With such a condition of society before us, it is scarcely necessary to inform our readers that the privations of the Protestant clergy were not only great, but dreadful and without precedent. It was not merely that their style of living was lowered or changed for the worse, but that they suffered distress of the severest description—want, destitution, and hunger, in their worst forms. First came inconvenience from a delay in the receipt of their incomes; then the necessity of asking for a longer term of credit; after this the melancholy certainty that tithes would not be paid; again followed the pressure from creditors for payment, with its distracting and harassing importunities; then the civil but firm refusal to supply the necessaries of life on further credit; then again the application to friends, until either the inclination or ability failed, and benevolence itself was exhausted. After this came the disposal of books, furniture, and apparel; and, when these failed, the secret grapple with destitution, the broken spirit, the want of food—famine, hunger, disease, and, in some cases, death itself. These great sufferings of a class who, at all events, were educated gentlemen, did not occur without exciting, on their behalf, deep and general sympathy from all classes. In their prosperity, the clergy, as a body, raised and spent their income in the country. They had been kind and charitable to the poor, and their wives and daughters had often been ministering angels to those who were neglected by the landlords or gentry of the neighborhood, their natural protectors. It is true, an insurrection exhibiting the manifestation of a general and hostile principle against the source of their support, had spread over the country; but, notwithstanding its force and violence, the good that they had done was not forgotten to them in the hour of their trials and their sorrows. Many a man, for instance, whose voice was loud in the party procession, and from whose lips the shout of "down with the blood-stained tithe!" issued with equal fervor and sincerity, was often known to steal, at the risk of his very life, in the dead hour of night, to the house of, the starving parson and his worn family, and with blackened face, that he might not by any possibility be known, pay the very tithes for whose abolition he was willing to peril his life. Nay, what is more, the priest himself—the actual living idolatrous priest, the benighted minister of the Scarlet Lady, has often been known to bring, upon his own broad and sturdy shoulders, that relief in substantial food which has saved the lives of more than one of those ungodly parsons, who had fattened upon a heretic church, and were the corrupted supporters of the mammon of unrighteousness. Here, in fact, was the popish, bigoted priest—the believer in transubstantiation, the denouncer of political enemies, the advocate of exclusive salvation, the fosterer of pious frauds, the "surpliced ruffian," as he has been called, and heaven knows what besides, stealing out at night, loaded like a mule, with provisions for the heretical parson and his family—for the Bible-man, the convent-hunter, the seeker after filthy lucre, and the black slug who devoured one-tenth of the husbandman's labors. Such, in fact, was the case in numberless instances, where the very priest himself durst not with safety render open assistance to his ecclesiastical enemy, the parson.
In this combination against tithe, it is to be observed, that, as in all other agitations, whether the object be good or otherwise, those who took a principal part among the people in the rural districts were seldom any other than the worst and most unprincipled spirits—reckless ruffians and desperate vagabonds, without any sense of either religious or moral obligation to restrain them from the commission of outrage. It is those men, unfortunately, who, possessed of strong and licentious energies, and always the most active and contaminating in every agitation that takes place among us, and who, influenced by neither shame nor fear, and regardless of consequences, impress their disgraceful character upon the country at large, and occasion the great body of society to suffer the reproach of that crime and violence which, after all, only comparatively a few commit.
Our friend the proctor, we have already stated, had collected the tithes of three or four parishes; and it is unnecessary, therefore, to say, that the hostility against him was spread over a wide and populous district. This was by no means the case with O'Driscol, who was much more the object of amusement to the people than of enmity. The mask of bluster, and the cowardly visage it covered, were equally well known in the neighborhood; and as the Irish possess a quick and almost instinctive perception of character, especially among their superiors, we need scarcely say that they played off, on more than one occasion, many ludicrous pranks at his expense. He was certainly a man of great importance, at least in his own opinion, or if he did understand himself, he wished, at all events, to be considered so in the eyes of others. He possessed, however, much more cunning than any one would feel inclined to attribute to him, and powers of flattery that were rarely ever equalled. He was, in fact, one of the few men who could administer that nauseating dose, without permitting the person who received it to become sensible that he did so. He had scraped together some wealth by the good oldsystem of jobbing—had got himself placed upon the Grand Panel of the county,' and ultimately, by some corrupt influence at an election, contrived to have the merit of returning the government candidate, a service which procured him a magistracy. O'Driscol was very fond of magnifying trifles, and bestowing, a character of importance upon matters that were of the utmost insignificance. For instance, if a poor decrepit devil, starving in a hut, and surrounded by destitution and beggary, were to be arrested for some petty misdemeanor, he would mount his horse with vast pomp, and proceed at the head of twelve or eighteen armed policemen to make his caption. But, on the contrary, whenever any desperate and intrepid character was to be apprehended—some of those fellows like the notorious Ryan (Puck), who always carried a case of pistols or a blunderbuss about them, or perhaps both—-our valiant magistrate was either out of the way or had a visit from the gout—a complaint which he was very fond of parading, because it is one of aristocratic pretensions, but one, of which, we are honestly bound to say, he had never experienced a single twitch.
We have already stated that he had received a threatening notice, and attempted to describe the state of conflicting emotions into which it threw him. We forgot to state, however, that he had before received several other anonymous communications of a somewhat more friendly stamp; the difference between them being the simple fact, that the one in question was read, and the others of his own composition.
The latter were indeed all remarkable for containing one characteristic feature, which consisted in a solemn but friendly warning that if he (the magistrate) were caught at a particular place, upon a particular day, it might be attended with dangerous consequences to himself. Our magistrate, however, was not a man to be frightened by such communications; no,—He was well known in the neighborhood, and he would let the cowardly scoundrels feel what a determined man could be. He thought his daredevil character had been sufficiently known; but since it seemed that it was not, he would teach them a lesson of intrepidity—the scoundrels. His practice was, on such occasions, to get a case of pistols, mount his horse, and, in defiance to all entreaty to the contrary, proceed to the place of danger, which he rode past, and examined with an air of pompous heroism that was ludicrous in the extreme.
One morning, about this time, he sat at breakfast, reading the Potwollopers' Gazette, or the No-Popery Advocate, when, as usual, he laid it down, and pushing it over to Fergus, he resumed his toast and butter.
"Well, now," said he, upon my honor and conscience, it is extraordinary how these matters creep into the papers. At all events, Fergus, my friend the Castle will persaive what kind of stuff it's best supporters consist of."
"Very appropriate, sir," replied Fergus—"stuff is an excellent word."
"And why is it an excellent word, Fergy?"
"It is so significant, sir, as an illustration?"
"Well, I dare say it is," returned the father; "don't we say of a game man, such a fellow has good stuff in him? but, setting that aside, do look at the paragraph about that attack! My friend Swiggerly has done me full justice. Upon my word, it is extramely gratifying, and especially in such critical times as these, read it for Kate there, will you?"
"What is it, papa?"
"An account, my dear, of the attack made upon us, and of—but Fergus will read it out for you."
Fergus accordingly read as follows:—
EXTRAORDINARY COURAGE AND INTREPIDITY—SEVERAL HUNDRED WHITEBOYS MOST SPIRITLY REPULSED—FITZGERALD O'DRISCOL, ESQ. J. P.
"On the night of the 24th ultimo, the house of this most active and resolute magistrate was attacked by a numerous band of ruffianly Whiteboys, amounting to several hundreds—who, in defiance of his well-known resolution, and forgetting the state of admirable preparation and defence in which he always maintains his dwelling-house, surrounded it with the intention, evidently, of visiting upon him the consequences of his extraordinary efforts at preserving the peace of the country, and bringing offenders to justice. The exact particulars of this fearful conflict have not reached us, but we may, without offence, we trust, to the modesty of Mr. O'Driscol, venture to give a general outline of the circumstances, as far as we have heard them. About two o'clock, on the morning alluded to, and while the whole family were asleep, an attempt was made to break open the hall-door. This, however, having been heavily chained, barred, and bolted, and the keys removed to Mr. O'Driscol's sleeping-room, resisted all attempts of the Whiteboys to enter—a circumstance which filled them with fury and indignation. In a moment the family were alarmed, and up. On that night it so happened that Mr. Alick Purcel, a friend and neighbor of Mr. O'Driscol's, happened to be staying with them, and almost immediately Mr. O'Driscol, placing the two young men in something like a steady military position, led them on personally, in the most intrepid manner, to a position behind the shutters. From this place the fire of the enemy was returned for a considerable time with equal bravery, and, it is presumed, effect, as the grounds about the hall-door were found the next morning to be stained with blood in several places. Tho heroism of the night, however, is yet to be related. Mr. O'Driscol, who was certainly supported by his son and Mr. Purcel in a most able and effective manner, hearing a low, cautious noise in the back part of the house, went to reconnoitre, just in time to grapple with the leader of these villains—a most desperate and ferocious character-cruel, fearless, and of immense personal strength. He must have got in by some unaccountable means not yet discovered, with the hope, of course, of admitting his accomplices from without. A terrific struggle now ensued, which terminated by the fellow, on finding, we presume, the mettle of the person opposed to him, flying down stairs towards the kitchen, and from thence, as Mr. O'Driscol thought, to the coal-hole, whether he fearlessly pursued him, but in vain. On examining the coal-hole, which Mr. O'Driscol did personally in the dark—we really shudder at that gentleman's absence of all fear—the ferocious Whiteboy could not be found in it. The presumption is that he gave Mr. O'Driscol the slip during pursuit, doubled back, and escaped from the lobby window, which, on examination, was found open. On this almost unprecedented act of bravery it is useless to indulge in comment, especially as we are restrained by regard for Mr. O'Driscol's personal feelings and well-known modesty on this peculiar subject. His worthy son, we are aware, inherits his father's courage."
"The devil I do!" exclaimed Fergus; "ha! ha! ha! Faith, I'm braver than I had given myself credit for."
"And we are glad to hear that the present government, sensible of their obligations to Fitzgerald O'Driscol, Esq., are about to confer the office of Stipendiary Magistrate upon his son. We are, indeed, glad to hear this; the office cannot possibly be better bestowed; and thus, so far as relates to his father, at least, may valuable public services in critical times be ever appropriately rewarded!"
"Well, Fergy, what do you think of our friend Swiggerly now?"
"In God's name, sir, what does all this rigmarole, in which there is scarcely a word of truth, mean?"
"Mane! why it manes, sir, that I am anxious to get you a Stipendiary Magistracy."
"A Stipendiary Magistracy, father, if you wish and if you can; but not by such means as this—it is shameful, father, indeed it is."
"I tell you, Fergus, that unless a man plays a game in this world, he has little business in it. Manes! Why, what objections can you have to the manes? A bit of a harmless paragraph that contains very little more than the truth. I tell you that I threw it out as a hint to my friend the Castle, and I hope it will act on it, that's all."
"Well, well," exclaimed the son, laughing, "take care you don't overdo the business; for my own part, I wish to obtain a magistracy only by honorable means;—that is, since you have put the matter into my head, for until last week I never once thought of it."
"Neither did I until a couple of weeks ago; and between you and me, Fergus, the country's in a devil of a state—a very trying one for Stipendiaries," replied his father; "but it struck me that I am myself rather advanced in years for such an appointment, and, in the meantime, that something of the kind might be in your way, and it is for this rason that I am feeling the pulse of my friend the Castle."
"But I am too young, sir, for such an appointment."
"Not at all, you blockhead; although you get a magistracy in the paragraph, you don't imagine, I expect, you should get one directly. No, no; there are gradations in all things. For instance, now,—first a Chief Constableship of Police; next, a County Inspectorship; and thirdly, a Stipendiary Magistracy. It is aisy to run you through the two first in ordher to plant you in the third—eh? As for me I'm snug enough, unless they should make me a commissioner, of excise or something of that sort, that would not call me out upon active duty but, at all events, there's nothing like having one's eye to business, and being on the lookout for an opportunity."
"You know, father," observed Fergus, "I don't now nor ever did approve of the system, or principle you pursue in these matters, and as I will not join you in them, I can only say if I do receive a government appointment, I shall not owe it to anything personally unbecoming myself."
"Ah, you're young and green yet, Fergus, but time and expariance will, open your eyes to your own interests, and you'll live to acknowledge the folly of having scruples with the world—ay will you."
"It may be so, sir; but I thank God the time you speak of has not come yet."
"Well," continued his father, "now that we have talked over that matter, read this;",and, as he spoke, he handed Fergus a notice, evidently a friendly one, to the following; effect—
"Mr. O'Driscol.—It's said that ye're to goto Lisnagola on Shoosda next. Now I tel ye there's a set upon yer life—don't go on that day, or it'll bee worser for ye—any way don't pass Philpot's corner betuxt 2 and fore o'cluck.
"A FRIEND THAT YEW WANST SAVED."
"What do you think of that, Fergus?"
"Why, sir, it's a proof that you have friends among these turbulent people. I hope you don't intend going to Lisnagola on that day; by the way it must mean this day, for this is Tuesday, and the note or notice, or whatever you call it, is dated on Sunday, I perceive. I trust you don't intend to to-day, sir, and expose yourself.
"I shall certainly go, sir," replied his father, rising up quite indignantly. "What do you think I am? Do you think, sir, that I—Fitzgerald O'Driscol, am the man to be intimidated by blood-thirsty dogs like these? No, sir. I shall, at the proper time, arm myself, mount my good horse and ride, calm as a milestone, past the very spot. D—n the rascals! do they think to terrify me?"
"If the author of that letter does," replied Fergus, "he is most certainly mistaken;" and as he said so he looked significantly at his sister, who smiled as one would who thoroughly understood the matter.
Just at that moment, Alick Purcel was seen approaching the hall-door, and in a few minutes he joined them.
"Well, Alick," said the magistrate, "all well at Longshot Lodge—all safe and sound for so far?"
"All well, sir, thank you, and safe and sound for so far."
"Do you know what I think, Alick?"
"Upon my honor and conscience I am of opinion, that it's something in your favor to live so near to me. I act as a kind of protection for you, Alick. I am morally convinced, ay, and have good raison to know it from more than one quarther, that your father's house would have been attacked long since, if it were not for the near neighborhood of dare-devil O'Driscol. And yet these fellows like courage, Alick; for instance, read that warning. There you see is a plot laid for my life; but I'll show the villains that they have the wrong sow by the ear. I have showed them as much before, and will show them as much again."
He then handed the note, with an air of triumph, to Alick, who read it over and assumed a look of great terror.
"Of course you will be guided by this, Mr. O'Driscol."
"Of course I will not, Mr. Purcel; not a bit of it. I will ride—armed, of course—past Philpot's corner this very day, at half-past three o'clock; that is all I say."
"Well all I can say," returned Alick, "is that you are a fearfully-determined man, sir."
"I grant that, Alick, I know I am; but then it is in my nature. I was born with it—I was born with it. Any news?"
"Why not much, sir. That scoundrel, Buck English, has written to my father, notwithstanding all that happened, to know if he will consent to let Julia marry him. He says in his letter that, although he may be put off with a refusal now, he will take good care that he shan't be unsuccessful the next time he asks her."
"Does nobody, or can nobody find out how that scoundrel—" here the valorous magistrate's voice sank as if instinctively, and he gave a cautious glance about him at the same time, but seeing none but themselves, present he resumed his courage—"how that, rascal finds manes to cut the figure he-does?"
"I believe not," replied the other; "but for my part, I am often disposed to look upon the man as mad; yet still the puzzle is to think how he lives in such buck style—the vagabond. He certainly is involved in some-mystery, for every one you meet or talk to is afraid of him."
"No, not every one, Alick; come, come, my boy, every general rule has an exception; whisper—I could name you one who is not afraid of him"—and this he said in a jocular tone—"I only wish," he added, raising his voice with more confidence, "that I could get my thumb upon him, I would—"
He was here interrupted by a loud but mellow voice, which rang cheerfully with the following words:—
"I'm the rantin' Cannie Soogah."
"Ha! the Jolly Pedlar! Throw open the window, Fergus, till we have a chat with him. Well, my rantin' Cannie Soogah, how are you?"
"Faith, your honor, I'm jist betwixt and between, as they say—naither betther nor worse, but mixed middlin', like the praties in harvest. However, it's good to be any way at all in these times; so thank God my head's on my body still."
"Cannie," said Fergus, "we were just-talking of Buck English. Mr. Purcel here-says that there's some mystery about him; for nobody knows how he lives, and every one almost is afraid of him. My Father, however, denies that every one is afraid of him."
"Buck English!" exclaimed the pedlar. "Mr. O'Driscol, darlin', what did your honor say about him?"
"Why, I—I—a-hem—I wished to have the pleasure, Cannie, of—of—shaking hands, with the honest fellow; was not that it, Alick?"
"Hands, or thumbs, or something that way," replied Alick; "threatening him, as it were."
"Shaking hands, upon honor, Alick—thumb to thumb, you know."
"Well, Mr. O'Driscol, you're well known! to have more o' the divil than the man in you—beggin' your pardon, sir, for the freedoms, I'm takin'—but it's all for your own good I'm doin' it. Have you e're a mouse-hole about your place, sir?"
"A-hem! Why, Cannie," asked O'Driscol, with an expression of strong alarm in his face—"why do you ask so—so—singular a question as that?"
"Bekaise, sir, sooner than you should breathe—mind, breathe's the word—one syllable against Buck English, I'd recommend you to go into the mouse-hole I spoke of, and never show your face out of it agin. I—an' everybody knows me, an' likes me, too, I hope—I meek—hem! throth I do make it a point never to name him at all, barrin' when I can't help it. Nobody knows anything about him, they say. By all accounts, he never sleeps a week, or at any rate more than a week, in the same place; an' whatever dress he has on comin' to any particular part of the counthry, he never changes; but they say that if you find him in any other part of the counthry, he has a different dress on him: he has a dress, they say, for every part."
"He has honored my father," said Alick, "by sending him a written proposal for my sister Julia—ha! ha! ha!"
"Well, now, did he, Mr. Alick?"
"Yes; and he says that he may be refused now, but won't the next time he asks her."
"Well, then, Mr. Alick, I'll tell you what I'd advise you to do: go home, and tell your father to send for him, if he knows where to find him, and let him not lose a day in marryin' her to him; for if everything is thrue that's said of him, he was never known to break a promise, whether it was for good or ill."
"Ha! ha! ha! thank you, Cannie,—excellent!" replied Alick.
"Who can he be, Cannie?" asked Miss O'Driscol, "this person of such wonderful mystery? I have never seen him, but I wish I could."
"Ay, have you, often—I'll engage, Miss."
"And so do I," added her father; "I wish to see him also, and to have everything mysterious cleared up."
"Well," continued the pedlar, "I know nothing myself about him, only as I hear; but if all's thrue that's said, he could give your father, and you, Mr. Alick, lave to walk through the whole counthry in the hour of noonday or midnight, widout a finger ever bein' raised against one o' you; and as for you, Mr. O'Driscol, he could have the house pulled about your ears in an hour's time, if he wished—ay, and he would, too, if he heard that you spoke a harsh word of him."
"As for me, Cannie," replied the magistrate, "I trust I'm a Christian man, and not in the habit of abusing the absent. Indeed, I don't see what right any one has to make impertinent inquiries into the life or way of living of any respectable person—I do not see it, Cannie; and, I assure you, I always set my face against such prying inquiries."
"I know, myself," continued the pedlar, "that there's a great many things said about him, an' people wishes to know who he is. Now I was tould a thing wanst by a sartain parson—I won't say who, but I believe it's not a thousand miles from the truth I'm spakin' about who he is."
"And who is he?" asked Fergus; "out with it Cannie."
"Well, then," he proceeded, in a cautious and confidential whisper, "it's said by them that ought to know, that he's an illaygal brother to the Great Counsellor. There now, you have it."
"Is it to Counsellor O'Connell?"
"Ay, to Counsellor O'Connell—divil a one else. He's as like him as two pays, barrin' the color o' the hair. Sure the Counsellor puts every one down that crosses him, and so does Buck English. Miss Katherine, darlin,' won't you buy something? Here's the best of everything; don't be afeard of high prices. My maxim always is—to buy dear and sell chape, for the sake o' the fair sect. Come, gintlemen, Cannie Soogah's pack is a faist for the leedies—hem—I mane a feest for the ladies—hillo—ha! ha! ha! there's a touch of Buck English himself for you. Well, of coorse, what's a faist for the ladies must surely be a thrate to the gintlemen."
Alick here availed himself of M'Carthy's experience, and presented Miss O'Driscol with a beautiful bracelet; O'Driscol and Fergus purchased some pocket-handkerchiefs and other matters, and our Jolly Pedlar went on his way rejoicing.
Fergus O'Driscol who was a shrewd and keen observer, could perceive, during the foregoing interview, that there was on the pedlar's countenance an expression of grave, hard, solemn irony, which it was difficult to notice, or having noticed it, to penetrate, or in any way analyse or understand. To him it was a complete enigma, the solution of which seized very strongly on his imagination, and set all his powers of reasoning and investigation to work. All admitted there was a mystery about Buck English; but Fergus felt a strong impression that there was one equally impenetrable about the pedlar himself. Having little else, however, than a passing thought, a fancy, on which to ground this surmise, he prudently concealed it, from an apprehension of being mistaken, and, consequently, of subjecting himself to ridicule.
Fergus now brought Alick out to the garden, where they seemed to enjoy a very merry dialogue if several fits of hearty laughter may be said to constitute mirth; after this Alick went home; not, however, we should say until he first contrived to enjoy a short tete-a-tete with Miss O'Driscol.
When the hour for the departure of the magistrate to test the resolution of the "men in buckram," who had resolved upon his assassination, had arrived, he most magnanimously got a double case of pistols, and in spite of all remonstrance from both son and daughter, he mounted his horse—Duke Schomberg—and in a most pompous and heroic spirit rode forth to quell the latent foe.
We have already stated that O'Driscol's real character was thoroughly known by the country-folks around him, as the character of every such person usually is. Whilst he proceeds, then, upon his daring and heroic enterprise, we beg leave to state very briefly, that Fergus and Alick Purcel, having laid their heads together, procured, each, two of their father's laborers, whom they furnished material wherewith to blacken their faces; not omitting four large cabbage-stalks, with the heads attached, and kept under the right arm of each. These had been trimmed and blackened also, in order to have more the appearance of fire-arms. Thus armed, and with appropriate instructions, they planted themselves inside the hedges which inclosed the narrow turn of the road at Philpot's cornet, and awaited their "unsuspecting victim," as the phrase unhappily, and with too much truth, goes.
O'Driscol, on approaching the fatal spot, regretted that there were no eyes upon this extraordinary manifestation of courage. He stretched up his neck and looked about him in all directions, with a hope that some one might observe the firmness and utter absence of all fear with which he came up to the place where the assassins were to lie in wait for him. He had now come within ten or twelve yards of it when, such was the force of his own cowardly imagination, that it had worked him up from a fictitious into a real terror; and on approaching the spot, he could not prevent himself from coughing pretty loudly, in order to ascertain that there really was no such thing as ah assassin behind the hedges. He coughed, we say, with a double case of pistols in his hand, when, heaven and earth! was the cough responded to—and in a jarring style—from behind the hedge to the right? He paused, pulled up his horse, and coughed again, when it also was responded to from that on the left; and at the same time four faces, dreadfully blackened, peeped, two on each side of him, and levelling their black and dreadful-looking blunderbusses—for they could be nothing else—were about to rid the world of a loyal magistrate, and deprive the Castle of its best friend and correspondent, when the latter gentleman, wheeling Duke Schomberg round, put him to most inglorious flight, and scampered off at the top of his speed.
The jest was admirably managed; and nothing could exceed the unction with which he related his encounter with the villains. In fact, upon Falstaff's principle, he had discharged his pistols on the way home, as a proof of the desperate contest he had had with the blood-thirsty scoundrels. Like all his other exploits, however, it was added to the catalogue of his daring conflicts with the Whiteboys, and, ere the lapse of twenty-four hours, was in possession of "his friend the Castle."
CHARTER XV.—Scene in a Parsonage—An Anti-Tithe Ringleader.
Hitherto we have described the tithe-agitation as one which was externally general as well as deep-rooted; and so far we were perfectly correct. Our readers, however, are not to understand by this that there did not exist among the people—ay, and the priesthood too—a strong under-current of sympathy for the sufferings of the protestant clergy. The latter had indeed been now reduced to such privation as it is pitiable even to look back upon. One-half the glebe-houses presented such symptoms of cold nakedness and destitution, such a wrecked and gutted appearance, as could scarcely be conceived at present. Hundreds of their occupants had been obliged to part by degrees with all that was valuable or could be turned into money. The elegant and accomplished young female, hitherto accustomed to all the comforts and luxuries of life, was now to be taught a lesson of suffering and endurance as severe as it was unexpected. Many—many such lessons were taught, and we may add—well and nobly, and with true Christian fortitude, were they borne. We have already said that Purcel had the collection of tithe for four Parishes, and now that the distress among the clergy and their families had assumed such a dreadful and appalling aspect, he had an opportunity of ascertaining the extraordinary respect and affection for them which existed after all in the minds of the people. His own house and premises were now so strongly secured, and his apprehension of nocturnal attacks so strongly justified by the threats he had already received, and the disorganized state of the country around him, that he was forced to decline receiving the tithe at unseasonable hours; it being impossible for him to know whether the offer of payment might not have been a plan of the people to get into his dwelling, and wreak their vengeance upon him and his sons. Under these circumstances, his advice to them, communicated with due regard to his own safety, was to pay the money directly to the clergyman himself, or at least to some of his family; and this, indeed, when they lived near the clergyman, they always preferred doing. To be sure, the step was a hazardous one, but, as they say, where there is a will there is a way; and so it was in many instances on this occasion. The dead hour of the night was necessarily selected for the performance of this kind office, and in this way many an unexpected act of relief was experienced by the starving and destitute clergy, at the hands of the very persons who were sworn to abolish tithes, and to refuse paying them in any shape.
Sometimes, to be sure, when Purcel or his sons happened to be abroad on business, attended as they now generally were by policemen for their protection, a countryman, for instance, would hastily approach him or them, as the case might be, and thrusting a sum of money rolled up in paper, into his hand, exclaim, "It's the thrifle o' the last gale o' rint, sir, that I was short in—you'll find a bit o' murnmyrandim in the paper, that'll show you it's all right." This, uttered with a dry, significant expression of countenance, was a sufficient indication of the object intended. On examining the paper, it was generally found to contain some such direction as the following—
"MR. PURCEL, SIR—The enclosed is for the Rev. Misther Harvey. For God's sake, give it to him as soon as you can; as I undherstand himself and family is starvin' outright—I daren't give it to him myself, or be seen goin' near his house. Sure when we think of the good he done, himself an' his family, whin they had the manes, it's enough to make one pity them, especially when we know what they're sufferin' so quietly, an' without makin' any hubbub about it; but sure, God help us, there's humbug enough in the counthry. Don't lose time, i' you plase, Mr. Purcel, as I'm tould that they're brought to the dry praitie at last, God help them."
It was in the early part of the day of O'Driscol's last triumph on Duke Schomberg, that John Purcel went to discharge to a clergyman in the next parish, a commission of a similar nature to that just recited. He drove there on a car, accompanied by three policemen, avoiding, as well as he could, all narrow and dangerous passes, and determined to return, if at all practicable, by a different road, for such of late was the practice of the family, when out on business. An it is, however, we shall leave him on his way and take the liberty of requesting our readers to anticipate his arrival, for the purpose of getting a glimpse at the condition of those to whom he was carrying some slight means of mere temporary relief.
The clergyman, whose desolate habitation he was about to visit, had passed about sixty winters, fifteen of which he had spent in that house, and thirty in the parish. That is to say, he had been fifteen years curate, and fifteen rector, without ever having been absent more than a month or six weeks at a time; and even these absences occurred but rarely. We remember him well, and with affection, as who of his survivors that ever knew him does not? He was tall, that is, somewhat above the middle height, and until pressed down by the general affliction which fell upon his class and his family, he had been quite erect in his person. He was now bent, however, as by a load of years, and on his pale face lay the obvious traces of sorrow and suffering. But this was not all; whilst Destitution of the severest kind had impressed on that venerable countenance the melancholy exponent of her presence, Religion had also blended with it that beautiful manifestation of her unshaken trust in God; of patience, meekness, and a disposition to receive at his hands the severest dispensations of life, with a spirit of cheerful humility and resignation. Take a cursory glance at his face, and there, no doubt, you saw at once that sorrow and suffering lay. Look, however, a little longer; observe the benign serenity of that clear and cloudless eye; mark the patient sweetness of that firm and well-formed mouth, and the character of heroic tranquility that pervades his whole person, and sanctifies his sorrows, until they fill the heart of the spectator with reverence and sympathy, and his mind with a sense of the dignity, not to say sublimity, which religion can bestow upon human suffering, in which it may almost be said that the creature gains a loving triumph over the Creator himself.
Every one knows that, in general, the clergy of Ireland, as a class, lived from hand to mouth, and that the men who suffered most during the period of which we write were those whose livings were of moderate income. The favored individuals, who enjoyed the rich and larger incumbencies, the calamity did not reach, or if it did, only in a slighter degree, and with but comparatively little effect. The cessation, therefore, of only one year's income to those who had no other source of support on which to depend, was dreadful. In many instances, however, their tithes had been refused for two, and, in some localities, for nearly three years, although the opposition to the payment had not for such a length of time assumed the fierce and implacable spirit which had characterized it during the last twelve months. These observations will now enable our readers to understand more clearly the picture with which we are about to present them.
On entering the house of this truly pious and patient pastor, the first thing that struck you was the sense of vacancy and desolation united. In other words, you perceived at a glance that everything of any value was gone. You saw scarcely any furniture—no clock, no piano, no carpeting, no mahogany chairs or tables, or at least none that were not of absolute necessity. Feather beds had gone, curtains had gone; and all those several smaller elegancies which it is difficult, and would be tedious, to enumerate here. Seated at a breakfast-table, in an uncarpeted parlor, was the clergyman himself, surrounded by his interesting but afflicted family. His hair, which, until within the last twelve months, had been an iron gray, was now nearly white, and his chin was sunk in a manner that had not, until recently, been usual with him. Servants, male and female, had been dismissed, and those whose soft, fair hands had been accustomed only to the piano, the drawing-pencil, or the embroidery-frame, were now engaged in the coarsest and commonest occupations of domestic life. Nor were they, too, without their honorable sacrifices of personal vanity and social pride, to the calamity that was upon them. Silks and satins, laces and gauzes, trinkets, unnecessary bonnets and veils, were all cheerfully parted with; and it was on such occasions that our friend the Cannie Soogah became absolutely a kind of public benefactor. He acted not only in the character of a pedlar, but in that of a broker; and so generally known were his discretion and integrity throughout the country, that such matters were disposed of to him at a far less amount of shame and suffering than they could have been in any other way.
The family in question consisted of the father, his wife, four daughters, and three sons; the eldest daughter had been, for some months, discharging the duty of governess in a family of rank; the eldest son had just got an appointment as usher in a school near the metropolis; two circumstances which filled the hearts of this affectionate family with a satisfaction that was proportionately heightened by their sufferings.
About this period they expected a letter from their daughter; and on the morning in question their father had dispatched one of his boys to the post-office, with a hope of receiving it. The male portion of the family were the younger, with the exception of the eldest son, who was their third child. Their position was as follows: the old man sat at the end of a plain table, with his bible open before him—for they had just concluded prayer: his wife, a younger-looking woman, and faded more by affliction than by age, sat beside him, holding on her breast their third daughter—she who had been once the star of their hearth, and who reclined there in mute sorrow, her pale cheek and wasted hands giving those fatal indications of consumption in its last stage, which so severely tries the heart of parent or relative to witness. The other two girls sat opposite, one of them in tears, turning her heart-broken look now upon the countenance of her father and again upon that of her gentle, but almost dying sister, whilst her companion endeavored to soothe her little brother, who was crying for food; for the simple fact was, that they had not yet breakfasted, nor were the means of providing a breakfast under their roof. Their sole hope for that, as well as for more enlarged relief, depended upon the letter which they expected from their eldest daughter.
It is scarcely necessary to say that they all looked pale, sickly, and emaciated with suffering, and want of' the comfortable necessaries of life. Their dress was decent, of course, but such as they never expected to have been forced to wear so long. The crying boy was barefooted, and the young creature who endeavored to console him had thin and worn slippers on her tender feet, and her snowy skin was in more than one place visible through the rents of her frock. The old man looked at them, from time to time; and there might have been observed, notwithstanding the sweetness and placidity of his smile, a secret expression of inward agony—the physical and natural feelings of the parent and the man mingling, or rather struggling, with the great principle of dependence on God, without which he must at once have sunk down prostrate and hopeless.
"When," said the boy, "will Edward come from the post-office? Is there nothing at all in the house, mamma, that I could eat?"
"Hush! Frank," said his sister; "where's your generosity and your patience? Did we not all promise to think of papa and mamma before ourselves—yes, and of our poor Maria, too, who is so ill?"
"That is true," replied the boy, "but when I promised that, I wasn't so hungry as I am now. But, still, if I had anything to eat, I would give the best part of it to papa or mamma, or Maria, if she could eat it—that is, after I had taken one mouthful for myself. Oh will Ned never come from the post-office?"
"Mamma," said the sick girl, looking up into her mother's eyes, "I am sustained by one hope, and that is, that I will soon cease to be a burthen upon dear papa—my heartbroken papa and you. I am anxious to pass away to that blessed place where all tears shall be wiped from my eyes;" and as she spoke she raised herself a little, and quietly wiped one or two from them; and, she proceeded, "where the weary will be at rest. Alas! how little did we expect or imagine this great weight of suffering!"
"My darling child," said her mother, kissing her pale cheek, and pressing her more tenderly to her bosom, "you have ever been more solicitous for the comfort and well-being of others than you have been for your own; yet, well and dearly as we love you, how can we grudge you to God? It was He who gave you to us—it is He who is taking you from us; and what can we say, but blessed be His name?"
"My children," said the old man, "what would life be if there were nothing to awaken us to a sense of our responsibilities to our Creator? If it presented to us nothing but one unshaken path of pleasure and ease—one equal round of careless enjoyment and indolent apathy? Alas! my darlings, do not we, who are aged and have experience, know that it is those who are not taken by calamity and suffering who gradually fall into that hardness of heart, which prevents the spirit from feeling one of the most wholesome of truths—that indifference is danger, and that a neglect of the things which belong to a better life, and which serve to prepare us for it, is the great omission of those who are not called upon to suffer. You know, my children, that whom God loveth He chasteneth, and it is true. To those whom He graciously visits with affliction, it may be said that He communicates, from time to time, a new revelation of Himself; for it is by such severe but wholesome manifestations that He speaks to and arouses the forgetful or the alienated heart. Our calamity, however, and sufferings, possess more dignity, and are associated with a greater work than that involved in the isolated sorrows of a single family. God is chastising a cold, corrupt, and negligent church, through the turbulence and outrage of the people. What has our church in this country been, within the memory of man, but a mere secular establishment, like the law or the army, into which men enter not from a lofty and pure sense of the greatness of their mission, but as a convenient means of securing an easy and indolent profession? I know not what our church might have been if left to herself; but this I do know, that for many a long year the unblushing iniquity of British policy has served only to corrupt and degrade her, and to make what ought to be the speaking oracle of God's truth, the consolation of the penitent sinner, the sure guide to the ignorant or the doubtful—yes, to make that Church, which ought to be a source of purity, of blessing, and of edification, to all—a system of corrupt rewards for political prostitution, parcelled out to meet the sordid spirit of family alliances and ungodly bargains; or, in other words, to turn her into a mass of bribes—a base appendage to the authority of the British minister, who used her as the successful medium of at once enslaving and demoralizing the country, instead of elevating and civilizing it. It is for this great neglect of national duty, and for permitting ourselves to be imbued with the carnal and secular spirit, which has led us so far from practical truth and piety, that the church is now suffering. We have betrayed our trust, and been treacherous both to God and man. For my own part, my children, I am glad that I and mine have been counted worthy to suffer in this cause. We are now passing through the furnace, but we shall come out purified. Our grossness shall be purged away, and the proud spirit of mammon burned out of us. But you know that God, my dear ones, can accomplish a double purpose by the same means. Our church shalt be exalted and purified, and her ministers prepared for a higher and holier mission than that in which they have hitherto been engaged. She shall awaken to a sense of her great responsibility; a new spirit shall be created within her; a living energy shall characterize those who have slumbered under the unholy shadows which she has cast around her, and those who think that they are smiting her unto death shall find that they have been made only the instruments in God's hands for the purification of her body and the regeneration of her spirit. Charles," he added, turning to the boy, who still wept, although as furtively as he could, "bear up, my child: Ned, you may rest assured, will make as little delay as possible, and I hope he will bring us relief."
"Mamma," said the invalid, looking up tenderly into her face, "will you—oh! no, not you, mamma—Emily will—a mouthful of drink, Emily dear, and let it be pure water, Emily; I think it agrees with me best."
"Alas, my darling!" exclaimed her mother, wiping away a few quiet tears, "I have nothing else to give you."
"Well, mamma, but you know I like it very much."
"Precious child," replied her mother, again tenderly pressing her to her bosom; "we all know your goodness, and the reluctance with which you ask anything that you fear might occasion us trouble. Dearest life, it will be the memory of these glimpses of angelic goodness that will wring our hearts when you are——" She paused, for the words had been uttered unconsciously.
"Yes," said her father, "they will console us, my child, and make your memory smell sweet, and blossom from the very dust. You have probably heard of the beautiful sentiment so exquisitely delineated by the great painter—'I too have been in Arcadia,'—and will it not be something to us to be able to say,—'We too have an angel in paradise!'"
Her sister brought her a cup of cold water, with which, after thanking her with a sweet smile, she merely wet her lips. "Alas! I am very troublesome to you all, but I shall not long—"
"Darling sister," said Emily, tenderly kissing her, "do not speak so; you are too good, and ever were so. Ah! Maria," she exclaimed, gushing into tears, "is it come to this at last!"
The sick girl placed her hand affectionately upon her cheek, and said—"Dear, dear sister, how I love you! Oh! how I love you all! and papa, my dear papa, how I pity you in your sorrow!"
"Thanks, my darling, I know that your heart is pervaded and sustained by all tenderness and affection; and indeed it is a consolation that since calamity has come upon us, it has fallen upon a family of love—of love to which it only gives greater strength and tenderness. This is a great blessing, my children, and we ought to feel deeply thankful for it. But, at the same time, it matters not what we suffer, we must allow nothing in this world of trial to shake our trust in God. Here, however, is our poor little messenger. Well Edward, any letter?"
"Oh, yes, papa; there is one from Matilda. I know her writing."
He then handed the letter to his father, and immediately going over to his sick sister, he placed a slice of bread and butter in her hand, adding, "The head-constable of police gave it to me; I would have refused it though—but for Maria."
"Did you eat none of it yourself, Edward?" asked Maria.
"No," he replied, "I thought mamma might make you up some light nice thing out of it."
"But I cannot eat it, my dear Ned; divide it as you wish, but thank you, darling, from my heart, for thinking of me."
He then would have shared it as equally as he could among them, but to himself and his brother it was left; the others, from a feeling which may easily be understood, declined to partake of it.
We do not, of course, give this as a general picture of the distress which was felt; but we do give it as a picture which was by no means rare among the established clergy at the period of which we write. We know, from the best authority, that the privations of the time were frequently so severe as to find many families without food to eat.
Their daughter's letter was touching and simple, but unfortunately it contained, not the remittance they expected; a circumstance which, in their condition, was such a disappointment as cannot well be described. She stated that, in consequence of the absence from home, for some days, of the family with whom she lived, it was out of her power to send them the full amount of her first quarter's salary as she had intended, or any money at all, as they knew she had none except her salary to send. She wrote, however, lest they might think or suppose for a moment that she had forgotten them. She sent her warmest love and affection to them all, especially to Maria, whom she hoped her letter would find better. Here she mentioned them all by name, and concluded by saying, that the moment the family returned home, she would remit to her dear papa the amount of her whole quarter's salary.
The youngsters all burst into tears, the fact being that they had not tasted food for more than eighteen hours. The mother, worn and pale with anxiety and distress, turned sorrowfully to her husband and said: "Charles, what is to be done? must our children die? must they perish with famine?"
"Send Charles over to M'Mahon's," replied her husband; "he is poor, it is true, but he is our next neighbor, and from him, if he will oblige us, relief will come soonest. Charles, go, my child, and ask Con M'Mahon if he will be good enough to send me a stone or two of potatoes for a few days; and I will feel obliged—your brother, poor child, is fatigued by his journey to the post-office, and from other causes—or being the elder I would make him go—if M'Mahon obliges me, tell him that I will thank him to send them, as I have no messenger to fetch them. I have always found poor M'Mahon respectful and neighborly, and I am certain he will not refuse us."
We shall not detail the distressing and melancholy conversation, in which they were engaged until the child's return. It is enough to say that, although he met with no refusal, the expected relief was not sent. "Well, my child," inquired his anxious father, "what reply did he give?"
"He said, papa," returned the child, "that he would give you a whole sack of potatoes with pleasure, but that, to send them in the open day, would be more than his life is worth—he dare not do it."
The old man looked up, then clasping his hands together, and glancing at his unhappy family, a few bitter tears rolled down his cheeks.
"But," added the boy, "he said he would bring over as many as he could carry, about twelve o'clock to-night."
"Well," continued his father, "that is civil; and I believe, as to the danger, he is right. But, in the meantime, what is to be done? I fear all the available sources of relief have been already exhausted, with the exception of heaven alone—in which, my children, we must not permit anything to shake our trust. I am feeble, but yet I must go forth and try to secure some food for you, my poor famishing family: hold up, then, my dear children, even for a little, for certain I am that God will provide for us still."
He was, accordingly, upon the point of going out, when John Purcel entered; and as the object of his visit is already known to the reader, we shall leave to his imagination the sense of the relief which it afforded.
This now is not an overdrawn picture of particular cases—and they were numerous—which occurred during the period of what was termed the Tithe rebellion.
The circumstance of the message to M'Mahon's, however, was the cause of a scene which we could not possiby omit, in a work treating of this peculiar and most distressing crisis. As the boy Charles was on his way to M'Mahon's—and this he mentioned to the family afterwards—he was met, he said, by a gentleman dressed in rusty black, mounted upon a strong, coarse horse; and who, after looking at him with a good deal of surprise, said—"What is your name, my fine fellow?" and on hearing it he asked him where he was going. The child, who had been trained to nothing but truth; mentioned at once the object of his message; upon which the gentleman in question, after having heard it, thrust his hands into his smallclothes pocket, and then drew them out with an air of impatience, exclaiming—"Bad luck to it for poverty—it's the curse o' the counthry." Now this worthy priest, for such he was, had not been many weeks in the parish at the period of his meeting with the little boy; and it so happened, that his residence was within about a quarter of a mile of the glebe house. He was, besides, one of the few who had given, upon more than one occasion, rather unequivocal manifestations of violent opposition to the whole system of tithes. As a matter of course, he was the last individual from whom anything like sympathy for those who suffered in such a cause might be expected. Much of the same character was M'Mahon, to whom the distressed parson had applied for the humble loan of food. He assailed, in fact, the whole Establishment, and took both an active and conspicuous part in the excitement which then agitated the country. He joined the crowds, vociferated and shouted among them at the top of his lungs, and took the liberty of laying down the law on the subject, as he termed it: that is to say, of swearing that one stick or stone of their dirty Establishment should not be left upon another, but that the whole bobbery of it must be sent to blazes—where it would all go yet, plaise God. Of course his neighbor, the parson, was by no means cognizant of this violence on the part of M'Mahon, or he would never have thought of applying to him, even under the severest pressure of absolute destitution.
Having premised thus much concerning these two individuals, we request our readers to accompany us to the house of the Rev. Anthony Casey, and to suppose that it is a little after the hour of eleven o'clock at night. The worthy gentleman and his curate had just seated themselves in his snug, but humble little parlor, where a pleasant turf fire was beginning to get somewhat dim, when the following dialogue occurred between them:
"Pettier," said Father Anthony to his curate, who had just returned from a sick call, "you found the night bitther, I think?"
"It is very cold, indeed, sir."
"You have had a long ride of it upon that mountain road, without even a bush to shelther you."
"It is not less than fourteen miles I think," replied the curate, "and a cold, desolate road as I ever travelled."
"You have read your office?"
"I have, sir."
"You have discharged your duty to that poor, sick widow?"
"I hope so, sir."
"And you have ridden under a severe night, along a naked road, a distance of fourteen miles?"
"I have, sir."
"And you feel your mind aisy, and your conscience at rest?"
"I can say so with truth, thank God," replied the curate.
"Well, then, in that case," proceeded the kind-hearted priest, "I think you had better take a tumbler of punch: it will comfort you, and make you sleep like a top."
"Thank you, sir," replied the curate, "I am much obliged to you; but I don't require it, I have no particular wish for it."
"But I tell you, man alive, that it will do you good; and lest you might feel solitary, I think I will take one with you, merely to keep you in countenance;—here Katty!"
Katty, a complacent, kind-looking woman, somewhat past the middle period of life, then made her appearance. "Well, your reverence?"
"Get hot water and tumblers—Father Pettier is starved after his long ride such a night, and must have a tumbler of punch to warm him, poor fellow, and I am going to keep him in countenance; and see, Katty, bring the poteen that's in Ould Broadbottom, at the right-hand side o' the cubbard. Stir the fire a little, Pettier, and throw on a sod or two—it's getting dull."
This was complied with; and Father Peter observed, after he had trimmed the grate a little:—
"The country, sir, is in a frightful state. This tithe rebellion is quite general. On my way out to Drumfurrar and home again, I met large crowds on the roads, cold as the night is; and on speaking to, and remonstrating with them, upon meeting and being abroad at such hours, they desired me to mind my own business, and allow them to mind theirs. The country is literally alive with them night and day."
"Very well," replied Father Anthony, "let them work out their own purposes, provided they keep within the limits of the law. You know the Established Church is nothing else than an English garrison to support and keep alive British interests in this country; but the people are going the right way to work; for I tell you, Pettier, that, by strictly observing the doctrine of passive resistance, they will starve the same garrison clane and clear out o' the country. And won't that be a great day for Ireland, Pettier?"
"Yes, sir, no doubt of it; but in the meantime the unfortunate parsons are suffering dreadfully: many of them are starving literally, and it is those who have not hoarded up the mammon of unrighteousness, but have been charitable and benevolent to the poor, who are now suffering most."
"Ay, faith, that's not a bad thought, Pettier; but I tell you the mammon of unrighteousness is by no means a bad thing. We may say as we will, we priests and parsons, but I say to you, what is a man worth in this world without money? Not a thraneen. A complete nonenity, and sorras thing else. And whisper, Pettier; what is the starving of the parsons to us? They had the fat an' marrow of the land long, enough, and I think it's full time that we should come in for a lick at last. Think of you or I living to see ourselves rolling about in a rich carriage, with a lump of a mithre, like a pair of ass's ears stuck together, painted on the outride of it, and we waiting, and drinkn' of the best. Arra, salvation to me, but the prospect's a born beauty, so it is, and will be rayalized yet, plaise God."
"Too much wealth, sir, is an enemy to religion."
"Well, Pettier, that may be so occasionally; but here's your health, and in the meantime, I didn't care that some of us had a little more of it. I would have given a pound-note today to have had five shillings about me; and sorra testher I had in my company."
"You must have been pretty closely pressed for cash, when you would have given such a premium."
"Troth, then, I was; and when the poor boy mentioned whose son he was, and when I saw his little delicate feet without shoes, and heard his story—mammon of unrighteousness! devil a thing in life aiquil to it. It enables a man to do the practical good, and not satisfy himself or escape with empty words."
"They say our neighbor here, Mr. Goodison, is very ill off."
"Well, I dare say he's not on the top of the wheel; however, as I said, what's their starvation to us? If it was laid upon them for their sins, do you think it would be right in us to intherfare and set ourselves against Providence?—blessed be His name."
"Well, I must confess," replied his amiable curate, "that I was not prepared for such an argument as that from you. You know we ought to love our enemies."
"Very well," replied Father Anthony; "I have no objection to love our enemies, provided they feed themselves. But surely to love and feed them is rather too much of a good thing."
During this brief dialogue they had mixed each his tumbler of punch, and after a pause of some minutes, during which the hardhearted parish priest sighed deeply as he looked into the fire, he exclaimed—
"You know, Pettier, that I am opposed to a Protestant Established Church in this country; and you know, besides, that I have gone farther in this tithe affair than most of my brethren, and on that account I hope you are not surprised at my opinions. Starve them out's my maxim. But still, aftcher all, salvation to me, but it's a trying case to be without food, and above all, to see your own children—"
"My own children," exclaimed the curate, with a smile.
"Ay, Pether," proceeded this benevolent hypocrite, forgetting everything but the image that was before him—"Ay, in troth, your own children—your own children, poor things, without a morsel to put into their mouths; and your wife, Pether, that you love betther than—than—aye, than a station dinner, a thousand times—sittin' with a pale face and a breaking, or, maybe, a broken heart, looking on at their privations and their miserable destitution, without being able to render them the laist assistance. Bad luck to it, for a mammon of unrighteousness, it's never in the way when it's wanted."
After he had concluded, he took out a red cotton pocket-handkerchief, spotted at equal distances with white dice, and wiped away the tears that had gushed to his eyes whilst he spoke.
"Pettier," said he, immediately, "finish your tumbler and go to bed; you know we must be off to-morrow to station before six o'clock, and after your bitther ride to-night you want rest, poor fellow."
When about a quarter of an hour had elapsed, and he had seen Peter to bed, he went to the kitchen, and asked Katty, his housekeeper, who always attended upon him and his curate, if she had done what he desired her.
"It's done, your reverence," she replied, "but you'll never be able to carry it."
"That's not your affair, Katty—do you hear now?"
"I do, your reverence."
"Very well, then, I tell you that's none of your affair,—the sorra bit. I hope you did'nt let Barney go to bed?"
"Of coorse not, sir, when you bid me keep him up."
"Very well, then; and if either he or you brittle a syllable of this to Father Pether, I'll read you both oat—do you hear that now? Bring Barney here, then."
Barney accordingly made his appearance.
"Now mark me," continued the priest, "if either of you ever brathes a syllable of this, salvation to me, but I'll read you both out from the althar. Here now help me on with this sack; it's for a distressed person in the neighborhood that wants it badly, as you may judge, or I wouldn't be trudging off with it at this hour of the night. Katty, you go to bed, and let Barney stay up till I come back—did you mind my words, I repate—read you both out, if ever a syllable comes to Father Pother's ears, or anybody's else's but our own."
The servant man accordingly assisted him to raise upon his stout and honest shoulders a short heavy bag of oatmeal, into which he had thrust a large flitch of newly-hung bacon; and thus loaded, the violent anti-tithe priest bent his way, nearly at the hour of twelve o'clock, to the residence of the Rev. Mr. Goodison, his neighbor.
It is necessary to state here, that the glebe-house of that gentleman was situated within about two hundred yards of two crossroads, one of which went by the gate of entrance to it. After a severe trudge, during a night that began now to brighten as the moon rose, Father Anthony found himself approaching the cross-roads in question, and for a moment imagined that he saw his own shadow before him, an impression which soon changed on observing that the shadow, or whatever it was, although loaded much as he himself was, that is to say, with a sack on his shoulders, evidently approached him—a circumstance which he knew to be an impossibility, and that it must, consequently, be a distinct individual. Having satisfied himself of this, he got under the shade of a hedge, a movement in which he was instantly imitated by the stranger. Each stood concealed for some time, with a, hope that the other might advance and turn probably out of his way; but neither seemed disposed to move. At length, Father Anthony gave a kind of inquisitive, dry cough, by way of experiment, which was instantly responded to by another cough equally dry and mysterious. These were repeated two or three times without success, when at last Father Anthony advanced a little under shadow of the hedge, and found as before that the strange individual did the same; and thus, in fact, they kept gradually, coughing at each other and approaching until they fairly met face to face, each with a sack upon his shoulders.
"Con M'Mahon!" exclaimed the priest, "why, what on earth brought you out at this hour of the night, and—aisy, what is this you're' carrying?"
"Faix, your reverence," replied the other, "I might as well ask yourself the same two questions."
"I know you might," said Father Anthony; "but in the manetime you had better not."
The priest spoke like one whose wind had not been improved by the burthen he carried; and M'Mahon, anxious if possible to get rid of him, determined to enter into some conversation that might tire out his strength. He consequently selected the topic of the day as being best calculated for that purpose.
"Isn't these blessed times that's coming, plaise your reverence," said M'Mahon, "when we'll be done wid these tithes, and have the millstone taken from our necks altogether?"
This was spoken in a most wheedling and insinuating tone replete with the the confidence of one who knew that the stronger he spoke the more satisfaction he would give his auditor, and the more readily he would avert any suspicion as to his object and appearance at such an hour.
"Yes," returned the priest, giving his burthen an uneasy twitch, "we have had too weighty a load upon our shoulders this many a day, and the devil's own predicament it is to be overburthened with anything—we all know that."
"Sorra doubt of it," replied the other, easing himself as well as he could by a corresponding hitch; "but it's one comfort to myself anyhow, that I done my duty against the same tithes—an' bad luck to them!"
"If you did your duty, you weren't without a good example, at all events," replied the priest; "I taught you how to hate the accursed impost—but at the same time, you know I always told you to make a distinction between the tithes and the—hem—"
"An' what, your reverence?"
"Hem—why you know, Con, that we're commanded to love our enemies, and it was upon this ground that I always taught you to make a distinction, as I say, between the tithes and the parsons themselves. And by the way, now, I don't know but it would be our duty," he proceeded, "to render the same parsons, now that they're suffering, as much good for evil as possible. It would be punishing the thieves by heaping, as the Scripture says, coals of fire upon their heads."
"And do you think, your reverence," replied the other, who was too quick of apprehension not to suspect what the priest was driving at, "do you think that I have been so long listening to your advice, not to know that such a coorse was my duty?"
"That's the way," continued the priest, "to punish them like a Christian."
"Ay, to punish them, your reverence, as you say—an' in troth, I'm the man myself that 'ud go any length to do it."
"But where are you bound to now, Con, and what—ahem—what is that you are carrying?" asked the priest.
"Why then, it's the butt-end of a sack o' pittities," replied Con, giving an answer only to the easiest side of the query.
"Well, but who are you bringing them?" he asked again, "because, thank God, there's not much poverty in this neighborhood at present."
"Well, then, God forgive me!" replied the other, concealing his benevolence by a grin, which he could not prevent at his own ingenuity, but which he endeavored to conceal as well as he could; "God forgive me! but hearin' that Goodison the parson here, and his family were in great distress, I thought I might as well have my revenge aginst him, by fetchin' him a load o' praties, which is all I can spare the poor ould—hem—the heretical ould creature—and so, says I to myself, it's a good opportunity of heapin' the coals upon him that you spoke about, sir. And upon my conscience, as far as a good weighty butt o' praties goes, I'll punish him this very night."
The priest gave a short hiccup or two, as if laboring under some momentary affection of the throat, which soon extended to the eyes, for with some difficulty he put up his naked hand and wiped away a kind of moisture, that in ordinary cases would have very much resembled tears.
"Ah, I see, Con!" he said, after clearing his throat a little, "you had a grudge against him like myself, and you determined to—ay—just so—you see, Con, here's the way of it; he didn't visit me yet since I came to the parish—do you understand?—and I tell you, flesh or blood couldn't overlook such a slight; so I'm glad, at all events, that you had the spirit to follow my advice—for the truth is, I'm goin' to have my revenge as well as yourself; but when one does take his revenge, Con, it's always best to take it like a Christian. So now that we understand, one another, let us go up to the glebe—otherwise I'll drop.—However, salvation to me!" he exclaimed with a smile, "if we'll bear their burthens much longer! I have a butt of meal here, I saw his son to-day, too, without a stitch to his foot, poor boy."
"And so did I," replied M'Mahon; "he sent one o' them over to me for the loan of a lock o' praties."
"Oh, God help them!" exclaimed the priest. "Come, Con, let us hurry—but why didn't you send them then?"
"Why, sir—why, bekaise I daren't send them in open daylight."
"True enough," said the other; "and it was stupid of me to ask. I myself would have sent what I'm carrying to him by Barney Brennan, but that I feared it would take wind, in which case the people might withdraw their confidence from me, from an apprehension that I wanted to curry favor with the parson of the parish, which I assure you, Condy, I do not. But listen to me, now; you're never to brathe a syllable of this adventure."
"Ill give you my oath of it, sir, if you wish, takin' it for granted, at the same time, that I'm safe with you."
"Never fear that; I'm not the man to play the traitor on any poor fellow that I might catch at any illegal work of the kind."
Both were now within a few perches of the hall-door, when the priest, who was scarcely able to speak from fatigue, said with some difficulty:—
"Con, as we have met, I think you must take the responsibility of this night's adventure on yourself. Here, now," said he, depositing his burden against the door as he spoke, "I think the best thing to do, in order to spare their feelings—for I need not tell you, that they are, by all accounts, a delicately-minded and highly-educated family—and it will be well to tax them as little as possible; I say then,—let us place, these sacks against the hall-door, and as soon as it is opened, they will tumble in heels foremost upon them, and then you can cut. So now I leave you to manage it, only, on any earthly account, don't name me to a living soul in the business. Good night, now, and God bless you—as He will," he added, retreating from the hall-door—"as He will, you kind-hearted, good-natured ringleader you."
The matter, however, did not end here, for, as Burns says, "the best-laid schemes of mice and men may gang agree." The aid received by the venerable Mr. Goodigon and his family had escaped through the children, in the early part of the next day, and had spread through the neighborhood; and sooth to say, there was scarcely a voice among them louder in condemnation of the fact than that of Con M'Mahon, who said it was a bad way to banish tithes by assistin' the parsons. So far as he was concerned, however, the secret did not at all transpire. His reverence, however, was by no means so fortunate. The next morning, he and his curate were under the necessity of holding a station in a distant part of the parish. Father Anthony, however, feeling himself fatigued by his burthen of the preceding night, sent the curate on before him, with an assurance that he would follow him in an hour or two. He accordingly did so, but, with his usual inattention to dress, was seen the next morning, about ten o'clock, riding along the public road—which was a great thoroughfare—towards the locality of the station with the history of the previous night's transaction written as clearly oh his back as if it had been labelled there in large and legible print. The truth is, the humane and charitable priest had neglected to get his coat brushed—an operation which it never underwent unless on a Sunday morning—and the consequence was, that whilst the front part of his dress was tolerably black, the back part of it would have done credit to the coat of a miller. The sagacity of the people was not for a moment at fault. Both circumstances were immediately connected; his reverence's secret took wind, and before the expiration of forty-eight hours was known to the whole parish.
CHAPTER XVI.—Massacre of Carrickshock
—Mogue Moglan's Anxiety for the Safety of the Purcels—Tithe Distraint—Good News for Mr. Temple.
Matters had now arrived at such a crisis, that either the law must be vindicated, or tithes should be considered as put down by violence on the one hand, and passive resistance on the other; for, as the question stood, it had to grapple with both. The clergymen of the establishment, cramped by poverty, and harassed by delay, were not now in a condition to recover their incomes by the tedious and expensive processes that were hitherto resorted to. Some point, however, was made, or some antiquated statute was ferreted out, owing to the black-letter craft of certain astute lawyers, by which the parson or proctor, we believe, as the case might have been, instead of being forced to incur enormous expense for the recovery of any individual responsibility, was enabled, through what was termed a "Writ of Rebellion," to join the greater part of a parish, if not the whole of it, in the same legal process, by inserting their names in the writ. At first, however, and in the early stage of the proceedings, the resistance was by no means passive. Experience, however, soon taught the people that the law and the executive, when opposed, were anything but playthings, and the loss of several lives on the part of those who attempted, by force, to obstruct the execution of the former, led to the expediency of adopting the passive plan. A widow's son had been shot in a tithe-levy; and on the other side, a clergyman named Ryder had fallen a victim to the outrage of the people—as, we believe, had other reverend gentlemen also, together with a tithe-proctor, who was shot in his own field in open day, his son, a boy of fifteen or sixteen, having also a narrow escape. Purcel's position was now one of extreme danger and difficulty. The combination against tithes had been carried to such a height, that not only were the people sworn to pay no tithes, but all the proctor's laborers were forced, besides, to quit his employment. No man could work for him, unless at the certain risk of his life. By the mere influence of money, and the offer of triple wages, he succeeded in procuring a number of workmen from a neighboring county; but no sooner were they seen in his employment, than an immense crowd collected from all parts of the country, and after treating them with great violence, swore, every man of them, never to work for Purcel, or any other tithe-proctor whatever. This treatment exasperated the Purcels exceedingly; indeed, so much so, that they expressed to the people a wish that their house should be attacked, in order that they might thereby have an opportunity of shooting the assailants like dogs. In this way the feeling ran on between them day by day, until the acrimony and thirst for vengeance, on each side, had reached its utmost height. In the meantime, a tithe auction was to take place at a distance of some three or four miles from the Proctor's. On the morning when it was to take place, Mogue Moylan told Alick Purcel that he wished to speak to him. This scoundrel's plausibility was such, that he had continued to act the spy and traitor in the family, without exciting suspicion in the mind of any one, with the exception only of Jerry Joyce, who being himself involved in Whiteboyism, was placed in a position of great difficulty and danger. To have discovered Mogue's treachery, would not only criminate himself, by the necessity of admitting his connection with this illegal combination, which was a felony at the time, but it would also have probably occasioned the loss of his life, by betraying the designs of his confederacy, and thus proving himself, as it would have been termed, a traitor to the people, and to the cause of his country. Such, in truth, are the multifarious evils that result from illegal conspiracies among our impulsive and unreasoning countryman.
"It's a word or two I'd wish to spake to you, Mr. Alick."
"Well, Mogue, what's the matter? Are you still determined to be hard-hearted to poor Letty Lenehan?"
"That I may never sup sorrow, Mr. Alick, if I can help the foolish creature! I do all I can to let her see that we are not aiquils; but the thoughtless girl won't be convinced. I belong to a family, sir, that always suffered for our counthry. Widin the last six hundre' years, I have it from sound authority, that there never was a ruction on Irish ground that wasn't the manes of havin' some o' them hanged or transported, glory be to God! An' you know, Mr. Alick, that's a proud boast, an' what every one couldn't say."
"All I can say then, Mogue, is, that if you look upon that as an honor, I have no objection that the fate should follow the family, and, I suppose, neither have you."
"Well, indeed now, and that I may never die in sin, but I think it an honor to oppose these Sassanagh laws; an', for that matther, to die opposin' them; however, as to myself, Mr. Alick, I am by nature of a peaceable, quiet turn, and not likely—"
"To grace a gibbet, Mogue: well, I believe not; but what is this you wish to say to me?"
"One or two things then, sir. First, I hear that Mr. M'Carthy is comin' down to stay wid the family here, bekaise they say it's going to be attacked."
"Well, is it not both a friendly and a manly offer for him to make?"
"Granted, Mr. Alick; but instead of help-in' you all to keep the danger off, he'll only be the manes of bringin' it on; for as soon as it becomes known that he's here, there will be ten enemies then for one there is now against you. I happened to overhear a discoorse at the chapel on Sunday last; and it's from that I'm givin' you my advice."
"I don't care a d—n," said the impetuous young man, "about their discourses at chapel. They go there more for the purpose of plotting murders, and entering into illegal combinations, than for that of praying sincerely or worshipping God! No; we despise and defy them."
"Well, then, Mr.—"
"Silence, Mogue; not another word on that subject. I am obliged to you, in the meantime, for you kindness, and the interest you feel for us."
"That my bed may be made in heaven, thin, but I do feel all you say; and why shouldn't I? But I said I had a thing or two to mention, an' although it goes against my heart to say it, still I like your family too well, not to throw you out a hint upon it. 'Tis regardin' Jerry Joyce, ay—an' Mr. M'Carthy too, sir."
"Jerry Joyce and M'Carthy; well, what about them? Jerry's a rollicking shallow fool, but honest, I think."
"Well, Mr. Alick, this is to be buried between you and me. I say, don't trust him; an' as for M'Carthy, it doesn't become the likes o' me to disparage him; but if there's not a traitor to this family in his coat, I'm not here. It's purty well known that he's a Whiteboy; he was a caravat it seems, two years agone, and was wid ould Paudeen Gar when Hanly was hanged for—"
"And who was Paudeen Gar?" asked the other, interrupting him.
"He was the head o' the Shanavests, and it so happened, that one Hanly, who was head of the Moyle Bangers, as they wor called, was hanged only for burnin' the house of a man that tuck a farm over another man's head. Now the Shanavests and the Moyle Rangers, you see, bein' bitther enemies, the Shanavests prosecuted Hanly for the burning, and on the day of his execution, Paudeen Gar stayed under the gallows, and said he wouldn't lave the place till he'd see the caravat (* Carvat; fact—such is their origin) put about Hanly's neck; an' from that out the Moyle Bangers was never called anything but Caravats."
"But what does Shanavest mean?"
"It manes an ould waistcoat; that is, it's the Irish for an ould waistcoat, and Paudeen Gar's men were called Shanavests, bekaise when they went out to swear the people against tithes and priests' dues, they put ould waistcoats about them for fraid o' bein' known."
"And you tell me that McCarthy's a White-boy?"
"Wasn't he a night wid them? and didn't he come home in the mornin' wid his face blackened?"
"Well, but he accounted very satisfactorily for that."
"I'm a friend to your family, Mr. Alick; and what I tell you is thrue; an' by the same token, Miss Julia isn't safe in the one house wid him."
"Come, come, Mogue, don't attempt' to make any illusion of that kind. You are an honest but over-anxious fool, and like many a one in this world, would make mountains out of mole-hills."
"Well, sir," replied Mogue, somewhat downcast, "when the time comes I'll let you know why I say so. Don't trust either o' them, I say, for the present, at any rate; for I hope soon to know more about them."
"Well, then, Mogue," said Alick, laughing, "I'll keep my eye on them."
"Do so, sir; an' as I'm spakin' to you as a friend that you may trust, I tell you, Mr. Alick, that although I'm quiet, as I said a while agone, still as there's likely to be danger to your family, I'd wish to help you to meet it, and to do whatever little I could in your defence—I would, indeed; but you know, Mr. Alick, I can't do that so long as I'm kept sleepin' in the out-houses. If I was allowed any kind of a shake-down in the house, I could do a good deal in the way of assistance. I could help you to load your fire-arms, or I could take charge of the ladies, and many other thing that I couldn't do out o' the house, so that was all I had to say to you, Mr. Alick."
"Thank you, Mogue; I really feel obliged to you; and I shall think over what you have said to me. If we admit any stranger to sleep in the house, with the exception of Mr. M'Carthy, you shall be the man; I will promise you that much, conditionally."
"And not a word of what I hinted about Jerry?"
"You need not be at all uneasy on that score; as I said, I shall keep my eye on him. We must now go to prepare for this auction, which, of course, so far as we are concerned, will be both an unpleasant and unprofitable affair. Go, then, and get the horses. We have also some processes to serve, and it will be necessary that we should see the bailiffs, to give them proper instructions, and directions to the houses on which they are to serve them."
"Is Mr. O'Driscol goin' wid you, sir?"
"No, Mogue," replied Alick, laughing, "ever since the country has risen, as he calls it, Mr. O'Driscol. has lost his health. Indeed, ever since the day he was attacked at Philpot's Corner, by the four black faces, a fact which he has dignified with the name of insurrection, he has taken no active part in public life. He does nothing now but correspond with his friend the Castle, as he says."
The morning on which this conversation took place was a dull, gloomy one, about the middle of December. It did not rain, but the weather had been dark and desolate in character for above a week before; in fact, of that cheerless description which represses animal spirits, and superinduces upon the mind impressions that are dreary and disheartening.