"It's very short, father; I won't have him."
"Won't have him! and in the name of all that's unbiddable and undutiful, who will you have, if one may ax that, or do you intend, to have any one at all, or not?"
"Let me see," she said, putting the side of her forefinger to her lips, "what day is this? Thursday. Well, then, on this day month, father, I'll tell my mother who I'll have, or, at any rate, who I'd wish to have; but, in the mean time, nobody need ask me anything further about it till then, for I won't give any other information on the subject."
The father looked very seriously into the fire for a considerable time, and was silent; he then drew his breath lengthily, tapped the table a little with his fingers, and exclaimed—"A month! well, the time will pass, and, as we must wait, why we must, that's all."
Matters lay in this state until the third day before the expiration of the appointed time, when Margaret, having received from Art secret intelligence of his return, hastened to a spot agreed upon between them, that they might consult each other upon what ought to be done under circumstances so critical.
After the usual preface to such tender discussions, Art listened with a good deal of anxiety, but without the slightest doubt of her firmness and attachment, to an account of the promise she had given her father.
"Well, but, Margaret darlin'," said he, "what will happen if they refuse?"
"Surely, you know it is too late for them to refuse now; arn't we as good as married—didn't we pass the Hand Promise—isn't our troth plighted?"
"I know that, but suppose they should still refuse, then what's to be done? what are you and I to do?"
"I must lave that to you, Art," she replied archly.
"And it couldn't be in better hands, Margaret; if they refuse their consent, there's nothing for it but a regular runaway, and that will settle it."
"You must think I'm very fond of you," she added playfully, "and I suppose you do, too."
"Margaret," said Art, and his face became instantly overshadowed with seriousness and care, "the day may come when I'll feel how necessary you will be to guide and support me."
She looked quickly into his eyes, and saw that his mind appeared disturbed and gloomy.
"My dear Art," she asked, "what is the meaning of your words, and why is there such sadness in your face?"
"There ought not to be sadness in it," he said, "when I'm sure of you—you will be my guardian angel may be yet."
"Art, have you any particular meanin' in what you say?"
"I'll tell you all," said he, "when we are married."
Margaret was generous-minded, and, as the reader may yet acknowledge, heroic; there was all the boldness and bravery of innocence about her, and she could scarcely help attributing Art's last words to some fact connected with his feelings, or, perhaps, to circumstances which his generosity prevented him from disclosing. A thought struck her—
"Art," said she, "the sooner this is settled the better; as it is, if you'll be guided by me, we won't let the sun set upon it; walk up with me to my father's house, come in, and in the name of God, we'll leave nothing unknown to him. He is a hard man, but he has a heart, and he is better a thousand times than he is reported. I know it."
"Come," said Art, "let us go; he may be richer, but there's the blood, and the honesty, and good name of the Maguires against his wealth—"
A gentle pressure on his arm, when he mentioned the word wealth, and he was silent.
"My darlin' Margaret," said he, "oh how unworthy I am of you!"
"Now," said she, "lave me to manage this business my own way. Your good sense will tell you when to spake; but whatever my father says, trate him with respect—lave the rest to me."
On entering, they found Murray and his wife in the little parlor—the former smoking his pipe, and the latter darning a pair of stockings.
"Father," said Margaret, "Art Maguire convoyed me home; but, indeed, I must say, I was forced to ask him."
"Art Maguire. Why, then, upon my sounds, Art, I'm glad to see you. An' how are you, man alive? an' how is Frank, eh? As grave as a jidge, as he always was—ha, ha, ha! Take a chair, Art, and be sittin'. Peggy, gluntha me, remimber, you must have Art at your weddin'. It's now widin three days of the time I'm to know who he is; and upon my sounds, I'm like a hen on a hot griddle till I hear it."
"You're not within three days, father."
"But I say I am, accordin' to your own countin'."
"You're not within three hours, father;"—her face 'glowed, and her whole system became vivified with singular and startling energy as she spoke;—"no, you are not within three hours, father; not within three minutes, my dear father; for there stands the man," she said, pointing to Art. She gave three or four loud hysterical sobs, and then stood calm, looking not upon her father, but upon her lover; as much as to say, Is this love, or is it not?
Her mother, who was a quiet, inoffensive creature, without any principle or opinion whatsoever at variance with those of her husband, rose upon hearing this announcement; but so ambiguous were her motions, that we question whether the most sagacious prophet of all antiquity could anticipate from them the slightest possible clue to her opinion. The husband, in fact, had not yet spoken, and until he had, the poor woman did not know her own mind. Under any circumstances, it was difficult exactly to comprehend her meaning. In fact, she could not speak three words of common English, having probably never made the experiment a dozen times in her life. Murray was struck for some time mute.
"And is this the young man," said he, at length, "that has been the mains of preventin' you from being so well married often and often before now?"
"No, indeed, father," she replied, "he was not the occasion of that; but I was. I am betrothed to him, as he is to me, for five years."
"And," said her father, "my consent to that marriage you will never have; if you marry him, marry him, but you will marry him without my blessin'."
"Jemmy Murray," said Art, whose pride of family was fast rising, "who am I, and who are you?"
Margaret put her hand to his mouth, and said in a low voice—
"Art, if you love me, leave it to my management."
"Ho, Jemmy," said the mother, addressing her husband, "only put your ears to this! Ho, dher manim, this is that skamin' piece of feasthealagh (* nonesense) they call grah (*love). Ho, by my sowl, it shows what moseys they is to think that—what's this you call it?—low-lov-loaf, or whatsomever the devil it is, has to do wid makin' a young couple man and wife. Didn't I hate the ground you stud on when I was married upon you? but I had the airighid. Ho, faix, I had the shiners."
"Divil a word o' lie in that, Madjey, asthore. You had the money, an' I got it, and wern't we as happy, or ten times happier, than if we had married for love?"
"To be sartin we am; an' isn't we more unhappier now, nor if we had got married for loaf, glory be to godness!"
"Father," said Margaret, anxious to put an end to this ludicrous debate, "this is the only man I will ever marry."
"And by Him that made me," said her father, "you will never have my consent to that marriage, nor my blessin'."
"Art," said she, "not one word. Here, in the presence of my father and mother, and in the presence of God himself, I say I will be your wife, and only yours."
"And," said her father, "see whether a blessin' will attend a marriage where a child goes against the will of her parents."
"I'm of age now to think and act for myself, father; an' you know this is the first thing I ever disobeyed you in, an' I hope it 'ill be the last. Am I goin' to marry one that's discreditable to have connected with our family? So far from that, it is the credit that is comin' to us. Is a respectable young man, without spot or stain on his name, with the good-will of all that know him, and a good trade—is such a person, father, so very high above us? Is one who has the blood of the great Fermanagh Maguires in his veins not good enough for your daughter, because you happen to have a few bits of metal that he has not? Father, you will give us your consent an' your blessin' too; but remember that whether you do, or whether you don't, I'll not break my vow; I'll marry him."
"Margaret," said the father, in a calm, collected voice, "put both consent and blessin' out of the question; you will never have either from me."
"Ho dher a Ihora heena," exclaimed the mother, "I'm the boy for one that will see the buckle crossed against them, or I'd die every day this twelve months upon the top and tail o' Knockmany, through wind an' weather. You darlin' scoundrel," she proceeded, addressing Art, in what she intended to be violent abuse—"God condemn your sowl to happiness, is I or am my husband to be whillebelewin' on your loaf? Eh, answer us that, if you're not able, like a man, as you is?"
Margaret, whose humor and sense of the ludicrous were exceedingly strong, having seldom heard her mother so excited before, gave one arch look at Art, who, on the contrary, felt perfectly confounded at the woman's language, and in that look there was a kind of humorous entreaty that he would depart. She nodded towards the door, and Art, having shook hands with her, said—
"Good-by, Jemmy Murray, I hope you'll change your mind still; your daughter never could got any one that loves her as I do, or that could treat her with more tendherness and affection."
"Be off, you darlin' vagabone," said Mrs. Murray, "the heavens be your bed, you villain, why don't you stay where you is, an' not be malivogin an undacent family this way."
"Art Maguire," replied Murray, "you heard my intention, and I'll never change it." Art then withdrew.
Our readers may now anticipate the consequences of the preceding conversation. Murray and his wife having persisted in their refusal to sanction Margaret's marriage with Maguire, every argument and influence having been resorted to in vain, Margaret and he made what is termed a runaway match of it, that is, a rustic elopement, in which the young couple go usually to the house of some friend, under the protection of whose wife the female remains until her marriage, when the husband brings her home.
And now they commence life. No sooner were they united, than Art, feeling what was due to her who had made such and so many sacrifices for him, put his shoulder to the wheel with energy and vigor. Such aid as his father could give him, he did give; that which stood him most in stead, however, was the high character and unsullied reputation of his own family. Margaret's conduct, which was looked upon as a proof of great spirit and independence, rendered her, if possible, still better loved by the people than before. But, as we said, there was every confidence placed in Art, and the strongest hopes of his future success and prosperity in life expressed by all who knew him; and this was reasonable. Here was a young man of excellent conduct, a first-rate workman, steady, industrious, quiet, and, above all things, sober; for the three or four infractions of sobriety that took place during his apprenticeship, had they even been generally known, would have been reputed as nothing; the truth is, that both he and Margaret commenced life, if not with a heavy purse, at least with each a light heart. He immediately took a house in Ballykeerin, and, as it happened that a man of his own trade, named Davis, died about the same time of lockjaw, occasioned by a chisel wound in the ball of the thumb, as a natural consequence, Art came in for a considerable portion of his business; so true is it, that one man's misfortune is another man's making. His father did all he could for him, and Margaret's sisters also gave them some assistance, so that, ere the expiration of a year, they found themselves better off than they had reason to expect, and, what crowned their happiness—for they were happy—was the appearance of a lovely boy, whom, after his father, they called. Arthur. Their hearts had not much now to crave after—happiness was theirs, and health; and, to make the picture still more complete, prosperity, as the legitimate reward of Art's industry and close attention to business, was beginning to dawn upon them.
One morning, a few months after this time, as she sat with their lovely babe in her arms, the little rogue playing with the tangles of her raven hair, Art addressed her in the fulness of as affectionate a heart as ever beat in a human bosom:—
"Well, Mag," said he, "are you sorry for not marryin' Mark Hanratty?"
She looked at him, and then at their beautiful babe, which was his image, and her lip quivered for a moment; she then smiled, and kissing the infant, left a tear upon its face.
He started, "My God, Margaret," said he, "what is this?"
"If that happy tear," she replied, "is a proof of it, I am."
Art stooped, and kissing her tenderly, said—"May God make me, and keep me worthy of you, my darling wife!"
"Still, Art," she continued, "there is one slight drawback upon my happiness, and that is, when it comes into my mind that in marryin' you, I didn't get a parent's blessin'; it sometimes makes my mind sad, and I can't help feelin' so."
"I could wish you had got it myself," replied her husband, "but you know it can't be remedied now."
"At all events," she said, "let us live so as that we may desarve it; it was my first and last offence towards my father and mother."
"And it's very few could say as much, Mag, dear; but don't think of it, sure, may be, he may come about yet."
"I can hardly hope that," she replied, "after the priest failin'."
"Well, but," replied her husband, taking up the child in his arms, "who knows what this little man may do for us—who knows, some day, but we'll send a little messenger to his grandfather for a blessin' for his mammy that he won't have the heart to refuse."
This opened a gleam of satisfaction in her mind. She and her husband having once more kissed the little fellow, exchanged glances of affection, and he withdrew to his workshop.
Every week and month henceforth added to their comfort. Art advanced in life, in respectability, and independence; he was, indeed, a pattern to all tradesmen who wish to maintain in the world such a character as enforces esteem and praise; his industry was incessant, he was ever engaged in something calculated to advance himself; up early and down late was his constant practice—no man could exceed, him in punctuality—his word was sacred—whatever he said was done; and so general were his habits of industry, integrity, and extreme good conduct appreciated, that he was mentioned as a fresh instance of the high character sustained by all who had the old blood of the Fermanagh Maguires in their veins. In this way he proceeded, happy in the affections of his admirable wife—happy in two lovely children—happy in his circumstances—in short, every way happy, when, to still add to that happiness, on the night of the very day that closed the term of his oath against liquor—that closed the seventh year—his wife presented him with their third child, and second daughter.
In Ireland there is generally a very festive spirit prevalent during christenings, weddings, or other social meetings of a similar nature; and so strongly is this spirit felt, that it is—or was, I should rather say—not at all an unusual thing for a man, when taking an oath against liquor, to except christenings or weddings, and very frequently funerals, as well as Christmas and Easter. Every one acquainted with the country knows this, and no one need be surprised at the delight with which Art Maguire hailed this agreeable coincidence. Art, we have said before, was naturally social, and, although he did most religiously observe his oath, yet, since the truth must be told, we are bound to admit that, on many and many an occasion, he did also most unquestionably regret the restraint that he had placed upon himself with regard to liquor. Whenever his friends were met together, whether at fair, or market, wedding, christening, or during the usual festivals, it is certain that a glass of punch or whiskey never crossed his nose that he did not feel a secret hankering after it, and would often have snuffed in the odor, or licked his lips at it, were it not that he would have considered the act as a kind of misprision of perjury. Now, however, that he was free, and about to have a christening in his house, it was at least only reasonable that he should indulge in a glass, if only for the sake of drinking the health of "the young lady." His brother Frank happened to be in town that evening, and Art prevailed on him to stop for the night.
"You must stand for the young colleen, Frank," said he, "and who do you think is to join you?"
"Why, how could I guess?" replied Frank.
"The sorra other but little Toal Finnigan, that thought to take Margaret from me, you renumber."
"I remimber he wanted to marry her, and I know that he's the most revengeful and ill-minded little scoundrel on the face of the earth; if ever there was a devil in a human bein', there's one in that misshapen but sugary little vagabone. His father was bad enough when he was alive, and worse than he ought to be, may God forgive him now, but this spiteful skinflint, that's a curse to the poor of the country, as he is their hatred, what could tempt you to ax him to stand for any child of yours?"
"He may be what he likes, Frank, but all I can say is, that I found him civil and obligin', an' you know the devil's not so black as he's painted."
"I know no such thing, Art," replied the other; "for that matter, he may be a great deal blacker; but still I'd advise you to have nothing to say to Toal—he's a bad graft, egg and bird; but what civility did he ever show you?"
"Why, he—he's a devilish pleasant little fellow, any way, so he is; throth it's he that spakes well of you, at any rate; if he was ten times worse than he is, he has a tongue in his head that will gain him friends."
"I see, Art," said Frank, laughing, "he has been layin' it thick an' sweet on you. My hand to you, there's not so sweet-tongued a knave in the province; but mind, I put you on your guard—he's never pure honey all out, unless where there's bitther hatred and revenge at the bottom of it—that's well known, so be advised and keep him at a distance; have nothin' to do or to say to him, and, as to havin' him for a godfather, why I hardly think the child could thrive that he'd stand for."
"It's too late for that now,", replied Art, "for I axed him betther than three weeks agone."
"An' did he consint?"
"He did, to be sure."
"Well, then, keep your word to him, of coorse; but, as soon as the christenings over, drop him like a hot potato."
"Why, thin, that's hard enough, Frank, so long as I find the crathur civil."
"Ay, but, Art, don't I tell you that it's his civility you should be afeard of; throth, the same civility ought to get him kicked a dozen times a day."
"Faix and," said Art, "kicked or not, here he comes; whisht! don't be oncivil to the little bachelor at any rate."
"Oncivil, why should I? the little extortionin' vagabone never injured or fleeced me; but, before he puts his nose into the house, let me tell you wanst more, Art, that he never gets sweet upon any one that he hasn't in hatred for them at the bottom; that's his carracther."
"I know it is," said Art, "but, until I find it to be true, I'll take the ginerous side, an' I won't believe it; he's a screw, I know, an' a skinflint, an'—whisht! here he is."
"Toal Finnigan, how are you?" said Art; "I was goin' to say how is every tether length of you, only that I think it would be impossible to get a tether short enough to measure you."
"Ha, ha, ha, that's right good—divil a man livin' makes me laugh so much as—why then, Frank Maguire too!—throth, Frank, I'm proud to see you well—an' how are you, man? and—well, in throth I am happy to see you lookin' so well, and in good health; an' whisper, Frank, it's your own fau't that I'm not inquirin' for the wife and childre."
"An' I can return the compliment, Toal; it's a shame for both of us to be bachelors at this time o' day."
"Ah," said the little fellow, "I wasn't Frank Maguire, one of the best lookin' boys in the barony, an' the most respected, an' why not? Well, divil a thing afther all like the ould blood, an' if I wanted a pure dhrop of that same, maybe I don't know where to go to look for it—maybe I don't, I say!"
"It's Toal's fault that he wasn't married many a year ago," said Art; "he refused more wives, Frank, than e'er a boy of his years from this to Jinglety cooeh—divil a lie in it; sure he'll tell you himself."
Now, as Toal is to appear occasionally, and to be alluded to from time to time in this narrative, we shall give the reader a short sketch or outline of his physical appearance and moral character. In three words, then, he had all his father's vices multiplied tenfold, and not one of his good qualities, such as they were; his hair was of that nondescript color which partakes at once of the red, the fair, and the auburn; it was a bad dirty dun, but harmonized with his complexion to a miracle. That complexion, indeed, was no common one; as we said, it was one of those which, no matter how frequently it might have been scrubbed, always presented the undeniable evidences of dirt so thorougly ingrained into the pores of the skin, that no process could remove it, short of flaying him alive. His vile, dingy dun bristles stood out in all directions from his head, which was so shaped as to defy admeasurement; the little rascal's body was equally ill-made, and as for his limbs, we have already described them, as reaping-hooks of flesh and blood, terminated by a pair of lark-heeled feet, as flat as smoothing-irons. Now, be it known, that notwithstanding these disadvantages, little Toal looked upon himself as an Adonis upon a small scale, and did certainly believe that scarcely any female on whom he threw his fascinating eye could resist being enamored of him. This, of course, having become generally known, was taken advantage of, and many a merry country girl amused both herself and others at his expenses while he imagined her to be perfectly serious.
"Then how did you escape at all," said Frank—"you that the girls are so fond of?"
"You may well ax," said Toal; "but at any rate, it's the divil entirely to have them too fond of you. There's raison in every thing, but wanst a woman takes a strong fancy to the cut of your face, you're done for, until you get rid of her. Throth I suffered as much persecution that way as would make a good batch o' marthyrs. However, what can one do?"
"It's a hard case, Toal," said Art; "an' I b'lieve you're as badly off, if not worse, now than ever."
"In that respect," replied Toal, "I'm ladin' the life of a murdherer. I can't set my face out but there's a pursuit after me—chased an' hunted like a bag fox; devil a lie I'm tellin' you."
"But do you intend to marry still, Toal?" asked Frank; "bekaise if you don't, it would be only raisonable for you to make it generally known that your mind's made up to die a bachelor."
"I wouldn't bring the penalty an' expenses of a wife an' family on me, for the handsomest woman livin'," said Toal. "Oh no; the Lord in mercy forbid that! Amin, I pray."
"But," said Art, "is it fair play to the girls not to let that be generally known, Toal?"
"Hut," replied the other, "let them pick it out of their larnin', the thieves. Sure they parsecuted me to sich a degree, that they desarve no mercy at my hands. So, Art," he proceeded, "you've got another mouth to feed! Oh, the Lord pity you! If you go on this way, what 'ill become of you at last?"
"Don't you know," replied Art, "that God always fits the back to the burden, and that he never sends a mouth but he sends something to fill it."
The little extortioner shrugged his shoulders, and raising his eyebrows, turned up his eyes—as much as to say, What a pretty notion of life you have with such opinions as these!
"Upon my word, Toal," said Art, "the young lady we've got home to us is a beauty; at all events, her godfathers need not be ashamed of her."
"If she's like her own father or mother," replied Toal, once more resuming the sugar-candy style, "she can't be anything else than a beauty, It's well known that sich a couple never stood undher the roof of Aughindrummon Chapel, nor walked the street of Ballykeerin."
Frank winked at Art, who, instead of returning the wink, as he ought to have done, shut both his eyes, and then looked at Toal with an expression of great compassion—as if he wished to say, Poor fellow, I don't think he can be so bad-hearted as the world gives him credit for.
"Come, Toal," he replied, laughing, "none of your bother now. Ay was there, many a finer couple under the same roof, and on the same street; so no palaver, my man; But are you prepared to stand for the girsha? You know it's nearly a month since I axed you?"
"To be sure I am; but who's the midwife?"
"Ould Kate Sharpe; as lucky a woman as ever came about one's house."
"Throth, then, I'm sorry for that," said Toal, "for she's a woman I don't like; an' I now say beforehand, that devil a traneen she'll be the betther of me, Art."
"Settle that," replied Art, "between you; at all events, be ready on Sunday next—the christenin's fixed for it."
After some farther chat, Toal, who, we should have informed our readers, had removed from his father's old residence into Ballykeerin, took his departure, quite proud at the notion of being a godfather at all; for in truth it was the first occasion on which he ever had an opportunity of arriving at that honor.
Art was a strictly conscientious man; so much so, indeed, that he never defrauded a human being to the value of a farthing; and as for truth, it was the standard principle of his whole life. Honesty, truth, and sobriety are, indeed, the three great virtues upon which all that is honorable, prosperous, and happy is founded. Art's conscientious scruples were so strong, that although in point of fact the term of his oath had expired at twelve o'clock in the forenoon, he would not permit himself to taste a drop of spirits until after twelve at night.
"It's best," said he to his brother, "to be on the safe side at all events: a few hours is neither one way nor the other. We haven't now more than a quarther to go, and then for a tight drop to wet my whistle, an' dhrink the little girshas health an' her mother's. Throth I've put in a good apprenticehip to sobriety, anyhow. Come, Madjey," he added, addressing the servant-maid, "put down the kettle till we have a little jorum of our own; Frank here and myself; and all of yez."
"Very little jorum will go far wid me, you know, Art," replied his brother; "an' if you take my advice, you'll not go beyond bounds yourself either."
"Throth, Frank, an' I'll not take either yours nor any other body's, until little Kate's christened. I think that afther a fast of seven years I'm entitled to a stretch."
"Well, well," said his brother; "I see you're on for it; but as you said yourself a while ago, it's best to be on the safe side, you know."
"Why, dang it, Frank, sure you don't imagine I'm goin' to drink the town dhry; there's raison in everything."
At length the kettle was boiled, and the punch made; Art took his tumbler in hand, and rose up; he looked at it, then glanced at his brother, who observed that he got pale and agitated.
"What ails you?" said he; "is there any thing wrong wid you?"
"I'm thinkin'," replied Art, "of what I suffered wanst by it; an' besides, it's so long since I tasted it, that somehow I jist feel for all the world as if the oath was scarcely off of me yet, or as if I was doin' what's not right."
"That's mere weakness," said Frank; "but still, if you have any scruple, don't drink it; I bekaise the truth is, Art, you couldn't have a scruple that will do you more good than one against liquor."
"Well, I'll only take this tumbler an' another to-night; and then we'll go to bed, plase goodness."
His agitation then passed away, and he drank a portion of the liquor.
"I'm thinkin', Art," said Frank, "that it wouldn't be aisy to find two men that has a betther right to be thankful to God for the good fortune we've both had, than yourself and me. The Lord has been good, to me, for I'm thrivin' to my heart's content, and savin' money every day."
"And glory be to his holy name," said Art, looking with a strong sense of religious feeling upward, "so am I; and if we both hould to this, we'll die rich, plaise goodness. I have saved up very well, too; and here I sit this night as happy a man as is in Europe. The world's flowin' on me, an' I want for nothin'; I have good health, a clear conscience, and everything that a man in my condition of life can stand in need of, or wish for; glory be to God for it all!"
"Amen," said Frank; "glory be to his name for it!"
"But, Frank," said Art, "there's one thing that I often wonder at, an' indeed so does every one a'most."
"What is that, Art?"
"Why, that you don't think o' marryin'. Sure you have good means to keep a wife, and rear a family now; an' of coorse we all wonder that you don't."
"Indeed, to tell you the truth, Art, I don't know myself what's the raison of it—the only wife I think of is my business; but any way, if you was to see the patthern of married life there is undher the roof wid me, you'd not be much in consate wid marriage yourself, if you war a bachelor."
"Why," inquired the other, "don't they agree?"
"Ay do they, so well that they get sometimes into very close an' lovin' grips togather; if ever there was a scald alive she's one o' them, an' him that was wanst so careless and aisey-tempered, she has now made him as bad as herself—has trained him regularly until he has a tongue that would face a ridgment. Tut, sure divil a week that they don't flake one another, an' half my time's, taken up reddin' them."
"Did you ever happen to get the reddin' blow? eh? ha, ha, ha!"
"No, not yet; but the truth is, Art, that an ill-tongued wife has driven many a husband to ruin, an' only that I'm there to pay attention to the business, he'd be a poor drunken beggarman long ago, an' all owin' to her vile temper."
"Does she dhrink?"
"No, sorra drop—this wickedness all comes natural to her; she wouldn't be aisy out of hot wather, and poor Jack's parboiled in it every day in the year."
"Well, it's I that have got the treasure, Frank; from the day that I first saw her face till the minute we're spakin' in, I never knew her temper to turn—always the same sweet word, the same flow of spirits, and the same light laugh; her love an' affection for me an' the childher there couldn't be language found for. Come, throth we'll drink her health in another tumbler, and a speedy uprise to her, asthore machree that she is, an' when I think of how she set every one of her people at defiance, and took her lot wid myself so nobly, my heart burns wid love for her, ay, I feel my very heart burnin' widin me."
Two tumblers were again mixed, and Margaret's health was drunk.
"Here's her health," said Art, "may God grant her long life and happiness!"
"Amen!" responded Frank, "an' may He grant that she'll never know a sorrowful heart!"
Art laid down his tumbler, and covered his eyes with his hands for a minute or two.
"I'm not ashamed, Frank," said he, "I'm not a bit ashamed of these tears—she desarves them—where is her aiquil? oh, where is her aiquil? It's she herself that has the tear for the distresses of her fellow-creatures, an' the ready hand to relieve them; may the Almighty shower down his blessins on her!"
"Them tears do you credit," replied Frank, "and although I always thought well of you, Art, and liked you betther than any other in the family, although I didn't say much about it, still, I tell you, I think betther of you this minute than I ever did in my life."
"There's only one thing in the wide world that's throublin' her," said Art, "an' that is, that she hadn't her parents' blessin' when she married me, nor since—for ould Murray's as stiff-necked as a mule, an' the more he's driven to do a thing the less he'll do it."
"In that case," observed Frank, "the best plan is to let him alone; maybe when it's not axed for he'll give it."
"I wish he would," said Art, "for Margaret's sake; it would take away a good deal of uneasiness from her mind."
The conversation afterwards took several turns, and embraced a variety of topics, till the second tumbler was finished.
"Now," said Art, "as there's but the two of us, and in regard of the occasion that's in it, throth we'll jist take one more a piece."
"No," replied Frank, "I never go beyant two, and you said you wouldn't."
"Hut, man, divil a matther for that; sure there's only ourselves two, as I said, an' Where's the harm? Throth, it's a long time since I felt myself so comfortable, an' besides, it's not every night we have you wid us. Come, Frank, one more in honor of the occasion."
"Another drop won't cross my lips this night," returned his brother, firmly, "so you needn't be mixin' it."
"Sorra foot you'll go to bed to-night till you take another; there, now it's mixed, so you know you must take it now."
"Not a drop."
"Well, for the sake of poor little Kate, that you're to stand for; come, Frank, death alive, man!"
"Would my drinkin' it do Kate any good?"
"Hut, man alive, sure if one was to lay down the law that way upon every thing, they might as well be out of the world at wanst; come, Frank."'
"No, Art, I said I wouldn't, and I won't break my word."
"But, sure, that's only a trifle; take the liquor; the sorra betther tumbler of punch ever was made: it's Barney Scaddhan's whiskey."*
* Scaddhan, a herring, a humorous nickname bestowed upon him, because he made the foundation of his fortune by selling herrings.
"An' if Barney Scaddhan keeps good whiskey, is that any rason why I should break my word, or would you have me get dhrunk because his liquor's betther than another man's?"
"Well, for the sake of poor Margaret, then, an' she so fond o' you; sure many a time she tould me that sorra brother-in-law ever she had she likes so well, an' I know it's truth; that I may never handle a plane but it is; dang it, Frank, don't be so stiff."
"I never was stiff, Art, but I always was, and always will be, firm, when I know I'm in the right; as I said about the child, what good would my drinkin' that tumbler of punch do Margaret? None in life; it would do her no good, and it would do myself harm. Sure, we did drink her health."
"An' is that your respect for her?" said Art, in a huff, "if that's it, why—"
"There's not a man livin' respects her more highly, or knows her worth betther than I do," replied Frank, interrupting him, "but I simply ax you, Art, what mark of true respect would the fact of my drinkin' that tumbler of punch be to her? The world's full of these foolish errors, and bad ould customs, and the sooner they're laid aside, an' proper ones put in their place, the betther."
"Oh, very well, Frank, the sorra one o' me will ask you to take it agin; I only say, that if I was in your house, as you are in mine, I wouldn't break squares about a beggarly tumbler of punch."
"So much the worse, Art, I would rather you would; there, now, you have taken your third tumbler, yet you said when we sat down that you'd confine yourself to two; is that keepin' your word? I know you may call breakin' it now a trifle, but I tell you, that when a man begins to break his word in trifles, he'll soon go on to greater things, and maybe end without much regardin' it in any thing."
"You don't mane to say, Frank, or to hint, that ever I'd come to sich a state as that I wouldn't regard my word."
"I do not; but even if I did, by followin' up this coorse you'd put yourself in the right way of comin' to it."
"Throth, I'll not let this other one be lost either," he added, drawing over to him the tumbler which he had filled for his brother; "I've an addition to my family—the child an' mother doin' bravely, an' didn't taste a dhrop these seven long years; here's your health, at all events, Frank, an' may the Lord put it into your heart to marry a wife, an' be as happy as I am. Here, Madgey, come here, I say; take that whiskey an' sugar, an' mix yourselves a jorum; it's far in the night, but no matther for that—an' see, before you mix it, go an' bring my own darlin' Art, till he dhrinks his mother's health."
"Why now, Art," began his brother, "is it possible that you can have the conscience to taich the poor boy sich a cursed habit so soon? What are you about this minute but trainin' him up to what may be his own destruction yet?"
"Come now, Frank, none of your moralizin'," the truth is, that the punch was beginning rapidly to affect his head; "none of your moralizin', throth it's a preacher you ought to be, or a lawyer, to lay down the law. Here, Madgey, bring him to me; that's my son, that there isn't the like of in Ballykeerin, any way. Eh, Frank, it's ashamed of him I ought to be, isn't it? Kiss me, Art, and then kiss your uncle Frank, the best uncle that ever broke the world's bread is the same Frank—that's a good boy, Art; come now, drink your darlin' mother's health in this glass of brave punch; my mother's health, say, long life an' happiness to her! that's a man, toss it off at wanst, bravo; arra, Frank, didn't he do that manly? the Lord love him, where 'ud you get sich a fine swaddy as he is of his age? Oh, Frank, what 'ud become of me if anything happened that boy? it's a mad-house would hould me soon. May the Lord in heaven save and guard him from all evil and clanger!"
Frank saw that it was useless to remonstrate with him at such a moment, for the truth is, intoxication was setting in fast, and all his influence over him was gone.
"Here, Atty, before you go to bed agin, jist a weeshy sup more to drink your little sisther's health; sure Kate Sharpe brought you home a little sisther, Atty."
"The boy's head will not be able to stand so much," said Frank; "you will make him tipsy."
"Divil a tipsy; sure it's only a mere draineen."
He then made the little fellow drink the baby's health, after which he was despatched to bed.
"Throth, it's in for a penny in for a pound wid myself. I know, Frank, that—that there's something or other wrong wid my head, or at any rate wid my eyes; for everything, somehow, is movin'. Is everything movin', Frank?"
"You think so," said Frank, "because you're fast getting tipsy—if you arn't tipsy all out."
"Well, then, if I'm tip—tipsy, divil a bit the worse I can be by another tumbler. Come, Frank, here's the ould blood of Ireland—the Maguires of Fermanagh! And now, Frank, I tell you, it would more become you to drink that toast, than to be sittin' there like an oracle, as you are; for upon my sowl, you're nearly as bad. But, Frank."
"Isn't little Toal Finnigan a civil little fellow—that is—is—if he was well made. 'There never stood,' says he, 'sich a couple in the chapel of—of Aughindrumon, nor there never walked sich a couple up or down the street of Ballykeerin—that's the chat,' says he: an' whisper, Frank, ne—neither did there. Whe—where is Margaret's aiquil, I'd—I'd like to know? an' as for me, I'll measure myself across the shouldhers aginst e'er a—a man, woman, or child in—in the parish. Co—come here, now, Frank, till I me—measure the small o' my leg ag—aginst yours; or if—if that makes you afeard, I'll measure the—the ball of my leg aginst the ball of yours. There's a wrist, Frank; look at that? jist look at it."
"I see it; it is a powerful wrist."
"But feel it."
"Tut, Art, sure I see it."
"D—n it, man, jist feel it—feel the breadth of—of that bone. Augh—that's the—the wrist; so anyhow, here's little Toal Finnigan's health, an' I don't care what they say, I like little Toal, an' I will like little Toal; bekaise—aise if—if he was the divil, as—as they say he is, in disguise—ha, ha, ha! he has a civil tongue in his head."
He then commenced and launched out into the most extravagant praises of himself, his wife, his children; and from these he passed to the ould blood of Ireland, and the Fermanagh Maguires.
"Where," he said, "whe—where is there in the country, or anywhere else, a family that has sich blood as ours in their veins? Very well; an' aren't we proud of it, as we have a right to be? Where's the Maguire that would do a mane or shabby act? tha—that's what I'd like to know. Isn't the word of a Maguire looked upon as aiquil to—to an—another man's oath; an' where's the man of them that was—as ever known to break it? Eh Frank? No; stead—ed—steady's the word wid the Maguires, and honor bright."
Frank was about to remind him that he had in his own person given a proof that night that a Maguire could break his word, and commit a disreputable action besides; but as he saw it was useless, he judiciously declined then making any observation whatsoever upon it.
After a good deal of entreaty, Frank succeeded in prevailing on him to go to bed; in which, however, he failed, until Art had inflicted on him three woful songs, each immensely long, and sung in that peculiarly fascinating drawl, which is always produced by intoxication. At length, and when the night was more than half spent, he assisted him to bed—a task of very considerable difficulty, were it not that it was relieved by his receiving from the tipsy man several admirable precepts, and an abundance of excellent advice, touching his conduct in the world; not forgetting religion, on which he dwelt with a maudlin solemnity of manner, that was, or would have been to strangers, extremely ludicrous. Frank, however, could not look upon it with levity. He understood his brother's character and foibles too well, and feared that notwithstanding his many admirable qualities, his vanity and want of firmness, or, in other words, of self-dependence, might overbalance them all.
The next morning his brother Frank was obliged to leave betimes, and consequently had no opportunity of advising or remonstrating with him. On rising, he felt sick and feverish, and incapable of going into his workshop. The accession made to his family being known, several of his neighbors came in to inquire after the health of his wife and infant; and as Art, when left to his own guidance, had never been remarkable for keeping a secret, he made no scruple of telling them that he had got drunk the night before, and was, of course, quite out of order that morning. Among the rest, the first to come in was little Toal Finnigan, who, in addition to his other virtues, possessed a hardness of head—by which we mean a capacity for bearing drink—that no liquor, or no quantity of liquor, could overcome.
"Well," said Toal, "sure it's very reasonable that you should be out of ordher; after bein' seven years from it, it doesn't come so natural to you as it would do. Howandiver, you know that there's but the one cure for it—a hair of the same dog that bit you; and if you're afeared to take the same hair by yourself, why I'll take a tuft of it wid you, an' we'll dhrink the wife's health—my ould sweetheart—and the little sthranger's."
"Throth I believe you're right," said Art, "in regard to the cure; so in the name of goodness we'll have a gauliogue to begin the day wid, an' set the hair straight on us."
During that day, Art was neither drunk nor sober, but halfway between the two states. He went to his workshop about two o'clock; but his journeymen and apprentices could smell the strong whiskey off him, and perceive an occasional thickness of pronunciation in his speech, which a good deal surprised them. When evening came, however, his neighbors, whom he had asked in, did not neglect to attend; the bottle was again produced, and poor Art, the principle of restraint having now been removed, re-enacted much the same scene as on the preceding night, with this exception only, that he was now encouraged instead of being checked or reproved.
There were now only three days to elapse until the following Sabbath, on which day the child was to be baptized; one of them, that is, the one following his first intoxication with Frank, was lost to him, for, as we have said, though not precisely drunk, he was not in a condition to work, nor properly to give directions. The next he felt himself in much the same state, but with still less of regret.
"The truth is," said he, "I won't be rightly able to do any thing till afther this christenin', so that I may set down the remaindher o' the week as lost; well, sure that won't break me at any rate. It's long since I lost a week before, and we must only make up for it; afther the christenin' I'll work double tides."
This was all very plausible reasoning, but very fallacious notwithstanding; indeed, it is this description of logic which conceals the full extent of a man's errors from, himself, and which has sent thousands forward on their career to ruin. Had Art, for instance, been guided by his steady and excellent brother, or, what would have been better still, by his own good sense and firmness, he would have got up the next morning in health, with an easy mind, and a clear conscience, and been able to resume his work as usual. Instead of that, the night's debauch produced its natural consequences, feverishness and indisposition, which, by the aid of a bad proverb, and worse company, were removed by the very cause which produced them. The second night's debauch lost the following day, and then, forsooth, the week was nearly gone, and it wasn't worth while to change the system, as if it was ever too soon to mend, or as if even a single day's work were not a matter of importance to a mechanic. Let any man who feels himself reasoning as Art Maguire did, rest assured that there is an evil principle within him, which, unless he strangle it by prompt firmness, and a strong conviction of moral duty, will ultimately be his destruction.
There was once a lake, surrounded by very beautiful scenery, to which its waters gave a fine and picturesque effect. This lake was situated on an elevated part of the country, and a little below it, facing the west, was a precipice, which terminated a lovely valley, that gradually expanded until it was lost in the rich campaign country below. From this lake there was no outlet of water whatsoever, but its shores at the same time were rich and green, having been all along devoted to pasture. Now, it so happened that a boy, whose daily occupation was to tend his master's sheep, went one day when the winds were strong, to the edge of the lake, on the side to which they blew, and began to amuse himself by making a small channel in the soft earth with his naked foot. This small identation was gradually made larger and larger by the waters—whenever the wind blew strongly in that direction—until, in the course of time, it changed into a deep chasm, which wore away the earth that intervened between the lake and the precipice. The result may be easily guessed. When the last portion of the earth gave way, the waters of the lake precipitated themselves upon the beautiful and peaceful glen, carrying death and destruction in their course, and leaving nothing but a dark unsightly morass behind them. So is it with the mind of man. When he gives the first slight assent to a wrong tendency, or a vicious resolution, he resembles the shepherd's boy, who, unconscious of the consequences that followed, made the first small channel in the earth with his naked foot. The vice or the passion will enlarge itself by degrees until all power of resistance is removed; and the heart becomes a victim to the impetuosity of an evil principle to which no assent of the will ever should have been given.
Art, as we have said, lost the week, and then came Sunday for the christening. On that day, of course, an extra cup was but natural, especially as it would put an end to his indulgence on the one hand, and his idleness on the other. Monday morning would enable him to open a new leaf, and as it was the last day—that is, Sunday was—why, dang it, he would take a good honest jorum. Frank, who had a greater regard for Art's character than it appeared Art himself had, Spoke to him privately on the morning of the christening, as to the necessity and decency of keeping himself sober on that day; but, alas! during this friendly admonition he could perceive, that early as it was, his brother was not exactly in a state of perfect sobriety. His remonstrances were very unpalatable to Art, and as a consciousness of his conduct, added to the nervousness produced by drink, had both combined to produce irritability of temper, he addressed himself more harshly to his brother than he had ever done in his life before. Frank, for the sake of peace, gave up the task, although he saw clearly enough that the christening was likely to terminate, at least so far as Art was concerned, in nothing less than a drunken debauch. This, indeed, was true. Little Toal, who drank more liquor than any two among them, and Frank himself, were the only sober persons present, all the rest having successfully imitated the example set them by Art, who was carried to bed at an early hour in the evening. This was but an indifferent preparation for his resolution to commence work on Monday morning, as the event proved. When the morning came, he was incapable of work; a racking pain in the head, and sickness of stomach, were the comfortable assurances of his inability. Here was another day lost; but finding that it also was irretrievably gone, he thought it would be no great harm to try the old cure—a hair of the dog—as before, and it did not take much force of reasoning to persuade himself to that course. In this manner he went on, losing day after day, until another week was lost. At length he found himself in his workshop, considerably wrecked and debilitated, striving with tremulous and unsteady hands to compensate for his lost time; it was now, however, too late—the evil habit had been contracted—the citadel had been taken—the waters had been poisoned at their source—the small track with the naked foot had been made. From this time forward he did little but make resolutions to-day, which he broke tomorrow; in the course of some time he began to drink with his own workmen, and even admitted his apprentices to their potations. Toal Finnigan, and about six or eight dissolute and drunken fellows, inhabitants of Ballykeerin, were his constant companions, and never had they a drinking bout that he was not sent for: sometimes they would meet in his own workshop, which was turned into a tap-room, and there drink the better part of the day. Of course the workmen could not be forgotten in their potations, and, as a natural consequence, all work was suspended, business at a stand, time lost, and morals corrupted.
His companions now availed themselves of his foibles, winch they drew out into more distinct relief. Joined to an overweening desire to hear himself praised, was another weakness, which proved to be very beneficial to his companions; this was a swaggering and consequential determination, when tipsy, to pay the whole reckoning, and to treat every one he knew.
He was a Maguire—he was a gentleman—had the old blood in his veins, and that he might never handle a plane, if any man present should pay a shilling, so long as he was to the fore. This was an argument in which he always had the best of it; his companions taking care, even if he happened to forget it, that some chance word or hint should bring it to his memory.
"Here, Barney Scaddhan—Barney, I say, what's the reckonin', you sinner? Now, Art Maguire, divil a penny of this you'll pay for—you're too ginerous, an' have the heart of a prince."
"And kind family for him to have the heart of a prince, sure we all know what the Fermanagh Maguires wor; of coorse we won't let him pay."
"Toal Finnigan, do you want me to rise my hand to you? I tell you that a single man here won't pay a penny o' reckonin', while I'm to the good; and, to make short work of it, by the contints o' the book, I'll strike the first of ye that'll attempt it. Now!"
"Faix, an' I for one," said Toal, "won't come undher your fist; it's little whiskey ever I'd drink if I did."
"Well, well," the others would exclaim, "that ends it; howendiver, never mind, Art, I'll engage we'll have our revenge on you for that—the next meetin' you won't carry it all your own way; we'll be as stiff as you'll be stout, my boy, although you beat us out of it now."
"Augh," another would say, in a whisper especially designed for him, "by the livin' farmer there never was one, even of the Maguires, like him, an' that's no lie."
Art would then pay the reckoning with the air of a nobleman, or, if he happened to be without money, he would order it to be scored to him, for as yet his credit was good.
It is wonderful to reflect how vanity blinds common sense, and turns all the power of reason and judgment to nothing. Art was so thoroughly infatuated by his own vanity, that he was utterly incapable of seeing through the gross and selfish flattery with which they plied him. Nay, when praising him, or when sticking him in for drink, as it is termed, they have often laughed in his very face, so conscious were they that it could be done with impunity.
This course of life could not fail to produce suitable consequences to his health, his reputation, and his business. His customers began to find now that the man whose word had never been doubted, and whose punctuality was proverbial, became so careless and negligent in attending to his orders, that it was quite useless to rely upon his promises, and, as a very natural consequence, they began to drop off one after another, until he found to his cost that a great number of his best and most respectable supporters ceased to employ him.
When his workmen, too, saw that he had got into tippling and irregular habits, and that his eye was not, as in the days of his industry, over them, they naturally became careless and negligent, as did the apprentices also. Nor was this all; the very individuals who had been formerly remarkable for steadiness, industry, and sobriety—for Art would then keep no other—were now, many of them, corrupted by his own example, and addicted to idleness and drink. This placed him in a very difficult position; for how, we ask, could he remonstrate with them so long as he himself transgressed more flagrantly than they did? For this reason he was often forced to connive at outbreaks of drunkenness and gross cases of neglect, which no sober man would suffer in those whom he employed.
"Take care of your business, and your business will take care of you," is a good and a wholesome proverb, that cannot bo too strongly impressed on the minds of the working classes. Art began to feel surprised that his business was declining, but as yet his good sense was strong enough to point out to him the cause of it. His mind now became disturbed, for while he felt conscious that his own neglect and habits of dissipation occasioned it, he also felt that he was but a child in the strong grasp of his own propensities. This was anything but a consoling reflection, and so long as it lasted he was gloomy, morbid, and peevish; his excellent wife was the first to remark this, and, indeed, was the first that had occasion to remark it, for even in this stage of his life, the man who had never spoken to her, or turned his eye upon her, but with tenderness and affection, now began, especially when influenced by drink, to give manifestations of temper that grieved her to the heart. Abroad, however, he was the same good-humored fellow as ever, with a few rare exceptions—when he got quarrelsome and fought with his companions. His workmen all were perfectly aware of his accessibility to flattery, and some of them were not slow to avail themselves of it: these were the idle and unscrupulous, who, as they resembled himself, left nothing unsaid or undone to maintain his good opinion, and they succeeded. His business now declined so much, that he was obliged to dismiss some of them, and, as if he had been fated to ruin, the honest and independent, who scorned to flatter his weaknesses, were the very persons put out of his employment, because their conduct was a silent censure upon his habits, and the men he retained were those whom he himself had made drunken and profligate by his example; so true is it that a drunkard is his own enemy in a thousand ways.
Here, then, is our old friend Art falling fast away from the proverbial integrity of his family—his circumstances are rapidly declining—his business running to a point—his reputation sullied, and his temper becoming sharp and vehement; these are strong indications of mismanagement, neglect, and folly, or, in one word, of a propensity to drink.
About a year and a half has now elapsed, and Art, in spite of several most determined resolutions to reform, is getting still worse in every respect. It is not to be supposed, however, that during this period he has not had visitations of strong feeling—of repentance—remorse—or that love of drink had so easy a victory over him as one would imagine. No such thing. These internal struggles sometimes affected him even unto agony, and he has frequently wept bitter tears on finding himself the victim of this terrible habit. He had not, however, the courage to look into his own condition with a firm eye, or to examine the state of either his heart or his circumstances with the resolution of a man who knows that he must suffer pain by the inspection. Art could not bear the pain of such an examination, and, in order to avoid feeling it, he had recourse to the oblivion of drink; not reflecting that the adoption of every such remedy for care resembles the wisdom of the man, who, when raging under the tortures of thirst, attempted to allay them by drinking sea-water. Drink relieved him for a moment, but he soon found that in his case the remedy was only another name for the disease.
It is not necessary to assure our readers that during Art's unhappy progress hitherto, his admirable brother Frank felt wrung to the heart by his conduct. All that good advice, urged with good feeling and good sense, could do, was tried on him, but to no purpose; he ultimately lost his temper on being reasoned with, and flew into a passion with Frank, whom he abused for interfering, as he called it, in business which did not belong to him. Notwithstanding this bluster, however, there was no man whom he feared so much; in fact, he dreaded his very appearance, and would go any distance out of his way rather than come in contact with him. He felt Frank's moral ascendency too keenly, and was too bitterly sensible of the neglect with which he had treated his affectionate and friendly admonitions, to meet him with composure. Indeed, we must say, that, independently of his brother Frank, he was not left to his own impulses, without many a friendly and sincere advice. The man had been so highly respected—his name was so stainless—his conduct so good, so blameless; he stood forth such an admirable pattern of industry, punctuality, and sobriety, that his departure from all these virtues occasioned general regret and sorrow. Every friend hoped that he would pay attention to his advice, and every friend tried it, but, unfortunately, every friend failed. Art, now beyond the reach of reproof, acted as every man like him acts; he avoided those who, because they felt an interest in his welfare, took the friendly liberty of attempting to rescue him, and consequently associated only with those who drank with him, flattered him, skulked upon him, and laughed at him.
One friend, however, he had, who, above all others, first in place and in importance, we cannot overlook—that friend was his admirable and affectionate wife. Oh, in what language can we adequately describe her natural and simple eloquence, her sweetness of disposition, her tenderness, her delicacy of reproof, and her earnest struggles to win back her husband from the habits which were destroying him! And in the beginning she was often successful for a time, and many a tear of transient repentance has she occasioned him to shed, when she succeeded in touching his heart, and stirring his affection for her and for their children.
In circumstances similar to Art's, however, we first feel our own errors, we then feel grateful to those who have the honesty to reprove us for them: by and by, on finding that we are advancing on the wrong path, we begin to disrelish the advice, as being only an unnecessary infliction of pain; having got so far as to disrelish the advice, we soon begin to disrelish the adviser; and ultimately, we become so thoroughly wedded to our own selfish vices, as to hate every one who would take us out of their trammels.
When Art found that the world, as he said, was going against him, instead of rallying, as he might, and ought to have done, he began to abuse the world, and attribute to it all the misfortunes which he himself, and not the world, had occasioned him. The world, in fact, is nothing to any man but the reflex of himself; if you treat yourself well, and put yourself out of the power of the world, the world will treat you well, and respect you; but if you neglect yourself, do not at all be surprised that the world and your friends will neglect you also. So far the world acts with great justice and propriety, and takes its cue from your own conduct; you cannot, therefore, blame the world without first blaming yourself.
Two years had now elapsed, and Art's business was nearly gone; he had been obliged to discharge the drunken fellows we spoke of, but not until they had assisted in a great measure to complete his ruin. Two years of dissipation, neglect of business, and drunkenness, were quite sufficient to make Art feel that it is a much easier thing to fall into poverty and contempt, than to work a poor man's way, from early struggle and the tug of life, to ease and independence.
His establishment was now all but closed; the two apprentices had scarcely anything to do, and, indeed, generally amused themselves in the workshop by playing Spoil Five—a fact which was discovered by Art himself, who came on them unexpectedly one day when tipsy; but, as he happened to be in an extremely good humor, he sat down and took a hand along with them. This was a new element of enjoyment to him, and instead of reproving them for their dishonest conduct, he suffered himself to be drawn into the habit of gambling, and so strongly did this grow upon him, that from henceforth he refused to participate in any drinking bout unless the parties were to play for the liquor. For this he had now neither temper nor coolness; while drinking upon the ordinary plan with his companions, he almost uniformly paid the reckoning from sheer vanity; or, in other words, because they managed him; but now that it depended upon what he considered to be skill, nothing ever put him so completely out of temper as to be put in for it. This low gambling became a passion with him; but it was a passion that proved to be the fruitful cause of fights and quarrels without end. Being seldom either cool or sober, he was a mere dupe in the hands of his companions; but whether by fair play or foul, the moment he perceived that the game had gone against him, that moment he generally charged his opponents with dishonesty and fraud, and then commenced a fight. Many a time has he gone home, beaten and bruised, and black, and cut, and every way disfigured in these vile and blackguard contests; but so inveterately had this passion for card-playing—that is, gambling for liquor—worked itself upon him, that he could not suffer a single day to pass without indulging in it. Defeat of any kind was a thing he could never think of; but for a Maguire—one of the great Fermanagh Maguires—to be beaten at a rascally game of Spoil Five, was not to be endured; the matter was impossible, unless by foul play, and as there was only one method of treating those who could stoop to the practice of foul play, why he seldom lost any time in adopting it. This was to apply the fist, and as he had generally three or four against him, and as, in most instances, he was in a state of intoxication, it usually happened that he received most punishment.
Up to this moment we have not presented Art to our readers in any other light than that of an ordinary drunkard, seen tipsy and staggering in the streets, or singing as he frequently was, or fighting, or playing cards in the public-houses. Heretofore he was not before the world, and in everybody's eye; but he had now become so common a sight in the town of Ballykeerin, that his drunkenness was no longer a matter of surprise to its inhabitants. At the present stage of his life he could not bear to see his brother Frank; and his own Margaret, although unchanged and. loving as ever, was no longer to him the Margaret that she had been. He felt how much he had despised her advice, neglected her comfort, and forgotten the duties which both God and nature had imposed upon him, with respect to her and their children. These feelings coming upon him during short intervals of reflection, almost drove him mad, and he has often come home to her and them in a frightful and terrible consciousness that he had committed some great crime, and that she and their children were involved in its consequences.
"Margaret," he would say, "Margaret, what is it I've done aginst you and the childre? I have done some great crime aginst you all, for surely if I didn't, you wouldn't look as you do—Margaret, asthore, where is the color that was in your cheeks? and my own Art here—that always pacifies me when nobody else can—even Art doesn't look what he used to be."
"Well, sure he will, Art, dear," she would reply; "now will you let me help you to bed? it's late; it's near three o'clock; Oh Art, dear, if you were——"
"I won't go to bed—I'll stop here where I am, wid my head on the table, till mornin'. Now do you know—come here, Margaret—let me hear you—do you know, and are you sensible of the man you're married to?"
"To be sure I am."
"No, I tell you; I say you are not. There is but one person in the house that knows that."
"You're right, Art darlin'—you're right. Come here, Atty; go to your father; you know what to say, avick."
"Well, Art," he would continue, "do you know who your father is?"
"Ay do I; he's one of the great Fermanagh Maguires—the greatest family in the kingdom. Isn't that it?"
"That's it, Atty darlin'—come an' kiss me for that; yes, I'm one of the great Fermanagh Maguires. Isn't that a glorious thin', Atty?"
"Now, Art, darlin', will you let me help you to bed—think of the hour it is."
"I won't go, I tell you. I'll sit here wid my head on the table all night. Come here, Atty. Atty, it's wondherful how I love you—above all creatures livin' do I love you. Sure I never refuse to do any thing for you, Atty; do I now?"
"Well, then, will you come to bed for me?"
"To be sure I will, at wanst;" and the unhappy man instantly rose and staggered into his bedroom, aided and supported by his wife and child; for the latter lent whatever little assistance he could give to his drunken father, whom he tenderly loved.
His shop, however, is now closed, the apprentices are gone, and the last miserable source of their support no longer exists. Poverty now sets in, and want and destitution. He parts with his tools; but not for the purpose of meeting the demands of his wife and children at home; no; but for drink—drink—drink—drink. He is now in such a state that he cannot, dares not, reflect, and consequently, drink is more necessary to him than ever. His mind, however, is likely soon to be free from the pain of thinking; for it is becoming gradually debauched and brutified—is sinking, in fact, to the lowest and most pitiable state of degradation. It was then, indeed, that he felt how the world deals with a man who leaves himself depending on it.
His friends had now all abandoned him; decent people avoided him—he had fallen long ago below pity, and was now an object of contempt. His family at home were destitute; every day brought hunger—positive, absolute want of food wherewith to support nature. His clothes were reduced to tatters; so were those of his wife and children. His frame, once so strong and athletic, was now wasted away to half its wonted size; his hands were thin, tremulous, and flesh-less; his face pale and emaciated; and his eye dead and stupid. He was now nearly alone in the world. Low and profligate as were his drunken companions, yet even they shunned him; and so contemptuously did they treat him, now that he was no longer able to pay his way, or enable the scoundrels to swill at his expense, that whenever he happened to enter Barney Scaddhan's tap, while they were in it, they immediately expelled him without ceremony, or Barney did it for them. He now hated home; there was nothing there for him, but cold, naked, shivering destitution. The furniture had gone by degrees for liquor; tables, chairs, kitchen utensils, bed and bedding, with the exception of a miserable blanket for Margaret and the child, had all been disposed of for about one-tenth part of their value. Alas, what a change is this from comfort, industry, independence, and respectability, to famine, wretchedness, and the utmost degradation! Even Margaret, whose noble heart beat so often in sympathy with the distresses of the poor, has scarcely any one now who will feel sympathy with her own. Not that she was utterly abandoned by all. Many a time have the neighbors, in a stealthy way, brought a little relief in the shape of food, to her and her children. Sorry are we to say, however, that there were in the town of Ballykeerin, persons whom she had herself formerly relieved, and with whom the world went well since, who now shut their eyes against her misery, and refused to assist her. Her lot, indeed, was now a bitter one, and required all her patience, all her fortitude to enable her to bear up under it. Her husband was sunk down to a pitiable pitch, his mind consisting, as it were, only of two elements, stupidity and ill-temper. Up until the disposal of all the furniture, he had never raised his hand to her, or gone beyond verbal abuse; now, however, his temper became violent and brutal. All sense of shame—every pretext for decency—all notions of self-respect, were gone, and nothing was left to sustain or check him. He could not look in upon himself and find one spark of decent pride, or a single principle left that contained the germ of his redemption. He now gave himself over as utterly lost, and consequently felt no scruple to stoop to any act, no matter how mean or contemptible. In the midst of all this degradation, however, there was one recollection which he never gave up; but alas, to what different and shameless purposes did he now prostitute it! That which had been in his better days a principle of just pride, a spur to industry, an impulse to honor, and a safeguard to integrity, had now become the catchword of a mendicant—the cant or slang, as it were, of an impostor. He was not ashamed to beg in its name—to ask for whiskey in its name—and to sink, in its name, to the most sordid supplications.
"Will you stand the price of a glass? I'm Art Maguire; one of the great Maguires of Fermanagh! Think of the blood of the Maguires, and stand a glass. Barney Scaddhan won't trust me now; although many a pound and penny of good money I left him."
"Ay," the person accosted would reply, "an' so sign's on you; you would be a different man to-day, had you visited Barney Scaddhan's seldomer, or kept out of it altogether."
"It's not a sarmon I want; will you stand the price of a glass?"
"Not a drop."
"Go to blazes, then, if you won't. I'm a betther man than ever you wor, an' have betther blood in my veins. The great Fermanagh Maguires forever!"
But, hold—we must do the unfortunate man justice. Amidst all this degradation, and crime, and wretchedness, there yet shone undimmed one solitary virtue. This was an abstract but powerful affection for his children, especially for his eldest son; now a fine boy about eight or nine. In his worst and most outrageous moods—when all other influence failed—when the voice of his own Margaret, whom he once loved—oh how well! fell heedless upon his ears—when neither Frank, nor friend, nor neighbor could manage nor soothe him—let but the finger of his boy touch him, or a tone of his voice fall upon his ear, and he placed himself in his hands, and did whatever the child wished him.
One evening about this time, Margaret was sitting upon a small hassock of straw, that had been made for little Art, when he began to walk. It was winter, and there was no fire; a neighbor, however, had out of charity lent her a few dipped rushes, that they might not be in utter darkness. One of these was stuck against the wall, for they had no candlestick; and oh, what a pitiable and melancholy spectacle did its dim and feeble light present! There she sat, the young, virtuous, charitable, and lovely Margaret of the early portion of our narrative, surrounded by her almost naked children—herself with such thin and scanty covering as would wring any heart but to know it. Where now was her beauty? Where her mirth, cheerfulness, and all her lightness of heart? Where? Let her ask that husband who once loved her so well, but who loved his own vile excesses and headlong propensities better. There, however, she sat, with a tattered cap on, through the rents of which her raven hair, once so beautiful and glossy, came out in matted elf-locks, and hung down about her thin and wasted neck. Her face was pale and ghastly as death; her eyes were without fire—full of languor—full of sorrow; and alas, beneath one of them, was too visible, by its discoloration, the foul mark of her husband's brutality. To this had their love, their tenderness, their affection come; and by what? Alas! by the curse of liquor—the demon of drunkenness—and want of manly resolution. She sat, as we have said, upon the little hassock, while shivering on her bosom was a sickly-looking child, about a year old, to whom she was vainly endeavoring to communicate some of her own natural warmth. The others, three in number, were grouped together for the same reason; for poor little Atty—who, though so very young, was his mother's only support, and hope, and consolation—sat with an arm about each, in order, as well as he could, to keep off the cold—the night being stormy and bitter. Margaret sat rocking herself to and fro, as those do who indulge in sorrow, and crooning for her infant the sweet old air of "Tha ma cullha's na dhuska me," or "I am asleep and don't waken me!"—a tender but melancholy air, which had something peculiarly touching in it on the occasion in question.
"Ah," she said, "I am asleep and don't waken me; if it wasn't for your sakes, darlins, it's I that long to be in that sleep that we will never waken from; but sure, lost in misery as we are, what could yez do without me still?"
"What do you mane, mammy?" said Atty; "sure doesn't everybody that goes to sleep waken out of it?"
"No, darlin'; there's a sleep that nobody wakens from."
"Dat quare sleep, mammy," said a little one. "Oh, but me's could, mammy; will we eva have blankets?"
The question, though simple, opened up the cheerless, the terrible future to her view. She closed her eyes, put her hands on them, as if she strove to shut it out, and shivered as much at the apprehension of what was before her, as with the chilly blasts that swept through the windowless house.
"I hope so, dear," she replied; "for God is good."
"And will he get us blankets, mammy?".
"Yes, darlin', I hope so."
"Me id rady he'd get us sometin' to ait fust, mammy; I'm starvin' wid hungry;" and the poor child began to cry for food.
The disconsolate mother was now assailed by the clamorous outcries of nature's first want, that of food. She surveyed her beloved little brood in the feeble light, and saw in all its horror the fearful impress of famine stamped upon their emaciated features, and strangely lighting up their little heavy eyes. She wrung her hands, and looking up silently to heaven, wept aloud for some minutes.
"Childre," she said at length, "have patience, poor things, an' you'll soon get something to eat. I sent over Nanny Hart to my sisther's, an' when she comes back yell get something;—so have patience, darlins, till then."
"But, mother," continued little Atty, who could not understand her allusion to the sleep from which there is no awakening; "what kind of sleep is it that people never waken from?"
"The sleep that's in the grave, Atty, dear; death is the sleep I mean."
"An' would you wish to die, mother?"
"Only for your sake, Atty, and for the sake of the other darlins, if it was the will of God, I would; and," she added, with a feeling of indescribable anguish, "what have I now to live for but to see you all about me in misery and sorrow!"
The tears as she spoke ran silently, but bitterly, down her cheeks.
"When I think of what your poor lost father was," she added, "when we wor happy, and when he was good, and when I think of what he is now—oh, my God, my God," she sobbed' out, "my manly young husband, what curse has come over you that has brought you down to this! Curse! oh, fareer gair, it's a curse that's too well known in the country—it's the curse that laves many an industrious man's house as ours is this bitther night—it's the curse that takes away good name and comfort, and honesty (that's the only thing it has left us)—that takes away the strength of both body and mind—that banishes dacency and shame—that laves many a widow and orphan to the marcy of an unfeelin' world—that fills the jail and the madhouse—that brings many a man an' woman to a disgraceful death—an' that tempts us to the commission of every evil;—that curse, darlins, is whiskey—drinkin' whiskey—an' it is drinkin' whiskey that has left us as we are, and that has ruined your father, and destroyed him forever."
"Well, but there's no other curse over us, mother?"
The mother paused a moment—
"No, darlin'," she replied; "not a curse—but my father and mother both died, and did not give me their blessin'; but now, Atty, don't ask me anything more about that, bekase I can't tell you." This she added from a feeling of delicacy to her unhappy husband, whom, through all his faults and vices, she constantly held up to her children as an object of respect, affection, and obedience.
Again the little ones were getting importunate for food, and their cries were enough to touch any heart, much less that of a tender and loving mother. Margaret herself felt that some unusual delay must have occurred, or the messenger she sent to her sister must have long since returned; just then a foot was heard outside the door, and there was an impatient cessation of the cries, in the hope that it was the return of Nanny Hart—the door opened, and Toal Finnigan entered this wretched abode of sorrow and destitution.
There was something peculiarly hateful about this man, but in the eyes of Margaret there was something intensely so. She knew right well that he had been the worst and most demoralizing companion her husband ever associated with, and she had, besides, every reason to believe that, were it not for his evil influence over the vain and wretched man, he might have overcome his fatal propensity to tipple. She had often told Art this; but little Toal's tongue was too sweet, when aided by his dupe's vanity. Many a time had she observed a devilish leer of satanic triumph in the misshapen little scoundrel's eye, when bringing home her husband in a state of beastly intoxication, and for this reason, independently of her knowledge of his vile and heartless disposition, and infamous character, she detested him. After entering, he looked about him, and even with the taint light of the rush she could mark that his unnatural and revolting features were lit up with a hellish triumph.
"Well, Margaret Murray," said he, "I believe you are now nearly as badly off as you can be; your husband's past hope, and you are as low as a human bein' ever was. I'm now satisfied; you refused to marry me—you made a May-game of me—a laughin' stock of me, and your father tould my father that I had legs like reapin' hooks! Now, from the day you refused to marry me, I swore I'd never die till I'd have my revinge, and I have it; who has the laugh now, Margaret Murray?"
"You say," she replied calmly, "that I am as low as a human bein' can be, but that's false, Toal Finnigan, for I thank God I have committed no crime, and my name is pure and good, which is more than any one can say for you; begone from my place."
"I will," he replied, "but before I go jist let me tell you, that I have the satisfaction to know that, if I'm not much mistaken, it was I that was the principal means of leavin' you as you are, and your respectable husband as he is; so my blessin' be wid you, an that's more than your father left you. Raipin' hooks, indeed!"
The little vile Brownie then disappeared.
Margaret, the moment he was gone, immediately turned round, and going to her knees, leaned, with her half-cold infant still in her arms, against a creaking chair, and prayed with as much earnestness as a distracted heart permitted her. The little ones, at her desire, also knelt, and in a few minutes afterwards, when her drunken husband came home, he found his miserable family, grouped as they were in their misery, worshipping God in their own simple and touching manner. His entrance disturbed them, for Margaret knew she must go through the usual ordeal to which his nightly return was certain to expose her.
"I want something to ait," said he.
"Art, dear," she replied—and this was the worst word she ever uttered against him—"Art, dear, I have nothing for you till by an' by; but I will then."
"Have you any money?"
"Money, Art! oh, where would I get it? If I had money I wouldn't be without something' for you to eat, or the childre here that tasted nothin' since airly this mornin'."
"Ah, you're a cursed useless wife," he replied, "you brought nothin' but bad luck to me an' them; but how could you bring anything else, when you didn't get your father's blessin'."
"But, Art, don't you remember," she said meekly in reply, "you surely can't forget for whose sake I lost it."
"Well, he's fizzin' now, the hard-hearted ould scoundrel, for keepin' it from you; he forgot who you wor married to, the extortin' ould vagabone—to one of the great Fermanagh Maguires, an' he' not fit to wipe their shoes. The curse o' heaven upon you an' him, wherever he is! It was an unlucky day to me I ever seen the face of one of you—here, Atty, I've some money; some strange fellow at the inn below stood to me for the price of a naggin, an' that blasted Barney Scaddhan wouldn't let me in, bekase, he said, I was a disgrace to his house, the scoundrel."
"The same house was a black sight to you, Art."
"Here, Atty, go off and, get me a naggin."
"Wouldn't it be better for you to get something to eat, than to drink it, Art."
"None of your prate, I say, go off an' bring me a naggin o' whiskey, an' don't let the grass grow under your feet."
The children, whenever he came home, were awed into silence, but although they durst not speak, there was an impatient voracity visible in their poor features, and now wolfish little eyes, that was a terrible thing to witness. Art took the money, and went away to bring his father the whiskey.
"What's the reason," said he, kindling into sudden fury, "that you didn't provide something for me to eat? Eh? What's the reason?" and he approached her in a menacing attitude. "You're a lazy, worthless vagabone. Why didn't you get me something to ait, I say? I can't stand this—I'm famished."
"I sent to my sister's," she replied, laying-down the child; for she feared that if he struck her and knocked her down, with the child in her arms, it might be injured, probably killed, by the fall; "when the messenger comes back from my sister's——"
"D—n yourself and your sister," he replied, striking her a blow at the same time upon the temple. She fell, and in an instant her face was deluged with blood.
"Ay, lie there," he continued, "the loss of the blood will cool you. Hould your tongues, you devils, or I'll throw yez out of the house," he exclaimed to the children, who burst into an uproar of grief on seeing their "mammy," as they called her, lying bleeding and insensible. "That's to taich her not to have something for me to ait. Ay," he proceeded, with a hideous laugh—"ha, ha, ha! I'm a fine fellow—amn't I? There she lies now, and yet she was wanst Margaret Murray!—my own Margaret—that left them all for myself; but sure if she did, wasn't I one of the great Maguires of Fermanagh?—Get up, Margaret; here, I'll help you up, if the divil was in you!"
He raised her as he spoke, and perceived that consciousness was returning. The first thing she did was to put up her hand to her temple, where she felt the warm blood. She gave him one look of profound sorrow.
"Oh, Art dear," she exclaimed, "Art dear—" her voice failed her, but the tears flowed in torrents down her cheeks.
"Margaret," said he, "you needn't spake to me that way. You know any how I'm damned—damned—lol de rol lol—tol de rol lol! ha, ha, ha! I have no hope either here or hereafther—divil a morsel of hope. Isn't that comfortable? eh?—ha, ha, ha"—another hideous laugh. "Well, no matter; we'll dhrink it out, at all events. Where's Atty, wid the whiskey? Oh, here he is! That's a good boy, Atty."
"Oh, mammy darlin'," exclaimed the child, on seeing the blood streaming from her temple—"mammy darlin', what happened you?"
"I fell, Atty dear," she replied, "and was cut."
"That's a lie, Atty; it was I, your fine chip of a father, that struck her. Here's her health, at all events! I'll make one dhrink of it; hoch! they may talk as they like, but I'll stick to Captain Whiskey."
"Father," said the child, "will you come over and lie down upon the straw, for your own me, for your own Atty; and then you'll fall into a sound sleep?"
"I will, Atty, for you—for you—I will, Atty; but mind, I wouldn't do it for e'er another livin'."
One day wid Captain Whiskey I wrastled a fall, But, t'aix, I was no match for the Captain at all, Though the landlady's measures they wor damnably small—But I'll thry him to morrow when I'm sober.
"Come," said the child, "lie down here on the straw; my poor mammy says we'll get clane straw to-morrow; and we'll be grand then."
His father, who was now getting nearly helpless, went over and threw himself upon some straw—thin and scanty and cold it was—or rather, in stooping to throw himself on it he fell with what they call in the country a soss; that is, he fell down in a state of utter helplessness; his joints feeble and weak, and all his strength utterly prostrated. Margaret, who in the meantime was striving to stop the effusion of blood from her temple, by the application of cobwebs, of which there was no scarcity in the house, now went over, and loosening his cravat, she got together some old rags, of which she formed, as well as she could, a pillow to support his head, in order to avoid the danger of his being suffocated.
"Poor Art," she exclaimed, "if you knew what you did, you would cut that hand off you sooner than raise it to your own Margaret, as you used to call me. It is pity that I feel for you, Art dear, but no anger; an' God, who sees my heart, knows that."
Now that he was settled, and her own temple bound up, the children once more commenced their cry of famine; for nothing can suspend the stern cravings of hunger, especially when fanged by the bitter consciousness that there is no food to be had. Just then, however, the girl returned from her sister's, loaded with oatmeal—a circumstance which changed the cry of famine into one of joy.
But now, what was to be done for fire, there was none in the house.
"Here is half-a-crown," said the girl, "that she sent you; but she put her hands acrass, and swore by the five crasses, that unless you left Art at wanst, they'd never give you a rap farden's worth of assistance agin, if you and they wor to die in the streets."