Above all the islands in the lakes of Killarney give me Inniafallen – "sweet Innisfallen," as the melodious Moore calls it. It is a fairy isle, although I have no fairy story to tell you about it; and if I had, these are such unbelieving times, and people of late have grown so sceptical, that they only smile at my stories and doubt them.
However, none will doubt that a monastery once stood on Innisfallen Island, for its ruins may still be seen; neither, that within its walls dwelt certain pious and learned persons called monks. A very pleasant set of fellows they were, I make not the smallest doubt; and I am sure of this, that they had a very pleasant spot to enjoy themselves in after dinner – the proper time, believe me, and I am no bad judge of such matters, for the enjoyment of a fine prospect.
Out of all the monks you could not pick a better fellow nor a merrier soul than Father Cuddy; he sung a good song, he told a good story, and had a jolly, comfortable-looking paunch of his own, that was a credit to any refectory-table. He was distinguished above all the rest by the name of "the fat father." Now, there are many that will take huff at a name; but Father Cuddy had no nonsense of that kind about him; he laughed at it – and well able he was to laugh, for his mouth nearly reached from one ear to the other; his might be called an open countenance. As his paunch was no disgrace to his food, neither was his nose to his drink. "It is a doubt to me if there were not more carbuncles on it than ever were seen at the bottom of the lake, which is said to be full of them. His eyes had a right merry twinkle in them, like moonshine dancing on the water; and his cheeks had the roundness and crimson glow of ripe arbutus berries.
"He ate, and drank, and prayed, and slept. What then?
Such was the tenor of his simple life; but when he prayed, a certain drowsiness would come upon him, which it must be confessed, never occurred when a well-filled "black jack" stood before him. Hence his prayers were short and his draughts were long. The world loved him, and he saw no good reason why he should not in return love its venison and its usquebaugh. But as times went, he must have been a pious man, or else what befell him never would have happened.
Spiritual affairs for it was respecting the importation of a tun of wine into the island monastery demanded the presence of one of the brotherhood of Innisfallen at the abbey of Irelagh, now called Mucruss. The superitendence of this important matter was committed to Father Cuddy, wo felt too deeply interested in the future welfare of any community of which he was a member, to neglect or delay such mission. With the morning's light he was seen guiding his shallop across the crimson waters of the lake towards the peninsula of Mucross; and having moored his little bark in safety beneath the shelter of a wave-worn rock, he advanced with becoming dignity towards the abbey.
The stillness of the bright and balmy hour was broken by the heavy footsteps of the zealous father. At the sound the startled deer, shaking the dew from their sides, sprung up from their lair, and as they bounded off "Hah!" exclaimed Cuddy, "what a noble haunch goes there! How delicious I would look smoking on a goodly platter!"
As he proceeded, the mountain-bee hummed his tune of gladness around the holy man, save when buried in the foxglove-bell, or revelling on a fragrant bunch of yourme; and even then, the little voice murmured out happiness in low and broken tones of voluptuous delight. Father Cuddy derived no small comfort from the sound, for it presaged a good metheglin season, and metheglin he regarded, if well manufactured, to be no bad liquor, particularly when there was no stint of usquebaugh in the brewing.
Arrived within the abbey garth, he was received with due respect by the brethren of Irelagh, and arrangements for the embarkation of the wine were completed to his entire satisfaction.
"Welcome, Father Cuddy!" said the prior; "grace be on you."
A pasty of choice flavour felt the truth of this assertion as regarded Father Cuddy's appetite. After such consoling repast, it would have been a reflection on monastic hospitality to depart without partaking of the grace-cup; moreover, Father Caddy had a particular respect for the antiquity of that custom. He liked the taste of the grace-cup well: be tried another – it was no, less excellent; and when he had swallowed the third, he found his heart expand and put forth its fibres, willing to embrace all mankind. Surely, then, there is Christian love and charity in wine!
I said he sung a good song. Now, though psalms are good songs, and in accordance with his vocation, I did not mean to imply that he was a mere psalm-singer. It was well known to the brethren, that wherever Father Cuddy was, mirth and melody were with him – mirth in his eye and melody on his tongue, and these, from experience, are equally well known to be thirsty commodities; but he took good care never to let them run dry. To please the brotherhood, whose excellent wine pleased him, he sung, and as in vino veritas, his song will well become this veritable history.
The Friar's Song
My vows I can never fulfil, till I have breakfasted, one way or other; and I freely protest that I can never rest till I borrow or beg an egg, unless I can come at the ould hen, its mother. But Maggy, my dear, while you are here, I don't fear to want eggs that have just been laid newly; for och! you are a pearl of a girl, and you are called so in Latin most truly.
There is most to my mind something that is still upper than supper, though it must be admitted I feel no way thinner after dinner; but soon as I hear the cock crow in the morning, that eggs you are bringing full surely I know, by that warning, while your buttermilk helps me to float down my throat those sweet cakes made of oat. I don't envy an earl, sweet girl, och! - - - "you are a beautiful pearl.
Such was his song. Father Cuddy smacked his lips at the recollection of Margery's delicious fried eggs, which always imparted a peculiar relish to his liquor. The very idea provoked Caddy to raise the cup to his mouth, and with one hearty pull thereat he finished its contents.
This is, and ever was, a censorious world, often construing what is only a fair allowance into an excess; but I scorn to reckon up any man's drink, like an unrelenting host; therefore, I cannot tell how many brimming draughts of wine, bedecked with the venerable Bead, Father Cuddy emptied into his "soul-case," so he figuratively termed the body.
His respect for the goodly company of the monks of Irelagh detained him till their adjournment to vespers, when he set forward on his return to Innisfallen. Whether his mind was occupied in philosophic contemplation, or wrapped in pious musings, I cannot declare, but the honest father wandered on in a different direction from that in which his shallop lay. Far be it from me to insinuate that the good liquor which he had so commended caused him to forget his road, or that his track was irregular and unsteady. Oh, no! He carried his drink bravely, as became a decent man and a good Christian; yet, somehow, he thought he could distinguish two moons. "Bless my eyes," said Father Cuddy, "everything is changing nowadays! – the very stars are not in the same places they used to be; I think Camcéachta (the Plough) is driving on at a rate I never saw it before tonight; but I suppose the driver is drunk, for there are blackguards everywhere."
Cuddy had scarcely uttered these words when he saw, or fancied he saw, the form of a young woman, who, holding up a bottle, beckoned him towards her. The night was extremely beautiful, and the white dress of the girl floated gracefully in the moonlight as with gay step she tripped on before the woryour father, archly looking back on him over her shoulder.
"Ah, Margery – merry Margery!" cried Cuddy; "you tempting little rogue!
"Flos valium harum,
I see you; I see you and the bottle! Let me but catch you, candida Margarita!" and on he followed, panting and smiling, after this alluring apparition.
At length his feet grew weary and his breath failed, which obliged him to give up the chase; yet such was his piety, that unwilling to rest in any attitude but that of prayer, down dropped Father Cuddy on his knees. Sleep, as usual, stole on his devotions; and the morning was far advanced when he awoke from dreams, in which tables groaned beneath their load, of viands, and wine poured itself free and sparkling as the mountain spring.
Rubbing his eyes, ho looked about him, and the more he looked the more he wondered at the alteration which appeared in the face of the country. "Bless my soul and body!" said the good father, "I saw the stars changing last night, but here is a change!" Doubting his senses, he looked again. The hills bore the same majestic outline as on the preceding day, and the lake spread itself beneath his view in the same tranquil beauty, and studded with the same number of, islands; but every smaller feature in the landscape was strangely altered. What had been naked rocks, were now clothed with holly and arbutus. Whole woods had disappeared, and waste places had become cultivated fields; and to complete the work of enchantment, the very season itself seemed changed. In the rosy dawn of a summer's morning he had left the monastery of Inuisfallen, and he now felt in every sight and sound the dreariness of winter. The hard ground was covered with withered leaves; icicles depended from leafless branches; he beard the sweet, low note of the robin, who familiarly approached him; and he felt his fingers numbed from the nipping frost. Father Cuddy found it rather difficult to account for such sudden transformations, and to convince himself it was not the illusion of a dream, he was about to arise, when lo! he discovered that both his knees were buried at least six inches in the solid stone; for notwithstanding all these changes, he had never altered his devout position.
Cuddy was now wide awake, and felt, when he got up, his joints sadly cramped, which it was only natural they should be, considering the bard texture of the stone and the depth his knees had sunk into it. But the great difficulty was to explain how, in one night, summer had become winter, whole woods had been cut down, and well - grown trees bad sprouted up. The miracle – nothing else could he conclude it to be – urged him to hasten his return to Innisfallen, where he might learn some explanation of these marvellous events.
Seeing a boat moored within reach of the shore, he delayed not, in the midst of such wonders, to seek his own bark, but seizing the oars, pulled stoutly towards the island; and "here new wonders awaited him.
Father Caddy waddled, as fast as cramped limbs could carry his rotund corporation, to the gate of the monastery, where he loudly demanded admittance.
"Holloa! whence come you, Master Monk, and what is your business?" demanded a stranger who occupied the porter's place.
"Business! – my business!" repeated the confounded Cuddy. "Why, don't you know me? Has the wine arrived safely?"
"Hence, fellow!" said the porter's representative, in a surly tone; "nor think to impose on me with your monkish tales."
"Fellow!" exclaimed the father. "Mercy on us, that I should be so spoken to at the gate of my own house! Scoundrel!" cried Cuddy, raising his voice, "don't you see my garb – my holy garb?"
"Aye, fellow," replied he of the keys – " the garb of laziness and filyour debauchery, which has been expelled from out these walls. Know you not, idle knave, of the suppression of this nest of superstition, and that the abbey lands and possessions were granted in August last to Master Robert Collam, by our Lady Elizabeth, sovereign queen of England, and paragon of all beauty – whom God preserve!"
"Queen of England!" said Cuddy. "There never was a sovereign queen of England – this is but a piece with the rest. I saw how it was going with the stars last night – the world's turned upside down. But surely this is Innisfallen Island, and I am the Father Cuddy who yesterday morning went over to the abbey of Irelagh respecting the tun of wine. Don't you know me now?"
"Know you! How should I know you?" said the keeper of the abbey. "Yet, true it is, that I have beard my grandmother, whose mother remembered the man, often speak of the fat Father Caddy of Innisfallen, who made a profane and godless ballad in praise of fresh eggs, of which he and his vile crew knew more than they did of the Word of God; and who, being drunk, it is said, tumbled into the lake one night and was drowned; but that must have been more than a hundred years since."
"It was I who composed that song in praise of Margery's fresh eggs, which is no profane and godless ballad – no other Father Cuddy than myself ever belonged to Innisfallen," earnestly exclaimed the holy man. "A hundred years! What was your great-grandmother's name?"
"She was a Mahony of Dunlow – Margaret ni Mahony; and my grandmother – "
"What! merry Margery of Dunlow your great-grandmother!" shouted Cuddy. "St. Brandon help me! the wicked wench with that tempting bottle! Why, it was only last night – a hundred years! – your great-grandmother, said you? God bless us! there has been a strange torpor over me; I must have slept all this time!"
That Father Cuddy had done so, I think is sufficiently proved by the changes which occurred during his nap. A reformation, and a serious one it was for him, had taken place. Pretty Margery's fresh eggs were no longer to be had in Innisfallen; and with a heart as heavy as his footsteps, the woryour man directed his course towards Dingle, where he embarked in a vessel on the point of sailing for Malaga. The rich wine of that place had of old impressed him with a high respect for its monastic establishments, in one of which he quietly wore out the remainder of his days.
The stone impressed with the mark of Father Caddy's kneee may be seen to this day. Should any incredulous persons doubt my story, I request them to go to Killarney where Clough-na-Cuddy – so is the stone called – remains in Lord Kenmare's park, an indisputable evidence of the fact. Spillane the bugle-man, will be able to point it out to them, as be did so to me.
John Daw had a propensity to look down his neighbours" chimneys, and so was called Mr. Jackdaw. He was a man who could see as far into a millstone as most people. He could play at politics as boys play at marbles; and Mr. Daw could be down on any king's taw as beet suited his pleasure, and prove he was quite right to boot, provided you would only listen to his arguments, and not answer them. Though, to say the truth, Mr. Daw seldom meddled with so august a personage as a king – he was rather of Shakespeare's opinion that:
"There is a divinity doth hedge a king;"
and after the fall of Napoleon, whom be could abuse to his heart's content, with all the hackneyed epithets of tyrant, monster, etc., without any offence to legitimacy, his rage against royalty was somewhat curtailed of its "fair proportions." But still, politics always afforded him a very pretty allowance of hot water to dabble in. Of course, he who could settle the affairs of nations with so much satisfaction to himself, could also superintend those of his neighbours; and the whole county, if it knew but all, had weighty obligations to Mr. Daw for the consideration he bestowed on the concerns of every man in it rather than his own. But the whole world is very ill-natured, and the county – in particular; for while Mr. Daw thus exhibited so much interest In the affairs of his acquaintances, they only called him "bore, busybody, meddler," and other such-like amiable appellations.
No stolen "march of intellect" had ever been allowed to surprise the orthodox outposts of Mr. Daw's understanding. He was for the good old times – none of your heathenish innovations for him! The word liberality was an abomination in his ears, and strongly reminded him of "Popery, slavery, arbitary power, brass money, and wooden shoes."
Two, things he hated in particular – cold water and papists; he thought them both bad for "the constitution." Now, the former of the aforesaid Mr. Daw took special good care should never make any innovation on his, and the bitterest regret of his life was that be had it not equally in his power to prevent the latter from making inroads on that of the nation.
A severe trial of Mr. Daw's temper existed in the situation which a certain Roman Catholic chapel held on the road which led from his house to the parochial Protestant church. This chapel was a singularly humble little building, whose decayed roof of straw gave evidence of the poverty and inability of the flock who crowded within it every Sunday to maintain a more seemly edifice for the worship of God. It was situated at once on the roadside, and so inadequate was it in size to contain the congregation which flocked to it for admittance, that hundreds of poor people might be seen every Sabbath kneeling outside the door, and stretching in a crowd so dense across the road as to occasion considerable obstruction to a passenger thereon. This was always a source of serious annoyance to the woryour Mr. Daw; and one Sunday in particular, so great was the concourse of people, that be was absolutely obliged to stop his jaunting-car, and was delayed the enormous space of a full minute and a half before the offending worshippers could get out of the way. This was the climax of annoyance – it was insufferable. That he should have, every Sunday at he went to church, his Christian serenity disturbed" by passing so heathenish a temple as a mass-house, and witness the adoration of "damnable idolaters," was bad enough; but that he one of the staunchest Protestants in the county; one of the most unflinching of the sons of ascendancy, should be delayed on his way to church by a pack of "rascally rebelly papists," as he charitably called them, was beyond endurance, and he deeply swore he would never go to church by that road again to be obnoxious to so great an indignity. And he kept his word. He preferred going a round of five miles to the ample and empty church of – , than again pass the confined and crowded little chapel.
This was rather Inconvenient sometimes, to be sure, when autumn rains and winter snows were falling; but no matter. The scene of his degradation was not to be passed for any consideration, and many a thorough drenching and frost-bitten penalty were endured in the cause of ascendancy; but what then? "He had the reward in his own breast, and he bore all with the fortitude of a martyr, consoling himself in the notion of his being a "suffering loyalist"
If he went out of his way to avoid one popish nuisance, he was "put out of his way" by another, namely, by having his residence in the vicinity of a convent; yea, within earshot of their vesper music lay his pleasure ground, and a stone wall (a very strong and high one, to be sure), was all that interposed itself between his Protestant park and the convent garden.
Both of these lay on the shore of the expansive Shannon; and many a time and oft," when our hero was indulging in an evening stroll on the bank of the river, did he wish the, poor nuns fairly at the bottom of it, as their neighbouring voices, raised perchance in some hymn to the Virgin, smote the tympanum of his offended ear.
He considered at length that this proximity to a Convent, which at first he deemed such an hardship, might be turned to account in a way, of all others, congenial to his disposition, by affording him an opportunity of watching the movements of its inmates. Of the nefarious proceedings of such a body, of their numberless intrigues, etc., etc., he himself had no doubt, and he forthwlth commenced a system of espionnage, that he might be enabled to produce proof for the conviction of others. During the day, there was a provoking propriety preserved about the place that excited Mr. Daw's wrath. "Ay, ay," would he mutter to himself, "they were always deep as well as dangerous – they are too cunning to commit themselves by anything that might be easily discovered; but wait, wait till the moonlight nights are past, and I will warrant my watching shan't go for nothing."
Under the dewy damps of night, many an hour did Mr. Daw hold his surveillance around the convent bounds, but still Fortune favoured him not in this enterprise, and not one of the delinquencies which he had no doubt were going forward had he the good fortune to discover. No scarf was waved from the proscribed casements, no ladder of ropes was to be found attached to the forbidden wall, no boat, with muffled oar, stealthily skimming along the waters, could be detected in the act of depositing "a gallant gay Lothario" in the Hesperian garden, where, be doubted not, many an adventurous Jason plucked forbidden fruit.
Chance, however, threw in his way a discovery, which all his premeditated endeavours had formerly failed to accomplish, for one evening, just as the last glimmer of departing day was streaking the west, Mr. Daw, in company with a friend (a congenial soul), when returning after a long day's shooting, in gleeful anticipation of a good dinner, heard a sudden splash in the water, apparently proceeding from the extremity of the convent wall, to which point they both directly hurried. What the noise originated in we shall soon see, but a moment's pause must be first given to say a word or two of Mr. Daw's friend.
He was a little bustling man, always fussing about something or other, eternally making frivolous excuses for paying visits at unseasonable hours, for the purpose of taking people by surprise, and seeing what they were about, and everlastingly giving people advice; and after any unpleasant accident, loss of property, or other casualty, he was always ready with an assurance that "if that had been his case he would have done so and so," and gave ample grounds for you to understand that you were very little more or lees than a fool, and he the wisest of men since the days of Solomon.
But curiosity was his prevailing foible. When he entered a room, his little twinkling eyes went peering round the chamber to ascertain if anything worth notice was within eyeshot, and when failure ensued, in that case be himself went on a voyage of discovery into every corner, and with excuses so plausible, that he flattered himself nobody saw what he did. For example, he might commence thus: "Ha, Miss Emily, you've got a string broken in your harp, I see," and forthwith he posted over to the instrument; and while he was clawing the strings, and declaring it was "a monstrous sweet harp," be was reconnoitring the quarter where it stood with the eye of a lynx. Unsuccessful there, be would proceed, myhap, to the table, where some recently received letters were lying, and stooping down over one with its seal upwards, exclaim: "Dear me!what a charming device! Let me see – what is it! – a padlock, and the motto "Honour keeps the key." Ah! very pretty, indeed – excellent." And then he would carelessly turn over the letter to see the postmark and superscription, to try if he could glean any little hint from them. "So, so! a foreign postmark. I see – ha! I daresay, now, this is from your cousin – his regiment's abroad, I believe? Eh! Miss Emily?" (rather knowingly). Miss Emily might reply slyly: "I thought you admired the motto on the seal?"
"Oh, yes – a - very true, indeed – a very pretty motto," and so on.
This little gentleman was, moreover, very particular in his dress. The newest fashions were sure to be exhibited on his diminutive person, and from the combined quality of petit maitre and eavesdropper, he enjoyed a sobriquet as honourable as Mr. Daw, and was called Little Beau Peep.
On one occasion, however, while minding his neighbours" affairs with an exemplary vigilance, some sheep-stealers made free with a few of his flock, and though so pre-eminently prompt in the suggestion of preventions or remedies in similar cases when his friends were in trouble, he could not make. the slightest successful movement towards the recovery of his own property. All his dear friends were, of course, delighted; and so far did they carry their exultation in his mishap, that someone, a night or two after his disaster, pasted on his hall-door the following quotation from a celebrated nursery ballad:
"Little Beau Peep
He had a little dog, too, that was as great a nuisance as himself, and emulated his master in his prying propensities; he was very significantly called "Ferret," and not unfrequently had he been instrumental in making mischievous discoveries. One in particular I cannot resist noticing:
Mrs. Fitz-Altamont was a lady of high descent – in short, the descent had been such a long one, that the noble family of Fitz-Altamont had descended very low indeed; but Mrs. Fitz-Altamont would never let "the aspiring blood of Lancaster sink in the ground"; and accordingly, was always reminding her acquaintance how very noble a stock she came from, at the very moment, perhaps, she was making some miserable show of gentility. In fact, Mrs. Fitz-Altamont's mode of living reminded one very much of worn-out plated ware, in which the copper makes a very considerable appearance; or, as Goldsmith says of the French, she
"Trlmm'd her robe of frieze with copper lace."
Her children had been reared from their earliest infancy with lofty notions; they started, even from the baptismal font, under the shadow of high-sounding names; there were Alfred, Adolphus, and Harold, her magnanimous boys, and Angelina and Iphigenia, her romantic girls.
Judge, then, of the mortification of Mrs. Fitz-Altamont, when one day, seated at rather a homely early dinner, Little Beau Peep popped in on them. How he contrived such a surprise is not stated – whether by a surreptitious entry through a back window, or, fairy-like, through a key-hole, has never been clearly ascertained – but certain it is, he detected the noble family of Fitz-Altamont in the fact of having been dining on – EGGS! – yes, sympathetic reader – EGGS! The denouement took place thus: Seated before this unseemly fare, the noise of Beau Peep was heard in the hall by the affrighted Fitz-Altamonts. No herd of startled deer was ever half so terrified by the deep bay of the ferocious staghound as "the present company" at the shrill pipe of the cur, Beau Peep; and by a simultaneous movement of thought and action they at once huddled everything on the table, topsy-turvy, into the table-cloth, and crammed it with precipitous speed under the sofa; and scattering the chairs from their formal and indicative position round the table, they met their "dear friend" Beau Peep. with smiles, as he gently opened the door in his own insinuating manner, to say that, "just as he was in the neighbourhood, he would not pass by his esteemed friend, Mrs. Fitz-Altamont without calling to pay his respects."
Both parties were "delighted" to see each other, and Mr. Beau Peep seated himself on the sofa, and his little dog "Ferret" lay down between his feet; and whether it was from a spice of his master's talent for discovery, or a keen nose that Nature gave him, we know not; but after sniffing once or twice, he made a sudden dart beneath the sofa, and in an instant, emerged from under its deep and dirty flounce, dragging after him the table-cloth, which, unfolding in its course along the well-darned carpet, disclosed "a beggarly account of empty" egg-shells.
We shall not attempt "to describe,'the finale of such a scene; but Mrs. Fitz-Altamont, in speaking to a friend on the subject, when the affair had "got wind," and demanded an explanation, declared she never was so "horrified" in her life. It was just owing to her own foolish good-nature; she had allowed all her servants (she had one) to go to the fair in the neighbourhood, and had ordered John to be at home at a certain hour from the town, with marketing. But John did not return; and it happened so unfortunately – such a thing never happened before in her house – there was not an atom in the larder but eggs, and they just were making a little lunch, when that provoking creature, Mr. Terrier, broke in on them.
"My dear madam, if you had only seen it: Alfred had eaten his egg – Adolphus was eating his egg – Harold was in the act of cracking his egg – and I was just putting some salt in my egg (indeed, I spilt the saIt a moment before, and was certain something unlucky was going to happen) – and the dear, romantic girls, Angelina and Iphigenia, were at the moment boiling their eggs, when that dreadful, little man got into the house. It is very laughable, to be sure – he! he! he! – when one knows all about it; but really, I was never so provoked in my life."
We ask pardon for so long a digression; but an anxiety to show what sort of person Little Beau Peep was has betrayed us into it; and we shall now hurry to the development of our story.
We left Beau Peep and Jack Daw hurrying off towards the convent wall, where it was washed by the river, to ascertain what caused the loud splash in the water which they heard, and has already been noticed. On arriving at the extremity of Mr. Daw's grounds, they perceived the stream yet agitated, apparently from the sudden immersion of something into it; and on looking more sharply through the dusk, they saw, floating rapidly down the current, a basket, at some distance, but not so far away as to prevent their hearing a faint cry, evidently proceeding from it; and the next moment they heard a female voice say, in the adjoining garden of the convent: "There, let it go; the nasty creature, to do such a horrid thing – "
"Did you hear that?" said Mr. Daw.
"I did," said Beau Peep.
"There is proof positive," said Daw. "The villainous papist jades, one of them has had a child, and some of her dear sisters are drowning it for her, to conceal her infamy."
"No doubt of it," said Beau Peep.
"I knew it all along," said Jack Daw. "Come, my dear friend," added he, "let us hasten back to O'Brien's cottage, and he will row us down the river in his boat, and we may yet be enabled to reach the basket in time to possess ourselves of the proof of all this popish, profligacy."
And off they ran to O'Brien's cottage; and hurrying O'Brien and his son to unmoor their boat, in which the gentlemen had passed a considerable part of the day in sporting, they jumped into the skiff, and urged the two men to pull away as fast as they could after the prize they hoped to obtain. Thus, though excessively hungry, and anxious for the dinner that was awaiting them all the time, their appetite for scandal was so much more intense, that they relinquished the former in pursuit of the latter.
"An" where is it your honour's going?" demanded O'Brien.
"Oh, a little bit down the river here," answered Mr. Daw; for he did not wish to let it be known what he was in quest of, or his suspicions touching it, lest the peasants might baffle his endeavours at discovery, as he was sure they would strive to do in such a case, for the honour of the creed to which they belonged.
"Throth, then, it is late your honour's a-going an" the wather this time of day, and the night coming an."
"Well, never mind that you, but pull away."
"By my sowl, I will pull like a young cowlt, if that be all, and Jim too, sir (that is your sort, Jamie); but at this gate of going, the sorra far off the rapids will be long, and sure if we go down them now, the dickens a back we will get tonight."
"Oh, never mind that," said Daw; "we can return by the fields."
As O'Brien calculated, they soon reached the rapids, and he called out to Jim to "studdy the boat there;" and with skilful management the turbulent descent was passed in safety, and they glided onwards again, under the influence of their oars, over the level waters.
"Do you see it yet?" asked one of the friends to the other, who replied in the negative.
"Maybe it is the deep hole your honour id be looking for?" queried O'Brien, in that peculiar vein of inquisitiveness which the Irish peasant indulges in, and through which he hopes, by presupposing a motive of action, to discover in reality the object aimed at.
"No," answered Daw, rather abruptly.
"Oh, it is only bekase it is a choice place of setting night-lines," said O'Brien; "and I was thinking maybe it is for that your honour id be."
"Oh!" said Beau Peep, "
"It is nothing more than is caught by night-lines we are seeking – eh, Daw?"
"Aye, aye; and, by Jove, I think, I see it a little way before us – pull, O'Brien, pull!" and the boat trembled under the vigorous strokes of O'Brien and his son, and in a few minutes they were within an oar's length of the basket, which by this time was nearly sinking, and a moment or two later had deprived Jack Daw and Beau Peep of the honour, of the discovery, which they were now on the eve of completing.
"Lay hold of it," said Mr. Daw; and Beau Peep, in "making a long arm" to secure the prize, so far overbalanced himself that he went plump, head foremost, into the river; and had it not been for the activity and strength of the elder O'Brien, this our pleasant history must have turned out a tragedy of the darkest dye, and many a subsequent discovery of the indefatigable Beau Peep remained in the unexplored depths of uncertainty. But, fortunately for the lovers of family secrets, the inestimable Beau Peep was drawn, dripping, from the river, by O'Brien, at the same time that Jack Daw, with the boat-hook, secured the basket.
"I have got it!" exclaimed Day, in triumph.
"Aye, and I have got it, too," chattered forth poor Beau Peep.
"What is the matter with you, my dear friend?" said Daw, who, in his anxiety to obtain the basket, never perceived the fatality that had befallen his friend.
"I have been nearly drowned, that is all," whined forth the unhappy little animal, as he was shaking the water out of his ears.
"Throth, it was looky I had my hand so ready," said" O'Brien, "or faith, maybe it is more nor a basket we'd have to be looking for."
"My dear fellow," said Daw, "let us go ashore at once, and, by the exercise of walking, you may counteract the bad effects that this accident may otherwise produce. Get the boat ashore, O'Brien, as fast as possible. But we have got the basket, however, and that is some consolation for you."
"Yes," said the shivering little scandal-hunter; "I don't mind the drenching, since we have secured that."
"Why, thin," said O'Brien, as he pulled towards the shore, "may I make so bould as to ask your honour what curiosity there is in an ould basket, to make yiz take so much throuble, and nigh-hand drownding yourselves before you cotcht it?"
"Oh, never you mind," said Mr. Daw; "you shall soon know all about it. By-the-by, my dear friend," turning to Terrier, "l think we had better proceed, as soon as we get ashore, to our neighbour Sturdy's – his is the nearest house we know of. There you may be enabled to change your wet clothes; and he being a magistrate, we can, swear our informations against the delinquents in this case."
"Very true," said the unfortunate Beau Peep, as he stepped ashore, assisted by O'Brien, who, when the gentlemen proceeded some paces In advance, said to his son, who bore the dearly-won basket, that "the poor little whelp (meaning Beau Peep) looked for all the world like a dog in a wet sack."
On they pushed at a smart pace, till the twinkling of lights through some neighbouring tree announced to them the vicinity of Squire Sturdy's mansion. The woryour Squire had just taken his first glass of wine after the cloth had been drawn, when the servant announced the arrival of Mr Daw and his half-drowned friend, who were at once ushered into the dining-room.
"Good heavens!" exclaimed the excellent lady of the mansion (for the ladies had not yet withdrawn), on perceiving the miserable plight of Beau Peep, "what has happened?"
"Indeed, madam," answered our little hero, "an unfortunate accident on the water – "
"Oh, ho!" said the Squire; "I should think that quite in your line – just exploring the secrets of the river? Why, my dear sir, if you go on at this rate, making discoveries by water as well as, by. land, you will rival Columbus himself before long." And Miss Emily, of whom we have already spoken, whispered her mamma that she had often heard of a diving-bell (belle), but never before of a diving beau.
"Had you not better change your clothes?" said Mrs. Sturdy to the shivering Terrier.
"Thank you, madam," said he, somewhat loftily, being piqued at the manner of his reception by the Squire; "I shall wait till an investigation has taken place in my presence of a circumstance which I have contributed to bring to light; and my discoveries by water may be found to be not undeserving of notice."
"I assure you, Mr. Sturdy," added Mr. Daw, in his most impressive manner, "we have an information to swear to before you of the most vital importance, and betraying the profligacy of certain people in so flagrant a degree that I hope it may at length open the eyes of those that are wilfully blind to the interests of their king and their country."
This fine speech was meant as a hit at Squire Sturdy, who was a blunt, honest man – who acted in most cases, to the best of his ability, on the admirable Christian maxim of loving his neighbour as himself.
"Well, Mr. Daw," said the Squire, "I am all attention to hear your information – "
"May I trouble you," said Daw, "to retire to your study, as the matter is rather of an indelicate nature and not fit for ladies" ears?"
"No, no. We will stay here, and Mrs. S. and my daughters will retire to the drawing-room. Go, girls, and get the tea ready;" and the room was soon cleared of the ladies, and the two O'Briens were summoned to wait on the Squire in the dining-room, with the important basket.
When they entered, Mr. Daw, with a face of additional length and solemnity, unfolded to Squire Sturdy how the attention of his friend and himself had been attracted by a basket flung from the convent garden; how they ran to the spot; how they beard a faint cry; "and then, sir" said he, "we were at once awake to the revolting certainty that the nuns had thus intended to destroy one of their own illegitimate offspring."
"Cross of Christ about us!" involuntarily muttered forth the two O'Briens, making the sign of the cross at the same time on their foreheads.
"But have you any proof of this?" asked the magistrate.
"Yes, sir," said Beau Peep triumphantly; "we have proof – proof positive! Bring forward that basket," said he to the boatman. "There, sir, is the very basket containing the evidence of their double guilt – first, the guilt of unchastity, and next, the guilt of infanticide; and it was in laying hold of the basket that I met the accident, Mr. Sturdy, that has occasioned you so much mirth. However, I believe you will acknowledge now, Mr. Sturdy, that my discoveries by water have been rather important – "
Here Mr. Daw broke in by saying that the two boatmen were witnesses to the fact of finding the basket.
"Oh! by this and that," roared out O'Brien, "the devil resave the bit of a child I seen, I will be on my oath! And I wouldn't say that in a lie – "
"Be silent, O'Brien," said. the magistrate. "Answer me, Mr. Daw, if you please, one or two questions:
"Did one or both of you see the basket thrown from the convent garden?"
"Both of us."
"And you heard a faint cry from it?"
"Yes; we heard the cry of an infant."
"You then rowed after the basket, in O'Brien's boat?"
"Is this the basket you saw the gentleman pick up, O'Brien?"
"By my sowl, I can't exactly say, your honour, for I was picking up Mr. Terrier."
"It was you, then, that saved Mr. Terrier from drowning?"
"Yes, sir, undher God – "
'"Fortunate that O'Brien was so active, Mr. Terrier. Well, O'Brien, but that is the same basket you have carried here from the river?"
"Throth, I don't know where I could change it an the road, sir – "
"Well, let us open the basket and see what it contains " – and O'Brien commenced unlacing the cords that bound up the wicker-tomb of the murdered child; but so anxious was Mr. Daw for prompt production of his evidence, that he took out his pen-knife and cut the fastenings.
"Now, take it out," said Mr. Daw; and every eye was riveted on the basket as O'Brien, lifting the cover and putting in his hand, said:
"Oh, then, but it is a beautiful baby!" and he turned up a look of the tenderest pity at the three gentlemen.
"Pull it out here! " said Mr. Daw imperatively; and O'Brien, with the utmost gentleness, lifting the lifeless body from the basket, produced – A DROWNED CAT!
"Oh, then, isn't it a darlint?" said O'Brien, with the most provoking affectation of pathos in his voice, while sarcasm was playing on his lip, and humour gleaming from his eye, as he witnessed with enjoyment the vacant stare of the discomfited Daw and Beau Peep, and exchanged looks with the woryour Squire, who had set up a horse-laugh the instant the poor pussy had made her appearance; and the moment he could recover his breath, exclaimed: "Why, by the L – d, it is a dead cat!" and hereupon the sound of smothered laughter reached them from outside the half-closed door, where the ladies, dear creatures! had stolen to listen, having been told that something not proper to bear was going forward.
The two grand inquisitors were so utterly confounded that neither had a word to say, and as soon as the Squire, had recovered from his immoderate fit of laughing, he said: "Well, gentlemen, this is a most Important discovery you have achieved! I think I must despatch an express to Government on the strength of it."
"Oh, wait a bit, your honour," said O'Brien, "there is more of them yit;" and he took from out of the basket a handful of dead kittens.
Now, it happened that the cat had kittened in the convent that day, and as it not unfrequently happens, the ferocious animal had destroyed some of her offspring which so disgusted the nuns that they bundled cat and kittens into an old basket, and threw them all into the river, and thus the "'faint cry," and the words of the sisters, "The nasty creature, to do such a horrid thing," are at once explained.
"Why, this is worse than you anticipated, gentlemen," said the Squire, laughing, "for here not only one, but several lives have been sacrificed."
"Mr. Sturdy," said Mr. Daw, "very solemnly, "let me tell you that if – "
"Tut! tut! my dear sir," said the good-humoured Squire, interrupting him, "the wisest in the world may be deceived now and then; and no wonder your sympathies should have been awakened by the piercing cries of the helpless little sufferers."
"Throth, the sign's an it," said O'Brien. "It is aisy to see that the gintlemen has no childher of their own, for if they had, by my sowl, it is long before they'd mistake the cry of a dirty cat for a Christian child."
This was a bitter hit of O'Brien's, for neither Mrs. Daw nor Mrs. Terrier had ever been "as ladies wish to be who love their lords."
"I think," said the Squire, "we may now dismiss this affair; and after you have changed your clothes, Mr. Terrier, a good glass of wine will do you no harm, for I see no use of letting the decanters lie idle any longer, since this mysterious affair has been elucidated."
"Throth, then, myself was thinking it a quare thing all along, for though sometimes a girl comes before your worship to sware a child again a man, by the powers, I never heard av a gintleman coming to swear a child again a woman yit – "
"Come, gentlemen," said the Squire, "the wine waits for us, and O'Brien and his son shall each have a glass of whisky to drink repose to the souls of the cats?"
"Good luck to your honour," said O'Brien, "and the misthress too – ah, by dad, it is she that knows the differ betune a cat and a child; and more power to your honour's elbow – "
But no entreaties on the part of Squire Sturdy could induce the discomfited Daw and Terrier to accept the Squire's proffered hospitality. The truth was, they were both utterly crestfallen, and as the ladies had overheard the whole affair, they were both anxious to get out of the house at fast as they could; so the Squire bowed them out of the hall-door – they wishing him a very civil good-night, and apologising for the trouble they had given him.
"Oh, don't mention it," said the laughing Squire; "really, I have been very much amused; for of all the strange cases that have ever come within my knowledge, I have never met with so very curious a cat – astrophe!"
I was sitting alone in the desolate churchyard of – , intent on my "silent art," lifting up my eyes from my portfolio only to direct them to the interesting ruin I was sketching, when the deathlike stillness that prevailed was broken by a faint and wild sound, unlike anything I had ever heard in my life. I confess I was startled. I paused in my occupation, and listened in breathless expectation. Again this seemingly unearthly sound vibrated through the still air of evening, more audibly than at first, and partaking of the vibratory quality of" tone I have noticed in so great a degree as to resemble the remote sound of the ringing of many glasses crowded together.
I arose and looked around. No being was near me, and again this heart-chilling sound struck on my ear, its wild and wailing intonation reminding me of the Aeolian harp. Another burst was wafted up the bill; and then It became discernible that the sound proceeded from many voices raised in lamentation.
It waa the ulican. I had hitherto known it only by report. For the first time now, its wild and appalling cadence had ever been heard, and it will not be wondered at by those acquainted with it that I was startled on hearing it under such circumstances.
I could now perceive a crowd of peasants of both sexes winding along a hollow way that led to the churchyard where I was standing, bearing amongst them the coffin of the departed; and ever and anon a wild burst of the ulican would arise from the throng, and ring in wild and startling unison up the hill, till, by a gradual and plaintive descent through an octave, it dropped into a subdued wail; and they bore the body onward the while, not in the measured and solemn step that custom (at least our custom) deems decent, but in a rapid and irregular manner, as if the violence of their grief hurried them on and disdained all form.
The effect was certainly more impressive than that of any other funeral I bad ever witnessed, however much the "pride, pomp, and circumstance" of such arrays had been called on to produce a studied solemnity; for no hearse with sable plumes, nor chief mourners, nor pallbearers, ever equalled in poetry or picturesque these poor people, bearing along on their shoulders in the stillness of evening the body of their departed friend to its "long home " – the women raising their arms above their heads in the untaught action of grief their dark and ample cloaks, waving wildly about, agitated by the varied motions of their wearers, and their wild cry raised in lament
"Most musical, most melancholy."
At length they reached the cemetery, and the coffin was borne into the interior of the ruin, where the women still continued to wail for the dead, while half-a-dozen athletic young men at once proceeded to prepare a grave. And seldom have I seen finer fellows, or men more full of activity; their action, indeed, bespoke so much life and vigour as to induce an involuntary and melancholy contrast with the object on which that action was bestowed.
Scarcely had the spade upturned the green sod of the burial-ground, when the wild peal of the ulican again was heard at a distance. The young men paused in their work, and turned their heads, as did all the bystanders, towards the point-whence the sound proceeded.
We soon perceived another funeral procession wind round the foot of the hill, and at once the grave-makers renewed their work with redoubled activity, while exclamations of anxiety on their part for the completion of their work, and of encouragement from the lookers-on, resounded on all sides; and such ejaculations as "Hurry, boys, hurry I" – " Stir yourself, Paddy!" – "That is your sort, Mike! " – "Rouse your sowl!" etc., etc., resounded on all sides. At the same time, the second funeral party that was advancing no sooner perceived the churchyard already occupied, than they directly quickened their pace, as the wail rose more loudly and wildly from the train; and a detachment bearing pick and spade forthwith sallied from the main body, and dashed with headlong speed up the hill. In the meantime, an old woman, with streaming eyes and dishevelled hair, rushed wildly from the ruin where the first party had borne their coffin, towards the young athletes I have already described as working with "might and main," and addressing them with all the passionate intensity of her country, she exclaimed: "Sure you wouldn't let them have the advantage of us, that-a-way, and lave my darling boy wanderhing about, dark an"
"lone in the long nights. Work, "boys! work! for the bare life, and the mother's blessing be an you, and let my poor Paudeen have rest."
I thought the poor woman was crazed, as indeed her appearance and vehemence of manner, as well as the (to me) unintelligible address she had uttered, might well induce me to believe, and I questioned one of the bystanders accordingly.
"An" is it why she is going wild about it, you are asking? " said the person I addressed, in evident wonder at my question. "Sure then I thought all the world knew that, let alone a gintleman like you, that ought to be knowledgable. And sure she doesn't want the poor boy to be walking, as of course he must, barring they are smart."
"What do you mean?" said I. "I don't understand you."
"Whisht! whisht!" said he; "here they come, by the powers, and the Gallaghers at the head of them," as be looked towards the new-comers" advanced-guard, who had now gained the summit of the hill, and, leaping over the boundary-ditch of the cemetery, advanced towards the group that surrounded the grave, with rapid strides and a resolute air.
"Give over there, I bid you," said a tall and ably-built man of the party to those employed in opening the ground, who still plied their implements with energy.
"Give over, or it will be worse for yon. Didn't you hear me, Rooney?" said he, as he laid his muscular band on the arm of one of the party he addressed, and arrested him in his occupation.
"I did hear you," said Rooney; "but I didn't heed you."
"I'd have you keep a civil tongue in your head," said the former. "
"You are mighty ready to give advice that you want yourself," rejoined the latter, as he again plunged the spade into the earth.
"Lave, off, I tell you!" said our Hercules, in a higher tone, "or, by this and that, I will make you sorry!"
"Arrah! what brings you here at all," said another of the grave-makers, "breeding a disturbance?"
"What brings him here but mischief?" said a grey-haired man, who undertook, with national peculiarity, to answer one interrogatory by making another. "There is always a quarrel whenever there is a Gallagher." For it was indeed one of "the Gallaghers" that the peasant I spoke to noticed as being "at the head of them," who was assuming so bold a tone.
"You may thank your grey hair, that I don't make you repent of your words," said Gallagher, and his brow darkened as he spoke.
"Time was," said the old man, "when I had something surer than grey hairs to make such as you respect me;" and he drew himself up with an air of patriarchal dignity, and displayed in his still expansive chest and commanding height the remains of a noble figure, that bore testimony to the truth of what he had just uttered. The old man's, eye kindled as he spoke – but it was only for a moment; and the expression of pride and defiance was succeeded by that of coldness and contempt.
"I'd have beat you blind the best day ever you seen," said Gallagher, with an impudent swagger.
"Troth you wouldn't, Gallagher!" said a contemporary of the old man; "but your consait bates the world!"
"That is true," said Rooney. "He is a great man intirely, in his own opinion. I'd make a power of money if I could buy Gallagher at my price and sell him at his own."
A low and jeering laugh followed this hit of my friend Rooney; and Gallagher assumed an aspect so lowering that a peasant, standing near me, turned to his companion and said significantly:
"By gor, Ned, there will be wigs an the green before long!"
And he was quite right.
The far-off speck on the horizon, whence the prophetic eye of a sailor can foretell the coming storm, is not more nicely discriminated by the mariner than the symptoms of an approaching fray by an Irishman; and scarcely had the foregoing words been uttered, than I saw the men tucking up their long frieze coats in a sort of jacket fashion – thus getting rid of their tails, like game-cocks before a battle. A more menacing grip was taken by the bearer of each stick (a usual appendage of Hibernians); and a general closing-in of the bystanders round the nucleus of dissatisfaction made it perfectly apparent that hostilities must soon commence.
I was not long left in suspense about such a catastrophe, for a general outbreaking soon took place, commencing in the centre with the principals already noticed, and radiating throughout the whole circle, till a general action ensued, and the belligerents were dispersed in various hostile groups over the churchyard.
I was a spectator from the topmost step of a stile leading into the burial-ground, deeming it imprudent to linger within the precincts, of the scene of action, when my attention was attracted by the appearance of a horseman, who galloped up the little stony road, and was no sooner at my side than he dismounted, exclaiming at the top of his voice: "Oh, you reprobates! lave off, I tell you, you heathens! Are you Christians at all?"
I must here pause a moment to describe the person of the horseman in question. He was a tall, thin, pale man, having a hat which, from exposure to bad weather, had its broad, slouching brim crimped into many fantastic involutions, its crown somewhat depressed in the middle, and the edges of "the same exhibiting a napless paleness, very far removed from its original black; no shirt-collar sheltered his angular jawbone – a narrow white cravat was drawn tightly round his spare neck; a single-breasted coat of rusty black, with standing collar, was tightly buttoned nearly up to his chin, and a nether garment of the same, with large silver knee-buckles, meeting a square-cut and buckram-like pair of black leather boots, with heavy, plated spurs, that had seen the best of their days, completed the picture. His horse was a small, well-built hack, whose long, rough coat would have been white, but that soiled litter had stained it to a dirty yellow; and taking advantage of the liberty which the abandoned rein afforded, he very quietly turned him to the little fringe of grass which bordered each side of the path, to make as much profit of his time as he might, before his rider should resume his seat in the old high-pommelled saddle which be had vacated in uttering the ejaculations I have recorded.
This person, then, hastily mounting the stile on which I stood, with rustic politeness said:
"By your leave, sir," as he pushed by main haste, and jumping from the top of the wall, proceeded with long and rapid stride, towards the combatants, and brandishing a heavy thong whip which he carried, he began to lay about him with equal vigour and impartiality on each and every of the peace - breakers, both parties sharing in the castigation thus bestowed, with the most even, and, I might add, heavy-handed justice.
My surprise was great on finding that all the blows inflicted by this new belligerent, instead of being resented by the assaulted parties, seemed taken as if resistance against this potent chastiser were vain, and in a short time they all fled before him, like, so many frightened school-boys before an incensed pedagogue, and huddled themselves together in a crowd, which at once became pacified at his presence.
Seeing this result, I descended from my perch and ran, towards the scene that excited my surprise in no ordinary degree. I found this new-comer delivering to the multitude he had quelled a severe reproof of their "unchristian doings," as be termed them and it became evident that he was the pastor of the flock, and it must be acknowledged a very turbulent flock he seemed to have of it.
This admonition was soon ended. It was certainly impressive, and well calculated for the audience to whom it was delivered, as well from the simplicity of its language as the solemnity of its manner, which was much enhanced by the deep and somewhat sepulchral voice of the speaker. "And now," added the pastor, "let me ask you for what you were fighting like so many wild Indians? for surely your conduct is liker to savage creatures than men that have been bred up in the hearing of Gods word."
A pause of a few seconds followed this question; and at length someone ventured to answer from amongst the crowd that it was "in regard of the berrin."
"And is not so solemn a sight," asked the priest, "as the burial of the departed enough to keep down the evil passions of your hearts?"
"Troth then, and plaze your Riverince, it was nothing ill nathured in life, but only a good-nathured turn we wor doin for poor Paudeen Mooney that is departed; and sure it is to your Riverince we will be going immadiantly for the masses for the poor boy's sowl." Thus making interest in the offended quarter with an address for which the Irish peasant is pre-eminently distinguished.
"Tut! tut!" rapidly answered the priest, anxious, perhaps, to silence this very palpable appeal to his own interest. "Don't talk to me about doing a good-natured turn. Not," added he, in a subdued undertone, "but that prayers for the souls of the departed faithful are enjoined by the Church; but what has that to do with your scandalous and lawless doings that I witnessed this minute, and you yourself," said he, addressing the last speaker, "one of the busiest with your alpeen? I am afraid you are rather fractious, Rooney. Take care that I don't speak to you from the altar."
"Oh, God forbid that your Riverince id have to do the like!" said the mother of the deceased, already noticed, in an imploring tone, and with the big teardrops chasing each other down her cheeks; "and sure it was only they wanted to put my poor boy in the ground first, and no wondher sure, as your Riverince knows, and not to have my poor Paudeen – "
"Tut, tut! woman!" interrupted the priest, waving his hand rather impatiently, "don't let me hear any folly."
"I ask your Riverince's pardon, and sure it is myself that id be sorry to offind my clergy – God's blessing be an them night and day! But I was only going to put in a word for Mikee Rooney, and sure it wasn't him at all, nor wouldn't be any of us, only for Shan Gallagher, that wouldn't lave us in peace."
"Gallagher!" said the priest, in a deeply reproachful tone. "Where is he?"
Gallagher came not forward, but the crowd drew back, and left him revealed to the priest. His aspect was that of sullen indifference, and he seemed to be the only person present totally uninfluenced by the presence of his pastor, who now advanced towards him; and extending his attenuated hand in the attitude of denunciation towards the offender, said very solemnly:
"I have already spoken to you in the house of worship, and now, once more, I warn you to beware. Riot and battle are found wherever you go, and if you do not speedily reform your course of life, I shall expel you from the pale of the Church, and pronounce sentence of excommunication on you from the altar."
Everyone appeared awed by the solemnity and severity of this address from the onset, but when the word "excommunication" was uttered, a thrill of horror seemed to run through the assembled multitude; and Even Gallagher himself, I thought, betrayed some emotion on hearing the terrible word. Yet he evinced it but for a moment, and turning on his heel, he retired from the ground with something of the swagger with which he entered it. The crowd opened to let him pass, and opened widely, as if they sought to avoid contact with one so fearfully denounced.
"You have two coffins here," said the clergyman; "proceed therefore at once to make two graves, and let the bodies be interred at the same time, and I will read the service for the dead."
No very great time was consumed in making the necessary preparation. The ""narrow beds" were made, and as their tenants were consigned to their last long sleep, the solemn voice of the" priest was raised in the "De Profundis "; and when he had concluded the short and beautiful psalm, the friends of the deceased closed the graves, and covered them neatly with fresh cut sods, which is what Paddy very metaphorically calls
"Putting the daisy quilt over him."
The clergyman retired from the churchyard, and I followed his footsteps for the purpose of introducing myself to "his reverence," and seeking from him an explanation of what was still a most unfathomable mystery to me, namely, the cause of the quarrel, which, from, certain passages in his address to the people, I saw he understood, though so slightly glanced at. Accordingly, I overtook the priest, and as the old Irish song has it,
"To him I obnoxiously made my approaches"
He received me with courtesy, which, though not savouring much of intercourse with polished circles, seemed. to spring whence all true politeness emanates – from a good heart.
I begged to assure him It was not an impertinent curiosity which made me desirous of becoming acquainted with the cause of the fray which I had, witnessed, and he had put a stop to in so summary a manner, and hoped he would not consider it an intrusion if I applied to him for that purpose.
"No intrusion in life, sir," answered the priest very frankly, and with a rich brogue, whose intonation was singularly expressive of good nature. It was the specimen of brogue I have never met but in one class, the Irish gentleman of the last century – an accent which, though it posesses all the characteristic traits of "the brogue," was at the same time divested of the slightest trace of vulgarity. This is not to be met with now, or at least very rarely. An attempt has been made by those who fancy it genteel to graft the English accent, on, the Broguish stem – and a very bad fruit it has produced. The truth is, the accents of the two countries could never be happily blended; and far from making a pleasing amalgamation, it conveys the Idea that the speaker is endeavouring to escape from his own accent for what he considers a superior one; and it is this attempt to be fine which so particularly allies the idea of vulgarity with the tone of brogue so often heard in the present day.
Such, I have said, was not the brogue of the Rev. Phelim Roach, or Father Roach, as the peasants called him; and his voice, which I have earlier noticed as almost sepulchral, I found derived that character from the feeling of the speaker when engaged in an admonitory address; for when employed on colloquial occasions, it was no more thin what might be called a rich and deep manly voice. So much for Father Roach, who forthwith proceeded to enlighten me on the subject of the funeral, and the quarrel arising therefrom.
"The truth is, sir, these poor people are possessed of many foolish superstitions; and however we may, as men, pardon them, looking on them as fictions originating in a warm imagination, and finding a ready admission into the minds of an unlettered and susceptible peasantry, we cannot, as pastors of the flock, admit their belief to the poor people committed to our care."
This was quite new to me – to find a clergyman of the religion I had hitherto heard of as being par excellence abounding in superstition denouncing the very article in question. But let me not interrupt Father Roach.
"The superstition I speak of," continued he, "is one of the many these warm-hearted people indulge in, and is certainly very poetical in its texture."
"But, sir," interrupted my newly-made acquaintance, pulling forth a richly chased gold watch of antique workmanship, that at once suggested, ideas of the "bon vieux temps,"
"I must ask your pardon – I have an engagement to keep at the little hut I call my home, which obliges me to proceed there forthwith. If you have so much time to spare as will enable you to walk with me to the end of this little road, it will suffice to make you acquainted with the nature of the superstition in question."
I gladly assented; and the priest, disturbing the nibbling occupation of his hack, threw the rein over his arm, and the docile little beast, following him on one side as quietly as I did on the other, he gave, me the following account of the cause of all the previous riot, as we wound down the little stony path that led to the main road.
"There is a belief among the peasantry in this particular district that the ghost of the last person interred in the churchyard is obliged to traverse, unceasingly, the road between this earth and purgatory, carrying water to slake the burning thirst of those confined in that "limbo large'; and that the ghost is thus obliged to walk
'Through the dead waste and middle of the night,'
till some fresh arrival of a tenant to the "narrow house" supplies a fresh ghost to "relieve guard," if I may be allowed so military an expression; and thus the supply of water to the sufferers in purgatory is kept up unceasingly."
Hence it was that the fray had arisen, and the poor mother's invocation, "that her darling boy should not be left to wander about the churchyard dark and lone in the long nights," became at once intelligible. Father Roach gave me some curious illustrations of the different ways in which this superstition influenced his "poor people," as he constantly called them. But I suppose my readers have had quite enough of the subject, and I shall therefore say no more of other "cases in point," contented with having given them one example, and recording the existence of a superstition which, however wild, undoubtedly owes its existence to an affectionate heart and a poetic imagination.