"Poor Dora!" exclaimed Hanna, whilst the tears came to her eyes, "who can blame her for defending so good and affectionate a brother? Plague on it for an election! I wish there was no sich thing in the country."
"As for me," said Kathleen, "I wouldn't condemn him without a hearing, if I had any doubt about his conduct, but I have not. He voted for Vanston—that can't be denied; and proved himself to have less honesty and scruple than even that profligate Hycy Burke; and if he made a bargain with Vanston, as is clear he did, an' voted for him because the other got his fine reduced, why that is worse, because then he did it knowingly an' with his eyes open, an' contrary to his conscience—ay, an' to his solemn promise to myself; for I'll tell you now what I never mentioned before, that I put him on his guard against doing so; and he knew that if he did, all would and must be over between him and me."
"Is that true, Kathleen?" said Hanna with surprise; "but why need I ask you such a question—it's enough that you say it—in that case then I give him up at last; but who, oh, who could a' believed it?"
"But that is not all," continued Kathleen, in the same mournful and resigned tone of voice—"there's the bribe—didn't hundreds hear him acknowledge publicly in the chapel that he got it? What more is wanting? How could I ever respect a man that has proved himself to be without either honesty or principle? and why should it happen, that the man who has so openly and so knowingly disgraced his religion and his name fall to my lot? Oh, no—it matters little how I love him, and I grant that in spite of all that has happened I have a lingering affection for him even yet; still I don't think that affection will live long—I can now neither respect or esteem him, an' when that is the case I can't surely continue long to love him. I know," she proceeded, "that it's not possible for him ever to clear himself of this shocking and shameful conduct; but lest there might be any chance of it, I now say before you all, that if something doesn't come about within three months, that may and ought to change my feelings towards him, I'll live afterwards as if I had never known him."
"Mightn't you see him, however, an' hear what he has to say for himself?" asked Hanna.
"No," the other replied; "he heard my message, and was silent. You may rest assured if he had anything to say in his own defence, he would have said it, or asked to see me. Oh, no, no, because I feel that he's defenceless."
In this peculiar state of circumstances our readers need not feel surprised that every possible agency was employed to urge her beyond the declaration she had made, and to induce her to receive the addresses of Edward Burke. Her own parents, old Jemmy Burke, the whole body of her relatives, each in turn, and sometimes several of them together, added to which we may mention the parish priest, who was called in by both families, or at least by old Jemmy Burke and the Cavanaghs—all we say perpetually assailed her on the subject of a union with Edward Burke, and assailed her so pertinaciously, that out of absolute apathy, if not despair, and sick besides of their endless importunities, she at last said—"If Edward Burke can be satisfied with a wife that has no heart to give him, or that cannot love him, I don't care much how I am disposed of; he may as well call me wife as another, and better, for if I cannot love, I can at least respect him."
These circumstances, together with the period allowed to M'Mahon for setting himself, if possible, right with Kathleen, in due time reached his ears. It soon appeared, however, that Kathleen had not all the pride—if pride it could be called—to herself. M'Mahon, on being made acquainted with what had occurred, which he had heard from his sister Dora, simply said—"Since she has not afforded myself any opportunity of tellin' her the truth, I won't attempt to undeceive her. I will be as proud as she is. That is all I say."
"And you are right, Tom," replied Dora, "the name of M'Mahon mustn't be consarned with anything that's mane or discreditable. The pride of our old blood must be kept up, Tom; but still when we think of what she's sufferin' we musn't open our lips against her."
"Oh, no," he replied; "I know that it's neither harshness nor weakness, nor useless pride that makes her act as she's doin', but a great mind and a heart that's full of truth, high thoughts, and such a love for her religion and its prosperity as I never saw in any one. Still, Dora, I'm not the person that will ever sneak back to entreat and plead at her feet like a slave, and by that means make myself look still worse in her eyes; I know very well that if I did so she'd despise me. God bless her, at all events, and make her happy! that's the worst I wish her."
"Amen," replied Dora; "you have said nothing but the truth about her, and indeed. I see, Tom, that you know her well."
Thus ended the generous dialogue of Dora and her affectionate brother, who after all might have been induced by her to remain in his native country and share whatever fate it might allot him, were it not that in a few days afterwards, his father found that the only terms on which he could obtain his farm were such as could scarcely be said to come within the meaning and spirit of the landlord's adage, "live and let live." It is true that for the terms on which his farm was offered him he was indebted to Chevydale himself, who said that as he knew his father had entertained a high respect for old M'Mahon, he would not suffer him to be put out. The father besides voted for him, and always had voted for the family. "Do what you please with the son," he proceeded—"get rid of him as you like, but I shan't suffer the father to be removed. Let him have the farm upon reasonable terms; and, by the way, Fethertonge, don't you think now it was rather an independent act of the young fellow to vote for Vanston, although he knew that I had it in my power to send him about his business?"
"It was about as impudent a piece of gratitude and defiance as ever I witnessed," returned the other. "The wily rascal calculated upon your forbearance and easiness of disposition, and so imagined that he might do what he pleased with impunity. We shall undeceive him, however."
"Well, but you forget that he, had some cause of displeasure against us, in consequence of having neglected his memorial to the Commissioners of Excise."
"Yes; but as I said before, how could we with credit involve ourselves in the illegal villany of a smuggler? It is actually a discredit to have such a fellow upon the estate. He is, in the first place, a bad example, and calculated by his conduct and influence to spread dangerous principles among the tenantry. However, as it is, he is, fortunately for us, rather well known at present. It is now perfectly notorious—and I have it from the best authority—one of the parties who was cognizant of his conduct—that his vote against you was the result of a deliberate compact with our enemy, Vanston, and that he received a bribe of fifty pounds from him. This he has had the audacity to acknowledge himself, being the very amount of the sum to which the penalty against him was mitigated by Vanston's interference. In fact the scoundrel is already infamous in the country."
"What, for receiving a bribe!" exclaimed Chevydale, looking at the agent with a significant smile; "and what, pray, is the distinction between him who gives and him who takes a bribe? Let us look at home a little, my good Fethertonge, and learn a little charity to those who err as we do. A man would think now to hear you attack M'Mahon for bribery, that you never had bribed a man in your life; and yet you know that it is the consciousness of bribery on our own part that prevents us from attempting to unseat Vanston."
"That's all very true, I grant you," replied the other; "but in the mean time we must keep up appearances. The question, so far as regards M'Mahon, is—not so much whether he is corrupt or not, as whether he has unseated you; that is the fatal fact against him; and if we allow that to pass without making him suffer for it, you will find that on the next election he may have many an imitator, and your chances will not be worth much—that's all."
"Very well, Fethertonge," replied the indolent and feeble-minded man, "I leave him to you; manage him or punish him as you like; but I do beg that you will let me hear no more about him. Keep his father, however, on the property; I insist on that; he is an honest man, for he voted for me; keep him on his farm at reasonable terms too, such,—of course, as he can live on."
The reasonable terms proposed by Fethertonge were, however, such as old Tom M'Mahon could not with any prospect of independence encounter. Even this, however, was not to him the most depressing consideration. Faith had been wantonly and deliberately broken with him—the solemn words of a dying man had been disregarded—and, as Fethertonge had made him believe, by that son who had always professed to regard and honor his father's memory.
"I assure you, M'Mahon," replied the agent, in the last interview he ever had with him, "I assure you I have done all in my power to bring matters about; but without avail. It is a painful thing to have to do with an obstinate man, M'Mahon; with a man who, although he seems quiet and easy, will and must have everything his own way."
"Well, sir," replied M'Mahon, "you know what his dying father's words wor to me."
"And more than I know them, I can assure you," he whispered, in a very significant voice, and with a nod of the head that seemed to say, "your landlord knows them as well as I do. I have done my duty, and communicated them to him, as I ought."
M'Mahon shook his head in a melancholy manner, and said,—
"Well, sir, at any rate I know the worst. I couldn't now have any confidence or trust in such a man; I could depend upon neither his word or his promise; I couldn't look upon him as a friend, for he didn't prove himself one to my son when he stood in need of one. It's clear that he doesn't care about the welfare and prosperity of his tenantry; and for that raison—or rather for all these raisons put together—I'll join my son, and go to a country where, by all accounts, there's better prospects for them that's honest and industrious than there is in this unfortunate one of ours,—where the interest of the people is so much neglected—neglected! no, but never thought of at all! Good-bye, sir," he added, taking up his hat, whilst the features of this sterling and honest man were overcast with a solemn and pathetic spirit, "don't consider me any longer your tenant. For many a long year has our names been—but no matther—the time is come at last, and the M'Mahon's of Carriglass and Ahadarra will be known there no more. It wasn't our fault; we wor willin' to live—oh! not merely willin' to live, but anxious to die there; but it can't be. Goodbye, sir." And so they parted.
M'Mahon, on his return home, found Bryan, who now spent most of his time at Carriglass, before him. On entering the house his family, who were all assembled, saw by the expression of his face that his heart had been deeply moved, and was filled with sorrow.
"Bryan," said he, "you are right—as indeed you always are. Childre'," he proceeded, "we must lave the place that we loved so much; where we have lived for hundreds of years. This counthry isn't one now to prosper in, as I said not long since—this very day. We must lave the ould places, an' as I tould Fethertonge, the M'Mahons of Ahadarra and Carriglass will be the M'Mahons of Ahadarra and Carriglass no more; but God's will be done! I must look to the intherest of you all, childre'; but, God help us, that's what I can't do here for the future. Every one of sense and substance is doin' so, an' why shouldn't we take care of ourselves as well as the rest? What we want here is encouragement and fair play; but fareer gair, it isn't to be had."
The gloom which they read in his countenance was now explained, but this was not all; it immediately settled upon the other members of the family who were immediately moved,—all by sorrow, and some even to tears. Dora, who, notwithstanding what her brother had said with regard to his intention of emigrating, still maintained a latent hope that he might change his mind, and that a reconciliation besides might yet be brought about between him and Kathleen, now went to her father, and, with tears in her eyes, threw her arms about his neck, exclaiming: "Oh, father dear, don't think of leaving this place, for how could we leave it? What other country could we ever like as well? and my grandfather—here he's creepin' in, sure he's not the same man within the last few months,—oh, how could you think of bringin' him, now that he's partly in his grave, an' he," she added, in a whisper full of compassion, "an' he partly dotin' with feebleness and age."
"Hush!" said her father, "we must say nothing of it to him. That must be kept a secret from him, an' it's likely he won't notice the change."
Kitty then went over, and laying her hand on her father's arm, said: "Father, for the love of God, don't take us from Carriglass and Ahadarra:—whatever the world has for us, whether for good or evil, let us bear it here."
"Father, you won't bring us nor you won't go," added Dora; "sure we never could be very miserable here, where we have all been so happy."
"Poor Dora!" said Bryan, "what a mistake that is! I feel the contrary; for the very happiness that I and all of us enjoyed here, now only adds to what I'm sufferin'."
"Childre'," said the father, "our landlord has broken his own father's dyin' promise—you all remember how full of delight I came home to you from Dublin, and how she that's gone"—he paused;—he covered his face with his open hands, through which the tears were seen to trickle. This allusion to their beloved mother was too much for them. Arthur and Michael sat in silence, not knowing exactly upon what grounds their father had formed a resolution, which, when proposed to him by Bryan, appeared to be one to which his heart could never lend its sanction. No sooner was their mother named, however, than they too became deeply moved, and when Kitty and Dora both rushed with an outcry of sorrow to their father, exclaiming, "Oh, father dear, think of her that's in the clay—for her sake, change your mind and don't take us to where we can never weep a tear over her blessed grave, nor ever kneel over it to offer a prayer within her hearin' for her soul!"
"Childre," he exclaimed, wiping away his tears that had indeed flowed in all the bitterness of grief and undeserved affliction; "childre'," he replied, "you must be manly now; it's because I love you an' feels anxious to keep you from beggary and sorrow at a future time, and destitution and distress, such as we see among so many about us every day in the week, that I've made up my mind to go. Our landlord wont give us our farm barrin' at a rent that 'tid bring us down day by day, to poverty and distress like too many of our neighbors. We have yet some thrifle o' money left, as much as will, by all accounts, enable us to take—I mane to purchase a farm in America—an' isn't it betther for us to go there, and be independent, no matther what it may cost our hearts to suffer by doin' so, than to stay here until the few hundre' that I've got together is melted away out of my pocket into the picket of a landlord that never wanst throubles himself to know how we're gettin' on, or whether we're doin' well or ill. Then think of his conduct to Bryan, there; how he neglected him, and would let him go to ruin widout ever movin' a finger to save him from it. No, childre', undher sich a man I won't stay. Prepare yourselves, then, to lave this. In biddin' you to do so, I'm actin' for the best towards you all. I'm doin' my duty by you, and I expect for that raison, an' as obedient childre'—which I've ever found you—that you'll do your duty by me, an' give no further opposition to what I'm proposin' for your sakes. I know you're all loath—an' you will be loath—to lave this place; but do you think?—do you?—'that I—I—oh, my God!—do you think, I say, that I'll feel nothing when we go? Oh! little you know of me if you think so! but, as I said, we must do our duty. We see our neighbors fallin' away into poverty, and distress, and destitution day by day, and if we remain in this unfortunate country, we must only folly in their tracks, an' before long be as miserable and helpless as they are."
His family were forced to admit the melancholy truth and strong sense of all he had uttered, and, although the resolution to which he had come was one of bitterness and sorrow to them all, yet from a principle of affection and duty towards him, they felt that any opposition on their part would have been unjustifiable and wrong.
"But, sure," the old man proceeded, "there's more than I've mentioned yet, to send us away. Look at poor Bryan, there, how he was nearly ruined by the villany of some cowardly scoundrel, or scoundrels, who set up a still upon his farm; that's a black business, like many other black business that's a disgrace to the country—an inoffensive young man, that never made or did anything to make an enemy for himself, durin' his whole life! An' another thing, bekaise he voted for the man that saved him from destruction, as he ought to do, an' as I'm proud he did do, listen now to the blackguard outcry that's against him; ay, and by a crew of vagabonds that 'ud sell Christ himself, let alone their country, or their religion, if they were bribed by Protestant goold for it! Throth I'm sick of the counthry and the people; for instead of gettin' betther, it's worse they're gettin' every day. Make up your minds then, childre'; there's a curse on the counthry. Many o' the landlords are bad enough, too bad, and too neglectful, God knows; but sure the people themselves is as bad, an' as senseless on the other hand; aren't they blinded so much by their bad feelin's, and short-sighted passions, that it is often the best landlords they let out their revenge upon. Prepare then, childre'; for out of the counthry, or at any rate from among the people, the poverty and the misery that's in it, wid God's assistance, we'll go while we're able to do so."
CHAPTER XII.—Mystery Among the Hogans
—Finigan Defends the Absent.
The three Hogans, whom we have lost sight of for some time, were, as our readers already know, three most unadulterated ruffians, in every sense of that most respectable term. Yet, singular as it may appear, notwithstanding their savage brutality, they were each and all possessed of a genius for mechanical inventions and manual dexterity that was perfectly astonishing when the low character of their moral, and intellectual standard is considered. Kate Hogan, who, from her position, could not possibly be kept out of their secrets, at least for any length of time, was forced to notice of late that there was a much closer and more cautious intimacy between Hycy Burke and them than she had ever observed before. She remarked, besides, that not only was Teddy Phats excluded from their councils, but she herself was sent out of the way, whenever Hycy paid them a visit, which uniformly occurred at a late hour, in the night.
Another circumstance also occurred about this time which puzzled her not a little: we mean the unusual absence of Philip for about a fortnight from home. Now, there certainly nothing more offensive, especially to a female, than the fact of excluding her from the knowledge of any secret, a participation in which she may consider as a right. In her case she felt that it argued want of confidence, and as she had never yet betrayed any trust or secret reposed in her, she considered their conduct towards her, not merely as an insult, but such as entitled them to nothing at her hands but resentment, and a determination to thwart their plans, whatever they might be, as soon as she should succeed in making herself acquainted with them. What excited her resentment the more bitterly was the arrival of a strange man and woman in company with Philip, as she was able to collect, from the metropolis, to the former of whom they all seemed to look with much deference as to a superior spirit of the secret among them this man and his wife were clearly in possession, as was evident from their whisperings and other conversations, which they held apart, and uniformly out of her hearing. It is true the strangers did not reside with the Hogans, but in a small cabin adjacent to that in which Finigan taught his school. Much of the same way of thinking was honest Teddy Phats, whom they had now also abandoned, or rather completely cast off, and, what was still worse, deprived of the whole apparatus for distillation, which, although purchased by Hycy Burke's money, they very modestly appropriated to themselves. Teddy, however, as well as Kate, knew that they were never cautious without good reason, and as it had pleased them to cut him, as the phrase goes, so did he, as Kate had done, resolve within himself to penetrate their secret, if human ingenuity could effect it.
In this position they were when honest Philip returned, as we have said, after a fortnight's absence, from some place or places unknown. The mystery, however, did not end here. Kate observed that, as before, much of their conversation was held aloof from her, or in such enigmatical phrases and whisperings, as rendered the substance of it perfectly inscrutable to her. She observed, besides, that two of them were frequently absent from the kiln where they lived; but that one always remained at home to make certain that she should not follow or dog them to the haunt they frequented. This precaution on their part was uniform. As it was, however, Kate did not seem to notice it. On the contrary, no one could exhibit a more finished appearance of stupid indifference than she assumed upon these occasions, even although she knew by the removal of the tools, or a portion of them, that her friends were engaged in some business belonging to their craft. In this manner matters proceeded for some weeks subsequent to the period of Philip's return.
Kate also observed, with displeasure, that among all those who joined in the outcry against Bryan M'Mahon, none made his conduct, such as it was conceived to have been, a subject of more brutal and bitter triumph than the Hogans. The only circumstance connected with him which grieved them to the heart, was the fact that the distillation plot had not ruined him as they expected it would have done. His disgrace, however, and unjust ejectment from Ahadarra filled them with that low, ruffianly sense of exultation, than which, coming from such scoundrels, there is scarcely anything more detestable in human nature.
One evening about this time they were sitting about the fire, the three brothers, Kate, and the young unlicked savages of the family, when Philip, after helping himself to a glass of quints, said,—
"At any rate, there'll be no match between Miss Kathleen and that vagabond, Bryan M'Mahon. I think we helped to put a nail in his coffin there, by gob."
"Ay," said Kate, "an' you may boast of it, you unmanly vagabone; an' yet you purtind to have a regard for the poor girl, an' a purty way you tuck to show it—to have her as she is, goin' about wid a pale face an' a broken heart. Don't you see it's her more than him you're punishin', you savage of hell?"
"You had betther keep your tongue off o' me," he replied; "I won't get into grips wid you any more, you barge o' blazes; but, if you provoke me wid bad language, I'll give you a clink wid one o' these sotherin'-irons that'll put a clasp on your tongue."
"Never attempt that," she replied fiercely, "for, as sure as you do, I'll have this knife," showing him a large, sharp-pointed one, which, in accordance with the customs of her class, hung by a black belt of strong leather from her side—"I'll have this customer here greased in your puddins, my buck, and, when the win's out o' you, see what you'll be worth—fit for Captain James's hounds; although I dunno but the very dogs themselves is too clane to ait you."
"Come," said Bat, "we'll have no more o' this; do you, Philip, keep quiet wid your sotherin'-iron, and, as for you, Kate, don't dhraw me upon you; na ha nan shin—it isn't Philip you have. I say I'm right well plaised that we helped to knock up the match."
"Don't be too sure," replied Kate, "that it is knocked up; don't now, mind my words; an' take care that, instead of knockin' it up, you haven't knocked yourselves down. Chew your cud upon that now."
"What does she mane?" asked Ned, looking on her with a baleful glance, in which might be read equal ferocity and alarm. "Why, traichery, of coorse," replied Philip, in his deep, glowing voice. "Kate," said her husband, starting into something' like an incipient fit of fury, but suddenly checking himself—"Kate, my honey, what do you mane by them words?"
"What do I mane by them words?" she exclaimed, with an eye which turned on him with cool defiance; "pick that out o' your larnin', Bat, my pet. You can all keep your saicrets; an' I'll let you know that I can keep mine."
"Be the Holy St. Lucifer," said her husband, "if I wanst thought that traichery 'ud enter your head, I'd take good care that it's in hell you'd waken some fine mornin' afore long. So mind yourself, Kate, my honey."
"Are you in nobody else's power but mine?" she replied, "ax yourselves that—an' now do you mind yourself, Bat, my pet, and all o' yez."
"What is the raison," asked her husband, "that I see you an' Nanny Peety colloguin' an' huggermuggerin' so often together of late?"
"Ah," she replied, with a toss of disdain, "what a manly fellow you are to want to get into women's saicrets! you may save your breath though."
"Whatever you collogue about, all I say is, that I don't like a bone in the same Nanny Peety's body. She has an eye in her head that looks as if it knew one's thoughts."
"An' maybe it does. One thing I know, and every one knows it, that it's a very purty eye."
"Tell her, then, to keep out o' this; we want no spies here."
"Divil a word of it; she's my niece, an' the king's highway is as free to her as it is to you or anybody else. She'll be welcome to me any time she comes, an' let me see who'll dare to mislist her. She feels as she ought to do, an' as every woman ought to do, ay, an' every man, too, that is a man, or anything but a brute an' a coward—she feels for that unfortunate, heart-broken girl 'ithout;' an' it'll be a strange thing if them that brought her to what she's sufferin' won't suffer themselves yet; there's a God above still, I hope, glory be to His name! Traichery!" she exclaimed; "ah, you ill-minded villains, it's yourselves you're thinkin' of, an' what you desarve. As for myself, it's neither you nor your villainy that's in my head, but the sorrowful heart that's in that poor girl 'ithout—ay, an' a broken one; for, indeed, broked it is; and it's not long she'll be troub'lin' either friend or foe in this world. The curse o' glory upon you all, you villains, and upon every one that had a hand in bringing her to this!"
Having uttered these words, she put her cloak and bonnet upon her, and left the house, adding as she went out, "if it's any pleasure to you to know it, I'll tell you. I'm goin' to meet Nancy Peety this minute, an' you never seen sich colloguin' an' hugger-muggerin' as we'll have, plaise goodness—ah, you ill-thinkin', skulkin' villains!"
Kate Hogan, though a tigress when provoked, and a hardened, reckless creature, scarcely remarkable for any particular virtue that could be enumerated, and formidable from that savage strength and intrepidity for which she was so well known, was yet not merely touched by the sufferings of Kathleen Cavanagh, but absolutely took an interest in them, at once so deep and full of sympathy, as to affect her temper and disturb her peace of mind. Notwithstanding her character she was still a woman; and, in matters involving the happiness of an innocent and beautiful creature of her own sex, who had been so often personally kind to herself, and whose family were protectors and benefactors to her and her kindred, she felt as a woman. Though coarse-minded upon most many matters, she was yet capable of making the humane distinction which her brutal relatives could not understand or feel;—we mean the fact that, in having lent themselves to the base conspiracy planned and concocted by Hycy Burke, and in having been undoubtedly the cause of M'Mahon's disgrace, as well as of his projected marriage with Kathleen having been broken up, they did not perceive that she was equally a sufferer; or, if they did, they were either too cunning or too hardened to acknowledge it. For this particular circumstance, Kate, inasmuch as it involved deep ingratitude on their part, could not at all forgive them.
At this time, indeed, the melancholy position of Kathleen Cavanagh was one which excited profound and general sorrow; and just in proportion as this was sincere, so was the feeling of indignation against him whose corruption and want of principle were supposed to have involved her in their consequences. Two months or better of the period allotted by Kathleen to the vindication of his character, had now elapsed, and yet nothing had been done to set himself right either with her or the world. She consequently argued and with apparent reason, that everything in the shape of justification was out of his power, and this reflection only deepened her affliction. Yes, it deepened her affliction; but it did not; on that account succeed in enabling her to obliterate his image the more easily from her heart. The fact was, that despite the force and variety of the rumors that were abroad against him—and each succeeding week brought in some fresh instance of his duplicity and profligacy, thanks to the ingenious and fertile malignity of Hycy the accomplished—despite of this, and despite of all, the natural reaction of her heart had set in—their past endearments, their confidence their tenderness, their love, now began, after the first vehement expression of pride and high principle had exhausted the offended mind of its indignation, to gradually resume their influence over her. A review, besides, of her own conduct towards her lover was by no means satisfactory to her. Whilst she could not certainly but condemn him, she felt as if she had judged him upon a principle at once too cold and rigorous. Indeed, now that a portion of time had enabled her mind to cool, she could scarcely understand why it was that she had passed, so harsh a sentence upon him. She was not, however, capable of analyzing her own mind and feelings upon the occasion, or she might have known that her severity towards the man I was the consequence, on her part, of that innate scorn and indignation which pure and lofty minds naturally entertain against everything dishonorable and base, and that it is a very difficult thing to disassociate the crime from the criminal, even in cases where the latter may have had a strong hold upon the affections of such a noble nature. Nay, the very fact of finding that one's affections have been fixed upon a person capable of such dishonor, produces a double portion of indignation at the discovery of their profligacy, because it supposes, in the first place, that something like imposture must have been practised upon us in securing our affections, or what is still more degrading, that we must have been materially devoid of common penetration, or we could not have suffered ourselves to become the dupe of craft and dissimulation.
Our high-minded heroine, however, had no other theory upon the subject of her own feelings, than that she loved her religion and its precepts, and detested every word that was at variance with truth, and every act inconsistent with honesty and that faithful integrity which resists temptation and corruption in whatever plausible shapes they may approach it.
Be this, however, as it may, she now found that, as time advanced, her heart began to fall into its original habits. The tumult occasioned by the shock resulting from her lover's want of integrity, had now nearly passed away, and the affection of the woman began to supersede the severity of the judge. By degrees she was enabled, as we have said, to look back upon her conduct, and to judge, of her lover through the more softened medium of her reviving affection. This feeling gained upon her slowly but surely, until her conscience became, alarmed at the excess of her own severity towards him. Still, however, she would occasionally return, as it were, to a contemplation of his delinquency, and endeavor, from an unconscious principle of self-love, to work herself up into that lofty hatred of dishonor which had prompted his condemnation; but the effort was in vain. Every successive review of his guilt was attended by a consciousness that she had been righteous overmuch, and that the consequences of his treason, even against their common religion, were not only rapidly diminishing in her heart, but yielding to something that very nearly resembled remorse.
Such was the state of her feelings on the day when Kate Hogan and her male relatives indulged in the friendly and affectionate dialogue we have just detailed. Her heart was smitten, in fact, with sorrow for the harsh part she had taken against her lover, and she only waited for an opportunity to pour out a full confession of all she felt into the friendly ear of her sister.
Gerald Cavanagh's family at this period was darkened by a general spirit of depression and gloom. Their brother James, from whatever cause it may have proceeded, seemed to be nearly as much cast down as his sister; and were it not that Cavanagh himself and his wife sustained themselves by a hope that Kathleen might ultimately relax so far as to admit, as she had partly promised to do, the proposals of Edward Burke, it would have been difficult to find so much suffering apart from death under the same roof.
On the day in question, our friend O'Finigan, whose habits of intemperance had by no means diminished, called at Cavanagh's, as he had been in the habit of doing. Poor Kathleen was now suffering, besides, under the consequences of the injunction not to mention M'Mahon's name, which she had imposed upon her own family—an injunction which they had ever since faithfully observed. It was quite evident from the unusually easy fluency of O'Finigan's manner, that he had not confined his beverages, during the day, to mere water. Hanna, on seeing him enter, said to Kathleen, in a whisper,—
"Hadn't you better come out and take a walk, Kathleen? This O'Finigan is almost tipsy, and you know he'll be talking about certain subjects you don't wish to hear."
"Time enough, dear Hanna," she replied, with a sorrowful look at her sister, "my heart is so full of suffering and pain that almost anything will relieve it. You know I was always amused by Finigan's chat." Her sister, who had not as yet been made acquainted with the change which had taken place in her heart, on hearing these words looked at her closely, and smiled sorrowfully, but in such a manner as if she had at that moment experienced a sensation of pleasure, if not of hope. Hitherto, whenever a neighbor or stranger came in, Kathleen, fearing that the forbidden name might become the topic of conversation, always retired, either to another room or left the house altogether, in order to relieve her own family from the painful predicament in which their promise of silence to her had placed them. On this occasion, however, Hanna perceived with equal surprise and pleasure that she kept her ground.
"Sit ye, merry jinteels!" said Finigan, as he entered; "I hope I see you all in good health and spirits; I hope I do; although I am afraid if what fame—an' by the way, Mrs. Cavanagh, my classicality tells me, that the poet Maro blundered like a Hibernian, when he made the same fame a trumpeter, in which, wid the exception of one point, he was completely out of keeping. There's not in all litherature another instance of a female trumpeter; and for sound raisons—if the fair sex were to get possession of the tuba, God help the world, for it would soon be a noisy one. However, let me recollect myself—where was I? Oh! ay—I am afraid that if what fame says—an' by the way, her trumpet must have been a speaking one—be true, that there's a fair individual here whose spirits are not of the most exalted character; and indeed, and as I am the noblest work of God—an honest man—I feel sorry to hear the fact."
The first portion of this address, we need scarcely say, was the only part of it which was properly understood, if we except a word or two at the close.
"God save you, Misther Finigan."
"O'Finigan, if you plase, Mrs. Cavanagh."
"Well, well," she replied, "O'Finigan, since it must be so; but in troth I can!t always remember it, Misther Finigan, in regard that you didn't always stand out for it yourself. Is there any news stirrin', you that's abroad?"
"Not exactly news, ma'am; but current reports that are now no novelty. The M'Mahon's—"
"Oh, never mind them," exclaimed Mrs. Cavanagh, glancing at her daughter, "if you have any 'other news let us hear it—pass over the M'Mahons—they're not worth our talk, at least some o' them."
"Pardon me, Mrs. Cavanagh;—if Achilles at the head of his myrmidons was to inform me to that effect, I'd tell him he had mistaken his customer. My principle, ma'am—and 'tis one I glory in—is to defend the absent in gineral, for it is both charitable and ginerous to do so—in gineral, I say; but when I know that they are unjustly aspersed, I contemplate it as' an act of duty on my part to vindicate them."
"Well," replied Mrs. Cavanagh, "that's all very right an' thrue, Mr. Finigan."
"It is, Mr. Finig—O'Finigan," observed James Cavanagh, who was present, "and your words are a credit and an honor to you."
"Thanks, James, for the compliment; for it is but truth. The scandal I say (he proceeded without once regarding the hint: thrown out by Mrs. Cavanagh) which has! been so studiously disseminated against Bryan M'Mahon—spare your nods and winks, Mrs. Cavanagh, for if you winked at me with as many eyes as Argus had, and nodded at me wid as many heads as Hydra, or that baste in the Revelaytions, I'd not suppress a syllable of truth;—no, ma'am, the suppressio veri's no habit of mine; and I say and assert—ay, and asseverate—that that honest and high-spirited young man, named Bryan or Bernard M'Mahon, is the victim of villany and falsehood—ay, of devilish hatred and ingenious but cowardly vituperation."
"Kathleen," whispered her sister, "will you come out, darlin'? this talk must be painful to you."
Kathleen gave her a look of much mingled sorrow and entreaty as went to her heart. Hanna, whose head had been lovingly reclining on her sister's bosom, pressed her gently but affectionately to her heart, and made no reply.
"You wor always a friend of his," replied Mrs. Cavanagh, "an' of course you spake as a friend."
"Yes," said Finigan, "I always was a friend of his, because I always knew his honesty, his love of truth, his hatred of a mane action, ay, and his generosity and courage. I knew him from the very egg, I may say—ab ovo—Mrs. Cavanagh; it was I instilled his first principles into him. Oh! I know well! I never had a scholar I was so proud out of. Hycy Burke was smart, quick, and cunning; but then he was traicherous—something of a coward when he had his match—strongly addicted to fiction in most of his narratives, and what was still a worse point about him, he had the infamous ingenuity, whenever he had a point to gain—such as belying a boy and taking away his characther—of making truth discharge all the blackguard duties of falsehoood. Oh! I know them both well! But who among all I ever enlightened wid instruction was the boy that always tould the truth, even when it went against himself?—why, Bryan M'Mahon. Who ever defended the absent?—why, Bryan M'Mahon. Who ever and always took the part of the weak and defenceless against the strong and tyrannical?—why, Bryan M'Mahon. Who fought for his religion, too, when the young heretics used to turn it, or try to turn it, into ridicule—ay, and when cowardly and traicherous Hycy used to sit quietly by, and either put the insult in his pocket, or curry favor wid the young sneering vagabonds that abused it? And yet, at the time Hycy was a thousand times a greater little bigot than Bryan. The one, wid a juvenile rabble at his back, three to one, was a tyrant over the young schismatics; whilst Bryan, like a brave youth as he was, ever and always protected them against the disadvantage of numbers, and insisted on showing them fair play. I am warm, Mrs. Cavanagh," he continued, "and heat, you know, generates thirst. I know that a drop o' the right sort used to be somewhere undher this same roof; but I'm afraid if the fama clamosa be thrue, that the side of the argument I have taken isn't exactly such as to guarantee me a touch at the native—that is, taking it for granted that there's any in the house."
This request was followed by a short silence. The Cavanagh's all, with the exception of Kathleen, looked at each other, but every eye was marked either by indecision or indifference. At length Hanna looked at her sister, and simply said, "dear Kathleen!"
"He has done," replied the latter, in a low voice, "what I had not the generosity to do—he has defended the absent."
"Darling Kathleen," Hanna whispered, and then pressed her once more to her heart. "You must have it, Mr. O'Finigan," said she—"you must have it, and that immediately;" and as she spoke, she proceeded to a cupboard from which she produced a large black bottle, filled with that peculiar liquid to which our worthy pedagogue was so devotedly addicted.
"Ah," said he, on receiving a bumper from the fair hand of Hanna, "let the M'Mahons alone for the old original—indeed I ought to say—aboriginal hospitality. Thanks, Miss Hanna; in the meantime I will enunciate a toast, and although we shall not draw very strongly upon sentiment for the terms, it shall be plain and pithy; here is 'that the saddle of infamy may be soon placed upon the right horse,' and maybe there's an individual not a thousand miles from us, and who is besides not altogether incognizant of the learned languages, including a tolerably comprehensive circle of mathematics, who will, to a certain extent, contribute to the consummation of that most desirable event; here then, I repate, is the toast—'may the saddle of infamy soon be placed upon the right horse!'"
Having drunk off the glass, he turned the mouth of it down upon his corduroy breeches, as an intimation that he might probably find it necessary to have recourse to it again.
Hanna observed, or rather we should say, felt, that as Finigan proceeded with his reminiscences of M'Mahon's school-boy days and the enumeration of his virtues, her sister's heart and bosom quivered with deep and almost irrepressible emotion. There was a good deal of enthusiasm in the man's manner, because he was in earnest, and it was quite evident that Kathleen's spirit had caught it as he went along, and that her heart recognized the truth of the picture which he was drawing. We say she literally felt the quiverings of her sister's heart against her own, and to do the admirable girl justice, she rejoiced to recognize these manifestations of returning affection.
"It was only yesterday," continued Finigan, resuming the discourse, "that I met Bryan M'Mahon, and by the way, he has sorrow and distress, poor fellow, in his face. 'Bryan,' said I, 'is it true that you and your father's family are preparing to go to that refugium peccatorum, America—that overgrown cupping-glass which is drawing the best blood of our country out of it?'
"'The people of Ireland,' he replied, 'have a right to bless God that there is such a country to fly to, and to resave them from a land where they're neglected and overlooked. It is true, Mr. O'Finigan,' he proceeded—!' we have nothing in this country to live for now.'
"'And so you are preparing?' I asked.
"'I ought rather say,' he replied, 'that we are prepared; we go in another month; I only wish we were there already.'
"'I fear, Bryan,' said I, 'that you have not been well trated of late.' He looked at me with something like surprise, but said nothing; and in a quarter, I added, 'that was the last from which you were prepared to expect justice without mercy.'
"'I don't understand you,' he replied sharply; 'what do you mean?'
"'Bryan,' said I, 'I scorn a moral circumbendibus where the direct truth is necessary; I have heard it said, and I fear it is burthened wid too much uncomfortable veracity, that Kathleen Cavanagh has donned the black cap* in doing the judicial upon you, and that she considers her sentence equal to the laws of the Medes and Persians, unchangeable—or, like those of our own blessed church—wid reverence be the analogy made—altogether infallible.' His eye blazed as I spoke; he caught me where by the collar wid a grip that made me quake—'Another word against Kathleen Cavanagh,' he replied, 'and I will shake every joint of your carcass out of its place.' His little sister, Dora, was wid him at the time; 'Give him a shake or two as it is,' she added, egging him on, 'for what he has said already;' throth she's a lively little lady that, an' if it wasn't that she has a pair of dark shining eyes, and sweet features—ay, and as coaxin' a figure of her own—however, sorra may care, somehow, I defy any one to, be angry wid her."
* Alluding to the practice of putting on the black cap when the Judge condemns a felon to death.
"Come, Mr. O'Finigan," said James, approaching him, "you must have another glass."
"Well no, James," he replied, "I think not."
"Faith, but I say you will; if it was only to hear what Dora—hem—what Bryan said.
"Very well," said the master, allowing him to take the glass which he received again brimming, "thanks, James."
"'Well,' said Bryan, lettin' go my collar, 'blame any one you like; blame me, blame Vanston, blame Chevydale, Fethertonge, anybody, everybody, the Priest, the Bishop, the Pope,—but don't dare to blame Kathleen Cavanagh.'
"'Why,' said I, 'has she been right in her condemnation of you?'
"'She has,' he replied, with a warmth of enthusiasm which lit up his whole features; 'she has done nothing but what was right. She just acted as she ought, and all I can say is, that I know I'm not worthy of her, and never was. God bless her!'
"'And don't let me hear,' said Dora, taking up the dialogue, 'that ever you'll mention her name wid disrespect—mark that, Mr. O'Finigan, or it'll be worse for you a thrifle.'
"Her brother looked on her wid complacent affection, and patting her on the head, said, 'Come, darling, don't beat him now. You see the risk you run,' he added, as they went away, 'so don't draw down Dora's vengeance on your head. She might forgive you an offence against herself; but she won't forgive you one against Kathleen Cavanagh; and, Mister O'Finigan, neither will I.'"
"Masther," said James Cavanagh, "you'll stop to-night with us?"
"No, James, I have an engagement of more importance than you could ever dhrame of, and about—but I'm not free or at liberty to develop the plot—for plot it is—at any greater length. Many thanks to you in the mane time for your hospitable intentions; but before I go, I have a word to say. Now, what do you think of that young man's ginerosity, who would rather have himself thought guilty than have her thought wrong; for, whisper,—I say he's not guilty, and maybe—but, no ruatther, time will tell, and soon tell, too, plaise God."
So saying he took up his hat, and politely wished them a pleasant evening, but firmly refused to taste another drop of liquor, "lest," he added, "it might denude him of the necessary qualifications for accomplishing the enterprise on which he was bint."
When he was gone, Kathleen brought her sister to their own room, and throwing herself on her bosom, she spoke not, but wept calmly and in silence for about twenty minutes.
"Kathleen," said Hanna, "I am glad to see this, and I often wished for it."
"Whisht, dear Hanna," she replied; "don't speak to me at present. I'm not fit to talk on that unfortunate subject yet. 'Forgive us our trespassess as we—we—forgive them that trespass against us!' Oh! Hanna darling, how have I prayed?" They then rejoined the family.
CHAPTER XXIII.—Harry Clinton's Benevolence Defeated
—His Uncle's Treachery—The Marriage of Kathleen and Edward Burke Determined on
This partial restoration of M'Mahon to the affections of Kathleen Cavanagh might have terminated in a full and perfect reconciliation between them, were it not for circumstances which we are about to detail. From what our readers know of young Clinton, we need not assure them that, although wild and fond of pleasure, he was by no means devoid of either generosity or principle. There were indeed few individuals, perhaps scarcely any, in the neighborhood, who felt a deeper or manlier sympathy for the adverse fate and evil repute which had come so suddenly, and, as he believed in his soul, undeservedly, upon Bryan M'Mahon. He resolved accordingly to make an effort for the purpose of setting the unfortunate young man's character right with the public, or if not with the public, at least in that quarter where such a service might prove most beneficial to him, we mean in Gerald Cavanagh's family. Accordingly, one morning after breakfast as his uncle sat reading the newspaper, he addressed him as follows:—
"By the way, uncle, you must excuse mo for asking you a question or two."
"Certainly, Harry. Did I not often desire you never to hesitate asking me any question you wish? Why should you not?"
"This, however, may be trenching a little upon the secrets of your—your—profession."
"What is it?—what is it?"
"You remember the seizure you made some time ago in the townland of Ahadarra?"
"I do perfectly well."
"Now, uncle, excuse me. Is it fair to ask you if you know the person who furnished you with information on that subject. Mark, I don't wish nor desire to know his name; I only ask if you know it?"
"No, I do not."
"Do you not suspect it? It came to you anonymously, did it not?"
"Why, you are raking me with a fire of cross-examination, Harry; but it did."
"Should you wish to know, uncle?"
"Undoubtedly, I wish to know those to whom we are indebted for that fortunate event."
"Don't say we, uncle; speak only for yourself."
"I should wish to know, though."
"Pray have you the letter?"
"I have: you will find it in one of the upper pigeon holes; I can't say which; towards the left hand. I placed it there yesterday, as it turned up among some other communications of a similar stamp."
In a few moments his nephew returned, with the precious document in his hands.
"Now, uncle," he proceeded, as he seated himself at the table, "you admit that this is the letter?"
"I admit—why, you blockhead, does not the letter itself prove as much?"
"Well, then, I know the scoundrel who sent you this letter."
"I grant you he is a scoundrel, Harry; nobody, I assure you, despises his tools more than I do, as in general every man does who is forced to make use of them. Go on."
"The man who sent you that letter was Hycy Burke."
"Very likely," replied the cool old Still-Hound; "But I did not think he would ever place us—"
"You, sir, if you please."
"Very well, me, sir, if you please, under such an important obligation to him. How do you know, though, that it was he who sent it?"
His nephew then related the circumstance of his meeting with Nanny Peety, and the discovery he had made through her of the letter having been both written and sent by Hycy to the post-office. In order, besides, to satisfy his relative that the getting up of the still was a plan concocted by Hycy to ruin M'Mahon, through the, medium of the fine, he detailed as much of Hycy's former proposal to him as he conveniently could, without disclosing the part which he himself had undertaken to perform in this concerted moment.
"Well, Harry," replied the old fellow after a pause, "he's a d—d scoundrel, no doubt; but as his scoundrelism is his own, I don't see why we should hesitate to avail ourselves of it. With respect, however, to M'Mahon, I can assure you, that I was informed of his intention to set up a Still a good while before I made the capture, and not by anonymous information either. Now, what would you say if both I and Fethertonge knew the whole plot long before it was put in practice?"
As he spoke, he screwed his hard keen features into a most knavish expression.
"Yes," he added; "and I can tell you that both the agent and I forwarned M'Mahon against suffering himself to engage in anything illegal—which was our duty as his friends you know—hem!"
"Is that possible?" said his nephew, blushing for this villianous admission.
"Quite possible," replied the other; "however, as I said, I don't see why we should hesitate to avail ourselves of his villany."
"That is precisely what I was about to say, sir," replied his nephew, still musing on what he had heard.
"Right, Harry; the farm is a good thing, or will be so, at least."
"The farm, sir! but I did not speak with reference to the farm."
"Then with reference to what did you speak?"
"I meant, sir, that we should not hesitate to avail ourselves of his villany, in setting M'Mahon right with the public as far as we could."
"With the whole public!—whew! Why, my good young man, I thought the days of giants and windmills had gone by."
"Well, sir," continued the nephew, "at all events there is one thing you must do for me. I wish you to see old Gerald Cavanagh, and as far as you can to restore his confidence in the honesty and integrity of young M'Mahon. State to him that you have reason to know that his son has a bitter enemy in the neighborhood; that great injustice had been done to him in many ways, and that you would be glad that a reconciliation should take place between the families."
"And so I am to set out upon the wild goose chase of reconciling a wench, and a fellow, without knowing why or wherefore."
"No, sir—not at all—-I will make Cavanough call upon you."
"I don't understand this," replied the uncle, rubbing behind his ear; "I don't perceive; but pray what interest have you in the matter?"
"Upon my honor, uncle, none in life, unless an anxiety to serve poor M'Mahon. The world is down upon him about that vote which, considering all the circumstances, was more creditable to him than otherwise. I know, however, that in consequence of the estrangement between him and Miss Cavanagh, he is bent on emigrating. It is that fact which presses upon him most. Now will you oblige me in this, uncle?"
"Let Cavanagh call upon me," he replied, "and if I can say anything to soften the old fellow, perhaps I will."
"Thank you, uncle—thank you—I shall not forget this kindness."
"Well, then," said his uncle, "I am going down to Fethertonge on a certain matter of business, you understand, and—let me see—why, if Cavanagh calls on me tomorrow about eleven, I shall see him at all events."
Young Clinton felt surprised and grieved at what his uncle had just hinted to him; but on the other hand, he felt considerably elated at the prospect of being able to bring about a reconciliation between these two families, and with this excellent motive in view he went to Cavanagh, with whom he had a private conversation. Having been made aware by M'Mahon himself of Cavanagh's prejudice against him, and the predilections of himself and his wife for an alliance into Burke's family, he merely told him that his uncle would be glad to see him the next day about eleven o'clock, upon which the other promised to attend to that gentleman.
Old Clinton, on his way to Fethertonge's, met that worthy individual riding into Ballymacan.
"I was going down to you," said he; "but where are you bound for?"
"Into town," replied the agent; "have you any objection to ride that way?"
"None in the world; it is just the same to me. Well, how are matters proceeding?"
"Not by any means well," replied the other, "I begin to feel something like alarm. I wish we had those M'Mahons out of the country. Vanston has paid that d—d goose Chevydale a visit, and I fear that unless the Ahadarra man and his father, and the whole crew of them, soon leave the country, we shall break down in our object."
"Do you tell me so?" said the gauger, starting; "by Jove, it is well I know this in time."
"I don't understand."
"Why," continued. Clinton, "I was about to take a foolish step to-morrow morning, for the express purpose, I believe, of keeping him, and probably the whole family in the country."
He then detailed the conversation that he had with his nephew, upon which Fethertonge convinced him that there was more in the wind with respect to that step, than either he or his nephew, who he assured him was made a cat's paw of in the business, suspected. "That's a deep move," said the agent, "but we shall defeat them, notwithstanding. Everything, however, depends upon their leaving the country before Chevydale happens to come at the real state of the case; still, it will go hard or we shall baffle both him and them yet."
Whether Clinton Was sure that the step urged upon him by his nephew was the result of a generous regard for M'Mahon, or that the former was made a mere tool for ultimate purposes, in the hands of the Ahadarra man, as he called him it is not easy to determine. Be this as it may, when the hour of eleven came the next morning, he was prepared to set his nephew's generosity aside, and act upon Fethertonge's theory of doing everything in his power to get the whole connection out of the country, "Ha," he exclaimed, "I now understand what Harry meant with respect to their emigration—'It is that fact which presses upon him most.' Oh ho! is it so, indeed! Very good, Mr. M'Mahon—we shall act accordingly."
Gerald Cavanaugh had been made acquainted by his wife on the day before with the partial revival of his daughter's affection for Bryan M'Mahon, as well as with the enthusiastic defense of him made by Finigan, two circumstances which gave him much concern and anxiety. On his return, however, from Clinton's, his family observed that there was something of a satisfactory expression mingled up with a good deal of grave thought in his face. The truth is, if the worthy man thought for a moment that the ultimate loss of M'Mahon would have seriously injured her peace of mind, he would have bitterly regretted it, and perhaps encourage a reconciliation. This was a result, however, that he could scarcely comprehend. That she might fret and pine for a few months or so was the worst he could calculate upon, and of course he took it for granted, that the moment her affection for one was effaced, another might step in, without any great risk of disappointment.
"Well, Gerald," said his wife, "what did Ganger Clinton want with you?"
Gerald looked at his two daughters and sighed unconsciously. "It's not good news," he proceeded, "in one sense, but it is in another; it's good news to all my family but that girl sittin' there," pointing to Kathleen.
Unfortunately no evil intelligence could have rendered the unhappy girl's cheek paler than it was; so that, so far as appearances went, it was impossible to say what effect this startling communication had upon her.
"I was down wid Misther Clinton," he proceeded; "he hard a report that there was about to be a makin' up of the differences between Kathleen there and Bryan, and he sent for me to say, that, for the girl's sake—who he said was, as he had heard from all quarthers, a respectable, genteel girl—he couldn't suffer a young man so full of thraichery and desate, as he had good raisons to know Bryan M'Mahon was, to impose himself upon her or her family. He cautioned me," he proceeded, "and all of us against him; and said that if I allowed a marriage to take place between him and my daughter, he'd soon bring disgrace upon her and us, as well as himself. 'You may take my word for it, Mr. Cavanagh,' says he, 'that is not a thrifle 'ud make me send for you in sich a business; but, as I happen to know the stuff he is made of, I couldn't bear to see him take a decent family in so distastefully. To my own knowledge, Cavanagh,' said he, 'he'd desave a saint, much less your innocent and unsuspectin' daughter.'"
"But, father," said Hanna, "you know there's not a word of truth in that report; and mayn't all that has been said, or at least some of what has been said against Bryan, be as much a lie as that? Who on earth: could sich a report come from?"
"I axed Mr. Clinton the same question," said the father, "and it appears that it came from Bryan himself."
"Oh, God forbid!" exclaimed Hanna; "for, if it's a thing that he said that, he'd say anything."
"I don't know," returned the father, "I only spake it as I hard it, and, what is more, I believe it—I believe it after what I hard this day; everybody knows him now—man, woman, an' child, Gheernah! what an escape that innocent girl had of him!"
Kathleen rose up, went over to her father, and, placing her hand upon his shoulder, was about to speak, but she checked herself; and, after looking at them all, as it were by turns, with a look of distraction and calm but concentrated agony, she returned again to her seat, but did not sit down.
"After all," she exclaimed, "there has been no new crime brought against him, not one; but, if I acted wrongly and ungenerously once, I won't do so again. Hanna, see his sister Dora, say I give him the next three weeks to clear himself; and, father, listen! if he doesn't do so within that time, take me, marry me to Edward Burke if you wish—of course Hycy's out of the question—since you must have it so, for the sooner I go to my grave the better. There's his last chance, let him take it; but, in the mean time, listen to me, one and all of you. I cannot bear this long; there's a dry burning pain about my heart, and a weight upon it will soon put me out of the reach of disappointment and sorrow. Oh, Bryan M'Mahon, can you be what is said of you! and, if you can, oh, why did we ever meet, or why did I ever see you!"
Her sister Hanna attempted to console her, but for once she failed. Kathleen would hear no comfort, for she said she stood in need of none.
"My mind is all dark," said she, "or rather it is sick of this miserable work. Why am I fastened upon by such suffering and distraction? Don't attempt at present to console me, Hanna; I won't, because I can't be consoled. I wish I knew this man—whether he is honest or not. If he is the villain they say he is, and that with a false mask upon him, he has imposed himself on me, and gained my affections by hypocrisy and deceit, why, Hanna, my darling sister, I could stab him to the heart. To think that I ever should come to love a villain that could betray his church, his country, me—and take a bribe; yes, he has done it," she proceeded, catching fire from the force of her own detestation of what was wrong. "Here, Hanna, I call back my words—I give him no further warning than he has got: he knows the time, the greater part of it is past, and has he ever made a single attempt to clear himself? No, because he cannot. I despise him; he is unworthy of me, and I fear he ever was. Here, father," she said with vehemence, "listen to me, my dear father; and you, my mother, beloved mother, hear me! At the expiration of three weeks I will marry Edward Burke; he is a modest, and I think an honest young man, who would not betray his religion nor his country, nor—nor—any unhappy girl that might happen to love him; oh, no, he would not—and so, after three weeks—I will marry him. Go now and tell him so—say I said so; and you may rest assured I will not break my word, although—I may break—break my heart—my heart! Now, Hanna, come out and walk, dear—come out, and let us chat of other matters; yes, of other matters; and you can tell me candidly whether you think Bryan M'Mahon such a villain." Struck by her own words she paused almost exhausted, and, bending down, put her face upon her hands, and by a long persevering effort, at length raised her head, and after a little time appeared to have regained a good deal of composure; but not without tears—for she had wept bitterly.
On that night she told her sister that the last resolution she had come to was that by which she was determined to abide.
"You would not have me like a mere girl," she said, "without the power of knowing my own mind—no; let what may come I will send no messages after him—and as sure as I have life I will marry Edward Burke after the expiration of three weeks, if Bryan doesn't—but it's idle to talk of it—if he could he would have done it before now. Good-night, dear Hanna—good-night," and after many a long and heavy sigh she sank to an uneasy and troubled slumber.
The next morning Gerald Cavanagh, who laid great stress upon the distracted language of his daughter on the preceding night paid an early visit to his friend, Jemmy Burke. He found the whole family assembled at breakfast, and after the usual salutations, was asked to join them, which invitation, however, having already breakfasted, he declined. Hycy had of late been very much abroad—that is to say he was out very much at night, and dined very frequently in the head-inn of Ballymacan, when one would suppose he ought to have dined at home. On the present occasion he saluted honest Gerald with a politeness peculiarly ironical.
"Mr. Cavanagh," said he, "I hope I see you in good health, sir. How are all the ladies?—Hannah, the neat, and Kathleen—ah, Kathleen, the divine!"
"Troth, they're all very well, I thank you, Hycy; and how is yourself?"
"Free from care, Mr. Cavanagh—a chartered libertine."
"A libertine!" exclaimed the honest farmer; "troth I've occasionally heard as much; but until I heard it from your own lips divil a word of it I believed."
"He is only jesting, Mr. Cavanagh," said his brother; "he doesn't mean exactly, nor indeed at all, what you suppose he does."
"Does he mean anything at all, Ned?" said his father, dryly, "for of late it's no aisy matther to understand him."
"Well said, Mr. Burke," replied Hycy; "I am like yourself, becoming exceedingly oracular of late—but, Mr. Cavanagh, touching this exquisite union which is contemplated between Adonis and Juno the ox-eyed—does it still hold good, that, provided always she cannot secure the corrupt clod-hopper, she will in that ease condescend upon Adonis?"
"Gerald," said the father, "as there's none here so handy at the nonsense as to understand him, the best way is to let him answer himself."
"Begad, Jemmy," said Cavanagh, "to tell you the truth, I haven't nonsense enough to answer the last question at any rate; unless he takes to speakin' common-sense I won't undhertake to hould any further discourse wid him."
"Why will you continue," said his brother in a low voice, "to render yourself liable to these strong rebuffs from plain people?"
"Well said, most vituline—Solomon secundus, well said."
"Hycy," said his mother, "you ought to remimber that every one didn't get the edi cation you did—an' that ignorant people like your father and Gerald Kavanagh there can't undhercomestand one-half o' what you say. Sure they know nothing o' book-lamin', and why do you give it them?"
"Simply to move their metaphysics, Mrs. Burke. They are two of the most notorious metaphysicians from this to themselves; but they don't possess your powers of ratiocination, madam?"
"No," replied his father; "nayther are we sich judges of horseflesh, Hycy."
Hycy made him a polite bow, and replied, "One would think that joke is pretty well worn by this time, Mr. Burke. Couldn't you strike out something original now?"
"All I can say is," replied the father, "that the joke has betther bottom than the garran it was made upon."
Edward now arose and left the parlor, evidently annoyed at the empty ribaldry of his brother, and in a few minutes Hycy mounted his horse and rode towards Ballymacan.
It is not our intention here to follow Gerald Cavanagh in the account, unconsciously one sided as it was, of the consent which he assured them Kathleen had given, on the night before, to marry their son Edward. It is sufficient to say, that before they separated, the match was absolutely made by the two worthies, and everything arranged, with, the exception of the day of marriage, which they promised to determine on at their next meeting.
CHAPTER XXIV.—Thoughts on Our Country and Our Countrymen
—Dora and Her Lover.
The state of the country, at this period of our narrative, was full of gloom and depression. Spring had now set in, and the numbers of our independent and most industrious countrymen that flocked towards our great seaports were reckoned by many thousands; and this had been the case for many a season previously. That something was wrong, and that something is wrong in the country must, alas! be evident from the myriad's who, whilst they have the means in their hands, are anxious to get out of it as fast as they can. And yet there is not a country in the world, a population so affectionately attached to the soil—to the place of their birth—as the Irish. In fact, the love of their native fields, their green meadows, the dark mountains, and the glorious torrents that gush from them, is a passion of which they have in foreign lands been often known to die. It is called Home Sickness, and we are aware ourselves of more than one or two cases in which individuals, in a comparatively early stage of life, have pined away in secret after their native hills, until the malady becoming known, unfortunately too late, they sought once more the green fields and valleys among which they had spent their youth, just in time to lay down their pale cheeks and rest in their native clay for ever those hearts which absence and separation from the very soil had broken.
Now, nothing can be a greater proof of the pressure, the neglect, the hopelessness of independence or comfort, which the condition of the people, and the circumstances which occasioned it, have produced, than the fact that the strong and sacred attachment which we have described is utterly incapable of attaching them as residents in a country so indescribably dear to their best affections. People may ask, and do ask, and will ask, why Ireland is in such a peculiarly distressed state—why there is always upon its surface a floating mass of pauperism without parallel in Europe, or perhaps in the world? To this we reply simply because the duties of property have uniformly been neglected. And in what, may it be asked, do the duties of property consist? To this we reply again, in an earnest fixed resolution to promote, in the first place, the best social and domestic interests of the people, to improve their condition, to stock their minds with, useful and appropriate knowledge, to see that they shall be taught what a sense of decent comfort means, that they shall not rest satisfied with a wad of straw for a bed, and a meal of potatoes for food, and that they shall, besides, come to understand the importance of their own position as members of civil society. Had the landlords of Ireland paid attention to these and other matters that directly involve their own welfare and independence, as well as those of their neglected tenantry, they would not be, as they now are, a class of men, some absolutely bankrupt, and more on the very eve of it; and all this, to use a commercial phrase painfully appropriate,—because they neglect their business.
Who, until lately, ever heard of an Irish landlord having made the subject of property, or the principles upon which it ought to be administered, his study? By this we do not mean to say that they did not occasionally bestow a thought upon their own interests; but, in doing so, they were guided by erroneous principles that led them to place these interests in antagonism with those of the people. They forgot that poverty is the most fertile source of population, and that in every neglected and ill-regulated state of society, they invariably reproduce each other; but the landlords kept the people poor, and now they are surprised, forsooth, at their poverty and the existence of a superabundant population.
"We know," said they, "that the people are poor; but we know also that, by subsisting merely upon the potato, and excluding better food and a higher state of comfort, of course the more is left for the landlord." This in general was their principle—and its consequences are now upon themselves.
This, however, is a subject on which it is not our intention to expatiate here. What we say is, that, in all the relations of civil life, Her people were shamefully and criminally neglected. They were left without education, permitted to remain ignorant of the arts of life, and of that industrial knowledge on which, or rather on the application of which, all public prosperity is based.
And yet, although the people have great errors, without which no people so long neglected can ever be found, and, although they have been for centuries familiarized with suffering, yet it is absolute dread of poverty that drives them from their native soil; They understand, in fact, the progress of pauperism too well, and are willing to seek fortune in any clime, rather than abide its approach to themselves—an approach which they know is in their case inevitable and certain. For instance, the very class of our countrymen that constitutes the great bulk of our emigrants is to be found among those independent small farmers who appear to understand something like comfort. One of these men holding, say sixteen or eighteen acres, has a family we will suppose of four sons and three daughters. This family grows up, the eldest son marries, and the father, having no other way to provide for him, sets apart three or four acres of his farm, on which he and his wife settle. The second comes also to marry, and hopes his father won't treat him worse than he treated his brother. He accordingly gets four acres more, and settles down as his brother did. In this manner the holding is frittered away and subdivided among them. For the first few years—that is, before their children rise—they may struggle tolerably well; but, at the expiration of twenty or twenty-five years, each brother finds himself with such a family as his little strip of land cannot adequately support, setting aside the claims of the landlord altogether; for rent in these cases is almost out of the question.
What, then, is the consequence? Why, that here is to be found a population of paupers squatted upon patches of land quite incapable of their support; and in seasons of famine and sickness, especially in a country where labor is below its value, and employment inadequate to the demand that is for it, this same population becomes a helpless burthen upon it—a miserable addition to the mass of poverty and destitution under which it groans.
Such is the history of one class of emigrants in this unhappy land, of ours; and what small farmer, with such a destiny as that we have detailed staring him and his in the face, would not strain every nerve that he might fly to any country—rather than remain to encounter the frightful state of suffering which awaits him in this.
Such, then, is an illustration of the motives which prompt one class of emigrants to seek their fortune in other climes, while it is yet in their power to do so. There is still a higher class, however, consisting of strong farmers possessed of some property and wealth, who, on looking around them, find that the mass of destitution which is so rapidly increasing in every direction must necessarily press upon them in time, and ultimately drag them down to its own level. But even if the naked evils which pervade society among us were not capable of driving these independent yeomen to other lands, we can assure our legislators that what these circumstances, appalling as they are, may fail in accomplishing, the recent act for the extra relief of able-bodied paupers will complete—an act which, instead of being termed a Relief Act, ought to be called an act for the ruin of the country, and the confiscation of its property, both of which, if not repealed, it will ultimately accomplish. We need not mention here cases of individual neglect or injustice upon the part of landlords and agents, inasmuch as we have partially founded our narrative upon a fact of this description.
It has been said, we know, and in many instances with truth, that the Irish are a negligent and careless people—without that perseverance and enterprise for which their neighbors on the other side of the channel are so remarkable. We are not, in point of fact, about to dispute the justice of this charge; but, if it be true of the people, it is only so indirectly. It is true of their condition and social circumstances in this country, rather than of any constitutional deficiency in either energy or industry that is inherent in their character. In their own country they have not adequate motive for action—no guarantee that industry shall secure them independence, or that the fruits of their labor may not pass, at the will of; their landlords, into other hands. Many, therefore, of the general imputations that are brought against them in these respects, ought to be transferred rather to the depressing circumstances in which they are placed than to the people themselves. As a proof of; this, we have only to reflect upon their industry, enterprise, and success, when relieved from the pressure of these circumstances in other countries—especially in America, where exertion and industry never, or at least seldom, fail to arrive at comfort and independence. Make, then, the position of the Irishman reasonable—such, for instance, as it is in any other country but his own—and he can stand the test of comparison with any man.
Not only, however, are the Irish flying from the evils that are to come, but they feel a most affectionate anxiety to enable all those who are bound to them by the ties of kindred and domestic affection to imitate their example. There is not probably to be found in records of human attachment such a beautiful history of unforgotten affection, as that presented by the heroic devotion of Irish emigrants to those of their kindred who remain here from inability to accompany them.*
*The following extract, from a very sensible pamphlet by Mr. Murray, is so appropriate to this subject, that we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of quoting it here:—
"You have been accustomed to grapple with and master figures, whether as representing the produce of former tariffs, or in constructing new ones, or in showing the income and expenditure of the greatest nation on the earth. Those now about to be presented to you, as an appendix to this communication, are small, very small, in their separate amounts, and not by any means in the aggregate of the magnitude of the sums you have been accustomed to deal with; but they are large separately, and heaving large in the aggregate, in all that is connected with the higher and nobler parts of our nature—in all that relates to and evinces the feelings of the heart towards those who are of our kindred, no matter by what waters placed asunder or by what distance separated. They are large, powerfully large, in reading lessons of instruction to the statesman and philanthropist, in dealing with a warm-hearted people for their good, and placing them in a position of comparative comfort to that in which they now are. The figures represent the particulars of 7,917 separate Bills of Exchange, varying in amount from L1 to L10 each—a few exceeding the latter sum; so many separate offerings from the natives of Ireland who have heretofore emigrated from its shores, sent to their relations and friends in Ireland, drawn and paid between the 1st of January and the 15th of December, 1846—not quite one year; and amount in all to L41,261 9s. 11d. But this list, long though it be, does not measure the number and amount of such interesting offerings. It contains only about one-third part of the whole number and value of such remittances that have crossed the Atlantic to Ireland during the 349 days of 1846. The data from which this list is complied enable the writer to estimate with confidence the number and amount drawn otherwise; and he calculates that the entire number, for not quite one year, of such Bills, is L24,000, and the amount L125,000, or, on an average, L5 4s. 3d. each. They are sent from husband to wife, from father to child, from child to father, mother, and grand-parents, from sister to brother, and the reverse; and from and to those united by all the ties of blood and friendship that bind us together on earth.
In the list, you will observe that these offerings of affection are classed according to the parts of Ireland they are drawn upon, and you will find that they are not confined to one spot of it, but are general as regards the whole country."—Ireland. its Present Condition and Future Prospects, In n letter addressed to the Right Honorable Sir Robert Peel, Baronet, by Robert Murray. Esq. Dublin, James M'Olashan, 21 D'Olier Street, 1847.
Let it not be said, then, that the Irishman is deficient in any of the moral elements or natural qualities which go to the formation of such a character as might be made honorable to himself and beneficial to the country. By the success of his exertions in a foreign land, it is clear that he is not without industry, enterprise, and perseverance; and we have no hesitation in saying that, if he were supplied at home with due encouragement and adequate motive, his good qualities could be developed with as much zeal, energy, and success as ever characterized them in a foreign country.
We trust the reader may understand what the condition of the country, at the period of our narrative to which we refer, must have been, when such multitudes as we have described rushed to our great seaports in order to emigrate; the worst feature in this annual movement being that, whilst the decent, the industrious, and the moral, all influenced by creditable motives, went to seek independence in a distant land, the idle, the ignorant, and the destitute necessarily remain at home—all as a burthen, and too many of them as a disgrace to the country.
Our friends the M'Mahons, urged by motives at once so strong and painful, were not capable of resisting the contagion of emigration which, under the circumstances we have detailed, was so rife among the people. It was, however, on their part a distressing and mournful resolve. From the, moment it was made, a gloom settled upon the whole family. Nothing a few months before had been farther from their thoughts; but now there existed such a combination of arguments for their departure, as influenced Bryan and his father, in spite of their hereditary attachment to Ahadarra and Carriglass. Between them and the Cavanaghs, ever since Gerald had delivered Kathleen's message to Bryan, there was scarcely any intercourse. Hanna, 'tis true, and Dora had an opportunity of exchanging a few words occasionally, but although the former felt much anxiety for a somewhat lengthened and if possible confidential conversation with her sparkling little friend, yet the latter kept proudly if not haughtily silent on one particular subject, feeling as she did, that anything like a concession on her part was humiliating, and might be misconstrued into a disposition to compromise the independence of her brother and family. But even poor Dora, notwithstanding her affectionate heart and high spirit, had her own sorrows to contend with, sorrows known only to her brother Bryan, who felt disposed to befriend her in them as far as he could. So indeed would every one of the family, had they known them, for we need scarcely say that the warm and generous girl was the centre in which all their affections met. And this indeed was only justice to her, inasmuch as she was willing on any occasion to sacrifice her interests, her wishes, or anything connected with her own welfare, to their individual or general happiness. We have said, however, that she had her own sorrows, and this was true. From the moment she felt assured that their emigration to America was certain, she manifested a depression so profound and melancholy, that the heart of her brother Bryan, who alone knew its cause, bled for her. This by the rest of the family was imputed to the natural regret she felt, in common with themselves, at leaving the old places for ever, with this difference to be sure—they imagined that she felt the separation more acutely than they did. Still, as the period for their departure approached, there was not one of the family, notwithstanding what she felt herself, who labored so incessantly to soothe and sustain the spirits of her father, who was fast sinking under the prospect of being "forever removed," as he said, "from the places his heart had grown into." She was in fact the general consoler of the family, and yet her eye scarcely ever met that of her brother that a tear did not tremble in it, and she felt disposed to burst out into an agony of unrestrained grief.