The Ned M'Keown Stories - Traits And Stories Of The Irish Peasantry, The Works of - William Carleton, Volume Three
by William Carleton
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6
Home - Random Browse

"When John brought her to the surface, he paused for a moment to recover breath and collectedness; he then caught her by the left arm, near the shoulder, and cut, in a slanting direction, down the stream, to a watering place, where a slope had been formed in the bank. But he was already too far down to be able to work across the stream to this point; for it was here much stronger and more rapid than under the planks. Instead, therefore, of reaching the slope, he found himself in spite of every effort to the contrary, about a perch below it; and, except he could gain this point, against the strong rush of the flood, there was very little hope of being able to save either her or himself—for he was now much exhausted.

"Hitherto, therefore, all was still doubtful, whilst strength was fast failing him. In this trying and almost hopeless situation, with an admirable presence of mind, he adopted the only expedient which could possibly enable him to reach the bank. On finding himself receding down, instead of advancing up the current, he approached the bank, which was here very deep and perpendicular; he then sank his fingers into and pressed his right foot against the firm blue clay with which it was stratified, and by this means advanced, bit by bit, up the stream, having no other force by which to propel himself against it. After this mode did he breast the current with all his strength—which must have been prodigious, or he never could have borne it out—until he reached the slope, and got from the influence of the tide, into dead water. On arriving here, his hand was caught by one of the young men present, who stood up to the neck, waiting his approach. A second man stood behind him, holding his other hand, a link being thus formed, that reached out to the firm bank; and a good pull now brought them both to the edge of the river. On finding bottom, John took his Colleen Galh in his own arms, carried her out, and pressing his lips to hers, laid her in the bosom of her father; then, after taking another kiss of the young drowned flower, he burst into tears, and fell powerless beside her. The truth is, the spirit that had kept him firm was now exhausted; both his legs and arms having become nerveless by the exertion.

"Hitherto her father took no notice of John, for how could he? seeing that he was entirely wrapped up in his daughter; and the question was, though rescued from the flood, if life was in her. The sisters were by this time recovered, and weeping over her, along with the father—and, indeed, with all present; but the mother could not be made to comprehend what they were about at all at all. The country people used every means with which they were intimate to recover Rose; she was brought instantly to a farmer's house beside the spot, put into a warm bed, covered over with hot salt, wrapped in half-scorched blankets, and made subject to every other mode of treatment that could possibly revoke the functions of life. John had now got a dacent draught of whiskey, which revived him. He stood over her, when he could be admitted, watching for the symptomatics of her revival; all, however, was vain. He now determined to try another course: by-and-by he stooped, put his mouth to her mouth, and, drawing in his breath, respired with all his force from the bottom of his very heart into hers; this he did several times rapidly—faith, a tender and agreeable operation, any how. But mark the consequence: in less than a minute her white bosom heaved—her breath returned—her pulse began to play—she opened her eyes, and felt his tears of love raining warmly on her pale cheek!

"For years before this no two of these opposite factions had spoken, nor up to this minute had John and they, even upon this occasion, exchanged a monosyllable. The father now looked at him—the tears stood afresh in his eyes; he came forward—stretched out his hand—it was received; and the next moment he fell upon John's neck, and cried like an infant.

"When Rose recovered, she seemed as if striving to recordate what had happened; and, after two or three minutes, inquired from her sister, in a weak but sweet voice, 'Who saved me?'

"''Twas John O'Callaghan, Rose darling,' replied the sister, in tears, 'that ventured his own life into the boiling flood, to save yours—and did save it, jewel!'

"Rose's eye glanced at John—and I only wish, as I am a bachelor not further than my forty-fourth, that I may ever have the happiness to get such a glance from two blue eyes, as she gave him that moment—a faint smile played about her mouth, and a slight blush lit up her fair cheek, like the evening sunbeams on the virgin snow, as the poets have said for the five-hundredth time, to my own personal knowledge. She then extended her hand, which John, you may be sure, was no way backward in receiving, and the tears of love and gratitude ran silently down her cheeks.

"It is not necessary to detail the circumstances of this day farther; let it be sufficient to say, that a reconciliation took place between those two branches of the O'Hallaghan and O'Callaghan families, in consequence of John's heroism and Rose's soft persuasion, and that there was, also, every perspective of the two factions being penultimately amalgamated. For nearly a century they had been pell-mell at it, whenever and wherever they could meet. Their forefathers, who had been engaged in the lawsuit about the island which I have mentioned, wore dead and petrified in their graves; and the little peninsula in the glen was gradationally worn away by the river, till nothing remained but a desert, upon a small scale, of sand and gravel. Even the ruddy, able-bodied squire, with the longitudinal nose, projecting out of his face like a broken arch, and the small, fiery magistrate—both of whom had fought the duel, for the purpose of setting forth a good example, and bringing the dispute to a peaceable conclusion—were also dead. The very memory of the original contention! had been lost (except that it was preserved along with the cranium of my grandfather), or became so indistinct that the parties fastened themselves on some more modern provocation, which they kept in view until another fresh motive would start up, and so on. I know not, however, whether it was fair to expect them to give up at once the agreeable recreation of fighting. It's not easy to abolish old customs, particularly diversions; and every one knows that this is our national amusement.

"There were, it is true, many among both, factions who saw the matter in this reasonable light, and who wished rather, if it were to cease, that it should die away by degrees, from the battle of the whole parish, equally divided between the factions, to the subordinate row between certain members of them—from that to the faint broil of certain families, and so on to the single-handed play between individuals. At all events, one-half of them were for peace, and two-thirds of them were equally divided between peace and war.

"For three months after the accident which befell Rose Galh O'Hallaghan, both factions had been tolerantly quiet—that is to say, they had no general engagement. Some slight skirmishes certainly did take place on market-nights, when the drop was in, and the spirits up; but in those neither John nor Rose's immediate families took any part. The fact was, that John and Rose were on the evening of matrimony; the match had been made—the day appointed, and every other necessary stipulation ratified. Now, John was as fine a young man as you would meet in a day's traveling; and as for Rose, her name went far and near for beauty: and with justice, for the sun never shone on a fairer, meeker, or modester virgin than Rose Galh O'Hallaghan.

"It might be, indeed, that there were those on both sides who thought that, if the marriage was obstructed, their own sons and daughters would have a better chance. Rose had many admirers; they might have envied John his happiness; many fathers, on the Other side, might have wished their sons to succeed with Rose. Whether I am sinister in this conjecture is more than I can say. I grant, indeed, that a great portion of it is speculation on my part. The wedding-day, however, was arranged; but, unfortunately, the fair-day of Knockimdowny occurred, in the rotation of natural time, precisely one week before it. I know not from what motive it proceeded, but the factions on both sides were never known to make a more light-hearted preparation for battle. Cudgels of all sorts and sizes (and some of them, to my own knowledge, great beauties) were provided.

"I believe I may as well take this opportunity of saying that real Irish cudgels must be root-growing, either oak, black-thorn, or crab-tree—although crab-tree, by the way, is apt to fly. They should not be too long—three feet and a few inches is an accommodating length. They must be naturally top-heavy, and have around the end that is to make acquaintance with the cranium three or four natural lumps, calculated to divide the flesh in the natest manner, and to leave, if possible, the smallest taste in life of pit in the skull. But if a good root-growing kippeen be light at the fighting-end, or possess not the proper number of knobs, a hole, a few inches deep, is to be bored in the end, which must be filled with melted lead. This gives it a widow-and-orphan-making quality, a child-bereaving touch, altogether very desirable. If, however, the top splits in the boring—which, in awkward hands, is not uncommon—the defect may be remediated by putting on an iron ferrule, and driving two or three strong nails into it, simply to preserve it from flying off; not that an Irishman is ever at a loss for weapons when in a fight, for so long as a scythe, flail, spade, pitchfork, or stone is at hand, he feels quite contented with the lot of war. No man, as they say of great statesmen, is more fertile in expedients during a row; which, by the way, I take to be a good quality, at all events.

"I remember the fair-day of Knockimdowny well; it has kept me from griddle-bread and tough nutriment ever since. Hard fortune to Jack Roe O'Hallaghan! No man had better teeth than I had till I met with him that day. He fought stoutly on his own side; but he was ped then for the same basting that fell to me, though not by my hands, if to get his jaw dacently divided into three halves could be called a fair liquidation of an old debt—it was equal to twenty shillings in the pound, any how.

"There had not been a larger fair in the town of Knockimdowny for years. The day was dark and sunless, but sultry. On looking through the crowd, I could see no man! without a cudgel; yet, what was strange, there was no certainty of any sport. Several desultory skrimmages had locality, but they I were altogether sequestered from the great factions of the O's. Except that it was pleasant and stirred one's blood to look at them, or occasioned the cudgels to be grasped more firmly, there was no personal interest felt by any of us in them; they therefore began and ended, here and there, through the fair, like mere flashes in the pan, dying in their own smoke.

"The blood of every prolific nation is naturally hot; but when that hot blood is inflamed by ardent spirits, it is not to be supposed that men should be cool; and God he knows, there is not on the level surface of this habitable globe, a nation that has been so thoroughly inflamed by ardent spirits of all kinds as Ireland.

"Up till four o'clock that day, the factions were quiet. Several relations on both sides had been invited to drink by John and Rose's families, for the purpose of establishing a good feeling between them. But this was, after all, hardly to be expected, for they hated one another with an ardency much too good-humored and buoyant; and, between ourselves, to bring Paddy over a bottle is a very equivocal mode of giving him an anti-cudgeling disposition. After the hour of four, several of the factions were getting very friendly, which I knew at the time to be a bad sign. Many of them nodded to each other, which I knew to be a worse one; and some of them shook hands with the greatest cordiality, which I no sooner saw than I slipped the knot of my cravat, and held myself in preparation for the sport.

"I have often had occasion to remark—and few men, let me tell you, had finer opportunities of doing so—the differential symptomatics between a Party Fight, that is, a battle between Orangemen and Ribbon-men, and one between two Roman Catholic Factions. There is something infinitely more anxious, silent, and deadly, in the compressed vengeance, and the hope of slaughter, which characterize a party fight, than is to be seen in a battle between factions. The truth is, the enmity is not so deep and well-grounded in the latter as in the former. The feeling is not political nor religious between the factions; whereas, in the other, it is both, which is a mighty great advantage; for when this is adjuncted to an intense personal hatred, and a sense of wrong, probably arising from a too intimate recollection of the leaded black thorn, or the awkward death of some relative, by the musket or the bayonet, it is apt to produce very purty fighting, and much respectable retribution.

"In a party fight, a prophetic sense of danger, hangs, as it were, over the crowd—the very air is loaded with apprehension; and the vengeance burst is proceeded by a close, thick darkness, almost sulphury, that is more terrifical than the conflict itself, though dearly less dangerous and fatal. The scowl of the opposing parties, the blanched cheeks, the knit brows, and the grinding teeth, not pretermitting the deadly gleams that shoot from their kindled eyes, are ornaments which a plain battle between factions cannot boast, but which, notwithstanding, are very suitable to the fierce and gloomy silence of that premeditated vengeance which burns with such intensity in the heart, and scorches up the vitals into such a thirst for blood. Not but that they come by different means to the same conclusion; because it is the feeling, and not altogether the manner of operation, that is different.

"Now a faction fight doesn't resemble this at all at all. Paddy's at home here; all song, dance, good-humor, and affection. His cheek is flushed with delight, which, indeed, may derive assistance from the consciousness of having no bayonets or loaded carabines to contend with; but anyhow, he's at home—his eye is lit with real glee—he tosses his hat in the air, in the height of mirth—and leaps, like a mounteback, two yards from the ground. Then, with what a gracious dexterity he brandishes his cudgel! what a joyous spirit is heard in his shout at the face of a friend from another faction! His very 'who!' is contagious, and would make a man, that had settled on running away, return and join the sport with an appetite truly Irish. He is, in fact, while under the influence of this heavenly afflatus, in love with every one, man, woman, and child. If he meet his sweetheart, he will give her a kiss and a hug, and that with double kindness, because he is on his way to thrash her father or brother. It is the acumen of his enjoyment; and woe be to him who will adventure to go between him and his amusements. To be sure, skulls and bones are broken, and lives lost; but they are lost in pleasant fighting—they are the consequences of the sport, the beauty of which consists in breaking as many heads and necks as you can; and certainly when a man enters into the spirit of any exercise, there is nothing like elevating himself to the point of excellence. Then a man ought never to be disheartened. If you lose this game, or get your head good-humoredly beaten to pieces, why you may win another, or your friends may mollify two or three skulls as a set-off to yours; but that is nothing.

"When the evening became more advanced, maybe, considering the poor look up there was for anything like decent sport—maybe, in the early part of the day, it wasn't the delightful sight to see the boys on each side of the two great factions beginning to get frolicsome. Maybe the songs and the shouting, when they began, hadn't melody and music in them, any how! People may talk about harmony; but what harmony is equal to that in which five or six hundred men sing and shout, and leap and caper at each other, as a prelude to neighborly fighting where they beat time upon the drums of each other's ears and heads with oak drumsticks? That's an Irishman's music; and hard fortune to the garran* that wouldn't have friendship and kindness in him to join and play a stave along with them! 'Whoo; your sowl! Hurroo! Success to our side! Hi for the O'Callaghans! Where's the blackguard to—,' I beg pardon, decent reader; I forgot myself for a moment, or rather I got new life in me, for I am nothing at all at all for the last five months—a kind of nonentity I may say, ever since that vagabond Burges occasioned me to pay a visit to my distant relations, till my friends get that last matter of the collar-bone settled.

* Garran—a horse; but it is always used as meaning a bad one—one without mettle. When figuratively applied to a man, it means a coward

"The impulse which faction fighting gives to trade and business in Ireland is truly surprising; whereas party fighting depreciates both. As soon as it is perceived that a party fight is to be expected, all buying and selling are nearly suspended for the day; and those who are not up*, and even many who are, take themselves and their property home as quickly as may be convenient. But in a faction fight, as soon as there is any perspective of a row, depend upon it, there is quick work at all kinds of negotiation; and truly there is nothing like brevity and decision in buying and selling; for which reason, faction fighting, at all events, if only for the sake of national prosperity, should be encouraged and kept up.

* Initiated into Whiteboyism

"Towards five o'clock, if a man was placed on an exalted station; so that he could look at the crowd, and wasn't able to fight, he could have seen much that a man might envy him for. Here a hat went up, or maybe a dozen of them; then followed a general huzza. On the other side, two dozen caubeens sought the sky, like so many scaldy crows attempting their own element for the first time, only they were not so black. Then another shout, which was answered by that of their friends on the opposite side; so that you would hardly know which side huzzaed loudest, the blending of both was so truly symphonius. Now there was a shout for the face of an O'Callaghan; this was prosecuted on the very heels by another for the face of an O'Hallaghan. Immediately a man of the O'Hallaghan side doffed his tattered frieze, and catching it by the very extremity of the sleeve, drew it with a tact, known only by an initiation of half a dozen street days, up the pavement after him. On the instant, a blade from the O'Callaghan side peeled with equal alacrity, and stretching his home-made * at full length after him, proceeded triumphantly up the street, to meet the other.

* Irish frieze is mostly manufactured at home, which accounts for the expression here.

"Thunder-an-ages, what's this for, at all, at all! I wish I hadn't begun to manuscript an account of it, any how; 'tis like a hungry man dreaming of a good dinner at a feast, and afterwards awaking and finding his front ribs and back-bone on the point of union. Reader, is that a black-thorn you carry—tut, where is my imagination bound for?——to meet the other, I say.

"'Where's the rascally O'Callaghan that will place his toe or his shillely on this frieze?' 'Is there no blackguard O'Hallaghan jist to look crucked at the coat of an O'Callaghan, or say black's the white of his eye?'

"'Troth and there is, Ned, avourneen, that same on the sod here.'

"'Is that Barney?'

"'The same, Ned, ma bouchal; and how is your mother's son, Ned?'

"'In good health at the present time, thank God and you; how is yourself, Barney?'

"'Can't complain as time goes; only take this, any how, to mend your health, ma bouchal.' (Whack.)

"'Success, Barney, and here's at your sarvice, avick, not making little of what I got, any way.' (Crack.)

"About five o'clock on a May evening, in the fair of Knockimdowny, was the ice thus broken, with all possible civility, by Ned and Barney. The next moment a general rush took place towards the scene of action, and ere you could bless yourself, Barney and Ned were both down, weltering in their own and each other's blood. I scarcely know, indeed, though with a mighty respectable quota of experimentality myself, how to describe what followed. For the first twenty minutes the general harmony of this fine row might be set to music, according to a scale something like this:—Whick whack—crick crack—whick whack—crick crack—&c, &c, &o. 'Here yer sowl—(crack)—there yer sowl—(whack). Whoo for the O'Hallag-hans!'—(crack, crack, crack). 'Hurroo for the O'Callaghans!—(whack, whack, whack). The O'Callaghans for ever!'—(whack). 'The O'Hallaghans for ever!'—(crack). 'Mur-ther! murther!—(crick, crack)—foul! foul!—(whack, whack). Blood and turf!—(whack, whick)—tunther-an-ouns'—(crack, crick). 'Hurroo! my darlings! handle your kip-peens—(crack, crack)—the O'Hallaghans are going!'—(whack, whack).

"You are to suppose them, here to have been at it for about half an hour.

"Whack, crack—'oh—oh—oh! have mercy upon me, boys—(crack—a shriek of murther! murther—crack, crack, whack)—my life—my life—(crack, crack—whack, whack)—oh! for the sake of the living Father!—for the sake of my wife and childher, Ned Hallaghan, spare my life.'

"'So we will, but take this, any how'—(whack, crack, whack, crack).

"'Oh! for the love of. God, don't kill—(whack, crack, whack). Oh!'—(crack, crack, whack—dies).

"'Huzza! huzza! huzza!' from the O'Hallaghans. 'Bravo, boys! there's one of them done for: whoo! my darlings! hurroo! the O'Hallaghans for ever!'

"The scene now changes to the O'Callaghan side.

"'Jack—oh, Jack, avourneen—hell to their sowls for murdherers—Paddy's killed—his skull's smashed! Revinge, boys, Paddy O'Callaghan's killed! On with you, O'Callaghans—on with you—on with you, Paddy O'Callaghan's murdhered—take to the stones—that's it—keep it up, down with: him! Success!—he's the bloody villain that: didn't show him marcy—that's it. Tunder-an-ouns, is it laving him that way you are afther—let me at him!'

"'Here's a stone, Tom!'

"'No, no, this stick has the lead in it. It'll do him, never fear!'

"'Let him alone, Barney, he's got enough.'

"'By the powdhers, it's myself that won't: didn't he kill Paddy?—(crack, crack). Take that, you murdhering thief!'—(whack, whack).

"'Oh!—(whack, crack)—my head—I'm killed—I'm'—(crack—kicks the bucket).

"'Now, your sowl, that does you, any way—(crack, whack)—hurro!—huzza!—huzza!—Man for man, boys—an O'Hallaghan's done for—whoo! for our side—tol-deroll, folderoll, tow, row, row—huzza!—fol-deroll, fol-deroll, tow, row, row, huzza for the O'Callaghans!'

"From this moment the battle became delightful; it was now pelt and welt on both sides, but many of the kippeens were broken: many of the boys had their fighting arms disabled by a dislocation, or bit of fracture, and those weren't equal to more than doing a little upon such as were down.

"In the midst of the din, such a dialogue as this might be heard:

"'Larry, you're after being done for, for this day.' (Whack, crack.)

"'Only an eye gone—is that Mickey?' (whick, whack, crick, crack.)

"'That's it, my darlings!—you may say that, Larry—'tis my mother's son that's in it—(crack, crack,—a general huzza.): (Mickey and Larry) huzza! huzza! huzza for the O'Hallaghans! What have you got, Larry?—(crack, crack).

"'Only the bone of my arm, God be praised for it, very purtily snapt across!' (whack, whack).

"'Is that all? Well, some people have luck!'—(crack, crack, crack).

"'Why I've no reason to complain, thank God—(whack, crack!)—purty play that, any way—Paddy O'Callaghan's settled—did you hear it?—(whack, whack, another shout)—That's it boys—handle the shilleleys!—Success O'Hallaghans—down with the bloody O'Callaghans!'

"'I did hear it: so is Jem O'Hallaghan—(crack, whack, whack, crack)—you're not able to get up, I see—tare-an-ounty, isn't it a pleasure to hear that play?—What ails you?'

"'Oh, Larry, I'm in great pain, and getting very weak, entirely'—(faints).

"'Faix, and he's settled too, I'm thinking.'

"'Oh, murdher, my arm!' (One of the O'Callaghans attacks him—crack, crack)—

"'Take that, you vagabone!'—(whack, whack).

"' Murdher, murdher, is it strikin' a down man you're after?—foul, foul, and my arm broke!'—(crack, crack).

"'Take that, with what you got before, and it'll ase you, maybe.'

"(A party of the O'Hallaghans attack the man who is beating him).

"'Murdher, murdher!'—(crack, whack, whack, crack, crack, whack).

"'Lay on him, your sowls to pirdition—lay on him, hot and heavy—give it to him! He sthruck me and me down wid my broken arm!'

"'Foul, ye thieves of the world!—(from the O'Callaghan)—foul! five against one—give me fair play!—(crack, crack, crack)—Oh!—(whack) Oh, oh, oh!'—(falls senseless, covered with blood).

"'Ha, hell's cure to you, you bloody thief; you didn't spare me with my arm broke'—(Another general shout.) 'Bad end to it, isn't it a poor case entirely, that I can't even throw up my caubeen, let alone join in the diversion.'

"Both parties now rallied, and ranged themselves along the street, exhibiting a firm phalanx, wedged close against each other, almost foot to foot. The mass was thick and dense, and the tug of conflict stiff, wild and savage. Much natural skill and dexterity were displayed in their mutual efforts to preserve their respective ranks unbroken, and as the sallies and charges were made on both sides, the temporary rash, the indentation of the multitudinous body, and the rebound into its original position, gave an undulating appearance to the compact mass—reeking, dragging, groaning, and buzzing as it was, that resembled the serpentine motion of a rushing water-spout in the clouds.

"The women now began to take part with their brothers and sweethearts. Those who had no bachelors among the opposite factions, fought along with their brothers; others did not scruple even to assist in giving their enamored swains the father of a good beating. Many, however, were more faithful to love than to natural affection, and these sallied out, like heroines, under the banners of their sweethearts, fighting with amazing prowess against their friends and relations; nor was it at all extraordinary to see two sisters engaged on opposite sides—perhaps tearing each other as, with dishevelled hair, they screamed with a fury that was truly exemplary. Indeed it is no untruth to assert that the women do much valuable execution. Their manner of fighting is this—as soon as the fair one decides upon taking a part in the row, she instantly takes off her apron or her stocking, stoops down, and lifting the first four pounder she can get, puts it in the corner of her apron, or the foot of her stocking, if it has a foot, and marching into the scene of action, lays about her right and left. Upon my credibility, they are extremely useful and handy, and can give mighty nate knockdowns—inasmuch as no guard that a man is acquainted with can ward off their blows. Nay, what is more, it often happens, when a son-in-law is in a faction against his father-in-law and his wife's people generally, that if he and his wife's brother meet, the wife will clink him with the pet in her apron, downing her own husband with great skill, for it is not always that marriage extinguishes the hatred of factions; and very often 'tis the brother that is humiliated.

"Up to the death of these two men, John O'Callaghan and Rose's father, together with a large party of their friends on both sides, were drinking in a public-house, determined to take no portion in the fight, at all at all. Poor Rose, when she heard the shouting and terrible strokes, got as pale as death, and sat close to John, whose hand she captured hers, beseeching him, and looking up in his face with the most imploring sincerity as she spoke, not to go out among them; the tears falling all the time from her fine eyes, the mellow flashes of which, when John's pleasantry in soothing her would seduce a smile, went into his very heart. But when, on looking out of the window where they sat, two of the opposing factions heard that a man on each side was killed; and when on ascertaining the names of the individuals, and of those who murdered them, it turned out that one of the murdered men was brother to a person in the room, and his murderer uncle to one of those in the window, it was not in the power of man or woman to keep them asunder, particularly as they were all rather advanced in liquor. In an instant the friends of the murdered man made a rush at the window, before any pacifiers had time to get between them, and catching the nephew of him who had committed the murder, hurled him head-foremost upon the stone pavement, where his skull was dashed to pieces, and his brains scattered about the flags!

"A general attack instantly took place in the room, between the two factions; but the apartment was too low and crowded to permit of proper fighting, so they rushed out to the street, shouting and. yelling, as they do when the battle comes to the real point of doing business. As soon as it was seen that the heads of the O'Callaghan's and O'Hallaghans were at work as well as the rest, the fight was recommenced with retrebled spirit; but when the mutilated body of the man who had been flung from the window, was observed lying in the pool of his own proper brains and blood, such a cry arose among his friends, as would cake (* harden) the vital fluid in the veins of any one not a party in the quarrel. Now was the work—the moment of interest—men and women groaning, staggering, and lying insensible; others shouting, leaping, and huzzaing; some singing, and not a few able-bodied spalpeens blurting, like over-grown children, on seeing their own blood; many raging and roaring about like bulls;—all this formed such a group as a faction fight, and nothing else, could represent.

"The battle now blazed out afresh; and all kinds of instruments were pressed into I the service. Some got flails, some spades, some shovels, and one man got his hands upon a scythe, with which, unquestionably, he would have taken more lives than one; but, very fortunately, as he sallied out to join the crowd, he was politely visited in the back of the head by a brick-bat, which had a mighty convincing way with it of giving him a peaceable disposition, for he instantly lay down, and did not seem at all anxious as to the result of the battle. The O'Hallaghans were now compelled to give way, owing principally to the introvention of John O'Ohallaghan, who, although he was as good as sworn to take no part in the contest, was compelled to fight merely to protect himself. But, blood-and-turf! when he did begin, he was dreadful. As soon as his party saw him engaged, they took fresh courage, and in a short time made the O'Hallaghan's retreat up the church-yard. I never saw anything equal to John; he absolutely sent them down in dozens; and when a man would give him any inconvenience with the stick, he would down him with the fist, for right and left were all alike to him. Poor Rose's brother and he met, both roused like two lions; but when John saw who it was, he held back his hand:—

"'No, Tom,' says he, 'I'll not strike you, for Rose's sake. I'm not fighting through ill will to you or your family; so take another direction, for I can't strike you.'

"The blood, however, was unfortunately up in Tom.

"'We'll decide it now,' said he, 'I'm as good a man as you, O'Callaghan: and let me whisper this in your ears—you'll never warm the one bed with Rose, while's God's in heaven—it's past that now—there can be I nothing but blood between us!'

"At this juncture two of the O'Callaghans ran with their shillelaghs up, to beat down Tom on the spot.

"'Stop, boys!' said John, 'you mustn't touch him; he had no hand in the quarrel. Go, boys, if you respect me; lave him to myself.'

"The boys withdrew to another part of the fight; and the next instant Tom struck the very man that interfered to save him, across the temple, and cut him severely. John put his hand up and staggered.

"'I'm sorry for this,' he observed; 'but it's now self-defence with me;' and at the same moment, with one blow, he left Tom O'Hallaghan stretched insensible on the street.

"On the O'Hallaghans being driven to the church-yard, they were at a mighty great inconvenience for weapons. Most of them had lost their sticks, it being a usage in fights of this kind to twist the cudgels from the grasp of the beaten men, to prevent them from rallying. They soon, however, furnished themselves with the best they could find, videlicet, the skull, leg, thigh, and arm bones, which they found lying about the grave-yard. This was a new species of weapon, for which the majority of the O'Callaghans were scarcely prepared. Out they sallied in a body—some with these, others with stones, and making fierce assault upon their enemies, absolutely druv then—not so much by the damage they we're doing, as by the alarm and terror which these unexpected species of missiles excited. At this moment, notwithstanding the fatality that had taken place, nothing could be more truly comical and facetious than the appearance of the field of battle. Skulls were flying in every direction—so thick, indeed, that it might with truth be assevervated, that many who were petrified in the dust, had their skulls broken in this great battle between the factions.—God help poor Ireland! when its inhabitants are so pugnacious, that even the grave is no security against getting their crowns cracked, and their bones fractured! Well, any how, skulls and bones flew in every direction—stones and brick-bats were also put in motion; spades, shovels, loaded whips, pot-sticks, churn-staffs, flails, and all kinds of available weapons were in hot employment.

"But, perhaps, there was nothing more-truly felicitous or original in its way than the mode of warfare adopted by little Neal Malone, who was tailor for the O'Callaghan side: for every tradesman is obliged to fight on behalf of his own faction. Big Frank Farrell, the miller, being on the O'Hallaghan side, had been sent for, and came up from his mill behind the town, quite fresh. He was never what could be called a good man,* though it was said that he could lift ten hundred weight. He puffed forward with a great cudgel, determined to commit slaughter out of the face, and the first man he met was the weeshy fraction of a tailor, as nimble as a hare. He immediately attacked him, and would probably have taken his measure for life had not the tailor's activity protected him. Farrell was in a rage, and Neal, taking advantage of his blind fury, slipped round him, and, with a short run, sprung upon the miller's back, and planted, a foot upon the threshold of each coat pocket, holding by the mealy collar of his waistcoat. In this position he belabored the miller's face and eyes with his little hard fist to such purpose, that he had him in the course of a few minutes nearly as blind as a mill-horse. The' miller roared for assistance, but the pell-mell was going on too warmly for his cries to be available. In fact, he resembled an elephant with a monkey on his back.

* A brave man. He was a man of huge size and prodigious strength, and died in consequence of an injury he received in lifting one of the cathedral bells at Clogher, which is said to be ten hundredweight.

"'How do you like that, Farrell?' Neal would say, giving him a cuff—'and that, and that; but that is best of all. Take it again, gudgeon (two cuffs more)—here's grist for you (half a dozen additional)—hard fortune to you! (crack, crack.) What! going to lie down!—by all that's terrible, if you do, I'll annigulate* you! Here's a dhuragh,** (another half dozen)—long measure, you savage!—the baker's dozen, you baste!—there's five-an'-twenty to the score, Sampson! and one or two in' (crack, whack).

* Annihilate—Many of the jawbreakers—and this was one in a double sense—used by the hedge-schoolmasters, are scattered among the people, by whom they were so twisted that it would be extremely difficult to recognize them.

** Dhuragh—An additional portion of anything thrown in from a spirit of generosity, after the Measure agreed on is given. When the miller, for instance, receives his toll, the country-people usually throw in several handfuls of meal as a Dhuragh.

"'Oh! murther sheery!' shouted the miller. 'Murther-an-age, I'm kilt! Foul play!—foul play!'

"'You lie, big Nebuchodonosor! it's not—this is all fair play, you big baste! Fair play, Sampson!—by the same a-token, here's to jog your memory that it's the Fair day of Knockimdowny! Irish Fair play, you whale! But I'll whale you' (crack, crack, whack).

"'Oh! oh!' shouted the miller.

"'Oh! oh! is it? Oh, if I had my scissors here till I'd clip your ears off—wouldn't I be the happy man, any how, you swab, you?' (whack, whack, crack).

"'Murther! murther! murther!' shouted the miller. 'Is there no help?'

"'Help, is it?—you may say that (crack crack): there's a trifle—a small taste in the milling style, you know; and here goes to dislodge a grinder. Did ye ever hear of the tailor on horseback, Sampson? eh? (whack, whack). Did you ever expect to see a tailor on horseback of yourself, you baste? (crack). I tell you, if you offer to lie down, I'll annigulate you out o' the face.'

"Never, indeed, was a miller before or since so well dusted; and, I dare say, Neal would have rode him long enough, but for an O'Hallaghan, who had gone into one of the houses to procure a weapon. This man was nearly as original in his choice of one as the tailor in the position which he selected for beating the miller. On entering the kitchen, he found that he had been anticipated: there was neither tongs, poker, nor churn-staff, nor, in fact, anything wherewith he could assault his enemies; all had been carried off by others. There was, however, a goose, in the action of being roasted on a spit at the fire: this was enough; Honest O'Hallaghan saw nothing but the spit, which he accordingly seized, goose and all, making the best of his way, so armed, to the scene of battle. He just came out of an entry as the miller was once more roaring for assistance, and, to a dead certainty, would have spitted the tailor like a cook-sparrow against the miller's carcase, had not his activity once more saved him. Unluckily, the unfortunate miller got the thrust behind which was intended for Neal, and roared like a bull. He was beginning to shout 'Foul play!' again, when, on turning round, he perceived that the thrust had not been intended for him, but for the tailor.

"'Give me that spit,' said he; 'by all the mills that ever were turned, I'll spit the tailor this blessed minute beside the goose, and we'll roast them both together.'

"The other refused to part with the spit, but the miller seizing the goose, flung it with all his force after the tailor, who stooped, however, and avoided the blow.

"'No man has a better right to the goose than the tailor,' said Neal, as he took it up, and, disappearing, neither he nor the goose could be seen for the remainder of the day.

"The battle was now somewhat abated. Skulls, and bones, and bricks, and stones, were, however, still flying; so that it might be truly said, the bones of contention were numerous. The streets presented a woeful spectacle: men were lying with their bones broken—others, though not so seriously injured, lappered in their blood—some were crawling up, but were instantly knocked down by their enemies—some were leaning against the walls, or groping their way silently along them, endeavoring to escape observation, lest they might be smashed down and altogether murdered. Wives were sitting with the bloody heads of their husbands in their laps, tearing their hair, weeping and cursing, in all the gall of wrath, those who left them in such a state. Daughters performed the said offices to their fathers, and sisters to their brothers; not pretermitting those who did not neglect their broken-pated bachelors to whom they paid equal attention. Yet was the scene not without abundance of mirth. Many a hat was thrown up by the O'Callaghan side, who certainly gained the day. Many a song was raised by those who tottered about with trickling sconces, half drunk with whiskey, and half stupid with beating. Many a 'whoo,' and 'hurroo,' and 'huzza,' was sent forth by the triumphanters; but truth to tell, they were miserably feeble and faint, compared to what they had been in the beginning of the amusement; sufficiently evincing that, although they might boast of the name of victory, they had got a bellyful of beating; still there was hard fighting.

"I mentioned, some time ago, that a man had adopted a scythe. I wish from my heart there had been no such bloody instrument there that day; but truth must be told. John O'Callaghan was now engaged against a set of the other O's, who had rallied for the third time, and attacked him and his party. Another brother of Rose Galh's was in this engagement, and him did John O'Callaghan not only knock down, but cut desperately across the temple. A man, stripped, and covered with blood and dust, at that moment made his appearance, his hand bearing the blade of the aforesaid scythe. His approach was at once furious and rapid, and I may as well add, fatal; for before John O'Callaghan had time to be forewarned of his danger, he was cut down, the artery of his neck laid open, and he died without a groan. It was truly dreadful, even to the oldest fighter present, to see the strong rush of red blood that curvated about his neck, until it gurgled, gurgled, gurgled, and lappered, and bubbled out, ending in small red spouts, blackening and blackening, as they became fainter and more faint. At this criticality, every eye was turned from the corpse to the murderer; but he had been instantly struck down, and a female, with a large stone in her apron, stood over him, her arms stretched out, her face horribly distorted with agony, and her eyes turned backwards, as it were, into her head. In a few seconds she fell into strong convulsions, and was immediately taken away. Alas! alas! it was Rose Galh; and when we looked at the man she had struck down, he was found to be her brother! flesh of her flesh, and blood of her blood! On examining him more closely, we discovered that his under-jaw hung loose, that his limbs were supple; we tried to make him speak, but in vain—he too was a corpse.

"The fact was, that in consequence of his being stripped, and covered by so much blood and dust, she know him not; and, impelled by her feelings to avenge herself on the murderer of her lover, to whom she doubly owed her life, she struck him a deadly blow, without knowing him to be her brother. The shock produced by seeing her lover murdered, and the horror of finding that she herself, in avenging him, had taken her brother's life, was too much for a heart so tender as hers. On recovering from her convulsions, her senses were found to be gone for ever! Poor girl! she is still living; but from that moment to this, she has never opened her lips to mortal. She is, indeed, a fair ruin, but silent, melancholy, and beautiful as the moon in the summer heaven. Poor Rose Galh! you and many a mother, and father, and wife, and orphan, have had reason to maledict the bloody Battles of the Factions.

"With regard to my grandfather, he says that he didn't see purtier fighting within his own memory; not since the fight between himself and Big Mucklemurray took place in the same town. But, to do him justice, he condemns the scythe and every other weapon except the cudgels; because, he says, that if they continue to be resorted to, nate fighting will be altogether forgotten in the country."

[It was the original intention of the author to have made every man in the humble group about Ned M'Keown's hearth narrate a story illustrating Irish life, feeling, and manners; but on looking into the matter more closely, he had reason to think that such a plan, however agreeable for a time, would ultimately narrow the sphere of his work, and perhaps fatigue the reader by a superfluity of Irish dialogue and its peculiarities of phraseology. He resolved therefore, at the close of the Battle of the Factions, to abandon his original design, and leave himself more room for description and observation. ]


Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6
Home - Random Browse