But another and more serious objection may be urged against the present strictness of scholastic discipline—which is, that it deprives the boy of a sense of free and independent agency. I speak this with limitations, for a master should be a monarch in his school, but by no means a tyrant; and decidedly the very worst species of tyranny is that which stretches the young mind upon the rod of too rigorous a discipline—like the despot who exacted from his subjects so many barrels of perspiration, whenever there came a long and severe frost. Do not familiarize the mind when young to the toleration of slavery, lest it prove afterwards incapable of recognizing and relishing the principle of an honest and manly independence. I have known many children, on whom a rigor of discipline, affecting the mind only (for severe corporal punishment is now almost exploded), impressed a degree of timidity almost bordering on pusillanimity. Away, then, with the specious and long-winded arguments of a false and mistaken philosophy. A child will be a child, and a boy a boy, to the conclusion of the chapter. Bell or Lancaster would not relish the pap or caudle-cup three times a day; neither would an infant on the breast feel comfortable after a gorge of ox beef. Let them, therefore, put a little of the mother's milk of human kindness and consideration into their straight-laced systems.
A hedge schoolmaster was the general scribe of the parish, to whom all who wanted letters or petitions written, uniformly applied—and these were glorious opportunities for the pompous display of pedantry; the remuneration usually consisted of a bottle of whiskey.
A poor woman, for instance, informs Mat that she wishes to have a letter written to her son, who is a soldier abroad. "An' how long is he gone, ma'am?"
"Och, thin, masther, he's from me goin' an fifteen year; an' a comrade of his was spakin' to Jim Dwyer, an' says his ridgiment's lyin' in the Island of Budanages, somewhere in the back parts of Africa."
"An' is it a lotther of petition you'd be afther havin' me to indite for you, ma'am?"
"Och, a letthur, sir—a letthur, master; an' may the Lord grant you all kinds of luck, good, bad, an' indifferent, both to you and yours: an' well it's known, by the same token, that it's yourself has the nice hand at the pen entirely, an' can indite a letter or petition, that the priest of the parish mightn't be ashamed to own to it."
"Why, thin, 'tis I that 'ud scorn to deteriorate upon the superiminence of my own execution at inditin' wid a pen in my hand; but would you feel a delectability in my supersoriptionizin' the epistolary correspondency, ma'am, that I'm about to adopt?"
"Eagh? och, what am I sayin'!—sir—masther—sir?—the noise of the crathurs, you see, is got into my ears; and, besides, I'm a bit bothered on both sides of my head, ever since I heard that weary weid."
"Silence, boys; bad manners to yez, will ye be asy, you Lilliputian Boeotians—by my hem—upon my credit, if I go down to that corner, I'll castigate yez in dozens: I can't spake to this dacent woman, with your insuperable turbulentiality."
"Ah, avourneen, masther, but the larnin's a fine thing, any how; an' maybe 'tis yourself that hasn't the tongue in your head, an' can spake the tall, high-flown English; a wurrah, but your tongue hangs well, any how—the Lord increase it!"
"Lanty Cassidy, are you gettin' on wid your Stereometry? festina, mi discipuli; vocabo Homerum, mox atque mox. You see, ma'am, I must tache thim to spake an' effectuate a translation of the larned languages sometimes."
"Arrah, masther dear, how did you get it all into your head, at all at all?"
"Silence, boys—tace—' conticuere omnes intentique ora tenebant.' Silence, I say agin."
"You could slip over, maybe, to Doran's, masther, do you see? You'd do it betther there, I'll engage: sure and you'd want a dhrop to steady your hand, any how."
"Now, boys, I am goin' to indite a small taste of literal correspondency over at the public-house here; you literati will hear the lessons for me, boys, till afther I'm back agin; but mind, boys, absente domino strepuunt servi—meditate on the philosophy of that; and, Mick Mahon, take your slate and put down all the names; and, upon my soul—hem—credit, I'll castigate any boy guilty of misty mannes on my retrogadation thither;—ergo momentote, cave ne titubes mandataque frangas."
"Blood alive, masther, but that's great spakin'—begar, a judge couldn't come up to you; but in throth, sir, I'd be long sarry to throuble you; only he's away fifteen year, and I wouldn't thrust it to another; and the corplar that commands the ridgment would regard your handwrite and your inditin'."
"Don't, ma'am, plade the smallest taste of apology."
"I'm happy that I can sarve you, ma'am."
"Musha, long life to you, masther, for that same, any how—but it's yourself that's deep in the larnin' and the langridges; the Lord incrase yer knowledge—sure, an' we all want his blessin', you know."
"Home, is id? Start, boys, off—chase him, lie into him—asy, curse yez, take time gettin' out: that's it—keep to him—don't wait for me; take care, you little spalpeens, or you'll brake your bones, so you will: blow the dust of this road, I can't see my way in."
"Well, boys, you've been at it—here's swelled faces and bloody noses. What blackened your eye, Callaghan? You're a purty prime ministher, ye boxing blackguard, you: I left you to keep pace among these factions, and you've kicked up a purty dust. What blackened your eye—eh?—"
"I'll tell you, sir, whin I come in, if you plase."
"Ho, you vagabones, this is the ould work of the faction between the Bradys and the Callaghans—bastin' one another; but, by my sowl, I'll baste you all through other. You don't want to go out, Callaghan. You had fine work here since; there's a dead silence now; but I'll pay you presently. Here, Duggan, go out wid Callaghan, and see that you bring him back in less than no time. It's not enough for your fathers and brothers to be at it, who have a right to fight, but you must battle betune you—have your field days itself!"
(Duggan returns)—"Hoo—hoo—sir, my nose. Oh, murdher sheery, my nose is broked!"
"Blow your nose, you spalpeen you—Where's Callaghan?"
"Oh, sir, bad luck to him every day he rises out of his bed; he got a stone in his fist, too, that he hot me a pelt on the nose wid, and then made off home."
"Home is id? Start, boys, off—chase him, lie into him—azy, curse yez, take time gettin out; that's it—keep to him—don't wait for me; take care you little salpeens or you'll brake your bones, so you will: blow the dust of this road, I can't see my way in it."
"Oh! murdher, Jem, agra, my knee's out' o' joint."
"My elbow's smashed, Paddy. Bad luck to him—the devil fly away wid him—oh! ha I ha!—oh! ha! ha! murdher—hard fortune to me, but little Mickey Geery fell, an' thripped the masther, an' himself's, disabled now—his black breeches split too—look at him feelin' them—oh! oh! ha! ha!—by tare-an'-onty, Callaghan will be murdhered, if they cotch him."
This was a specimen of scholastic civilization which Ireland only could furnish; nothing, indeed, could be more perfectly ludicrous than such a chase; and such scenes were by no means uncommon in hedge-schools, for, wherever severe punishment was dreaded—and, in truth, most of the hedge masters were unfeeling tyrants—the boy, if sufficiently grown to make a good race, usually broke away, and fled home at the top of his speed. The pack then were usually led on by the master, who mostly headed them himself, all in full cry, exhibiting such a scene as should be witnessed in order to be enjoyed. The neighbors, men, women, and children, ran out to be spectators; the laborers suspended their work to enjoy it, assembling on such eminences as commanded a full view of the pursuit.
"Bravo, boys—success, masther; lie into him—where's your huntin' horn, Mr. Kavanagh?—he'll bate yez if ye don't take the wind of him. Well done, Callaghan, keep up yer heart, yer sowl, and you'll do it asy—you're gaining' on them, ma bouchal—the masther's down, you gallows clip, an' there's none but the scholars afther ye—he's safe."
"Not he; I'll hould a naggin, the poor scholar has him; don't you see, he's close at his heels?"
"Done, by my song—they'll never come up wid him; listen to their leather crackers and cord-a-roys, as their knees bang agin one another. Hark forrit, boy's; hark forrit! huz-zaw, you thieves, huzzaw!"
"Your beagles is well winded, Mr. Kava-nagh, and gives good tongue."
"Well, masther, you had your chase for nothin', I see."
"Mr. Kavanagh," another would observe, "I didn't think you war so stiff in the hams, as to let the gorsoon bate you that way—your wind's failin', sir."
The schoolmaster was abroad then, and never was the "march of intellect" at once so rapid and unsuccessful.
During the summer season, it was the usual practice for the scholars to transfer their paper, slates, and books to the green which lay immediately behind the school-house, where they stretched themselves on the grass, and resumed their business. Mat would bring out his chair, and, placing it on the shady side of the hedge, sit with his pipe in his mouth, the contented lord of his little realm, whilst nearly a hundred and fifty scholars, of all sorts and sizes, lay scattered over the grass, basking under the scorching sun in all the luxury of novelty, nakedness, and freedom. The sight was original and characteristic, and such as Lord Brougham would have been delighted with. "The schoolmaster was abroad again."
As soon as one o'clock drew near, Mat would pull out his Ring-dial* holding it against the sun, and declare the hour.
* The Ring-dial was the hedge-schoolmaster's next best substitute for a watch. As it is possible that a great number of our readers may never have heard of, much less seen one, we shall in a word or two describe it—nothing could indeed be more simple. It was a bright brass ring, about three-quarters of an inch broad, and two and a half in diameter. There was a small hole in it, which when held opposite the sun admitted the light against the inside of the ring behind. On this was marked the hours and the quarters, and the time was known by observing the number or the quarter on which the slender ray that came in from the hole in front fell.
"Now, boys, to yer dinners, and the rest to play."
"Hurroo, darlins, to play—the masther says it's dinner-time!—whip-spur-an'-away-grey—hurroo—whack—hurroo!"
"Masther, sir, my father bid me ax you home to yer dinner."
"No, he'll come to huz—come wid me if you plase, sir."
"Sir, never heed them; my mother, sir, has some of what you know—of the flitch I brought to Shoneen on last Aisther, sir."
This was a subject on which the boys gave themselves great liberty; an invitation, even when not accepted, being an indemnity for the day; it was usually followed by a battle between the claimants, and bloody noses sometimes were the issue. The master himself, after deciding to go where he was certain of getting the best dinner, generally put an end to the quarrels by a reprimand, and then gave notice to the disappointed claimants of the successive days on which he would attend at their respective houses.
"Boys, you all know my maxim; to go, for fear of any jealousies, boys, wherever I get the worst dinner; so tell me now, boys, what yer dacent mothers have all got at home for me?"
"My mother killed a fat hen yesterday, sir, and you'll have a lump of bacon and flat dutch along wid it."
"We'll have hung beef and greens, sir."
"We tried the praties this mornin', sir, and we'll have new praties, and bread and butther, sir."
"Well, it's all good, boys; but rather than show favor or affection, do you see, I'll go wid Andy, here, and take share of the hen an' bacon: but, boys, for all that, I'm fonder of the other things, you persave; and as I can't go wid you, Mat, tell your respectable mother that I'll be with her to-morrow; and with you, Larry, ma bouchal, the day afther."
If a master were a single man he usually went round with the scholars each night—but there were generally a few comfortable farmers, leading men in the parish, at whose house he chiefly resided; and the children of these men were treated, with the grossest and most barefaced partiality. They were altogether privileged persons, and had liberty to beat and abuse the other children of the school, who were certain of being most unmercifully flogged, if they even dared to prefer a complaint against the favorites. Indeed the instances of atrocious cruelty in hedge schools were almost incredible, and such as in the present enlightened time, would not be permitted. As to the state of the "poor, scholar," it exceeded belief; for he was friendless and unprotected. But though legal prosecutions in those days were never resorted to, yet, according to the characteristic notions of Irish retributive justice, certain cases occurred, in which a signal, and at times, a fatal vengeance was executed on the person of the brutal master. Sometimes the brothers and other relatives of the mutilated child would come in a body to the school, and flog the pedagogue with his own taws, until his back was lapped in blood. Sometimes they would beat him until few symptoms of life remained.
Occasionally he would get a nocturnal notice to quit the parish in a given time, under a penalty which seldom proved a dead letter in case of non-compliance. Not unfrequently did those whom he had, when boys, treated with such barbarity, go back to him, when young men, not so much for education's sake, as for the especial purpose of retaliating upon him for his former cruelty. When cases of this nature occurred, he found himself a mere cipher in his school, never daring to practise excessive severity in their presence. Instances have come to our own knowledge, of masters, who, for their mere amusement, would go out to the next hedge, cut a large branch of furze or thorn, and having first carefully arranged the children on a row round the walls of the school, their naked legs stretched out before them, would sweep round the branch, bristling with spikes and prickles, with all his force against their limbs, until, in a few minutes, a circle of blood was visible on the ground where they sat, their legs appearing as if they had been scarified. This the master did, whenever he happened to be drunk, or in a remarkably good humor. The poor children, however, were obliged to laugh loud, and enjoy it, though the tears were falling down their cheeks, in consequence of the pain he inflicted. To knock down a child with the fist, was considered nothing harsh; nor, if a boy were, cut, or prostrated by a blow of a cudgel on the head, did he ever think of representing the master's cruelty to his parents. Kicking on the shins with a point of a brogue or shoe, bound round the edge of the sole with iron nails, until the bone was laid open, was a common punishment; and as for the usual slapping, horsing, and flogging, they were inflicted with a brutality that in every case richly deserved for the tyrant, not only a peculiar whipping by the hand of the common executioner, but a separation from civilized society by transportation for life. It is a fact, however, that in consequence of the general severity practised in hedge schools, excesses of punishment did not often produce retaliation against the master; these were only exceptions, isolated cases that did not affect the general character of the discipline in such schools.
Now when we consider the total absence of all moral and religious principles in these establishments, and the positive presence of all that was wicked, cruel, and immoral, need we be surprised that occasional crimes of a dark and cruel character should be perpetrated? The truth is, that it is difficult to determine, whether unlettered ignorance itself were not preferable to the kind of education which the people then received.
I am sorry to perceive the writings of many respectable persons on Irish topics imbued with a tinge of spurious liberality, that frequently occasions them to depart from truth. To draw the Irish character as it is, as the model of all that is generous, hospitable, and magnanimous, is in some degree fashionable; but although I am as warm an admirer of all that is really excellent and amiable in my countrymen as any man, yet I cannot, nor will I, extenuate their weak and indefensible points. That they possess the elements of a noble and exalted national character, I grant; nay, that they actually do possess such a character, under limitations, I am ready to maintain. Irishmen, setting aside their religious and political prejudices, are grateful, affectionate, honorable, faithful, generous, and even magnanimous; but under the stimulus of religious and political feeling, they are treacherous, cruel, and inhuman—will murder, burn, and exterminate, not only without compunction, but with a satanic delight worthy of a savage. Their education, indeed, was truly barbarous; they were trained and habituated to cruelty, revenge, and personal hatred, in their schools. Their knowledge was directed to evil purposes—disloyal principles were industriously insinuated into their minds by their teachers, most of whom were leaders of illegal associations. The matter placed in their hands was of a most inflammatory and pernicious nature, as regarded politics: and as far as religion and morality were concerned, nothing could be more gross or superstitious than the books which circulated among them. Eulogiums on murder, robbery, and theft were read with delight in the histories of Freney the Robber, and the Irish Rogues and Rapparees; ridicule of the Word of God, and hatred to the Protestant religion, in a book called Ward's Cantos, written in Hudi-brastic verse; the downfall of the Protestant Establishment, and the exaltation of the Romish Church, in Columbkill's Prophecy, and latterly in that of Pastorini. Gross superstitions, political and religious ballads of the vilest doggerel, miraculous legends of holy friars persecuted by Protestants, and of signal vengeance inflicted by their divine power on those who persecuted them, were in the mouths of the young and old, and of course firmly fixed in their credulity.
Their weapons of controversy were drawn from the Fifty Reasons, the Doleful Fall of Andrew Sail, the Catholic Christian, the Grounds of Catholic Doctrine, a Net for the Fishers of Men, and several other publications of the same class. The books of amusement read in these schools, including the first-mentioned in this list, were, the Seven Champions of Christendom, the Seven Wise Masters and Mistresses of Rome, Don Belianis of Greece, the Royal Fairy Tales, the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, Valentine and Orson, Gesta Romanorum, Dorastus and Faunia, the History of Reynard the Fox, the Chevalier Faublax; to these I may add, the Battle of Auhrim, Siege of Londonderry, History of the Young Ascanius, a name by which the Pretender was designated, and the Renowned History of the Siege of Troy; the Forty Thieves, Robin Hood's Garland, the Garden of Love and Royal Flower of Fidelity, Parismus and Parismenos; along with others, the names of which shall not appear on these pages. With this specimen of education before our eyes, is it not extraordinary that the people of Ireland should be in general, so moral and civilized a people as they are?
"Thady Bradly, will you come up wid your slate, till I examine you in your figures? Go out, sir, and blow your nose first, and don't be after making a looking-glass out of the sleeve of your jacket. Now that Thady's out, I'll hould you, boys, that none of yez knows how to expound his name—eh? do ye? But I needn't ax—well, 'tis Thaddeus; and, maybe, that's as much as the priest that christened him knew. Boys, you see what it is to have the larnin'—to lade the life of a gintleman, and to be able to talk deeply wid the clargy! Now I could run down any man in arguin', except a priest; and if the Bishop was after consecratin' me, I'd have as much larnin' as some of them; but you see I'm not consecrated—and—well, 'tis no matther—I only say that the more's the pity."
"Well, Thady, when did you go into subtraction?"
"The day beyond yesterday, sir; yarra musha, sure 'twas yourself, sir, that shet me the first sum."
"Masther, sir, Thady Bradly stole my cutter—that's my cutter, Thady Bradly."
"No it's not" (in a low voice).
"Sir, that's my cutter—an' there's three nicks in id."
"Thady, is that his cutter?"
"There's your cutter for you. Sir, I found it on the flure and didn't know who own'd it."
"You know'd very well who own'd it; didn't Dick Martin see you liftin' it off o' my slate, when I was out?"
"Well, if Dick Martin saw him, it's enough: an' 'tis Dick that's the tindher-hearted boy, an' would knock, you down wid a lump of a stone, if he saw you murdherin' but a fly!"
"We'll, Thady—throth Thady, I fear you'll undherstand subtraction better nor your teacher: I doubt you'll apply it to 'Practice' all your life, ma bouchal, and that you'll be apt to find it 'the Rule of False'* at last. Well, Thady, from one thousand pounds, no shillings, and no pince, how will you subtract one pound? Put it down on your slate—this way,
The name of a 'Rule' in Gough's Arithmetic.
1000 00 00
1 00 00"
"I don't know how to shet about it, masther."
"You don't, an' how dare you tell me so you shingaun you—you Cornelius Agrippa you—go to your sate and study it, or I'll—ha! be off, you."—
"Pierce Butler, come up wid your multiplication. Pierce, multiply four hundred by two—put it down—that's it,
"Twice nought is one." (Whack, whack.)
"Take that as an illustration—is that one?"
"Faith, masther, that's two, any how: but, sir, is not wanst nought nothin'; now masher, sure there can't be less than nothin'."
"Very good, sir."
"If wanst nought be nothin', then twice nought must be somethin', for it's double what wanst nought is—see how I'm sthruck for nothin', an' me knows it—hoo! hoo! hoo!
"Get out, you Esculapian; but I'll give you somethin', by-and-by, just to make you remimber that you know nothin'—off wid you to your sate, you spalpeen you—to tell me that there can't be less than nothin' when it's well known that sporting Squaire O'Canter's worth a thousand pounds less than nothin'."
"Paddy Doran, come up to your 'Intherest.' Well Paddy, what's the intherest of a hundred pound, at five per cent? Boys, have manners you thieves you."
"Do you mane, masther, per cent, per annum?"
"To be sure I do—how do you state it?"
"I'll say, as a hundher pound is to one year, so is five per cent, per annum."
"Hum—why what's the number of the sum Paddy?"
"'Tis No. 84, sir. (The master steals a glance at the Key to Gough.)
"I only want to look at it in the Gough, you see, Paddy,—an' how dare you give me such an answer, you big-headed dunce, you—go off an' study it, you rascally Lilliputian—off wid you, and don't let me see your ugly mug till you know it."
"Now, gintlemen, for the Classics; and first for the Latinaarians—Larry Cassidy, come up wid your Aisop. Larry you're a year at Latin, an' I don't think you know Latin for frize, what your own coat is made of, Larry. But, in the first place, Larry, do you know what a man that taiches Classics is called?"
"A schoolmasther, sir." (Whack, whack, whack.).
"Take that for your ignorance—and that to the back of it—ha; that'll taiche you—to call a man that taiches Classics a schoolmaster, indeed! 'Tis a Profissor of Humanity itself, he is—(whack, whack, whack,)—ha! you ringleader, you; you're as bad as Dick M'Growler, that no masther in the county could get any good of, in regard that he put the whole school together by the ears, wherever he'd be, though the spalpeen wouldn't stand fight himself. Hard fortune to you! to go to put such an affront upon me, an' me a Profissor of Humanity. What's Latin for pantaloons?"
"No, it's not, sir."
"Can you do it?"
"Don't strike me, sir, don't strike me, sir, an' I will."
"I say, can you do it?"
"Femorali,"—(whack, whack, whack,)—
"Ah, sir! ah, sir! 'tis fermorali—ah, sir! 'tis fermorali—ah, sir!"—
"This thratement to a Profissor of Humanity—(drives him head over heels to his seat).—Now, sir, maybe you'll have Latin for throwsers agin, or by my sowl, if you don't, you must peel, and I'll tache you what a Profissor of Humanity is!
"Dan Roe, you little starved-looking spalpeen, will you come up to your Elocution?—and a purty figure you cut at it, wid a voice like a penny thrumpet, Dan! Well, what speech have you got now, Dan, ma bouchal. Is it, 'Romans, counthrymin, and lovers?'"
"No, shir; yarrah, didn't I spake that speech before?"
"No, you didn't, you fairy. Ah, Dan, little as you are, you take credit for more than ever you spoke, Dan, agrah; but, faith, the same thrick will come agin you some time or other, avick! Go and get that speech betther; I see by your face, you haven't it; off wid you, and get a patch upon your breeches, your little knees are through them, though 'tisn't by prayin' you've wore them, any how, you little hop-o'-my-thumb you, wid a voice like a rat in a thrap; off wid you, man alive!"
Sometimes the neighboring gentry used to call into Mat's establishment, moved probably by a curiosity excited by his character, and the general conduct of the school. On one occasion Squire Johnston and an English gentleman paid him rather an unexpected visit. Mat had that morning got a new scholar, the son of a dancing tailor in the neighborhood; and as it was reported that the son was nearly equal to the father in that accomplishment, Mat insisted on having a specimen of his skill. He was the more anxious on this point as it would contribute to the amusement of a travelling schoolmaster, who had paid him rather a hostile visit, which Mat, who dreaded a literary challenge, feared might occasion him some trouble.
"Come up here, you little sartor, till we get a dacent view of you. You're a son of Ned Malone's—aren't you?"
"Yes, and of Mary Malone, my mother, too, sir."
"Why, thin, that's not so bad, any how—what's your name?"
"Now, Dick, ma bouchal, isn't it true that you can dance a horn-pipe?"
"Here, Larry Brady, take the door off the hinges, an' lay it down on the flure, till Dick Malone dances the Humors of Glynn: silence, boys, not a word; but just keep lookin' an."
"Who'll sing, sir? for I can't be afther dancin' a step widout the music."
"Boys, which of yez'll sing for Dick? I say, boys, will none of yez give Dick the Harmony? Well, come, Dick, I'll sing for you myself:
"Tooral lol, lorral lol, lorral lol, lorral, lol— Toldherol, lorral lol, lorral lol, lol," etc., etc.
"I say, Misther Kavanagh," said the strange master, "what angle does Dick's heel form in the second step of the treble, from the kibe on the left foot to the corner of the door forninst him?"
To this mathematical poser Mat made no reply, only sang the tune with redoubled loudness and strength, whilst little Dicky pounded the old crazy door with all his skill and alacrity. The "boys" were delighted.
"Bravo, Dick, that's a man,—welt the flure—cut the buckle—murder the clocks—rise upon suggaun, and sink upon gad—-down the flure flat, foot about—keep one foot on the ground and t'other never off it," saluted him from all parts of the house.
Sometimes he would receive a sly hint, in a feigned voice, to call for "Devil stick the Fiddler," alluding to the master. Now a squeaking voice would chime in; by and by another, and so on until the master's bass had a hundred and forty trebles, all in chorus to the same tune.
Just at this moment the two gentlemen altered; and, reader, you may conceive, but I cannot describe, the face which Mat (who sat with his back to the door, and did not; see them until they were some time in the house), exhibited on the occasion. There he sung ore rotundo, throwing forth an astonishing tide of voice; whilst little Dick, a thin, pale-faced urchin, with his head, from which the hair stood erect, sunk between his hollow shoulders, was performing prodigious feats of agility.
"What's the matter? what's the matter?" said the gentlemen. "Good morning, Mr. Kavanagh!"
——Tooral lol, lol——
Oh, good—-Oh, good morning—-gintlemen, with extrame kindness," replied Mat, rising suddenly up, but not removing his hat, although the gentlemen instantly uncovered.
"Why, thin, gintlemen," he continued, "you have caught us in our little relaxations to-day; but—hem!—I mane to give the boys a holiday for the sake of this honest and respectable gintleman in the frize jock, who is not entirely ignorant, you persave, of litherature; and we had a small taste, gintlemen, among ourselves, of Sathurnalian licentiousness, ut ita dicam, in regard of—hem!—in regard of this lad here, who was dancing a hornpipe upon the door, and we, in absence of betther music, had to supply him with the harmony; but, as your honors know, gintlemen, the greatest men have bent themselves on espacial occasions."
"Make no apology, Mr. Kavanagh; it's very commendable in you to bend yourself by condescending to amuse your pupils."
"I beg your pardon, Squire, I can take freedoms with you; but perhaps the concomitant gentleman, your friend here, would be pleased to take my stool. Indeed, I always use a chair, but the back of it, if I may, be permitted the use of a small portion of jocularity, was as frail as the fair sect: it went home yisterday to be mended. Do, sir, condescind to be sated. Upon my reputation, Squire, I'm sorry that I have not accommodation for you, too, sir; except one of these hassocks, which, in joint considheration with the length of your honor's legs, would be, I anticipate, rather low; but you, sir, will honor me by taking the stool."
By considerable importunity he forced the gentleman to comply with his courtesy; but no sooner had he fixed himself upon the seat than it overturned, and stretched him, black coat and all, across a wide concavity in the floor nearly filled up with white ashes produced from mountain turf. In a moment he was completely white on one side, and exhibited a most laughable appearance; his hat, too, was scorched and nearly burned on the turf coals. Squire Johnston laughed heartily, so did the other schoolmaster, whilst the Englishman completely lost his temper—swearing that such another uncivilized establishment was not between the poles.
"I solemnly supplicate upwards of fifty pardons," said Mat; "bad manners to it for a stool! but, your honor, it was my own detect of speculation, bekase, you see, it's minus a leg—a circumstance of which you waren't wi a proper capacity to take cognation, its not being personally acquainted with it. I humbly supplicate upwards of fifty pardons."
The Englishman was now nettled, and determined to wreak his ill-temper on Mat, by turning him and his establishment into ridicule.
"Isn't this, Mister ——— I forget your name, sir."
"Mat Kavanagh, at your sarvice."
"Very well, my learned friend, Mr. Mat Kevanagh, isn't this precisely what is called a hedge-school?"
"A hedge-school!" replied Mat, highly offended; "my seminary a hedge-school! No, sir; I scorn the cognomen in toto. This, sir, is a Classical and Mathematical Seminary, under the personal superintendence of your humble servant."
"Sir," replied the other master, who till then was silent, wishing, perhaps, to sack Mat in presence of the gentlemen, "it is a hedge-school; and he is no scholar, but an ignoramus, whom I'd sack in three minutes, that would be ashamed of a hedge-school."
"Ay," says Mat, changing his tone, and taking the cue from his friend, whose learning he dreaded, "it's just for argument's sake, a hedge-school; and, what is more, I scorn to be ashamed of it."
"And do you not teach occasionally under the hedge behind the house here?"
"Granted," replied Mat; "and now where's your vis consequentiae?"
"Yes," subjoined the other, "produce your vis consequentiae; but any one may know by a glance that the divil a much of it's about you."
The Englishman himself was rather at a loss for the vis consequentiae, and replied, "Why don't you live, and learn, and teach like civilized beings, and not assemble like wild asses—pardon me, my friend, for the simile—at least like wild colts, in such clusters behind the ditches?"
"A clusther of wild coults!" said Mat; "that shows what you are; no man of classical larnin' would use such a word. If you had stuck at the asses, we know it's a subject you're at home in—ha! ha! ha!—but you brought the joke on yourself, your honor—that is, if it is a joke—ha! ha! ha!"
"Permit me, sir," replied the strange master, "to ax your honor one question—did you receive a classical education? Are you college-bred?"
"Yes," replied the Englishman; "I can reply to both in the affirmative. I'm a Cantabrigian."
"You are a what?" asked Mat.
"I am a Cantabrigian."
"Come, sir, you must explain yourself, if you plase. I'll take my oath that's neither a classical nor a mathematical tarm."
The gentleman smiled. "I was educated in the English College of Cambridge."
"Well," says Mat, "and may be you would be as well off if you had picked up your larnin' in our own Thrinity; there's good picking in Thrinity, for gentlemen like you, that are sober, and harmless about the brains, in regard of not being overly bright."
"You talk with contempt of a hedge-school," replied the other master. "Did you never hear, for all so long as you war in Cambridge, of a nate little spot in Greece called the groves of Academus?
"'Inter lucos Academi quarrere verum.'
"What was Plato himself but a hedge schoolmaster? and, with humble submission, it casts no slur on an Irish tacher to be compared to him, I think. You forget also, sir, that the Dhruids taught under their oaks: eh?"
"Ay," added Mat, "and the Tree of Knowledge, too. Faith, an' if that same tree was now in being, if there wouldn't be hedge schoolmasters, there would be plenty of hedge scholars, any how—particularly if the fruit was well tasted."
"I believe, Millbank, you must give in," said Squire Johnston. "I think you have got the worst of it."
"Why," said Mat, "if the gintleman's not afther bein' sacked clane, I'm not here."
"Are you a mathematician?" inquired Mat's friend, determined to follow up his victory; "do you know Mensuration?"
"Come, I do know Mensuration," said the Englishman, with confidence.
"And how would you find the solid contents of a load of thorns?"
"Ay, or how will you consther and parse me this sintince?" said Mat—
"'Ragibus et clotibus solemus stopere windous, Non numerus sumus et fruges consumere nati, Stercora flat stiro raro terra-tanfcaro bungo.'"
"Aisy, Mister Kavanagh," replied the other; "let the Cantabrigian resolve the one I propounded him first."
"And let the Cantabrigian then take up mine," said Mat: "and if he can expound it, I'll give him a dozen more to bring home in his pocket, for the Cambridge folk to crack after their dinner, along wid their nuts."
"Can you do the 'Snail?'" inquired the stranger..
"Or 'A and B on opposite sides of a wood,' without the Key?" said Mat.
"Maybe," said the stranger, who threw off the frize jock, and exhibited a muscular frame of great power, cased in an old black coat—"maybe the gintleman would like to get a small taste of the 'Scuffle'"
"Not at all," replied the Englishman; "I have not the least curiosity for it—I assure you I have not. What the deuce do they mean, Johnston? I hope you have influence over them."
"Hand me down that cudgel, Jack Brady, till I show the gintleman the 'Snail' and the 'Maypole,'" said Mat.
"Never mind, my lad; never mind, Mr ———a———Kevanagh. I give up the contest; I resign you the palm, gentlemen. The hedge school has beaten Cambridge hollow."
"One poser more before you go, sir," said Mat—"Can you give me Latin for a game-egg in two words?"
"Eh, a game egg? No, by my honor, I cannot—gentlemen, I yield."
"Ay, I thought so," replied Mat; "and, faith, I believe the divil a much of the game bird about you—you bring it home to Cambridge, anyhow, and let them chew their cuds upon it, you persave; and, by the sowl of Newton, it will puzzle the whole establishment, or my name's not Kavanagh."
"It will, I am convinced," replied the gentleman, eyeing the herculean frame of the strange teacher and the substantial cudgel in Mat's hand; "it will, undoubtedly. But who is this most miserable naked lad here, Mr. Kevanagh?"
"Why, sir," replied Mat, with his broad Milesian face, expanded by a forthcoming joke, "he is, sir, in a sartin and especial particularity, a namesake of your own."
"How is that, Mr. Kevanagh?"
"My name's not Kevanagh," replied Mat, "but Kavanagh; the Irish A for ever!"
"Well, but how is the lad a namesake of mine?" said the Englishman.
"Bekase, you see, he's a, poor scholar, sir," replied Mat: "an' I hope your honor will pardon me for the facetiousness—
'Quid vetat ridentem dicere verum!'
as Horace says to Maecenas, in the first of the Sathirs."
"There, Mr. Kavanagh, is the price of a suit of clothes for him."
"Michael, will you rise up, sir, and make the gintleman a bow? he has given you the price of a shoot of clothes, ma bouchal."
Michael came up with a very tattered coat hanging about him; and, catching his forelock, bobbed down his head after the usual manner, saying—"Musha yarrah, long life to your honor every day you rise, an' the Lord grant your sowl a short stay in purgatory, wishin' ye, at the same time, a happy death aftherwards!"
The gentleman could not stand this, but laughed so heartily that the argument was fairly knocked up.
It appeared, however, that Squire Johnston did not visit Mat's school from mere curiosity.
"Mr. Kavanagh," said he, "I would be glad to have a little private conversation with you, and will thank you to walk down the road a little with this gentleman and me."
When the gentlemen and Mat had gone ten or fifteen yards from the school door, the Englishman heard himself congratulated in the following phrases by the scholars:—
"How do you feel afther bein' sacked, gintleman? The masther sacked you! You're a purty scholar! It's not you, Mr. Johnston, it's the other. You'll come to argue agin, will you? Where's your head, Bah! Come back till we put the suggaun* about your neck. Bah! You now must go to school to Cambridge agin, before you can argue an Irisher! Look at the figure he cuts! Why duv ye put the one foot past the other, when ye walk, for? Bah! Dunce!"
* The suggaun was a collar of straw which was put round the necks of the dunces, who were then placed at the door, that their disgrace might be as public as possible.
"Well, boys, never heed yez for that," shouted Mat; "never fear but I'll castigate yez, ye spalpeen villains, as soon as I go back. Sir," said Mat, "I supplicate upwards of fifty pardons. I assure you, sir, I'll give them a most inordinate castigation, for their want of respectability."
"What's the Greek for tobaccy?" they continued—"or for Larry O'Toole? or for bletherum skite? How many beans makes five? What's the Latin for poteen, and flummery? You a mathemathitician! could you measure a snail's horn? How does your hat stay up and nothing undher it? Will you fight Barny Parrel wid one hand tied! I'd lick you myself! What's Greek for gosther?"—with many other expressions of a similar stamp.
"Sir," said Mat, "lave the justice of this in my hands. By the sowl of Newton, your own counthryman, ould Isaac, I'll flog the marrow out of them."
"You have heard, Mr. Kavanagh," continued Mr. Johnston, as they went along, "of the burning of Moore's stable and horses, the night before last. The fact is, that the magistrates of the county are endeavoring to get the incendiaries, and would render a service to any person capable, either directly or indirectly, of facilitating the object, or stumbling on a clew to the transaction."
"And how could I do you a sarvice in it, sir?" inquired Mat.
"Why," replied Mr. Johnston, "from the children. If you could sift them in an indirect way, so as, without suspicion, to ascertain the absence of a brother, or so, on that particular night, I might have it in my power to serve you, Mr. Kavanagh. There will be a large reward offered to-morrow, besides."
"Oh, damn the penny of the reward ever I'd finger, even if I knew the whole conflagration," said Mat; "but lave the siftin' of the children wid myself, and if I can get anything out of them you'll hear from me; but your honor must keep a close mouth, or you might have occasion to lend me the money for my own funeral some o' these days. Good-morning, gintlemen." The gentlemen departed.
"May the most ornamental kind of hard fortune pursue you every day you rise, you desavin' villain, that would have me turn informer, bekase your brother-in-law, rack-rintin' Moore's stables and horses were burnt; and to crown all, make the innocent childre the means of hanging their own fathers or brothers, you rap of the divil! but I'd see you and all your breed in the flames o' hell first." Such was Mat's soliloquy as he entered the school on his return.
"Now, boys, I'm afther givin' yez to-day and to-morrow for a holyday: to-morrow we will have our Gregory;* a fine faste, plinty of poteen, and a fiddle; and you will tell your brothers and sisters to come in the evening to the dance. You must bring plinty of bacon, hung beef, and fowls, bread and cabbage—not forgetting the phaties, and sixpence a-head for the crathur, boys, won't yez?"
The next day, of course, was one of festivity; every boy brought, in fact, as much provender as would serve six; but the surplus gave Mat some good dinners for three months to come. This feast was always held upon St. Gregory's day, from which circumstance it had its name. The pupils were at liberty for that day to conduct themselves as they pleased: and the consequence was, that they became generally intoxicated, and were brought home in that state to their parents. If the children of two opposite parties, chanced to be at the same school, they usually had a fight, of which the master was compelled to feign ignorance; for if he identified himself with either faction, his residence in the neighborhood would be short. In other districts, where Protestant schools were in existence, a battle-royal commonly took place between the opposite establishments, in some field lying half-way between them. This has often occurred.
Every one must necessarily be acquainted with the ceremony of barring out. This took place at Easter and Christmas. The master was brought or sent out on some fool's errand, the door shut and barricaded, and the pedagogue excluded, until a certain term of vacation was extorted. With this, however, the master never complied until all his efforts at forcing an entrance were found to be ineffectual; because if he succeeded in getting in, they not only had no claim to a long vacation, but were liable to be corrected. The schoolmaster had also generally the clerkship of the parish; an office, however, which in the country parts of Ireland is without any kind of salary, beyond what results from the patronage of the priest; a matter of serious moment to a teacher, who, should he incur his Reverence's displeasure, would be immediately driven out of the parish. The master, therefore, was always tyrannical and insolent to the people, in proportion as he stood high in the estimation of the priest. He was also a regular attendant at all wakes and funerals, and usually sat among a crowd of the village sages engaged in exhibiting his own learning, and in recounting the number of his religious and literary disputations.
One day, soon after the visit of the gentlemen above mentioned, two strange men came into Mat's establishment—rather, as Mat thought, in an unceremonious manner.
"Is your name Matthew Kavanagh?" said one of them.
"That is indeed the name that's upon me," said Mat, with rather an infirm voice, whilst his face got as pale as ashes.
"Well," said the fellow, "we'll just trouble you to walk with us a bit."
"How far, with submission, are yez goin' to bring me?" said Mat.
"Do you know Johnny Short's hotel?"*
* The county jail.—Johnny Short was for many years the Governor of Monaghan jail. It was to him the Mittimus of "Fool Art," mentioned in Phelim O'Toole's Courtship, was directed. If the reader will suspend his curiosity, that is, provided he feels any, until he comes to the sketch just mentioned, he will get a more ample account of Johnny Short.
"My curse upon you, Findramore," exclaimed Mat, in a paroxysm of anguish, "every day you rise! but your breath's unlucky to a schoolmaster; and it's no lie what was often said, that no schoolmaster ever thruv in you, but something ill came over him."
"Don't curse the town, man alive," said the constable, "but curse your own ignorance and folly; any way, I wouldn't stand in your coat for the wealth of the three kingdoms. You'll undoubtedly swing, unless you turn king's evidence. It's about Moore's business, Mr. Kavanagh."
"Damn the bit of that I'd do, even if I knew anything about it; but, God be praised for it, I can set them all at defiance—that I'm sure of. Gentlemen, innocence is a jewel."
"But Barny Brady, that keeps the shebeen house—you know him—is of another opinion. You and some of the Pindramore boys took a sup in Barny's on a sartin night?"
"Ay, did we, on many a night, and will agin, plase Providence—no harm in takin' a sup any how—by the same token, that may be you and yer friend here would have a drop of rale stuff, as a thrate from me?"
"I know a thrick worth two of that," said the man; "I thank ye kindly, Mr. Kavanagh."
One Tuesday morning, about six weeks after this event, the largest crowd ever remembered in that neighborhood was assembled at Findramore Hill, whereon had been erected a certain wooden machine, yclept—a gallows. A little after the hour of eleven o'clock two carts were descried winding slowly down a slope in the southern side of the town and church, which I have already mentioned, as terminating the view along the level road north of the hill. As soon as they were observed, a low, suppressed ejaculation of horror ran through the crowd, painfully perceptible to the ear—in the expression of ten thousand murmurs all blending into one deep groan—and to the eye, by a simultaneous motion that ran through the crowd like an electric shock. The place of execution was surrounded by a strong detachment of military; and the carts that conveyed the convicts were also strongly guarded.
As the prisoners approached the fatal spot, which was within sight of the place where the outrage had been perpetrated, the shrieks and lamentations of their relations and acquaintances were appalling indeed. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, and all persons to the most remote degree of kindred and acquaintanceship, were present—all excited by the alternate expression of grief and low-breathed vows of retaliation; not only relations, but all who were connected with them by the bonds of their desperate and illegal oaths. Every eye, in fact, coruscated with a wild and savage fire, that shot from under brows knit in a spirit that deemed to cry out Blood, vengeance—blood, vengeance! The expression was truly awful; all what rendered it more terrific was the writhing reflection, that numbers and physical force were unavailing against a comparatively small body of armed troops. This condensed the fiery impulse of the moment into an expression of subdued rage, that really shot like livid gleams from their visages.
At length the carts stopped under the gallows; and, after a short interval spent in devotional exercise, three of the culprits ascended the platform, who, after recommending themselves to God, and avowing their innocence, although the clearest possible evidence of guilt had been brought against them, were launched into another life, among the shrieks and groans of the multitude. The other three then ascended; two of them either declined, or had not strength to address the assembly. The third advanced to the edge of the boards—it was Mat. After two or three efforts to speak, in which he was unsuccessful from bodily weakness, he at length addressed them as follows:—
"My friends and good people—In hopes that you may be all able to demonstrate the last proposition laid down by a dying man, I undertake to address you before I depart to that world where Euclid, De Cartes, and many other larned men are gone before me. There is nothing in all philosophy more true than that, as the multiplication-table says, 'two and two makes four;' but it is equally veracious and worthy of credit, that if you do not abnegate this system that you work the common rules of your proceedings by—if you don't become loyal men, and give up burnin' and murdherin', the solution of it will be found on the gallows. I acknowledge myself to be guilty, for not separatin' myself clane from yez; we have been all guilty, and may God forgive thim that jist now departed wid a lie in their mouth."
Here he was interrupted by a volley of execrations and curses, mingled with "stag, informer, thraithor to the thrue cause!" which, for some time, compelled him to be silent.
"You may curse," continued Mat; "but it's too late now to abscond the truth—the sum of my wickedness and folly is worked out, and you see the answer. God forgive me, many a young crathur I enticed into the Ribbon business, and now it's to ind in Hemp. Obey the law; or, if you don't you will find a lex talionis the construction of which is, that if a man burns or murdhers he won't miss hanging; take warning by me—by us all; for, although I take God to witness that I was not at the perpetration of the crime that I'm to be suspinded for, yet I often connived, when I might have superseded the carrying of such intuitions into effectuality. I die in pace wid all the world, save an' except the Findramore people, whom, may the maledictionary execration of a dying man follow into eternal infinity! My manuscription of conic sections—" Here an extraordinary buz commenced among the crowd, which rose gradually into a shout of wild, astounding exultation. The sheriff followed the eyes of the multitude, and perceived a horseman dashing with breathless fury up towards the scene of execution. He carried and waved a white handkerchief on the end of a rod, and made signals with his hat to stop the execution. He arrived, and brought a full pardon for Mat, and a commutation of sentence to transportation for life for the other two. What became of Mat I know not; but in Findramore he never dared to appear, as certain death would have been the consequence of his not dying game. With respect to Barny Brady, who kept the shebeen, and was the principal evidence against those who were concerned in this outrage, he was compelled to enact an ex tempore death in less than a month afterwards; having been found dead, with a slip of paper in his mouth, inscribed—"This is the fate of all Informers."
* * * * *
(Note to page 834.)
The Author, in order to satisfy his readers that the character of Mat Kavanagh as a hedge schoolmaster is not by any means overdrawn, begs to subjoin (verbatim) the following authentic production of one, which will sufficiently explain itself, and give an excellent notion of the mortal feuds and jealousies which subsist between persons of this class:—
"To the Public.—Having read a printed Document, emanating, as it were, from a vile, mean, and ignorant miscreant of the name of ———, calumniating and vituperating me; it is evidently the production of a vain, supercilious, disappointed, frantic, purblind maniac of the name of ———, a bedlamite to all intents and purposes, a demon in the disguise of virtue, and a herald of hell in the paradise of innocence, possessing neither principle, honor, nor honesty; a vain and vapid creature whom nature plumed out for the annoyance of ——— and its vicinity.
"It is well known and appreciated by an enlightened and discerning public, that I am as competently qualified to conduct the duties of a Schoolmaster as any Teacher in Munster. (Here I pause, stimulated by dove-eyed humility, and by the fine and exalted feelings of nature, to make a few honorable exceptions, particularly when I memorize the names and immortal fame of a Mr. ———, a Mr.————-, a Mr. ————-, a Mr.————-, a Mr. ————-, a Mr. ————, ————-; a Mr. Matt. ————-, ————-; a Mr.————-, ————-; and many other stars of the first magnitude, too numerous for insertion).
"The notorious impostor and biped animal already alluded to, actuated by an overweening desire of notoriety, and in order to catch the applause of some one, grovelling in the morasses of insignificance and vice, like himself, leaves his native obscurity, and indulges in falsehood, calumny, and defamation. I am convinced that none of the highly respectable Teachers of ———— has had any participation in this scurrilous transaction, as I consider them to be sober, moral, exemplary well-conducted men, possessed of excellent literary abilities; but this expatriated ruffian and abandoned profligate, being aware of the marked and unremitting attention which I have heretofore invariably paid to the scholars committed to my care, and the astonishing proficiency which, generally speaking, will be an accompaniment of competency, instruction, assiduity and perseverance, devised this detestable and fiendish course in order to tarnish and injure my unsullied character, it being generally known and justly acknowledged that I never gave utterance to an unguarded word—that I have always conducted myself as a man of inoffensive, mild, and gentle habits, of unblemished moral character, and perfectly sensible of the importance of inculcating on the young mind, moral and religious instruction, a love of decency, cleanliness, industry, honesty, and truth—that my only predominant fault some years ago, consisted in partaking of copious libations of the 'Moantain Dew,' which I shall for ever mourn with heartfelt compunction.—But I return thanks to the Great God, for more than eighteen months my lips have not partaken of that infuriating beverage to which I was unfortunately attached, and my habitual propensity vanished at the sanctified and ever-memorable sign of the cross—the memento of man's lofty destination, and miraculous injunction, of the great, illustrious, and never-to-be-forgotten Apostle of Temperance. I am now an humble member of this exemplary and excellent society, which is engaged in the glorious and hallowed cause of promoting Temperance, with the zealous solicitude of parents.—I am one of these noble men, because they are sober men, who have triumphed over their habits, conquered their passions, and put their predominant propensities to flight; yes, kind-hearted, magnanimous, and lofty high, minded conqueror, I have to announce to you that I have gained repeated victories, and consigned to oblivion the hydra-headed monster, Intemperance; and in consequence of which, have been consigned from poverty and misery, to affluence and happiness, possessing 'ready rino,' or ample pecuniary means to make one comfortable and happy thereby enjoying 'the feast of reason and the flow of soul,' i.e.,—an honest, cozy warm, comfortable cup of tea, to consign my drooping, sober, and cheerful spirits into the flow of soul, and philosophy of pleasure. I, therefore, do feel I hid no occasion to speak a word in vindication of my conduct and character. A conspiracy in embryo, formed by a triumvirate, was brought to maturity by as experienced a calumniator, as Canty, the Hangman from Cork, was in the discharge of his functions, when in the situation of municipal officer; and the hoary-headed cadman and crack-brained Pedagogue was appointed a necessary evil vehicle for industriously circulating said maniac calumny. Why did not this base Plebeian, anterior to his giving publicity to the tartaric nausea that rankled at his gloomy heart, forward the corroding philippic, and bid defiance to my contradiction? No, no; he knew full well that with his scanty stock of English ammunition scattered over the sterile floor of his literary magazine, he could not have the effrontery, impudence, or presumption to enter the list of philosophical and scientific disputation with one who has traversed the thorny paths of literature, explored its mazy windings, and who is thoroughly and radically fortified, as being encompassed with the impenetrable shield of genuine science. This red, hot, fiery, unguarded locust, in the inanity of his mind's incomprehensibleness, has not only incurred my displeasure by his satirical dogged Lampoons, etc., but the abhorrence, animosity, and holy indignation of many who move in the high circle, as well as the ineffable contempt of the majority of those good and useful members of society, who are engaged in the glorious and delightful task of 'teaching the young idea how to shoot,' and forming the mind to rectitude of conduct; and whose labors are tremendous—I speak from long and considerable experience in scholastic pursuits. I am as perfectly aware as any man of the friendly intercourse, urbanity, and social reciprocation of kindness and demeanor that ought to exist among Teachers;—and, in a word, that they should be like the sun and moon—receptacles of each other's light. But these malicious, ignorant, callous-hearted traducers finding it perfectly congenial to their usual habits, and perhaps feeling no remorse of conscience in departing from those principles which must always accompany men of education, carry into effect their scheme of wanton, atrocious, and deliberate falsehood. And accordingly, in pursuance of their infernal piece of villainy, one of them being sensible of being held in contempt and ridicule by an enlightened public—whose approbation alone is the true criterion by which Teachers ought to be sanctioned, countenanced, and patronized—incited, ordered, and directed, the aforesaid Lampooner—a reckless, heartless, illiterate, evil-minded ghost, yes my friends an evil-spirit, created by the wrath of God—to pour out the rigmarole effusions of his silly and contemptible lucubrations. It is a well-known fact, that this vile calumniator is the shame, the disgrace, the opprobrium, and brand of detestation; the sacrilegious and perjured outcast of society, who would cut any man's throat for one glass of the soul-destroying beverage. This accursed viper and well-known hobgoblin, labors under a complication of maladies: at one time you might see him leaving the Court-house of with the awful crime of perjury depicted in capital letters on his forehead, and indelibly engraven in the recesses of his heart, considering that every tongueless object was eloquent of his woe, and at periods laboring under a semi-perspicuous, semi-opaque, gutta-serena, attended with an acute palpitation of his pericranium, and a most tormenting delirium of intellects from which he finds not the least mitigation until he consopiates his optics under the influence of Morpheus. There are ties of affinity and consanguinity existing between this manfacturer of atrocious falsehoods and barefaced calumnies, and a Jack-Ass, which ties cannot be easily dissolved, the affinity or similitude is perceptible to an indifferent observer in the accent, pronunciation, modulation of the voice of the biped animal, and in the braying of the quadruped. This Jack-Ass you might also behold perambulating the streets of ———, a second Judas Iscariot—a houseless, homeless, penniless, forlorn fugitive, like Old Nick or Beelzebub, seeking whom he might betray and injure in the public estimation, in rapacity, or in discharging a blunderbuss full of falsehood against the most pure and unimpeachable Member of society! Is it not astonishing this wretched, braying, incorrigible mendicant does not put on a more firm and unalterable resolution of taking pattern by, and living in accordance with the laudable and exemplary habits of members of the Literatii, the ornament of which learned body is the Rev. Dr. King, of Ennis College, a gentleman by birth, by principles, and more than all, a gentleman by education; whose mind is pregnant with inexhaustible stores of classical and mathematical lore, entertainment and knowledge; whose learning and virtues have shed a lustre on the human kind; a gentleman possessing almost superhuman talents. No, he must persevere and run in his accustomed old course of abomination, slander, iniquity, and vice.
"In conclusion, to the R. C. Clergymen of ———, and the respectable portion of the laity, I return my ardent heartfelt thanks—to the former, who are the pious, active, and indefatigable instructors of the peasantry, their consolers in affliction, their resource in calamity, their preceptors and models in religion, the trustees of their interest, their visitors in sickness, and their companions on their beds of death; and from the latter I have experienced considerable gratitude in unison with all the other fine qualities inherent in their nature; while neither time nor place shall ever banish from my grateful I heart, their urbanity, hospitality, munificence, and kindness to me on every occasion.
"I have the honor to be their very devoted, much obliged, and grateful Servant,
"The itinerant cosmopolite, to use his own phraseology, accuses me with being lame—I reply, so was Lord Byron; and why not a 'Star from Dromcoloher' be similarly honored, for
If God, one member has oppress'd, He has made more perfect all the rest.
"The following poetic lines are to be inserted in reply to the doggerel composition of the equivocating and hoary champion of wilful and deliberate falsehood, and a compound of knavery, deception, villainy, and dissimulation, wherever he goes:—
"O'Kelly's my name, I think it no shame, Of sempiternal fame in that line, As for my being lame, The rest of my frame, Is somewhat superior to thine.
These addled head swains, Of paralyzed brains, Who charge me with corrupting youth, Are a perjuring pair, In Belzebub's chair, Stamped with disgrace and untruth."
We are obliged to omit some remarks that accompanied the following poetical effusion:—
"A book to the blind signifies not a feather, Whose look and whose mind chime both together, Boreas, pray blow this vile rogue o'er the terry, For he is a disgrace and a scandal to Kerry."
The writer of this, after passing the highest eulogium on the Rev. Mr. O'Kelly, P.P., Kilmichael, in speaking of him, says,
"In whom, the Heavenly virtues do unite, Serenely fair, in glowing colors bright, The shivering mendicant's attire, The stranger's friend, the orphan's sire, Benevolent and mild; The guide of youth, The light of truth, By all condignly styl'd."
A gentleman having applied for a transcript of this interesting document for his daughter, Mr. O'Kelly says, "This transcript is given with perfect cheerfulness, at the suggestion of the amiable, accomplished, highly-gifted, original genius, Miss Margaret Brew, of ————, to whom, with the most respectful deference, I take the liberty of applying the following most appropriate poetic lines:—
"Kilrush, a lovely spot of Erin's Isle, May you and your fair ones in rapture smile, By force of genius and superior wit, Any station in high life, they'd lit. Raise the praise worthy, in style unknown, Laud her, who has great merit of her own. Had I the talents of the bards of yore, I would touch my harp and sing for ever more, Of Miss Brew, unrivaled, and in her youth, The ornament of friendship, love and truth. That fair one, whose matchless eloquence divine, Finds out the sacred pores of man sublime, Tells us, a female of Kilrush doth shine. In point of language, eloquence, and ease, She equals the celebrated Dowes now-a-days, A splendid poetess—how sweet her verse, That which, without a blush, Downes might rehearse; Her throbbing breast the home of virtue rare, Her bosom, warm, loving and sincere, A mild fair one, the muses only care, Of learning, sense, true wit, and talents rare; Endless her fame, on golden wings she'd fly, Loud as the trumpet of the rolling sky.
"I avail myself of this opportunity, in the most humble posture, the pardon and indulgence of that nobleman of the most profound considerable talents, unbounded liberality, and genuine worth, Crofton M. Yandeleur, Esq., for the culpable omission, which I have incautiously and inadvertly made, in not prior to, and before all, tendered his honor, my warm hearted and best acknowledgments, and participating in the general joy, visible here on every countenance, occasioned by the restoration to excellent health, which his most humane, truly charitable, and illustrious beloved patroness of virtue and morality, Lady Grace T. Yandeleur, now enjoys May they very late, when they see their children, as well as their numerous, happy and contented tenantry, flourish around them in prosperity, virtue, honor, and independence—may they then resign their temporal care, to partake of the never-ending joys, glory, and felicity of Heaven; these are the fervent wishes and ardent prayers of their ever grateful servant,
"O rouse my muse and launch in praise forth, Dwell with delight, with extasy on worth; In these kind souls in conspicuous flows, Their liberal hands expelling-human woes. Tell, when dire want oppressed the needy poor, They drove the ghastly spectre from the door. Such noble actions yield more pure content, Than thousands squander'd or in banquets spent.
"I hope, kind and extremely patient reader, you will find my piece humorous, interesting, instructive, and edifying. In delineating and drawing to life the representation of my assailant, aggressor, and barefaced calumniator. I have preferred the natural order, free, and familiar style, to the artificial order, grave, solemn, and antiquated style; and in so doing, I have had occasion to have reference to the vocal metaphrase of some words. With a due circumspection of the use of their synonymy, taking care that the import and acceptation of each phrase and word should not appear frequently synonymous. Again. I have applied the whip unsparingly to his back, and have given him such a laudable castigation, as to compel him to comport himself in future with propriety and politeness; yes, it is quite obvious that I have done it, by an appropriate selection of catogoramatic and cencatogoramatic terms and words. I have been particularly careful to adorn it with some poetic spontaneous effusions, and although I own to you, that I have no pretensions to be an adept in poetry, as I have only moderately sipped of the Helicon Fountain; yet from my knowledge of Orthometry I can prove the correctness of it; by special and general metric analysis. In conclusion, I have not indulged in Rhetorical figures and Tropes, but have rigidly adhered to the use of figurative and literal language; finally I have used a concatination of appropriate mellifluous epithets, logically and philosophically accurate, copious, sublime, eloquent, and harmonious.
"Adieu! Adieu! Remember, JOHN O'KELLY, Literary Teacher, And a native of Dromcoloher."
"The author of this extempore production of writing a Treatise on Mental Calculations, to which are appended more than three hundred scientific, ingenious, and miscellaneous questions, with their solutions.
"Mental calculations for the first time are simplified, which will prove a grand desideratum and of the greatest importance in mercantile affairs.
"You will not wonder when I will ye, You have read some pieces from 0' Kelly; Halt he does, but 'tis no more Than Lord Byron did before; Read his pieces and you'll find There is no limping in his mind; Reader, give your kind subscription, Of you, he will give a grand description.
Price 2s., to be paid in advance,
"There are Sixty-eight Subscribers to the forthcoming work, gentlemen of considerable Talents, Liberality, and worth;—who, with perfect cheerfulness, have evinced a most laudable disposition to foster, encourage, and reward, a specimen of Irish Manufacture and Native Talent, in so humble a person as their extremely grateful, much obliged, and faithful servant,
THE MIDNIGHT MASS.
Frank M'Kenna was a snug farmer, frugal and industrious in his habits, and, what is rare amongst most men of his class, addicted to neither drink nor quarrelling. He lived at the skirt of a mountain, which ran up in long successive undulations, until it ended in a dark, abrupt peak, very perpendicular on one side, and always, except on a bright day, capped with clouds. Before his door lay a hard plain, covered only with a kind of bent, and studded with round gray rocks, protruding somewhat above its surface. Through this plain, over a craggy channel, ran a mountain torrent, that issued to the right of M'Kenna's house, from a rocky and precipitous valley which twisted itself round the base of the mountain until it reached the perpendicular side, where the peak actually overhung it. On looking either from the bottom of the valley or the top of the peak, the depth appeared immense; and, on a summer's day, when the black thorns and other hardy shrubs that in some placas clothed its rocky sides were green, to view the river sparkling below you in the sun, as it flung itself over two or three cataracts of great depth and boldness, filled the mind with those undefinable sensations of pleasure inseparable from a contemplation of the sublimities of nature. Nor did it possess less interest when beheld in the winter storm. Well do we remember, though then ignorant of our own motives, when we have, in the turmoil of the elements, climbed its steep, shaggy sides, disappearing like a speck, or something not of earth, among the dark clouds that rolled over its summit, for no other purpose than to stand upon its brow, and look down on the red torrent, dashing with impetuosity from crag to crag, whilst the winds roared, and the clouds flew in dark columns around us, giving to the natural wildness of the place an air of wilder desolation.—Beyond this glen the mountains stretched away for eight or ten miles in swelling masses, between which lay many extensive sweeps, well sheltered and abundantly stocked with game, particularly with hares and grouse. M'Kenna's house stood, as I said, at the foot of this mountain, just where the yellow surface of the plain began to darken into the deeper hues of the heath; to the left lay a considerable tract of stony land in a state of cultivation; and beyond the river, exactly opposite the house, rose a long line of hills, studded with houses, and in summer diversified with pasture and corn fields, the beauty of which was heightened by the columns of smoke that slanted across the hills, as the breeze carried them through the lucid haze of the atmosphere.
M'Kenna's family consisted of himself, his wife, two daughters, and two sons. One of these was a young man addicted to drink, idle, ill-tempered, and disobedient; seldom taking a part in the labors of the family, but altogether devoted to field sports, fairs, markets, and dances. In many parts of Ireland it is usual to play at cards for mutton, loaves, fowls, or whiskey, and he was seldom absent from such gambling parties, if held within a reasonable distance. Often had the other members of the family remonstrated with him on his idle and immoral courses; but their remonstrances only excited his bad passions, and produced, on his part, angry and exasperating language, or open determination to abandon the family altogether and enlist. For some years he went on in this way, a hardened, ungodly profligate, spurning the voice of reproof and of conscience, and insensible to the entreaties of domestic affection, or the commands of parental authority. Such was his state of mind and mode of life when our story opens.
At the time in which the incidents contained in this sketch took place, the peasantry of Ireland, being less encumbered with heavy rents, and more buoyant in spirits than the decay of national prosperity has of late permitted them to be, indulged more frequently, and to a greater stretch, in those rural sports and festivities so suitable to their natural love of humor and amusement. Dances, wakes, and weddings, were then held according to the most extravagant forms of ancient usage; the people were easier in their circumstances, and consequently indulged in them with lighter hearts, and a stronger relish for enjoyment. When any of the great festivals of their religion approached, the popular mind, unrepressed by poverty and national dissension, gradually elevated itself to a species of wild and reckless mirth, productive of incidents irresistibly ludicrous, and remarkably characteristic of Irish manners. It is not, however, to be expected, that a people whose love of fighting is so innate a principle in their disposition, should celebrate these festive seasons without an occasional crime, which threw its deep shadow over the mirthful character of their customs. Many such occurred; but they were looked upon then with a degree of horror and detestation of which we can form but a very inadequate idea at present.
It was upon the advent of one of those festivals—Christmas—which the family of M'Kenna, like every other family in the neighborhood, were making preparations to celebrate with the usual hilarity. They cleared out their barn in order to have a dance on Christmas-eve; and for this purpose, the two sons and the servant-man wrought with that kind of industry produced by the cheerful prospect of some happy event. For a week or fortnight before the evening on which the dance was appointed to be held, due notice of it had been given to the neighbors, and, of course, there was no doubt but that it would be numerously attended.
Christmas-eve, as the day preceding Christmas is called, has been always a day of great preparation and bustle. Indeed the whole week previous to it is also remarkable, as exhibiting the importance attached by the people to those occasions on which they can give a loose to their love of fun and frolic. The farm-house undergoes a thorough cleansing. Father and sons are, or rather used to be, all engaged in repairing the out-houses, patching them with thatch where it was wanted, mending mangers, paving stable-floors, fixing cow-stakes, making boraghs,* removing nuisances, and cleaning streets.
* The rope with which a cow is tied in the cowhouse.
On the ether hand, the mother, daughters and maids, were also engaged in their several departments; the latter scouring the furniture with sand: the mother making culinary preparations, baking bread, killing fowls, or salting meat; whilst the daughters were unusually intent upon the decoration of their own dress, and the making up of the family linen. All, however, was performed with an air of gayety and pleasure; the ivy and holly were disposed about the dressers and collar beams with great glee; the chimneys were swept amidst songs and laughter; many bad voices, and some good ones, were put in requisition; whilst several who had never been known to chaunt a stave, alarmed the listeners by the grotesque and incomprehensible nature of their melody. Those who were inclined to devotion—and there is no lack of it in Ireland—took to carols and hymns, which they sang, for want of better airs, to tunes highly comic. We have ourselves often heard the Doxology sung in Irish verse to the facetious air of "Paudeen O'Rafferty," and other hymns to the tune of "Peas upon a Trencher," and "Cruskeen Lawn." Sometimes, on the contrary, many of them, from the very fulness of jollity, would become pathetic, and indulge in those touching old airs of their country, which maybe truly,called songs of sorrow, from the exquisite and simple pathos with which they abound. This, though it may seem anomalous, is but natural; for there is nothing so apt to recall to the heart those friends, whether absent or dead, with whom it has been connected, as a stated festival. Affection is then awakened, and summons to the hearth where it presides those on whose face it loves to look; if they be living, it places them in the circle of happiness which surrounds it; and if they be removed forever from such scenes, their memory, which, amidst the din of ordinary life, has almost passed away, is now restored, and their loss felt as if it had been only just then sustained. For this reason, at such times, it is not at all unusual to see the elders of Irish families touched by pathos as well as humor. The Irish are a people whose affections are as strong as their imaginations are vivid; and, in illustration of this, we may add, that many a time have we seen them raised to mirth and melted into tears almost at the same time, by a song of the most comic character. The mirth, however, was for the song, and the sorrow for the memory of some beloved relation who had been remarkable for singing it, or with whom it had been a favorite.
We do not affirm that in the family of the M'Kennas there were, upon the occasion which we were describing, any tears shed. The enjoyments of the season and the humors of the expected dance, both combined to give them a more than usual degree of mirth and frolic At an early hour all that was necessary for the due celebration of that night and the succeeding day, had been arranged and completed. The whiskey had been laid in, the Christmas candles bought, the barn cleared out, the seats laid; in short, every thing in its place, and a place for everything. About one o'clock, however, the young members of the family began to betray some symptoms of uneasiness; nor was M'Kenna himself, though the farithee or man of the house, altogether so exempt from what they felt, as might, if the cause of it were known to our readers, be expected from a man of his years and experience.
From time to time one of the girls tripped out as far as the stile before the door, where she stood looking in a particular direction until her sight was fatigued.
"Och,' och," her mother exclaimed during her absence, "but that colleen's sick about Barny!—musha, but it would be the beautiful joke, all out, if he'd disappoint the whole of yez. Faix, it wouldn't be unlike the same man, to go wherever he can make most money; and sure small blame to him for that; what's one place to him more than another?"
"Hut," M'Kenna replied, rising, however, to go out himself, "the girsha's makin' a bauliore (* laughing stock) of herself."
"An' where's yourself slippin' out to?" rejoined his wife, with a wink of shrewd humor at the rest. "I say, Frank, are you goin' to look for him too? Mavrone, but that's sinsible! Why, thin, you snakin' ould rogue, is that the way wid you? Throth I have often hard it said, that 'one fool makes many;' but sure enough, 'an ould fools worse nor any.' Come in here this minute, I say—walk back—you to have your horn up! Faix, indeed!"
"Why! I am only goin' to get the small phaties boiled for the pigs, poor crathurs, for their Christmas dinner. Sure we oughtn't to neglect thim no more than ourselves, the crathurs, that can't spake their wants, except by grantin'."
"Saints above!—the Lord forgive me for bringin' down their names upon a Christmas Eve, but it's beside himself the man is! an' him knows that the phaties wor boiled an' made up into balls for them airly this mornin'!"
In the meantime, the wife's good-natured attack upon her husband produced considerable mirth in the family. In consequence of what she said, he hesitated: but ultimately was proceeding towards the door, when the daughter returned, her brow flushed, and her eye sparkling with mirth and delight.
"Ha!" said the father, with a complacent smile, "all's right, Peggy, you seen him, alanna. The music's in your eye, acushla; an' the' feet of you can't keep themselves off o' the ground; an' all bekase you seen Barny Dhal (* blind Barney) pokin' acrass the fields, wid his head up, an' his skirt stickn' out behind him wid Granua Waile." (* The name of his fiddle)
The father had conjectured properly, for the joy which animated the girl's countenance could not be misunderstood.
"Barny's comin'," she exclaimed, clapping her hands with great glee, "an' our Frank wid him; they're at the river, and Frank has him on his back, and Granua Waile undhor his arm! Come out, come out! You'll die for good, lookin' at them staggerin' acrass. I knew he'd come! I knew it! and be good to thim that invinted Christmas; it's a brave time, faix!"
In a moment the inmates were grouped before the door, all anxious to catch a glimpse of Barny and Granua Waile.
"Faix ay! Sure enough.. Sarra doubt if it! Wethen, I'd never mistrust Barny!" might be heard in distinct exclamations from each.
"Faith he's a Trojan," said the farithee, an' must get lashins of the best we have. Come in, childher, an' red the hob for him.
"'Och, Christmas comes but wanst a year, An' Christmas comes but wanst a year; An' the divil a mouth Shall be friends wid drouth, While I have whiskey, ale, or beer.
Och, Christmas comes but wanst a year, An' Christmas comes but waust a year; Wid han' in han', An' can to can, Then Hi for the whiskey, ale, and beer.
Och, Christmas comes but wanst a year, An' Christmas comes but wanst a year; Then the high and the low Shall shake their toe, When primed wid whiskey, ale, an' beer.'
For all that, the sorra fig I care for either ale or beer, barrin' in regard of mere drouth; give me the whiskey, Eh, Alley—won't we have a jorum any how?"
"Why, thin," replied the wife, "the devil be from me (the crass about us for namin' him) but you're a greater Brinoge than some of your childher! I suppose its your capers Frank has in him. Will you behave yourself, you old slingpoke? Behave, I say, an let me go. Childher, will you help me to flake this man out o' the place? Look at him, here, caperin' an' crackin' his fingers afore me, an' pullin' me out to dance!"
"Och, och, murdher alive," exclaimed the good man out of breath, "I seen the day, any way! An', maybe, could show a step or two yet, if I was well fixed. You can't forget ould times, Alley? Eh, you thief?"
"Musha, have sinse, man alive," replied the wife, in a tone of placid gravity, which only betrayed the pleasure she herself felt in his happiness. "Have sinse, an' the strange man comin' in, an' don't let him see you in such figaries."
The observation of the good woman produced a loud laugh among them. "Arrah what are yez laughing at?" she inquired.
"Why, mother," said one of her daughters "how could Barny Dhal, a blind man, see anybody?"
Alley herself laughed at her blunder, but wittily replied, "Faith, avourneen, maybe he can often see as nately through his ear as you could do wid your eyes open; sure they say he can hear the grass growin'."
"For that matther," observed the farithee, joining in the joke, "he can see as far as any of us—while we're asleep."
The conversation was thus proceeding, when Barney Dhal and young Frank M'Kenna entered the kitchen.
In a moment all hands were extended to welcome Barney: "Millia failte ghud, Barny!" "Cead millia failte ghud, Barny!" "Oh, Barny, did you come at last? You're welcome." "Barny, my Trojan, how is every cart-load of you?" "How is Granua Waile, Barny?"
"Why, thin, holy music, did you never see Barny Dhal afore? Clear off from about me, or, by the sweets of rosin, I'll play the devil an' brake things. 'You're welcome, Barny!'—an' 'How are you, Barny?' Why thin, piper o' Moses, don't I know I'm welcome, an' yit you must be tellin' me what everybody knows! But sure I have great news for you all!"
"What is that, Barny?"
"Well, but can yez keep a sacret? Can yez, girls?"
"Faix can we, Barny, achora."
"Well, so can I—ha, ha, ha! Now, are,yez sarved? Come, let me to the hob."
"Here, Barny; I'll lead you, Barny."
"No, I have him; come, Barny, I'll lead you: here, achora, this is the spot—that's it. Why, Barny," said the arch girl, as she placed him in the corner, "sorra one o' the hob but knows you: it never stirs—ha, ha, ha!"
"Throth, a colleen, that tongue o' yours will delude some one afore long, if it hasn't done so already."
"But how is Granua Waile, Barny?"
"Poor Granua is it? Faith, times is hard wid her often. 'Granua,' says I to her 'what do you say, acushla? we're axed to go to two or three places to-day—what do you say? Do you lead, an' I'll follow: your will is my pleasure.' 'An' where are we axed to?' says Granua, sinsible enough. 'Why,' says I, 'to Paddy Lanigan's, to Mike Hartigan's, to Jack Lynch's, an' at the heel o' the hunt, to Frank M'Kenna's, of the Mountain Bar.' 'By my song,' says she, 'you may go where you plase; as for me, I'm off to Frank M'Kenna's, one of the dacentest men in Europe, an' his wife the same. Divil a toe I'll set a waggin' in any other place this night,' says she; 'for 'tis there we're both well thrated wid the best the house can afford. So,' says she, 'in the name of all that's musical, you're welcome to the poker an' tongs anywhere else; for me, I'm off to Frank's.' An' faith, sure enough, she took to her pumps; an' it was only comin' over the hill there, that young Frank an' I overtuck her: divil a lie in it."
In fact, Barney, besides being a fiddler, was a senachie of the first water; could tell a story, or trace a genealogy as well as any man living, and draw the long bow in either capacity much better than he could in the practice of his more legitimate profession.
"Well, here she is, Barny, to the fore," said the aforesaid arch girl, "an' now give us a tune."
"What!" replied the farithee, "is it wid-out either aitin' or dhrinkin'? Why, the girsha's beside herself! Alley, aroon, get him the linin'* an' a sup to tighten his elbow."
* Linin'—lining, so eating and drinking are often humorously termed by the people.
The good woman instantly went to provide refreshments for the musician.
"Come, girls," said Barny, "will yez get me a scythe or a handsaw."
"A scythe or a handsaw! eh, then what to do, Barny?"
"Why, to pare my nails, to be sure," replied Barny, with a loud laugh; "but stay—come back here—I'll make shift to do wid a pair of scissors this bout.
"'The parent finds his sons, The tutherer whips them; The nailer makes his nails, The fiddler clips them.'"
Wherever Barny came there was mirth, and a disposition to be pleased, so that his jokes always told.
"Musha, the sorra pare you, Barny," said one of the girls; "but there's no bein' up to you, good or bad."
"The sorra pair me, is it? faix, Nancy, you'll soon be paired yourself wid some one, avourneen. Do you know a sartin young man wid a nose on him runnin' to a point like the pin of a sun-dial, his knees brakin' the king's pace, strikin' one another ever since he was able to walk, an' that was about four years afther he could say his Father Nosther; an' faith, whatever you may think, there's no makin' them paceable except by puttin' between them! The wrong side of his shin, too, is foremost; an' though the one-half of his two feet is all heels, he keeps the same heels for set days an' bonfire nights, an' savinly walks on his ankles. His leg, too, Nancy, is stuck in the middle of his foot, like a poker in a pick-axe; an', along wid all—"
"Here, Barny, thry your hand at this," said the good woman, who had not heard his ludicrous description of her fictitious son-in-law—"eeh arran agus bee laudher, Barny, ate bread and be strong. I'll warrant when you begin to play, they'll give you little time to do anything but scrape away;—taste the dhrink first, anyway, in the name o' God,"—and she filled him a glass.
"Augh, augh! faith you're the moral of a woman. Are you there, Frank M'Kenna?—here's a sudden disholution to your family! May they be scattered wid all speed—manin' the girls—to all corners o' the parish!—ha, ha, ha! Well, that won't vex them, anyhow; an' next, here's a merry Chris'mas to us, an' many o' them! Whooh! blur-an'-age! whooh! oh, by gorra!—that's—that's—Frank run afther my breath—I've lost it—run, you tory: oh, by gor, that's stuff as sthrong as Sampson, so it is. Arrah, what well do you dhraw that from? for, faith, 'twould be mighty convanient to live near it in a hard frost."
Barny was now silent for some time, which silence was produced by the industry he displayed in assailing the substantial refreshments before him. When he had concluded his repast he once more tasted the liquor; after which he got Granua Waile, and continued playing their favorite tunes, and amusing them with anecdotes, both true and false, until the hour drew nigh when his services were expected by the young men and maidens who had assembled to dance in the barn. Occasionally, however, they took a preliminary step in which they were joined by few of their neighbors. Old Frank himself felt his spirits elevated by contemplating the happiness of his children and their young associates.
"Frank," said he, to the youngest of his sons, "go down to Owen Reillaghan's, and tell him an' his family to come up to the dance early in the evenin'. Owen's a pleasant man," he added, "and a good neighbor, but a small thought too strict in his duties. Tell him to come up, Frank, airly, I say; he'll have time enough to go to the Midnight Mass afther dancin' the 'Rakes of Ballyshanny,' and 'the Baltihorum jig;' an' maybe he can't do both in style!"
"Ay," said Frank, in a jeering manner, "he carries a handy heel at the dancin', and a soople tongue at the prayin'; but let him alone for bringin' the bottom of his glass and his eyebrow acquainted. But if he'd pray less—"
"Go along, a veehonce, (* you profligate) an' bring him up," replied the father: "you to talk about prayin'! Them that 'ud catch you at a prayer ought to be showed for the world to wondher at: a man wid two heads an him would be a fool to him. Go along, I say, and do what you're bid."
"I'm goin'," said Frank. "I'm off; but what if he doesn't come? I'll then have my journey for nothin'."
"An' it's good payment for any journey ever you'll make, barrin' it's to the gallows," replied the father, nearly provoked at his reluctance in obeying him: "won't you have dancin' enough in the coorse o' the night, for you'll not go to the Midnight Mass, and why don't you be off wid you at wanst?"
Frank shrugged his shoulders two or three times, being loth to leave the music and dancing; but on seeing his father about to address him in sharper language, he went out with a frown on his brows, and a half-smothered imprecation bursting from his lips.
He had not proceeded more than a few yards from the door, when he met Rody Teague, his father's servant, on his way to the kitchen. "Rody," said he, "isn't this a purty business? My father wantin' to send me down to Owen Reillaghan's; when, by the vartue o' my oath, I'd as soon go half way into hell, as to any place where his son, Mike Reillaghan, 'ud be. How will I manage, Rody?"
"Why," replied Rody, "as to meetin' wid Mike, take my advice and avoid him. And what is more I'd give up Peggy Gartland for good. Isn't it a mane thing for you, Frank, to be hangin' afther a girl that's fonder of another than she is of yourself. By this and by that, I'd no more do it—avvouh! catch me at it—I'd have spunk in me."
Frank's brow darkened as Rody spoke; instead of instantly replying', he was silent and appeared to be debating some point in his own mind, on which he had not come to a determination.
"My father didn't hear of the fight between Mike and me?" said he, interrogatively—"do you think he did, Rody?"
"Not to my knowledge," replied the servant; "if he did, he wouldn't surely send you down; but talking of the fight, you are known to be a stout, well-fought boy—no doubt of that—still, I say, you had no right to provoke Mike as you did, who, it's well known, could bate any two men in the parish; and so sign, you got yourself dacently trounced, about a girl that doesn't love a bone in your skin."
"He disgraced me, Rody," observed Frank—"I can't rise my head; and you know I was thought, by all the parish, as good a man as him. No, I wouldn't, this blessed Christmas Eve above us, for all that ever my name was worth, be disgraced by him as I am. But—hould, man—have patience!"
"Throth and, Frank, that's what you never had," said Eody; "and as to bein' disgraced, you disgraced yourself. What right had you to challenge the boy to fight, and to strike him into the bargain, bekase Peggy Gartland danced with him, and wouldn't go out wid you? Death alive, sure that wasn't his fault."
Every word of reproof which proceeded from Rody's lips but strengthened Frank's rage, and added to his sense of shame; he looked first in the direction of Reillaghan's house, and immediately towards the little village in which Peggy Gartland lived.
"Rody," said he, slapping him fiercely on the shoulder, "go in—I've—I've made up my mind upon what I'll do; go in, Eody, and get your dinner; but don't be out of the way when I come back."
"And what have you made up your mind to?" inquired Eody.
"Why, by the sacred Mother o' Heaven, Rody, to—to—be friends wid Mike."
"Ay, there's sinse and rason in that," replied Eody; "and if you'd take my advice you'd give up Peggy Gartland, too."