, when you come to consider of it, you'll find plenty of manes of keepin' Mr. Keegan and Mrs. Keegan out of the parlour of Ballycloran. But about Joe Reynolds, yer honor was sayin'—"
"I was saying that divil another potato he should dig in Drumleesh, nor another grain of corn shall he sow or rape; that's what I was saying."
"Well, Misthur Thady, you're the masthur, thank God, an' if you say so, it must be done. But Joe Reynolds is not that bad either: he was sayin' tho' at Mrs. Mulready's that he expected little from yer honor, but just leave to go where he liked, and lave the cow and the praties behind him."
"What wor they saying at Mulready's, Pat?"
"They were only jist passin' their remarks, yer honor, about how thick you war this time back with Captain Ussher; an' Miss Feemy too, an' the masthur; an' that when the likes of him wor as one of the family, it's little the likes of them would be gettin' now from Ballycloran, only hard words, and maybe a help to Carrick Gaol."
"Because Captain Ussher visits at Ballycloran, is that any reason why he should interfere between my father and his tenants?"
"Sorra a one av me knows then, Misthur Thady; only that the tenants is no good frinds to the Captain; nor why should they, an' he going through the counthry with a lot of idle blagguards, with arms, an' guns, sazin' the poor divils for nothin' at all, only for thryin' to make out the rint for yer honor, with a thrifle of potheen? That's quare friendship; ay, an' it's the truth I'm tellin' you, Misthur Thady, for he's no frind to you or yours. Shure isn't Pat Reynolds in Ballinamore Bridewell on his account, an' two other boys from the mountains behind Drumleesh, becaze they found a thrifle of half malted barley up there among them? an' be the same token, Joe was sayin', if the frind of the family war parsecuting them that way, an' puttin' his brother in gaol, whilst the masthur wouldn't rise a finger, barrin' for the rint, the sooner he an' his were off the estate, the betther he'd like it; for Joe sed he'd not be fightin' agin his own masthur, but whin you war not his masthur any more,—then let every one look to hisself."
Whilst Brady was giving this short expose of the feelings displayed at the little whiskey shop in Mohill on the previous fair day, young Macdermot was pulling hard at the dhudheen, as if trying to hide his embarrassment in smoke. Brady paused for some time, and then added,
"Joe mostly leads those boys up at Drumleesh, an' hard to lead they are; I'm thinking Captain Ussher, with all his revenue of peelers an' his guns, may meet his match there yit. They'll hole him, av he goes on much farthur, as shure as my name's Pat."
"They'll get the worst of that, Brady—not that I care a thrawneen for him and his company. It's true for you; he is persecuting them too far; what with revenue police, constabulary police, and magistrates' warrants, they won't let them walk to mass quietly next. I didn't care what they did to Master Myles, but they'd have the worst of it in the end."
"And it's little you ought to care for the same Captain, Misthur Thady, av you heard all. It's little he's making of Miss Feemy's name with the police captain, and the young gauger, and young James Fitzsimon, when they're over there at Ballinamore together—and great nights they have of it too; though they all have it in Mohill he's to marry Miss Feemy. If so, indeed! but then isn't he a black Protestant, sorrow take them for Protestants! There's Hyacinth Keegan calls himself a Protestant now; his father warn't ashamed of the ould religion, when he sarved processes away to Drumshambo."
"And what wor the gentlemen saying about Feemy, Pat?"
"Oh, yer honor, how could I know what gentlemin is saying over their punch, together? only they do be sayin' in Ballinamore, that the Captain doesn't spake that dacently of Miss Feemy, as if they wor to be man and wife: sorrow blister his tongue the day he'd say a bad word of her!"
"Faith he'd better take care of himself, if it's my sister he's playing his game with; he'll find out, though there aint much to be got worth having at Ballycloran now, as long as there's a Macdermot in it, he may still get the traitment a blackguard desarves, if he plays his tricks with Feemy!"
Pat saw that his object had been gained; he suspected that no warm feelings of friendship existed in his master towards the aforesaid Captain, and he was determined there should be none if he could help it. He was not wrong in his surmises; for, from the constant visits of Myles Ussher to Ballycloran, people had for some time been saying that he meant to marry Feemy. They now began to say that he ought to do so.
While her brother and his minister are discussing that subject, and others—settling who could pay, or who should pay, at the convocation of the tenants to be held on the coming Friday, and who couldn't, and who should be ejected, and who not—we will obtain a little insight into Captain Ussher's affairs, and account for the residence of so gallant a gentleman in the little town of Mohill.
Every one knows that Ireland, for her sins, maintains two distinct, regularly organised bodies of police; the duties of the one being to prevent the distillation of potheen or illicit whiskey, those of the other to check the riots created by its consumption. These forces, for they are in fact military forces, have each their officers, sub-officers, and privates, as the army has; their dress, full dress, and half dress; their arms, field arms, and house arms; their barracks, stations, and military regulations; their captains, colonels, and commander-in-chief, but called by other names; and, in fact, each body is a regularly disciplined force, only differing from the standing army by being carried on in a more expensive manner.
The first of these—that for preventing the distillation of potheen, commonly called the revenue police—was, at the time of our story, honoured by the services of Myles Ussher. He held the office of one of the sub-inspectors in the county of Leitrim, and he resided in the town of Mohill; he had a body of about five-and-twenty men under him, with a sergeant; and his duty was, as I have before said, to prevent the distillation of potheen. This was only to be done by seizing it when made, or in the process of making; and, as a considerable portion of the fine levied in all cases possible from the dealers in the trade, became the perquisite of the sub-inspector or officer effecting the seizure, the situation in a wild lawless district was one of considerable emolument; consequently gentlemen of repute and good family were glad to get their sons into the service, and at the present time, a commission in the revenue police is considered, if not a more fashionable, at any rate a more lucrative appointment than a commission in the army. Among these officers some of course would be more active than others, and would consequently make more money; but it will be easily imagined, that however much the activity of a sub-inspector of revenue police might add to his character and standing at headquarters, it would not be likely to make him popular in the neighbourhood in which he resided.
Myles Ussher was most active in the situation which he filled; whether an impartial judge would have said that he was too much so, would be a question difficult to settle, as I have no impartial judge on the subject to whom I can refer; but the persons among whom he lived thought that he was. At the time I allude to, about ten years ago, a great deal of whiskey was distilled in the mountains running between the counties of Leitrim and Cavan, and in different parts of the County Leitrim. Father Mathew's pledge was then unknown; the district is a wild country, not much favoured by gentlemen's residences, and very poor; and, though it may seem to be an anomaly, it will always be found to be the case that the poorer the people are the more they drink; and, consequently, Captain Ussher, as he was usually called in the neighbourhood, found sufficient occupation for himself and his men.
Now the case is different; the revenue police remain, but their duties have, in most districts, gone; and they may be seen patrolling the roads with their officers accompanying them, being bound to walk so many miles a day. It is very seldom one hears of their effecting a seizure, and their inactivity is no doubt owing to the prevalence of Father Mathew's pledge of total abstinence.
Myles Ussher was a Protestant, from the County Antrim in the north of Ireland, the illegitimate son of a gentleman of large property, who had procured him the situation which he held; he had been tolerably well educated; that is, he could read and write sufficiently, understood somewhat of the nature of figures, and had learnt, and since utterly forgotten, the Latin grammar. He had natural abilities somewhat above par; was good-looking, strongly made, and possessed that kind of courage, which arises more from animal spirits, and from not having yet experienced the evil effects of danger, than from real capabilities of enduring its consequences. Myles Ussher had never yet been hit in a duel, and would therefore have no hesitation in fighting one; he had never yet been seriously injured in riding, and would therefore ride any horse boldly; he had never had his head broken in a row, and therefore would readily go into one; he cared little for bodily pain if it did not incapacitate him,—little at least for any pain he had as yet endured, and his imagination was not strong enough to suggest any worse evil. And this kind of courage, which is the species by far most generally met with, was sufficient for the life he had to lead.
But the quality in which Ussher chiefly excelled, and which was most conducive to give him the character which he certainly held in the country for courage, talent, and gallantry, was his self-confidence and assurance. He believed himself inferior to none in powers of body and mind, and that he could accomplish whatever he perseveringly attempted. He had, moreover, an overwhelming contempt for the poor, amongst whom his duties so constantly brought him, and it is not therefore wonderful that he was equally feared and execrated by them. I should also state that Myles Ussher had had sagacity enough to keep some of the money which he had received, and this added not a little both to his reputation and standing in the country, and also to the real power which he possessed; for in Connaught ready money is scarce, and its scarcity creates its importance.
This, then, was Feemy's lover, and she certainly did love him dearly; he had all the chief ornaments of her novel heroes—he was handsome, he carried arms, was a man of danger, and talked of deeds of courage; he wore a uniform; he rode more gracefully, talked more fluently, and seemed a more mighty personage, than any other one whom Feemy usually met. Besides, he gloried in the title of Captain, and would not that be sufficient to engage the heart of any girl in Feemy's position? let alone any Irish girl, to whom the ornaments of arms are always dear. But whether he loved her as truly, might, I fear, be considered doubtful; if so, why were they not married?
Larry Macdermot was too broken-hearted a man, and too low-spirited, to have objected to Myles on the ground of his being a Protestant: it was not that he was indifferent about his religion, but he had not heart enough left to be energetic on any subject. In other respects, Myles was more than a match for his daughter, in the present fallen condition of the family. But the matter had not even been mentioned to him by his daughter or her lover. Ussher was constantly at Ballycloran,—was in the habit of riding over from Mohill, only three miles, almost daily, when disengaged, giving his horse to Patsy, the only male attendant at Ballycloran, and staying the whole morning, or the evening, there, without invitation; and Larry, if he never seemed particularly glad, at any rate never evinced any dislike to his visits.
Whatever war the sub-inspector might wage against run spirits in the mountains and bogs, he always appeared on good terms with it at Ballycloran, and as the Macdermots had but little else to give in the way of hospitality, this was well.
Young Thady could not but see that his sister was attached to Ussher; but he knew that she could not do better than marry him, and if he considered much about it, he thought that she was only taking her fun out of it, as other girls did, and that it would all come right. Thady was warmly attached to his sister; he had had no one else really to love; he was too sullen at his prospects, too gloomy from his situation, to have chosen for himself any loved one on whom to expend his heart; he was of a disposition too saturnine, though an Irishman, to go and look for love when it did not fall in his way, and all that he had to give he gave to his sister. But it must be remembered that poor Thady had no refinement; how should he? And though he would let no one injure Feemy if he could help it, he hardly knew how effectually to protect her. His suspicions were now aroused by his counsellor Pat Brady; but the effect was rather to create increased dislike in him against Ussher, than to give rise to any properly concerted scheme for his sister's welfare.
On the evening previous to the fair at Mohill mentioned in the last chapter, Captain Ussher with a party of his men had succeeded in making a seizure of some half-malted barley in a cabin on the margin of a little lake on the low mountains, which lay between Mohill and Cashcarrigan. He had, as in these cases was always his practice, received information from a spy in his pay, who accompanied him, dressed as one of his own men, to prevent any chance of his being recognised; this man's name was Cogan, and he had been in the habit of buying illicit whiskey from the makers at a very cheap rate, and carrying it round to the farmers' houses and towns for sale, whereby he obtained considerable profit,—but at considerable risk. With this employment Captain Ussher had made himself acquainted, and instead of seizing the man whilst in possession of the whiskey, he had sounded him, and finding him sufficiently a villain, had taken him into his pay as a spy; this trade Cogan found more lucrative even than the former, but also more dangerous; as if detected he might reckon on his death as certain. He still continued to buy the spirits from the people, but in smaller quantities; he offered lower prices; and though he nominally kept up the trade, it was more for the purpose of knowing where the potheen was, than of buying and selling it.
It was not wonderful therefore that more seizures than ever had been lately made, and that the men were getting more cautious, and at the same time more irate and violent in their language. In the present instance the party had come on the cabin in question unawares; not that they might not have been noticed, but that the people were confident of not being suspected. No whiskey had been run there; and the barley had only lately been brought in turf kishes from another cabin where it was not thought to be safe.
Three men and an old woman were found in the cabin when Captain Ussher entered with three of his own men. On being questioned they denied the existence of either whiskey, malt, or barley; but on searching, the illicit article was found in the very kishes in which it had been brought; they were easily discovered shoved into the dark chimney corner farthest from the door.
"Dat I may never see the light," began the old woman, "if I thought it wor anything but the turf, and jist the kishes that Barney Smith left there, the morn; and he to say nothing of the barley, and bring all these throubles on me and yer honer,—the like of him, the spalpeen!"
"Never mind my trouble, my dear," said Ussher; "it is little we think of the trouble of easing you; and who's Barney Smith, ma'am?"
"Oh, then, Barney's jist my daughter's own son; and he coming down from the mountains with turf, and said he must lave the kishes here, till he just went back round Loch Sheen with the ass, he'd borrowed from Paddy Byrne, and he'd be—"
"And very good natured it was of him to leave you the malt instead of the turf; and who are you, my good men?"
The men had continued smoking their pipes quietly at the fire without stirring.
"We be sthrangers here, yer honer," said one; "that is, not sthrangers jist, but we don't live here, yer honer."
"Where do you live, and what's your names?"
"I and Joe Smith live down away jist on the road to Cash, about half a mile out of this; and Tim Reynolds, he lives away at Drumleesh, on Mr. Macdermot's land; and my name's Paddy Byrne."
"Oh, oh; so one of you is father of the lad who brought the donkey, and the other the owner of it; and you neither of you knew what was in the kishes."
"Sorrow a know, yer honer; ye see Barney brought them down here from the mountains when we warn't in it; and it war some of the boys up there was getting him to get away the malt unknownst, hearing of yer honer, maybe."
"Ah, yes I see—whose land is this on?"
"Counseller Webb's, yer honer."
"Who holds the cabin and potato garden?"
"I do, your honer, jist for my wife's mother, ye see; but I live down towards Cash."
"Ah, very good-natured of you to your wife's mother. I hope the three of you have no objection to take a walk to Mohill this evening."
"Ochone, ochone, and it's ruined we'll be, yer honer; and that I may never see the light if the boys knew it; and yer honer wouldn't have the death of an ould woman on ye!" the old woman was exclaiming, while the police began seizing the malt and making prisoners of the men.
"Carol, see and get an ass to put these kishes on," said Ussher. "Killeen, pass a rope across these fellows' arms; I suppose they'll go quiet."
It was now full time for the men to arise when they found that the rope was to be fastened across their arms; which meant that a rope was to be fastened on the right arm of one, passed behind his back, fastened to the arm of the second, and so behind his back to the third. Smith and Byrne, the former of whom in spite of his protestations to the contrary was the inhabitant of the cabin, had given the matter up as lost; but as the other, Tim Reynolds, did in fact reside at Drumleesh, he thought he might still show some cause why he should not be arrested for visiting his friend Joe Smith.
"Yer honer won't be afther taking an innocent boy like me," began Tim, "that knows nothing at all at all about it. Shure yer honer knows the masther, Mr. Thady down at Ballycloran; he will tell yer honer I'd nothing in life to do in it. Then don't you know yourself I live with Joe Reynolds down at Drumleesh, and war only up here jist gagging with the ould woman and the boys, and knew nothing in life—how could I?—about the malt, Captain Ussher."
"Oh no, Mr. Reynolds, of course you could not; how could you, as you justly observe,—particularly being the brother of that inoffensive character Mr. Joe Reynolds, and you living too on Mr. Macdermot's property. You and your brother never ran whiskey at Drumleesh, I suppose. Why should a tenant of the Macdermots escape any more than one of Counsellor Webb's?"
"No, yer honer, in course not; only you being so thick with the masther, and that like; and av he'd spake a good word for me—as why shouldn't he?—and I knowing nothing at all at all about it, perhaps yer honer—"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Reynolds, I cannot oblige you in this little matter, but that's not the way I do business. Come along, Killeen; hurry, it's getting d——d cold here by the water."
With this Captain Ussher walked out of the cabin, and the two men followed, each having an end of the rope. Smith and Byrne followed doggedly, but silently; but poor Reynolds, though no lawyer, could not but feel that he was unjustly treated.
"And will I go to gaol then, jist for coming up to see ould widow Byrne, Captain?"
"Yes, Mr. Reynolds, as far as I can foresee, you will."
"Then, Captain Ussher, it's you'll be sorry for the day you were trating that way an innocent boy that knows nothing at all at all about it."
"Do you mean to be threatening me, you ruffian?"
"No, Captain Ussher, I doesn't threaten you, but there is them as does; and it's this day's work, or this night's that's all the same, will be the black night work to you. It's the like of you that makes ruffians of the boys about; they isn't left the manes of living, not even of getting the dhry pratees; and when they tries to make out the rint with the whiskey, which is not for themselves but for them as is your own friends, you hunts them through the mountains and bogs like worried foxes; and not that only; but for them as does it, and them as does not be doing it, is all the same; and it's little the masther, or, for the like of that, the masther's daughter either, will be getting from being so thick with sich as you,—harrowing and sazing his tenants jist for your own fun and divarsion. Mind I am not threatening you, Captain Ussher, but it's little good you or them as is in Ballycloran will be getting for the work you're now doing—What are you pulling at, misther'? D'ye think I can't walk av myself, without your hauling and pulling like a gossoon at a pig's hind leg."
The last part of Tim's eloquence was addressed to the man who held the foremost end of the rope, and who was following his officer at a rapid pace.
Captain Ussher made no further answer to his remonstrating prisoner, but marched on rapidly towards Carrick after the advanced party, with whom was Cogan the informer. He, after having pointed out the cabin, of course did not wait to be recognised by its occupiers. This capture was the subject of the discussion held on the fair-day at Mulready's whiskey-shop in Mohill, at which Joe Reynolds the prisoner's brother had presided, as Brady informed Thady Macdermot,—or at any rate had taken the most noisy part. To tell the truth, our friend Pat himself had been present all the evening at Mulready's, and if he did not talk so loud, he had said full as much as Joe. The latter was naturally indignant at the capture of his brother, who, in fact, at the time was living in his cabin, though he did hold an acre or two of ground in the same town-land as Joe Smith and the widow Byrne. He was not, however, engaged in the potheen making there; and though at the moment of the entrance of the police, the party were all talking of the malt, which had, in fact, been brought from Byrne's cabin to that of his mother and brother-in-law, Reynolds had really nothing to do with the concern.
His known innocence made the party more indignant, and they consequently swore that among them they'd put an end to our poor friend Ussher, or as Joe Reynolds expressed it, "we'll hole him till there ar'nt a bit left in him to hole." Now, for the benefit of the ignorant, I may say that, "holing a man," means putting a bullet through him.
The injuries done by the police were not, however, the only subject discussed at Mulready's that night.
Ribbonism, about 183—, was again becoming very prevalent in parts of Ireland, at any rate so said the stipendiary magistrates and the inspectors of police; and if they said true, County Leitrim was full of ribbonmen, and no town so full as Mohill. Consequently the police sub-inspector at Ballinamore, Captain Greenough, had his spies as well as Captain Ussher, and Joe Reynolds was a man against whom secret information had been given. Joe was aware that he was a marked man, and consequently, if not actually a ribbonman, was very well inclined to that or anything else, which might be inimical to gaols, policemen, inspectors, gaugers, or any other recognised authority; in fact, he was a reckless man, originally rendered so by inability to pay high rent for miserably bad land, and afterwards becoming doubly so from having recourse to illegal means to ease him of his difficulties.
He, and many others in the neighbourhood of Mohill somewhat similarly situated, had joined together, bound themselves by oaths, and had determined to become ribbonmen; their chief objects, however, at present, were to free themselves from the terrors of Captains Ussher and Greenough, and to prevent their landlords ejecting them for non-payment of rent. It would be supposed a man of Pat Brady's discernment, station, and character, would not have wished to belong to, or have been admitted by, so desperate a society; but he, nevertheless, was not only of them, but one of their leaders, and it can only be supposed that "he had his rasons."
All these things were fully talked over at Mulready's that night. The indignities offered to humanity by police of every kind, the iniquities of all Protestants, the benefits likely to accrue to mankind from an unlimited manufacture of potheen, and the injustice of rents, were fully discussed; on the latter head certainly Brady fought the battle of his master, and not unsuccessfully; but not on the head that he had a right to his own rents, but what he was to do about Flannelly, if he did not get them.
"And shure, boys, what would the ould masther do, and what would Mr. Thady do without the rint among ye,—an' ould Flannelly dunning about him with his bonds, and his bills and morgidges? How'd ye like to see the good ould blood that's in it now, driven out by the likes of Flannelly and Keegan, and them to be masthers in Ballycloran?"
"That's all very well, Pat, and we'd be sorry to see harum come to Mr. Larry and the young masther along of such born robbers as them; but is them dearer to us than our own flesh and blood? As long as they and the like of them'd stand between us and want, the divil a Keegan of them all'd dare put a foot in Ballycloran. But who is it now rules all at Ballycloran? Who, but that bloody robber, Ussher? They'd go through the country for him, the born ruffian,—may food choke him!—and he making little of them all the time. Bad manners to the like of him! they say he never called an honest woman his mother. Will I, Mr. Brady, be giving my blood for them, and he putting my brother in gaol, and all for sitting up warming his shins at Loch Sheen? No; may this be my curse if I do!" and Joe Reynolds swallowed a glass of whiskey; "and you may tell Mr. Thady, Pat, if he wants the boys to stick to him, let him stick to them, and not be helping a d——d ruffian to be dhriving the lives out of them he should befriend. And maybe he will want us, and that soon; and if he'll stick to us now, as his fathers always did, sure it's little he need be fearing Flannelly and Keegan. By G——, the first foot they set in Ballycloran they shall leave there forever, if Thady Macdermot will help rid his father's land of that bloody ruffian."
"It's little Mr. Thady loves the Captain, Joe, and it's little he ever will, I think; however, you can come up, you know, on Friday, and say your own say about your brother, and the rint and all."
"And so I will come, Pat; but there's all the rint I have, and Mrs. Mulready, I think, 'll have the best part of that," and he jingled a few halfpence in his pocket. So ended the meeting previous to the conversation in Macdermot's rent-office.
The Rev. John McGrath was priest of the parish of Drumsna at the time of which we write. This parish contains the post town of Drumsna and the country adjacent, including the town-land and demesne of Ballycloran. At this time the spacious chapel which now stands on the hill about two miles out of Drumsna had not been built, and Father John's chapel was situated on the road from Drumsna to Ballycloran. Near this he had built himself a small cottage in the quasi-Gothic style, for Father John was a man of taste; he rented also about twenty acres of land, half of this being on the Macdermots' estate.
The Rev. Mr. McGrath is destined to appear somewhat prominently in this history, and I must therefore be excused in giving a somewhat elaborate description of him.
He had been, like many of the present parish priests in Ireland, educated in France; he had been at college at St. Omer, and afterwards at Paris, and had officiated as a cure there; he had consequently seen more of French manners and society than usually falls to the lot of Irish theological students in that capital. He was, also, which is equally unusual, a man of good family, and from his early avocations was more fitted than is generally the case with those of his order, to mix in society. He possessed also very considerable talents, and much more than ordinary acquirements, great natural bonhommie, and perpetual good temper. He was a thorough French scholar, and had read the better portion of their modern literature. On leaving Paris he had gone to Rome on a begging expedition, to raise funds for building chapels in his own country, and there too he had been well received; and from thence he had returned to take possession of a populous parish in one of the very poorest parts of Ireland.
With all his acquirements, however, in many things Father John was little better than a child. Though his zeal had enabled him to raise money for the church, he could never keep any of his own; he had always his little difficulties, and though he sedulously strove to live within his income, and never really much outstripped it, he was always in want of money. He had built his house, and, unlike his neighbour, had managed to pay for it; but he was always in trouble about it; the rats were in the roof, and his flooring was all warped, and his windows would neither open nor shut, and the damp would get to his books. Therefore, though his cottage was, exteriorly, the prettiest house in his parish, interiorly, it was discomfort personified.
A more hospitable man than Father McGrath never lived even in Connaught; he took a look in at dinner time as a personal favour; and whatever might be the state of his larder, his heart was always full, and the emptiness of the former never troubled him. He had not the slightest shame at asking any one to eat potatoes and cold mutton. They all knew him, and what they were likely to get at his house, and if they did not choose, they need not come. Whoever did come had as good as he had himself. A more temperate man never lived; but he had as much pleasure in seeing another man drink a tumbler of punch, as any one else would in drinking it himself. He kept under his own bed a great stone jar, always, partly at least, full of whiskey of native manufacture; and though, were he alone, the jar would long have remained untouched, as it was, it very often had to be refilled. Tumblers he had only two; when his guests exceeded that, the tea-cups made their appearance, and he would naively tell his friends that he meant to buy tumblers when he got any money; but, heaven help them! if he got in debt, the people would never be paid.
His whole domestic arrangements were on a par: his crockery was of a most heterogeneous and scanty description; his furniture of the most common kind, put in bit by bit, as it was found indispensable. In two things only did Father John show his extravagance; in the first, too, his expenditure was only so to be called, in comparison with that of others round him, of the same profession. It was this—he was always dressed like a gentleman; Father John's black coat was always black, never rusty brown; his waistcoat, his trowsers, his garters, even shoes, the same; and not only did his clothes always look new, but they were always well made, as far as his figure would allow; his hat was neat, and his linen clean; his hands, too, were always clean, and, when he was from home, always gloved; even his steady cob, whom he called Paul (it was rumoured that he had called him St. Paul, but the bishop objected), together with his saddle and bridle, was always neat; this particular was nearly all that the polish of French society had left him, and those who are accustomed to see Irish priests will know that this peculiarity would be striking. His other expensive taste was that of books; he could not resist the temptation to buy books, books of every sort, from voluminous editions of St. Chrysostom to Nicholas Nicklebys and Charles O'Malleys; and consequently he had a great many. But alas! he had no book-shelves, not one; some few volumes, those of every day use, were piled on the top of one another in his little sitting-room; the others were closely packed in great boxes in different parts of the cottage—his bed-room, his little offertory, his parlour, and many in a little drawing-room, as he called it, but in which was neither chair nor table, nor ever appeared the sign of fire! No wonder the poor man complained the damp got to his books.
In all other respects Father John was a fair specimen of the Irish priesthood. He must have been an eloquent man, for he had been sent on different foreign missions to obtain money for building chapels by preaching sermons. But his appearance was anything but dignified; he was very short, and very fat, and had little or no appearance of neck; his face, however was intelligent; he had bright, small black eyes, a fine, high forehead, very white teeth, and short thick, curling, dark hair.
As I am on the subject of the church, I might as well say now that his curate, Father Cullen, was unlike him in everything but his zeal for the church. He was educated at Maynooth, was the son of a little farmer in the neighbourhood, was perfectly illiterate,—but chiefly showed his dissimilarity to the parish priest by his dirt and untidiness. He was a violent politician; the Catholic Emancipation had become law, and he therefore had no longer that grievance to complain of; but he still had national grievances, respecting which he zealously declaimed, when he could find a hearer. Repeal of the Union was not, at that time, the common topic, morning and night, at work and at rest, at table and even at the altar, as it afterwards became; but there were, even then, some who maintained that Ireland would never be herself, till the Union was repealed; and among these was Father Cullen. He was as zealous for his religion as for his politics; and he could become tolerable intimate with no Protestant, without thinking he was specially called on to convert him. A disciple less likely to make converts than Father Cullen it would be difficult to imagine, seeing that in language he was most violent and ungrammatical—in appearance most uncouth—in argument most unfair. He was impatient if any one spoke but himself. He relied in all such arguments on his power of proving logically that his own church was the true church, and as his education had been logical, he put all his arguments into syllogisms. If you could not answer him in syllogisms, he conceived that you must be, evidently to yourself, in the wrong, and that obstinacy alone prevented you from owning it. Father Cullen's redeeming point was his earnestness,—his reality; he had no humbug about him; whatever was there, was real; he had no possible appreciation for a joke, and he understood no ridicule. You might gull him, and dupe him for ever, he would never find you out; his heart and mind were full of the Roman Catholic church and of his country's wrongs; he could neither think nor speak of aught beside.
Ussher was the only Protestant whom this poor man was in the habit of meeting, and he was continually attempting to convert him; in which pursuit Ussher rather encouraged him with the purpose of turning him into ridicule.
Such were the spiritual guides of the inmates of Ballycloran and its neighbourhood.
On the Wednesday morning after the fair, Father John was sitting eating his breakfast in his little parlour, attending much more to a book on the table before him than to the large lumps of bread and butter which he unconsciously swallowed, when the old woman servant, Judy McCan, opened the door and said,
"Father John, plase, there's Denis McGovery wanting to see yer riverence, below then."
People in Connaught always call the hall, door, and passage "below," the parlour, or sitting-room, "above," though, in nine cases out of ten, they are on the same floor.
"Why, then, Judy," said Father John, with his mouth full, "bad manners to them; mayn't I eat a bit of breakfast in peace and quiet? There was I at the widow Byrne's all night, destroyed with the cold, and nothing the matter with her at last, and now I must lose my breakfast, as well as my sleep."
"It's nothing of that sort, I'm thinking, Father John, but Denis McGovery is afther going to get married, I hear."
"Oh," exclaimed Father John, "that's a horse of another colour; going to get married, is he? and why shouldn't he, and he able to support a wife? let him come in, Judy."
It will be remembered that the "above" and "below" in the priest's house were only terms of compliment, and, as Denis McGovery was standing in the hall,—that is, at the open door of the very room in which Judy McCan had been announcing his attendance,—he, of course, had heard what had passed; therefore, when Father John said "let him come in," he wanted no further introduction, but, thrusting himself just through the door, and taking hold of a scanty lock of hair on his forehead, by way of reverential salutation, he said, "Iss, yer honor."
Now, laconic as this was, it was intended to convey, and did convey, a full assent not only to Judy's assertion that he was "afther going to get married," but also to the priest's remark, that there was no good reason on earth why he shouldn't, seeing that he was able to support a family.
"Iss, yer honor," said Denis McGovery.
"Well, Denis—that'll do, Judy," meaning that Judy need not listen any longer, at any rate within the room—"so you are going to get married, are you?"
"Didn't Father Cullen say anything to your riverence about it, then?"
"Oh, yes, he did then; I didn't remember it just at first, when Judy mentioned your name."
"Iss, yer riverence; if ye plaze, I am going to be married."
The bridegroom in this case was a man about forty years of age, who seemed, certainly, never to have eaten the bread of idleness, for he was all gristle and muscle; nor had he; he was a smith living in Drumsna, and the reputed best shoer of horses in the neighbourhood; and consequently was, as the priest had said, able to maintain a family: in fact, Denis had the reputation of hoarded wealth, for it was said he had thirty or forty pounds in the Loan Fund Office at Carrick-on-Shannon. He was a hard-working, ill-favoured, saving man; but, as he was able to keep a comfortable home over a wife, he had no difficulty in getting one.
"Oh then it pleases me entirely, because you are the boy that's both able and willing to pay your clergyman respectably as you should—"
"In course, your riverence, though the likes of a poor boy like me hasn't much, I wouldn't not be married dacently, Father John; and in course I couldn't expect yer riverence to be doing it for nothing."
"For nothing indeed! Where would I be getting the coat on my back, and the roof over my head?—no, the poor themselves always make out something for me; and you, Denis, that are comfortable, would of course be sorry to set a bad example to those that are not so."
"Oh then, yer riverence is poking yer fun at me."
"No fun at all, Denis. If you that have the money don't pay your priest, who is to, I'd like to know. Fun indeed! no, but it's good earnest I'm talking; and if you have a character that you wish to support, and to give your children after you, it's now you should be looking to it."
Denis McGovery began twirling his hat round in his hand, and bending his knees, as if nonplussed. He had known well enough, beforehand, what the priest would say to him, and the priest too, what answer he would get. The question in these cases is, which would cajole the other the best, and of course the priest would have the best of it. This may seem odd to those who do not know the country; but did he not do so, the Roman Catholic clergyman could not get even the moderate remuneration which he does receive for his laborious services.
"Oh, yer riverence," continued Denis, attempting a grim smile, "you know it's the young woman, or her friends, as always pays the priest mostly."
"And who is the young woman, Denis; Betsy Cane, isn't it?"
"No, Father John," said Denis, blushing almost black through his dark skin; "it ain't Betsy."
"Not Betsy Cane! why she told me three weeks ago you were to be married to her."
"And so I was, yer riverence, only ye see for a mistake as happened."
"A mistake! Was it she made the mistake or you?"
"Why it warn't exactly herself thin as did it; it war her mother."
"Her mother made a mistake! What mistake did her mother make?"
"Along of the cow, yer riverence." Denis seemed very slow of explaining, and Father John began to be impatient.
"What cow, Denis? How did the mother's making a mistake about the cow prevent your marrying her daughter?"
"Why, yer riverence, then, if you'll let me, I'll jist explain the matter. Ould Betsy Cane—that's her mother you know—promised me the brown cow, yer riverence may know, as is in the little garden behint the cabin, for her dater's fortin; and says I to her, 'Well, may be she may be worth four pound tin, Mrs. Cane.' 'Four pound tin,' says she, 'Mr. McGovery; and you to know no better than that, and she to calve before Christmas! well then, four pound tin indeed,'—jist in that manner, yer riverence. Well then I looks at the cow, and she seemed a purty sort of a cow, and I agreed to the bargain, yer honer, purviding the cow turned out to be with calf. Well, yer honer, now it's no such thing, but it's sticking me she was entirely about, the cow: so now she got the cow and her daughter both at home; and likely to for me."
"And so, Denis, you broke your promise, and refused to marry the girl you were engaged to, because a cow was not in calf?"
"No I didn't, yer honer; that is, I did refuse to marry the girl; why wouldn't I? But I didn't break my promise, becase I only promised, purviding—; and you see, Father John, they was only decaving me."
"Well, Denis; and who is it after all that you are going to have?"
"Well, then, it's jist Mary Brady."
"What! Pat Brady's sister is it?"
"Iss, yer honer."
"And is her cow really in the family way?"
"Now yer riverence 'll make a handle of that agin me!"
"Never mind, Denis, how I handle the cow, so long as you handle the calf; but has Mary a cow?"
"No, Father John, she aint got a cow then, as I knows on."
"Well, Denis, and what fortune are you to get? You are not the man would take a wife unless she brought something with her."
"Well then, it's only jist a pair of young pigs and a small thrifle of change."
"A trifle of change, eh! Then, Mr. McGovery, I take it, it wasn't only along of the mistake about a cow that you left poor Betsy Cane, but you found you could do better, I suppose."
"Well then, it might be jist a little of both; but you see, Father John, they war the first to decave me."
"Well, Denis, and when's the wedding to be?"
"Oh—then, to-morrow evening, if yer riverence plazes."
"What! so soon, Denis? Take care; perhaps after all Betsy Cane's cow may calve; see; would you be too much in a hurry after the pigs?"
"Sorrow to the tongue of me then that I tould yer riverence a word about it!"
"But what are you in such a hurry about? Won't the pigs do as well at Pat Brady's as they will down at Drumsna?"
"Why you see, Father John, after to-morrow is Friday, which wouldn't do for the two legs of mutton Pat brought from Carrick with him yesterday, and the fine ham, yer riverence, Mrs. McKeon, long life to her, has sent us up from Drumsna; and Saturday wouldn't shute at all, seeing the boys will mostly be dhrunk, which may be yer honer wouldn't like on the morning of the blessed Sabbath."
"Nor on any other morning. Can't they take their fun without getting drunk, like beasts? But drunk they'll be, of course. And why would not Monday do?"
"Why that's next week, yer riverence!"
"You've remained single all this time, and only jilted poor Betsy Cane last week; and are you so hot after Mary Brady that you can't wait till next Monday to be married? Or is it the pigs, Denis? Are you afraid Pat may change his mind about the pigs, as you did about the cow?"
"Oh, drat the cow now, Father McGrath! and will ye never be aisy with yer joke agin a poor boy? It was not about the pigs then, nor nothing of the kind, but jist that I heard as how, but—" and Denis began scratching his head—"yer honer 'll be after twisting what I'll be tellin' yer, and poking your fun at me."
"Not I, my boy; out with it. You know nothing goes farther with me."
"Then it war just this, yer riverence, as makes me so hurried about getting the thing done. I heard tell that Tom Ginty, the pig-jobber, has comed home to Dromod from where he was away tiv' Athlone; and they do be telling me, he brought a thrifle of money with him; and yer honer knows Mary had half given a promise to Ginty afore he went: and so, yer riverence, lest there be any scrimmage betwixt Ginty and I, ye see it's as well to get the marriage done off hand."
"Oh yes, I see; you were afraid Tom Ginty would be taking Mary Brady's pigs to Athlone. That was it, was it?"
"No, yer honer, I war not afraid of that; but it might be as well there should be no scrimmage betwixt us, as in course there would not be, and we oncet man and wife. But as in course Mary has promised me now, she could not go and act like that."
"Why no, Denis, not well; unless, you know, she was to find your cow would not have any calf; eh?"
"Oh, bother it for a calf then!"
"No; for not being a calf, Denis."
"Well then, yer honer, I'll jist go and spake to Father Cullen. Though he is not so good-humoured like,—at least, he don't be always laughing at a boy."
"Come back, McGovery, and don't be a fool. Father Cullen's gone to Dromod. I think I heard him say Tom Ginty wanted him."
"Is it Tom Ginty? but shure what would Tom be doing with Father Cullen? wouldn't he be going to his own priest? Well, what time will yer riverence come up to Pat Brady's to-morrow?"
"Well, get the mutton done about seven to-morrow evening, and I'll be with you. But you'll ask Tom Ginty, eh?"
"Sorrow a foot, then!"
"Nor Betsy Cane, Denis?"
"It ar'nt for me to ax the company, Father John, but if Betsy likes to come up and shake her feet and take her sup, she's welcome for me."
"That's kind of you; and you know you could be asking after the—"
"Well then, Father John, may it be long before I spake another word to you, barring my sins!"
"Well, Denis, I've done. But, look ye now you've a good supper for the boys, and lots of the stuff, I'll go bail. Let there be plenty of them in it, and don't let them come with their pockets empty. By dad, they think their priest can live on the point without the potatoes."
"Oh, Father John, Pat says there'll be plenty of them in it, and a great wedding he says he'll make it: there's a lot of the boys over from Mohill is to be there."
"From Mohill, eh? then they've my leave to stay away; I don't care how little I see of the boys from Mohill. Why can't he get his company from Drumsna and the parish?"
"Oh shure, yer riverence, an' he'll do that too; won't there be all the Ballycloran tenants, and the boys and girls from Drumleesh?"
"Oh, yes, Drumleesh; Drumleesh is as bad as Mohill; I'm thinking it's those fellows in Drumleesh that make Mohill what it is; but I suppose Pat Brady would tell me he has a right to choose his own company."
"Oh, Pat would not tell your riverence the like of that."
"And he's the boy that would do it, directly. And mind this, McGovery, you've the name of a prudent fellow—when you're once married, the less you see of your brother-in-law the better, and stick to your work in Drumsna."
"And so I manes. Oh, yer riverence, they won't be making me be wasting my hard arned wages at Mrs. Mulready's. Pat wanted me to be there last night of all, as I was coming out of the fair; but, no, says I; if ye'd like to see yer sister respectable, don't be axing me to go there; if ye'd like her to be on the roads, and me in Carrick Gaol, why that's the way, I take it."
"Stick to that, Denis, and you'll be the better of it. Well, I'll be down with you to-morrow evening; but mind now, two thirties is the very least; and you should make it more, if you want any luck in your marriage."
"I'll spake to Pat, Father John; you know that's his business; but your riverence, Father John, you'll not be saying anything up there before the boys and girls about you know—Betsy Cane, you know."
"Oh! the cow!—only, you see, if you don't come down with the money as you should, it might be an excuse for your poverty. But, Denis, I'll take care; and if any one should say anything about the price of cows or the like, I'll tell them all it isn't Betsy Cane's cow, who wouldn't have the calf, though she was engaged."
Denis McGovery now hurried off. Father John called for Judy to take away the cold tea, and prepared to sally forth to some of his numerous parochial duties.
But Father McGrath was doomed to still further interruptions. He had not walked above a mile on his road,—he was going by Ballycloran,—when, coming down the avenue, he saw Pat Brady with his master, Mr. Thady, and of course he didn't pass without waiting to speak to them.
"Well, Thady," and "Well, Father John," as they shook hands; and, "Well, Pat Brady," and "Well, yer riverence," as the latter made a motion with his hand towards his hat, was the first salutation.
It will be remembered that Thady and the other had just been talking over affairs in the rent-office, and Thady did not seem as though he were exactly in a good humour.
"So, Pat, your sister is getting married to Denis McGovery. I'll tell you what—she might do a deal worse."
"She might do what she plased for me, Father John. But, faix, I was tired enough of her myself; so, you see, Denis is welcome to his bargain."
"What! are you going to bring a wife of your own home then?"
"Devil a wife, then, axing your riverence's pardon. What'd I be doing with a wife?"
"Who'll keep the house over you now, Pat, your sister's as good as gone?"
"I won't be axing a woman to keep the house over me; so Mary's welcome to go; or, she wor welcome to stay, too, for me. I didn't ax her to have him, and, by the 'postles, when Denis is tired of his bargain, he'll be recollecting I wasn't axing him to have her."
"Well, Thady, I suppose you and Feemy 'll be at the wedding, eh? and, Pat, you must make them bring Captain Ussher. Mrs. McGovery, as is to be, must have the Captain at her wedding; you'll be there, Thady?"
"Oh, Pat's been telling me about it, and I suppose I and Feemy must go down. If Brady chooses to ask the Captain, I've nothing to say; it's not for me to ask him, and, as he'd only be quizzing at all he saw, I think he might as well be away."
"Ah! Thady, but you never think of your priest; think of the half-crown it would be to me. Never mind, Pat, you ask him; he'll come anywhere, where Miss Feemy is likely to be; eh, Thady?"
"Then I wish Feemy had never set eyes on him, Father John; and can't you be doing better than coupling her name with that of his, that way? and he a black ruffian and a Protestant, and filling her head up with nonsense: I thought you had more respect for the family. Well, Pat, jist go down to them boys, and do as I was telling you,"—and Pat walked off.
"And what more respect for the family could I have, Thady, than to wish to see your sister decently married?" and Father John turned round to walk back with young Macdermot the way he was going, "what better respect could I have? If Captain Ussher were not a proper young man in general, your father and you, Thady, wouldn't be letting him be so much with Feemy; and, now we're on it, if you did not mean it to be a match, and if you did not mean they should marry, why have you let him be so much at Ballycloran, seeing your father doesn't meddle much in anything now?"
"That's just the reason, Father John, I couldn't be seeing all day who was in it and who was not; besides, Feemy's grown now; she's no mother, and must learn to care for herself."
"No, Thady, she's no mother; and no father, poor girl, that can do much for her; and isn't that the reason you should care the more for her? Mind, I'm not blaming you, Thady, for I know you do care for her; and you only want to know how to be a better brother to her; and what could she do better than marry Captain Ussher?"
"But isn't he a black Protestant, Father John; and don't the country hate him for the way he's riding down the poor?"
"He may be Protestant, Thady, and yet not 'black.' Mind, I'm not saying I wouldn't rather see Feemy marry a good Catholic; but if she's set her heart on a Protestant, I wouldn't have you be against him for that: that's not the way to show your religion; it's only nursing your pride; and sure, mightn't she make a Catholic of him too?"
"Oh, Father Cullen has tried that."
"Well, I wouldn't tell him so, but I think your sister would show more power in converting a young fellow like Ussher than poor Cullen. And then, as to his riding down the poor; you know every one must do his duty, and if the boys will be acting against the laws, why, of course, they must bear the consequences. Not but that I think Captain Ussher is too hard upon them. But, Thady, are you telling me the truth in this? Is it not that you fear the young man won't marry Feemy, rather than that he will?"
"Why, Father John?"
"I'll tell you why, Thady: this Captain Ussher has been the intimate friend in your house now for more than six months back; he has been received there willingly by your father, and willingly by yourself, but still more willingly by Feemy; all the country knows this; of course they all said Feemy was to be married to him; and who could say why she shouldn't, if her father and brother agreed? I always thought it would be a match; and though, as I said before, I would sooner have married Feemy to a good Catholic, I should have thought myself much exceeding my duty as her priest, had I said a word to persuade her against it. Now people begin to say—and you know what they say in the parish always comes to my ears—that Captain Ussher thinks too much of himself to take a wife from Ballycloran, and that he has only been amusing himself with your sister; and I must tell you, Thady, if you didn't know more of Captain Ussher and his intentions than you seem to do, it isn't to-day you should be thinking what you ought to do."
Thady walked on with his head down, and the priest went on.
"I've been meaning to speak to you of this some days back, for your poor father is hardly capable to manage these things now; and it's the respect I have for the family, and the love I have for Feemy,—and, for the matter of that, for you too,—that makes me be mentioning it. You aint angry with your priest, are you, Thady, for speaking of the welfare of your sister? If you are, I'll say no more."
"Oh no! angry, Father John! in course I aint angry. But what can I do then? Bad luck to the day that Ussher darkened the door of Ballycloran! By dad, if he plays Feemy foul he'll shortly enter no door, barring that of hell fire!"
"Whisht, Thady, whisht! it's not cursing 'll do you any good in life, or Feemy either;"—and then continued the priest, seeing that poor Macdermot still appeared miserably doubtful what to say or do, "come in here awhile," they had just got to the gate of Father John's Gothic cottage, "just come in here awhile, and we'll talk over what will be best to do."
They entered the little parlour in which McGovery had shortly before been discussing his matrimonial engagements, and having closed the door, and, this time, taking care that Judy McCan was not just on the other side of it, and making Macdermot sit down opposite to him, the priest began, in the least disagreeable manner he could, to advise him on the very delicate subject in question.
"You see, Thady, there's not the least doubt in life poor Feemy's very fond of him; and how could she not be, poor thing, and she seeing no one else, and mewed up there all day with your father?—no blame to her—and in course she thinks he means all right; only she doesn't like to be asking him to be naming the day, or talking to you or Larry, or the like, and that's natural too; but what I fear is, that he's taking advantage of her ignorance and quietness, you see; and, though I don't think she would do anything really wrong, nor would he lead her astray altogether—"
"And av he did, Father John, I'd knock the brains out of the scoundrel, though they hung me in Carrick Gaol for it; I would, by G——!"
"Whisht, now, Thady; I don't mean that at all—but you get so hot—but what I really mean is this; though no actual harm might come of it, it doesn't give a girl a good name through the country, for her to be carrying on with a young man too long, and that all for nothing; and Feemy's too pretty and too good, to have a bad word about her. And so, to make a long story short, I think you'd better just speak to her, and tell her, if you like, what I say; and then, you know, if you find things not just as they should be, ask her not to be seeing the Captain any more, except just as she can't help; and do you tell him that he's not so welcome at Ballycloran as he was, or ask him at once what he means about your sister. It's making too little of any girl to be asking a man to marry her, but better that than let her break her heart, and get ill spoken of through the country too."
"I don't think they dare do that yet, poor as the Macdermots now are, or, by heaven—"
"There's your pride,—bad pride, again, Thady. Poor or rich, high or low, don't let your sister leave it to any one to speak bad of her, or put it in any man's power to hurt her character. At any rate, by following my advice, you'll find how the land lies."
"But you see, Father John, she mightn't exactly mind what I say. Feemy has had so much of her own way, and up to this I haven't looked after her ways,—not so much as I should, perhaps; though, for the matter of that there's been little need, I believe; but she's been left to herself, and if she got cross upon me when I spoke of Ussher, it would only be making ill blood between us. I'd sooner a deal be speaking to Captain Ussher."