"Here, Cannie," he shouted out to him, ere he had time to approach, "here has been an attempt at murder by some cold-blooded and cowardly assassin, who has, I fear, escaped us!"
"Murdher!" exclaimed the pedlar, "the Lord save and guard us!—for there's nothin' but murdher in my ears! go where I will of late, it's nothin' but bloodshed;—sure I cannot sing my harmless bit of a song along the road, but I'm stopped wid an account of some piece o' murdher or batthery, or God knows what. An' who was near gettin' it now, Misther Purcel? Not yourself, I pray Jasus this day!"
"I really cannot say, Cannie; Dr. Turbot and I were walking in the garden, when some damnable villain discharged a pistol from the gate here, and the bullet of it whistled right between us both."
"Whistled, did it!—hell resave it for one bullet, it was fond of mirth it was; and you can't say which o' you it was whistling for?"
"No, how could I?—it was equally near us both."
"Bad cess for ever saize him for a murdherin' villain, whoever he was. You have no notion, Masther Purcel, darlin', where he went to?"
"Not the slightest, Cannie; the villain wouldn't have got off so easily, only that he had the diabolical cunning to lock the gate outside and conceal the key: so that whilst I was coming round to the place, he escaped. Did you meet or see nobody yourself?"
The peddler shut his right hand, slapped it quickly into the palm of his left. "By the Lomenty tarry," he exclaimed, "I seen the villain! By the high horicks, I seen the very man, if I have an eye in my head! A big, able-bodied villain, wid a pair of thumpin' black whiskers that you might steal my own out of—and I don't think I can complain myself. He was comin' up the road from the Carr, and he was turnin' over towards the bridge there below, so that I only got a short glimpse of him; and faix, sure enough, as he passed the bridge, I seen him throw something over the wall of it into the river, which I'd lay my head against the three kingdoms was the kay o' the gate."
The proctor paused a little, and then observed, "Ay, faith! I'm sure you're right, Cannie; I've heard of that villain, and know him from your description. He is the cowardly ruffian who's said to be at the head or bottom of these secret combinations that are disgracing and destroying the country. Yes, I've heard of him."
"And what did you hear, Misther Purcel?" asked the pedlar, with undisguised curiosity—.
"No matter now, Cannie; I haven't time to bestow upon the murdering ruffian: I have my eye on him, however, and so have others. Indeed, I'm rather inclined to think the hemp has already grown that will hang him. What dress had he on?"
"Why, sir, he had on a whitish frieze coat, wid big brown buttons; but there could be no mistakin' the size of his murderin' red whiskers."
"Red whiskers!—why, you said a moment ago that they were black."
"Black! hut tut, no, Misther Purcel, I couldn't say that; devil such a pair of red thumpers ever I seen, barin' upon Rousin' Redhead that was sent across—for—for—buildin' churches—ha! ha! ha!"
"Why, I'd take my oath you said black," rejoined the proctor—"that is, if I have ears to my head."
"Troth, an' you have Misther Purcel, as brave a pair as a man could boast of; but the truth is, you wor so much feflustered wid alarm, and got altogether so much through other, that you didn't know what I said."
"I did perfectly: you said distinctly that he had black whiskers."
"Red, by the hokey, over the world; however, to avoid an argument, even if I did, in mistake, say black, the whiskers were red in the mane time; an', as I sed, barrin' Rousin' Redhead's, that was thransported, a never laid my eyes on so red, nor so big I pair."
"He can't be the fellow I suspect, then—for his, by all accounts, are unusually large and black."
"As to that, I can't say, sir: but you wouldn't have me give a wrong description of any villain that 'ud make an attempt upon your life. Are you sure, though, it wasn't his reverend honor that the pistol was aimed at?"
"I am not; as I told you, it is impossible to settle that point. There is neither of us very popular, certainly."
"Bekaise, afther all, there is a difference; and it doesn't folly that, although I'd purshue the villain for life and death, that 'ud attempt to murdher you, that I'd distress myself to secure an honest man that might free us an' the country from the like o' him;" and he pointed over his left shoulder with his inverted thumb.
"Cannie," said the proctor, somewhat sternly, "I've never heard you give expression to such sentiments before, and I hope I shall never again. No honest man would excuse or tamper with murder or murderers. No more of this, Cannie, or you will lose my good opinion, although perhaps you would think that no great loss."
"Throth, I know I was wrong to spake as I did, sir, bad cess to me, but I was, an' as for your good opinion, Misther Purcel, and the good of all your family too, devil a man livin' 'ud go further to gain it, and to keep it when he had it than I would; now, bad cess to the one."
Whilst this dialogue was proceeding between the pedlar and the proctor. Dr. Turbot, in a state of indescribable alarm, was relating the attempted assassination to his curate inside. The amazement of the latter gentleman, who was perfectly aware of the turbulent state of the country, by no means kept pace with the alarm of his rector. He requested of the latter, that should he see Mrs. Temple, he would make no allusions to the circumstance, especially as she was at the period in question not far from her confinement, and it was impossible to say what unpleasant or dangerous effects an abrupt mention of so dreadful a circumstance might have upon her.
In a few minutes Purcel and his patron were on their way to Longshot Lodge, the residence of the proctor. At the solicitation of the parson, however, they avoided the direct line of road, and reached home by one that was much more circuitous, and as the latter thought also more safe. Here, after Waiting for the arrival of the mail coach, which he resolved to meet on its way to the metropolis, he partook of a lunch, which, even to his voluptuous palate, was one that he could not but admit to be excellent. He received four hundred pounds from the proctor, for which he merely gave him a note of hand, and in a short time was on his way to the metropolis.
CHAPTER VI.—Unexpected Generosity—A False Alarm.
At this period, notwithstanding the circumstances which we have just related—and they were severe enough—the distress of the Protestant clergy of Ireland was just only beginning to set in. It had not, as yet, however, assumed anything like that formidable shape in which it subsequently appeared. To any scourge so dreadful, no class in the educated and higher ranks of society had been, within the records of historical recollection, ever before subjected. Still, like a malignant malady, even its first symptoms were severe, and indicative of the sufferings by which, with such dreadful certainty, they were followed.
On that day, and at the very moment when the mysterious attempt at assassination,which we have recorded, was made, Dr. Turbot's worthy curate, on returning home from the neighboring village of Lisnagola, was, notwithstanding great reluctance on his part, forced into the following conversation with his lovely but dejected wife:
"Charles," said she, fixing her large, tearful eyes upon him, with a look in which love, anxiety, and sorrow were all blended, "I fear you have not been successful in the village. Has Moloney refused us?"
"Only conditionally, my dear Maria—that is, until our account is paid up—but for the present, and perhaps for a little longer, we must deny ourselves these 'little luxuries,'" and he accompanied the words with a melancholy smile. "Tea and sugar and white bread are now beyond our reach, and we must be content with a simpler fare."
Mrs. Temple, on looking at their children, could scarcely refrain from tears; but she knew her husband's patience and resignation, and felt that it was her duty to submit with humility to the dispensation of God.
"You and I, my dear Charles, could bear up under anything—but these poor things, how will they do?"
"That reflection is only natural, my dear Maria; but it is spoken, dearest, only like a parent, who probably loves too much and with an excess of tenderness. Just reflect, darling, upon the hundreds of thousands of children in our native land, who live healthily and happily without ever having tasted either tea or loaf-bread at all; and think, besides, dearest, that there are, in the higher circles, a great number of persons whose children are absolutely denied these comforts, by advice of their physicians. Our natural wants, my dear Maria, are but simple, and easily satisfied; it is wealth and luxury only that corrupt and vitiate them. In this case, then, dearest, the Christian must speak, and act, and feel as well as the parent. You understand me now, love, and that is sufficient. I have not succeeded in procuring anything for you or them, but you may rest assured that God will not desert us."
"Yes, dear Charles," replied his wife, whose black mellow eyes beamed with joy; "all that is true, but you forgot that Dr. Turbot has arrived to receive his tithes, and you will now receive your stipend. That will carry us out of our present difficulty at least."
"My dear Maria, it is enough to say that Dr. Turbot is in a position immeasurably more distressed and dreadful than ours. Purcel, his proctor, has been able to receive only about fifty pounds out of his usual half-yearly income of eight hundred. From him we are to expect nothing at present. I know not, in fact, how he and his family will bear this dreadful privation; for dreadful it must be to those who have lived in the enjoyment of such luxuries."
"That is indeed dreadful to such a family, and I pity them from my heart," replied his wife; "but, dearest,Charles, what are we to do?—except a small crust of bread, there is no food in the house for either them or you." As she uttered the words their eyes met, and his gentle and soothing Maria, who had been sitting beside him, threw herself upon his bosom—he clasped his arms around her—pressed her with melancholy affection to his heart, and they both wept together.
At length he added, "But you think not of yourself, my Maria."
"I!" she replied; "ah! what am I? Anything, you know, will suffice for me—but you and they, my dearest Charles—and then poor Lilly, the servant; but, dearest," she exclaimed, with a fresh, and if possible, a more tender embrace, "I am not at all repining—I am happy with you—happy, happy—and never, never, did I regret the loss of my great and powerful friends less than I do at this moment, which enables me to see and appreciate the virtues and affection to which my heart is wedded, and which I long since appreciated."
Her husband forced a smile, and kissed her with an air of cheerfulness.
"Pardon me," he said, "dearest Maria, for two or three minutes I wish to go to the library to make a memorandum. I will soon return."
He then left her, after a tender embrace, and retired, as he said, to the library, where, smote to the heart by his admiration of her affection and greatness of mind, he sat down, and whilst he reflected on the destitution to which he had brought the granddaughter of an earl, he wept bitterly for several minutes. It was from this peculiar state of feeling that he was called upon to hear an account of the attempted assassination, with which the reader is already acquainted.
Our friend, the Cannie Soogah, having taken the town of Lisnagola on his way, in order to effect some sales with one of those general country merchants on a somewhat small scale, that are to be found in almost every country town, happened to be sitting in a small back-parlor, when a certain conversation took place between Mr. Temple and Molony, the proprietor of the establishment to which we have just alluded. He heard the dialogue, we say, and saw that the mild and care-worn curate had been, not rudely certainly, but respectfully, yet firmly, refused further credit. By whatever spirit prompted it is not for us to say; at all events he directed his footsteps to the glebe, and—but it is unnecessary to continue the description, or rather to repeat it. The reader is already aware of what occurred until the departure of Dr. Turbot and the proctor.
Temple, having seen them depart, walked out for a little, in order to compose his mind, and frame, if possible, some project for the relief of his wife and children. In the meantime, our jolly pedlar, having caught a glimpse of Mrs. Temple at the parlor window, presented himself, and begged to know if she were inclined to make any purchases. She nodded him a gentle and ladylike refusal, upon which he changed his ground, and said, "Maybe, ma'am, if you're not disposed to buy, that you'd have something you'd like to part wid. If you have, ma'am, bad cess to the purtier purchaser you'd meet wid—shawls or trinkets, or anything that way—I mane, ma'am," he added, "things that arn't of any use to you—an' I'm the boy that will shell out the ready money, and over the value."
Mrs Temple had known little—indeed nothing—of the habits of such a class as that to which our gay friend belonged; but be this as it may, his last words struck her quickly and forcibly.
"Do you make purchases, then?" she said.
"I do, ma'am, plaise your honor," replied the pedlar.
"Stop a moment, then," she replied. "I have some superfluous articles of dress that I may dispose of."
The whole mother rushed into her heart at the thought; the tender and loving wife forgot everything but the means of obtaining food for her husband and children. She went to her dressing-room, and in a few minutes returned, accompanied by Lilly Stewart, her own servant-maid previous to ker marriage, to whom their recent distresses had been no secret, and who was deeply and deservedly in the confidence of the family.
Whilst she was, absent in her dressing-room the pedlar resumed his song, as was his custom when alone—a circumstance which caused Mrs. Temple to remark, as she and Lilly went down to, the parlor—"Alas! dear Lilly, what a mistaken estimate does one portion of mankind form of another. This poor pedlar now envies us the happiness of rank and wealth which we do not feel, and I—yes, even I—what would I not give to be able to carol so light-hearted a song as that which he is singing! Who is this man, Lilly, do you know him?"
"Why, ma'am, if all they say is true, every one knows him, and nobody knows him. He's known as the Cannie Soogah, or jolly pedlar. They say, that although he prefers this kind of life, he's very wealthy. One person will tell you that he's a great rogue, and would cheat Satan himself, and others say he's generous and charitable. In other respects," continued. Lilly, blushing, "he's not very well spoken of, but it may be false. I have always found him myself very civil; and them that spoke harshly of him were people that he kept at a distance."
The pedlar ceased his song as soon as they made their appearance in the parlor, into which Lilly admitted him for the sake of mutual convenience.
"Here's a shawl—a beautiful shawl, Mr. —— what's this your name is?"
"The name that I have for set days and bonfire nights," he replied, "is one I seldom tell," and at the same time there was a dry air of surprise about him on hearing her ask the question; "but the name I am generally known by is the Cannie Soogah, which manes, ma'am," he added, addressing himself in a respectful manner to Mrs. Temple, "the jolly merchant or pedlar."
"Well, Cannie," said Lilly, pronouncing the word with more familiarity than could have been expected from their apparent unaquaintance with each other, "here's a beautiful shawl that my mistress made me a present of."
"No, Lilly," said her mistress, with severity—for she neither could nor would sanction the falsehood, however delicately and well intended—"no, do not mislead the man, nor state anything but the truth. The shawl is mine, my good man, and I wish to dispose of it."
The pedlar looked at it, and replied, in a tone of disappointment, "Yes, ma'am, but I'm afeard it's beyant my manes; I know the value of it right well, and it's seldom ever the likes of it was in my pack. What are you axin', ma'am? it's as good as new."
"I think it cost twelve or thirteen guineas, as well as I can remember," she replied; "but it is not what it cost, but what you are now disposed to give for it, that I am anxious to know."
"Well, ma'am, you know I must look upon it as—hem—as a second—ha—at all events," he proceeded, checking himself with more delicacy than could be expected from him—"you must admit that it isn't new."
"Certainly," said she, "it has been more than eight years in my possession, although, at the same time, I believe I have not worn it more than half a dozen times."
"Well, ma'am," replied the pedlar, "I know the value of the shawl something betther even than yourself. If you will take six guineas for it, we will deal; more I cannot afford, for I must at once tell, you the truth, that I may carry it about these twelve months before I find any one that knows its value."
Mrs. Temple was by no means prepared, any more than her servant, for such a liberal offer; and without any further hesitation she accepted it, and desired Lilly to place the shawl in his hands, and in the meantime, with equal consideration and good feeling, he handed Lilly six guineas, adding, "Give that to your mistress, but in troth, ma'am," he proceeded, respectfully addressing her; "it is just robbing you I am, but I can only say, that if I dispose of it at its proper-value you'll hear from me again. Troth, if I wasn't a great rogue, ma'am, I'd give you more for it; but bad cess to the one o' me—ever could be honest, even if I wasped for it."
"I do not think you dishonest, my good, man," replied Mrs. Temple; "on the contrary, I am not displeased with your, plain blunt manner. Lilly give him some——"
She checked herself at once, and passed, a significant but sorrowful glance at Lilly; as she went up to the drawing-room.
She had no sooner gone, than the peddler, with a shrug of satisfaction, exclaimed, in a subdued but triumphant voice: "Oh! by the hokey I've done her, and for that you must suffer, Lilly darlin'. Come now, you jumpin' jewel you, that was born wid a honey-comb somewhere between, that purty chin and beautiful nose of yours—throth it must have a taste, for who the dickens could, refuse the Cannie Soogah, and before Lilly, who, by the way, was nothing, loath, could put herself in an attitude of defense, he had inflicted several smacks upon as pretty a pair of lips as ever were pressed.
"Upon my word; now, Mr. Magrath, you're very impudent," she replied, "I wonder you're not ashamed, you great strong man you, to be kissing girls in this manner, whether they will or not. Look at the state you have my hair in; you're very rude, Mr. Magrath, and I'm really angry with you; you've broken one of my side-combs, too; you're a great rude man, so you are."
"Broke your side-comb, did I? Well, then, you couldn't be in better hands, darlin', here's a pair I make you a present of, and maybe they won't set you all off to pieces; here, darlin', wear these for my sake."
"But are you making me a present of these beauties, Cannie?"
"Troth an' I am, Lilly darlin', and wish they were betther for your sake—what's that I said? a present! oh the sorrow bit, I must have my payment—aisy now, darlin', my own sweet Lilly; there now, we're clear."
"Upon my word, Mr. Magrath, I don't know what to say to you, but you're such a great strong fellow, that a poor weak girl like me is but a child in your arms; are these real tortoise-shell though?"
"You may swear it; do you think I'd offer you anything else? But now listen, my darlin' girl, take this shawl, it's 'worth five-and-twenty guineas at least, troth, poor thing! it wasn't since their marriage it was bought; take it, I say, and go up widout sayin' a word, and lay it just where it was before, and if she seems surprised on findin' it there, tell her you suppose I forgot it, or if she won't believe you, and that all fails you, say that the Cannie Soogah, although she knows nothing about him, is a man that's undher great obligations to her family, and that he only tuck that method of payin' back a debt to her that he honestly owed to them, for, afther all, isn't she one of them?"
Lilly shook her head, and her eyes filled with tears, at the manly and modest generosity of the pedlar.
"Little you know then, Mr. Magrath, the load you have taken off my dear mistress's heart, and the delight you have brought upon the whole family."
"Well, Lilly dear, sure if I did, amn't I well paid, for it? thanks to your two sweet lips for that. Sure, bad cess to me, but it was on your account I did it."
A vile grin, or rather an awkward blank smile, forced by an affectation of gallantry, accompanied the lie which he uttered.
"Oh, yes, indeed," replied Lilly, "on my 'account, don't think to pass that upon me; however, I can forgive you a great many things in consequence of your behavior—just now."
"And yet you abused me for it," he replied, laughing, "but sure I knew that a purty girl always likes to be kissed; bad cess to me, but the same behavior comes naturally to me."
"Go now," said Lilly, with a comic and peremptory manner; "go your rounds, I say; you know very well that I mane your behavior about the shawl, and not your great strong impudence."
The pedlar, after winking and nodding meanings into her words that she had never thought of, slung his pack over his shoulder as usual, and proceeded on his rounds.
We have always been of opinion that there is scarcely anything more mysterious than the speed with which popular report travels apparently with very inadequate machinery throughout a large district of country. Before the day was more than half-advanced, fame had succeeded in circulating a report that Matthew Purcel and Dr. Turbot had been both shot dead in the garden of the rectory. This report spread rapidly, and it is with equal pain and shame we are obliged to confess that in general it was received with evident and undisguised satisfaction. John and Alick Purcel, on their way home, were accosted at a place called "Murderer's Corner," by two of the men who had attended at their father's office that morning, and informed that he and Dr. Turbot had been murdered in the course of the day, a piece of information which was conveyed by them with a sneer of cowardly triumph that was perfectly diabolical.
"God save ye, gintlemen!" said one of them, with a peculiar emphasis on the last word; "did ye here the news?"
"No, Jemmy, what is it?" asked John.
"Why, that Darby Hourigan is very ill," he replied, with mock gravity.
"No thanks for your information, Jemmy," replied the other; "if you told us something of more interest we might thank you."
"Never mind him, gintlemen," replied his companion, "there's nothing wrong wid Darby Horaigan, barrin' that he occasionally rubs himself where he's not itching, but there's worse news than that before you."
"What is it, then?" asked Alick; "if you know it, let us hear it, and don't stand humming and hawing as if you were afraid to speak."
"Faith, an' it's no wondher I would, sir, when it's to tell you that you'll find your father a murdhered corpse at home before you."
"Great God! what do you mean, sir? asked John.
"Why, gintlemen, it seems that himself an' Parson Turbot wor both shot in the parsonage garden to-day. The parson's takin' his rest in his own house, but your father's body was brought home upon the car. The bullet entered your worthy father's breeches' pocket, cut through a sheaf of notes that he had to pay the parson his tides wid, and from that it went on——"
Human patience could not endure the ill-suppressed and heartless satisfaction with which the fellow was about to enter into the details, and accordingly, ere he had time to proceed further, John Purcel turning a hunting-whip, loaded for self-defense, left him sprawling on the earth.
"Now, you ill-conditioned scoundrel," he exclaimed, "whether he is murdered or not, take that for your information. Alick, lay on Hacket there, you are the nearest to him," he added, addressing his brother.
Hacket at once took to his heels, but the other, touching his horse with the spurs, cantered up to him, and brought the double thong of his whip into severe contact with his neck and shoulders. When this was over, the two fiery young men exclaimed:—
"There, now, are our thanks, not merely for your information, but for the good will with which it was given, and that to the very sons of the man whom, by your own account, you have murdered among you. If his blood however, has been shed, there is not a drop of it for which we will not exact a tenfold retribution."
They then dashed home, at the highest speed of which their horses were capable, and throwing themselves out of the saddle, rushed to the hall-door, where they knocked eagerly.
"Is my father at home, Letty?"
"Yes, sir, he's in the parlor."
"In the parlor," exclaimed Alick, looking keenly into her face; "what is he doing in the parlor, eh?"
"Why, he's readin' a letther, sir."
"Reading a letter, is he?"
"Thank God!" exclaimed both the young men, breathing freely; "that will do, Letty—here, Letty, is half-a-crown for you to buy a ribbon."
"And another from me, Letty, to buy anything you fancy."
The girl looked at them with surprise, and for a moment or two seemed at a loss how to account for such evident excitement. At length she exclaimed: "By dad, I have it; you won the hunt, gintlemen."
"Better than that, Letty," they replied, nodding, and immediately entering the parlor.
"Well, boys," said the father, "a good day's sport?"
"Capital, father! are you long home!"
"Since about two o'clock."
"How did you come?"
"Why, boys, ye must know that either Dr. Turbot or I was fired at to-day. A bullet—a pistol bullet—whistled right between us in the parsonage garden, and the poor frightened doctor refused to come by the usual way, and, in consequence, I was obliged to take the lower road."
He then entered into a more detailed account of the attempted assassination, and heard from them, in reply, a history of their intelligence and adventure at Murderer's Corner with Hacket and Bryan, for so the fellows were named.
"Well," said the proctor, "thank God, things are not so bad as they report, after all; but, in the meantime, the plot appears to be thickening—here's more comfort," he added, handing him the notice which Mogue told him he had found upon the steps of the hall-doer, where, certainly, he had himself left it. John took the document and read as follows:—
"TO PROCTOR PURCEL AND HIS HORSE-WHIPPIN' SONS.
"This is to give you notice, that nothing can save yez. Look back upon your work an' see what yez desarve from the counthry. You began with a farm of sixty acres, and you took farm afther farm over the heads of the poor an' them that wor strugglin', until you now have six hundre' acres in your clutches. You made use of the strong purse against the wake man; an' if any one ventured to complain, he was sure to come in for a dose of the horsewhip from your tyrannical sons, or a dose of law from yourself. Now all that I've mentioned might be overlooked an' forgiven, for the sake of your wife and daughters, but it is for your conduct as a Tithe Proctor that you and your sons must die. Don't think to escape me, for it can't be done. There is not a day in the week, nor an hour in the day, but I have you at my command. Be prepared, then, for your fate is sealed; and no earthly power can save you. There is the sign [three coffins] and the blood that marks my name is from my own veins. You and your sons must die.
"Tut," said Alick, "we have received far worse than this; it has been written by some hedge schoolmaster; as for my part, I despise it."
"Well, boys, at all events," proceeded the proctor, "be a little more sparing with the horse-whip. The scoundrels deserve it to be sure; but at the same time it is not a thing that can be defended."
"Why, it's impossible to keep it from them, father," replied John; "their insolence is actually more than flesh and blood can bear. But had we not better make some inquiries into this precious production?"
"Where is the use of that?" said his father, to whom such communications had lost all their novelty and much of their interest; "however, you may do so; perhaps some accidental clue may be found that would lead us to discover the villain who wrote it."
Mogue was accordingly called in.
"How did this letter come into your hands, Mogue?" asked the proctor.
"It didn't come into them, sir," replied Mogue, with a smile which he intended to pass, for one of simplicity; "it was lyin' I got it, upon the hall-door steps."
"Did you see any strange person about the place, or near the hall-door to-day?" he asked.
"None, sir, sorra a creature—well now, wait—that I may never sup sorrow, but I did—there was a poor woman, sir, wid a whack of a son along wid her."
"Did you see her near the steps?"
"That I may be happy, sir, if I could take it upon me to say—not wishin' to tell a lie—but she might a' been there, the crathur."
"What kind of a looking woman was she?" asked John.
"A poor woman, sir, as I said."
"I do not mean that; of course, I know she was; but what dress had she on, and what kind of features or complexion had she? Was she big or little?"
"I'm just thinkin'," replied Mogue, seemingly attempting to recollect something, "was it to-day or yesterday I seen her."
"Well, but answer directly," said Alick, "what was she like?"
"The son of her was a bullet-headed ownsha," replied Mogue, "and herself—well now, that I may never die in sin, if I could say rightly. I was fetehin' some oats to Gimlet Eye, an' didn't take any particular notice. The ownsha had black sooty hair, cut short, an' walked as if his feet were sore—and indeed it strikes me that he had kibes—for these poor people isn't overly clane, an' don't wash their feet goin' to bed at night, barrin' at Christmas or Easther, the crathurs. But, sure the Lord look down on them, they have enough to do to live at all!"
"You couldn't say what direction she came from?"
"Well, then, no."
"Nor the direction she went by?"
"Well, no sir, I could not."
"But are you certain it was to-day, and not yesterday, you saw her?"
"Then that's what's puzzlin' me—eh! let me see—ay—it was to-day—an' I'll tell you how I know it. Bekaise it was to-day I brought the oats to Gimlet Eye—you know he was harrowing the black park yestherday and was in care of Paudeen Sthuccaun. But sure, sir, maybe somebody else about the place seen them."
An investigation was consequently held upon this reasonable suggestion, but we need scarcely assure our readers, without effect; the aforesaid "poor woman" having had existence only in the fertile imagination of stainless and uncorrupted saint Mogue.
The latter had scarcely retired, when a gentle knock came to the door, and Alick, on opening it himself, found their friend and neighbor, Darby Hourigan, standing outside.
"Well, Hourigan, what do you want now? have you repented, and come to the resolution of paying your tithes?"
Darby gave no direct answer, nor indeed any answer at all to these questions, but simply said, "There's a bit o' paper, sir, for Misther John."
"What is this? Oh, oh, a summons!—very well, Mr. Hourigan, my brother will attend to it."
"This is where John Purcel lives, sir?" proceeded the man, according to some form which he supposed necessary to give effect and reality to the service; "you acknowledge that, sir, do you?"
"Live here!—why, you scoundrel, don't you know he does? Where else did he ever live?"
"Ay, but you are only answerin' one question by another," replied Hourigan; "and I'll sarve you wid another to-morrow if you don't speak the truth."
"John," shouted his brother, "you're wanted. Here is your old friend Hourigan, anxious to get another—ha! ha! ha!—he is off like a shot!" he proceeded, addressing his brother, as the latter entered the hall; "but in the meantime," he added, handing him the summons, "this document is intended for you."
"Well," observed John, laughing, "unless our friend O'Driscol is somewhat change"! I need not much fear Mr. Hourigan."
"He is changed," observed the proctor; "the fellow is beginning to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. If you wish to secure his favor, however, you ought to try and put him on the trail of a Conspiracy, or anything that will give him a tolerable justification for writing to his Friend the Castle, as he calls it! He is a regular conspiracy hunter, and were it not that he is now awfully afraid of these Whiteboys, and naturally cowardly and easily frightened, I think he would be the plague of government as well as the country."
It would indeed, be extremely difficult to find a family so resolute and full of natural courage, and consequently so incapable of intimidation, as that of our friend the proctor. And what was equally striking, the female portion of them were as free from the weakness and timidity of their sex, in this respect, as the males.
CHAPTER VII.—A Shoneen Magistrate Distributing Justice.
On the morning but one afterwards, John Purcel proceeded to the house of his friend and neighbor, Fitzy O'Driscol, as he was usually termed for brevity. O'Driscol was rather a small man—that is to say, he was short but thick, and of full habit. He was naturally well made, and had been considered well-looking, until his complexion became a good deal inflamed from the effects of social indulgence, to which he was rather strongly addicted. His natural manner would have been plausible if he had allowed it to remain natural; but so far from this, he affected an air of pomp and dignity, that savored very strongly of the mock heroic. On the other side, his clothes fitted him very well, and as he had a good leg and a neat small foot, he availed himself of every possible opportunity to show them. He was, like most men of weak minds, exceedingly fond of ornaments, on which account he had his fingers loaded with costly rings, and at least two or three folds of a large gold chain hung about his breast. His morning gown was quite a tasteful, and even an expensive article, and his slippers, heavily embroidered, harmonized admirably with the whole fashionable deshabille in which he often distributed justice. He carried a gold snuff-box of very massive size, which, when dining out, he always produced after dinner for the benefit of the company, although he never took snuff himself. This, in addition to a tolerably stiff and unreclaimable brogue, and a style of pronunciation wofully out of keeping with his elegant undress, constituted him the very beau-ideal of what is usually known as a shoneen magistrate.
John, on arriving, found him reading a paper in the breakfast-parlor, and saw Hourigan waiting outside, who, by the way, gave him such a look as a cat might be supposed to bestow upon a mastiff from whom she dreaded an attack—a look which, in Hourigan's case, combined as much ferocious vengeance and sullen hang-dog cowardice as could well be brought together on the same features.
"Well, Jack," said the pompous distributor of justice, addressing young Purcel, "how do you do? Take a seat—by the way, is it true that your father and my excellent friend, Dr. Turbot, were shot at yesterday?"
"True enough," replied John; "the bullet whistled right between them, and so close that each felt the wind of it."
"The country is getting into a frightful state, friend Purcel, eh? Upon my honor now, yes! it is so—it is so."
"Why there is no question of it," replied John; "it is already in a frightful state."
"It is, Mr. Purcel, and in my opinion, the crame of the matter will be blood—blood—my dear John—that is what it will come to."
"Certainly you speak, Mr. O'Driscol, like a man that knows the country, and can feel the pulse of the public officially—I mean, of course, as a magistrate—for it is now, and in times of such turbulence, that men—I mean magistrates—of your stamp—will prove themselves serviceable to the government of the country, and to the country itself; intelligent and determined men—I mean magistrates—who know not what fear is, and who will do their duty at the risk of their lives."
"True, John, it is such men, or rather magistrates, who can render the most important services to government. The duties of a loyal and attached magistrate are not a mere raycrayation during these times. And yet, John," he added, sinking his voice into a confidential whisper, "I protest to my honor that the life of a man—I mane, as you say, a magistrate—who resolves firmly to perform his duty, is not extramely safe; why then should a man—I mane a magistrate—unnecessarily expose himself to the fate of Going,* when he might much more safely remain snug and quiet, without putting either himself or his neighbors to inconvanience by an over-strict discharge of his duty?"
[* The name of a magistrate and clergyman, I think, who was assassinated.]
"If everything be true that I have heard," said John, "the government would scarcely expect to hear such sentiments from the intelligent and determined Mr. O'Driscol."
"Ha! ha! ha!—well done, John,—I drew you out. Upon my honor, I am glad to find that you are loyal, at all events, and that is a rare virtue among most persons of your creed;—excuse me, but, except in name, I can scarcely consider you as belonging to it.
"Why, sir," replied John, "I trust I am a firm, but not a bigoted Catholic."
"Roman Catholic, John, always say, if you plaise; we claim to be the true Catholics you know; and for that raison it is better always to avoid confusion."
"As to that, we shall not quarrel about it, I trust," replied Purcel; "but with respect to another point, there is only one opinion, Mr. O'Driscol, and that is, that you are a most resolute and determined man."
"Magistrate you mane, I think, John; so magistrate, if you plaise—ha! ha!' ha! By the way will you touch the bell? Thank you."
"I beg your pardon," proceeded Purcel, having touched the bell, "I should have said magistrate: because it very often happens that whilst the man is a coward, the magistrate is as brave as the Duke of Wellington."
"Upon my honor and conscience, there may be some truth in that," said O'Driscol, nodding, but at the same time not exactly appropriating the category to himself; "but how do you make that appear, John?"
"Why," replied Purcel, who, between ourselves, was a bit of a wag in his way, "it proceeds from the spirit of his office. Take a magistrate, for instance, as a man—a mere man; place him in the ordinary situations of society; let him ride home at night, for instance, through a disturbed district like this, which, if he is wise, he will avoid doing, or let him be seen in an isolated position even in daylight without protection, and you will find him a coward of the first shaking. On the contrary, place him, as a magistrate, at the head of a body of police or military, and where will you witness such courage? That, then, is the individual, I say, who being naturally a coward as a man, goes through his duty with courage as a magistrate; I say this is the individual whom the government should reward with especial favor."
"By the way, will you touch that bell again?—oh, here he comes. Sam," he said, addressing a servant, "get me up a bottle of soda-wather. Will you have a glass of soda, John? I dipped a little too deep last night."
"No, sir, thank you," replied Purcel, "I was moderate last night; and at all events soda is rather cold for such a day as this is."
"Well, then can't you stiffen it with a little brandy?"
"No, thank you, I won't touch anything at present. I almost wish, as I was saying," he proceeded, "that there was the slightest touch of cowardice in you, naturally; because if it could be proved in connection with your official intrepidity, you would deserve everything that a government could bestow upon you."
"Faith and honor, that is certainly putting the argument in an extremely new point of view, and I agree with you, John; that is—that—let me see—the more cowardly the man the braver the magistrate. Well, I don't know that aither."
"No, no!" replied John, "I don't mean that."
"Well, what do you mane? for I thought I undherstood you a while ago, although find that I don't now."
"I mean," proceeded the other, "that when a man who is naturally cowardly—I don't mean, of course, a poltroon, but timid—proves himself to be firm, resolute, and intrepid in the discharge of his duties as a magistrate, such a man deserves a civic crown."
"A civic crown. Of course you know what that is."
"Of coorse I do, John; and upon my honor and conscience there is great truth in what you say. I could name you a magistrate who, I believe, as a magistrate, could not very aisily be bate, and yet who, without being a downright coward, is for all that no hairo to his valley de sham, as they say."
"My father was talking about you last night, sir, and I think before long he will be able to put you on the scent of as pretty a conspiracy as was ever detected. He had some notion of opening a communication with government himself upon the subject; but I suggested—that is, I took the liberty, sir, if you will excuse me, but if I erred I assure you Mr. O'Driscol, my intentions were good—I say I took the liberty, sir, of suggesting that it would be better to place the matter in your hands, as a person possessing more influence with your friend, the Castle, and more conversant with the management of a matter that is too important to be in any but official hands. I have time at the preset only to allude to it, for I see Mr. Darby Hourigan there waiting to prosecute, or as he says to take the law of, your humble servant."
"Hang the scoundrel, what a hurry he is in! How did you quarrel with him?"
"Faith, sir, in the first place, he was insolent and offensive beyond all patience."
"Yes, my dear John," observed O'Driscol, with a good deal of solemn pomp, especially as the magistrate was beginning to supersede the man, "all that is very provoking, but at the same time you know the horsewhip is an illaygal instrument."
"I beg your pardon, sir," replied Purcel, with a smile, "I believe not."
"I mane, John," said the other, "an improper use of it is. You should be more cautious, John, in using it, for the punishment of any animal barring a horse. I have heard, by the way, many complaints against you on that head."
"Yes, sir, but you are not aware that it is from a principle of humanity I horsewhip the scoundrels."
"How is that now, John? for upon my honor and conscience I can't for the life of me persave any great humanity in it."
"Why, sir," replied Purcel, who, as the reader must be aware, was humbugging the worthy magistrate all the time, "I appeal to yourself whether it is not better for any one of these rascals to get a horsewhipping from me than a citation to the Bishop's Court from my father."
"Ay, but do they never happen to get both, John?" returned the magistrate. "But what has a horsewhipping and a citaytion to the Bishop's Court to do with aich other?"
"Simply this," replied the other, "that when my father hears I horsewhip any of them, he takes no further proceedings against them; and whenever I wish, consequently, to keep a fellow out of that troublesome situation, I horsewhip him from pure kindness."
"So that you look upon that as a good turn to them?"
"Precisely, sir. As I said, I horsewhip them from motives of humanity."
"Faith and don't be surprised, John, if they should happen to put a bullet through you from motives of humanity some of these days. However, do you think it is of importance?"
"Is what, sir?"
"The conspiracy. I beg your pardon—come into the office till I see what I can do for you at all events."
He accordingly preceded Purcel to his office, accompanied by Sam Finigan, a kind of thorough male domestic who acted as his clerk. Here he took his seat with a good deal of ceremony, hemmed several times, and desired Hourigan to be admitted. Just at that moment, and while Hourigan was coming in, a young lad, or tiger, a son of Finigan's, by the way, who had been in the habit of carrying letters to and from the neighboring post-office, now entered and presented him with one, to the following effect:—
"TO O'DRISKAL, THE SHONEEN MAGISTRIDGE.
"Sur this is to let you no that if you go an givin wan la for the poor and anud'her for the rich you will soon get a bullet through you as Tandrem af Tavnibeg got. If you wish to bay safe thin bay the poor man's friend—oderways it'll be worse for you.
O'Driscol having read this communication, became desperately disturbed for about a couple of minutes, after which, as if struck by some sudden thought, he appeared to recover himself considerably, but by no means fully, as was evident from the agitation of his voice and the involuntary tremor of his hands.
"I hope, sir," said Purcel, who could not help observing the commotion into which the notice had put him, "that you have received no ill tidings. You seem agitated and alarmed, or rather distressed, if one can judge; I hope there's nothing wrong."
"Why, no," replied the magistrate, "not exactly wrong; but it is certainly an infamous country to live in. I am an impartial man, Mr. Purcel—I mane, sir, an impartial magistrate; but the fact is, sir, that every man is marked whose life is valuable to the government of his country. I know no man, Mr. Purcel—mark me you, too, Hourigan—I know no man, sir, in my capacity of a magistrate—hem—hem!—only according to the merits—I am as much the poor man's friend as I am the rich man's, and of the two more: if I lane at all, which I don't, it is to the poor man; but as an impartial man—magistrate I mane—I know naither rich or poor. On the bench, I say, I know naither poverty nor riches, barring, as I said, upon the merits."
"Beggin' your pardon, your worship—an' before you begin—as I was comin' down here a while agone," said Hourigan, "I seen a strange and suspicious-lookin' man inside the hedge at the shrubbery below; he was an ill-faced villain, plaise your reverence, an' I thought I seen his pockets stickin' out as if he had pistols in them. I thought it better to tell your worship."
The worthy magistrate had scarcely recovered from the first fit of agitation when this intelligence threw him into an immediate relapse. Indeed so ludicrous was his distress that he actually wiped the perspiration from his forehead.
"Sam," said he, after a fit of tremulous coughing, into which he forced himself, in order to conceal the quaver which terror had given to his voice, "Sa—am—hugh! ugh!—go-o—an-n-d—ugh! ugh! ugh!—get a ca-a-se of doub-uble pis-pistols—ugh! ugh!—da—amn this cough—ough—and place—them-em on the table here—we—we—will at least pep-pepper the villain—if—if—he—he should dare to show his face—-ace. I trust I—I—know my duties as—a mag-istrate—my cour—urage and in-trep—id—ity as such—ugh! ijg'h! ugh!—are no saycret now, I think."
"I don't believe," observed Purcel, "that there is one syllable of truth in what he says. I can read the falsehood in his eye. However," he added, "if you will postpone this matter of Hourigan's for a few minutes, I shall soon see whether there is any one there or not."
"Here, then," said the magistrate, "take these pistols" (pointing to those which Finigan had just laid on the table). Purcel declined them with a nod, taking a good case at the same time out of his own pocket. "No, sir, thank you, I never travel without my two friends here, with either of which I can break a bottle at the distance of thirty yards. You will be good enough to tell that to your friends, Mr. Hourigan, and also to reflect upon it yourself."
Having examined his friends, as he called them, he started out and proceeded directly towards the shrubbery, where, however, there was no trace whatever of any one. On his way home he met Fergus O'Driscol, who had been out that morning cock-shooting through the grounds, and to whom he mentioned the story told by Hourigan. "Why, the lying scoundrel," exclaimed Fergus, "I saw him myself speaking to a new laboring lad whom Mr. Arthur, the steward, sent in there this morning to gather and remove the rotten underwood. He has only vamped up this story to frighten my heroic father, and between you and me it is not difficult to do."
"I dare say you are right, Fergus, but between you and me again, who is this new-comer you mention? for you may rest assured that if he be very intimate with Darby Hourigan, you had as good keep an eye upon him. Darby is one of the good ones."
"I don't even know his name yet," replied Fergus, "but if we are to judge by appearances, he is somewhat of Darby's kidney, for a worse-looking young vagabond I have seldom laid my eyes upon. At all events I know Hourigan's story to be a lie, for as he came up the avenue I was in the shrubbery, looking for a cock I shot, which dropped among the hollies, and there was certainly nobody there but this strange fellow and Hourigan, both of whom chatted to each other for some minutes across the hedge; and, by the way, I now remember that they kept watching about them suspiciously, as if they did not wish to be seen speaking together. The fact, now that you have mentioned the case, is evident; I could not be deceived in this matter."
"Well then," said Purcel, "I will tell you how we shall bring that circumstance to a test: get the strange fellow to walk my horse up and down the avenue, so as that he must necessarily come in Hourigan's way, and if they refuse to speak in my presence you may accompany me down the avenue if you wish—we may take it for granted that there is an understanding between them and on this account we will say nothing on our return, but that we failed to see or trace any one, which will be the truth, you know."
Whilst this conversation took place between the two young men, our worthy magistrate, now that he had an opportunity of recruiting his courage, withdrew for a moment, accompanied by his servant and clerk, Sam Finigan. "Sam," said he, in undisguised trepidation, "my life's not worth a week's purchase."
"That was a threatening letter you received, sir?" said Sam, inquiringly.
"The same, Sam. Upon my honor and conscience, they have threatened me with the fate of Tandrem of Tavnibeg, who got five bullets into him, not fifty yards from his own door. Get me the brandy then quick, and another bottle of soda-wather. Good Lord! Sam, see what it is to be an active and determined magistrate."
"Well," said Sam, after he had placed the brandy and soda-water before him, "it's one comfort, plaise your honor, that if they shoot your worship, government will take a glorious revenge upon them. The three kingdoms will hear of it."
"Ay, but, Sam—good Lord!—here's God grant us a long life in the manetime! but upon my honor and conscience it's not revenge upon my own murdherers I want, but to be made a Stipendiary. Revenge! Good Lord! what is revenge to a murdhered man, Sam, maybe with five bullets in him! Now, Sam, this is not want of courage in me—but—but—mere distress of mind on looking at the state of the country. A suspicious-looking villain to be lurking in my own shrubbery, with the very pistols sticking out of his pocket! Good Lord! I believe I'll take another half-glass, Sam; I think I feel somewhat more intrepid—more relieved. Yes, pour me out another half-glass, or a whole one, as your hand is in, Sam, and take another for yourself."
"Thank your worship," said Sam, who never called him anything else when exercising, or about to exercise his functions as a magistrate, "here's the same, your worship—God grant us both—your worship at any rate—a long life!"
"And a happy death, Sam; there is no harm to add that to it."
"And a happy death, your worship!"
"Well, Sam, here's the same! And now I think in a few minutes my natural courage will return; for indeed I'm too kind-hearted, Sam, and too aisily made feel, as you persave, for the traisonable state of the country, and of the misguided people. However, I only feel these things as a man, Sam, as a kind-hearted man, but not as a fearless and resolute magistrate, Sam: as a magistrate I don't know what fear is."
"That's well known, your worship; when you're at the head of a body of polis or military, every one knows what you are; isn't dare-devil Driscol, your worship, the best name they have for you?"
"True enough, Sam; d—n them; a man, especially a magistrate, couldn't be courageous unknown to them—they'll be sure to find it out. I'm a good deal relieved, Sam, and—hem—hem—let us proceed to investigate this important matter of Hourigan's. These Purcels are—hem—ahem—too much in the habit of violating the law, Sam, and that's not right—it's illaygal—it's illay-gal, Sam, to violate the law; I say so, and I think I can't allow such breaches of the"—here, however, the thought of the conspiracy occurred, and swayed him in a moment against Hourigan. "To be sure Hourigan's a scoundrel, and deserves a horsewhipping every day he rises."
"True enough, sir; and sure if the Purcels break the law, it is only upon the people, and arn't the people, your worship, as ready to break the law as the Purcels! Sorra warrant, then, I'd grant against Misther John this bout."
"And what would you do, Sam?"
"I'd bind Hourigan over to keep the pace."
"I believe you're right, Sam; he's a bad bird, Hourigan; so I think the best thing to do is to tie his hands up for him."
"And if we could tie his tongue up too, your worship, it ought to be done."
Here, on the other hand, the notice he had just received stuck in his throat, and reduced him to a new perplexity.
"But then, Sam," he added, "think of the revengeful spirit that is abroad. Good Lord! it is awful! Haven't I this moment a threatening notice on my table? Well," he added, "if ever a man suffered in the cause of government as a public man and an active resolute magistrate, I do; indeed, Sam, if I had known the cares, and troubles, and responsibilities of my official situation, I am not certain whether I would not have preferred a private station; but you see government will find out men of talent and public spirit. If I had less of either, it isn't threatening letters I'd be resaving this day. Come, then, let us go to the discharge of our duty, Sam, fearlessly and impartially, as a man entrusted with great public authority."
He accordingly proceeded to the office, a good deal recruited in courage by the brandy, but by no means altogether relieved from the apprehensions consequent upon the receipt of the notice and Hourigan's narrative.
Fergus and Purcel, on their way from the shrubbery to the house, fell upon a simpler plan by which to detect Hourigan's falsehood, and ascertain whether there existed any personal acquaintance or understanding of any sort between him and the new-comer.
"Well, John," said O'Driscol, after once more placing himself with his usual pomp in his magisterial chair, "have you been able to find any account or trace of the assassin?"
"None whatever, sir," replied Purcel; "neither tale nor tidings of him could I find."
"When did you see him, Hourigan?" asked Fergus; "was it on your way here?"
"In the avenue?"
"In the avenue, sir, about fifty yards inside the hedge, jist opposite the hollies."
"Why did you not speak to him?"
"Troth, sir, he had too suspicious a look; for how did I know but it's a bullet I'd get into, me, if I was only seen obsarvin' or watchin' him?"
"Then you did not speak to him?" asked Fergus.
"Faith, you may swear that, sir; that is not the time to pick up strange acquaintances."
The two young friends were now satisfied of Hourigan's falsehood, and perhaps of his treachery; and a very slight but significant glance to that effect passed between them.
"Well, well," said the magistrate, "we—I mane myself, at any rate—are well able to protect ourselves. I shall not in future travel unarmed, and he that—hem—ahem—he that will mistake me for a timid man will find out his error maybe when it's too late. Come, Hourigan, what charge is this you have against Mr. Purcel?"
"Plaise your honor, he abused, and assaulted, and bate me until I didn't know for a time whether I was alive or dead."
"How was that, Hourigan, sir?"
"Bekaise, your honor, I had not my tides for him."
"Now that I look at you, you certainly have the marks of violence about you. Well, but did you give no provocation, sir? It's not likely Mr. Purcel would raise his hand to you if he had not resaved strong provocation at yours."
"Sorra word, then, your honor, ever I said to him,—barrin' to tell him that I hoped he'd have compassion on me and my little family, and not drive us to ruin for what I wasn't able to pay. He then asked me, was that the answer I had for him, and not his money, and he does no more but ups wid his whip and laves me as you see me."
"Why, now, you d—d scoundrel!" exclaimed John, "how can you—"
"Pardon me, Mr. Purcel," said the magistrate, interrupting him with what he intended to be dignity, "you forget what is due to the court, sir. There must be no swearing nor abuse here. The court must be respected, Mr. Purcel."
These words brought a sneer of secret triumph upon Hourigan's features, that was unquestionably very provoking.
"I beg to apologize to the court," replied Purcel, "if for a moment I have forgotten what is due to it; but, in fact, your worship, there is not one word of truth in what he says. His language was insolent and provoking beyond the limits of human patience. He told me that both my father and myself were dishonest—that we were oppressors of the poor, and blood-suckers; called us hardhearted and beggarly upstarts, and that we would sell our Church and our country for filthy lucre and upstart pride. Instead, your worship, of promising to pay his tithes, he said we might go to hell for them, and make the devil our paymaster, what he'll be yet. And further, he said he'd never pay a farthing of them, and set law, lawyers, police, military, and magistrates all at open defiance. Now I beg to know, your worship, what loyal and peaceably-disposed man, that wishes to see the laws of his country, and those respectable magistrates that administer them, respected—what man, I say, fond of peace and quietness, could bear such language as that? It is not what he said of either myself or my family that I contain of, but of the abuse he heaped upon the law at large, and the independent magistrates of the country. I certainly, in the heat of the moment, so far resented the affront offered to the most respectable magistracy of this fine country as to give him a few slight touches of the whip, more like one in jest, I assure your worship, than like an angry man."
"Hourigan," said O'Driscol, swelling up to a state of the most pompous indignation, "this is infamous conduct which he relates of you, sir. How dare you, sir, or any impudent fellow like you, take the undaicent and unjustifiable liberty of abusing the independent and loyal magistracy of Ireland? It is by fellows like you, sir, that traison and sedition are hatched. Your conduct was gross and monstrous, and if Mr. Purcel had come to me and made affidavit of the language stated, I would have consithered it my duty to commit you. Such language, sirra, was seditious!"
"Yes," replied Hourigan, "and you would be right; but there is not one word of truth in what Mr. Purcel says, your worship; for instead of that, plaise your reverence, when I threatened to come to you to get the law against him—'I'll go to Squire Driscol,' says I, 'and that's the gintleman that will give me justice at any rate.' 'You and Squire Driscol may go be hanged,' says he; 'I don't regard him a traneen; he thinks, since he has been made into a justice of pace, that the ground's not worthy to carry him,' says he. Can you deny that, Mr. John?"
Purcel's limbs began to move, and his very flesh to creep with indignation at the impudent but artful falsehoods of Hourigan, who was likely to succeed in touching the magistrate's weak points with such effect as to gain him over to his side.
The worthy official shook his head with a kind of very high-minded pride, as much as to say, I am far above the level of such observations.
"Mr. Purcel," said he—"he—hem—hem—I am sorry to hear that you could give way to such extramely indiscreet and disrespectful language as this."
"Swear him, sir," said Purcel, "and let him be put to his oath, for I protest to heaven, Mr. O'Driscol, and as I am, I trust, an honest man, I never once mentioned your name, nor was there the slightest allusion made to it—none, sir, whatever."
"The truth is, I should think it very, strange, Mr. Purcel, and very odd, and very unfriendly and disenganious in you to spake of any magistrate in such a style as that. However, Sam, take the book and swear Hourigan."
Sam accordingly took the book, and putting it into Hourigan's hand, said, "You shall make true answers to such questions as shall be put to you, and swear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God, and one-and-sixpence to me!"
"Never mind the one-and-sixpence at present, Sam," said his master, "he owes you nothing now. Proceed."
Hourigan's thumb had the genuine angle on the back of the book, but it did not escape Sam, who said, "You intend to kiss your thumb, Hourigan, but it's no go; here, sir, stand there, so that the book won't be a screen for you; turn round—there now—proceed."
Hourigan, finding that the evasion in this instance was impracticable, gave it a strong, derisive smack that might be heard outside the room. "I hope," he added, "you are satisfied now, Mr. Finigan."
"I see," replied Sam, "that you've kissed the book when you were made to do it; but I see jist as clearly that the sorra much truth are we goin' to get out of yoU."
The case then proceeded; but as it would prove, probably, rather tiresome to the generality of our readers, we shall not give it at length. It was quite evident, however, that the plaintiff and defendant both were well acquainted with the vacillating and timid character of the magistrate, who in the case before us was uniformly swayed by the words of the last speaker; and it was equally evident that each speaker so shaped his arguments as that they might the more effectually bear upon O'Driscol's weak points.
"Hem—hem—this, I persave, turns out to be a very important and difficult case, Mr. Purcel—a very difficult case, Hourigan—a—a—a case indeed that requires great deliberation and coolness. Here is strong provocation on one hand, and prompt punishment on the other. Can you swear, Mr. Purcel, to the accuracy and substance of the language you say Hourigan uttered?"
"Certainly, sir, without hesitation."
"Because if he does, Hourigan, I shall be obliged, according to Act of Parliament, sir—"
Hourigan interrupted him by a groan, and a rather significant shrug.
"What do you shrug and groan for, sir?" asked the man of law, who felt both acts incompatible with the respect due to the court.
"Mavrone!" exclaimed Hourigan, "acts of Parliament! oh! thin many a bitther piece of cruelty and injustice has been practised upon us by Act o' Parliament!"
"Ho, you traisonable villain!" exclaimed the other—"what sedition is this?"
"It is sich Acts o' Parliament," said the adroit knave, "that gets good men and good magistrates shot like dogs, an' that has brought the counthry to the fearful pass it's in, I wisht myself I was out of it, for the people is beginnin' to single out sich magistrates as they'll shoot, as if their lives worn't worth a rat's."
"Ah!—hem—hem—Hourigan, you are a d—d ras—hem simple-hearted fellow, I think, or you wouldn't spake as you do.
"But an I to get not justice sir, against the man that left me as you see me. Is the poor man, sir, to be horse-whipped and cut up at the will an' pleasure of the rich, an'not to get either law or justice?"
O'Driscol's face was now a picture of most ludicrous embarrassment and distress.
"Certainly, Hourigan, I shall—hem—I shall always administer justice impartially—impartially—no one can question that. Your case," he added—(for we must say here that Hourigan's language brought back to his mind all the horrors of Tandrem's death, as well as that threatened to himself in the recent notice)—"your case, Hourigan is a difficult and peculiar one, poor man!"
"Hourigan, my good fellow," said Purcel, "take care of what you are about. Don't be too certain that some of your neighbors won't find you, before you are much older, in the centre of a deep-laid conspiracy; and perhaps the government of the country may have an opportunity before long to thank and reward those who will have it exposed and broken up. Do you understand me?"
Purcel, while he spoke, kept his eyes fixed very significantly upon the magistrate, to whose imagination a long and interesting correspondence with his friend, the Castle, started immediately forth, appended to which were votes of thanks, flattering testimonies, together with a stipendiary magistracy, with a full retiring pension, and an appointment for his son, in the background.
"He has made use of that language to intimidate your worship," proceeded Purcel, but I think he ought to know you better."
"Sir," said O'Driscol, addressing Hourigan, "what did you mane by talking about shooting magistrates? Do you think, sirrah, to frighten me—Fitzgerald O'Driscol—from discharging my duty?"
"Frighten, you, sir! oh! bedad, your honor, you aren't the gintleman for that."
"No, sir, I believe not—I believe not, Hourigan; no, my poor man, I am not indeed. Hourigan, you are not an uncivil person, but why refuse to pay your tithes? You are well able to do it."
"Why, bekaise I daren't, sir; if I did—talkin' about shootin'—it's a round lump of lead I would find in my stomach instead o' my poor breakfast, some o' these days."
"I don't doubt but he is right enough there, your worship," observed Purcel, "there's a conspiracy—"
"Yes," exclaimed the magistrate, "oh! ay!—yes!—hem—a conspiracy! Well—no matter—let it rest for a little. Well—as this case is one of great difficulty, involving several profound points of law, I would recommend you to make it up, and be friends. Hourigan, you will forgive Mr. Purcel, who is hasty but generous. You will forgive him, I say, and he will give you something in the shape of a—salve for your wounds. Come, forgive him, Hourigan, and I will overlook, on my part, the seditious language you used against the Irish magistracy; and, besides, you will make me your friend."
"Forgive him, sir!" said Hourigan, shrugging himself, and putting up his hand to feel the welts of black and blue which intersected each other upon his countenance and shoulders. "An' maybe it's half-a-crown he'll threwn me."
"No, no, Hourigan, I'll guarantee for him that he'll treat you liberally: one good turn deserves another, you know."
"Well, then, let him say what he'll give me."
"There's a pound-note for you," said Purcel, flinging it across the table. "If you take that, you may, but if not, I'll give no more. Your worship, this, you perceive, is cross-case, and if you receive examination on the one side, you will, of course, upon the other?"
"True," replied O'Driscol, who had not thought of this, and who seized upon it as a perfect relief to him; "true, Mr. Purcel, it is a cross-case, and so I understand it. Let me recommend you to take the money, Hourigan."
"Well, then, your honor, I will, on your account, and bekaise, as your worship says, bekaise one good tarn desarues another, an' ought to get it. I'm satisfied for the present." And as he spoke, he turned, in a skulking, furtive manner, such a look upon Purcel as we will not attempt to describe.
"Now, Hourigan," said O'Driscol, "I am glad I have settled this matter in your favor. If I had taken Mr. Purcel's informations, you would have certainly been transported; but the truth is, and I trust you have seen it this day, and will allow it, that in my magisterial capacity, although just and impartial I hope, yet, still, whenever I can with raison, I am always disposed to lane towards the poor man, and be the poor man's magistrate—hem—ahem!"
"Yes, plaise your honor," said Hourigan, rather drily, "but it's so hard to make the people at large believe the truth, sir. Good-mornin', your worship, an' many thanks for the illigant justice you gave me. Good-mornin' you, too, Misther Purcel; I hope we'll be betther friends, sir."
"And I hope you will pay your tithes, and keep a civiler tongue in your head," replied the latter, as Hourigan left the office.
Before this weighty matter was determined, Fergus O'Driscol, although satisfied that Hourigan and their new laborer were acquainted, resolved to corroborate his evidence of the fact, if possible, and for this purpose he sent the fellow, as had been agreed on, to walk Purcel's horse up and down the lower part of the avenue, near the entrance gate, which was somewhat secluded and not within view of the house, for the avenue was a winding one. In the meantime he stationed himself in a clump of trees, to which he went by a back walk in the shrubbery that was concealed from that part of the avenue. Here, we say, he stationed himself to watch these worthies, but, unfortunately, at too great a distance to hear their conversation, should they speak and recognize each other. On this subject he was not permitted to remain long in suspense. Hourigan soon made his appearance, and, on approaching the stringer, looked cautiously about him in every direction, whilst the latter, who had been walking Purcel's horse towards the house, suddenly turned back, and kept conversing with Hourigan until they reached the entrance gate, where they stood for about ten minutes in close and evidently confidential dialogue, as was clear from their watching in all directions, to make certain that they were not observed. They then shook hands, cordially, and Hourigan bent his steps towards the town of Lisnagola. Fergus, who had seen all their motions most distinctly, took occasion to pass up the avenue a few minutes afterwards, where he met the stranger still leading Purcel's horse.
"What's your name, my good fellow?" he asked.
"Phil Hart, sir."
"Do you know if the man who summoned Mr. Purcel before my father has gone out?"
"I don't know, plaise your honor."
"Did any person go out within the last few minutes?"
"Yes, sir, there went a man out; maybe it was him."
"You don't know Hourigan's appearance, then?"
"No, sir. Hourigan, was that his name?"
"Yes. Are you a native of this county?"
"Not exactly, sir; but I have friends in it."
"Who are they?"
"The Ahernes, sir, up in the mountains behind Lisnagola beyant."
"And who recommended you to Mr. Arthur?"
"His brother-in-law, sir, one Frank Finnerty, in the mountains above; that is, they're both marrid upon the two shisthers, plaise your honor."
"And what caused you to leave your native place?"
"Why, sir, my father houlds a bit o' land; he owed some tithe, sir, and—"
"Would not pay it; they consequently took proceedings—you resisted the execution of the law, and then you had to run for it."
"Well, not exactly, sir."
"How was it, then?"
"Why, sir, we paid the tithes; an' whin this was discovered, I, at any rate, had to run for it. The people, your honor, found out that it was I that ped them, an' I was glad, of coorse, to fly for my life. I'd thank you, sir, to keep what I tould you to yourself, for even if it was known in this neighborhood that I ped them, I wouldn't be safe."
"You don't know Hourigan, then?"
"How could I, sir, and me a sthranger?"
"Faith, and whether you do or not, it seems to me there's a strong family likeness between you and him."
"Maybe so," the fellow replied, with a grin. "I hear my father say that he sartinly was down in this counthry when he was sowin' his wild oats:" and with this observation he passed on with the horse he was leading.
CHAPTER VIII.—An Unreformed Church
—The Value of Public Opinion—Be not Familiar with the Great
Recent circumstances have, unfortunately, shown us the danger of tampering with, and stimulating, the blind impulses of ignorant prejudice and popular passion beyond that limit where the powers of restraint cease to operate with effect. At the period which our narrative has now reached, and for a considerable time before it, those low rumblings which stunned and frightened the ear of civilized society, like the ominous sounds that precede an earthquake, were now followed by those tremblings and undulations which accompany the shock itself. But before we describe that social condition to which we refer, it is necessary that we should previously raise the vail a little, which time has drawn between us and the condition of the Established Church, not merely at that crisis, but for a long period before it. This we shall do as briefly as possible, because we feel that it is an exceedingly unpleasant task to contemplate a picture which presents to us points of observation that are, from their very nature, painful to look upon—and features so secular and carnal, that scarcely any language could exaggerate, much less distort them.
The Established Church in Ireland, then, in its unpurged and unreformed state, was very little else than a mere political engine for supporting and fostering British interests and English principles in this country; and no one, here had any great chance of preferment in it who did not signalize himself some way in favor of British policy. The Establishment was indeed the only bond that bound the political interests of the two nations together. But if any person will now venture to form an opinion of the Irish Church from her gorgeousness and immense wealth at that period, he will unquestionably find that what ought to have been a spiritual, pure, holy, self-denying, and zealous Church, was neither more nor less than an overgrown, proud, idle, and indolent Establishment, bloated by ease and indulgence, and corrupted almost to the very core by secular and political prostitution. The state of the Establishment was indeed equally anomalous and disgraceful. So jealous was England, and at the same time so rapacious of its wealth, that it was parcelled out to Englishmen without either shame or scruple, whilst Irish piety and learning, when they did happen to be found, were uniformly overlooked and disregarded. All the ecclesiastical offices of dignity and emolument were bestowed upon Englishmen; upon men who lived here with reluctance, and but seldom—who had no sympathy with the country or its inhabitants—nay, who looked upon us, in general, with feeling of hostility and contempt; and who, by example or precept, rendered no earthly equivalent for the enormous sums that were drawn from a poor and struggling people. It is idle to say that these prodigious ecclesiastical revenues were not paid by the people, but by the landlord, who, if the people had not paid them, would have added them to the rent. But even so—the straggling peasant reasoned naturally, for he felt it to be one thing to pay even a high rent to the landlord, whose rights, as such, he acknowledged, but a very different thing to pay forth out of his own pocket a tenth of his produce to the pastor of a hostile creed, which had little sympathy with him, for which he received no spiritual equivalent, and on which, besides, he was taught to look as a gross and ungodly heresy.
But this was not the worst of it. In the discussion of this subject, it is rather hazardous for the champion of our former Establishment to make any allusion to the landlord at all; the fact unfortunately being, that in the management and disposal of land, the landlords, in general, were gifted with a very convenient forgetfulness that such a demand as tithe was to come upon the tenant at all. The land in general was let as if it had been tithe-free, whilst, at the same time, and in precisely the same grasping spirit, it so happened, that wherever it was tithe-free the rents exacted were also enormous, and seen as—supposing tithe had not an existence—no country ever could suffer to become the basis of valuation, or to settle down into a system. In fact, such was the spirit, and so profligate the condition of the Established Church for a long lapse of time, both before and after the Union, that we may lay it down as a general principle, that everything was rewarded in it but piety and learning.
If there were anything wanting to prove the truth and accuracy of our statements, it would be found in the bitter and relentless spirit with which the Established Church and her pastors were assailed, at the period of which we write. And let it be observed here, that even then, the Church in this country, in spirit, in learning, in zeal, and piety, was an angel of purity compared to what she had been twenty or thirty years before. The course of clerical education had been defined, established, and extended; young profligates could not enter the Church, as in the good old times, without any earthly preparation, either in learning or morals. They were obliged to read, and thoroughly to understand, an extensive and enlightened course of divinity—to attend lectures and entitle themselves, both by attendance and answering, to a certain number of certificates, without which they had no chance for orders. In point of fact, they were forced to become serious; and the consequences soon began to appear in the general character of the Church. Much piety, activity, learning, and earnest labor were to be found in it; and indeed, we may venture to say, that, with the exception of her carnal and debasing wealth, she had been purified and reformed to a very considerable extent, even then. Still, however, the bloated mass of mammon hung about her, prostrating her energies, secularizing her spirit, and, we must add, oppressing the people, out of whose pockets it was forced to come. When the calamity, therefore, which the reader may perceive is partly upon and impending over, the Protestant clergy, actually occurred, it did not find them unprepared, nor without the sympathy of many of the very people who were forced by the tyrannical influence of party feeling to oppose them publicly. To their sufferings and unexampled patience, however, we shall be obliged to refer, at a subsequent period of our narrative; and for that reason, we dismiss it for the present.
Such, then, was the state of the Protestant Established Church for a considerable length of time before the tithe agitation, and also immediately preceding it; and we deemed it necessary to make the reader acquainted with both, in order that he may the better understand the nature and spirit of the almost universal assault which was, by at least one party—the Roman Catholic—so furiously made upon it. At the present period of our narrative, then, the population of the country, especially of the South and West, had arrived at that state of agitation, which, whether its object be legitimate or not, is certain, in a short time, to brutalize the public mind and debauch the public morals, by removing all the conscientious impediments which religion places against crime, and consequently all scruple in committing it. Heretofore, those vile societies of a secret nature, that disgrace the country and debase the character of her people, existed frequently under separate denominations, and for distinct objects. Now, however, they all consented to abandon these peculiar purposes, and to coalesce into one great conspiracy against the destruction of the Establishment. We do not mean to assert, however, that this general outcry against the Church, and its accompanying onslaught on her property, originated directly with the people. No such thing; the people, as they always are, and, we fear, ever will be, were mere instruments in the hands of a host of lay and clerical agitators; and no argument was left unattempted or unurged to hound them on to the destruction of the Establishment. From the Corn Exchange down to the meanest and most obscure tribunal of agitation throughout the kingdom, the virtues of passive resistance were inculcated and preached, and the great champion of popular rights told the people publicly and repeatedly that they might not be afraid to follow his advice, for that it mattered little how oppressive or stringent any act of parliament in defence of the Established Church might be, he would undertake to drive a coach and six through the very severest of its penalties. Nor were the Catholic priesthood idle during these times of storm and commotion. At the head of them, and foremost in both ability and hatred of tithes, stood the late Dr. Doyle, the celebrated J.K.L. of that day, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin; a man to whose great intellectual powers the country at large chiefly owes the settlement of that most difficult and important question. This able prelate assailed the system with a fiery vehemence that absolutely set the country in a blaze, and reduced the wealthy Establishment to a case of the most unprecedented distress. Who can forget that memorable apothegm to the Irish people on the subject? "Let your hatred of tithes," he said, "be as lasting as your sense of justice."
Unfortunately it is an easy task to instruct or tempt the Irish peasant to violate the law, especially when sanctioned, in that violation, by those whose opinion and advice he takes as the standard of his conduct. Be this as it may, the state of the country was now becoming frightful and portentous; and although there had not, as yet, been much blood shed, still there was no person acquainted with the extraordinary pains which were taken to excite the people against the payment of tithe, who was not able to anticipate the terrible outburst and sanguinary slaughters which soon followed.
We have already detailed a midnight meeting of the anti-tithe confederacy; but so confident had the people soon become in the principle of general unanimity against the payment of this impost, that they did not hesitate to traverse the country in open day by thousands; thus setting not only law, but all the powers of the country by which it is usually carried out and supported, at complete defiance.
Threatening letters, and notices of violent death, signed with blood, and containing the form of a coffin, were sent to all such as were in any way obnoxious, or, what was the same thing, who were in any way disposed either to pay tithes or exact them.