TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY
BY WILLIAM CARLETON
THE POOR SCHOLAR.
One day about the middle of November, in the year 18—, Dominick M'Evoy and his son Jemmy were digging potatoes on the side of a hard, barren hill, called Esker Dhu. The day was bitter and wintry, the men were thinly clad, and as the keen blast swept across the hill with considerable violence, the sleet-like rain which it bore along pelted into their garments with pitiless severity. The father had advanced into more than middle age; and having held, at a rack-rent the miserable waste of farm which he occupied, he was compelled to exert himself in its cultivation, despite either obduracy of soil, or inclemency of weather. This day, however, was so unusually severe, that the old man began to feel incapable of continuing his toil. The son bore it better; but whenever a cold rush of stormy rain came over them, both were compelled to stand with their sides against it, and their heads turned, so as that the ear almost rested back upon the shoulder in order to throw the rain off their faces. Of each, however, that cheek which was exposed to the rain and storm was beaten into a red hue; whilst the other part of their faces was both pale and hunger-pinched.
The father paused to take breath, and, supported by his spade, looked down upon the sheltered inland which, inhabited chiefly by Prostestants and Presbyterians, lay rich and warm-looking under him.
"Why, thin," he exclaimed to the son—a lad about fifteen,—"sure I know well I oughtn't to curse yez, anyway, you black set! an yit, the Lord forgive me my sins, I'm almost timpted to give yez a volley, an' that from my heart out! Look at thim, Jimmy agra—only look at the black thieves! how warm an' wealthy they sit there in our ould possessions, an' here we must toil till our fingers are worn to the stumps, upon this thievin' bent. The curse of Cromwell on it!—You might as well ax the divil for a blessin', as expect anything like a dacent crop out of it.—Look at thim two ridges!—such a poor sthring o' praties is in it!—one here an' one there—an' yit we must turn up the whole ridge for that same! Well, God sind the time soon, when the right will take place, Jimmy agra!"
"An' doesn't Pasthorini say it? Sure whin Twenty-five comes, we'll have our own agin: the right will overcome the might—the bottomless pit will be locked—ay, double: boulted, if St. Pettier gets the kays, for he's the very boy that will accommodate the heretics wid a warm corner; an' yit, faith, there's: many o' thim that myself 'ud put in a good word for, affcher all."
"Throth, an' here's the same, Jimmy. There's Jack Stuart, an' if there's a cool corner in hell, the same Jack will get it—an' that he may, I pray Gor this day, an' amin. The Lord sind it to him! for he richly desarves it. Kind, neighborly, and frindly, is he an' all belongin' to him; an' I wouldn't be where a hard word 'ud be spoken of him, nor a dog in connection wid the family ill-treated; for which reason may he get a cool corner in hell, I humbly sufflicate."
"What do you think of Jack Taylor? Will he be cosey?"
"Throth, I doubt so—a blessed youth is Jack: yit myself 'ud hardly wish it. He's a heerum-skeemm, divil-may-care fellow, no doubt of it, an' laughs at the priests, which same I'm thinkin' will get him below stairs more nor a new-milk heat, any way; but thin agin, he thrates thim dacent, an' gives thim good dinners, an' they take all this rolliken in good part, so that it's likely he's not in airnest in it, and surely they ought to know best, Jimmy."
"What do you think of Yallow Sam?—honest Sam, that they say was born widout a heart, an' carries the black wool in his ears, to keep out the cries of the widows an' the orphans, that are long rotten in their graves through his dark villany!—He'll get a snug birth!"*
* This was actually said of the person alluded to—a celebrated usurer and agent to two or three estates, who was a little deaf, and had his ears occasionally stuffed with black wool.
"Yallow Sam," replied the old man, slowly, and a dark shade of intense hatred blackened his weather-beaten countenance, as he looked in the direction from which the storm blew: "'twas he left us where we're standin', Jimmy—undher this blast, that's cowldher an' bittherer nor a step-mother's breath, this cuttin' day! 'Twas he turned us on the wide world, whin your poor mother was risin' out of her faver. 'Twas he squenched the hearth, whin she wasn't able to lave the house, till I carried her in my arms into Paddy Cassidy's—the tears fallin' from my eyes upon her face, that I loved next to God. Didn't he give our farm to his bastard son, a purple Orangeman? Out we went, to the winds an' skies of heaven, bekase the rich bodagh made intherest aginst us. I tould him whin he chated me out o' my fifteen goolden guineas, that his masther, the landlord, should hear of it; but I could never get next or near to him, to make my complaint. Eh? A snug birth! I'm only afeard that hell has no corner hot enough for him—but lave that to the divil himself: if he doesn't give him the best thratement hell can afford, why I'm not here."
"Divil a one o' the ould boy's so bad as they say, father; he gives it to thim hot an' heavy, at all evints."
"Why even if he was at a loss about Sam, depind upon it, he'd get a hint from his betthers above, that 'ud be sarviceable."
"They say he visits him as it is, an' that Sam can't sleep widout some one in the room wid him. Dan Philips says the priest was there, an' had a Mass in every room in the house; but Charley Mack tells me there's no! thruth in it. He was advised to it, he says; but it seems the ould boy has too strong ahoult of him, for Sam said he'd have the divil any time sooner nor the priest, and its likest what he would say."
"Och, och, Jimmy, avick, I'm tir'd out! We had betther give in; the day's too hard, an' there's no use in standin' agin the weather that's in it. Lave the ould villain to God, who he can't chate, any way."
"Well, may our curse go along wid the rest upon him, for dhrivin' us to sich an unnatural spot as this! Hot an' heavy, into the sowl an' marrow of him may it penethrate. An' sure that's no more than all the counthry's wishin' him, whether or not—not to mintion the curses that's risin' out o' the grave agin him, loud an' piercin'!"
"God knows it's not slavin' yourself on sich a day as this you'd be, only for him. Had we kep our farm, you'd be now well an in your larnin' for a priest—an' there 'ud be one o' the family sure to be a gintleman, anyhow; but that's gone too, agra. Look at the smoke, how comfortable it rises from Jack Sullivan's, where the priest has a Station to-day. 'Tisn't fishin' for a sthray pratie he is, upon a ridge like this. But it can't be helped; an' God's will be done! Not himself!—faix, it's he that'll get the height of good thratement, an' can ride home, well lined, both inside an' outside. Much good may it do him!—'tis but his right."
The lad now paused in his turn, looked down on Jack Sullivan's comfortable house, sheltered by a clump of trees, and certainly saw such a smoke tossed up from the chimney, as gave unequivocal evidence of preparation for a good dinner. He next looked "behind the wind," with a visage made more blank and meagre by the contrast; after which he reflected for a few minutes, as if working up his mind to some sudden determination. The deliberation, however, was short; he struck his open hand upon the head of the spade with much animation, and instantly took it in both hands, exclaiming:
"Here, father, here goes; to the divil once an' for ever I pitch slavery," and as he spoke, the spade was sent as far from him as he had strength to throw it. "To the divil I pitch slavery! An' now, father, wid the help o' God, this is the last day's work I'll ever put my hand to. There's no way of larnin' Latin here; but off to Munster I'll start, an' my face you'll never see in this parish, till I come home either a priest an a gintleman! But that's not all, father dear; I'll rise you out of your distress, or die in the struggle. I can't bear to see your gray hairs in sorrow and poverty."
"Well, Jimmy—well, agra—God enable you, avourneen; 'tis a good intintion. The divil a one o' me will turn another spadeful aither, for this day: I'm dhrookin' (* dripping) wid the rain. We'll go home an' take an air o' the fire we want it; and aftherwards we can talk about what you're on (* determined) for."
It is usual to attribute to the English and Scotch character, exclusively, a cool and persevering energy in the pursuit of such objects as inclination or interest may propose for attainment; whilst Irishmen are considered too much the creatures of impulse to reach a point that requires coolness, condensation of thought, and efforts successively repeated. This is a mistake. It is the opinion of Englishmen and Scotchmen who know not the Irish character thoroughly. The fact is, that in the attainment of an object, where a sad-faced Englishman would despair, an Irishman will, probably, laugh, drink, weep, and fight, during his progress to accomplish it. A Scotchman will miss it, perhaps, but, having done all that could be done, he will try another speculation. The Irishman may miss it too; but to console himself he will break the head of any man who may have impeded him in his efforts, as a proof that he ought to have succeeded; or if he cannot manage that point, he will crack the pate of the first man he meets, or he will get drunk, or he will marry a wife, or swear a gauger never to show his face in that quarter again; or he will exclaim, if it be concerning a farm, with a countenance full of simplicity—"God bless your honor, long life and honor to you, sir! Sure an' 'twas but a thrifle, anyhow, that your Reverence will make up for me another time. An' 'tis well I know your Lordship 'ud be the last man on airth to give me the cowld shoulder, so you would, an' I an ould residenthur on your own father's estate, the Lord be praised for that same! An' 'tis a happiness, an' nothjn' else, so it is, even if I payed double rint—wherein, maybe, I'm not a day's journey from that same, manin' the double rint, your honor; only that one would do a great deal for the honor an' glory of livin' undher a raal gintleman—an' that's but rason."
There is, in short, a far-sightedness in an Irishman which is not properly understood, because it is difficult to understand it. I do not think there is a nation on earth, whose inhabitants mix up their interest and their feelings together more happily, shrewdly, and yet less ostensibly, than Irishmen contrive to do. An Irishman will make you laugh at his joke, while the object of that joke is wrapped up from you in the profoundest mystery, and you will consequently make the concession to a certain point of his character, which has been really obtained by a faculty you had not penetration to discover, or, rather, which he had too much sagacity to exhibit. Of course, as soon as your back is turned, the broad grin is on him, and one of his cheeks is stuck out two inches beyond the other, because his tongue is in it at your stupidity, simplicity, or folly. Of all the national characters on this habitable globe, I verily believe that that of the Irish is the most profound and unfathomable; and the most difficult on which to form a system, either social, moral, or religious.
It would be difficult, for example, to produce a more signal instance of energy, system, and perseverance than that exhibited in Ireland during the struggle for Emancipation. Was there not flattery to the dust? blarney to the eyes? heads broken? throats cut? houses burned? and cattle houghed? And why? Was it for the mere pleasure of blarney—of breaking heads (I won't dispute the last point, though, because I scorn to give up the glory of the national character),—of cutting throats—burning houses—or houghing cattle? No; but to secure Emancipation. In attaining that object was exemplified that Irish method of gaining a point.
"Yes," said Jemmy, "to the divil I pitch slavery! I will come home able to rise yez from your poverty, or never show my face in the parish of Ballysogarth agin."
When the lad's determination was mentioned to his mother and the family, there was a loud and serious outcry against it: for no circumstance is relished that ever takes away a member from an Irish hearth, no matter what the nature of that circumstance may be.
"Och, thin, is it for that bocaun (* soft, innocent person) of a boy to set off wid himself, runnin' through the wide world afther larnin', widout money or friends! Avourneen, put it out of yer head. No; struggle on as the rest of us is doin', an' maybe yell come as well off at the long run."
"Mother, dear," said the son, "I wouldn't wish to go agin what you'd say; but I made a promise to myself to 'rise yez out of your poverty if I can, an' my mind's made up on it; so don't cross me, or be the manes of my havin' bad luck on my journey, in regard of me goin' aginst yer will, when you know 'twould be the last thing I wish to do."
"Let the gossoon take his way, Vara. Who knows but it was the Almighty put the thoughts of it into his head. Pasthorini says that there will soon be a change, an' 'tis a good skame it 'ill be to have him a sogarth when the fat living will be walkin' back to their ould owners."
"Oh, an' may the Man above grant that, I pray Jamini this day! for are not we harrished out of our lives, scrapin' an' scramblin' for the black thieves, what we ought to put on our backs, an' into our own mouths. Well, they say it's not lucky to take money from a priest, because it's the price o' sin, an' no more it can, seein' that they want it themselves; but I'm sure it's their (* The Protestant clergy) money that ought to carry the bad luck to them, in regard of their gettin' so many bitter curses along wid it."
When a lad from the humblest classes resolves to go to Munster as a poor scholar, there is but one course to be pursued in preparing his outfit. This is by a collection at the chapel among the parishioners, to whom the matter is made known by the priest, from the altar some Sunday previous to his departure. Accordingly, when the family had all given their consent to Jemmy's project, his father went, on the following day, to communicate the matter to the priest, and to solicit his co-operation in making a collection in behalf of the lad, on the next Sunday but one: for there is always a week's notice given, and sometimes more, that the people come prepared.
The conversation already detailed between father and son took place on Friday, and on Saturday, a day on which the priest never holds a Station, and, of course, is generally at home, Dominick M'Evoy went to his house with the object already specified in view. The priest was at home; a truly benevolent man, but like the worthies of his day, not over-burdened with learning, though brimful of kindness and hospitality mixed up with drollery and simple cunning.
"Good morning, Dominick!" said the priest, as Dominick entered.
"Good morrow, kindly, Sir," replied Dominick: "I hope your Reverence is well, and in good health."
"Troth I am, Dominick! I hope there's nothing wrong at home; how is the wife and children?"
"I humbly, thank your Reverence for axin'! Troth there's no rason for complainin' in regard o' the health; sarra one o' them but's bravely, consitherin' all things: I believe I'm the worst o' them, myself, yer Reverence.. I'm gettin' ould, you see, an' stiff', an' wake; but that's only in the coorse o' nathur; a man can't last always. Wait till them that's young an' hearty now, harrows as much as I ploughed in my day, an' they won't have much to brag of. Why, thin, but yer Reverence stands it bravely—faix, wondherfully itself—the Lord be praised! an' it warms my own heart to see you look so well."
"Thank you, Dominick. Indeed, my health, God be thanked, is very good. Ellish," he added, calling to an old female servant—"you'll take a glass, Dominick, the day is cowldish—Ellish, here take the kay, and get some spirits—the poteen, Ellish—to the right hand in the cupboard. Indeed, my health is very good, Dominick. Father Murray says he invies me my appetite, an' I tell him he's guilty of one of the Seven deadly sins."
"Ha, ha, ha!—Faix, an' Invy is one o' them sure enough; but a joke is a joke in the mane time. A pleasant gintleman is the same Father Murray, but yer Reverence is too deep for him in the jokin' line, for all that. Ethen, Sir, but it's you that gave ould Cokely the keen cut about his religion—ha, ha, ha! Myself laughed till I was sick for two days afther it—the ould thief!"
"Eh?—Did you hear that, Dominick? Are you sure that's the poteen, Ellish? Ay, an' the best of it all was, that his pathrun, Lord Foxhunter, was present. Come, Dominick, try that—it never seen wather. But the best of it all was—"
—"'Well, Father Kavanagh,' said he, 'who put you into the church? Now,' said he, 'you'll come over me wid your regular succession from St. Peter, but I won't allow that.'
"'Why, Mr. Cokely,' says I, back to him, 'I'll giye up the succession;' says I, 'and what is more, I'll grant that you have been called by the Lord, and that I have not; but the Lord that called you,' says I, 'was Lord Foxhunter.' Man, you'd tie his Lordship wid a cobweb, he laughed so heartily.
"'Bravo, Father Kavanagh,' said he. 'Cokely, you're bale,' said he; 'and upon my honor you must both dine with me to-day, says he—and capital claret he keeps."
"Your health, Father Kavanagh, an' God spare you to us! Hah! wather! Oh, the divil a taste itself did the same stuff see! Why, thin, I think your Reverence an' me's about an age. I bleeve. I'm a thrifle oulder; but I don't bear it so well as you do. The family, you see, an' the childhre, an' the cares o' the world, pull me down: throth, the same family's a throuble to me. I wish I had them all settled safe, any way."
"What do you intind to do with them, Dominick?"
"In throth, that's what brought me to yer Reverence. I've one boy—Jimmy—a smart chap entirely, an' he has taken it into his head to go as a poor scholar to Munster. He's fond o' the larnin', there's not a doubt o' that, an' small blame to him to be sure; but then again, what can I do? He's bint on goin', an' I'm not able to help him, poor fellow, in any shape; so I made bould to see yer Reverence about it, in hopes that you might be able to plan out something for him more betther nor I could do. I have the good wishes of the neighbors, and indeed of the whole parish, let the thing go as it may."
"I know that, Dominick, and for the same rason well have a collection at the three althars. I'll mintion it to them after Mass to-morrow, and let them be prepared for Sunday week, when we can make the collection. Hut, man, never fear; we'll get as much as will send him half-way to the priesthood; and I'll tell you what, Dominick, I'll never be the man to refuse giving him a couple of guineas myself."
"May the heavenly Father bless an' keep your Reverence. I'm sure 'tis a good right the boy has, as well as all of us, to never forget your kindness. But as to the money—he'll be proud of your assistance the other way, sir,—so not a penny—'tis only your good-will we want—hem—except indeed, that you'd wish yourself to make a piece of kindness of it to the poor boy. Oh, not a drop more, sir,—I declare it'll be apt to get into my head. Well, well—sure an' we're not to disobey our clargy, whether or not: so here's your health over agin, your Reverence! an' success to the poor child that's bint on good!"
"Two guineas his Reverence is to give you from himself, Jimmy," said the father, on relating the success of this interview with the priest; "an' faix I was widin one of refusin' it, for feard it might bring something unlucky* wid it; but, thought I, on the spur, it's best to take it, any way. We can asily put it off on some o' these black-mouthed Presbyterians or Orangemen, by way of changin' it, an' if there's any hard fortune in it, let them have the full benefit of it, ershi misha." ( ** Say I.)
* There is a superstitious belief in some parts of Ireland, that priests' money is unlucky; "because," say the people, "it is the price of sin"—alluding to absolution.
It is by trifles of this nature that the unreasonable though enduring hatred with which the religious sects of Ireland look upon those of a different creed is best known. This feeling, however, is sufficiently mutual. Yet on both sides there is something more speculative than practical in its nature. When they speak of each other as a distinct class, the animosity, though abstracted, appears to be most deep; but when they mingle in the necessary intercourse of life, it is curious to see them frequently descend, on both sides, from the general rule to those exceptions of good-will and kindness, which natural benevolence and mutual obligation, together with a correct knowledge of each other's real characters, frequently produce. Even this abstracted hatred, however, has been the curse of our unhappy country; it has kept us too much asunder, or when we met exhibited us to each other in our darkest and most offensive aspects.
Dominick's conduct in the matter of the priest's money was also a happy illustration of that mixture of simplicity and shrewdness with which an Irishman can frequently make points meet, which superstition, alone, without such ingenuity, would keep separate for ever. Many another man might have refused the money from an ignorant dread of its proving unlucky; but his mode of reasoning on the subject was satisfactory to himself, and certainly the most ingenious which, according to his belief, he could have adopted—that of foisting it upon a heretic.
The eloquence of a country priest, though rude, and by no means elevated, is sometimes well adapted to the end in view, to the feelings of his auditory, and to the nature of the subject on which he speaks. Pathos and humor are the two levers by which the Irish character is raised or depressed; and these are blended, in a manner too anomalous to be ever properly described. Whoever could be present at a sermon on the Sunday when a Purgatorian Society is to be established, would hear pathos and see grief of the first water. It is then he would get a "nate" and glowing description of Purgatory, and see the broad, humorous, Milesian faces, of three or four thousand persons, of both sexes, shaped into an expression of the most grotesque and clamorous grief. The priest, however, on particular occasions of this nature, very shrewdly gives notice of the sermon, and of the purpose for which it is to be preached:—if it be grave, the people are prepared to cry; but if it be for a political, or any other purpose not decidedly religious, there will be abundance of that rough, blunt satire and mirth, so keenly relished by the peasantry, illustrated, too, by the most comical and ridiculous allusions. That priest, indeed, who is the best master of this latter faculty, is uniformly the greatest favorite. It is no unfrequent thing to see the majority of an Irish congregation drowned in sorrow and tears, even when they are utterly ignorant of the language spoken; particularly in those districts where the Irish is still the vernacular tongue. This is what renders notice of the sermon and its purport necessary; otherwise the honest people might be seriously at a loss whether to laugh or cry.
"Elliih avourneen, gho dhe dirsha?"—"Ellish, my dear, what is he saying?"
"Och, musha niel eshighum, ahagur—ta sha er Purgathor, ta barlhum."—"Och, I dunna that, jewel; I believe he's on Purgatory."
"Och, och, oh—och, och, oh—oh, i, oh, i, oh!"
And on understanding that Purgatory is the subject, they commence their grief with a rocking motion, wringing their hands, and unconsciously passing their beads through their fingers, whilst their bodies are bent forward towards the earth.
On the contrary, when the priest gets jocular—which I should have premised, he never does in what is announced as a solemn sermon—you might observe several faces charged with mirth and laughter, turned, even while beaming with this expression, to those who kneel beside them, inquiring:
"Arrah, Barny, what is it—ha, ha, ha!—what is it he's sayin'? The Lord spare him among us, anyhow, the darlin' of a man! Eh, Barny, you that's in the inside the English?" This, of course is spoken in Irish.
Barny, however, is generally too much absorbed in the fun to become interpreter just then; but as soon as the joke is nearly heard out, in compliance with the importunity of his neighbors, he gives them a brief hint or two, and instantly the full chorus is rung out, long, loud, and jocular.
On the Sunday in question, as the subject could not be called strictly religious, the priest, who knew that a joke or two would bring in many an additional crown to Jemmy's caubeen,* was determined that they, should at least have a laugh for their money. The man, besides, was benevolent, and knew the way to the Irish heart; a knowledge which he felt happy in turning to the benefit of the lad in question.
* Such collections were generally made in hats—the usual name for an Irish peasant's hat being—caubeen.
With this object in view, he addressed the people somewhat in the following language: "'Blessed is he that giveth his money to him that standeth in need of it.'"
"These words, my brethren, are taken from St. Paul, who, among ourselves, knew the value of a friend in distress as well as any other apostle in the three kingdoms—hem. It's a nate text, my friends, anyhow. He manes, however, when we have it to give, my own true, well-tried, ould friends!—when we have it to give. It's absence althers the case, in toto; because you have all heard the proverb—'there is no takin' money out of an empty purse:' or, as an ould ancient author said long ago upon the same subject:
'Cantabit whaekuus coram lathrone whiathur!'
—(Dshk, dshk, dshk*—that's the larnin'!)—He that carries an empty purse may fwhistle at the thief. It's sing in the Latin; but sing or fwhistle, in my opinion, he that goes wid an empty purse seldom sings or fwhistl'es to a pleasant tune. Melancholy music I'd call it, an' wouldn't, may be, be much asthray al'ther—Hem. At all evints, may none of this present congregation, whin at their devotions, ever sing or fwhistle to the same time! No; let it be to 'money in both pockets,' if you sing at all; and as long as you have that, never fear but you'll also have the 'priest in his boots' into the bargain—("Ha, ha, ha!—God bless him, isn't he the pleasant gentleman, all out—ha, ha, ha!—moreover, an' by the same a token, it's thrue as Gospel, so it is,")—for well I know you're the high-spirited people, who wouldn't see your priest without them, while a fat parson, with half-a-dozen chins upon him, red and rosy, goes about every day in the week bogged in boots, like a horse-trooper!—("Ha, ha, ha!—good, Father Dan! More power to you—ha, ha, ha! We're the boys that wouldn't see you in want o' them, sure enough. Isn't he the droll crathur?")
* This sound, which expresses wonder, is produced by striking the tip of the tongue against the palate.
"But suppose a man hasn't money, what is he to do? Now this divides itself into what is called Hydrostatics an' Metaphuysics, and must be proved logically in the following manner:
"First, we suppose him not to have the money—there I may be wrong or I may be right; now for the illustration and the logic.
"Here, your Reverence."
"Now, Pether, if I suppose you to have no money, am I right, or am I wrong?"
"Why, thin, I'd be sarry to prove your Reverence to be wrong, so I would; but, for all that, I believe I must give it aginst you."
"How much have you got, Pether?"
"Ethen, but 'tis your Reverence that's comin' close upon me; two or three small note an' some silver."
"How much silver, Pether?"
"I'll tell your Reverence in a jiffy—I ought to have a ten shillin', barring the price of a quarther o' tobaccy that I bought at the crass-roads boyant. Nine shillins an' somo hapuns, yer Reverence."
"Very good, Pether, you must hand me the silver, till I give the rest of the illustration wid it."
"But does your Reverence mind another ould proverb?—'a fool an' his money's asy parted.' Sure an' I know you're goin' to do a joke upon me."
("Give him the money, Pether," from a hundred voices—"give his Reverence the money, you nager you—give him the silver, you dirty spalpeen you—hand it out, you misert.")
"Pether, if you don't give it dacently, I'll not take it; and in that case—"
"Here, here, your Reverence—here it is; sure I wouldn't have your ill-will for all I'm worth."
"Why, you nager, if I wasn't the first orathor livin', barrin' Cicero or Demosthenes himself, I couldn't schrew a penny out o' you! Now, Pether, there's a specimen of logic for you; an' if it wasn't good, depind upon it the money would be in your pocket still. I've never known you to give a penny for any charitable purpose, since ever I saw your face: but I'm doin' a good action in your behalf for once; so if you have any movin' words to say to the money in question, say them, for you'll never finger it more."
A burst of the most uproarious mirth followed this manoeuvre, in which the simple priest himself joined heartily; whilst the melancholy of Peter's face was ludicrously contrasted with the glee which characterized those who surrounded him.
"Hem!—Secondly—A man, you see, may have money, or he may not, when his follow creature who stands in need of it makes an appale to his dacency and his feelings; and sorry I'd be to think that there's a man before me, or a woman either, who'd refuse to assist the distresses of any one, of any creed, church, or persuasion, whether white, black, or yallow—no; I don't except even the blue-bellies themselves. It's what I never taught you, nor never will tache you to the day of my death! To be sure, a fellow-creature may say, 'Help me, my brother, I am distressed,' or, 'I am bent on a good purpose, that your kindness can enable me to accomplish.' But suppose that you have not the money about you at the time, wouldn't you feel sorry to the back-bone? Ay, would yez—to the very core of the heart itself. Or if any man—an' he'd be' nothing else than a bodagh that would say it—if any man would tell me that you would not, I'd—yes—I'd give him his answer, as good as I gave to ould Cokely long ago, and you all know what that was.
"The next point is, what would you do if you hadn't it about you? It's that can tell you what you'd do:—you'd say, 'I haven't got it, brother,'—for ev'ry created bein' of the human kind is your brother, barrin' the women, an' they are your sisters—[this produced a grin upon many faces]—'but,' says you, 'if you wait a bit for a day or two, or a week, or maybe for a fortnight, I'll try what I can do to help you.'
"Picture to yourselves a fellow-creature in distress—suppose him to have neither hat, shoe, nor stocking—[this was a touch of the pathetic]—and altogether in a state of utter destitution! Can there be a more melancholy picture than this? No, there can't. But 'tisn't the tithe of it!—a barefaced robbery is the same tithe—think of him without father, mother, or friend upon the earth—both dead, and ne'er another to be had for love or money—maybe he has poor health—maybe he's sick, an' in a sthrange country—[here Jemmy's mother and friends sobbed aloud, and the contagion began to spread]—the priest, in fact, knew where to touch—his face is pale—his eyes sunk with sickness and sorrow in his head—his bones are cuttin' the skin—he knows not where to turn himself—hunger and sickness are strivin' for him.—[Here the grief became loud and general, and even the good-natured preacher's own voice got somewhat unsteady.]—He's in a bad state entirely—miserable! more miserable!! most miserable!!! [och, och, oh!] sick, sore, and sorry!—he's to be pitied, felt for, and compassionated!—[a general outcry!]—'tis a faver he has, or an ague, maybe, or a rheumatism, or an embargo (* lumbago, we presume) on the limbs, or the king's evil, or a consumption, or a decline, or God knows but it's the falling sickness—[ooh, och, oh!—och, och, oh!] from the whole congregation, whilst the simple old man's eyes were blinded with tears at the force of the picture he drew.—[Ay, maybe it's the falling-sickness, and in that case how on earth can he stand it.—He can't, he can't, wurra strew, wurra strew!—och, och, oh!—ogh, ogh, ogh!]—The Lord in heaven look down upon him—[amin, amin, this blessed an' holy Sunday that's in it!—och, oh!]—pity him—[amin, amin!—och, och, an amin!]—with miseracordial feeling and benediction! He hasn't a rap in his company!—moneyless, friendless, houseless, an' homeless! Ay, my friends, you all have homes—but he has none! Thrust back by every hard-hearted spalpeen, and he, maybe, a better father's son than the Turk that refuses him! Look at your own childre, my friends! Bring the case home to yourselves! Suppose he was one of them—alone on the earth, and none to pity him in his sorrows! Your own childre, I say, in a strange land.—[Here the outcry became astounding; men, women, and children in one general uproar of grief.]—An'—this may all be Jemmy M'Evoy's case, that's going in a week or two to Munster, as a poor scholar—may be his case, I say, except you befriend him, and show your dacency and your feelings, like Christians and Catholics; and for either dacency or kindness, I'd turn yez against any other congregation in the diocess, or in the kingdom—ay, or against Dublin, itself, if it was convanient, or in the neighborhood."
Now here was a coup de main—not a syllable mentioned about Jemmy M'Evoy, until he had melted them down, ready for the impression, which he accordingly made to his heart's content.
"Ay," he went on, "an' 'tis the parish of Ballysogarth that has the name, far and near, for both, and well they desarve it. You won't see the poor gossoon go to a sthrange country—with empty pockets. He's the son of an honest man—one of yourselves; and although he's a poor man, you know 'twas Yallow Sam that made him so—that put him out of his comfortable farm and slipped a black-mouth * into it. You won't turn your backs on the son in regard of that, any way. As for Sam, let him pass; he'll not grind the poor, nor truckle to the rich, when he gives up his stewardship in the kingdom come. Lave him to the friend of the poor—to his God; but the son of them that he oppressed, you will stand up for. He's going to Munster, to learn 'to go upon the Mission:' and, on Sunday next, there will be a collection made here, and at the other two althars for him; and, as your own characters are at stake, I trust it will be neither mane nor shabby. There will be Protestants here, I'll engage, and you must act dacently before them, if it was only to set them a good example. And now I'll tell yez a story that the mintion of the Protestants brings to my mind:—
* In the North of Ireland the word black-mouth means a Presbyterian.
"There was, you see, a Protestant man and a Catholic woman once married together. The man was a swearing, drinking, wicked rascal, and his wife the same: between them they were a blessed pair to be sure. She never bent her knee under a priest until she was on her death-bed; nor was he known ever to enter a church door, or to give a shilling in charity but once, that being—as follows:—He was passing a Catholic place of worship one Sunday, on his way to fowl—for he had his dog and gun with him;—'twas beside a road, and many of the congregration were kneeling out across the way. Just as he passed they were making a collection for a poor scholar—and surely they that love the larning desarve to be encouraged! Well, behold you, says one of them, 'will you remember the poor scholar,' says he, 'and put something in the hat? You don't know,' says he, 'but his prayers will be before you.' (* In the other world.) 'True enough, maybe,' says the man, 'and there's a crown to him, for God's sake.' Well and good; the man died, and so did the wife; but the very day before her departure, she got a scapular, and died in it. She had one sister, however, a good crature, that did nothing but fast and pray, and make her sowl. This woman had strong doubts upon her mind, and was very much troubled as to whether or not her sister went to heaven; and she begged it as a favor from the blessed Virgin, that the state of her sister's sowl might be revaled to her. Her prayer was granted. One night, about a week after her death, her sister came back to her, dressed, all in white, and circled round by a veil of glory.
"'Is that Mary?' said the living sister.
"'It is,' said the other; 'I have got liberty to appear to you,' says she, 'and to tell you that I'm happy.'
"'May the holy Virgin be praised!' said the other. 'Mary, dear, you have taken a great weight off of me,' says she: 'I thought you'd have a bad chance, in regard of the life you led.'
"'When I died,' said the spirit, 'and was on my way to the other world, I came to a place where the road divided itself into three parts;—one to heaven, another to hell, and a third to purgatory. There was a dark gulf between me and heaven, and a breach between me and purgatory that I couldn't step across, and if I had missed my foot there, I would have dropped into hell. So I would, too, only that the blessed Virgin put my own scapular over the breach, and it became firm, and I stepped on it, and got over. The Virgin then desired me to look into hell, and the first person I saw was my own husband, standing with a green sod under his feet! 'He got that favor,' said the blessed Virgin, 'in consequence of the prayers of a holy priest, that had once been a poor scholar, that he gave assistance to, at a collection made for him in such a chapel,' says she, 'Then,' continued the sowl, 'Mary,' says she, 'but there's some great change in the world since I died, or why would the people live so long? It can't be less than six thousand years since I departed, and yet I find every one of my friends just as I left them.'
"'Why,' replied the living sister, 'you're only six days dead.'
"'Ah, avourneen!' said the other, 'it can't be—it can't be! for I have been thousands on thousands of years in pain!'—and as she spoke this she disappeared.
"Now there's a proof of the pains of purgatory, where one day seems as long as a thousand years; and you know we oughtn't to grudge a thrifle to a fellow-crature, that we may avoid it. So you see, my friends, there's nothing like good works. You know not when or where this lad's prayers may benefit you. If he gets ordained, the first mass he says will be for his benefactors; and in every one he celebrates after that, they must also be remembered: the words are pro omnibus benefactoribus meis, per omnia secula secularum!
"Thirdly—hem—I now lave the thing to yourselves.
"But wasn't I match for Pettier Donovan, that would brake a stone for the marrow *—Eh?—(a broad laugh at Pother's rueful visage.)—Pettier, you Turk, will your heart never soften—will you never have dacency, an' you the only man of your family that's so? Sure they say you're going to be marrid some of these days. Well, if you get your wife in my parish, I tell you, Pettier, I'll give you a fleecin', for don't think I'll marry you as chape as I would a poor honest man. I'll make you shell out the yallowboys, and 'tis that will go to your heart, you nager you; and then I'll eat you out of house and home at the Stations. May the Lord grant us, in the mane time, a dacent appetite, a blessing which I wish you all,———&c."
* I know not whether this may be considered worthy of a note or not. I have myself frequently seen and tasted what is appropriately termed by the peasantry "Stone Marrow." It is found in the heart of a kind of soft granite, or perhaps I should rather say freestone. The country people use it medicinally, but I cannot remember what particular disease it is said to cure. It is a soft, saponaceous substance, not unpleasant to the taste, of a bluish color, and melts in the mouth, like the fat of cold meat, leaving the palate greasy. How far an investigation into its nature and properties might be useful to the geologist or physician, it is not for me to conjecture. As the fact appeared to be a curious one, and necessary, moreover, to illustrate the expression used in the text, I thought it not amiss to mention it. It may be a bonne bouche for the geologists.
At this moment the congregation was once more in convulsions of laughter at the dressing which Peter, whose character was drawn with much truth and humor, received at the hands of the worthy pastor.
Our readers will perceive that there was not a single prejudice, or weakness, or virtue, in the disposition of his auditory, left untouched in this address. He moved their superstition, their pride of character, their dread of hell and purgatory, their detestation of Yellow Sam, and the remembrance of the injury so wantonly inflicted on M'Evoy's family; he glanced at the advantage to be derived from the lad's prayers, the example they should set to Protestants, made a passing hit at tithes; and indulged in the humorous, the pathetic, and the miraculous. In short, he left no avenue to their hearts untouched; and in the process by which he attempted to accomplish his object he was successful.
There is, in fact, much rude, unpolished eloquence among the Roman Catholic priesthood, and not a little which, if duly cultivated by study and a more liberal education, would deserve to be ranked very high.
We do not give this as a specimen of their modern pulpit eloquence, but as a sample of that in which some of those Irish clergy shone, who, before the establishment of Maynooth, were admitted to orders immediately from the hedge-schools, in consequence of the dearth of priests which then existed in Ireland. It was customary in those days to ordain them even before they departed for the continental colleges, in order that they might, by saying masses and performing other clerical duties, be enabled to add something to the scanty pittance which was appropriated to their support. Of the class to which Father Kavanagh belonged, there are few, if any, remaining. They sometimes were called "Hedge-priests," * byway of reproach; though for our own parts, we wish their non-interference in politics, unaffected piety, and simplicity of character, had remained behind them.
* This nickname was first bestowed upon them by the continental priests, who generally ridiculed them for their vulgarity. They were, for the most! part, simple but worthy men.
On the Sunday following, Dominick M'Evoy and his son Jemmy attended mass, whilst the other members of the family, with that sense of honest pride which is more strongly inherent in Irish character than is generally supposed, remained at home, from a reluctance to witness what they could not but consider a degradation. This decency of feeling was anticipated by the priest, and not overlooked by the people; for the former, the reader may have observed, in the whole course of his address never once mentioned the word "charity;" nor did the latter permit the circumstance to go without its reward, according to the best of their ability. So keen and delicate are the perceptions of the Irish, and so acutely alive are they to those nice distinctions of kindness and courtesy, which have in their hearts a spontaneous and sturdy growth, that mocks at the stunted virtues of artificial life.
In the parish of Ballysogarth there were three altars, or places of Roman Catholic worship; and the reader may suppose that the collection made at each place was considerable. In truth, both father and son's anticipations were far under the sum collected. Protestants and Presbyterians attended with their contributions, and those of the latter who scrupled to be present at what they considered an idolatrous worship, did not hesitate to send their quota by some Roman Catholic neighbor.
Their names were accordingly announced with an encomium from the priest, which never failed to excite a warm-hearted murmur of approbation. Nor was this feeling transient, for, we will venture to say, that had political excitement flamed up even to rebellion and mutual slaughter, the persons and property of those individuals would have been held sacred.
At length Jemmy was equipped; and sad and heavy became the hearts of his parents and immediate relations as the morning appointed for his departure drew nigh. On the evening before, several of his more distant relatives came to take their farewell of him, and, in compliance with the usages of Irish hospitality, they were detained for the night. They did not, however, come empty-handed: some brought money; some brought linen, stockings, or small presents—"jist, Jimmy, asthore, to keep me in yer memory, sure,—and nothin' else it is for, mavourneen."
Except Jemmy himself, and one of his brothers who was to accompany him part of the way, none of the family slept. The mother exhibited deep sorrow, and Dominick, although he made a show of firmness, felt, now that the crisis was at hand, nearly incapable of parting with the boy. The conversation of their friends and the cheering effects of the poteen, enabled them to sustain his loss better than they otherwise would have done, and the hope of seeing him one day "an ordained priest," contributed more than either to support them.
When the night was nearly half spent, the mother took a candle and privately withdrew to the room in which the boy slept. The youth was fair, and interesting to look upon—the clustering locks of his white forehead were divided; yet there was on his otherwise open brow, a shade of sorrow, produced by the coming separation, which even sleep could not efface. The mother held the candle gently towards his face, shading it with one hand, lest the light might suddenly awake him; she then surveyed his features long and affectionately, whilst the tears fell in showers from her cheeks.
"There you lie," she softly sobbed out, in Irish, "the sweet pulse of your mother's heart; the flower of our flock, the pride of our eyes, and the music of our hearth! Jimmy, avourneen machree, an' how can I part wid you, my darlin' son! Sure, when I look at your mild face, and think that you're takin' the world on your head to rise us out of our poverty, isn't my heart breakin'! A lonely house we'll have afther you, acushla! Goin' out and comin' in, at home or abroad, your voice won't be in my ears, nor your eye smilin' upon me. An' thin to think of what you may suffer in a sthrange land! If your head aches, on what tendher breast will it lie? or who will bind the ribbon of comfort * round it? or wipe your fair, mild brow in sickness? Oh, Blessed Mother!—hunger, sickness, and sorrow may come upon you when you'll be far from your own, an' from them that loves you!"
* The following quotation, taken from a sketch called "The Irish Midwife," by the author, gives an illustration of this passage:—"The first, meaning pain in the head, she cures by a very formal and serious process called 'measuring the head.' This is done by a ribbon, which she puts round the cranium, repeating during the admeasurement a certain prayer or charm from which the operation is to derive its whole efficacy. The measuring is performed twice—in the first instance, to show that its sutures are separated by disease, or to speak more plainly, that the bones of the head are absolutely opened, and that as a natural consequence the head must be much larger than when the patient is in a state of health. The circumference of the first admeasurement is marked upon a ribbon, after which she repeats the charm that is to remove the headache, and measures the cranium again, in order to show, by a comparison of the two ribbons, that the sutures have been closed, the charm successful, and the headache immediately removed. It is impossible to say how the discrepancy in the measurement is brought about; but be that as it may, the writer of this has frequently seen the operation performed in such a way as to defy the most scrutinizing eye to detect any appearance of imposture, and he is convinced that in the majority of cases there is not the slightest imposture intended. The operator is in truth a dupe to a strong and delusive enthusiasm."
This melancholy picture was too much for the tenderness of the mother; she sat down beside the bed, rested her face on her open hand, and wept in subdued but bitter grief. At this moment his father, who probably suspected the cause of her absence, came in and perceived her distress.
"Vara," said he, in Irish also, "is my darlin' son asleep?"
She looked up, with streaming eyes, as he spoke, and replied to him in a manner so exquisitely affecting, when the circumstances of the boy, and the tender allusion made by the sorrowing mother, are considered—that in point of fact no heart—certainly no Irish heart—could withstand it. There is an old Irish melody unsurpassed in pathos, simplicity, and beauty—named in Irish "Tha ma mackulla's na foscal me,"—-or in English, "I am asleep, and don't waken me." The position of the boy caused the recollection of the old melody to flash into the mother's heart,—she simply pointed to him as the words streamed in a low melodious murmur, but one full of heartrending sorrow, from her lips. The old sacred association—for it was one which she had sung for him a thousand times,—until warned to desist by his tears—deepened the tenderness of her heart, and she said with difficulty, whilst she involuntarily held over the candle to gratify the father's heart by a sight of him. "I was keepin' him before my eye," she said; "God knows but it may be the last night we'll ever see him undher our own roof! Dominick, achora, I doubt I can't part wid him from my heart."
"Then how can I, Vara?" he replied. "Wasn't he my right hand in everything? When was he from me, ever since he took a man's work upon him? And when he'd finish his own task for the day, how kindly he'd begin an' help me wid mine! No, Vara, it goes to my heart to let him go away upon sich a plan, and I wish he hadn't taken the notion into his head at all."
"It's not too late, maybe," replied his mother: "I think it wouldn't be hard to put him off of it; the crathur's own heart is failin' him to lave us. He has sorrow upon his face where he lies."
The father looked at the expression of affectionate melancholy which shaded hia features as he slept; and the perception of the boy's internal struggle against his own domestic attachments in accomplishing hia first determination, powerfully touched his heart.
"Vara," said he, "I know the boy—he won't give it up; and 'twould be a pity—maybe a sin—to put him from it. Let the child get fair play, and thry his coorse. If, he fails, he can come back to us, an' our arms an' hearts will be open to welcome him! But, if God prospers him, wouldn't it be a blessin' that we never expected, to see him in the white robes, celebratin' one mass for his parents. If these ould eyes could see that, I would be continted to close them in pace an' happiness for ever."
"An' well you'd become them, avourneen machree! Well would your mild and handsome countenance look wid the long heavenly stole of innocence upon you! and although it's atin' into my heart, I'll bear it for the sake of seein' the same blessed sight. Look at that face, Dominick; mightn't many a lord of the land be proud to have sich a son? May the heavens shower down its blessin' upon him!"
The father burst into tears. "It is—it is!" said he. "It is the face that 'ud make many a noble heart proud to look at it! Is it any wondher it 'ud cut our hearts, thin, to have it taken from afore our eyes? Come away, Vara, come away, or I'll not be able to part wid it. It is the lovely face—an' kind is the heart of my darlin' child!" As he spoke, he stooped down and kissed the youth's cheek, on which the warm tears of affection fell, soft as the dew from heaven. The mother followed his example, and they both left the room.
"We must bear it," said Dominick, as they passed into another apartment; "the money's gathered, an' it wouldn't look well to be goin' back wid it to them that befrinded us. We'd have the blush upon our face for it, an' the child no advantage."
"Thrue for you, Dominick; and we must make up our minds to live widout him for a while."
The following morning was dark and cloudy, but calm and without rain. When the family were all assembled, every member of it evinced traces of deep feeling, and every eye was fixed upon the serene but melancholy countenance of the boy with tenderness and sorrow. He himself maintained a quiet equanimity, which, though apparently liable to be broken by the struggles of domestic affection, and in character with his meek and unassuming disposition, yet was supported by more firmness than might be expected from a mind in which kindness and sensibility were so strongly predominant. At this time, however, his character was not developed, or at least not understood, by those that surrounded him. To strong feelings and enduring affections he added a keenness of perception and a bitterness of invective, of which, in his conversation with his father concerning Yellow Sam, the reader has already had sufficient proofs. At breakfast little or nothing was eaten; the boy himself could not taste a morsel, nor any other person in the family. When the form of the meal was over, the father knelt down—"It's right," said he, "that we should all go to our knees, and join in a Rosary in behalf of the child that's goin' on a good intintion. He won't thrive the worse bekase the last words that he'll hear from his father and mother's lips is a prayer for bringin the blessin' of God down upon his endayvors."
This was accordingly performed, though not without tears and sobs, and frequent demonstrations of grief; for religion among the peasantry is often associated with bursts of deep and powerful feeling.
When the prayer was over, the boy rose and calmly strapped to his back a satchel covered with deer-skin, containing a few books, linen, and a change of very plain apparel. While engaged in this, the uproar of grief in the house was perfectly heart-rending. When just ready to set out, he reverently took off his hat, knelt down, and, with tears streaming from his eyes, craved humbly and meekly the blessing and forgiveness of his father and mother. The mother caught him in her arms, kissed his lips, and, kneeling also, sobbed out a fervent benediction upon his head; the father now, in the grief of a strong man, pressed him to his heart, until the big burning tears fell upon the boy's face; his brothers and sisters embraced him wildly; next his more distant relations; and lastly, the neighbors who were crowded about the door. After this he took a light staff in his hand, and, first blessing himself after the form of his church, proceeded to a strange land in quest of education.
He had not gone more than a few perches from the door, when his mother followed him with a small bottle of holy water. "Jimmy, a lanna voght," (* my poor child) said she, "here's this, an' carry it about you—it will keep evil from you; an' be sure to take good care of the written correckther you got from the priest an' Square Benson; an', darlin', don't be lookin' too often at the cuff o' your coat, for feard the people might get a notion that you have the bank-notes sewed in it. An', Jimmy agra, don't be too lavish upon their Munster crame; they say it's apt to give people the ague. Kiss me agin, agra; an' the heavens above keep you safe and well till we see you once more!"
She then tenderly, and still with melancholy pride, settled his shirt collar, which she thought did not set well about his neck, and kissing him again, with renewed sorrow left him to pursue his journey.
M'Evoy's house was situated on the side of a dark hill—one of that barren description which can be called neither inland nor mountain. It commanded a wide and extended prospect, and the road along which the lad travelled was visible for a considerable distance from it. On a small hillock before the door sat Dominek and his wife, who, as long as their son was visible, kept their eyes, which were nearly blinded with tears, rivetted upon his person. It was now they gave full vent to their grief, and discussed with painful and melancholy satisfaction all the excellent qualities which he possessed. As James himself advanced, one neighbor after another fell away from the train which accompanied him, not, however, until they had affectionately embraced and bid him adieu, and perhaps slipped, with peculiar delicacy, an additional mite into his waistcoat pocket. After the neighbors, then followed the gradual separation from his friends—one by one left him, as in the great journey of life, and in a few hours he found himself accompanied only by his favorite brother.
This to him was the greatest trial he had yet felt; long and heartrending was their embrace. Jemmy soothed and comforted his beloved brother, but in vain. The lad threw himself on the spot at which they parted, and remained there until Jemmy turned an angle of the road which brought him out of his sight, when the poor boy kissed the marks of his brother's feet repeatedly, and then returned home, hoarse and broken down with the violence of his grief.
He was now alone, and for the first time felt keenly the strange object on which he was bent, together with all the difficulties connected with its attainment. He was young and uneducated, and many years, he knew, must elapse e'er he could find himself in possession of his wishes. But time would pass at home, as well as abroad, he thought; and as there lay no impediment of peculiar difficulty in his way, he collected all his firmness and proceeded.
There is no country on the earth in which either education, or the desire to procure it, is so much reverenced as in Ireland. Next to the claims of the priest and schoolmaster come those of the poor scholar for the respect of the people. It matters not how poor or how miserable he may be; so long as they see him struggling with poverty in the prosecution of a purpose so laudable, they will treat him with attention and kindness. Here there is no danger of his being sent to the workhouse, committed as a vagrant, or passed from parish to parish until he reaches his own settlement. Here the humble lad is not met by the sneer of purse-proud insolence, or his simple tale answered only in the frown of heartless contempt. No—no—no. The best bit and sup are placed before him; and whilst his poor, but warm-hearted, entertainer can afford only potatoes and salt to his own half-starved family, he will make a struggle to procure something better for the poor scholar; 'Becase he's far from his own, the craihur! An' sure the intuition in him is good, anyhow; the Lord prosper him, an' every one that has the heart set upon the larnin'!'
As Jemmy proceeded, he found that his satchel of books and apparel gave as clear an intimation of his purpose, as if he had carried a label to that effect upon his back.
"God save you, a bouchal!" said a warm, honest-looking countryman, whom he met driving home his cows in the evening, within a few miles of the town in which he purposed to sleep.
"God save you kindly!"
"Why, thin, 'tis a long journey you have before you, alanna, for I know well it's for Munster you're bound."
"Thrue for you; 'tis there, wid the help of God, I'm goin'. A great scarcity of larnin' was in my own place, or I wouldn't have to go at all," said the boy, whilst his eyes filled with, tears.
"'Tis no discredit in life," replied the countryman, with untaught natural delicacy, for he perceived that a sense of pride lingered about the boy which made the character of poor scholar sit painfully upon him; "'tis no discredit, dear, nor don't be cast down. I'll warrant you that God will prosper you; an' that He may, avick, I pray this day!" and as he spoke, he raised his hat in reverence to the Being whom he invoked. "An' tell me, dear—where do you intend to sleep to-night?"
"In the town forrid here," replied Jemmy. "I'm in hopes I'll be able to reach it before dark."
"Pooh! asy you will. Have you any friends or acquaintances there that 'ud welcome you, a bouchal dhas (my handsome boy)?"
"No, indeed," said Jemmy, "they're all strangers to me; but I can stop in 'dhry lodgin',' for it's chaper."
"Well, alanna, I believe you; but I'm no stranger to you—so come home wid me to-night; where you'll get a good bed, and betther thratement nor in any of their dhry lodgins. Give me your books, and I'll carry them for you. Ethen, but you have a great batch o' them entirely. Can you make any hand o' the Latin at all yet?"
"No, indeed," replied Jemmy, somewhat sorrowfully; "I didn't ever open a Latin book, at all at all."
"Well, acushla, everything has a beginnin';—you won't be so. An' I know by your face that you'll be bright at it, an' a credit to them owes (* owns) you. There's my house in the fields beyant, where you'll be well kept for one night, any way, or for twinty, or for ten times twinty, if you wanted them."
The honest farmer then commenced the song of Colleen dhas Crotha na Mho (* The pretty girl milking her cow), which he sang in a clear mellow voice, until they reached the house.
"Alley," said the man to his wife, on entering, "here's a stranger I've brought you."
"Well," replied Alley, "he's welcome sure, any way; Cead millia, failta ghud, alanna! sit over to the fire. Brian, get up, dear," said she to one of the children, "an' let the stranger to the hob."
"He's goin' on a good errand, the Lord bless him!" said the husband, "up the country for the larnin'. Put thim books over on the settle; an' whin the, girshas are done milkin', give him a brave dhrink of the sweet milk; it's the stuff to thravel on."
"Troth, an' I will, wid a heart an' a half, wishin' it was betther I had to give him. Here, Nelly, put down a pot o' wather, an' lave soap an' a praskeen, afore you go to milk, till I bathe the dacent boy's feet. Sore an' tired they are afther his journey, poor young crathur."
When Jemmy placed himself upon the hob, he saw that some peculiarly good fortune had conducted him to so comfortable a resting-place. Ho considered this as a good omen; and felt, in fact, much relieved, for the sense of loneliness among strangers was removed.
The house evidently belonged to a wealthy farmer, well to do in the world; the chimney was studded with sides upon sides of yellow smoke-dried bacon, hams, and hung beef in abundance. The kitchen tables were large, and white as milk; and the dresser rich in its shining array of delf and pewter. Everything, in fact, was upon a large scale. Huge meal chests were ranged on one side, and two or three settle beds on the other, conspicuous, as I have said, for their uncommon cleanliness; whilst hung from the ceiling were the glaiks, a machine for churning; and beside the dresser stood an immense churn, certainly too unwieldy to be managed except by machinery. The farmer was a ruddy-faced Milesian, who wore a drab frieze coat, with a velvet collar, buff waistcoat, corduroy small-clothes, and top-boots* well greased from the tops down. He was not only an agriculturist, but a grazier—remarkable for shrewdness and good sense, generally attended fairs and markets, and brought three or four large droves of fat cattle to England every year. From his fob hung the brass chain and almost rusty key of a watch, which he kept certainly more for use than ornament.
* This in almost every instance, is the dress of wealthy Irish farmer.
"A little sup o' this," said he, "won't take your life," approaching Jemmy with a bottle of as good poteen as ever escaped the eye of an exciseman; "it'll refresh you—for you're tired, or I wouldn't offer it, by rason that one bint on what you're bint on, oughtn't to be makin' freedoms wid the same dhrink. But there's a time for everything, an' there's a time for this.—Thank you, agra," he added, in reply to Jemmy, who had drunk his health. "Now, don't be frettin'—but make yourself as aisy as if you were at your own father's hearth. You'll have everything to your heart's contint for this night; the carts are goin' in to the market to-morrow airly—you can sit upon them, an' maybe you'll get somethin' more nor you expect: sure the Lord has given it to me, an' why wouldn't I share it wid them that wants it more nor I do?"
The lad's heart yearned to the generous farmer, for he felt that his kindness had the stamp of truth and sincerity upon it. He could only raise his eyes in a silent prayer, that none belonging to him might ever be compelled, as strangers and way-farers, to commit themselves, as he did, to the casualties of life, in pursuit of those attainments which poverty cannot otherwise command. Fervent, indeed, was his prayer; and certain we are, that because it was sincere, it must have been heard.
In the meantime, the good woman, or vanithee, had got the pot of water warmed, in which Jemmy was made to put his feet. She then stripped up her arms to the elbows, and, with soap and seedy meal, affectionately bathed his legs and feet: then, taking the praskeen, or coarse towel, she wiped them with a kindness which thrilled to his heart.
"And now," said she, "I must give you a cure for blisthers, an' it's this:—In the mornin', if we're all spared, as we will, plase the Almighty, I'll give you a needle and some white woollen thread, well soaped. When your blisthers gets up, dhraw the soapy thread through them, clip it on each side, an', my life for yours, they won't throuble you. Sure I thried it the year I went on my Station to Lough Derg, an' I know it to be the rale cure."
"Here, Nelly," said the farmer,—who sat iwith a placid benevolent face, smoking his pipe on the opposite hob—to one of the maids who came in from milking,—"bring up a noggin of that milk, we want it here: let it be none of your washy foremilk, but the strippins, Nelly, that has the strinth in it. Up wid it here, a colleen."
"The never a one o' the man but's doatin' downright, so he is," observed the wife, "to go to fill the tired child's stomach wid plash. Can't you wait till he ates a thrifle o' some-thin' stout, to keep life in him, afther his hard journey? Does your feet feel themselves cool an' asy now, ahagur?"
"Indeed," said Jemmy, "I'm almost as fresh as when I set out. 'Twas little thought I had, when I came away this mornin', that I'd meet wid so much friendship on my journey. I hope it's a sign that God's on my side in my undertakin'!"
"I hope so, avourneen—I hope so, an' it is, too," replied the farmer, taking the pipe out of his mouth, and mildly whiffing away the smoke, "an' God'll be always on your side, as long as your intentions are good. Now ate somethin'—you must want it by this; an' thin, when you rest yourself bravely, take a tass into a good feather-bed, where you can sleep rings round you. (* As much as you please.) Who knows but you'll be able to say mass for me or some o' my family yit. God grant that, any way, avick!"
Poor James's heart was too full to eat much; he took, therefore, only a very slender portion of the refreshments set before him; but his hospitable entertainer had no notion of permitting him to use the free exercise of his discretion on this important point. When James put away the knife and fork, as an indication of his having concluded the meal, the farmer and his wife turned about, both at the same moment, with a kind of astonishment.
"Eh? is it giving over that way you are? Why, alanna, it's nothin' at all you've tuck; sure little Brian there would make a fool of you, so he would, at the atin'. Come, come, a bouchal—don't be ashamed, or make any way sthrange at all, but ate hearty."
"I declare I have ate heartily, thank you," replied James; "oceans itself, so I did. I couldn't swally a bit more if the house was full."
"Arrah, Brian," said the wife, "cut him up more o' that hung beef, it's ashamed the crathur is! Take it, avick; don't we know the journey you had! Faix, if one o' the boys was out on a day's thravellin', you'd see how he'd handle himself."
"Indeed," said James, "I can't—if I could I would. Sure I would be no way backward at all, so I wouldn't."
"Throth, an' you can an' must," said the farmer: "the never a rise you'll rise, till you finish that"—putting over a complement out of all reasonable proportion with his age and size.
"There now's a small taste, an' you must finish it. To go to ate nothin' at all! Hut tut! by the tops o' my boots, you must put that clear an' clane out o' sight, or I'll go mad an' barn them."
The lad recommenced, and continued to eat as long as he could possibly hold out; at length he ceased:—
"I can't go on," said he; "don't ax me: I can't indeed."
"Bad manners to the word I'll hear till you finish it; you know it's but a thrifle to spake of. Thry agin, avick, but take your time; you'll be able for it."
The poor lad's heart was engaged on other thoughts and other scenes; his home, and its beloved inmates—sorrow and the gush of young affections, were ready to burst forth.
"I cannot ate," said he, and he looked imploringly on the farmer and his wife, whilst the tears started to his eyes—"don't ax me, for my heart's wid them I left behind me, that I may never see agin!" and he wept in a burst of grief which he could not restrain.
Neither the strength nor tenderness of the lad's affection was unappreciated by this excellent couple. In a moment the farmer's wife was also in tears; nor did her husband break the silence for some minutes.
"The Almighty pity an' strengthen him!" said the farmer's wife, "but he has the good an' the kind heart, an' would be a credit to any family.—Whisht, acushla machree—whisht, we won't ax you to ate—no indeed. It was out o' kindness we did it: don't be cast down aither; sure it isn't the ocean you're crossin'; but goin' from one county like to another. God 'll guard an' take care o' you, so he will. Your intintion's good, an' he'll prosper it."
"He will, avick," said the farmer himself—"he will. Cheer up, my good boy! I know thim that's larned an' creditable clargy this day, that went as you're goin'—ay, an' that ris an' helped their parents, an' put them above poverty an' distress; an' never fear, wid a blessin', but you'll do the same."
"That's what brings me at all," replied the boy, drying his tears; "if I was once able to take them out o' their distresses, I'd be happy: only I'm afeard the cares o' the world will break my father's heart before I have it in my power to assist him."
"No such thing, darlin'," said the good woman. "Sure his hopes out o' you, an' his love for you will keep him up; an' you dunna but God may give him a blessin' too, avick."
"Mix another sup o'that for him," said the fanner: "he's low spirited, an' it's too strong to give him any more of it as it is. Childhre, where's the masther from us—eh? Why, thin, God help them, the crathurs—wasn't it thoughtful o' them to lave the place while he was at his dinner, for fraid he'd be dashed—manin' them young crathurs, Alley, But can you tell us where the 'masther' is? Isn't this his night wid us? I know he tuck his dinner here."
"Ay did he; but it's up to Larry Murphy's he's gone, to thry his son in his book-keepin'. Mavrone, but he had time enough to put him well through it afore this, any way."
As she spoke, a short thickset man, with black twinkling eyes and ruddy cheeks entered. This personage was no other than the schoolmaster of that district, who circulated, like a newspaper, from one farmer's house to another, in order to expound for his kind entertainers the news of the day, his own learning, and the very evident extent of their ignorance.
The moment he came in, the farmer and his wife rose with an air of much deference, and placed a chair for him exactly opposite the fire, leaving a respectful distance on each side, within which no illiterate mortal durst presume to sit.
"Misther Corcoran," said the farmer, presenting Jemmy's satchel, through which the shapes of the books were quite plain, "thig in thu shinn?" (* Do you understand this) and as he spoke he looked significantly at its owner.
"Ah," replied the man of letters, "thigum, thigum. (* I understand) God be wid the day when I carried the likes of it. 'Tis a badge of polite genius, that no boy need be ashamed of. So my young suckling of litherature, you're bound for Munster?—for that counthry where the swallows fly in conic sections—where the magpies and the turkey's confab in Latin, and the cows and bullocks will roar you Doric Greek—bo-a-o—clamo. What's your pathronymic? quo nomine gowdes, Domine doctissime?"
The lad was silent; but the farmer's wife turned up the whites of her eyes with an expression of wonder and surprise at the erudition of the "masther."
"I persave you are as yet uninitiated into the elementary principia of the languages; well—the honor is still before you. What's your name?"
"James M'Evoy, sir."
Just now the farmer's family began to assemble round the spacious hearth; the young lads, whose instruction the worthy teacher claimed as his own peculiar task, came timidly forward, together with two or three pretty bashful girls with sweet flashing eyes, and countenances full of feeling and intelligence. Behind on the settles, half-a-dozen servants of both sexes sat in pairs—each boy placing himself beside his favorite girl. These appeared to be as strongly interested in the learned conversation which the master held, as if they were masters and mistresses of Munster Latin and Doric Greek themselves; but an occasional thump cautiously bestowed by no slender female hand upon the sturdy shoulder of her companion, or a dry cough from one of the young men, fabricated to drown the coming blow, gave slight indications that they contrived to have a little amusement among themselves, altogether independent of Mr. Corcoran's erudition.
When the latter came in, Jemmy was taking the tumbler of punch which the farmer's wife had mixed for him; on this he fixed an expressive glance, which instantly reverted to the vanithee, and from her to the large bottle which stood in a window to the right of the fire. It is a quick eye, however, that can anticipate Irish hospitality.
"Alley," said the farmer, ere the wife had time to comply with the hint conveyed by the black, twinkling eye of the schoolmaster; "why, Alley"—
"Sure, I am," she replied, "an' will have it for you in less than no time."
She accordingly addressed herself to the bottle, and in a few minutes handed a reeking jug of punch to the Farithee, or good man.
"Come, Masther, by the hand o' my body, I don't like dhry talk so long as I can get anything to moisten the discoorse. Here's your health, Masther," continued the farmer, winking at the rest, "and a speedy conclusion to what you know! In throth, she's the pick of a good girl—not to mintion what she has for her portion. I'm a friend to the same family, an' will put a spoke in your wheel, Masther, that'll sarve you."
"Oh, Mr. Lanigan, very well, sir—very well—you're becoming quite facetious upon me," said the little man, rather confused; "but upon my credit and reputation, except the amorous inclination and regard to me is on her side," and he looked sheepishly at his hands, "I can't say that the arrows of Cupid have as yet pinethrated the sintimintal side of my heart. It is not with me as it was wid Dido—hem—
Non 'haeret lateri lethalis arundo,'
as Virgil says. Yet I can't say, but if a friend were to become spokesman for me, and insinuate in my behalf a small taste of amorous sintimintality, why—hem, hem, hem! The company's health! Lad, James M'Evoy, your health, and success to you, my good boy!—hem, hem!"
"Here's wishin' him the same!" said the farmer.
"James," said the schoolmaster, "you are goin' to Munsther, an' I can say that I have travelled it from end to end, not to a bad purpose, I hope—hem! Well, a bouchal, there are hard days and nights before you, so keep a firm heart. If you have money, as 'tis likely you have, don't let a single rap of it into the hands of the schoolmaster, although the first thing he'll do will be to bring you home to his own house, an' palaver you night an' day, till he succeeds in persuading you to leave it in his hands for security. You might, if not duly pre-admonished, surrender it to his solicitations, for—
'Nemo mortalium omnibus horis sapit.'
Michael, what case is mortalium?" added he, suddenly addressing one of the farmer's sons; "come, now, Michael, where's your brightness? What case is mortalium?"
The boy was taken by surprise, and for a few minutes could not reply.
"Come man," said the father, "be sharp, spake out bravely, an' don't be afraid; nor don't be in a hurry aither, we'll wait for you."
"Let him alone—let him alone," said Corcoran; "I'll face the same boy agin the county for cuteness. If he doesn't expound that, I'll never consthru a line of Latin, or Greek, or Masoretic, while I'm livin'."
His cunning master knew right well that the boy, who was only confused at the suddenness of the question, would feel no difficulty in answering it to his satisfaction. Indeed, it was impossible for him to miss it, as he was then reading the seventh book of Virgil, and the fourth of Homer. It is, however, a trick with such masters to put simple questions of that nature to their pupils, when at the houses of their parents, as knotty and difficult, and when they are answered, to assume an air of astonishment at the profound reach of thought displayed by the pupil.
When Michael recovered himself, he instantly replied, "Mortalium is the genitive case of nemo, by 'Nomina Partiva.'"
Corcoran laid down the tumbler, which he was in the act of raising to his lips, and looked at the lad with an air of surprise and delight, then at the farmer and his wife, alternately, and shook his head with much mystery. "Michael," said he to the lad; "will you go out and tell us what the night's doin'."
The boy accordingly went out—"Why," said Corcoran, in his absence, "if ever there was a phanix, and that boy will be the bird—an Irish phanix he will be, a
Rara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cygno!
There's no batin' him at anything he undher-takes. Why, there's thim that are makin' good bread by their larnin', that couldn't resolve that; and you all saw how he did it widout the book! Why, if he goes on at this rate, I'm afraid he'll soon be too many for myself—hem!"
"Too many for yourself! Fill the masther's tumbler, Alley. Too many for yourself! No, no! I doubt he'll never see that day, bright as he is, an' cute. That's it—put a hape upon it. Give me your hand, masther. I thank you for your attention to him, an' the boy is a credit to us. Come over, Michael, avourneen. Here, take what's in this tumbler, an' finish it. Be a good boy and mind your lessons, an' do everything the masther here—the Lord bless him!—bids you; an' you'll never want a frind, masther, nor a dinner, nor a bed, nor a guinea, while the Lord spares me aither the one or the other."
"I know it, Mr. Lanigan, I know it; and I will make that boy the pride of Ireland, if I'm spared. I'll show him cramboes that would puzzle the great Scaliger himself; and many other difficulties I'll let him into, that I have never let out yet, except to Tim Kearney, that bate them all at Thrinity College in Dublin up, last June."
"Arrah, how was that, Masther?"
"Tim, you see, went in to his Entrance Examinayshuns, and one of the Fellows came to examine him, but divil a long it was till Tim sacked him.
"'Go back agin', says Tim, 'and sind some one that's able to tache me, for you're not.'
"So another greater scholar agin came to yry Tim, and did thry him, and Tim made a hare of him, before all that was in the place—five or six thousand ladies and gintlemen, at laste!
"The great learned Fellows thin began to look odd enough; so they picked out the best scholar among them but one, and slipped him at Tim; but well becomes Tim, the never a long it was till he had him, too, as dumb as a post. The fellow went back—
"'Gintlemen,' says he to the rest, 'we'll be disgraced all out,' says he, 'for except the Prowost sacks that Munsther spalpeen, he'll bate us all, an' we'll never be able to hould up our heads afther.'
"Accordingly, the Prowost attacks Tim; and such a meetin' as they had, never was seen in Thrinity College since its establishment. At last when they had been nine hours and a half at it, the Prowost put one word to him that Tim couldn't expound, so he lost it by one word only. For the last two hours the Prowost carried on the examinashun in Hebrew, thinking, you see, he had Tim there; but he was mistaken, for Tim answered him in good Munsther Irish, and it so happened that they understood each other, for the two languages are first cousins, or, at all evints, close blood relations. Tim was then pronounced to be the best scholar in Ireland except the Prowost; though among ourselves, they might have thought of the man that taught him. That, however, wasn't all. A young lady fell in love wid Tim, and is to make him a present of herself and her great fortune (three estates) the moment he becomes a counsellor; and in the meantime she allows him thirty pounds a year to bear his expenses, and live like a gintleman.
"Now to return to the youth in the corner: Nemo mortalium omnibus horis sapit, Jemmy keep your money, or give it to the priest to keep, and it will be safest; but by no means let the Hyblean honey of the schoolmaster's blarney deprive you of it, otherwise it will be a vale, vale, longum vale between you. Crede experto!"
"Masther," said the farmer, "many a sthrange accident you met wid on yer thravels through Munsther?"
"No doubt of that, Mr. Lanigan. I and another boy thravelled it in society together. One day we were walking towards a gintleman's house on the road side, and it happened that we met the owner of it in the vicinity, although we didn't know him to be such.
"'Salvete Domini!' said he, in good fresh Latin.
"'Tu sis salvus, quoque!' said I to him, for my comrade wasn't cute, an' I was always orathor.
"'Unde veniti?' said he, comin' over us wid another deep piece of larnin' the construction of which was, 'where do yez come from?'
"I replied, 'Per varios casus et tot discrimina rerum, venimus a Mayo.'
"'Good!' said he, 'you're bright; follow me.'
"So he brought us over to his own house, and ordered us bread and cheese and a posset; for it was Friday, an' we couldn't touch mate. He, in the mane time, sat an chatted along wid us. The thievin' cook, however, in makin' the posset, kept the curds to herself, except a slight taste here and there, that floated on the top; but she was liberal enough of the whey, any how.
"Now I had been well trained to fishing in my more youthful days; and no gorsoon could grope a trout wid me. I accordingly sent the spoon through the pond before me wid the skill of a connoisseur; but to no purpose—it came up wid nothin' but the whey.
"So, said I off hand to the gintleman, houlding up the bowl, and looking at it with a disappointed face,
'Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto.'
'This,' says I, 'plase your hospitality, may be Paotolus, but the divil a taste o' the proper sand is in the bottom of it.'
"The wit of this, you see, pleased him, and we got an excellent treat in his studium, or study: for he was determined to give myself another trial.
"'What's the wickedest line in Virgil?' said he.
"Now I had Virgil at my fingers' ends, so I answered him:
'Flectere si nequeo superos, Aeheronta movebo,'
"'Very good,' said he, 'you have the genius, and will come to somethin' yet: now tell me the most moral line in Virgil.'
'Discere justitiam moniti et non temnere divos.' *
* He is evidently drawing the long-bow here; this anecdote has been told before.
"'Depend upon it,' said he, 'you will be a luminary. The morning star will be but a farthing candle to you; and if you take in the learning as you do the cheese, in a short time there won't be a man in Munsther fit to teach you,' and he laughed, for you see he had a tendency to jocosity.
"He did not give me up here, however, being determined to go deeper wid me.
"'Can you translate a newspaper into Latin prose?' said he.
"Now the divil a one o' me was just then sure about the prose, so I was goin' to tell him; but before I had time to speak, he thrust the paper into my hand, and desired me to thranslate half-a-dozen barbarous advertisements.
"The first that met me was about a reward offered for a Newfoundland dog and a terrier, that had been stolen from a fishing-tackle manufacturer, and then came a list of his shabby merchandise, ending with a long-winded encomium upon his gunpowder, shot, and double-barrelled guns. Now may I be shot with a blank cartridge, if I ever felt so much at an amplush in my life, and I said so.
"'Your honor has hooked me wid the fishing hooks,' said I; 'but I grant the cheese was good bait, any how.'
"So he laughed heartily, and bid me go on.
"Well, I thought the first was difficult: but the second was Masoretic to it—something about drawbacks, excisemen, and a long custom-house list, that would puzzle Publius Virgilius Maro, if he was set to translate it. However, I went through wid it as well as I could; where I couldn't find Latin, I laid in the Greek, and where the Greek failed me, I gave the Irish, which, to tell the truth, in consequence of its vernacularity, I found to be the most convanient. Och, och many a larned scrimmage I have signalized myself in, during my time. Sure my name's as common as a mail-coach in Thrinity College; and 'tis well known there isn't a fellow in it but I could sack, except may be, the prowost. That's their own opinion. 'Corcoran,' says the prowost, 'is the most larned man in Ireland; an' I'm not ashamed,' says he, 'to acknowledge that I'd rather decline meeting him upon deep points.' Ginteels, all your healths—hem! But among ourselves I could bog him in a very short time; though I'd scorn to deprive the gintleman of his reputaytion or his place, even if he sent me a challenge of larnin' to-morrow, although he's too cute to venture on doing that—hem, hem!"
To hear an obscure creature, whose name was but faintly known in the remote parts even of the parish in which he lived, draw the long-bow at such a rate, was highly amusing. The credulous character of his auditory, however, was no slight temptation to him; for he knew that next to the legends of their saints, or the Gospel itself, his fictions ranked in authenticity; and he was determined that it should not be his fault if their opinion of his learning and talents were not raised to the highest point. The feeling experienced by the poor scholar, when he awoke the next morning, was one both of satisfaction and sorrow. He thought once more of his home and kindred, and reflected that it might be possible he had I seen the last of his beloved relations. His grief, however, was checked when he remembered the warm and paternal affection with which he was received on the preceding night by his hospitable countryman. He offered up his prayers to God; humbly besought his grace and protection; nor did he forget to implore a blessing upon those who I had thus soothed his early sorrows, and afforded him, though a stranger and friendless, I shelter, comfort, and sympathy.
"I hope," thought he, "that I will meet many such, till I overcome my difficulties, an' find myself able to assist my poor father an' mother!"
And he did meet many such among the humble, and despised, and neglected of his countrymen; for—and we say it with pride—the character of this excellent farmer is thoroughly that of our peasantry within the range of domestic life.
When he had eaten a comfortable breakfast, and seen his satchel stuffed with provision for his journey, the farmer brought him up to his own room, in which were also his wife and children.
"God," said he, "has been good to me; blessed be his holy name!—betther it appears in one sinse, than he has been to you, dear, though maybe I don't desarve it as well. But no matther, acushla; I have it, an' you want it; so here's a thrifle to help your forrid in your larnin'; an' all I ax from you is to offer up a bit of a prayer for me, of an odd time, an' if ever you live to be a priest, to say, if it wouldn't be throublesome, one Mass for me an' those that you see about me. It's not much, James agra—only two guineas. They may stand your friend, whin friends will be scarce wid you; though, I hope, that won't be the case aither."
The tears were already streaming down. Jemmy's cheeks. "Oh," said the artless boy, "God forever reward you! but sure I have a great dale of money in the—in the—cuff o' my coat. Indeed I have, an' I won't want it!"
The farmer, affected by the utter simplicity of the lad, looked at his wife and smiled, although a tear stood in his eye at the time. She wiped her eyes with her apron, and backed the kind offer of her husband.
"Take it, asthore," she added, "in your cuff! Musha, God help you! sure it's not much you or the likes of you can have in your cuff, avourneen! Don't be ashamed, but take it; we can well afford it, glory be to God for it! It's not, agra, bekase you're goin' the way you are—though that same's an honor to you—but bekase our hearts warmed to you, that we offered it, an' bekase we would wish you to be thinkin' of us now an' thin, when you're in a strange part of the country. Let me open your pocket an' put them into it. That's a good, boy, thank you, an' God bless an' prosper you! I'm sure you were always biddable."
"Now childre," said the farmer, addressing his sons and daughters, "never see the sthranger widout a friend, nor wantin' a bed or a dinner, when you grow up to be men an' women. There's many a turn in this world; we may be strangers ourselves; an' think of what I would feel if any of you was far from me, widout money or friends, when I'd hear that you met a father in a strange counthry that lightened your hearts by his kindness. Now, dear, the carts 'll be ready in no time—eh? Why there they are at the gate waitin' for you. Get into one of them, an' they'll lave you in the next town. Come, roan, budan' age, be stout-hearted, an' don't cry; sure we did nothin' for you to spake of."
He shook the poor scholar by the hand, and drawing his hat over his eyes, passed hurriedly out of the room. Alley stooped down, kissed his lips, and wept; and the children each embraced him with that mingled feeling of compassion and respect which is uniformly entertained for the poor scholar in Ireland.
The boy felt as if he had been again separated from his parents; with a sobbing bosom and wet cheeks he bid them farewell, and mounting one of the carts was soon beyond sight and hearing of the kind-hearted farmer and his family.
When the cart had proceeded about a mile, it stopped, and one of the men who accompanied it addressing a boy who passed with two sods of turf under his arm, desired him to hurry on and inform his master that they waited for him.
"Tell Misther Corcoran to come into coort," said the man, laughing, "my Lordship's waitin' to hear his defince for intindin' not to run away wid Miss Judy Malowny. Tell him Lord Garty's ready to pass sintince on him for not stalin' the heart of her wid his Rule o' Three. Ha! by the holy farmer, you'll get it for stayin' from school to this hour. Be quick, abouchal!"
In a few minutes the trembling urchin, glad of any message that might serve to divert the dreaded birch from himself, entered the, uproarious "Siminary," caught his forelock, bobbed down his head to the master, and pitched his "two sods" into a little'heap of turf which lay in the corner of the school.
"Arrah, Pat Roach, is this an hour to inter into my establishment wid impunity? Eh, you Rosicrusian?"
"Masther, sir," replied the adroit monkey, "I've a message for you, sir, i' you plase."
"An' what might the message be, Masther; Pat Roach? To dine to-day wid your worthy father, abouchal?"
"No, sir; it's from one o' Mr. Lanigan's boys—him that belongs to the carts, sir; he wants to spake to you, sir, i' you plase."
"An' do you give that by way of an apologetical oration for your absence from the advantages of my tuition until this hour? However, non constat Patrici; I'll pluck the crow wid you on my return. If you don't find yourself a well-flogged youth for your 'mitchin,' never say that this right hand can administer condign punishment to that part of your physical theory which constitutes the antithesis to your vacuum caput. En et ewe, you villain," he added, pointing to the birch, "it's newly cut and trimmed, and pregnant wid alacrity for the operation. I correct, Patricius, on fundamental principles, which you'll soon feel to your cost."
"Masther, sir," replied the lad, in a friendly, conciliating tone, "my father 'ud be oblaged to you, if you'd take share of a fat goose wid him to-morrow."
"Go to your sate, Paddy, avourneen; devil a dacent boy in the seminary I joke—so much wid, as I do wid yourself; an' all out of respect for your worthy parents. Faith, I've a great regard for them, all out, an' tell them so."
He then proceeded to the carts, and approaching Jemmy, gave him such advice touching his conduct in Munster, as he considered to be most serviceable to an inexperienced lad of his years.
"Here," said the kind-hearted soul—"here, James, is my mite; it's but bare ten shillings; but if I could make it a pound for you, it would give me a degree of delectability which I have not enjoyed for a long time. The truth is, there's something like the nodus matrimonii, or what they facetiously term the priest's gallows, dangling over my head, so that any little thrifle I may get must be kept together for that crisis, James, abouchal; so that must be my apology for not giving you more, joined to the naked fact, that I never was remarkable for a superfluity of cash under any circumstances. Remember what I told you last night. Don't let a shilling of your money into the hands of the masther you settle wid. Give it to the parish priest, and dhraw it from him when you want it. Don't join the parties or the factions of the school. Above all, spake ill of nobody; and if the; masther is harsh upon you, either bear it patiently, or mintion it to the priest, or to some other person of respectability in the parish, and you'll be protected. You'll be apt to meet cruelty enough, my good boy: for there are larned Neros in Munster, who'd flog if the province was in flames.
"Now, James, I'll tell you what you'll do, when you reach the larned south. Plant yourself on the highest hill in the neighborhood wherein the academician with whom you intend to stop, lives. Let the hour of reconnoitring be that in which dinner is preparing. When seated there, James, take a survey of the smoke that ascends from the chimneys of the farmer's houses, and be sure to direct your steps to that from which the highest and merriest column issues. This is the old plan and it is a sure one. The highest smoke rises from the largest fire, the largest fire boils the biggest pot, the biggest pot generally holds the fattest bacon, and the fattest bacon is kept by the richest farmer. It's a wholesome and comfortable climax, my boy, and one by which I myself was enabled to keep a dacent portion of educated flesh between the master's birch and my ribs. The science itself is called Gastric Geography, and is peculiar only to itinerant young gintlemen who seek for knowledge in the classical province of Munster.
"Here's a book that thravelled along wid myself through all my peregrinations—Creech's Translation of Horace. Keep it for my sake; and when you accomplish your education, if you return home this way, I'd thank you to give me a call. Farewell! God bless you and prosper you as I wish, and as I am sure you desarve."
He shook the lad by the hand; and as it was probable that his own former struggles with poverty, when in the pursuit of education, came with all the power of awakened recollection to his mind, he hastily drew his hand across his eyes, and returned to resume the brief but harmless authority of the ferula.