THE IRISH AGENT.
By William Carleton
It was not my intention to have written any Preface to this book, but to have allowed it simply to speak for itself. As it is very likely, however, that both it and the motives of its author may be misrepresented by bigoted or venal pens, I think it necessary to introduce it to the reader by a few brief observations. In the first place, then, I beg to say, that the work presents phases of Irish life and manners that have never been given to the public before by any other writer upon the same subject. So far, therefore, the book is a perfectly new book—not only to the Irish people, but also to the English and Scotch. I know not whether the authenticity of the facts and descriptions contained in it may be called in question; but this I do know, that there is not an honest man, on either side, who has lived in the north of Ireland, and reached the term of fifty years, who will not recognize the conduct and language of the northern Orangemen as just, truthful, and not one whit exaggerated. To our friends across the Channel it is only necessary to say, that I was born in one of the most Orange counties in Ireland (Tyrone)—that the violence and licentious abuses of these armed civilians were perpetrated before my eyes—and that the sounds of their outrages may be said still to ring in my ears.
I have written many works upon Irish life, and up to the present day the man has never lived who could lay his finger upon any passage of my writings, and say "that is false." I cannot, however, avoid remarking here, that within the last few years, a more enlarged knowledge of life, and a more matured intercourse with society, have enabled me to overcome many absurd prejudices with which I was imbued. Without compromising, however, the truth or integrity of any portion of my writings, I am willing to admit, which I do frankly, and without hesitation, that I published in my early works passages which were not calculated to do any earthly good; but, on the contrary, to give unnecessary offence to a great number of my countrymen. It is due to myself to state this, and to say, that in the last edition of my works I have left as many of these passages out as I readily could, without diminishing the interest, or disturbing the narrative.
A fortiori, then, this book may be considered as full of truth and fidelity as any I have ever written: and I must say, that in writing it I have changed no principle whatsoever. I am a liberal Conservative, and, I trust, a rational one; but I am not, nor ever was, an Orangeman; neither can I endure their exclusive and arrogant assumption of loyalty, nor the outrages which it has generated. In what portion of my former writings, for instance, did I ever publish a line in their favor, or in favor of any secret and illegal confederacy?
Again, with regard to the Landlords and Agents, have I not written a tale called the "Poor Scholar," and another called "Tubber Derg"? in both of which their corruptions and oppressions are exposed. Let it not be mistaken. The two great curses of Ireland are bad Landlords and bad Agents, and in nineteen cases out of every twenty, the origin of the crime lies with the Landlord or Agent, instead of the tenant.
With respect to the Established Church of forty years ago, if there is any man living who asserts that I have not under-drawn her, rather than otherwise, he is less intimate with truth than I could wish. On this subject I challenge and defy inquiry. I grant you she is much changed for the better now; but yet there is much to be done in her still. It is true Irishmen at present get Mitres, a fact which was unknown forty years ago. We have now more Evangelicism, and consequently more sleekness and hypocrisy, more external decorum, and, I would also trust, more internal spirituality. We have now many eminent and pious Prelates in the Church, whose admirable example is enough even to shame the Clergymen under them into a sense of their duty. It is to be wished that we had many more such as they, for they are wanted. The Irish Evangelical party are certainly very numerous, and they must pardon me a slight anachronism or two regarding them, concerning what has been termed the Modern Reformation in these volumes. Are those who compose this same party, by the way, acquainted with their own origin? If not, I will tell them. They were begotten by the active spirit of the Church of Rome, upon their own establishment, when she was asleep; so that they owe their very existence to those whom they look upon as their enemies: and if it were only for this reason alone, there ought to be more peace between them. In England the same spirit has effected a similar seduction on that Establishment, but with this difference, that the Puseyites are a much more obedient and dutiful progeny than the Irish Evangelicals—inasmuch as they have the grace to acknowledge the relationship.
This book was written to exhibit a useful moral to the country. It will startle, I humbly trust, many a hard-hearted Landlord and flagitious Agent into a perception of their duty, and it will show the negligent and reckless Absentee how those from whose toils and struggles he derives his support, are oppressed, and fleeced, and trampled on in his name.
It will also teach the violent and bigoted Conservative—or, in other words, the man who still inherits the Orange sentiments of past times—a lesson that he ought not to forget. It will also test the whole spirit of modern Conservatism, and its liberality. If there be at the press, or anywhere else, a malignant bigot, with great rancor and little honesty, it is very likely he will attack my book; and this, of course, he is at liberty to do. I deny, however, that modern Conservatism is capable of adopting or cherishing the outrages which disgraced the Orangemen of forty years ago, or even of a later period. And for this reason I am confident that the Conservative Press of Ireland will not only sustain me, but fight my battles, if I shall be ungenerously attacked. Let them look upon these pictures, and if it ever should happen that arms and irresponsible power shall be entrusted to them, perhaps the recollection of their truth may teach them a lesson of forbearance and humanity toward those that differ from them in creed, that may be of important service to our common country. If so, I shall have rendered a service to that country, which, as is usual, may probably be recognized as valuable, when perhaps my bones are mouldering in the clay, and my ear insensible to all such acknowledgments.
As for, myself, I have been so completely sickened by the bigoted on each side, that I have come to the determination, as every honest Irishman ought, of knowing no party but my country, and of devoting such talents as God has given me, to the promotion of her general interests, and the happiness of her whole people.
Dublin, December 24, 1844.
CHAPTER I.—An Irish Pair and Spoileen Tent
—A Marriage Proposal—An Under Agent—An Old Irish Squire and Union Lord.
The town of Castle Cumber it is not our intention to describe at more length than simply to say, that it consists of two long streets, intersecting each other, and two or three lanes of cabins—many of them mud ones—that stretch out of it on each side at right angles. This street, and these straggling appendages, together with a Church, a Prison, a Court-house, a Catholic chapel, a few shops, and half a dozen public houses, present to the spectator all the features that are generally necessary for the description of that class of remote country towns of which we write. Indeed, with the exception of an ancient Stone Cross, that stands in the middle of the street, and a Fair green, as it is termed, or common, where its two half-yearly fairs are held, and which lies at the west end of it, there is little or nothing else to be added. The fair I particularly mention, because on the day on which the circumstances I am about to describe occurred, a fair was held in the town, and upon the green in question. The month was December—the day stormy and unpropitious. There had been a deep snow and hard frost for nearly three weeks before; but now the aspect of the white earth contrasted wildly with the large masses of black clouds which hung motionless in the air, and cast a dark and gloomy spirit not only over the appearance of inanimate nature, but into the heart of man himself.
About noon, just when the whole fair had been assembled, the storm commenced with wind, sleet, and rain. Never was a more striking or unexpected change produced. Women tucked up, nearly to the knees, their garments, soaked with wet, clinging to their bodies and limbs, as if a part of themselves—men drenched and buttoned up to the chin—all splashing through the slippery streets, their shoes spouting with snow-broth—the falling of tents—the shouting against the loudness of the storm, in order to be heard—the bleating of sheep, lowing of cattle, the deafening and wild hum of confused noises—all, when added to the roaring of the sweeping blast, the merciless pelting of the rain, and the inclement character of the whole day, presented a scene that was tempestuous and desolate beyond belief. Age, decrepid and shivering—youth, benumbed and stiffened with cold—rich and poor, man and woman, all had evidently but one object in view, and that was shelter.
Love, charity, amusement, business, were all either disappointed or forced to suspend their operations, at least for the present. Every one ran or walked as quickly as possible, with the exception of some forenoon drunkard, who staggered along at his ease, with an eye half indolent and half stupid, careless, if not unconscious of the wild uproar, both elemental and otherwise, by which he was surrounded.
Nay, the very beggars and impostors—to whom, in general, severe weather on such occasions is a godsend, as it presents them to their fellow-creatures in a more pitiable aspect—were glad to disperse. In truth, the effect of the storm upon them was perfectly miraculous. Many a poor creature, blind from birth or infancy, was gifted with, or restored to excellent sight; the maimed were suddenly cured—the deaf made to hear—the dumb to speak—and the study baccagh, or cripple, bounded away, at the rate of six miles an hour, cursing the whole thing as a bad spec—a dead failure.
Solemn assignations of long promise, rustic courtships, and earnest match-makings, were all knocked up, unless in case of those who availed themselves of the early part of the day. Time and place, in fact, were completely forgotten by the parties, each being anxious only to secure the nearest and most commodious shelter. Nay, though ashamed to write it, we are bound to confess that some of our countrymen were ungallant enough, on meeting with their sweethearts, fairly to give them the slip, or only to recognize them with a kind of dreary and equivocal salutation, that might be termed a cross between a wink and a shiver. Others, however, gallantly and magnanimously set the tempest at defiance, or blessed their stars for sending them an opportunity of sitting so close to their fair inamoratas, in order that their loving pressure might, in some degree, aided by a glass of warm punch, compensate the sweet creatures for the unexpected drenching they had got.
It has been well observed, that there is no class of life in which instances of great virtue and fortitude may not be found; and the Justness of the apothegm was fully corroborated here. Cold, bitter and tempestuous and terrible as was the day, amidst rain, wind, sleet, and hail, there might be seen, in a thoroughfare about the centre of the town, a cripple, apparently paralytic from the middle down, seated upon the naked street, his legs stretched out before him, hirpling onward; by alternately twisting his miserable body from right to left; while, as if the softer sex were not to be surpassed in feats of hardihood or heroism, a tattered creature, in the shape of woman, without cap, shoe, or stocking, accompanied by two naked and shivering children, whose artificial lamentations were now lost in those of nature, proceeded up the street, in the very teeth of the beating tempest, attempting to sing some dismal ditty, with a voice which resembled the imagined shriekings of a ghoul, more than the accents of a human being. These two were the only individuals who, in the true spirit of hardened imposture, braved all the fury of the elements in carrying out their principles—so true is it, that a rogue will often advance farther in the pursuit of a knavish object, than an honest man will in the attainment of a just one. To them may be added the poor fool of the town, Joe Lockhart, who, from his childhood, was known to be indifferent to all changes of weather, and who now, elated by the festive spirit of a fair day, moved about from place to place, without hat or shoe—neither of which he ever wore—just with as much indifference as if it had been a day in the month of June.
If the inclemency of the day, however, was injurious to the general transaction of business, there was one class to whose interests it amply contributed—I mean the publicans, and such as opened shebeen houses, or erected refreshment tents for the occasion. In a great portion of Ireland there are to be found, in all fairs, what the people term spoileen tents—that is, tents in which fresh mutton is boiled, and sold out, with bread and soup, to all customers. I know not how it happens; but be the motive or cause what it may, scarcely any one ever goes into a spoileen tent, unless in a mood of mirth and jocularity. To eat spoileen seriously, would be as rare a sight as to witness a wife dancing on her husband's coffin. It is very difficult, indeed, to ascertain the reason why the eating of fresh mutton in such circumstances is always associated with a spirit of strong ridicule and humor. At all events, nothing can exceed the mirth that is always to be found among the parties who frequent such tents. Fun, laughter, jest, banter, attack, and repartee fly about in all directions, and the only sounds heard are those of light-hearted noise and enjoyment.
Perhaps if the cause of this were closely traced, it might be found to consist in a sense of shame, which Paddy good humoredly attempts to laugh away. It is well known that the great body of the people pass through life, without ever tasting beef or mutton—a, circumstance which every one acquainted with the country knows to be true. It is also a fact, that nineteen out of every twenty who go in to eat spoileen, are actuated more by curiosity than hunger, inasmuch as they consist of such persons as have never tasted it before. This, therefore, being generally known, and each possessing latent consciousness of its truth, it is considered best to take the matter in good humor, and escape the shame of the thing, together with the poverty it implies, by turning it into ridicule and jest. This indeed, is pretty evident, from the nature of the spoileen keeper's observations on being paid, which is usually—"Thank you, Barney; you may now considher yourself a gintleman;" or if a female—"Long life to you, Bridget; you may now go into high life any time."
It is unnecessary to say, that on the day in question, the spoileen tents were crowded to suffocation. In general these are pretty large, sometimes one, occasionally two fires being kept in each; over these, placed upon three large stones, or suspended from three poles, united at top, is the pot or pots in which the spoileen is boiled; whilst patiently in a corner of the tent, stand the poor invalid sheep, that are doomed, as necessity may require, to furnish forth this humorous entertainment.
Truth to tell, there are many reasons why this feast is a comic one. In the first place, the description of mutton which they get is badly calculated to prejudice honest Paddy in favor of that food in general, it being' well known that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the sacrifice falls upon disease, poverty, and extreme old age; or, if there be any manifestation of humanity in the selection, it is—that while the tenderer sex is spared, the male one is in general certain to be made the victim, but never unless when he has been known to reach a most patriarchal length of years. Then the suddenness of the act which converts a portion of the venerable patriarch into a component part of honest Paddy, is equally remarkable; for it generally happens that the animal now standing in a corner of the tent, will in about half an hour be undergoing the process of assimilation in his (Paddy's) gastric region. The elastic quality of the meat is indeed extraordinary, and such as, with the knowledge of that fact, does sometimes render Paddy's treat of spoileen to his sweetheart an act of very questionable gallantry. Be this as it may, there is scarcely anything in life richer than to witness a tent of spoileen eaters in full operation. Tugging, pulling, dragging, tearing, swinging of the head from side to side, want of success, loss of temper, fatigue of jaw, recovery of good humor, and the wolfish rally, mingled with mock curses, loud laughter, shouting and singing, all going on together, are the ordinary characteristics of this most original banquet.
About the centre of the town stood one of those houses of entertainment which holds rank in such towns as a second rate inn. On the day in question it was painfully overcrowded, and such was the hubbub of loud talk, laughter, singing, roaring, clattering of pewter pots, and thumping of tables, that it was almost impossible to hear or understand anything in the shape of conversation. To this, however, there was one exception. A small closet simply large enough to hold a table, and two short forms, opened from a room above stairs looking into the stable yard. In this there was a good fire, at which sat two men, being, with a bed and small table, nearly as many as it was capable of holding with ease.
One of these was a stout, broad-shouldered person, a good deal knock-kneed, remarkably sallow in the complexion, with brows black and beetling. He squinted, too, with one eye, and what between this circumstance, a remarkably sharp but hooked nose, and the lowering brows aforesaid, there was altogether about him a singular expression of acuteness and malignity. In every sense he was a person against whom you would feel disposed to guard yourself, whether in the ordinary intercourse of life and its transactions, or still more in the secret workings of the darker and more vindictive passions. He was what they call a down-looking man; that is, one who in conversation could never look you straight in the face, which fact, together with a habit of quivering observable in his upper lip, when any way agitated, gave unquestionable proof that his cowardice was equal to his malignity, as his treachery was to both. His age might be about fifty, or, perhaps beyond it.
The other was a tall man, well featured, of a clear fresh complexion, a fine blue eye, and altogether, a kind, benevolent expression of countenance. He had been rather stout, but not robust, and might, perhaps, at the time we write of, be about the same age as his companion. He was evidently a man of respectability, well dressed, not badly educated, and on the present occasion wore good broadcloth and top boots. The contrast between him and the other, was in nothing more striking than the honest, joyous spirit of his laughter, which rang clearly and mellowly on your ear, leaving behind it an expression of candor, light-heartedness, and good nature, that could not be mistaken. "It's idle talk to speak about going such a day as this," observed the beetle-browed man, who stirred up the fire with something that passed for a poker, in reply; "and to tell you the truth, upon my credit, Mr. M'Loughlin, I'm not sorry that we happened to meet. You're a man I've a sincere regard for, and always had—and on that account—well have something more to drink." So saying, he stamped upon the floor, which, was exactly over the bar, in order that some one might attend them with the liquor.
"I'm obliged to you, Val," replied his companion dryly, "for your good opinion of me; but at the same time, God forbid that I should ever deserve it—eh? ha, ha, ha. Well, well, let us have some drink, as you say, at all events; only it must be at my expense as well as the rest. Well, sure enough, you were the devil's whip-thong in your day, and if you haven't repented yet, all I can say is, there is little time to lose, if you wish to have a bright look up at the last day"—
"Ha, ha, go on, Mr. M'Loughlin, we all know you, the same pleasant fellow you ever were, and upon my credit, as good a companion as any one could sit with. All I wish is that we had here more of the family on both sides, that the boys and girls might have something to whisper to one another."
"I didn't care we had, Val, my boy; but how on earth will we get home? Indeed such a terrible day I've seldom seen, for many years."
"Faith, it's good to have a dry roof over our heads, and a warm fire before us, at any rate. There's many a poor half-drowned devil in the fair, would give a trifle to change places with us; there is, upon my credit."
In a few minutes the refreshments came in, much to the satisfaction of the parties, who felt a strong sense of comfort, on contrasting the warmth of their snug little room with the uproar of the storm that raged without, and spent its fury upon the cold, bleak, and almost deserted streets.
"I am glad, indeed, Mr. M'Loughlin," continued his companion, "that I happened to meet with you to-day—you and I are now neighbors, and surely we ought to live like neighbors."
"Well," replied M'Loughlin dryly, "and don't we do so? You haven't found me troublesome as a neighbor, have you? Eh, Val, my man?"
"No," said the other, "certainly I have—upon my credit I haven't, an' that's what I complain of; neither you nor your family associate with me or mine."
"Tut, Val, man," replied M'Loughlin, still in the same dry, ironical tone as before, "surely it's not long since you came to march us. It's only two years and a half since you wormed out the O'Hagans, then the farm lay near two years idle—ay—why, man, you're not four months our neighbor yet."
"No—not all out; still, Mr. M'Loughlin, somehow you don't treat me or my family as neighbors. If you have to borrow anything, no matter what it is, you never come to me for it. It was only the other day that you wanted a rope to pull that breeding mare of yours out of the drain—and yet you sent past me near half a mile, up to Widow Lenehan's to borrow it."
"Heavens pity you, Val, for it's a hard case; but every one has their troubles, and it seems you are not without your own, poor man—eh—ha! ha! ha!—Well, never mind, my friend; you're better off now for all that, than when you were only a process-server on the estate; however, I'll tell you what, Val the Vulture—you see I can be neighborly sometimes—just let me know whenever you stand in need of a rope—mark, I don't say whenever you deserve it—and may I never taste worse liquor than this, but you shall have it with right good will, hoping still that you'll make a proper use of it—ha! ha! ha! Come, man, in the mean time take your liquor, an' don't look as if you'd eat me without salt; for I tell you if you tried it, you'd find Brian M'Loughlin a tougher morsel than you imagine."
"If anybody else spoke to me in the style you do, Brian, I'd not be apt to overlook it; upon my credit and reputation I would not."
"No, but you'd look round it may be, ha! ha! ha! but go on, Vulture, who minds what I say?"
"Nobody, to be sure, because you make one laugh whether they will or not."
"Faith, Vulture dear, and that's what nobody can tax you with; or if you do, it's on the wrong side of the mouth you do it—and they say that same is but indifferent mirth, Val."
"I wish, Brian, you would sometimes speak seriously, and besides, you're always hard, too hard, upon me. Anything I did harshly, it was always in the discharge of my duty."
"Never mind, Val, the fewer of those old sores you rip up, the better for yourself—I'm not going to put you through your catechism about them. If you're wise, let byegones be byegones; take that advice from me. Whatever tricks you may have practised, you're now a wealthy man, and for the same reason the world will help you forget them, if you keep your toe in your pump."
"I am a wealthy man, and can set the world at defiance, if it goes to that; yes, Brian, a wealthier man than the world thinks—and as I said, I defy it."
"Faith, and you needn't, for the world won't put you to that trouble, at least a great part of it, if you were ten times the vulture you are, so long as you have a full purse. Eh, do you perceive me? ha! ha! ha!"
"Well, damn the devil, heaven pardon me for swearing, for it's a thing I hate——"
"——And yet, many a fat oath you've bolted in your time. Now on the nick of your conscience, Val darling, how many Bibles did you wear out, by a long and honest course of hard swearing?—eh—ha! ha! ha!"
"Ha! ha! ha! Brian, I see there is little use in speaking to you, or being angry with you; you are a devilish pleasant hearty fellow, only something a little too rough about the tongue."
"Never mind, Val, by all accounts it would be easy to reckon them; but seriously, is it true that the lower joint of your right thumb is horny, in consequence of having caught the character of your conscience from having kissed it so often?"
"Go on, Brian, go on; to be sure it is; they may say what they like—I am not depending upon them, and I care little. But now, Brian, there is one thing I will say, and I have long wished for an opportunity of saying it."
"That's my bully, out with it; don't be dashed, Val, you'll get over your modesty; upon my credit you will—ha! ha! ha!"
"D—n it, you can't be serious for a minute; but no matter, I will out with it—here's your health and fireside, in the mean time!" Brian merely nodded in reply, but said nothing. "Now you know, Brian, your farm and mine lie very snugly beside one another; observe that that's what I begin with."
"Again, your family and mine live very close to one another, too."
"Now, what if part of the farms, and part of the families were to become united, and get spliced together, eh?"
"Very good, very good."
"Well, but do you really think so, Brian?"
"Go on, if you please, and let us hear more of it; state your case, as you say at the sessions."
"Well, then, there's your daughter Mary, a handsome girl, and, by all accounts, as good as she is handsome—and there's my son Phil, who, excepting the cast (* Squint)—is—but, at any rate, if he's no beauty, he's a stout young fellow, for you know yourself that that little closeness about the knees is always a sign of strength."
"That little closeness, Val!—why, Vulture darling, isn't one knee sugar candy, and the other licking it?—but go on, it's not bad for so far, go on; upon my credit it's not."
"I am glad you like it for so far—then seriously, what would you think of a marriage between them?"
"Devil a prettier move you could make, Val. As you say, the farms and the families lie convenient to one another—and I don't see what's to prevent your proposal from being realized. You'll do well for Phil, of course—for although he has the squint in both eyes, instead of only in one, like yourself—and is twisted very much about the knees, more than you are a good deal—still, Val—neighbor Val, as I now may call you—he is a stout, left-legged, round-shouldered blade; and I question whether the red poll does not become him better than a black one like yours would."
"Why I grant you, Brian, that he looks better on horseback than on foot, and when mounted on 'Handsome Harry,' with top-boots and spurs, it's not on every highway you could meet his equal."
"Devil a lie in that, Val—nor a boy better made to ride or shoot round a corner you could not meet in Europe—but never mind; go on, Val—go on, my friend; no, faith, on hill or in hollow, it would not be easy to match him."
"He'd make an excellent good husband."
"He would not be your son if he did not—well?"
"Well, as to that, if the truth was known, I know where the blame would lie—your daughter will not be the shrew and scold to him that my blister was to me—upon my credit she won't."
"Devil, a lie in that either, Val—well, well—oh! I'll take my oath she won't."
"I don't see why he and she might not be very happy together—you are able to do handsomely for her, as report goes."
"And willing, Val, and a bad father I'd be, if I were not."
"Well then, Brian, so far all looks fair, and devilish glad I am that I broached the thing at once. I have been thinking of it ever since I came to the neighborhood—upon my credit I have.".
"Faith, and so am I glad of it—but what's to be done next, Val darling?"
"Why the less time that's lost upon it the better—we must bring the youngsters together till they get acquainted—then we can have another meeting, and settle the match out of hand. Did you ever see Phil on 'Handsome Harry?'"
"Didn't I?—to be sure I did—and upon my word, Val, he's a credit to the horse he rides, as the horse is to him—a comely couple they are in truth. But, Val, or neighbor Val, as I now may call you, don't you think it would be better to wind up this business now that our hand's in for it? Let us hear what you'll do, and I'll follow you on my part, for there's no use in losing time about it—upon my credit there's not."
"What would you think, then, of the farm we're in now—that is, the O'Hagan property, as you call it? Suppose I gave him that, what will you come down with for the girl? I know it can't be under three hundred—come, say three hundred, and it's a match."
"Three hundred! Oh! Val, you're too soft—too moderate—too mild—indeed you are—why three hundred would be nothing against the O'Hagan property, as you call it—and, indeed, I don't intend to put my daughter off under five hundred, and that's nearly double what three is—eh, Val, what do you say, upon your credit now?"
"Faith, I'll not quarrel with you if you make it six or eight."
"Well now," said M'Loughlin, rising up, whilst his honest features were lit with indignation, "this joke or this impudence on your part, has gone far enough—listen to me. What did I or my family do, I ask my own conscience in the name of God—what sin did we commit—whom did we oppress—whom did we rob—whom did we persecute—that a scoundrel like you, the bastard spawn of an unprincipled profligate, remarkable only for drunkenness, debauchery, and blasphemy—what, I say, did I and my family do, that you, his son, who were, and are to this day, the low, mean, willing scourge of every oppressor, the agent of their crimes—the instrument of their villianies—you who undermined the honest man—who sold and betrayed the poor man—who deceived and misled the widow and her orphans, and rose upon their ruin—who have robbed your employers as well as those you were employed against—a double traitor—steeped in treachery, and perjured a thousand times to the core of your black and deceitful heart—what crime, I say again, did I or mine commit—that we, whose name and blood has been without a stain for a thousand years, should suffer the insult that you now have offered Us—eh, look me in the face now if you can, and answer me if you are able?"
M'Cloughlin as he concluded, calmly folded his arms, and looked at his companion resolutely but sternly. The other, to do him justice, did certainly raise his head, and fix his evil eye upon him for a moment—it dropped after a single glance; in truth, he quailed before M'Loughlin; his upper lip, as usual, quivered—his brow lowered, and looked black as midnight, whilst all the rest of his face became the color of ashes. In fact, that white smile, which is known to be the very emblem of cowardice and revenge, sat upon his countenance, stamping upon it at once the character of the spectre and the demon—a being to be both feared and hated.
"Well, Brian M'Loughlin," returned the other, "hear me."
"Don't dare to Brian me, sir," returned M'Loughlin; "I'm a very humble man, and ought to be an humble man, for I know well what a sinner I am before God—but for all that, and if it were against even religion itself—I feel too proud to suffer you to speak to me as you do—no—don't Brian me, but listen and let me show you what you are, and what you have been; I can't say what you will be, that does not lie with any but God."
"Well," said M'Clutchy, "go on; I now can hear you, and what is more, I wish to hear you—and whisper—speak your worst."
It is said, that both cowardice and despair have their courage, and it would appear from the manner and action of this man, that he now felt actuated by some vague feeling resembling that which we have described. He rose up and said,
"Brian M'Loughlin, do you think I ever can forget this?"
"What do you mean by that," said M'Loughlin, "look me in the face, I say, and tell me what you mean by it. I'm a man, and an honest man, and there's no treachery about me."
The sternness with which he spoke, made the other quail again.
"There was little in it," he replied, in a rebuked but cold and malignant spirit; "I didn't think you were so violent. I bore a great deal from you this day, Mr. M'Louglin—a great deal, indeed, and so patiently as I bore it too; upon my credit I did."
M'Loughlin made no reply, but stamped on the floor, in order to bring up some person to whom he might pay the reckoning.
"You need not stamp," said the other, "this is my share of the reckoning."
"Your share, no: I told you before, it must not be yours. I wouldn't have it said, that bit or sup, paid for by your ill-gotten wealth, should ever cross my lips—no, no."
The waiter, or rather waitress, a red-haired, barefooted wench, now came up.
"Here," said M'Loughlin, "take the refreshments we've had last out of that, and keep the change to yourself. I have settled what we've had before, as well as this."
"And why not allow me to settle for this?" asked M'Clutchy.
"Because," replied this honest and respectable man, "I could not swallow a thimbleful of anything paid for by your money; what is it? If I did I would dream for weeks of all that you have done, or if I didn't dream, the sorrows and the wrongs of my near relative, Widow O'Hagan and her family, would prevent me from sleeping; the Kellys that you've driven to beggary—The Gormleys that you got put out—good God! and who now holds their places? Your own cousin. It's useless, however, to mention all you've done. You, Val the Vulture, as the people call you, are one of those scourges that rise and flourish upon the distresses of the poor, and the injustice that you yourself bring upon them by your falsehood and calumny; and all because the property they live on is neglected by those who have a right to look after it. Ay, there is another of your white and cowardly laughs. Well, you know that there is not a neglected estate in the country but can produce another vulture like yourself, playing the same heartless pranks upon the poor people—tying, misrepresenting, swaggering over and robbing them, and that, too, in the open face of day, merely because you think there is no one to bring you to an account.
"Now go home," he added, "and when next you want to get a wife for your spanking son, that's likely to become a squireen upon our hands, don't come to Brian M'Loughlin, who knows you from the paring of the nails to the core of the heart."
M'Glutchy looked at him and laughed again; "before you go, at all events," he replied, "I hope you remember the observation I made when I introduced the discourse."
"I can't say I do," said M'Loughlin, "but I suppose you will let us hear it."
"I will," replied Val, and his brow darkened as before. "It was this—your farm and mine lie very snugly together—observe, I said, 'that's what I begin with'—didn't I say that?"
"You did, and now what else do you say?"
"The very same thing—that your farm, and mine lie snugly together—and mark me, Mr. M'Loughlin—"
"I do—oh, upon my credit I do—ha, ha, ha!"
"Than that's what I end with."
"Ah," replied M'Loughlin indignantly, "you think you have the ball at your own foot, now that old Topertoe is gone, and his son has made you his under agent. A nice job indeed it was, that transformed old drunken Tom Topertoe into Lord Cumber, and made his son, the present Lord, too proud to live on his own estate. However, I'd be glad to see the honest man that ever envied the same old Tom his title, when we all know that he got it for selling his country. As for you, Vulture, I defy and despise you; when my rent's due, thank God I am able to pay it, so you may do your worst. While Mr. Hickman's over you, the tenants have some protection, in spite of your villainy, you unprincipled scoundrel."
"Our farms lie snugly together, Mr: M'Loughlin, and that's what I end with."
It was from the town of Castle Cumber, which we have described at the opening of our narrative, that old Tom Topertoe, a squire of the true Irish kidney, took his title. Topertoe, or Lord Castle Cumber, as we must now call him, like many others, had the high honor of being a Union Lord—that, is to say his attachment to his principles was so steady, that he did not hesitate to sell his country for a title, and we may add, something besides. It is not our intention, at this distance of time, to discuss the merits of either the union or its repeal; but in justice to truth and honor, or, perhaps, we should rather say, fraud and profligacy, we are constrained to admit, that there is not to be found in the annals of all history, any political negotiation based upon such rank and festering corruption, as was the legislative union. Had the motives which actuated the English government towards this country been pure, and influenced by principles of equality and common justice, they would never have had recourse to such unparalleled profligacy. This is self-evident, for those who seek an honorable end will scorn to obtain it by foul and dishonorable means. The conduct of England, therefore, in this base and shameless traffic, is certainly a prima face evidence of her ultimate policy—a policy blacker in the very simplicity of its iniquity than its worst enemies can paint it, and so obvious in its character, that we question whether a man could be found, of ordinary information, belonging to any party, capable at this moment of deliberately and conscientiously defending it, so far as pertains to this transaction. But enough of this.
Before the union, old Topertoe was master of three votes—that is, he sat himself for the county, and returned members for two boroughs. He was known by the sobriquet of Pater Noster Tom—not from any disposition to devotion; but because, whether in parliament, on the hustings, or, indeed, anywhere else, he never made a speech longer than the Lord's Prayer. And yet, short as it was, it generally puzzled the shrewdest and most sagacious of his audience to understand it. Still, though not without his faults, he was by no means a bad landlord, as landlords went. 'Tis true he was fond of his wine and of his wench—as a proof of which, it was well known that he seldom or ever went to,bed with less than four or five bottles under his belt; and as touching the latter, that he had two agents in pay to cater for his passions. In both these propensities he was certainly countenanced by the usages and moral habits of the times; and the truth is, he grew rather popular than otherwise, precisely on account of them. He was bluff, boisterous, and not ill-natured—one of that bygone class who would horsewhip a tenant to-day and fight a duel for him to-morrow. Above all things, he resided on his estate, knew all his tenantry by name and person, and contracted, by degrees, a kind of anomalous attachment for them, merely because they were his property, and voted and fought for him at elections, and often fought with him touching their relative positions of landlord and tenant. Indeed, we question whether he would not enter into a quarrel as readily for a tenant as he would for a favorite dog or horse; and we are inclined to think, that to do him justice, he laid nearly as much value on the one as on the other—a circumstance which we dare say several of our modern landlords, both resident and absentee, will consider as, on our part, a good-humored stretch of fiction.
His speech at elections absolutely became a proverb in the country; and, indeed, when we remember the good-natured license of the times, as many still may, together with the singular blending of generosity and violence, horsewhipping and protection, mirth and mischief which characterized the bearing of such men as Topertoe, we are fain to think, to vary the proverb a little, that he might have spoken more and fared worse.
"Here I am again, ye blaggards; your own ould Topertoe, that never had a day's illness, but the gout, bad luck to it. Damn your bloods, ye affectionate rascals, sure you love me, and I love you, and 't isn't Gully Preston (his opponent) that can cut our loves in two. No, boys, he's not the blade to do that, at any rate! Hurra then, ye vagabones; ould Tom Topertoe for ever! He loves his bottle and his wench, and will make any rascal quiver on a daisy that would dare to say bow to your blankets. Now, Gully Preston, make a speech—if you can! Hurra for Tom Topertoe, that never had a day's illness, but the gout, bad luck to it! and don't listen to Gully Preston, boys! Hurra!"
This speech, from which he never varied, was waited for at elections with a vehemence of mirth and a force of popularity which no eloquence brought against him could withstand. Indeed, it was perfectly well known that it alone returned him, for when upon an occasion of considerable doubt and difficulty, the two parties of the county having been considered as equally balanced, he was advised by some foolish friend, or enemy in disguise, to address them in a serious speech, the consequences were near proving disastrous to his interests. When he commenced—"Gentlemen—upon an occasion of such important difficulty"—there was for about a quarter of a minute a dead silence—that of astonishment—Topertoe, however, who had stuck fast, was obliged to commence again—-"Gentlemen—upon an occasion, of such—" but it would not do, the groaning, shouting, hooting, and yelling, were deafening for some minutes, much to the gratification of his opponent. At length there was something like a pause, and several voices shouted out—"what the divil do you mane, Tom?" "He's showin' the garran bane at last," shouted another—"desartin' his colors!"—"oh! we're gintlemen now it seems, an' not his own blaggards, as we used to be—Tiper-to'e's vagabones that stood by him—oh no! Tom, to hell wid you and your gintlemen—three cheers for Gully Preston!"
Tom saw it was nearly over with him, and Preston's hopes ran high. "Aisy, boys," said the other, resuming his old, and, indeed, his natural manner—"Aisy, ye vagabones—Topertoe's ould speech for ever! Here I am again, ye blaggards, that never had a day's illness but the gout, bad luck to it!" &c, &c. This was enough, the old feeling of fun and attachment kindled up—the multitude joined him in his speech, precisely as a popular singer is joined by the gods of the upper gallery in some favorite air, and no sooner was it concluded, than the cheering, throwing up of hats, and huzzaing, gave ample proof that he had completely recovered his lost ground, and set himself right with the people.
Such is a brief of old Topertoe, the first Lord of Castle Cumber, who, by the way, did not wear his honors long, the gout, to which he was a martyr, having taken him from under his coronet before he had it a year on his brow. He was one of the men peculiar to his times, or rather who aided in shaping them; easy, full of strong but gross impulses, quick and outrageous in resentment, but possessed of broad uncouth humor, and a sudden oblivion of his passion. Without reading or education—he was coarse, sensual, careless, and extravagant, having no stronger or purer principle to regulate him than that which originated in his passions or his necessities. Of shame or moral sanction he knew nothing, and consequently held himself amenable to the world on two points only—the laws of duelling and those of gaming. He would take an insult from no man, and always paid his gambling debts with honor; but beyond that, he neither feared nor cared for anything in this world—and being a member of the Hellfire Club, he did not believe in the other. In fact he was the very man on whose peculiar temperament and character a corrupt and wily politician might expect to impress his own principles with success. Topertoe was consequently not only the very man to sell his country, but to sell, it at the highest price, and be afterwards the first to laugh, as he did, at his own corruption.
Of his eldest son, who of course succeeded to his rank and property, there is not so much to be said at present, because he will appear, to some extent, as an actor in our drama. It is enough then to say here that he inherited his father's vices, purged of their vulgarity and grossness, without a single particle of his uncertain and capricious good nature. In his manners he appeared more of the gentleman; was lively, shallow, and versatile; but having been educated at an English school and an English college, he felt, or affected to feel, all the fashionable prejudices of the day and of his class against his native country. He was an absentee from both pride and inclination, and it is not surprising then that he knew but little of Ireland, and that little was strongly to its disadvantage.
Another brother there was, whose unpretending character requires little else than merely that he should be named. The honorable Alexander Topertoe, who was also educated in England, from the moment his father stained what he conceived to be the honor of their family by receiving a title and twenty thousand pounds, as a bribe for his three votes against a native parliament—hung his head in mortification and shame, and having experienced at all times little else than neglect from his father and brother, he hurried soon afterwards to the continent with a heavy heart and a light purse, where for the present we must leave him.
CHAPTER II.—Birth and Origin of Mr. M'Clutchy
Christian Forgiveness—Mr. Hickman, the Head Agent—Darby O'Drive, the Bailiff—And an Instructive Dialogue.
Time, which passes with a slow but certain pace, had already crept twice around his yearly circle since the fair already described in the town of Castle Cumber. The lapse of three years, however, had made no change whatsoever in the heart or principles of Mr. Valentine M'Clutchy, although he had on his external manner and bearing. He now assumed more of the gentleman, and endeavored to impress himself upon those who came in contact with him, as a person of great authority and importance. One morning after the period just mentioned had! elapsed, he and his graceful son, "Mister Phil," were sitting in the parlor of Constitution Cottage, for so they were pleased to designate a house which had no pretension whatever to that unpretending appellation.
"So father," said Phil, "you don't forget that such was the treatment M'Loughlin gave you!"
"Why, I remember it, Phil; but you know, Phil, I'm a patient and a forgiving man notwithstanding; you know that Phil;—ha, ha, ha!"
"That was certainly the worst case came across us yet," replied the son, "none of the rest ventured to go so far, even when you had less power than you have now."
"I didn't tell you all, Phil," continued the father, following up the same train of thought.
"And why not," said Phil, "why should you conceal anything from me?"
"Because," replied the other, "I think you have heard enough for the present."
The fact was, that M'Clutchy's consciousness of the truth contained in M'Loughlin's indignant reproaches, was such as prevented him from repeating them, even to his son, knowing right well that had he done so they could not exactly have looked each other in the face without sensations regarding their own conduct, which neither of them wished to avow. There is a hypocrisy in villainy sometimes so deep that it cannot bear to repeat its own iniquity, even in the presence of those who are aware of it, and in this predicament stood Valentine M'Clutchy.
"Maybe he has relented," said Phil, "or that he will give me his pretty daughter yet—and you know they have the cash. The linen manufactory of M'Loughlin and Harman is flourishing."
"No, no, Phil," replied the father, "you must give her up—that's past—but no matter, I'll forgive him."
Phil looked at him and smiled. "Come, come, father," said he, "be original—that last is a touch of M'Slime—of honest Solomon. Keep back the forgiveness yet awhile, may be they may come round—begad, and upon my honor and reputation, I shouldn't wish to lose the girl—no, father, don't forgive them yet awhile."
"Phil, we'll do better for you, boy—don't be a fool, I say, but have sense—I tell you what, Phil," continued his father, and his face assumed a ghastly, deadly look, at once dark and pallid, "listen to me;—I'll forgive him, Phil, until the nettle, the chick-weed, the burdock, the fulsome preshagh, the black fungus, the slimiest weed that grows—aye, till the green mould of ruin itself, grows upon the spot that is now his hearth—till the winter rain beats into, and the whiter wind howls over it."
"No marriage, then," said Phil. "No marriage; but what keeps Darby O'Drive? the rascal should have been here before—oh no," said he, looking at his watch, "he has better than half an hour yet."
"What steps do you intend to take, father?"
"Phil, when I'm prepared, you shall know them. In the meantime leave me—I must write to M'Slime, or send to him. M'Slime's useful at a hint or suggestion, but, with all his wiliness and hypocrisy, not capable of carrying a difficult matter successfully out; he overdoes everything by too much caution, and consequently gets himself into ridiculous scrapes, besides I cannot and will not place full confidence in him. He is too oily, and cants too much, to be trusted; I think, still, we may use him and overreach him into the bargain. Are you going into Castle Cumber?"
"Well, drop these couple of letters in the post office, and tell Rankin he must have the Garts finished by Monday next, at the farthest, or it will be worse for him. By the way, I have that fellow in my eye too—he had the assurance to tell me the other day, that he could not possibly undertake the carts until he had M'Loughlin's job at the manufactory finished. Off with you now, I see O'Drive and Hanlon coming up."
Graceful Phil in a few minutes was mounted in his usual lofty state on "Handsome Harry," and dashed off to Castle Cumber.
It may not be improper here, before we proceed farther, to give the reader some additional knowledge of the parentage and personal history of Mr. Valentine M'Clutchy, as well as a brief statement concerning the Castle Cumber property, and the gentleman who acted in the capacity of head agent.
The mother, then, of Valentine M'Clutchy, or as he was more generally called Val the Vulture, was daughter to the county goaler, Christie Clank by name, who had risen regularly through all the gradations of office, until the power of promotion could no farther go. His daughter, Kate Clank, was a celebrated beauty, and enjoyed a considerable extent of local reputation, independently of being a great favorite with the junior portion of the grand jury. Among the latter, however, there was one, a young squire of very libertine principles, named Deaker, whose suit to the fair Miss Clank proved more successful than those of his competitors, and the consequence was the appearance of young Val. The reader, therefore, already perceives that M'Clutchy's real name was Deaker; but perhaps he is not aware that, in the times of which we write, it was usual for young unmarried men of wealth not to suffer their illegitimate children to be named after them. There were, indeed, many reasons for this. In the first place, the mere fact of assuming the true name, was a standing argument of the father's profligacy. Secondly, the morals of the class and the period were so licentious, that the legitimate portion of a family did not like to be either outnumbered or insulted by their namesakes and illegitimate relatives, almost at every turn of the public roads. In the third place, a young man of this description could not, when seeking for a wife, feel the slightest inclination to have a living catalogue of his immoralities enumerated to her, under the names of Tom, or Dick, or Val so and so, all his children. This, of course, was an involuntary respect paid to modesty, and perhaps the strongest argument for suppressing the true name. The practice, however, was by no means universal; but in frequent instances it existed, and Val the Vulture's was one of them. He was named after neither father or mother, but after his grandmother, by the gaoler's side. Deaker would not suffer his name to be assumed; and so far as his mother was concerned, the general tenor of her life rendered the reminiscence of her's anything but creditable to her offspring. With respect to his education, Val's gratitude was principally due to his grandfather Clank, who had him well instructed. He himself, from the beginning, was shrewd, clever, and intelligent, and possessed the power, in a singular degree, of adapting himself to his society, whenever he felt it his interest to do so. He could, indeed, raise or depress his manners in a very surprising degree, and with an effort that often occasioned astonishment. On the other hand, he was rapacious, unscrupulous, cowardly, and so vindictive, that he was never known to forgive an injury. These are qualities to which, when you add natural adroitness and talent, you have such a character as has too frequently impressed itself, with something like the agreeable sensations produced by a red hot burning iron, upon the distresses, fears, and necessities of the Irish people.
M'Clutchy rose from the humble office of process-server to that of bailiff's follower, bailiff, head-bailiff, barony constable, until, finally, he felt himself a kind of factotum on the Castle Cumber property; and in proportion as he rose, so did his manners rise with him. For years before his introduction to our readers, he was the practical manager of the estate; and so judiciously did he regulate his own fortunes on it, that without any shameless or illegal breach of honesty, he actually contrived to become a wealthy man, and to live in a respectable manner. Much, however, will have more, and Val was rapacious. On finding himself comparatively independent, he began to take more enlarged, but still very cautious measures to secure some of the good things of the estate to him and his. This he was the better able to do, as he had, by the apparent candor of his manner, completely wormed himself into the full confidence of the head agent—a gentleman of high honor and integrity, remarkable alike for humanity and benevolence; but utterly without suspicion. Two or three farms, whose leases dropped, he most iniquitously took into his own hands, and so far wheedled the agent, that he induced that gentleman to think he was rendering a service to the property by doing so. The tenantry now began to murmur—a complaint came here, and another there—here was an instance of private and disguised oppression; and this was followed by a, vindictive attempt to injure either the property or character of some one who had the courage to tell him what he thought of his conduct.
Val apprehending that he might be out-borne by too powerful a mass of testimony, contrived just then, through his misrepresentations to the agent, who still confided in him, and by the political influence of his father, the squire, who was the landlord's strongest electioneering supporter in the county, to get himself formally appointed under-agent. Feeling now quite confident in his strength, and that his hold on the prejudices, and, we may add, the ignorance of the absentee landlord, was as strong, if not stronger than those of the agent himself, he began to give a greater and less guarded scope to his natural principles. Mr. Hickman, the agent, had been strongly disgusted by the political profligacy with which the union was carried; and had, on more than one occasion, intimated a doubt whether, as an honest man, he could render political support to any one who had participated in its corruption or recognized the justice of those principles on which it had been carried. All this gave M'Clutchy that imperturbable insolence which is inseparable from petty tyranny and licensed extortion. Day after day did his character come out in all its natural deformity. The outcry against him was not now confined to this portion of the property, or that—it became pretty general; and, perhaps, at the time we have brought him on the stage, there was not a man in Ireland, holding the situation he did, who was more feared and more detested.
Some time previous to this, however, Hickman's eyes were opened to his undisguised character, and what he could do he did. On finding that the Vulture was reviving all the oppressive usages with which property in Ireland is so penally taxed, he immediately gave orders that such exactions should be discontinued by M'Clutchy, and resisted by the tenants. In spite of all this, however, there were upon the property many timid persons, who, dreading his malignity of purpose, still continued to yield to his avarice and rapacity, that which nothing else but a dread of his vengeance could extort from them. Thus did he feather his nest at the expense of their terrors.
Hickman, who had also been agent to old Topertoe, felt a kind of personal attachment to that good-humored reprobate, so long as he believed him to be honest. Old Tom's venality, however, at the union, made him rather sick of the connection, and the conduct, or rather expensive profligacy of the young absentee Lord, rendered his situation, as an honest and humane agent, one of great pain to himself, considering his position between landlord and tenant.
He knew besides, that many men of his class had taken most scandalous advantages of the embarrassments which their dishonesty had occasioned in the affairs of their employers, and lent them their own rents in the moments of distress, in order to get a lien on their property. For this reason, and out of a feeling of honor and self-respect, Mr. Hickman had made it a point of principle to lend the young Lord, no money under any circumstances. As far as he could legitimately, and within the ordinary calculations of humanity, feed Lord Cumber's prodigality of expenditure he did it. This, however, was not exactly the kind of agent which his lordship wanted, and however highly he respected, and honored him, still that direful word necessity goaded him into a forgetfulness of his own real interests, and of what was due to Hickman. He wanted an agent with less feeling, less scruple, less independence, and more of that accommodating principle which would yield itself to, and go down with, the impetuous current of his offensive vices, and satisfy their cravings even at his own ruin. Such, then, was M'Clutchy—such the position of Mr. Hickman, the agent—and such the general state of the Castle Cumber property. As to the principles and necessities of its proprietor, if they are not already known, we may assure our readers that they soon will be.
Constitution Cottage, M'Clutchy's residence, was, in fact, no cottage at all, as we have said, but a very respectable house, and of considerable size. Attached to it was an extensive yard and office houses, an excellent garden, orchard, pigeon house, and everything, in fact, that could constitute substantial comfort and convenience. It was situated beside a small clump of old beeches, that sheltered it from the north—to the front lay, at a few miles distance, a range of fine mountains—and between them stretched as rich a valley, both in fertility and beauty, as the eye of man could rest upon. The ground before the door fell by an easy and gradual descent, until a little further down it reached a green expanse of level meadow, through which a clear river wound its lingering course, as if loth to pass away from between the rich and grassy banks that enclosed it. It was, in fact, a spot of that calm and perfectly rural character which draws the heart unconsciously to the secret charm that rests upon it, and which even the casual traveler leaves behind him with regret. Some improvements were at the present time in an incipient state—such as plantations—garden walls—and what seemed the lines of an avenue, or approach to the house, which, by the way, stood in the centre of a farm that consisted of about eighty Irish acres.
At length a single knock came, which was given by O'Drive, for Hanlon, who was his assistant, durst not attempt such a thing in his presence; and if ever a knock conveyed the duplicity of the man who gave it, that did. Though, as we said, but a single one, yet there was no mistaking its double meaning. It was impudent and servile; it was impudent, as much as to say to the servants, "why don't you open the door quickly for a man who is so deep in your master's confidence as I am?" while to that master himself, it said, or seemed to say, "I am your creature, your instrument, your slave, ready to execute any oppression, any hardship, or villainy, on which you can employ me."
It is said, and we believe with truth, that in military life no officer is so severe and oppressive as he who has risen from the ranks, and been most obsequious there. We do not doubt it, for the principle is a strong one in human nature, and is by no means confined to either the army or navy. At all events,'shuffling, and cringing, and slinking Darby O'Drive presented himself to Val the Vulture. There was a downcast, cowardly, shy, uneasy, expression in his blank, straggling features, that seemed to say, for God's sake spare my very life—don't annihilate me—here I am—you see through me—heart, spirit, and soul—body, lungs, and lights—could I tell you a lie? No. Could I deceive you—such a man as you, that can look through me as if I was a lanthorn, or a pane of glass without a bull's eye in it. No! only let me live and I'll do your bidding.
"Well," said Val, in a sharp, imperious;one, "you're punctual for a wonder."
"God be praised for that," replied Darby, wiping the top of his nose with the finger and thumb of an old mitten, "heaven be praised that I'm not late."
"Hold your damned canting, tongue, you knave, what place is this for it?"
"Knave! well I am then."
"Yes, you know you are—you are all knaves—every bailiff is a knave—ahem—unless, indeed, one in a thousand."
"It's truth, indeed, plaise your honor."
"Not but there's worse than you after all, and be damned to you."
"An' betther, sir, too, i' you please, for sure, God help me, I'm not what I ought to be."
"Well, mend then, why don't you? for you want it. Come now, no jaw, I tell you, but answer me what I am about to ask you; not a word now."
"Well, no then, plaise your honor, I won't in throth."
"Did you warn the townland of Ballymackscud?"
"Yis, plaise your honor."
"Are they ready—have they the rent?"
"Only some o' them, sir,—an other some is axin' for time, the thieves."
"Who are asking for time?"
"Why the O'Shaughrans, sir—hopin', indeed, that your honor will let them wait till the markets rises, an not be forced to sell the grain whin the prices is so low now that it would ridin them—but it's wondherful the onraisonableness of some people. Says I, 'his honor, Mr. M'Clutchy, is only doin' his duty; but a betther hearted or a kinder man never bruk the world's bread than he is to them that desarves it at his hands;' so, sir, they began to—but—well, well, it's no matther—I tould them they were wrong—made it plain to them—but they wouldn't be convinced, say what I might."
"Why, what did they say, were they abusing me—I suppose so?"
"Och! the poor sowls, sure it was only ignorance and foolishness on their part—onraisonable cratures all or most of them is."
"Let me know at once what they said, you knave, or upon my honor and soul I'll turn you out of the room and bring in Hanlon."
"Plaise your honor, he wasn't present—I left him outside, in regard that I didn't think he was fit to be trust—a safe with—no matther, 'twas for a raison I had." He gave a look at M'Clutchy as he spoke, compounded of such far and distant cunning, scarcely perceptible—and such obvious, yet retreating cowardice, scarcely perceptible also—-that no language could convey any notion of it.
"Ah!" said Val, "you are a neat lad—but go on—what did they say, for I must have it out of you."
"That I may die in happiness, your honor, but I'm afeard to tell you—but, sure, if you'd give your promise, sir—your bright word of honor, that you'd not pay me off for it, I'll tell you."
"Ah! you d——d crawling reptile, out with it—I won't pay you off."
"Well, then, here it is—oh! the curse o' Cromwell on them this day, for an ungrateful pack! they said, your honor, that—bad luck to them I pray—that there wasn't so black-hearted a scoundrel on the face of the airth as your four quarthers—that the gallows is gapin' for you—and that there's as many curses before you in hell as 'ud blisther a griddle."
M'Clutchy's face assumed its usual expression of diabolical malignity, whilst, at the same time, he gave a look so piercing at Darby, as if suspecting that the curse, from its peculiar character, was at least partially his own invention,—that the latter, who stood like a criminal, looking towards the floor, felt precisely what was going forward in the other's mind, and knew that he had nothing else for it but to look him steadily in the face, as a mark of his perfect innocence. Gradually, therefore, and slowly he raised his small gray eyes until they met those of M'Clutchy, and thus the gaze continued for nearly a minute between them, and that with such steadiness on both sides, that they resembled a mesmeric doctor and his patient, rather than anything else to which we could compare them. On the part of M'Clutchy the gaze was that of an inquisitor looking into the heart of him whom he suspected; on that of Darby, the eye, unconscious of evil, betrayed nothing but the purest simplicity and candor.
And yet, when we consider that Darby most unquestionably did not only ornament, but give peculiar point to the opinions expressed by the tenantry against the Vulture, perhaps we ought to acknowledge that of the two he possessed a larger share of histrionic talent.
At length M'Clutchy, whose eye, for reasons with which the reader is already acquainted, was never either a firm or a steady one, removed it from Darby, who nevertheless followed it with a simple but pertinacious look, as much as to say, I have told you truth, and am now waiting your leisure to proceed.
"What do you stare at?" said M'Clutchy, strongly disposed to vent his malignity on the next object to him; "and, you beggarly scoundrel, what did you say to that? Tell me, or I'll heave you, head foremost, through the window?"
"Why," replied Darby, in a quiet, confident, and insinuating tone, "I raisoned wid them—raisoned wid them like a Christian. 'Now, Sheemus O'Shaughran,' says I, 'you've said what I know to be a lie. I'm not the man to put ill between you and his honor, Mr. M'Clutchy, but at the same time,' says I, 'I'm his sarvint, and as an honest man I must do my duty. I don't intend to mintion a syllable of what you said this day; but as his sarvint, and gettin' bread through him, and undher him, I can't, nor I won't, suffer his honor to be backbitten before his own face—for it's next to that. Now,' says I, 'be guided by me, and all will be right. In the first place, you know, he's entitled to duty-fowl*—in the next place, he's entitled to duty-work.' 'Ay, the landlord is,' said they, 'but not the Vul——' 'Whisht,' says I, in a friendly whisper, puttin' my hand across Dan's mouth, an' winkin' both my eyes at him; 'send his honor down a pair of them fine fat turkeys—I know his honor's fond o' them; but that's not all,' says I—'do you wish to have a friend in coort? I know you do. Well and good—he's drawing gravel to make a new avenue early next week, so, Sheemus O'Shaughran, if you wish to have two friends in coort—a great one and a little one'—manin' myself, God pardon me, for the little one, your honor—'you will,' says I 'early on next Monday mornin', send down a pair of horses and carts, and give him a week's duty work. Then,' says I, 'lave the rest to somebody, for I won't name names.'—No, your honor, I did'nt bring Hanlon in.—By the same token, as a proof of it, there's young Bandy Shaughran, the son, wid a turkey under aich arm, comin'up to the hall door."
* These were iniquitous exactions, racked from the poor tenantry by the old landlords or their agents.
"Well," proceeded M'Clutchy, without a single observation, "did you call on the Slevins?"
"Yes, sir; they're ready."
"Not ready, sir; but a pair of geese, and two men on next Thursday and Saturday. On Friday they must go to market to buy two slips." (* young pigs).
"Not ready, sir; but that I may never die in sin, a 'cute shaver."
"Why so—what did she say?"
"Oh, Mr. Hickman, sir, the head agent, your honor; that's the go. Throth, the same Mr. Hickman is—but, God forbid, sir, I'd spake a word against the absent; but any way, he's a good round thrifle, one way or the other, out of your pocket, from Jinny-warry to December."
"Darby, my good man, and most impertinent scoundrel, if you wish to retain your present situation, never open your lips against that excellent gentleman, Mr. Hickman. Mark my words—out you go, if I ever discover that you mention him with disrespect."
"Well, I won't then; and God forgive me for spakin' the truth—when it's not right."
"Did you see the Mulhollands?"
"Mr. Hickman again, sir, an' bad luck to—— Beg pardon, sir, I forgot. Throth, sir, when I mentioned the duty work an' the new aveny, they whistled at you."
"Whistled at me!"
"Yes, sir; an' said that Mr. Hickman tould them to give you neither duty fowl nor duty work, but to do their own business, and let you do yours. Ay, and 'twas the same from all the rest."
"Well," said Val, going to the window and looking abroad for a minute or two,—"well—so much for Ballymackscud; now for its next neighbor, Ballymackfud."
"Mr. Hickman again, sir. The divil sweep the same Hickman, any way," said Darby, in an aside, which he knew the other could easily hear. "Out of the whole townland, sir, all I got was two men for the aveny—a goose from Barney Scadden, and her last ten, along wid half-a-dozen eggs, from that dacent creature, widow M'Murt. Throth four fine little clildre she has, if they had anything on them, or anything to keep body and sowl together."
"You warned them all, of course?"
"Every sowl in the townland of Ballymackt 'ud; and there's the upshot. But it's all Mr. Hickman, sir; for he tould them—'I will have none of this work,' says he; 'the tenants musn't be harrished and fleeshed in this manner,' says he. Yes, your honor, that's the upshot from Ballymackfud—two day's work—a sick goose (for I disremembered to mention that Barney said, wid a wink, that she'd require great attintion, as she was in a delicate state of health)—one ould hen, and a half-a-dozen eggs; which wouldn't be the case, only for Hickman—not but he's a very respectable gentleman—by all accounts."
"I told you before, sirra, that I will have nothing offensive to him mentioned in my presence. Give this letter to Mr. M'Slime, and bring me an answer as soon as you can. Will you have a glass of spirits?"
"Would it be intherfairin' wid my duty, sir?"
"If you think so, don't take it; you ought to know best."
"Well, then, for this one time, in regard of a Lhin-roe* or the red wather in my stomach, I'll try it. I drank bog-bine last night goin' to bed, but divil a morsel o' good it did me."
* Lhin-roe, or red water—the Irish name for heart-burn.
M'Clutchy handed him a full glass, which he held steadily before his eye, till the other put up the decanter.
"Your honor's health, sir," said he, "and fireside; and if you war to throw me out o' fifty windies, I'll add to that—here's wishin' that the divil had his own, and I know where you'd soon be."
"How, you villainous scoundrel," said Val, starting with rising wrath, "what do you mean by that?"
Darby made no reply, but hastily tossing off the glass, he seized his hat, bolted outside the door, and putting in his head, said in a kind of loud but confidential whisper—
"IN HICKMAN'S PLACE, your honor!"
CHAPTER III.—Solomon M'Slime, a Religious Attorney
—Solomon M'Slime, a Religious Attorney—His Office—Family Devotions—Substitute for Breakfast—Misprision Blasphemy—Letter on Business.
Pass we now to another worthy character, who had locality upon the aforesaid property of Castle Cumber. Solomon M'Slime, the law agent, was a satisfactory proof of the ease with which religion and law may meet and aid each other in the heart and spirit of the same person. An attorney, no doubt, is at all times an amiable, honest, and feeling individual, simply upon professional principles; but when to all this is added the benignant influence of serious and decided piety, it would not be an easy task to find, among the several classes which compose society in general, anything so truly engaging, so morally taintless, so sweetly sanctimonious, so seductively comely, as is that pure and evengelical exhibition of human character, that is found to be developed in a religious attorney.
Solomon M'Slime was a man in whose heart the two principles kept their constant residence; indeed so beautifully were they blended, that his law might frequently be mistaken for religion, just as his religion, on the other hand, was often known to smack strongly of law. In this excellent man, these principles accommodated each with a benignant indulgence, that manifested the beauty of holiness in a high degree. If, for instance, law in its progress presented to him any obstacle of doubtful morality, religion came forward with a sweet but serious smile, and said to her companion, "My dear friend, or sister, in this case I permit you." And on the contrary, if religion felt over sensitive or scrupulous, law had fifty arguments of safety, and precedent, and high authority to justify her. But, indeed, we may observe, that in a religious attorney these illiberal scruples do not often occur. Mr. M'Slime knew the advantages of religion too well, to feel that contraction of the mind and principles, which in so many ordinary cases occasions religion and common morality to become almost identical. Religion was to him a friend—a patroness in whose graces he stood so high, that she permitted him to do many things which those who were more estranged from her durst not attempt. He enjoyed that state of blessed freedom which is accorded to so few, and, consequently, had his "permissions" and his "privileges" to go in the wicked wayfares of this trying world much greater lengths than those, who were less gifted and favored by the sweet and consoling principle which regulated and beautified his life.
Solomon was a small man, thin, sharp-featured, and solemn. He was deliberate in his manner and movements, and correct but slow of speech. Though solemn, however, he was not at all severe or querulous, as is too frequently the case with those who affect to be religious. Far from it. On the contrary, in him the gospel gifts appeared in a cheerful gravity of disposition, and a good-humored lubricity of temper, that could turn with equal flexibility and suavity to every incident of life, no matter how trying to the erring heart. All the hinges of his spirit seemed to have been graciously and abundantly oiled, and such was his serenity, that it was quite evident he had a light within him. It was truly a pleasure to speak to, or transact business with such a man; he seemed always so full of inward peace, and comfort, and happiness. Nay, upon some occasions, he could rise to a kind of sanctified facetiousness that was perfectly delightful, and in the very singleness of his heart, would, of an odd time, let out, easily and gently it is true, a small joke, that savored a good deal of secular humor.
Then he was so full of charity and affection for all that were frail and erring among our kind, that he never, or seldom, breathed a harsh word against the offender. Or if, in the fulness of his benevolence, he found it necessary to enumerate their faults, and place them, as it were, in a catalogue, it was done in a spirit of such love, mingled with sorrow, that those to whom he addressed himself, often thought it a pity that he himself did not honor religion, by becoming the offender, simply for the sake of afterwards becoming the patient.
In the religious world he was a very active and prominent man—punctual in his devotional exercises, and always on the lookout for some of those unfortunate brands with which society abounds, that he might, as he termed it, have the pleasure of plucking them out of the burning. He never went without a Bible and a variety of tracts in his pocket, and seldom was missed from the platform of a religious meeting. He received subscriptions for all public and private charities, and has repeatedly been known to offer and afford consolation to the widow and orphan, at a time when the pressure of business rendered the act truly one of Christian interest and affection.
The hour was not more than ten o'clock, a.m. when Darby entered his office, in which, by the way, lay three or four Bibles, in different places. In a recess on one side of the chimney-piece, stood a glass-covered bookcase, filled with the usual works on his profession, whilst hung upon the walls, and consequently nearer observation, were two or three pensile shelves, on which were to be found a small collection of religious volumes, tracts, and other productions, all bearing on the same subject. On the desk was a well-thumbed Bible to the right, which was that used at family prayer; and on the opposite side, a religious almanack and a copy of congregation hymns.
Darby, on reaching the hall door, knocked with considerable more decision than he had done at M'Clutchy's, but without appearing to have made himself heard; after waiting patiently for some time, however, he knocked again, and at length the door was opened by a very pretty servant girl, about seventeen, who, upon his inquiring if her master was at home, replied in a sighing voice, and with a demure face, "Oh, yes—at family prayer."
"When he's done," said Darby, "maybe you'd be kind enough to say that Darby O'Drive has a message for him."
The pretty servant did not nod—an act—which she considered as too flippant for the solemnity of devotion—but she gently bowed her head, and closed her eyes in assent—upon which was heard a somewhat cheerful groan, replete with true unction, inside the parlor, followed by a voice that said, "ah, Susannah!" pronounced in a tone of grave but placid remonstrance; Susannah immediately entered, and the voice, which was that of our attorney, proceeded—"Susannah take your place—long measure, eight lines, four eights, and two sixes." The psalm was then raised or pitched by Solomon himself, who was followed by six or eight others, each in a different key, but all with such reluctance to approach their leader, that from a principle of unworthiness, they allowed him, as the more pious, to get far in advance of them. In this manner they sang two verses, and it was remarkable, that although on coming to the conclusion, Solomon was far ahead, and the rest nowhere, yet, from the same principle of unworthiness, they left the finish, as they did the start, altogether to himself. The psalm was accordingly wound up by a kind of understanding or accompaniment between his mouth and nose, which seemed each moved by a zealous but godly struggle to excel the other, if not in melody at least in loudness. They then all knelt down, and Solomon launched, with a sonorous voice, into an extempore prayer, which was accompanied by a solemn commentary of groanings, sighings, moanings, and muffled ejaculations, that cannot otherwise be described except by saying that they resembled something between a screech and a scream. Their devotions being over, Darby, having delivered M'Clutchy's letter, was desired to take a seat in the office, until Mr. M'Slime should be at leisure to send a reply.
"Sit down, my good friend, Darby, sit down, and be at ease, at least in your body; I do not suffer any one who has an immortal soul to be saved to stand in my office—and as you have one to be saved, Darby, you must sit. The pride of this vain life is our besetting sin, and happy are they who are enabled to overcome it—may he be praised!—sit down."
"I'm thankful to you, sir," said Darby, "oh, thin, Mr. M'Slime, it would be well for the world if every attorney in it was like you, sir—there would be little honesty goin' asthray, sir, if there was."
"Sam Sharpe, my dear boy, if you have not that bill of costs finished—"
"A good boy, Sam—well, do not omit thirteen and four pence for two letters, which I ought to have sent—as a part of my moral, independently of my professional duty—to Widow Lenehan, having explained to her by word of mouth, that which I ought in conscience, to have written—but indeed my conscience often leads me to the—what should I say?—the merciful side in these matters. No, Darby, my friend, you cannot see into my heart, or you would not say so—I am frail, Darby, and sinful—I am not up to the standard, my friend, neither have I acted up to my privileges—the freedom of the gospel! is a blessed thing, provided we abuse it not'—well, Sam, my good young friend—"
"That was entered before, sir, under the head of instructions."
"Very right—apparently very right, Sam, and reasonable for you to think so—but this was on a different occasion, although the same case."
"Oh, I beg pardon, sir, I did not know that."
"Sam, do not beg pardon—not of me—nor of any but One—go there, Sam, you require it; we all require it, at least I do abundantly. Darby, my friend, it is a principle with me never to lose an opportunity of throwing in a word in season—but as the affairs of this life must be attended to—only in a secondary degree, I admit—I will, therefore, place you at the only true fountain where you can be properly refreshed. Take this Bible, Darby, and it matters not where you open it, read and be filled."
Now, as Darby, in consequence of his early attendance upon M'Clutchy, had been obliged to leave home that morning without his breakfast, it must be admitted that he was not just then in the best possible disposition to draw much edification from it. After poring over it with a very sombre face for some time, he at length looked shrewdly at M'Slime closing one eye a little, as was his custom; "I beg pardon, sir," said he, "but if I'm not mistaken this book I believe is intended more for the sowl than the body."
"For the body! truly, Darby, that last is a carnal thought, and I am sorry to hear, it from your lips:—the Bible is a spiritual book, my friend, and spiritually must it be received."
"But, to a man like me, who hasn't had his breakfast to-day yet, how will it be sarviceable? will reading it keep off hunger or fill my stomach?"
"Ah! Darby, my friend, that is gross talk—such views of divine truth are really a perversion of the gifts of heaven. That book although it will not fill your stomach, as you grossly call it, actually will do it figuratively, which in point of fact is the same thing, or a greater—it will enable you to bear hunger as a dispensation, Darby, to which it is your duty as a Christian to submit. Nay, it will do more, my friend; it will exalt your faith to such a divine pitch, that if you read it with the proper spirit, you will pray that the dispensation thus laid on you may continue, in order that the inner man may be purged."
"Faith, and Mr. M'Slime, with great respect, if that is your doctrine it isn't your practice. The sorra word of prayer—God bless the prayers!—came out o' your lips today,'an til you laid in a good warm breakfast, and afther that, for fraid of disappointments, the very first thing you prayed for was your daily bread—didn't I hear you? But I'll tell you what, sir, ordher me my breakfast, and then I'll be spakin' to you. A hungry man—or a hungry woman, or her hungry childre' can't eat Bibles; although it is well known, God knows, that when hunger, and famine, and starvation are widin them and upon them, that the same Bible, but nothing else, is; handed to them by pious people in the shape of consolation and relief. Now I'm thinkin', Mr. M'Slime, that that is not the best way to make the Bible respected. Are you goin' to give me my breakfast, sir? upon my sowl, beggin' your pardon, if you do I'll bring the Bible home wid me, if that will satisfy you, for we haven't got e'er a one in our own little cabin."
"Sharpe, my good boy, I'll trouble you to take that Bible out of his hands. I am not in the slightest degree offended, Darby—you will yet, I trust, live to know better, may He grant it! I overlook the misprision of blasphemy on your part, for you didn't know what you said? but you will, you will.
"This is a short reply to Mr. M'Clutchy's note. I shall see him on my way to the sessions to-morrow, but I have told him so in it. And now, my friend, be assured I overlook the ungodly and carnal tenor of your conversation—we are all frail and prone to error; I, at least, am so—still we must part as Christians ought, Darby. You have asked me for a breakfast, but I overlook that also—I ought to overlook it as a Christian; for is not your immortal soul of infinitely greater value than your perishable body? Undoubtedly—and as a proof that I value it more, receive this—this, my brother sinner—oh! that I could say my brother Christian also—receive it, Darby, and in the proper spirit too; it is a tract written by the Rev. Vesuvius M'Slug, entitled 'Spiritual Food for Babes of Grace;' I have myself found it graciously consolatory and refreshing, and I hope that you also may, my friend."
"Begad, sir," said Darby, "it may be very good in its way, and I've no doubt but it's a very generous and Christian act in you to give it—espishilly since it cost you nothing—but for all that, upon my sowl, I'm strongly of opinion that to a hungry man it's a bad substitute for a breakfast."
"Ah! by the way, Darby," lending a deaf ear to this observation, "have you heard, within the last day or two, anything of Mr. M'Clutchy's father, Mr. Deaker—how he is?"
"Why, sir," replied Darby, "I'm tould he's breaking down fast, but the divil a one of him will give up the lady. Parsons, and ministers, and even priests, have all been at him; but it is useless: he curses and damns them right and left, and won't be attended by any one but her—hadn't you betther try him, Mr. M'Slime? May be you might succeed. Who knows but a little of the 'Spiritual Food for Babes of Grace' might sarve him as well as others. There's a case for you. Sure he acknowledges himself to be a member of the hell-fire club!"
"He's a reprobate, my friend—impenitent, hopeless. I have myself tried him, spoke with him, reasoned with him, but never was my humility, my patience, so strongly tried. His language I will not repeat—but canting knave, hypocrite, rascal attor—no, it is useless and unedifying to repeat it. Now go, my friend, and do not forget that precious tract which you have thrust so disrespectfully into your pocket."
Darby, after a shrewd wink at one of the apprentices, which was returned, passed out, and left Mr. M'Slime to the pursuit of his salvation.
In the mean time, as we authors have peculiar "privileges," as Mr. M'Slime would say, we think if only due to our readers to let them have a peep at M'Slime's note to our friend Valentine M'Clutchy.
"My dear friend—I felt as deep an interest in the purport of your note as you yourself possibly could. The parties alluded to I appreciate precisely as you do—M'Loughlin has in the most unchristian manner assailed my character as well as yours. So has his partner in the concern—I mean Harman. But then, my friend, are we not Christians, and shall we not return good for evil? Shall we not forgive them? Some whispers, hints, very gentle and delicate have reached my ears, which I do not wish to commit to paper;—but this I may say, until I see you to-morrow, that I think your intentions with respect to M'Loughlin and Harman are premature. There is a screw loose somewhere, so to speak, that is all—but I believe, I can say, that if your father, Deaker, will act to our purposes, all will be as we could wish. This is a delicate subject, my dear friend, but still I am of opinion that if you could, by any practicable means; soften the unfortunate female who possesses such an ascendancy over him, all will be right. I would, myself, undertake the perilous task for your sake—and perilous to ordinary men I admit it would be, for she is beyond question exceedingly comely. In me this would appear disinterested, whilst in you, suspicion would become strong. Cash is wanted in the quarter you know, and cash has been refused in another quarter, and when we meet I shall tell you more about this matter. In the mean time it is well that there is no legitimate issue—but should he will his property to this Delilah, or could she be removed?—I mean to a local distance. But I shall see you to-morrow (D.V.), when we can have freer conversation upon what may be done. With humble but sincere prayers for your best wishes and welfare, I am, my dear friend,
"Thine in the bonds of Christian love,
"P. S.—As it is a principle of mine to neglect no just opportunity of improving my deceitful heart, I bought from a travelling pedlar this morning, a book with the remarkable title of 'The Spiritual Attorney, or A Sure Guide to the Other World.' I have not yet had time to look at anything but the title page, and consequently am not able to inform you which of the worlds he alludes to, ha, ha! You see, my friend, I do not think there is evil in a joke that is harmless, or has a moral end in view, as every joke ought to have.
"Thine as before,
CHAPTER IV.—Poll Doolin, the Child Cadger
—Raymond, her Son—Short Dialogue on the Times—Polls Opinion on the Causes of Immorality—Solomon is Generous—A Squire of the Old School—And a Moral Dialogue.
The next morning was that on which the Quarter Sessions of Castle Cumber commenced; and of course it was necessary for Darby O'Drive, who was always full of business on such occasions, to see M'Clutchy, in order to receive instructions touching his duties on various proceedings connected with the estate. He had reached the crossroads that ran about half-way between Constitution Cottage and Castle Cumber, when! he met, just where the road turned to M'Clutchy's, a woman named Poll Doolin, accompanied, as she mostly was, by her son—a poor, harmless, idiot, named Raymond; both of whom were well known throughout the whole parish. Poll was a thin, sallow woman, with piercing dark eyes, and a very; gipsy-like countenance. Her dress was always black, and very much worn; in fact, everything about her was black—black stockings, black bonnet, black hair, and black kerchief. Poll's occupation was indeed a singular one, and not very creditable to the morals of the day. Her means of living were derived from the employment of child-cadger to the Foundling Hospital of Dublin. In other words, she lived by conveying illegitimate children from the places of their birth to the establishment just mentioned, which has been very properly termed a bounty for national immorality. Whenever a birth of this kind occurred, Poll was immediately sent for—received her little charge with a name—whether true or false mattered not—pinned to its dress—then her traveling expenses; after which she delivered it at the hospital, got a receipt for its delivery, and returned to claim her demand, which was paid only on her producing it. In the mean time, the unfortunate infant had to encounter all the comforts of the establishment, until it was drafted out to a charter school, in which hot-bed of pollution it received that exquisitely moral education that enabled it to be sent out into society admirably qualified to sustain the high character of Protestantism.
"Morrow, Poll," said Darby; "what's the youngest news wid you? And Raymond, my boy, how goes it wid you?"
"I don't care for you," replied the fool; "you drove away Widow Branagan's cow, an' left the childre to the black wather. Bad luck to you!"
Darby started; for there is a superstition among the Irish, that the curse of an "innocent" is one of the most unlucky that can be uttered.
"Don't curse me," replied Darby; "sure, Raymond, I did only my duty."
"Then who made you do your duty?" asked the other.
"Why, Val the Vul—hem—Mr. M'Clutchy, to be sure."
"Bad luck to him then!"
His mother, who had been walking a little before him, turned, and, rushing towards him, put her hand hastily towards his mouth, with the obvious intention of suppressing the imprecation; but too late; it had escaped, and be the consequence what it might, Val had got the exciting cause of it.
"My poor unfortunate boy," said she, "you oughtn't to curse anybody; stop this minute, and say God bless him."
"God bless who?"
"The devil bless him! ha, ha, ha! Doesn't he harry the poor, an' drive away their cows from them—doesn't he rack them an' rob them—harry them, rack them, rob them—
"Harry them, rack them, rob them, Rob them, rack them, harry them— Harry them, rack them, rob them, Rob them, rack them, harry them."
This he sung in an air somewhat like "Judy Callahan."
"Ha, ha, ha! Oh the devil bless him! and they say a blessin' from the devil is very like a curse from God."
The mother once more put up her hands to his face, but only with the intention of fondling and caressing him. She tenderly stroked down his head, and patted his cheek, and attempted to win him out of the evil humor into which the sight of Darby had thrown him. Darby could observe, however, that she appeared to be deeply troubled by the idiot's conduct, as was evident by the trembling of her hands, and a perturbation of manner which she could not conceal.
"Raymond," she said, soothingly, "won't you be good for me, darlin'—for your own mother, my poor helpless boy? Won't you be good for me?"
"I will," said he, in a more placid voice.
"And you will not curse anybody any more?"
"No, mother, no."
"And won't you bless Mr. M'Clutchy, my dear child?"
"There's a fig for him," he replied—there's a fig for him. Now!"
"But you didn't bless him, my darlin'—you didn't bless him yet."
As she spoke the words, her eye caught! his, and she perceived that it began to gleam and kindle.
"Well no," said she hastily; "no, I won't ask you; only hould your tongue—say no more."
She again patted his cheek tenderly, and the fiery light which began to burn in his eye, died gradually away, and no other expression remained in it but the habitual one of innocence and good-nature.
"No, no," said she, shaking her head, and speaking as much to herself as to Darby; "I know him too well; no earthly power will put him out of his own way, once he takes it into his head. This minute, if I had spoke another word about the blessin', Mr. M'Clutchy would a got another curse; yet, except in these fits, my poor child is kindness and tendheress itself."