"Nonsense," replied the proctor. "The fellow is only ridiculous and contemptible; he and his clipped English are not worth thinking of—let him go to the deuce."
M'Carthy still shook his head, as if of opinion that they underrated the Buck's power of injuring them, but the truth was that neither Purcel nor his sons were at all capable of apprehending either fear or danger; they, therefore, very naturally looked upon the denunciations of English with a recklessness that was little less than foolhardy.
During the last few years they had been accustomed to receive threats and written notices of vengeance, which had all ended in nothing, and, in consequence of this impunity, they had become so completely inured to them as to treat them only with laughter and scorn.
It has been already intimated to the reader that M'Carthy was residing, during a short visit to the country, at the house of O'Driscol, the newly-made magistrate. It was pretty late that evening when he took leave of the Purcels, but as the distance was not far he felt no anxiety at all upon the subject of his journey. The night, however, was so pitchy dark, that even although well acquainted as he was with the road, he found some difficulty in avoiding the drains and ditches that enclosed it. At length he had arrived within a couple of hundred yards of O'Driscol's house, when as he was proceeding along suddenly found himself come unexpectedly against some individual, who was coming from an opposite direction.
"Hillo! who is here?" said the voice, in a kind of whisper.
"A friend," replied M'Carthy; "who are you?"
"What's your name?" inquired the strange voice, "and be quick."
"My name is M'Carthy," replied our friend; "why do you ask?"
"Come this way," said the stranger; "you are Francis M'Carthy, I think?"
"Yes, that is my name—what is yours?"
"That doesn't matther," replied the voice, "stand aside here, and be quiet as you value your life."
M'Carthy thought at the moment that he heard the noise of many feet, as it were in the distance.
"You will not be safe," said the voice, "if you refuse to take my advice;" and as he spoke he partly forced M'Carthy over to the side of the road where they both stood invisible from the darkness of the night, as well as from the shelter of a large whitethorn branch, which would, even in daylight, almost have concealed them from view. In a few minutes, a large body of people passed them with that tread which always characterizes the motions of undisciplined men. There was scarcely a word among them, but M'Carthy felt that, knowing them as he did to be peasants, there was something dreadful in the silence which they maintained so strictly. He could not avoid associating their movements and designs with some act of violence and bloodshed, that was about to add horror to the impenetrable gloom of night, whose darkness, perhaps, they were about to light up with the roof-tree of some unsuspecting household, ignorant of the fiery fate that was then so near them.
Several hundreds must have passed, and when the last sounds of their tread had died away, M'Carthy and his companion left their hiding-place, when the latter addressed him as follows:—
"Now, Mr. M'Carthy, I wish you to understand that you are wid a friend—mark my words—avoid the man they call Buck English, for of all men livin' he hates you the most; and listen, whenever you come to this country don't stop in procthor Purcel's, otherwise you may draw down ruin and destruction upon him and his; and, if I'm not mistaken, you're the last man livin' who would wish to do that."
"By the way," asked M'Carthy, "who is Buck English?"
"I don't know," replied the stranger, "nor do I know any one that does."
"And may I not ask who you are yourself?"
"No—for I've good raisons for not telling you. Good-night, and mark my words—avoid that man, for I know he would give a good deal to sit over your coffin—and you in it."
We shall now allow M'Carthy to proceed to his friend's house, which he reached without any further adventure, and ask the reader to accompany the stranger, who in a few minutes overtook the body we have described, to which he belonged. They proceeded in the same way, still maintaining a silence that was fearful and ominous, for about a mile and a half. Whilst proceeding, they met several persons on the road, every one of whom they stopped and interrogated as to his name and residence, after which they allowed them to pass on.
"Why do they! stop and examine the people they meet?" whispered one of them a young lad about nineteen—to him who had just warned McCarthy.
"Why," said the other, "is it possible you don't know that? It's aisy seen you're but young in the business yet."
"This is my first night to be out," replied the youth.
"Well, then," rejoined our friend, "it's in the expectation of meetin' an enemy, especially some one that's marked."
"An' what would they do if they did?"
"Do? said the other; "do for him!. If they met sich a one, they'd take care his supper wouldn't cost him much."
"Blood alive!" exclaimed the young fellow. "I'm afeard this is a bad business."
"Faith, an' if it is, it's only beginnin'," said the other, "but whether good or bad the counthry requires it, an' the Millstone must be got rid of."
"What's the Millstone?"
"The Protestant church. The man that won't join us to put it down, must be looked upon and treated as an enemy to his country—that is, if he is a Catholic."
"I have no objection to that," replied the youth, "but I don't like to see lives taken or blood shed; murdher's awful."
"You must set it down, then," replied the other, "that both will happen, ay, an' that you must yourself shed blood and take life when it come your turn. Howanever, that will soon come aisy to you; a little practice, and two or three opportunities of seeing the thing done, an' you'll begin to take delight in it."
"And do you now?" asked the unsophisticated boy, with a quivering of the voice which proceeded from a shudder.
"Why, no," replied the other, still in a whisper, for in this tone the dialogue was necessarily continued; "not yet, at any rate; but if it came my turn to take a life I should either do it, or lose my own some fine night."
"Upon my conscience," whispered the lad, "I can't help thinkin' that it's a bad business, and won't end well."
"Ay, but the general opinion is, that if we get the Millstone from about our necks, a few lives taken on their side, and a few boys hanged on ours, won't make much difference one way or other, and then everything will end well. That's the way of it."
This muffled dialogue, if we may use the expression, was now interrupted by a change in their route. At a Rath, which here capped an eminence of the road, a narrow bridle-way diverged to the right, and after a gradual ascent for about a mile and a half, was lost upon a rough upland, that might be almost termed a moor. Here they halted for a few minutes, in deliberation as to whether they should then proceed across the moor, or wait until the moon should rise and enable them to see their way.
It was shortly resolved upon to advance, in order that they might lose as little time as possible, in consequence of having, as it appeared, two or three little affairs to execute in the course of the night. They immediately struck across the rough ground which lay before them, and as they did so, the conversation began to be indulged in more freely, in consequence of their remoteness from any human dwelling or the chances of being overheard. The whole body now fell into groups, each headed by a certain individual who acted as leader, but so varied were the topics of discourse, some using Irish, others the English language, that it was rather difficult to catch the general purport of what they said.
At length when a distance of about two miles had been traversed, they came out upon one of those small green campaigns, or sloping meadows, that are occasionally to be found embosomed in the mountains, and upon which the eye rests with an agreeable sense of relief, on turning to them from the dark and monotonous hue of the gloomy wastes around them.
They had not been many minutes here when the moon rose, and after a little time her light would have enabled a casual or accidental spectator to witness a fearful and startling scene. About six hundred men were there assembled; every man having his face blackened, and all with shirts over their outward and usual garments. As soon as the moon, after having gained a greater elevation in the sky, began to diffuse a clearer lustre on the earth, we may justly say that it would be difficult to witness so strange and appalling a spectacle. The white appearance of their persons, caused by the shirts which they wore in the manner we have stated, for this peculiar occasion, when contrasted with their blackened visages, gave them more the character of demons than of men, with whom indeed their strange costume and disfigured faces seemed to imitate the possession of very little in common, with the exception of shape alone. The light was not sufficiently strong to give them distinctness, and as a natural consequence, there was upon them a dim gleamy look—a spectral character that was frightful, and filled the mind with an impression that the meeting must have been one of supernatural beings, if not an assemblage of actual devils, in visible shape, coming to perpetrate on earth some deed of darkness and of horror.
Among the whole six hundred there might have been about one hundred muskets. Pistols, blunderbusses, and other arms there were in considerable numbers, but these were not available for a portion, at least, of the purposes which had brought them together.
After some preliminary preparation a light was struck, a candle lit, around which a certain number stood, so as to expose it to as little chance of observation as possible. A man then above the middle size, compact and big-boned, took the candle in one hand, and brought it towards a long roll which he held in the other. He wore a white hat with a low crown, had large black whiskers which came to his chin, and ran besides round his neck underneath. The appearance of this man, and of those who surrounded the dim light which he held was, when taking their black unnatural faces into consideration, certainly calculated to excite no other sensations than those of terror mingled with disgust.
"Now," said he, in a strong rich brogue, "let every man fall into rank according as his name is called out; and along with his name he must also repate his number whatever it may be, up until we come to a hundred, for I believe we have no more muskets. Where is Sargin Lynch?"
"Here I am," replied that individual, who enjoyed a sergeant's pension, having fought through the peninsular campaign.
"Take the lists then and proceed," said the leader; "we have little time to lose."
Lynch then called over a list until he had reached a hundred; every man, as he answered to his name, also repeated his number; as for instance,
"Here—two!" and so on, until the requisite number was completed, and every man as he responded fell also into rank.
Having thus got them into line, he gave them a rather hasty drill; and this being over, hundred after hundred went through the same process of roll-call and manoeuvre, until the task of the night was completed, so-far, at least, as that particular duty was concerned. Other duties, however, in more complete keeping with their wild and demon-like appearance, were still to be performed. Short rolls were called, by which selections for the assemblage of such as had been previously marked down for the robbery of arms, were made with considerable promptitude. And, indeed, most of those to whom, such outrageous and criminal attacks wera assigned, seemed to feel flattered by being appointed to the performance of them.
At length, when these matters were, arranged, and completed, the whole body was ordered to fall into rank, and the large-man, who acted as leader, walked for a times up and down in front of them, after which, as nearly opposite their centre as possible, he deliberately knelt down, and held his two open palms across each other for some seconds, or perhaps for half a minute.
A low fearful murmur, which no language could describe, and no imagination conceive—without having heard it, ran along the whole line. Whether it proceeded from compassion or exultation, or a blending of both mingled with horror and aversion, or a diabolical, satisfaction, it is difficult or rather absolutely impossible to say. The probability is, however, that it was made up of all these feelings, and that it was their unnatural union, expressed under such wild and peculiar circumstances, that gave it the impressive and dreadful effect wo have described.
"What does he mane?" said some of the youthful and inexperienced portion of them, in the accustomed whisper.
"There's a death to take place to-night," replied an older member; "there's either a man or family doomed, God knows which!" He then arose, and going along the front: rank, selected by name twenty-four individuals, who were made to stand in order; to one of these he whispered the name and residence of the victim; this one immediately whispered the secret to the person next him, who communicated it in his turn, and thus it went round until the last had received it. This being accomplished, he stood apart from the appointed murderers, and made them all, one after another, whisper to him the name and residence as before.
"Now," said the leader, "it's my duty to tell you that there's a man to be done for tonight; and you must all know his crime. He was warned by us no less than four times not to pay tithe, and not only that, but he refused to be sworn out to do so, and wounded one of the boys that wor sent by me one night to swear him. He has set us at defiance by publicly payin' his tithes to a man that we'll take care of some o' these nights. He's now doomed, an' was tried on the last night of our meetin'. This night he dies. Them that has his life in their hands knows who he is an' where they'll find him. Once and for all then this night he dies. Now, boys, such of you as have nothing to do go home, and such of you as have your work before you do it like men, and don't draw down destruction on yourselves by neglectin' it. You know your fate if you flinch.—I have done."
Those who were not on duty, to use a military phrase, returned across the moors by the way they came, and consequently reached the bridle road we have spoken of, together. Such, however, as were set apart for the outrages and crimes of the night, remained behind, in order that the peculiar destination of their atrocities might be known only to the individuals who were appointed to perpetrate them.
On their return, our unknown friend, who had rendered such an essential service to M'Carthy, thus addressed his companion—that is to say, the man who happened to be next him,—
"Well, neighbor, what do you think of this night's work?"
"Why, that everything's right, of coorse," replied the other; "any man that strives to keep the Millstone about our necks desarves his fate; at the same time," he added, dropping his voice still lower, "I'd as soon not be the man to do the deed, neighbor."
"Well, I can't say," returned our friend, "but I'm a trifle of your way of thinkin'."
"There's one thing troubles me," added his companion, an' it's this—there was a young lad wid us to-night from my neighborhood, he was near the last of us as we went along the road on our way to the mountains; I seen him whisperin' to some one a good deal as we came out—now, I know there's not on airth a kinder-hearted or more affectionate boy than he is; he hasn't a heart to hurt a fly, and is loved and respected by every one in the neighborhood. Very well! God of glory! isn't it too bad, that this one, handsome, lovin', and affectionate boy, the only child of his father and mother,—fareer gair (* Bitter misfortune.)—my friend, whoever you are, isn't it too bad, that that boy, innocent and harmless as a child, will go home to his lovin' parents a murdherer this night?"
"What makes you say so?" asked our unknown friend.
"Why," replied the man, "he stood beside me in the ranks, and has been sent to murdher the man that was doomed."
To this our friend judiciously avoided making any reply, the fact being that several individuals in high trust among these Whiteboys were occasionally employed to sound suspected persons, in order to test their sincerity. For about half a minute he spoke not; but at length he said, with something like sternness—
"There's no use in sich talk as this, my friend; every man that joins us must make up his mind to do his duty to God and his country."
"It's a quare way of sarvin' God to commit midnight murdher on his creatures," responded the man with energy.
"I don't know who you are," replied our friend, "but if you take my advice, you'll not hould such conversation wid every man you spake to in this body. Wid me you're safe, but at the same time, I say, don't draw suspicion on yourself, and it'll be betther for you."
"Who is this man?" asked the other, who appeared to have been borne away a good deal by his feelings, "that commands us?"
"Don't you know Captain Midnight?" replied the other, somewhat evasively.
"Why, of coorse I know the man by that name; but, at the same time, I know nothin' else about him."
"Did you never hear?" asked his companion.
"Why, to tell you the truth," said the other, "I heerd it said that he's the Cannie Soogah, or the Jolly Pedlar that goes about the country."
"Well," said the other, lowering his voice a good deal in reply, "if I could trust you, I'd tell you what I think."
"I'll give you my name, then," replied the other, "if you doubt me;" he accordingly whispered it to him, and the conversation proceeded.
"I know your family well," returned our friend; "but, as I said before, be more on your guard, unless you know well the man you spake to. As for myself, I sometimes think it is the Cannie Soogah and sometimes that it is not. Others say it's Buck English; but the Buck, for raisons that some people suspect, could never be got to join us. He wishes us well, he says, but won't do anything till there comes an open 'ruction, and then he'll join us, but not before. It's hard to say, at any rate, who commands us when we meet this way."
"Why the dickens need you ax? Sure it's not the same man two nights runnin'."
"But I have been only three or four times out yet," replied his companion; "and, sure enough, you're very—right—they hadn't the same man twiste."
They had now reached the road under the Fort or Rath we have alluded to, and as there was no further necessity for any combined motion among them, and as every man now was anxious to reach home as soon as possible, their numbers diminished rapidly, until they ultimately dispersed themselves in all directions throughout the country.
CHAPTER IV.—Mirth and Murder—A Tithe-Proctor's Office.
The next morning, when our proctor and his family assembled at breakfast, their usual buoyancy of spirits was considerably checked by a report which had already spread over a great portion of the country, that a very industrious and honest farmer, who lived within about four miles of them, had been murdered in his own house the night before, by a party of fellows disguised with blackened faces, and who wore shirts over their clothes. The barbarous and brutal deed, in consequence of the amiable and excellent character of the man—who had been also remarkable for resolution and courage—had already excited an extraordinary commotion throughout the country.
"Boys," said Purcel, "I have been in C———m this morning, and, I'm sorry to say, there's bad news abroad."
"How is that, sir?" asked Alick,—"no violence, I hope; although I wouldn't feel surprised if there were; the country is getting into a bad state: I think myself the people are mad, absolutely mad."
"You both knew Matthew Murray," he proceeded, "that lived down at Rathkeerin?"
"Certainly, father," said John; "what about him?—no harm, I hope?"
"He was murdered in his own house last night," replied his father; "but it's some consolation that one of the murdering villains is in custody."
"That is bad business, certainly," replied John; "in fact, it's dreadful."
"It is dreadful," said the father; "but the truth is, we must have the country, at least this part of it, proclaimed, and martial law established;—damn the murdering scoundrels, nothing else is fit for them. We must carry arms, boys, in future; and by d—n, the first man I see looking at me suspiciously, especially from behind a hedge, I'll shoot him. As a tithe-proctor I could do so without much risk."
"Not, father," said Alick, "until he should first offer, or make an attempt at violence."
"I would not, in the present state of the country, wait for it," replied the determined and now indignant proctor; "if I saw him watch me with arms in his hands, or any dangerous weapon about his person, by d—n I'd put a bullet through him, with no more remorse than I would through a dog, and, if the animal were a good one, I think he would be the greater public loss of the two."
Just at this moment, the females of the family, who had been giving breakfast to a number of poor destitute creatures, made their appearance.
"Where have you all been?" asked Mrs. Purcel, addressing her husband and sons; "here have we been waiting breakfast for you during the last half-hour, and finding you were none of you within, we went and gave these poor creatures without something to eat."
"Ay," responded the angry proctor, "and it's not unlikely that the son, or husband, or brother of some of them may take a slap at me or at one of our sons, from behind a hedge, before these long nights pass off. D—n me, but it's throwing pearls before swine, to show them either kindness or charity."
"Something has angered you, papa," said Mary; "I hope you have heard nothing unpleasant; I am not very timid, but when a whole country is in such a state of disturbance, one may entertain a reasonable apprehension, certainly."
"Why, I am angry, Mary," replied her father; "there's as decent and quiet, but, at the same time, as spirited a man as there ever was in the barony, murdered this morning—Mat Murray of Rathkeerin; however, as I said, it's a great consolation that one of the murderers is in custody."
"And who is the wretch, papa?" asked Julia.
"One that nobody ever could have suspected for such an act," replied Purcel—"a son of one of our own tenants—honest Michael Devlin's son—James."
"Utterly impossible, father," exclaimed Julia, "there must be a mistake; that quiet and dutiful boy—their only son—never could have been concerned in the crime of murder."
"Well, perhaps not, Judy; but, you silly girl, you talk as if you were in love with him. Why, child, there is such a system abroad, now that a man can scarcely trust his own brother—no, nor does a father know, when he sits down to his breakfast in the morning with his own son, whether, as Scripture says, he is not dipping his hand in the dish with a murderer."
"Mat," said his wife, "you ought not to be out late at night, nor the boys either. You know there is a strong feeling against you; and indeed I think you ought not, any of you, ever to go out without, arms about you—at all events, until the country gets quiet."
"So I was just saying, Nancy," replied her husband;—"hallo! who's this coming up to the hall-door?—begad, our old pleasant friend, the Cannie Soogah. Upon my troth, I'm glad to see him. Hallo! Cannie!—Cannie Soogah, my hearty,—Jolly Pedlar, I say—this way! How are you, man?—have you breakfasted? Of course not. Well, go to the kitchen and, if you don't show good eating, it won't be for want of materials."
"God save you, Misther Purcel," replied the pedlar, in a rich, round brogue; "God save you, young gintlemen. Oh, thin, Misther Purcel, by my sowl it's your four quarthers that has a right to be proud of your; family! And the ladies—not forgettin' the misthress herself—devil the likes of the same two young ladies I see on my whole bait, an' that's the country at large, barrin' the barony of Bedhehusth, where these cruel murdhers is committed; an' devil a foot I'll ever set into it till it's changed for the betther."
"Well, be off," said the proctor, "to the kitchen; get your breakfast first, and then we'll chat to you."
"I will; but oh, Misther Purcel darlin', did you hear what happened last night?"
"Is it Murray's business?"
"What do you call Murray's business, Misther Purcel? 'Tis Murray's murdher, you mane?"
"Certainly, I have heard it all this morning in C———m."
The pedlar only shook his head, looked upwards, and raising his two hands so as to express amazement, exclaimed—"Well, well, what is the world goin' to! troth, I'll not ate half my breakwist in regard of it!" So saying he slung his huge pack upon his shoulder as if it had been a mere bag of feathers, and took his way round to the kitchen as he had been desired.
The Connie Soogah, for so the people universally termed him, was in person and figure a fine burly specimen of manhood. His hair was black, as were a pair of large whiskers, that covered the greater portion of his face, and nearly met at his chin. His arms and limbs were powerfully made, and what is not always the case in muscular men, they betokened great activity as well as unusual strength. Nobody, for instance, would look without astonishment at the ease with which he swung a pack, that was weighty enough to load an ass, over his shoulder, or the lightness and agility with which he trotted on under it from morning till night, and this during the very severest heat of summer.
M'Carthy, on reaching O'Driscol's the night before, had come to the conclusion of not making any allusion whatsoever to the incident which had just occurred to him. O'Driscol, who was only a newly-fledged magistrate, would, he knew, have made it the ground-work of a fresh communication to government, or to his friend the Castle, as he called it, especially as he had many other circumstances of less importance since his elevation to the magistracy. One indeed would imagine that the peace and welfare of that portion of the country had been altogether left to his sole and individual management, and that nothing at all of any consequence could get on properly in it without his co-operation or interference in some way. For this reason, as well as for others, M'Carthy prudently hesitated either to arouse his loyalty or disturb the tranquility of his family, and after joining him in a tumbler of punch, or what O'Driscol termed his nightcap, he retired to bed, where, however, he could not for a considerable time prevent himself from ruminating, with a good deal of seriousness, upon the extraordinary interview he had had with the friendly stranger.
After breakfast the next morning he resolved, however, to communicate to his friends, the Purcels, who were at all events no alarmists, and would not be apt to make him, whether he would or not, the instrument of a selfish communication with the government, a kind of honor for which the quiet and unassuming student had no relish whatsoever. He sauntered towards the proctor's, at whose house he arrived a few minutes before the return from the kitchen of our friend the Connie Soogah, who had been treated there with an excellent and abundant breakfast, to which, in spite of the murder of Murray, he did ample justice.
"Now, Mr. Purcel," he exclaimed, tossing down his pack as if it had been a schoolboy's satchel, "by the lomenty-tarry you have made a new man of me! Whoo!" he proceeded, cutting a caper more than a yard high, "show me the man now, that would dar to say bow to your—beg pardon, ladies, I must be jinteel for your sakes—that would dar, I say, to look crucked at you or one a' your family, and maybe the Cannie Soogah wouldn't rise the lap of his liver. Come, young ladies, shall I make my display? I know you'll buy lot o' things and plenty besides; I can praise my goods, thank God, for you see, Miss Mary, when the world comes to an end it'll be found that the man who couldn't say three words for himself, and one for his friend, must be sent down stairs to keep the fire in. Miss Julia, I have a shawl here that 'ud make you look worse than you do."
"Worse, Cannie!" replied Julia, "do you call that a recommendation?"
"Certainly, Miss Julia, you look so well that nothing on airth could make you look batther, and by way of variety, I've gone to the Well o' the world's end to get something to make you look worse. God knows whether I've succeeded or not, but at all events, we'll thry."
So saying, he produced a very handsome shawl, together with a rather large assortment of jewelry and other matters connected with the female toilet, of considerable taste and expense.
"Here," he added, "are some cotton and silk stockins'—but upon my profits, it's not to every foot an' leg I'd produce them. I'm a great coortier, ladies, you must know, and am in love wid every purty girl I meet—but sure that's only natural; however, as I was sayin', it's not to a clype or a pair of smooth-in' irons I'll produce such stockins' as these! No, no, but a purty foot an' leg is always sure to get the worth o' their money from the Cannie Soogah!"
"Well done, Cannie!" said the proctor, "dix me, but you're a pleasant fellow—come girls, you must buy something—handsel him. You got no handsel to-day, Cannie?" he added, winking at the pedlar to say no.
"Barrin' the first foundation in the kitchen within," he replied; "for you must know that's what I call my breakfast, handsel of any kind didn't cross my palm this day."
"In that case, the girls must certainly buy something," added Purcel.
"But we've no money, papa."
"But," replied the pedlar, "you have what's betther—good credit with the Cannie Soogah—och, upon my profits I'd rather have one sweet coaxin' smile from that purty little mouth of yours, Miss Julia, than money in hand any day! Ah! Misther Purcel, darlin', isn't it a poor thing not to have an estate of ten thousand a year?" and here he looked wistfully at the smiling Julia, and shrugged his shoulders like a man who knew he was never likely to gain his wishes.
"I would buy something," said Mary, "but, like Julia, I am penniless."
"Never say so, Miss Mary, to me; only name what you'd like—lave the price to my honesty, and the payment to my patience, and upon my profits you won't complain, I'll go bail."
"Yes," observed Julia, "or what if papa would treat us to something? Come, papa, for the sake of old times; let us see whether you have forgotten any of your former, craft."
"Good, Judy! ha! ha! ha!—well done! but Cannie, have you nothing for the gentlemen?"
Now, we must pause for a little to state, that the moment M'Carthy, who was now present, heard the jolly pedlar's voice, he started, and felt considerably surprise. The tones of it were neither familiar to him nor yet were they strange. That he had heard them somewhere, and on some occasion, he could almost have sworn. Occasionally a turn of the man's voice would strike him as not being new to him, but again, for the next minute or two, it was such as he could not remember to have ever heard. This we say by way of parenthesis.
"For the gentlemen! Lord help you, Mr. Purcel, I never think of them when the ladies is before me—who would! However, I'm well prepared even for them. Here is a case o' razors that 'ud cut half an inch before the edge; now, if you find me another pair that'll do the seem—hem! the same—I'll buy the Bank of Ireland and give it to you for a new-year's-gift."
"Don't you know this gentleman?" asked the proctor, pointing to M'Carthy.
"Let me see," said he—"we'll now—eh, no—I think not, he is neither so well made, nor by any manes so well lookin' as the other;" and the pedlar, as he spoke, fixed his eyes, but without seeming to gaze, upon Julia, who, on hearing a comparison evidently so disadvantageous to M'Carthy, blushed deeply, and passed to another part of the room, in order to conceal what she felt must have been visible, and might have excited observation.
"No," proceeded the pedlar; "I thought at first he was one of the left-legge'd M'Squiggins's, as they call them, from Fumblestown—but he is not, I know, for the raisons I said. They're a very good plain family, the M'Squiggins's, only that nobody's likely to fall in love wid them—upon my profits, I'm half inclined to think he's one of them still—eh, let me see again—would you turn round a little, if you plaise, sir, till I thry if the cast's in your eye. Upon my faith, there it is sure enough! How are you, Misther M'Squiggins? I'm happy to see you well, sir. How is your sisther, Miss Pugshey, an' all the family, sir?—all well, I hope, sir?"
"All well," replied M'Carthy, laughing as loud as any of the rest, every one of whom actually in convulsions—for they knew, with the exception of Julia, who was deceived at first by the pedlar's apparent gravity, that he was only bantering her lover.
The proctor, who, although a man that loved money as his God—with his whole heart, soul, and strength—was yet exceedingly anxious to stand well with the world, and on this account never suffered a mere trifle to stand between him and the means of acquiring a good name, and having himself been considered a man of even of a benevolent spirit. He consequently made some purchase from the pedlar, with whom he held a very amusing and comic discussion, as touching the prices of many articles in that worthy's; pack. Nay, he went so far as to give them a good-humored exhibition of the secrets and peculiarities known only to the initiated, and bought some small matters in the slang terms with which none but the trade are acquainted.
"Come, boys," said he, "I have set you a good example; won't you buy something from the jolly pedlar?"
John and Alick bought some trifling things, and M'Carthy purchased a pair of bracelets for the girls, which closed the sales for that morning.
"Well, now," said the pedlar, whilst folding up again the goods which he had displayed for sale, "upon my profits, Misther Purcel, it's a perfect delight to me to call here, an' that whether I dale or not—although I'm sure to do so always when I come. Well, you have all dealt wid me now for payment, and here goes to give you something for nothing—an, in truth, it's a commodity that, although always chape, is seldom taken. 'Tis called good advice. The ladies—God bless them, don't stand in need of it, for sure the darlins' never did anything from Eve downwards, that 'ud require it. Here it is then, Misther Purcel, let you and your sons do what the ould song says—'be good boys and take care of yourselves. Thighin thu? (*Do you understand.) An' this gintleman, if I knew his name, maybe I'd say something to him too."
"This is Mr. M'Carthy, Cannie."
"Ay, M'Carthy—troth 'tis a good ould name. Well, Mr. M'Carthy, all I have to say to you! is, that if you happen to meet a man that gives you good advice, TAKE IT. An' now God be Wid you all, an' spare you to one another!"
So saying, he slung his huge pack over his shoulders almost without an effort, and commencing a merry old Irish song he proceeded lightly and cheerfully on his journey.
"Well, boys," said the proctor, "now that we've had a good hearty laugh with the Cannie Soogah, let us proceed to business. I see by your red coats and top-boots, that you're for the hounds to-day, but as I'm in a hurry, I wish before you go, that you'd see those sneaking devils that are hanging about the place. Hourigan is there again with fresh falsehoods—don't be misled by him—the ill-looking scoundrel is right well able to pay—and dix me if I'll spare him. Tell him he needn't expect any further forbearance—a rascal that's putting money in the saving's bank to be pleadin' poverty! It's too bad. But the truth is, boys, there's no one behind in their tithes now entitled to forbearance, and for the same reason they must pay or take the consequences; we'll see whether they or the law will prove the strongest, and that very soon. Good-bye, boys; good-bye, M'Carthy—and I say, Jack and Alick, be on your sharps and don't let them lads do you—d'ye mind now?—keen's the word."
He then got on his comfortable jaunting-car, and drove off to wait, according to appointment, upon the Rev. Jeremiah Turbot, D.D.
"Mogue Moylan," said John, "will you go out and tell them fellows that I and Alick will be in the office presently—and do you hear? tell them to look like men, and not so much like murderers that came to take our lives. Say we'll be in the office presently, and that we hope it's not excuses they're fetching us."
"I will, Misther John; but, troth, it's the worst word in their cheek they'd give me, if I deliver the last part of your message. 'Tis my head in my fist I'd get, maybe; however, Misther John, between you an' me, they're an ill-looking set, one an' all o' them, an' could pay their tides, every tail o' them, if they wished."
"I know that very well," replied the young fellow, "but my father's not the man to be trifled with. We'll soon see whether they or the law's the strongest; that's all."
Moylan went over to where the defaulters were standing, and putting up his hand, he stroked down his cheek with great gravity. "Are yez in a hurry, good people?" said he.
"Some of us is," replied a voice.
"Ay, all of us," replied others; "and we're here now for an hour and a half, and no sign of seein' us."
"Yez are in a hurry, then?"
"To be sure we are."
"Well, to them that's in a hurry I've a word to say."
"What is it, Mogue?"
"Why, it is this, take your time—ever an' always, when you happen to be in a hurry—take your time."
"Maybe, Mogue," they replied, "if you were widout your breakfast, as we are, you wouldn't say so."
"Why, did'nt yez get your breakfasts yet?"
"Devil a morsel."
"Well, to them that didn't get their breakfasts I have another word to say."
"What is it, Mogue?"
"Why, have patience—ever and always when you're hungry, have patience, and you'll find it a great relief; it'll fill you and keep you in good condition—that I mayn't sin but it will! But, sure, I've got news for yez, boys," he added; "Masther John bid me tell you that, after about a month or so it'll be contrary to law to get hungry: there's an act o' parliament goin' to be made against it, you see; so that any villain disloyal enough to get hungry, if it's proved against him, will be liable to transportation. That I mayn't sin but it'll be a great comfort for the country—I mane, to have hunger made contrary to act o' parliament."
Mogue Moylan was, indeed, a fellow of a very original and peculiar character. Grave, sly, and hypocritical, yet apparently quiet and not susceptible of strong or vehement emotions, he was, nevertheless, more suggestive of evil designs and their fulfilment than any man, perhaps, in his position of life that ever existed. Though utterly without spirit, or the slightest conception of what personal courage meant, the reader not be surprised that he was also vindictive, and consequently treacherous and implacable. He could project crime and outrage with a felecity of diabolical invention that was almost incredible. He was, besides, close and cautious, unless when he thought that he could risk a falsehood with safety; and, in the opinion of some few who knew him, not merely dishonest, but an actual thief. His manner, too, was full of plausible assumption of great conscientiousness and simplicity. He seemed always calm and cool, was considered rather of a religious turn, and always expressed a strong horror against cursing or swearing in any shape. Indeed he had a pat anecdote, which he occasionally told, of a swoon or faint into which he usually fell, when a youth of about nineteen, in consequence of having been forced to take a book oath, for the first time, another act against which he entertained a peculiar antipathy. Now, all this was indeed very singular and peculiar; but he accounted for it by the scrupulous love of truth with which not only he himself, but his whole family, many of whom he said had given their lives for their country, were affected. The only foible that could be brought to the charge of honest Mogue, was a singular admiration for his own visage, which he never omitted to survey with remarkable complacency several times a day in a broken piece of looking, glass, which he kept for that especial purpose. This, and its not unnatural consequences a belief that almost ever female who spoke to him with civility was smitten by his face and figure, constituted the only two weaknesses in a character otherwise so spotless and perfect as that of Mogue Moylan. Mogue was also a good deal subject to the influence of the pathetic, especially when he alluded to the misfortune, glory be to God, which had befallen the family, in the person of a lone line of ancestors, and especially in that of big poor, simple father, whose word, as every one knew, was as good as his oath; and, indeed, very few doubted that remarkable fact, but who, notwithstanding had been transported during the space of seven years for suspicion of perjury; "for didn't the judge tell him, when he passed sentence upon him, that if he had been found guilty all out, or of anything beyant suspicion of it, he would be transported for life; 'an' instead of that,' said the judge, 'bekaise I persave,' says he, 'that you're an honest man, an' has been sworn against wrongfully in this business, and bekaise I see clearly that you love the truth, the sentence of the coort is,' says he, sheddin' tears, 'that you're to be transported only for seven years, an' you lave the coort an' the counthry,' says he, 'widout at stain upon your character—it's only the law that's against you—so, God be wid you,' the judge went on, wipin' his eyes, 'and grant you a safe and pleasant voyage acrass,' says he, an' he cried for some minutes like a child. That an' the unjust hangin' of my poor, simple ould grandfather for horse-stearin'—that is, for suspicion of horse-stealin'—is the only two misfortunes, thank God, that has been in our family of late days."
So much for the character of worthy Mogue, whom we must now permit to resume the delivery of his message.
The last words were uttered with so peculiar and significant a gravity, not without a good deal of dry sarcastic humor, that the men could not avoid laughing heartily.
"But," he proceeded, "I have better news still for yez. Sure Masther John desired me to let you all know that his father won't ax a penny o' tithe from one o' yez: all you have to do is to call at the office there in a few minutes, and you'll get aich o' you a receipt in full; (* By this he means a horse-whipping.) that is, if you don't keep civil tongues in your heads."
One of Mogue's qualities was the power of gravely narrating a fact with such peculiar significance, that the very reverse of it was conveyed to the hearer; for the fellow was a perfect master of irony.
"Ah! well done Mogue; many a day o' reckoning he has had wid us, but maybe our day o' reckonin' wid him will come sooner than he expects, or wishes."
"Don't be thinkin' ill," said Mogue, "but keep yourselves always free from evil. What does Scripthur say? 'One good turn desarves another,' says Scripthur. Boys, always keep Scripthur before you, and you'll do right. 'One good turn deserves another,' says Scripthur! and you know yourselves, I hope, that many a good turn you received at his hands. That I may be happy, but it's good advice I'm givin' you!"
"Divil a betther, Mogue," replied Hourigan, with a significant scowl, and "it's we ourselves that'll be sure to take it some fine night."
"Night or day," replied Mogue, "it's always right to be doin' good, whether we sarve our country or religion. God prosper yez, at all events, and grant you success in your endeavors, an' that's the worst I wish you! There now, Masther John's in the office, ready an' willin' to give sich o' yez a resate in full as will—desarve it."
The situation in which the parties stood, during this dialogue, was at the rear of the premises into which the proctor's office opened, and where the country people were always desired to wait. They stood at the end of the stable, adjoining a wall almost eight feet high, on the other side of which was the pig-sty. Here, whilst the conversation just detailed went forward, stood a pretty, plump-looking, country-girl, one of the female servants of the proctor's establishment, named Letty Lenehan. She had come to feed the pigs, just in time to catch the greater portion of their conversation; and, as she possessed a tolerably clear insight into Mogue's character, she was by no means ignorant of certain illusions made in it, although she unquestionably did not comprehend its full drift. We have said that this girl understood his character very well, and scarcely any one had a better right or greater opportunities of doing so. Mogue, in fact, was in love with her, or at least, pretended to be so; but, whether he was or not, one thing we write as certain, that he most implicitly believed her to be so with himself. Letty was a well-tempered, faithful girl, honest and conscientious, but not without a considerable relish for humor, and with more than ordinary talents for carrying on either a practical joke or any other piece of harmless humbug, a faculty in which she was ably supported by a fellow-servant of a very different description from Mogue, named Jerry Joyce. Joyce, in fact, was not merely a strong contrast to Mogue, but his very reverse in almost every point of his character. He was open and artless in the opinion of many, almost to folly; but, under this apparent thoughtlessness, there existed a fund of good sense, excellent feeling, and quickness of penetration, for which the world gave him no credit, or at least but very little.
Jerry and Letty, therefore, between whom a real affection subsisted, were in the habit of amusing themselves, whenever they could do so without discovery, at Mogue's expense. Such, then, was the relative position of these parties at the present stage of our narrative.
When John Purcel was seen in the office, the tithe defaulters, for such they were, went to the outside of the window, where they all stood until it became the turn of each to go in. Although they went there to plead their inability to pay, yet, in fact, there were a great proportion of them who exhibited, neither by their manner nor appearance, any symptom whatever of poverty. On the countenances of most of them might be read, not only a stern, gloomy, and resolute expression, but one of dissatisfaction and bitter resentment. As they turned their eyes upon young Purcel, and looked around at the unequivocal marks of great wealth, if not luxury itself, that were conspicuous in every direction, there was a significance in the smiles and glances which passed between them, that gave very appropriate foretaste of the convulsions which ere long took place in the country. John Purcel himself had remarked these appearances on almost every recent occasion, and it was the striking, or rather startling, aspect of these men, that caused him to allude to it just before sending Moylan to them.
It is not our intention to detail, at full length, the angry altercations which took place between them, as each went in, from time to time, to apologize for not paying up his tithes. Every possible excuse was offered; but so well and thoroughly were Purcel and his sons acquainted with the circumstances, of, we may say, almost every family, not merely in the parish, but in the barony itself, that it proved a matter of the greatest difficulty to mislead or impose on any of them. Nay, so anxious did the shrewd tithe-proctor feel upon this subject, that he actually got himself proposed and elected a governor of the Savings' Bank, which had been for some time past established in C———m. By this means, he was enabled to know that many of those who came to him with poverty on their lips, were actually lodging money in these economical institutions.
"Well, Carey," said he, to a comfortable-looking man that entered, "I hope you have no further apology to offer for your dishonesty?"
"Sorra thing, Mr. John, but that I'm not able to pay. I expect the landlord to come down upon me some o' these days—and what to do, or on what hand to turn, I'm sure I don't know on airth."
"You don't say so now, Carey?"
"Troth I do, Misther John; and I hope you'll spare me for a little—I mane till the hard times that's in it mends somehow."
"Well, Carey, all I can say is, that, if you don't know on what hand to turn, I can tell you."
"Thank you, Misther John; troth an' I do want to know that."
"Listen, then; before you come here to me with a barefaced and dishonest lie in your mouth, you ought to have gone to the C———m Savings' Bank, and drawn from the sum of two hundred and seventy-three pounds, which you have lying there, the slight sum of seven pounds twelve and nine-pence which you owe us. Now, Carey, I tell you that you are nothing but an impudent, scheming, dishonest scoundrel; and I say, once for all, that we will see whether you, and every knavish rascal like you, or the law of the land, is the stronger. Mark me now, you impudent knave, we shall never ask you again. The next time you see us will be at the head of a body of police, or a party of the king's troops; for I swear that, as sure as, the sun shines, so certainly will we take the tithe due out of your marrow, if we can get it nowhere else."
"Maybe, then," said Carey, "you will find that we'll laugh at the law, the polis, the king's troops, and Misther John Purcel into the bargain; and I now tell you to your teeth, that if one sixpence of tithe would save the sowls of every one belongin' to you, I won't pay it—so do your worst, and I defy you."
"Begone, you scoundrel. You are, I perceive, as rank a rebel as ever missed the rope; but you won't miss it. Go home now; for, as I said this moment, we will take the tithe out of your marrow, if you had thousands of your cut-throat and cowardly White-boys at your back. Don't think this villainy will pass with us; we know how to handle you, and will too; begone, you dishonest ruffian, I have no more time to lose with you."
In this manner almost every interview terminated. Purcel was a warm and impetuous young fellow, who certainly detested everything in the shape of dishonesty or deceit and here he had too many instances of both to be able to keep his temper, especially when he felt that he and his family were the sufferers. Other cases, however, were certainly very dissimilar to this; we allude especially to those of real distress, where the means of meeting the demand were not to be had. With such individuals the proctor's sons were disposed to be lenient, which is certainly more than could be said if he himself had to deal with them.
"Jemmy Mulligan," he said, to a poor-looking man, "go home to your family. We don't intend to take harsh measures with you, Jemmy; and you needn't come here again till we send for you."
"God bless you, sir; troth I don't know why the people say that you're all hard and unfeelin'—I can say for myself that I never found you so. Good morning, sir, and thank you, Misther John; and God forgive them that blackens you as they do!"
"Yes, Jemmy, I know they hate us, because we compel them to act honestly; but they will soon find that honesty, after all, is the cheapest course,—for we shall take d—d good care to make them pay through the nose for their knavery. We know they have a gang of firebrand agitators and hungry lawyers at their back; but we shall make them feel that the law is stronger than any treasonable combination that can be got up against it."
A third man came in. "Well, Tom, you're not coming to plead poverty, I hope?"
The man looked around him with peculiar intelligence. "Are we safe?" he asked; "and may I spake widout danger?"
"You may, Duggan."
"Well, then, I came to say that I'll call over to-morrow evenin' and pay it, but I daren't now."
"Why so, Tom?"
"Bekaise the most of us all have the tithe in our pockets, but as a proof that we did not pay it, we will, every man of us, be obliged to show it before we go home. I might pay it now, Mr. Purcel; but then, if I did, it' very likely I'd be a corpse before this day week. Sich is the state that things ha' come to; and how it'll end, God only knows. At any rate, I'll slip over afther dusk to-morrow evenin' and pay; but as you hope for mercy, and don't wish to see me taken from my wife and childre', don't breathe a syllable of it to man or mortual."
"I shall not, indeed, Tom," replied Purcel, "but I really did not think that matters were altogether so bad as you describe them. The people are infatuated, and will only draw the vengeance of the law upon their heads. They will suffer, as they always do by their own misconduct and madness."
Duggan had scarcely withdrawn, when our old friend, Darby Hourigan, thrust in his hateful and murderous-looking countenance. "God save you, Misther John."
"God save you kindly, Misther Hourigan."
"Isn't it glorious weather for the saison, sir?"
"I have seen better and I have seen worse, Mr. Hourigan; but Darby, passing the weather by, which neither you nor I can mend, allow me to say that I hope you are not coming here for the twentieth time to palm us off about the tithe."
"Troth, then, and, Mr. John; I can't afford to pay tide—I'm a poor man, sir; and, as it happens that I never trouble the parson in religious matthers, I don't see what right the parson has to trouble me for my money."
"Ah! you have got the cant, I see. You have been tutored."
"I have got the truth, sir."
"Ay, but have you got the tithe, sir? for I do assure you, Mr. Hourigan, that it is not your logic, but your money I want."
"Begad, sir, and I'm afeard you'll be forced to put up wid my logic this time, too. You can't take more from the cat than her skin, you know."
There was an atrocious and sneering spirit, not only in this ruffian's manner, but in the tones of his voice, that was calculated to overcome human patience.
"Darby, we have let you run a long time, but I now tell you, there's an end of our forbearance so far as you are concerned. If you were not able to pay I could feel for you, put we know, and all the world knows, that you are one of the most comfortable and independent men in the parish. Darby, you in short are a d—d rogue, and what is worse, a treacherous and mischief-makin scoundrel. I am aware of the language you use against our whole family, whom you blacken whenever you have an opportunity of doing so. You are not only dishonest but ungrateful, sirrah."
"No man has a betther right to be a judge, and a good judge of dishonesty, than your father's son," replied Hourigan. "Why didn't you call me an oppressor of the poor, and a blood-sucker?—why didn't you say I was a hard-hearted beggarly upstart, that rose from maneness and cheatery, and am now tyrannizin' over hundreds that's a thousand times betther than myself? Why don't you say that I'd sell my church and my religion to their worst enemies, and that for the sake of filthy lucre and blackguard upstart pride? I now come to tell you what we all think of you in this country, and what I believe some of us has tould you already—that you may go to hell for your tithe, and make the divil your paymaster, what he'll be yet. We will pay you none, and we set you and your upstart ould rogue of a father, with the law, the polis, and the army, all at defiance. I don't choose to say more, but I could if I liked."
Purcell's hunting-whip accidentally lay on the table at which he sat, but he did not take it up immediately after Hourigan had concluded. He quickly rose, however, and having closed the door and locked it, he let down the windows, and deliberately drew the blinds.
"Now, you scoundrel," he replied, taking up the whip, and commencing to flog Hourigan with all his strength, which was very great, "I will give you, by way of foretaste, a specimen of what a ruffian like you deserves when he is insolent."
With such singular energy, good will, and admirable effect did he lace Mr. Hourigan, that the latter worthy, after cutting some very antic capers, and exhibiting in a good many other respects several proofs of his agility that could scarcely be expected from his heavy and ungainly figure, was at last fairly obliged to sing out,—"Oh, Misther John, Misther John! you will—Misther John, darlin', what do you mane, you murdh—oh, oh, d—n your soul—dear, what do you mane, Mr. John, dear? I say, what are you at? What do you baste me this way for—oh, may the divil—the Lord bless you, an' don't—here I am—here, Misther John, I ax your pardon—hell pursue—Misther John, darlin', I go down on my knees to you, an' axes your pardon—here now you see, I'm down.—Och murdher, am I to have the very sowl welted out o' me this way?"
Mr. John, having now satisfied himself, and left very visible marks of his attachment and good will to Hourigan, upon that individual's face and person, desired him to get up.
"Now, my good fellow," he exclaimed, "I trust I have taught you a lesson that you won't forget."
"No, Misther John," he replied, rising and rubbing himself in different parts of the body, as if to mitigate the pain which he felt; "no, I won't forget it—I won't by it's a lesson I'll remember, and so will you."
"What do you mean, you cowardly villain?" asked Purcel, once more raising his whip. "You are threatening, are you."
"No, Misther John, not a bit o' that—divil a threat—me! I wouldn't threaten you if there wasn't niver another man in Europe. Let me out, if you plaise—let me out, and may the div—the Lord lov you!"
"Now," said the other, raising the blinds and afterwards opening the door, "you may go about your business, and mark me, Mr Hourigan—"
"I do, sir," replied the other, bolting out "oh, God knows I do—you have marked me, Misther Purcel, and I will mark you, sir—for—" he added muttering in a low voice to those who stood about him—"one good turn desarves another, anyhow."
We shall not now dwell upon the comments which young Purcel's violence drew from the defaulters on their way home. Our reader, however, may easily imagine them, and form for themselves a presentiment of the length to which "the tithe insurrection," as they termed it, was likely to proceed throughout the country at large, with the exception only of the northern provinces.
CHAPTER V.—A Hang-Choice Shot—The "Garrison" on Short Commons.
When our merry friend the pedlar left the proctor's parlor, he proceeded at a brisk pace in the direction of the highway, which, however, was not less than three-quarters of a mile from Longshot Lodge, which was the name Purcel had given to his residence. He had only got clear of the offices, however, and was passing the garden wall, which ran between him and the proctor's whole premises, when he was arrested by Mogue Moylan.
"Ah! merry Mogue," exclaimed the pedlar, ironically, "I was missin' you. Where were you, my cherub?"
"I was in the barn 'ithin," replied Mogue, "just offerin' up a little pathernavy for the protection o' this house and place, and of the daicent, kind-hearted peeople that's in it."
"An', as a joint prayer, they say, is worth ten single ones, I suppose," returned the pedlar,—laying his fingers on his lips and winking—"you had—ahem—you understand?"
"No, thin," replied Mogue, brightening up with excessive vanity, "may I be happy if I do!"
"Why, our fair friend, Letty Lenehan—begad, Mogue, she's a purty girl that—says she to herself," proceeded the pedlar; "for I don't think she knew or thought I heard her—'If I thought he would like these rib-bons, I'd buy them for myself.' 'Who do you mane, acushla?' says I, whisperin' to her. 'Who,' says she, 'but—but Mogue himself—only honor bright, Mr. Magrath' says she, 'sure you wouldn't betray me?' 'Honor bright again,' says I, 'I'm not the stuff a traitor's made of;' and so you see we both laughed heartily, bekaise we understood one another. Mogue," proceeded the other, "will you answer me the truth in one thing?"
"If I can I will, Misther Magrath.
"I know ye will, bekaise you can," replied, the pedlar; "how do you come round the girls at all? how do you make them fond o' you? I want you to tell me that, if it's not a family saicret."
Mogue gravely drew his fingers and thumb down his thin yellow jaws, until they met under his chin, and replied—
"It can't be tould, Misther Magrath; some men the women's naturally fond of, and some men they can't bear—throth it's like a freemason's saicret, if you wor a man that the women wor naturally fond of you'd know it yoarself, but not bein' that, Mr. Magrath, you could not understand it. It's born wid one, an' troth, a troublesome gift it is—for it is a gift—at least, I find it so. There's no keep in' the crathurs oft o' you."
"Begad, you must be a happy man, Mogue. I wish I was like you—but whisper, man alive, why don't you look higher.
"How is that?" asked the other, now apparently awakened to a new interest.
"Mogue," said the pedlar, with something like solemnity of manner, "you and I are both embarked in the same ship, you know—we know how things are to go. I'm now provin' to you that I'm your friend. Listen, you passed through the back-yard to-day while I was in the parlor wid the family sellin' my goods as well as I could. Well, Miss Julia had a beautiful shawl about her purty shoulders, and as she seen you passin, she started, kept her eyes fixed upon you till you disappeared, and then, afther thinkin 'or some time, she sighed deeply. Whisper, the thing flashed upon me—that's that, thought I, at any rate—and devil a doubt of it, you're safe there, or my name's not Andy Magrath, better known as the Cannie Soogah-Hurra, Mogue, more power!"
A richer comic study than Mogue's face ould not possibly be depicted. His thin craggy jaws—for cheeks he had none—were winkled and puckered into such a multiplicity of villanous folds and crevices, as could scarcely be paralleled on a human countenance; and what added to the ludicrous impression made, was the fact that he endeavored to look—and, in fact, did so successfully—more like a man who felt that a secret long known to himself had been discovered, than a person to whom the intelligence had come for the first time.
"An' Misther Magrath," he replied, once more repeating the survey of his puckered laws; "is it by way of information that you tould me that? That I mayn't sin, but you should be ever and always employed in carryin' coals to, Newcastle. Troth, since you have broached he thing, I've known it this good while, and no one could tell you more about it, if I liked. Honor bright, however, as poor Letty said, troth, I pity that girl—but what can I do? no—no—honor bright, for ever!"
"Well, anyhow, now that we've thrown light upon what I noticed a while ago, let us talk about other matters. The house is still well armed and guarded, you say?"
"That I may die in grace, but it 'ud take me half an hour to reckon all the guns, pistols, and blunderbushes they have freshly loaded in the house every night."
"Well, couldn't you assist us, you in the house?"
"No—for I'm not in the house; they wouldn't allow any servant to sleep in the house for fear o' traichery, and they say so. If they'd let me sleep in the house, it 'ud be another thing; I might wet the powdher, and make their fire-arms useless; but sure they have lots of swords and bagnets, and daggers, and other instruments o' that kind that 'ud skiver one like a rabbit."
"Well, but you know all the outs and ins of the house, the rooms and passages, and everything that way so thoroughly, that one could depend upon your account of them."
"Depend upon them—ay, as well as you might upon the Gospel itself;—she was fond of M'Carthy, they say, and they think she is still; but, be dhu husth, (* Hold your tongue.) there's one that knows betther. You don't like M'Carthy?"
"To be sure I do, as the devil does holy wather."
"Well," proceeded Mogue, "I've a thing in my head about him—but sure he's in the black list as it is."
"Well, what is it you have in your head about him?"
Mogue shook it, but added, "Never mind, I'll think it over again, and when I'm made up on it, maybe I'll tell you. Don't we meet on this day week?"
"Sartainly, will you come?"
"I intend it, for the truth is, Misther Magrath, that the Millstone must be broke; that I may die in pace, but it must, an' any one that stands in the way of it must suffer. May I be happy, but they must."
The pedlar looked cautiously about him, and seeing that the coast was clear and no person visible, he thrust a letter into his hand, adding, "you may lave it in some place where the ould chap, or either of the sons, will be sure to find it. Maybe it'll tache them a little more civility to their neighbors."
Mogue looked at the document, and placing it securely in his pocket, asked, "Is it a notice?"
The other nodded in the affirmative, and added, with a knowing wink, "There's a coffin and a cross-bones in it, and the name is signed wid real blood, Mogue; and that's the way to go about breakin' the Millstone, my man."
"That I may never do an ill turn, but it is. Well, God bless you, Misther Magrath, an' whisper now, don't forget an odd patther-anavy goin' to bed, in hopes that God will prosper our honest endayvours. That was a hard thing upon young Devlin in Murray's murdher. I'm not sure whether you do, but I know that that act was put upon him through ill-will; and now he'll hang for it. But sure it's one comfort that he'll die a martyr, glory be to God!"
The pedlar, having assented to this, got on his pack, and leaving Mogue to meditate on the new discovery which he had made respecting Julia Purcel, he proceeded on towards the highway to which we have alluded.
Purcel himself, in the course of a few miles' drive, reached the parsonage, in which the Rev. Jeremiah Turbot ought to have lived, but in which, for several years past, he had not resided; if we except about a fortnight twice a year, when he came to sweep off as weighty a load of tithes as he could contrive to squeeze out of the people through worthy Mat Purcel, his proctor.
For a year or two previous to this visit, there is no doubt but the aspect of ecclesiastical affairs was gradually getting worse. Turbot began to feel that there was something wrong, although he could not exactly say what it was. Purcel, however, was by no means reluctant to disclose to him the exceedingly desperate state to which not only had matters been driving, but at which they had actually arrived. This, in truth, was our worthy proctor's version of ecclesiastical affairs, for at least two years before the present period of our narrative. But, like every man who tampers with, simple truth, he began to perceive, almost when it was too late, that his policy in antedating the tithe difficulties was likely very soon to embarrass himself; and to deprive the outrages resulting from the frightful opposition that was organized against tithes of all claim to novelty. He had, in fact, so strongly exaggerated the state of the country, and surcharged his pictures of anti-tithe violence so much beyond all truth and reality, that when the very worst and most daring organization did occur, he could do nothing more than go over the same ground again. The consequence was, that worthy Turbot, so long habituated to these overdrawn narratives, began to look upon them as the friends of the boy who shouted out "wolf!" did upon the veracity of his alarms. He set down his intrepid and courageous proctor as nothing else than a cowardly poltroon, whose terrors exaggerated everything, and whose exaggerated accounts of fraud, threats, and violence had existed principally in his own imagination. Such were the circumstances under which Purcel and Dr. Turbot now met.
The worthy rector of Ballysoho was a middle-sized man, with coal-black hair, brilliant, twinkling eyes of the same color, and as pretty a double chin as ever graced the successor of an apostle. Turbot was by no means an offensive person; on the contrary, he must of necessity have been very free from evil or iniquity of any kind, inasmuch as he never had time to commit sin. He was most enthusiastically addicted to hunting and shooting, and felt such a keen and indomitable relish for the good things of this world, especially for the luxuries of the table, that what between looking after his cuisine, attending his dogs, and enjoying his field sports, he scarcely ever might be said to have a single day that he could call his own. And yet, unreasonable people expected that a man, whose daily occupations were of such importance to—himself, should very coolly forego his own beloved enjoyments in order to attend to the comforts of the poor, with whom he had scarcely anything in common. Many other matters of a similar stamp were expected from him, but only by those who had no opportunity of knowing the multiplicity of his engagements. Such persons were unreasonable enough to think that he ought to have occasionally appropriated some portion of his income to the relief of poverty and destitution, but as he said himself, he could not afford it. How could any man afford it who in general lived up to, and sometimes beyond, his income, and who was driven to such pinches as not unfrequently to incur the imputation of severity and oppression itself, by the steps he was forced to take or sanction for the recovery of his tithes.
In person he was, as we have said, about or somewhat under the middle size. In his gait he was very ungainly. When walking, he drove forward as if his head was butting or boring its way through a palpable atmosphere, keeping his person, from the waist up, so far in advance that the a posteriori portion seemed as if it had been detached from the other, and was engaged in a ceaseless but ineffectual struggle to regain its position; or, in shorter and more intelligible words, the latter end of him seemed to be perpetually in pursuit of his head and shoulders, without ever being able to overtake them. Whilst engaged in maintaining this compound motion, his elbows and arms swung from right to left, and vice versa, very like the movements of a weaver throwing the shuttle from side to side. Turbot had one acknowledged virtue in a pre-eminent degree, we mean hospitality. It is true he gave admirable dinners, but it would be a fact worth boasting of, to find any man at his table who was not able to give, and who did give, better dinners than himself. The doctor's face, however, in spite of his slinging and ungainly person, was upon the whole rather good. His double chin, and the full, rosy expression of his lips and mouth, betokened, at the very least, the force of luxurious habits, and, as a hedge school-master of our acquaintance used to say, the smallest taste in life of voluptuousity; whilst from his black, twinkling eyes, that seemed always as if they were about to herald a jest, broke forth, especially when he conversed with the softer sex, something which might be considered as holding a position between a laugh and a leer. Such was the Rev. Jeremiah Turbot, to whom we shall presently take the liberty of introducing the reader.
The parsonage, to which our friend Purcel is now making his approach, was an excellent and comfortable building. It stood on a very pretty eminence, and consequently commanded a beautiful prospect both in front and rear; for the fact was, that in consequence of the beauty of the scenery for miles about it, some incumbent of good taste had given it a second hall door, thus enabling the inhabitants to partake of a double enjoyment, by an equal facility of contemplating the exquisite scenery of the country both in front and rear. A beautiful garden lay facing the south, and a little below, in the same direction, stood a venerable old rookery, whilst through the rich, undulating fields flowed, in graceful windings, a beautiful river, on whose green and fertile banks sheep and black cattle were always to be seen, sometimes feeding or chewing the cud in that indolent repose which gives to the landscape, in the golden light of a summer's evening, such a poetical and pastoral effect.
Purcel, on coming in sight of the parsonage, instead of keeping his horse to the rapid pace at which he had driven him along until then, now drew him up, and advanced at a rate which seemed to indicate anything but that of a man whose spirits were cheerful or free from care. On reaching the front entrance he discounted very slowly, and with a solemn and melancholy air, walked deliberately, step by step, till he stood at the hall door, where he gave a knock so spiritless, depressed and disconsolate, that it immediately communicated itself, as was intended, to the usually joyful and rosy countenance of the rector, who surveyed, his agent as if he expected to hear that he either had lost, or was about to lose, half his family or the whole of his wealth.
"How do you do, Purcel?—eh, what's this? Is there anything wrong? You look very much dejected—what's the matter? Sit down."
"Thank you, sir; but I really do not think I am well—at least my spirits are a great deal depressed; but indeed, Dr. Turbot, a man must be more or less than a man to be able to keep up his spirits in such times."
"Oh! ho, my worthy proctor, is that all? Thank you for nothing, Purcel. I understand you; but you ought to know I am not to be caught now by your 'calamities'."
"My calamities! I declare to goodness, Dr. Turbot, I could rest contented if they were nobody's calamities but my own; unfortunately, however, you are as deep in them as I am, and in a short time, God knows, we will be a miserable pair, I fear."
"Not at all, Purcel—this is only the old story. Raw-heads and bloody-bones coming to destroy the tithes, and eat up the parsons. Let me see—it is now three years since you commenced these 'lamentations.'"
"Three years ago; why we had peace and quietness then compared to what we have at present," replied Purcel.
"And what have we now, pray?"
"Why, sir, the combinations against tithes is quite general over the whole country."
"Well; so was it then upon your own showing. Go on."
"As I said, sir, it was nothing at that time. There is little now but threatening notices that breathe of blood and murder."
"Very good; so was it then upon your own showing. Go on."
"But of late, sir, lives have been taken. Clergymen have been threatened and fired at."
"Very good; so was it then upon you! own showing. Go on, I say."
"Fired at I say, and shot, sir. The whole White boy system has turned itself into a great tithe conspiracy. The farmers, the landholders of all descriptions, the cottiers, the daily laborers, and the very domestic servants, have all joined this conspiracy, and sworn neither to pay tithes themselves nor to allow others to pay them. They compare the established church to a garrison; and although the law prevents them from openly destroying it by force, they swear that they'll starve it out."
"Eh!" said Turbot, starting, "what's that you say? Starve us out! What an infamous and unconstitutional project! What a diabolical procedure! But I forgot—bravo, Purcel! This was all the case before upon your own showing."
"Well, sir," returned Purcel, "there was at least this difference, that I was able to get something out of them then, but devil a copper can I get out o' them now. I think you'll admit, sir, that this fact gives some weight to my argument."
"You don't mean to say, Purcel," replied the other, from whose chin the rosy tint gradually paled away until it assumed that peculiar hue which is found inside of a marine shell, that is to say, white with a dream of red barely and questionably visible; "you don't mean to say, my good friend Purcel, that you have no money for me on this occasion?"
"By no means, sir," replied the proctor. "Money I have got for you, no doubt—money I have got certainly."
The double chin once more assumed its natural hue of celestial rosy red."
"Upon my honor, Purcel," he replied, "I have not temper for this; it seems to me that you take particular delight in wantonly tampering with my feelings. I am really quite tired of it. Why harass and annoy me with your alarms? Conspiracy, blood, and massacre are the feeblest terms in your vocabulary. It is absolutely ridiculous, sir, and I beg you will put an end to it."
"I would be very glad to do so, sir," replied Purcel; "and still more satisfied if I had never had anything to do with the temporalities of your church."
"I don't see why, above all men living, you should say so, Purcel; you have feathered your nest tolerably well by the temporalities of our church."
"If I have, sir," replied the proctor, "it has been at the expense of my popularity and good name. I and my family are looked upon as a part and parcel of your system, and, I may add, as the worst and most odious part of it. I and they are looked upon as the bitterest enemies of the people; and because we endeavor to get out of them the means of enabling you to maintain your rank in the world, we are obliged to hear ourselves branded every day in the week as villains, oppressors, and blood-suckers. This, however, we could bear; but to know that we are marked down for violence, brutality, and, if possible, assassination, is a penalty for which nothing in your establishment could compensate us. I and my sons have received several notices of violence in every shape, and we are obliged to sleep with our house half filled with arms and ammunition, in dread of an attack every night in the year."
"Well, well," replied Turbot, "this, after all, is but the old story; the matter is only an ebullition, and will pass away. I know you are constitutionally timid. I know you are; and have in fact a great deal of the natural coward in your disposition; and I say natural, because a man is no more to be blamed for being born a coward than he is for being born with a bad complexion or an objectionable set of features. You magnify the dangers about you, and, in fact, become a self-tormentor. As for my part, I am glad you have got money, for I do assure you, I never stood so much in need of it in my life."
"The very papers, sir," continued Purcel, who could not prevent himself from proceeding, "might enable you to see the state of the country."
"Oh, d—n the papers," said the parson, "I am sick of them. Our side is perpetually exaggerating matters—just as you are; and as for the other side, your papist rags I never, of course, see or wish to see. I want six hundred now, or indeed eight if you can, and I had some notion of taking a day or two's shooting. How is the game on the glebe? Has it been well preserved, do you know?"
"I am not aware," said the proctor, "that any one has shot over the glebe lands this season; but if you take my advice, sir, you will expose yourself as little as you can in the neighborhood. There are not two individuals in the parish so unpopular as Dr. Turbot and your humble servant."
"In that case, then," replied the other, "the less delay I make here the better—you can let me have six hundred, I hope?"
"I certainly told you, sir," replied Purcel, with something of a determined and desperate coolness about him, "that I had money for you, and so I have."
"Thank you, Purcel; I must say you certainly have, on all occasions, exerted yourself faithfully and honestly in support of my interests."
"Money, sir," pursued the other, without appearing to look to the right or to the left, "I have for you. Would you venture to guess to what amount?"
"Well, under the circumstances you speak of, less, I dare say, than I expect."
"I have been able to get, within the last six months, exactly fifty-nine pounds thirteen and sevenpence!"
If the ebb which we have described before of the blood from the doctor's double chin was a gradual one, we can assure the reader that, in this case, it was rapid in proportion to the terror and dismay conveyed by this authentic, but astounding piece of intelligence. The whole face became pale, his eyes at once lost their lustre, and were, as he fixed them in astonishment upon the proctor, completely without speculation; his voice became tremulous, and, as he pulled out his handkerchief to wipe away the unexpected perspiration which the proctor's words had brought out upon his forehead, his hands trembled as if he had been suddenly seized with palsy. In truth, Purcel, who had a kind of good-natured regard for the little man, felt a sensation of compassion for him, on witnessing the extraordinary distress under which he labored.
"I am sorry for this," said he, "for I really know not what is to be done, and, what is equally distressing, our prospects are not at all likely to improve."
"You don't mean to say, Purcel, that circumstances are as bad as you report them—as bad—as desperate, I should say—and as ruinous?"
"I fear," said Purcel, "they go beyond the gloomiest and most desponding views you could take of them. The conspiracy, for such we must term it, is, in point of fact, deepening down to the very foundations, if I may use the expression, of society. Every day it is becoming more dangerous and alarming; but how it is to be checked or mitigated, or how we are to stand out of its way and avoid its consequences, heaven only knows, for I don't."
"But, Purcel, my dear friend, what am I and my domestic establishment to do? Good God! there is nothing but ruin before us! You know I always lived up to my income—indeed, at best, it was too limited for the demands of my family, and our habits of life. And now, to have the very prop—the only one on which I leant—suddenly snapt from under me—it is frightful. But you are to blame, Purcel; you are much to blame. Why did you not apprise me of this ruinous state of things before it came thus on me unawares? It was unfeeling and heartless in you not to have prepared me for it."
The proctor actually imagined, and not without reason, that the worthy doctor was beginning to get beside himself, as it is termed, on hearing such a charge as this brought against him; and he was about to express his astonishment at it, when Mr. Temple, his curate, who resided in the parsonage, made his appearance, and joined them at Dr. Turbot's request. "Temple," said he, as the latter portion of his body began to pursue the other through the room, "are you aware of the frightful condition to which the country has come?"
"Who can be ignorant of it?" replied Temple; "how can any man live in the country, and not know it?"
"Yes, sir," replied Turbot, tartly, "I have lived in the country, and, until a few minutes ago, I was ignorant of the extent to which it has come."
"Well, sir," said Temple, "that is odd enough; for, to my own knowledge, your information has been both regular and authentic upon this subject at all events. Our friend Purcel, here, has not left you in ignorance of it."
"Yes," said Turbot, "but he had the country as bad three years ago as it is now. Was this fair? Why, I took it for granted that all his alarms and terrors were the mere play and subterfuge of the proctor upon the parson, and, consequently, thought little of it; but here I am stranded at once, wrecked, and left on my bottom. How will I meet my tradesmen? how will I continue my establishment? and, what is worse, how can I break it up? You know, Temple, I cannot, unfortunately, live without luxuries. They are essential to my health, and if suddenly deprived of them, as I am likely to be, I cannot answer to society for the consequences."
"Sir," said Temple, "it is quite obvious that a period of severe trial and chastening is at hand, or I should rather say, has already arrived. Many of our calling, I am grieved I to know, are even now severely suffering, and suffering, I must add, with unexampled patience and fortitude under great and trying privations. Yet I trust that the health of the general body will be improved by it, and purged of the grossness and worldly feeling which have hitherto, I fear, too much characterized it. Many, I know, may think we are merely in the hands of man, but for my part, I think, and earnestly hope, that we are in those of God himself, and that He chasteneth no only because He loveth."
"This is most distressing to hear, my dear Temple," replied his rector; "but I trust I am as willing and as well prepared, from religious feeling, to suffer as another—that is, provided always I am not deprived of those comforts and little luxuries to which I have all my life been accustomed."
"I am very much afraid," observed Purcel, "that the clergy of the established church will have a very fine opportunity to show the world how well and patiently they can suffer."
"I have already said, Purcel," said the doctor, "that I am as willing to suffer as another. I know I am naturally of a patient and rather an humble disposition; let these trials come then, and I am prepared for them, provided only that I am not deprived of my little luxuries, for these are essential to my health itself, otherwise I could bear even this loss. I intended, Temple, to have had a day or two's shooting on the glebe lands, but Purcel, here, tells me that I am very unpopular, and would not, he says, recommend me to expose myself much, or if possible at all, in the neighborhood.
"And upon my word and credit I spoke nothing," replied the other, "but what I know to be truth. There is not a feather of game on the glebe lands that would be shot down with half the pleasure that the parson himself would. I beg, then, Dr. Turbot, that you won't think of it. I'll get my sons to go over the property, and if there's any game on it we shall have it sent to you."
"How does it stand for game, Temple, do you know?"
"I really cannot say," replied the good man. "The killing of game is a pursuit I have never relished, and with which I am utterly unacquainted. I fear, however, that the principal game in the country will soon be the parson and the proctor."
"It's a delightful pursuit," replied the Rev. Doctor, who did not at all relish the last piece of information, and only replied to the first, "and equally conducive to health and morals. What, for instance, can be more delicious than a plump partridge or grouse, stewed in cinnamon and claret? and yet, to think that a man must be deprived of—well," said he, interrupting himself, "it is a heavy, and awful dispensation—and one that I ought to have been made acquainted with—that is, to its full and fearful extent—before it came on me thus unawares. Purcel here scarcely did his duty by me in this."
"I fear, sir," replied Temple, "that it was not Purcel who neglected his duty, but you who have been incredulous. I think he has certainly not omitted to sound the alarm sufficiently loud during the approach of this great ordeal to which we are exposed."
"And in addition to everything else, I am in arrears to you, Temple," he added; "and now I have no means of paying you."
Temple was silent, for at that moment the necessities of his family pressed with peculiar severity upon himself—and he was not exactly prepared for such an intimation. The portion of salary then coming to him was, in truth, his sole dependence at that peculiar crisis, and this failing him, he knew not on what hand or in what direction to turn.
After musing for some time, he at length replied, "If you have it not, Dr. Turbot, or cannot procure it, of course it is idle for me to expect it—although I will not deny, that in the present circumstances of my family, it would have come to us with very peculiar and seasonable relief."
"But I have not a pound," replied the doctor; "so far from that, I am pretty deeply in debt—for I need hardly say, that for years I have been balancing my affairs—paying off debts to-day, and contracting other to-morrow—always dipped, but and rather deeply, too, as I said."
He again got to his legs, when the pursuit of the latter part of his person after the rest once more took place, and in this odd way he traversed the room in a state of extreme tribulation.
"What is to be done?" he asked—"surely the government cannot abandon us?—cannot allow us to perish utterly, which we must do, if left to the mercy of our enemies? No, certainly it cannot desert us in such a strait as this, unless it wishes to surrender the established church to the dark plots and designing ambition of popery. No, no—it cannot—it must not—it dares not. Some vigorous measure for our relief must be taken, and that speedily;—let us not be too much dejected, then—our sufferings will be short—and as for myself, I am willing to make any reasonable sacrifice, provided I am not called upon—at these years—fifty-eight—to give up my usual little luxuries. Purcel, I want you to take a turn in the garden. Temple, excuse me—will you?—and say to Mrs. Temple to make no preparations, as I don't intend to stop—I shall return to Dublin in an hour at farthest; and don't be cast down, Temple; matters will soon brighten."
"It is not at all necessary, sir," replied Temple, "that you should adjorn to the garden to speak with Mr. Purcel. I was on my way to the library when I met you, and I am going there now."
"It is not so much," he replied, "that I have anything very particular to say to Purcel, as that I feel a walk in the fresh air will relieve me. Good-bye, then, for a little; I shall see you before I go."
"Now, Purcel," said he, when they had reached the garden, "this, after all, is only a false alarm, or even if it be not, we know that the government could by no means afford to abandon the established church in Ireland, because that would be, in other words, to reject the aid of, and sever themselves from all connection with, the whole Protestant party; and you, as a man of sense, Purcel, need not be told that it is only by the existence of a Protestant party in this country that they are enabled to hold it in union with England at all."
"But what has that to do with our present distresses?" said the proctor, who, as he probably began to anticipate the doctor's ultimate object in this conversation, very shrewdly associated himself rather in an official spirit with the embarrassments of his friend, and the church in general.
"It has considerably," replied Dr. Turbot; "for instance, there will be no risk whatsoever, in lending to many of the embarrassed clergy sums of money upon their! personal security, until this pressure passes away, and their prosperity once more returns."
"Oh, ho, doctor," thought his sharp and wily companion, "I believe I have you now, Well, Dr. Turbot," he replied, "I think, the case, even as you put it, will be attended with difficulties. What, for instance, is personal security from a poor or a ruined man? very little, or rather nothing. Still it is possible that many, relying upon the proverbial honor and integrity of the Irish Protestant clergy, may actually lend money upon this security. But then," he added, with a smile, "those who will, must belong to a peculiar and privileged class."
"Why," asked Turbot, "to what class do you allude?"
"To one with which," said the proctor, "I unfortunately have no connection—I mean the class that can afford to lend it."
"Purcel," said Dr. Turbot, "I am sorry to hear this ungenerous observation from you; I did not expect it."
"Why do you call it ungenerous, sir?" asked Purcel.
"Because," replied Turbot, "it is obvious that it was made in anticipation of a favor which I was about to ask of you."
"If I can grant you any favor," replied the proctor, "I shall be most happy to do so;—if you will only let me know what it is."
"You must be particularly dull not to perceive it," replied the parson, "aware, as you are, of the unexpected state of my circumstances. In short, I want you to assist me with a few hundreds."
The proctor, after a pause, replied, "You place me in circumstances of great difficulty, sir; I am indeed anxious to oblige you, but I know not whether I can do so with honor, without violating my good faith to another party."
"I don't understand you," said Turbot.
"Then I shall explain it," replied Purcel; "the sum I can command is one of four hundred, which is at this moment virtually lent upon excellent security, at an interest of eight per cent. The loan is certainly not legally completed, but morally and in point of honor it is. Now, if I lend this money to you, sir, I must break my word and verbal agreement to the party in question."
"Very well, sir," replied the rector, who, notwithstanding the love he bore his "little luxuries," was scrupulously honorable in all money transactions, "don't attempt to break word, or to violate good faith with any man; and least of all, on my account. I presume I shall be able to raise the money somewhere else."
Purcel, who had uniformly found the doctor a sharp, but correct man in matters,of business, and who knew besides the severe pressure under which he labored at the moment, was not exactly prepared to hear from him the expression of a principle so high-minded. He paused again for some time, during which he reasoned with himself somewhat to the following effect:—"I did not expect this from the worthy doctor, but I did, that he would at once have advised me to break the agreement I mentioned and lend himself the money. I cannot think there will be much risk in lending such a man a few hundreds, especially as no such agreement as I allude to exists." He then replied as follows:—
"Doctor," he proceeded, "I have been thinking over this matter; I know you want the money, and I am sorry for it. That I have myself been a gainer by my connection with you, I will not attempt to deny, and I do not think that I should be grateful or a sincere friend to you, if I saw you now in such grievous and unexpected embarrassments without making an effort to assist you. You shall have the four hundred, if you consent to the same rate of interest I was about to receive for it from the other party."
"Then you will break faith with him," replied the doctor. "I thank you, Purcel, but I will not have it."
"I break no faith with him," replied the proctor; "he was bound to have let me know, on yesterday, whether he would require the money or not, for the matter was conditional; but as I have not yet heard from him, I hold myself at liberty to act as I wish. The fault is his own."
"And on these conditions, so you are; I well, thank you again, Purcel, I accept this money on your terms, eight per cent. Nay, you oblige me very much; indeed you do."
"Well, then, that matter is settled," said the proctor, "do not speak of it," he proceeded, in reply to the doctor's last observation; "I should indeed be unworthy either of your good opinion or my own, if I held aloof from you just now. I will have a bond prepared in a day or two, but in the meantime, if you will call at my house, you may have the money home with you."
The doctor once more thanked Mm, and they were in the act of returning to the house, when the noise of a pistol was heard, and at the same moment a bullet whistled light between them, and so close to each that it was utterly impossible to say at which of the two individuals the murderous aim had been taken. The garden, a large one and highly walled in, was entered by two gates, one of which led into the back yard, the other into a corner of the lawn that was concealed from the house by a clump of trees. The latter gate, which was not so large as the other, had in it a small iron grating a little above the centre, through which any one could command a view of the greater portion of the garden. It was through this gate they had entered, and as no apprehension of any attempt of assassination had existed in the mind of either, they left the key in the outside, not having deemed it at all necessary to secure the door, by locking it within.
The proctor, to whose cowardice the worthy clergyman had not long before paid so sincere, but by no means so flattering a tribute, did not wait to make even a single observation, but ran with all his speed towards the gate, which, to his surprise and mortification, he found locked on the outside. Apprehensive, however, of a second attack, he beckoned to his companion to hasten towards the other gate, which was not visible from that through which the shot had been fired, and in the meantime, he himself ran also towards it, in order to try whether it might not be possible to get some view or trace of the assassin. He had a case of pistols in his hand, for we ought to have told the reader that neither he nor his sons ever traveled unarmed, and on reaching the back-yard, he was obliged to make a considerable circuit ere he arrived at the spot from which the shot had been fired. Here, however, he found no mark or vestige of a human being, but saw at a glance that the assassin, in order, to secure time for escape, had locked the door, and either taken the key with him or thrown it where it could not be found. It was in vain that he ran in all directions, searched every place likely to conceal the villain; not a clump of trees or ornamental shrubs remained unexamined. The search, however, was fruitless. No individual was seen, nor any clue gained on which even a conjecture could be founded. The only individual visible was our friend the Cannie Soogah, whose loud and mellow song was the first thing that drew their attention to him, as he came up a back avenue that led by a private and winding walk round to the kitchen-door. Purcel, on seeing him, signed hastily with his hand that he should approach, which the other, observing the unusual agitation betrayed by his gesture, immediately did at a pace considerably quickened.