Tubber Derg, or, the Red Well by William Carleton
The following story owes nothing to any coloring or invention of mine; it
is unhappily a true one, and to me possesses a peculiar and melancholy
interest, arising from my intimate knowledge of the man whose fate it
holds up as a moral lesson to Irish landlords. I knew him well, and many a
day and hour have I played about his knee, and ran, in my boyhood, round
his path, when, as he said to himself, the world was no trouble to him.
On the south side of a sloping tract of light ground, lively, warm, and
productive, stood a white, moderate-sized farm-house, which, in
consequence of its conspicuous situation, was a prominent and, we may add,
a graceful object in the landscape of which it formed a part. The spot
whereon it stood was a swelling natural terrace, the soil of which was
heavier and richer than that of the adjoining lands. On each side of the
house stood a clump of old beeches, the only survivors of that species
then remaining in the country. These beeches extended behind the house in
a land of angle, with opening, enough at their termination to form a
vista, through which its white walls glistened with beautiful effect in
the calm splendor of a summer evening. Above the mound on which it stood,
rose two steep hills, overgrown with furze and fern, except on their tops,
which were clothed with purple heath; they were also covered with patches
of broom, and studded with gray rocks, which sometimes rose singly or in
larger masses, pointed or rounded into curious and fantastic shapes.
Exactly between these hills the sun went down during the month of June,
and nothing could be in finer relief than the rocky and picturesque
outlines of their sides, as crowned with thorns and clumps of wild ash,
they appeared to overhang the valley whose green foliage was gilded by the
sun-beams, which lit up the scene into radiant beauty. The bottom of this
natural chasm, which opened against the deep crimson of the evening sky,
was nearly upon a level with the house, and completely so with the beeches
that surrounded it. Brightly did the sinking sun fall upon their tops,
whilst the neat white house below, in their quiet shadow, sent up its
wreath of smoke among their branches, itself an emblem of contentment,
industry, and innocence. It was, in fact, a lovely situation; perhaps the
brighter to me, that its remembrance is associated with days of happiness
and freedom from the cares of a world, which, like a distant mountain,
darkens as we approach it, and only exhausts us in struggling to climb its
rugged and barren paths.
There was to the south-west of this house another little hazel glen, that
ended in a precipice formed, by a single rock some thirty feet, high, over
which tumbled a crystal cascade into a basin worn in its hard bed below.
From this basin the stream murmured away through the copse-wood, until it
joined a larger rivulet that passed, with many a winding, through a fine
extent of meadows adjoining it. Across the foot of this glen, and past the
door of the house we have described, ran a bridle road, from time
immemorial; on which, as the traveller ascended it towards the house, he
appeared to track his way in blood, for a chalybeate spa arose at its
head, oozing out of the earth, and spread itself in a crimson stream over
the path in every spot whereon a foot-mark could be made. From this
circumstance it was called Tubber Derg, or the Red Well. In the meadow
where the glen terminated, was another spring of delicious crystal; and
clearly do I remember the ever-beaten pathway that led to it through the
grass, and up the green field which rose in a gentle slope to the
happy-looking house of Owen M'Carthy, for so was the man called who
resided under its peaceful roof.
I will not crave your pardon, gentle reader, for dwelling at such length
upon a scene so clear to my heart as this, because I write not now so much
for your gratification as my own. Many an eve of gentle May have I pulled
the Maygowans which grew about that well, and over that smooth meadow.
Often have I raised my voice to its shrillest pitch, that I might hear its
echoes rebounding in the bottom of the green and still glen, where
silence, so to speak, was deepened by the continuous murmur of the cascade
above; and when the cuckoo uttered her first note from among the hawthorns
on its side, with what trembling anxiety did I, an urchin of some eight or
nine years, look under my right foot for the white hair, whose charm was
such, that by keeping it about me the first female name I should hear was
destined, I believed in my soul, to be that of my future wife.* Sweet was
the song of the thrush, and mellow the whistle of the blackbird, as they
rose in the stillness of evening over the "hirken shaws" and green dells
of this secluded spot of rural beauty. Far, too, could the rich voice of
Owen M'Carthy be heard along the hills and meadows, as, with a little
chubby urchin at his knee, and another in his arms, he sat on a bench
beside his own door, singing the "Trouglia". in his native Irish; whilst
Kathleen his wife, with her two maids, each crooning a low song, sat
before the door milking the cows, whose sweet breath mingled its perfume
with the warm breeze of evening.
Owen M'Carthy was descended from a long-line of honest ancestors, whose
names had never, within the memory of man, been tarnished by the
commission of a mean or disreputable action. They were always a
kind-hearted family, but stern and proud in the common intercourse of
life. They believed; themselves to be, and probably were, a branch of the
MacCarthy More stock; and, although only the possessors of a small farm,
it was singular to observe the effect which this conviction produced upon
their bearing and manners. To it might, perhaps, be attributed the high
and stoical integrity for which they were remarkable. This severity,
however, was no proof that they wanted feeling, or were insensible to the
misery and sorrows of others: in all the little cares and perplexities
that chequered the peaceful neighborhood in which they lived, they were
ever the first to console, or, if necessary, to support a distressed
neighbor with the means which God had placed in their possession; for,
being industrious, they were seldom poor. Their words were few, but
sincere, and generally promised less than the honest hearts that dictated
them intended to perform. There is in some persons a hereditary feeling of
just principle, the result neither of education nor of a clear moral
sense, but rather a kind of instinctive honesty which descends, like a
constitutional bias, from father to son, pervading every member of the
family. It is difficult to define this, or to assign its due position in
the scale of human virtues. It exists in the midst of the grossest
ignorance, and influences the character in the absence of better
principles. Such was the impress which marked so strongly the family of
which I speak. No one would ever think of imputing a dishonest act to the
M'Carthys; nor would any person acquainted with them, hesitate for a
moment to consider their word as good as the bond of another. I do not
mean to say, however, that their motives of action were not higher than
this instinctive honesty; far from it: but I say, that they possessed it
in addition to a strong feeling of family pride, and a correct knowledge
of their moral duties.
* Such is the superstition; and, as I can tell,
faithfully is it believed.
I can only take up Owen M'Carthy at that part of the past to which my
memory extends. He was then a tall, fine-looking young man; silent, but
kind. One of the earliest events within my recollection is his wedding;
after that the glimpse of his state and circumstances are imperfect; but
as I grew up, they became more connected, and I am able to remember him
the father of four children; an industrious, inoffensive small farmer,
beloved, respected, and honored. No man could rise, be it ever so early,
who would not find Owen up before him; no man could anticipate him in an
early crop, and if a widow or a sick acquaintance were unable to get in
their harvest, Owen was certain to collect the neighbors to assist them;
to be the first there himself, with quiet benevolence, encouraging them to
a zealous performance of the friendly task in which they were engaged.
It was, I believe, soon after his marriage, that the lease of the farm
held by him expired. Until that time he had been able to live with perfect
independence; but even the enormous rise of one pound per acre, though it
deprived him in a great degree of his usual comforts, did not sink him
below the bare necessaries of life. For some years after that he could
still serve a deserving neighbor; and never was the hand of Owen M'Carthy
held back from the wants and distresses of those whom he knew to be
I remember once an occasion upon which a widow Murray applied to him for a
loan of five pounds, to prevent her two cows from being auctioned for a
half year's rent, of which she only wanted that sum. Owen sat at dinner
with his family when she entered the house in tears, and, as well as her
agitation of mind permitted, gave him a detailed account of her
"The blessin' o' God be upon all here," said she, on entering.
"The double o' that to you, Rosha," replied Owen's wife: "won't you sit in
an' be atin'?—here's a sate beside Nanny; come over, Rosha."
Owen only nodded to her, and continued to eat his dinner, as if he felt no
interest in her distress. Rosha sat down at a distance, and with the
corner of a red handkerchief to her eyes, shed tears in that bitterness of
feeling which marks the helplessness of honest industry under the pressure
"In the name o' goodness, Rosha," said Mrs. M'Carthy, "what ails you,
asthore? Sure Jimmy—God spare him to you—wouldn't be dead?"
"Glory be to God! no, avourneen machree. Och, och! but it 'ud be the black
sight, an' the black day, that 'ud see my brave, boy, the staff of our
support, an' the bread of our mouth, taken away from us!—No, no,
Kathleen dear, it's not that bad wid me yet. I hope we'll never live to
see his manly head laid down before us. 'Twas his own manliness, indeed,
brought it an him—backin' the sack when he was bringin' home our
last meldhre * from the mill; for you see he should do it, the
crathur, to show his strinth, an' the sack, when he got it an was too
heavy for him, an' hurted the small of his back; for his bones, you see,
are too young, an' hadn't time to fill up yet. No, avourneen. Glory be to
God! he's gettin' betther wid me!" and the poor creature's eyes glistened
with delight through her tears and the darkness of her affliction.
Without saying a word, Owen, when she finished the eulogium on her son,
rose, and taking her forcibly by the shoulder, set her down at the table,
on which a large potful of potatoes had been spread out, with a circle in
the middle for a dish of rashers and eggs, into which dish every right
hand of those about it was thrust, with a quickness that clearly
illustrated the principle of competition as a stimulus to action.
"Spare your breath," said Owen, placing her rather roughly upon the seat,
"an' take share of what's goin': when all's cleared off we'll hear you,
but the sorra word till then."
"Musha, Owen," said the poor woman, "you're the same man still; sure we
all know your ways; I'll strive, avourneen, to ate—I'll strive,
asthore—to plase you, an' the Lord bless you an' yours, an' may you
never be as I an' my fatherless childhre are this sorrowful day!" and she
accompanied her words by a flood of tears.
* Meldhre—whatever quantity of grain is brought to the
mill to be ground on one occasion.
Owen, without evincing the slightest sympathy, withdrew himself from the
table. Not a muscle of his face was moved; but as the cat came about his
feet at the time, he put his foot under her, and flung her as easily as
possible to the lower end of the kitchen.
"Arrah, what harm did the crathur do," asked his wife, "that you'd kick
her for, that way? an' why but you ate out your dinner?"
"I'm done," he replied, "but that's no rason that Rosha, an' you, an' thim
boys that has the work afore them, shouldn't finish your male's mate."
Poor Rosha thought that by his withdrawing he had already suspected the
object of her visit, and of course concluded that her chance of succeeding
was very slender.
The wife, who guessed what she wanted, as well as the nature of her
suspicion, being herself as affectionate and obliging as Owen, reverted to
the subject, in order to give her an opportunity of proceeding.
"Somethin' bitther an' out o' the common coorse, is a throuble to you,
Rosha," said she, "or you wouldn't be in the state you're in. The Lord
look down on you this day, you poor crathur—widout the father of
your childhre to stand up for you, an' your only other depindance laid on
the broad of his back, all as one as a cripple; but no matther, Rosha;
trust to Him that can be a husband to you an' a father to your orphans—trust
to Him, an' his blessed mother in heaven, this day, an' never fear but
they'll rise up a frind for you. Musha, Owen, ate your dinner as you ought
to do, wid your capers! How can you take a spade in your hand upon that
"Finish your own," said her husband, "an' never heed me; jist let me
alone. Don't you see that if I wanted it, I'd ate it, an' what more would
you have about!"
"Well, acushla, it's your own loss, sure, of a sartinty. An' Rosha,
whisper, ahagur, what can Owen or I do for you? Throth, it would be a bad
day we'd see you at a deshort * for a friend, for you never wor
nothin' else nor a civil, oblagin' neighbor yourself; an' him that's gone
before—the Lord make his bed in heaven this day—was as good a
warrant as ever broke bread, to sarve a friend, if it was at the hour of
* That is at a loss; or more properly speaking, taken
short, which it means.
"Ah! when I had him!" exclaimed the distracted widow, "I never had
occasion to trouble aither friend or neighbor; but he s gone an' now it's
otherwise wid me—glory be to God for all his mercies—a wurrah
dheelish! Why, thin, since I must spake, an' has no other frind to go to—but
somehow I doubt Owen looks dark upon me—sure I'd put my hand to a
stamp, if my word wouldn't do for it, an' sign the blessed crass that
saved us, for the payment of it; or I'd give it to him in oats, for I hear
you want some, Owen—Phatie oates it is, an' a betther shouldhered or
fuller-lookin' grain never went undher a harrow—indeed it's it
that's the beauty, all out, if it's good seed you want."
"What is it for, woman alive?" inquired Owen, as he kicked a three-legged
stool out of his way."
"What is it for, is it? Och, Owen darlin', sure my two brave cows is
lavin' me. Owen M'Murt, the driver, is over wid me beyant, an' has them
ready to set off wid. I reared them both, the two of them, wid my own
hands; Cheehoney, that knows my voice, an' would come to me from
the fardest corner o' the field, an' nothin' will we have—nothin'
will my poor sick boy have—but the black wather, or the dhry salt;
besides the butther of them being lost to us for rent, or a small taste of
it, of an odd time, for poor Jimmy. Owen, next to God, I have no friend to
depind upon but yourself!"
"Me!" said Owen, as if astonished. "Phoo, that's quare enough! Now do you
think, Rosha,—hut, hut, woman alive! Come, boys, you're all done;
out wid you to your spades, an' finish that meerin (* a marsh
ditch, a boundary) before night. Me!—hut, tut!"
"I have it all but five pounds, Owen, an' for the sake of him that's in
his grave—an' that, maybe, is able to put up his prayer for you"—
"An' what would you want me to do, Rosha? Fitther for you to sit down an'
finish your dinner, when it's before you. I'm goin' to get an ould glove
that's somewhere about this chist, for I must weed out that bit of oats
before night, wid a blessin'," and, as he spoke he passed into another
room, as if he had altogether forgotten her solicitation, and in a few
"Owen, avick!—an' the blessin' of the fatherless be upon you, sure,
an' many a one o' them you have, any how, Owen!"
"Och, och, Owen, it's low days wid me to be depindin' upon the sthranger?
little thim that reared me ever thought it 'ud come to this. You know I'm
a dacent father's child, an' I have stooped to you, Owen M'Carthy—what
I'd scorn to do to any other but yourself—poor an' friendless as I
stand here before you. Let them take the cows, thin, from my childhre; but
the father of the fatherless will support thim an' me. Och, but it's well
for the O'Donohoes that their landlord lives at home among themselves, for
may the heavens look down on me, I wouldn't know where to find mine, if
one sight of him 'ud save me an' my childre from the grave! The Agent
even, he lives in Dublin, an' how could I lave my sick boy, an' small
girshas by themselves, to go a hundre miles, an' maybe not see him afther
all. Little hopes I'd have from him, even if I did; he's paid for
gatherin' in his rents; but it's well known he wants the touch of nathur
for the sufferins of the poor, an' of them that's honest in their
"I'll go over wid you, Rosha, if that will be of any use," replied Owen,
composedly; "come, I'll go an' spake to Frank M'Murt.''
"The sorra blame I blame him, Owen," replied Rosha, "his bread's depindin'
upon the likes of sich doins, an' he can't get over it; but a word from
you, Owen, will save me, for who ever refused to take the word of a
When Owen and the widow arrived at the house of the latter, they found the
situation of the bailiff laughable in the extreme. Her eldest son, who had
been confined to his bed by a hurt received in his back, was up, and had
got the unfortunate driver, who was rather old, wedged in between the
dresser and the wall, where his cracked voice—for he was asthmatic—was
raised to the highest pitch, calling for assistance. Beside him was a
large tub half-filled with water, into which the little ones were emptying
small jugs, carried at the top of their speed from a puddle before the
door. In the meantime, Jemmy was tugging at the bailiff with all his
strength—fortunately for that personage, it was but little—with
the most sincere intention of inverting him into the tub which contained
as much muddy water as would have been sufficient to make him a subject
for the deliberation of a coroner and twelve honest men. Nothing could be
more conscientiously attempted than the task which Jemmy had proposed to
execute: every tug brought out his utmost strength, and when he failed in
pulling down the bailiff, he compensated himself for his want of success
by cuffing his ribs, and peeling his shins by hard kicks; whilst from
those open points which the driver's grapple with his man naturally
exposed, were inflicted on him by the rejoicing urchins numberless punches
of tongs, potato-washers, and sticks whose points were from time to time
hastily thrust into the coals, that they might more effectually either
blind or disable him in some other manner.
As one of the little ones ran out to fill his jug, he spied his mother and
Owen approaching, on which, with the empty vessel in his hand, he flew
towards them, his little features distorted by glee and ferocity, wildly
mixed up together.
"Oh mudher, mudher—ha, ha, ha!—don't come in yet; don't come
in, Owen, till Jimmy un' huz, an' the Denisses, gets the bailie drownded.
We'll soon have the bot (* tub) full; but Paddy an' Jack Denis have
the eyes a'most pucked out of him; an' Katty's takin' the rapin' hook
from, behind the cuppet, to get it about his neck."
Owen and the widow entered with all haste, precisely at the moment when
Frank's head was dipped, for the first time, into the vessel.
"Is it goin' to murdher him ye are?" said Owen, as he seized Jemmy with a
grasp that transferred him to the opposite end of the house; "hould back
ye pack of young divils, an' let the man up. What did he come to do but
his duty? I tell you, Jimmy, if you wor at yourself, an' in full strinth,
that you'd have the man's blood on you where you stand, and would suffer
as you ought to do for it."
"There, let me," replied the lad, his eyes glowing and his veins swollen
with passion; "I don't care if I did. It would be no sin, an' no disgrace,
to hang for the like of him; dacenter to do that, than stale a creel of
turf, or a wisp of straw, 'tanny rate."
In the meantime the bailiff had raised his head out of the water, and
presented a visage which it was impossible to view with gravity. The
widow's anxiety prevented her from seeing it in a ludicrous light; but
Owen's severe face assumed a grave smile, as the man shook himself and
attempted to comprehend the nature of his situation. The young urchins,
who had fallen back at the appearance of Owen and the widow, now burst
into a peal of mirth, in which, however, Jemmy, whose fiercer passions had
been roused, did not join.
"Frank M'Murt," said the widow, "I take the mother of heaven to witness,
that it vexes my heart to see you get sich thratement in my place; an' I
wouldn't for the best cow I have that sich a brieuliagh (*
squabble) happened. Dher charp agusmanim, (** by my soul and body)
Jimmy, but I'll make you suffer for drawin' down this upon my head, and me
had enough over it afore."
"I don't care," replied Jemmy; "whoever comes to take our property from
us, an' us willin' to work will suffer for it. Do you think I'd see thim
crathurs at their dhry phatie, an' our cows standin' in a pound for no
rason? No; high hangin' to me, but I'll split to the skull the first man
that takes them; an' all I'm sorry for is, that it's not the vagabone
Landlord himself that's near me. That's our thanks for paying many a good
pound, in honesty and dacency, to him an' his; lavin' us to a schamin'
agent, an' not even to that same, but to his undher-strap-pers, that's
robbin' us on both sides between them. May hard fortune attind him, for a
landlord! You may tell him this, Frank,—that his wisest plan is to
keep clear of the counthry. Sure, it's a gambler he is, they say; an' we
must be harrished an' racked to support his villany! But wait a bit; maybe
there's a good time comin', when we'll pay our money to thim that won't be
too proud to hear our complaints wid their own ears, an' who won't turn us
over to a divil's limb of an agent. He had need, anyhow, to get his coffin
sooner nor he thinks. What signifies hangin' in a good cause?" said he, as
the tears of keen indignation burst from his glowing eyes. "It's a dacent
death, an' a happy death, when it's for the right," he added—for his
mind was evidently fixed upon the contemplation of those means of redress,
which the habits of the country, and the prejudices of the people, present
to them in the first moments of passion.
"It's well that Frank's one of ourselves," replied Owen, coolly,
"otherwise, Jemmy, you said words that would lay you up by the heels. As
for you, Frank, you must look over this. The boy's the son of dacent poor
parents, an' it's a new thing for him to see the cows druv from the place.
The poor fellow's vexed, too, that he has been so long laid up wid a sore
back; an' so you see one thing or another has put him through other. Jimmy
is warm-hearted afther all, an' will be sorry for it when he cools, an'
renumbers that you wor only doin' your duty."
"But what am I to do about the cows? Sure, I can't go back widout either
thim or the rint?" said Frank, with a look of fear and trembling at Jemmy.
"The cows!" said another of the widow's sons who then came in; "why, you
dirty spalpeen of a rip, you may whistle on the wrong side o' your mouth
for them. I druv them off of the estate; an' now take them, if you dar!
It's conthrairy to law," said the urchin; "an' if you'd touch them, I'd
make my mudher sarve you wid a lattitat or fiery-flashes."
This was a triumph to the youngsters, who, began to shake their little
fists at him, and to exclaim in a chorus—"Ha, you dirty rip! wait
till we get you out o' the house, an' if we don't put you from ever
drivin'! Why, but you work like another!—ha, you'll get it!"—and
every little fist was shook in vengeance at him.
"Whist wid ye," said Jemmy to the little ones; "let him alone, he got
enough. There's the cows for you; an keen may the curse o' the widow an'
orphans light upon you, and upon them that sent you, from first to last!—an'
that's the best we wish you!"
"Frank," said Owen to the bailiff, "is there any one in the town below
that will take the rint, an' give a resate for it? Do you think, man, that
the neighbors of an honest, industrious woman 'ud see the cattle taken out
of her byre for a thrifle? Hut tut! no, man alive—no sich thing!
There's not a man in the parish, wid manes to do it, would see them taken
away to be canted, at only about a fourth part of their value. Hut, tut,—no!"
As the sterling fellow spoke, the cheeks of the widow were suffused with
tears, and her son Jemmy's hollow eyes once more kindled, but with a far
different expression from that which but a few minutes before flashed from
"Owen," said he, and utterance nearly failed him: "Owen, if I was well it
wouldn't be as it is wid us; but—no, indeed it would not; but—may
God bless you for this! Owen, never fear but you'll be paid; may God bless
As he spoke the hand of his humble benefactor was warmly grasped in his. A
tear fell upon it: for with one of those quick and fervid transitions of
feeling so peculiar to the people, he now felt a strong, generous emotion
of gratitude, mingled, perhaps, with a sense of wounded pride, on finding
the poverty of their little family so openly exposed.
"Hut, tut, Jimmy, avick," said Owen, who understood his feelings; "phoo,
man alive! hut—hem!—why, sure it's nothin' at all, at all;
anybody would do it—only a bare five an' twenty shillins [it was
five pound]: any neighbor—Mick Cassidy, Jack Moran, or Pether
M'Cullagh, would do it.—Come, Frank, step out; the money's to the
fore. Rosha, put your cloak about you, and let us go down to the agint, or
clerk, or whatsomever he is—sure, that makes no maxin anyhow;—I
suppose he has power to give a resate. Jemmy, go to bed again, you're
pale, poor bouchal; and, childhre, ye crathurs ye, the cows won't be taken
from ye this bout.—Come, in the name of God, let us go, and
see-everything rightified at once—hut, tut—come."
Many similar details of Owen M'Carthy's useful life could be given, in
which he bore an equally benevolent and Christian part. Poor fellow! he
was, ere long, brought low; but, to the credit of our peasantry, much as
is said about their barbarity, he was treated, when helpless, with
gratitude, pity, and kindness.
Until the peace of 1814, Owen's regular and systematic industry enabled
him to struggle successfully against a weighty rent and sudden depression
in the price of agricultural produce; that is, he was able, by the
unremitting toil of a man remarkable alike for an unbending spirit and a
vigorous frame of body, to pay his rent with tolerable regularity. It is
true, a change began to be visible in his personal appearance, in his
farm, in the dress of his children, and in the economy of his household.
Improvements, which adequate capital would have enabled, him to effect,
were left either altogether unattempted, or in an imperfect state,
resembling neglect, though, in reality, the result of poverty. His dress
at mass, and in fairs and markets, had, by degrees, lost that air of
comfort and warmth which bespeak the independent farmer. The evidences of
embarrassment began to disclose themselves in many small points—inconsiderable,
it is true, but not the less significant. His house, in the progress of
his declining circumstances,ceased to be annually ornamented by a new coat
of whitewash; it soon assumed a faded and yellowish hue, and sparkled not
in the setting sun as in the days of Owen's prosperity. It had, in fact, a
wasted, unthriving look, like its master. The thatch became black and
rotten upon its roof; the chimneys sloped to opposite points; the windows
were less neat, and ultimately, when broken, were patched with a couple of
leaves from the children's blotted copy-books. His out-houses also began
to fail. The neatness of his little farm-yard, and the cleanliness which
marked so conspicuously the space fronting his dwelling-house, disappeared
in the course of time. Filth began to accumulate where no filth had been;
his garden was not now planted so early, nor with such taste and neatness
as before; his crops were later, and less abundant; his haggarts neither
so full nor so trim as they were wont to be, nor his ditches and
enclosures kept in such good repair. His cars, ploughs, and other farming
implements, instead of being put under cover, were left exposed to the
influence of wind and weather, where they soon became crazy and useless.
Such, however, were only the slighter symptoms of his bootless struggle
against the general embarrassment into which the agricultural interests
were, year after year, so unhappily sinking.
Had the tendency to general distress among the class to which he belonged
become stationary, Owen would have continued by toil and incessant
exertion to maintain his ground; but, unfortunately, there was no point at
which the national depression could then stop. Year after year produced
deeper, more extensive, and more complicated misery; and when he hoped
that every succeeding season would bring an improvement in the market, he
was destined to experience not merely a fresh disappointment, but an
unexpected depreciation in the price of his corn, butter, and other
When a nation is reduced to such a state, no eye but that of God himself
can see the appalling wretchedness to which a year of disease and scarcity
strikes down the poor and working classes.
Owen, after a long and noble contest for nearly three years, sank, at
length, under the united calamities of disease and scarcity. The father of
the family was laid low upon the bed of sickness, and those of his little
ones who escaped it were almost consumed by famine. This two-fold shock
sealed his ruin; his honest heart was crushed—his hardy frame shorn
of its strength, and he to whom every neighbor fled as to a friend, now
required friendship at a moment when the widespread poverty of the country
rendered its assistance hopeless.
On rising from his bed of sickness, the prospect before him required his
utmost fortitude to bear. He was now wasted in energy both of mind and
body, reduced to utter poverty, with a large family of children, too young
to assist him, without means of retrieving his circumstances, his wife and
himself gaunt skeletons, his farm neglected, his house wrecked, and his
offices falling to ruin, yet every day bringing the half-year's term
nearer! Oh, ye who riot on the miseries of such men—ye who roll
round the easy circle of fashionable life, think upon this picture! To
vile and heartless landlords, who see not, hear not, know not those to
whose heart-breaking toil ye owe the only merit ye possess—that of
rank in society—come and contemplate this virtuous man, as
unfriended, unassisted, and uncheered by those who are bound by a strong
moral duty to protect and aid him, he looks shuddering into the dark,
cheerless future! Is it to be wondered at that he, and such as he, should,
in the misery of his despair, join the nightly meetings, be lured to
associate himself with the incendiary, or seduced to grasp, in the stupid
apathy of wretchedness, the weapon of the murderer? By neglecting the
people; by draining them, with merciless rapacity, of the means of life;
by goading them on under a cruel system of rack rents, ye become not their
natural benefactors, but curses and scourges, nearly as much in reality as
ye are in their opinion.
When Owen rose, he was driven by hunger, direct and immediate, to sell his
best cow; and having purchased some oatmeal at an enormous price, from a
well-known devotee in the parish, who hoarded up this commodity for a
"dear summer," he laid his plans for the future, with as much judgment as
any man could display. One morning after breakfast he addressed his wife
"Kathleen, mavourneen, I want to consult wid you about what we ought to
do; things are low wid us, asthore; and except our heavenly Father puts it
into the heart of them I'm goin' to mention, I don't know what well do,
nor what'll become of these poor crathurs that's naked and hungry about
us. God pity them, they don't know—and maybe that same's some
comfort—the hardships that's before them. Poor crathurs! see how
quiet and sorrowful they sit about their little play, passin' the time for
themselves as well as they can! Alley, acushla machree, come over to me.
Your hair is bright and fair, Alley, and curls so purtily that the finest
lady in the land might envy it; but, acushla, your color's gone, your
little hands are wasted away, too; that sickness was hard and sore upon
you, a colleen machree (* girl of my heart) and he that 'ud spend
his heart's blood for you, darlin', can do nothin' to help you!"
He looked at the child as he spoke, and a slight motion in the muscles of
his face was barely preceptible, but it passed away; and, after kissing
her, he proceeded:
"Ay, ye crathurs—you and I, Kathleen, could earn our bread for
ourselves yet, but these can't do it. This last stroke, darlin', has laid
us at the door of both poverty and sickness, but blessed be the mother of
heaven for it, they are all left wid us; and sure that's a blessin' we've
to be thankful for—glory be to God!"
"Ay, poor things, it's well to have them spared, Owen dear; sure I'd
rather a thousand times beg from door to door, and have my childher to
look at, than be in comfort widout them."
"Beg: that 'ud go hard wid me, Kathleen. I'd work—I'd live on next
to nothing all the year round; but to see the crathurs that wor dacently
bred up brought to that, I couldn't bear it, Kathleen—'twould break
the heart widin in me. Poor as they are, they have the blood of kings in
their veins; and besides, to see a M'Carthy beggin' his bread in the
country where his name was once great—The M'Carthy More, that was
their title-no, acushla, I love them as I do the blood in my own veins;
but I'd rather see them in the arms of God in heaven, laid down dacently
with their little sorrowful faces washed, and their little bodies
stretched out purtily before my eyes—I would—in the grave-yard
there beyant, where all belonging to me lie, than have it cast up to them,
or have it said, that ever a M'Carthy was seen beggin' on the highway."
"But, Owen, can you strike out no plan for us that 'ud put us in the way
of comin' round agin? These poor ones, if we could hould out for two or
three year, would soon be able to help us."
"They would—they would. I'm thinkin' this day or two of a plan: but
I'm doubtful whether it 'ud come to anything."
"What is it, acushla? Sure we can't be worse nor we are, any way."
"I'm goin' to go to Dublin. I'm tould that the landlord's come home from
France, and that he's there now; and if I didn't see him, sure I could see
the agent. Now, Kathleen, my intintion 'ud be to lay our case before the
head landlord himself, in hopes he might hould back his hand, and spare us
for a while. If I had a line from the agent, or a scrape of a pen, that I
could show at home to some of the nabors, who knows but I could borry what
'ud set us up agin! I think many of them 'ud be sorry to see me turned
out; eh, Kathleen?"
The Irish are an imaginative people; indeed, too much so for either their
individual or national happiness. And it is this and superstition, which
also depends much upon imagination, that makes them so easily influenced
by those extravagant dreams that are held out to them by persons who
understand their character.
When Kathleen heard the plan on which Owen founded his expectations of
assistance, her dark melancholy eye flashed with a portion of its former
fire; a transient vivacity lit up her sickly features, and she turned a
smile of hope and affection upon her children, then upon Owen.
"Arrah, thin, who knows, indeed!—who knows but he might do something
for us? And maybe we might be as well as ever yet! May the Lord put it
into his heart, this day! I declare, ay!—maybe it was God put it
into your heart, Owen!"
"I'll set off," replied her husband, who was a man of decision; "I'll set
off on other morrow mornin'; and as nobody knows anything about it, so let
there not be a word said upon the subject, good or bad. If I have success,
well and good; but if not, why, nobody need be the wiser."
The heart-broken wife evinced, for the remainder of the day, a lightness
of spirits which she had not felt for many a month before. Even Owen was
less depressed than usual, and employed himself in making such
arrangements as he knew would occasion his family to feel the
inconvenience of his absence less acutely. But as the hour of his
departure drew nigh, a sorrowful feeling of affection rising into greater
strength and tenderness threw a melancholy gloom around his hearth.
According to their simple view of distance, a journey to Dublin was a
serious undertaking, and to them it was such. Owen was in weak health,
just risen out of illness, and what was more trying than any other
consideration was, that since their marriage they had never been separated
On the morning of his departure, he was up before daybreak, and so were
his wife and children, for the latter had heard the conversation already
detailed between them, and, with their simple-minded parents, enjoyed the
gleam of hope which it presented; but this soon changed—when he was
preparing to go, an indefinite sense of fear, and a more vivid clinging of
affection marked their feelings. He himself partook of this, and was
silent, depressed, and less ardent than when the speculation first
presented itself to his mind. His resolution, however, was taken, and,
should he fail, no blame at a future time could be attached to himself. It
was the last effort; and to neglect it, he thought, would have been to
neglect his duty. When breakfast was ready, they all sat down in silence;
the hour was yet early, and a rushlight was placed in a wooden candlestick
that stood beside them to afford light. There was something solemn and
touching in the group as they sat in dim relief, every face marked by the
traces of sickness, want, sorrow, and affection. The father attempted to
eat, but could not; Kathleen sat at the meal, but could taste nothing; the
children ate, for hunger at the moment was predominant over every other
sensation. At length it was over, and Owen rose to depart; he stood for a
minute on the floor, and seemed to take a survey of his cold, cheerless
house, and then of his family; he cleared his throat several times, but
did not speak.
"Kathleen," said he, at length, "in the name of God I'll go; and may his
blessin' be about you, asthore machree, and guard you and these darlins
till I come back to yez."
Kathleen's faithful heart could bear no more; she laid herself on his
bosom—clung to his neck, and, as the parting kiss was given, she
wept aloud, and Owen's tears fell silently down his worn cheeks. The
children crowded about them in loud wailings, and the grief of this
virtuous and afflicted family was of that profound description, which is
ever the companion, in such scenes, of pure and genuine love.
"Owen!" she exclaimed; "Owen, a-suilish mahuil agus machree! (*
light of my eyes and of my heart) I doubt we wor wrong in thinkin' of this
journey. How can you, mavourneen, walk all the way to Dublin, and you so
worn and weakly with that sickness, and the bad feedin' both before and
since? Och, give it up, achree, and stay wid us, let what will happen.
You're not able for sich a journey, indeed you're not. Stay wid me and the
childher, Owen; sure we'd be so lonesome widout you—will you, agrah?
and the Lord will do for us some other way, maybe."
Owen pressed his faithful wife to his heart, and kissed her chaste lips
with a tenderness which the heartless votaries of fashionable life can
"Kathleen, asthore," he replied, in those terms of endearment which flow
so tenderly through the language of the people; "sure whin I remimber your
fair young face—your yellow hair, and the light that was in your
eyes, acushla machree—but that's gone long ago—och, don't ax
me to stop. Isn't your lightsome laugh, whin you wor young, in my ears?
and your step that 'ud not bend the flower of the field—Kathleen, I
can't, indeed I can't, bear to think of what you wor, nor of what you are
now, when in the coorse of age and natur, but a small change ought to be
upon you! Sure I ought to make every struggle to take you and these
sorrowful crathurs out of the state you're in."
The children flocked about them, and joined their entreaties to those of
their mother. "Father, don't lave us—we'll be lonesome if you go,
and if my mother 'ud get unwell, who'd be to take care of her? Father,
don't lave your own 'weeny crathurs' (a pet name he had for them)—maybe
the meal 'ud be eat out before you'd come back; or maybe something 'ud
happen you in that strange place."
"Indeed, there's truth in what they say, Owen," said, the wife; "do be
said by your own Kathleen for this time, and don't take sich a long
journey upon you. Afther all, maybe, you wouldn't see him—sure the
nabors will help us, if you could only humble yourself to ax them!"
"Kathleen," said Owen, "when this is past you'll be glad I went—indeed
you will; sure it's only the tindher feelin' of your hearts, darlins. Who
knows what the landlord may do when I see himself, and show him these
resates—every penny paid him by our own family. Let me go, acushla;
it does cut me to the heart to lave yez the way yez are in, even for a
while; but it's far worse to see your poor wasted faces, widout havin' it
in my power to do anything for yez."
He then kissed them again, one by one; and pressing the affectionate
partner of his sorrows to his breaking heart, he bade God bless them, and
set out in the twilight of a bitter March morning. He had not gone many
yards from the door when little Alley ran after him in tears; he felt her
hand upon the skirts of his coat, which, she plucked with a smile of
affection that neither tears nor sorrow could repress. "Father, kiss me
again," said she. He stooped down, and kissed her tenderly. The child then
ascended a green ditch, and Owen, as he looked back, saw her standing upon
it; her fair tresses were tossed by the blast about her face, as with
straining eyes she watched him receding from her view. Kathleen and the
other children stood at the door, and also with deep sorrow watched his
form, until the angle of the bridle-road rendered him no longer visible;
after which they returned slowly to the fire and wept bitterly.
We believe no men are capable of bearing greater toil or privation than
the Irish. Owen's viaticum was only two or three oaten cakes tied in a
little handkerchief, and a few shillings in silver to pay for his bed.
With this small stock of food and money, an oaken stick in his hand, and
his wife's kerchief tied about his waist, he undertook a journey of one
hundred and ten miles, in quest of a landlord who, so far from being
acquainted with the distresses of his tenantry, scarcely knew even their
names, and not one of them in person.
Our scene now changes to the metropolis. One evening, about half past six
o'clock, a toil-worn man turned his steps to a splendid! mansion in
Mountjoy Square; his appearance was drooping, fatigued, and feeble. As he
went along, he examined the numbers on the respective doors, until he
reached a certain one—before which he stopped for a moment; he then
stepped out upon the street, and looked through the windows, as if willing
to ascertain whether there was any chance of his object being attained.
Whilst in this situation a carriage rolled rapidly up, and stopped with a
sudden check that nearly threw back the horses on their haunches. In an
instant the thundering knock of the servant intimated the arrival of some
person of rank; the hall door was opened, and Owen, availing himself of
that opportunity, entered the hall. Such a visitor, however, was too
remarkable to escape notice. The hand of the menial was rudely placed
against his breast; and, as the usual impertinent interrogatories were put
to him, the pampered ruffian kept pushing him back, until the afflicted
man stood upon the upper step leading to the door.
"For the sake of God, let me spake but two words to him. I'm his tenant;
and I know he's too much of a jintleman to turn away a man that has lived
upon his honor's estate, father and son, for upwards of three hundred
years. My name's Owen ———"
"You can't see him, my good fellow, at this hour. Go to Mr. M———,
his Agent: we have company to dinner. He never speaks to a tenant on
business; his Agent manages all that. Please, leave the way, here's more
As he uttered the last word, he pushed Owen back; who, forgetting that the
stairs were behind him, fell,—received a severe cut, and was so
completely stunned, that he lay senseless and bleeding. Another carriage
drove up, as the fellow now much alarmed, attempted to raise him from the
steps; and, by order of the gentleman who came in it, he was brought into
the hall. The circumstance now made some noise. It was whispered about,
that one of Mr. S———'s tenants, a drunken fellow from
the country, wanted to break in forcibly to see him; but then it was also
asserted, that his skull was broken, and that he lay dead in the hall.
Several of the gentlemen above stairs, on hearing that a man had been
killed, immediately assembled about him, and, by the means of
restoratives, he soon recovered, though the blood streamed copiously from
the wound in the back of his head.
"Who are you, my good man?" said Mr. S———.
Owen looked about him rather vacantly; but soon collected himself, and
implied in a mournful and touching tone of voice—"I'm one of your
honor's tenants from Tubber Derg; my name is Owen M'Carthy, your honor—that
is, if you be Mr. S———."
"And pray, what brought you to town, M'Carthy?"
"I wanted to make an humble appale to your honor's feelins, in regard to
my bit of farm. I, and my poor family, your honor, have been broken down
by hard times and the sickness of the sason—God knows how they axe."
"If you wish to speak to me about that, my good man, you must know I refer
all these matters to my Agent. Go to him—he knows them best; and
whatever is right and proper to be done for you, he will do it. Sinclair,
give him a crown, and send him to the ——— Dispensary, to
get his head dressed, I say, Carthy, go to my Agent; he knows whether your
claim is just or not, and will attend to it accordingly."
"Plase, your honor, I've been wid him, and he says he can do nothin'
whatsomever for me. I went two or three times, and couldn't see him, he
was so busy; and, when I did get a word or two wid him, he tould me there
was more offered for my land than I'm payin'; and that if I did not pay
up, I must be put out, God help me!"
"But I tell you, Carthy, I never interfere between him and my tenants."
"Och, indeed! and it would be well, both for your honor's tenants and
yourself, if you did, sir. Your honor ought to know, sir, more about us,
and how we're thrated. I'm an honest man, sir, and I tell you so for your
"And pray, sir," said the Agent, stepping forward, for he had arrived a
few minutes before, and heard the last observation of M'Carthy—"pray
how are they treated, you that know so well, and are so honest a man?—As
for honesty, you might have referred to me for that, I think," he added.
"Mr. M———," said Owen, "we're thrated very badly. Sir,
you needn't look at me, for I'm not afeerd to spake the thruth; no
bullyin', sir, will make me say anything in your favor that you don't
desarve. You've broken the half of them by severity; you've turned the
tenants aginst yourself and his honor here; and I tell you now, though
you're to the fore, that, in the coorse of a short time, there'll be bad
work upon the estate, except his honor, here, looks into his own affairs,
and hears the complaints of the people. Look at these resates, your honor;
they'll show you, sir,—"
"Carthy, I can hear no such language against the gentleman to whom I
entrust the management of my property; of course, I refer the matter
solely to him. I can do nothing in it."
"Kathleen, avourneen!" claimed the poor man, as he looked up despairingly
to heaven; "and ye, poor darlins of my heart! is this the news I'm to have
for yez whin I go home?—As you hope for mercy, sir, don't turn away
your ear from my petition, that I'd humbly make to yourself. Cowld, and
hunger, and hardship, are at home before me, yer honor. If you'd be plased
to look at these resates, you'd see that I always paid my rint; and 'twas
sickness and the hard times—"
"And your own honesty, industry, and good conduct," said the Agent, giving
a dark and malignant sneer at him. "Carthy, it shall be my business to see
that you do not spread a bad spirit through the tenantry much longer.—Sir,
you have heard the fellow's admission. It is an implied threat he will
give us much serious trouble. There is not such another incendiary on your
property—not one, upon my honor."
"Sir," said a servant, "dinner is on the table."
"Sinclair," said his landlord, "give him another crown, and tell him to
trouble me no more." Saying; which, he and the Agent went up to the
drawing-room, and, in a moment, Owen saw a large party sweep down stairs,
full of glee and vivacity, by whom both himself and his distresses were as
completely forgotten as if they had never existed.
He now slowly departed, and knew not whether the house-steward had given
him money or not until he felt it in his hand. A cold, sorrowful weight
lay upon his heart; the din of the town deadened his affliction into a
stupor; but an overwhelming sense of his disappointment, and a conviction
of the Agent's diabolical falsehood, entered like barbed arrows into his
On leaving the steps, he looked up to heaven in the distraction of his
agonizing thoughts; the clouds were black and lowering—the wind
stormy—and, as it carried them on its dark wing along the sky, he
wished, if it were the will of God, that his head lay in the quiet
grave-yard where the ashes of his forefathers reposed in peace. But he
again remembered his Kathleen and their children; and the large tears of
anguish, deep and bitter, rolled slowly down his cheeks.
We will not trace him into an hospital, whither the wound on his head
occasioned him to be sent, but simply state, that, on the second week
after this, a man, with his head bound in a handkerchief, lame, bent, and
evidently laboring under a severe illness or great affliction, might be
seen toiling slowly up the little hill that commanded a view of Tubber
Derg. On reaching the top he sat down to rest for a few minutes, but his
eye was eagerly turned to the house which contained all that was dear to
him on this earth. The sun was setting, and shone, with half his disk
visible, in that dim and cheerless splendor which produces almost in every
temperament a feeling of melancholy. His house which, in happier days,
formed so beautiful and conspicuous an object in the view, was now, from
the darkness of its walls, scarcely discernible. The position of the sun,
too, rendered it more difficult to be seen; and Owen, for it was he,
shaded his eyes with his hand, to survey it more distinctly. Many a
harrowing thought and remembrance passed through his mind, as his eye
traced its dim outline in the fading-light'. He had done his duty—he
had gone to the fountain-head, with a hope that his simple story of
affliction might be heard; but all was fruitless: the only gleam, of hope
that opened upon their misery had now passed into darkness and despair for
ever. He pressed his aching forehead with distraction as he thought of
this; then clasped his hands bitterly, and groaned aloud.
At length he rose, and proceeded with great difficulty, for the short rest
had stiffened his weak and fatigued joints. As he approached home his
heart sank; and as he ascended the blood-red stream which covered the
bridle-way that led to his house, what with fatigue and affliction, his
agitation weakened him so much that, he stopped, and leaned on his staff
several times, that he might take breath.
"It's too dark, maybe, for them to see me, or poor Kathleen would send the
darlins to give me the she dha veha (* the welcome). Kathleen,
avourneen machree! how my heart beats wid longin' to see you, asthore, and
to see the weeny crathurs—glory be to Him that has left them to me—praise
and glory to His name!"
He was now within a few perches of thy door; but a sudden misgiving shot
across his heart when he saw it shut, and no appearance of smoke from the
chimney, nor of stir or life about the house. He advanced—
"Mother of glory, what's this!—But, wait, let me rap agin. Kathleen,
Kathleen!—are you widin, avourneen? Owen—Alley—arn't ye
widin, childhre? Alley, sure I'm come back to you all!" and he rapped more
loudly than before. A dark breeze swept through the bushes as he spoke,
but no voice nor sound proceeded from the house;—all was still as
death within. "Alley!" he called once more to his little favorite; "I'm
come home wid something for you, asthore! I didn't forget you, alanna!—I
brought it from Dublin, all the way. Alley!" but the gloomy murmur of the
blast was the only reply.
Perhaps the most intense of all that he knew as misery was that which he
then felt; but this state of suspense was soon terminated by the
appearance of a neighbor who was passing.
"Why, thin, Owen, but yer welcome home agin, my poor fellow; and I'm sorry
that I haven't betther news for you, and so are all of us."
He whom he addressed had almost lost the power of speech.
"Frank," said he, and he wrung his hand, "What—what? was death among
them? For the sake of heaven, spake!"
The severe pressure which he received in return ran like a shoot, of
paralysis to his heart.
"Owen, you must be a man; every one pities yez, and may the Almighty pity
and support yez! She is, indeed, Owen, gone; the weeny fair-haired child,
your favorite Alley, is gone. Yestherday she was berrid; and dacently the
nabors attinded the place, and sent in, as far as they had it, both mate
and dhrink to Kathleen and the other ones. Now, Owen, you've heard it;
trust in God, an' be a man."
A deep and convulsive throe shook him to the heart. "Gone!—the
fair-haired one!—Alley!—Alley!—the pride of both our
hearts; the sweet, the quiet, and the sorrowful child, that seldom played
wid the rest, but kept wid mys—! Oh, my darlin', my darlin'! gone
from my eyes for ever!—God of glory; won't you support me this night
of sorrow and misery!"
With a sudden yet profound sense of humility, he dropped on his knees at
the threshold, and, as the tears rolled down his convulsed cheeks,
exclaimed, in a burst of sublime piety, not at all uncommon among our
peasantry—"I thank you, O my God! I thank you, an' I put myself an'
my weeny ones, my pastchee boght (* my poor children) into your
hands. I thank you, O God, for what has happened! Keep me up and support
me—och, I want it! You loved the weeny one, and you took her; she
was the light of my eyes, and the pulse of my broken heart, but you took
her, blessed Father of heaven! an' we can't be angry wid you for so doin'!
Still if you had spared her—if—if—O, blessed Father, my
heart was in the very one you took—but I thank you, O God! May she
rest in pace, now and for ever, Amin!"
He then rose up, and slowly wiping the tears from his eyes, departed.
"Let me hould your arm, Frank, dear," said he, "I'm weak and tired wid a
long journey. Och, an' can it be that she's gone—the fair-haired
colleen! When I was lavin' home, an' had kissed them all—'twas the
first time we ever parted, Kathleen and I, since our marriage—the
blessed child came over an' held up her mouth, sayin', 'Kiss me agin,
father;' an' this was afther herself an' all of them had kissed me afore.
But, och! oh! blessed Mother! Frank, where's my Kathleen and the rest?—and
why are they out of their own poor place?"
"Owen, I tould you awhile agone, that you must be a man. I gave you the
worst news first, an' what's to come doesn't signify much. It was too
dear; for if any man could live upon it you could:—you have neither
house nor home, Owen, nor land. An ordher came from the Agint; your last
cow was taken, so was all you had in the world—hem—barrin' a
thrifle. No,—bad manners to it! no,—you're not widout a home
anyway. The family's in my barn, brave and comfortable, compared to what
your own house was, that let in the wather through the roof like a sieve;
and, while the same barn's to the fore, never say you want a home."
"God bless you, Frank, for that goodness to them and me; if you're not
rewarded for it here you will in a betther place. Och, I long to see
Kathleen and the childher! But I'm fairly broken down, Frank, and hardly
able to mark the ground; and, indeed, no wondher, if you knew but all:
still, let God's will be done! Poor Kathleen, I must bear up afore her, or
she'll break her heart; for I know how she loved the golden-haired darlin'
that's gone from us. Och, and how did she go, Frank, for I left her
"Why, the poor girsha took a relapse, and wasn't strong enough to bear up
aginst the last attack; but it's one comfort that you know she's happy."
Owen stood for a moment, and, looking solemnly in his neighbor's face,
exclaimed, in a deep and exhausted voice, "Frank!"
"What are you goin' to say, Owen?"
"The heart widin me's broke—broke!"
The large tears rolled down his weather-beaten cheeks, and he proceeded in
silence to the house of his friend. There was, however, a feeling of
sorrow in his words and manner which Frank could not withstand. He grasped
Owen's hand, and, in a low and broken voice, simply said—"Keep your
spirits up—keep them up."
When they came to the barn in which his helpless family had taken up their
temporary residence, Owen stood for a moment to collect himself; but he
was nervous, and trembled with repressed emotion. They then entered; and
Kathleen, on seeing her beloved and affectionate husband, threw herself on
his bosom, and for some time felt neither joy nor sorrow—she had
swooned. The poor man embraced her with a tenderness at once mournful and
deep. The children, on seeing their father safely returned, forgot their
recent grief, and clung about him with gladness and delight. In the
meantime Kathleen recovered, and Owen for many minutes could not check the
loud and clamorous grief, now revived by the presence of her husband, with
which the heart-broken and emaciated mother deplored her departed child;
and Owen himself, on once more looking among the little ones, on seeing
her little frock hanging up, and her stool vacant by the fire—on
missing her voice and her blue laughing eyes—and remembering the
affectionate manner in which, as with a presentiment of death, she held up
her little mouth and offered him the last kiss—he slowly pulled the
toys and cakes he had purchased for her out of his pocket, surveyed them
for a moment, and then, putting his hands on his face, bent his head upon
his bosom, and wept with the vehement outpouring of a father's sorrow.
The reader perceives that he was a meek man; that his passions were not
dark nor violent; he bore no revenge to those who neglected or injured
him, and in this he differed from too many of his countrymen. No; his
spirit was broken down with sorrow, and had not room for the fiercer and
more destructive passions. His case excited general pity. Whatever his
neighbors could, do to soothe him and alleviate his affliction was done.
His farm was not taken; for fearful threats were held out against those
who might venture to occupy it. In these threats he had nothing to do; on
the contrary, he strongly deprecated them. Their existence, however, was
deemed by the Agent sufficient to justify him in his callous and malignant
severity towards him.
We did not write this story for effect. Our object was to relate facts
that occurred. In Ireland, there is much blame justly attached to
landlords, for their neglect and severity, in such depressed times,
towards their tenants: there is also much that is not only indefensible
but atrocious on the part of the tenants. But can the landed proprietors
of Ireland plead ignorance or want of education for their neglect and
rapacity, whilst the crimes of the tenants, on the contrary, may in
general be ascribed to both? He who lives—as, perhaps, his
forefathers have done—upon any man's property, and fails from
unavoidable calamity, has as just and clear a light to assistance from the
landlord as if the amount of that aid were a bonded debt. Common policy,
common sense, and common justice, should induce the Irish landlords to
lower their rents according to the market for agricultural produce,
otherwise poverty, famine, crime, and vague political speculations,
founded upon idle hopes of a general transfer of property, will spread
over and convulse the kingdom. Any man who looks into our poverty may see
that our landlords ought to reduce their rents to a standard suitable to
the times and to the ability of the tenant.
But to return. Owen, for another year, struggled on for his family,
without success; his firm spirit was broken; employment he could not get,
and even had it been regular, he would have found it impracticable to
support his helpless wife and children by his labor. The next year
unhappily was also one of sickness and of want; the country was not only a
wide waste of poverty, but overspread with typhus fever. One Saturday
night he and the family found themselves without food; they had not tasted
a morsel for twenty-four hours. There were murmuring and tears and,
finally, a low conversation among them, as if they held a conference upon
some subject which filled them with both grief and satisfaction. In this
alternation of feeling did they pass the time until the sharp gnawing of
hunger was relieved by sleep. A keen December wind blew with a bitter
blast on the following morning; the rain was borne along upon it with
violence, and the cold was chill and piercing. Owen, his wife, and their
six children, issued at day-break out of the barn in which, ever since
their removal from Tubber Derg, they had lived until then; their miserable
fragments of bed-clothes were tied in a bundle to keep them dry; their
pace was slow, need we say sorrowful; all were in tears. Owen and Kathleen
went first, with a child upon the back, and another in the hand, of each.
Their route lay by their former dwelling, the door of which was open, for
it had not been inhabited. On passing it they stood a moment; then with a
simultaneous impulse both approached—entered—and took one last
look of a spot to which their hearts clung with enduring attachment. They
then returned; and as they passed, Owen put forth his hand, picked a few
small pebbles out of the wall, and put them in his pocket.
"Farewell!" said he, "and may the blessing of God rest upon you! We now
lave you for ever! We're goin' at last to beg our bread through the world
wide, where none will know the happy days we passed widin your walls! We
must lave you; but glory be to the Almighty, we are goin' wid a clear
conscience; we took no revenge into our own hands, but left everything to
God above us. We are poor, but there is neither blood, nor murder, nor
dishonesty upon our heads. Don't cry, Kathleen—don't cry, childher;
there is still a good god above who can and may do something for us yet,
glory be to his holy name!"
He then passed on with his family, which, including himself, made in all,
eight paupers, being an additional burden upon the country, which might
easily have been avoided. His land was about two years waste, and when it
was ultimately taken, the house was a ruin, and the money allowed by the
landlord for building a new one, together with the loss of two years'
rent, would if humanely directed, have enabled Owen M'Carthy to remain a
When an Irish peasant is reduced to pauperism, he seldom commences the
melancholy task of soliciting alms in his native place. The trial is
always a severe one, and he is anxious to hide his shame and misery from
the eyes of those who know him. This is one reason why some system of poor
laws should be introduced into the country. Paupers of this description
become a burden upon strangers, whilst those who are capable of entering
with friendly sympathy into their misfortunes have no opportunity of
assisting them. Indeed this shame of seeking alms from those who have
known the mendicant in better days, is a proof that the absence of poor
laws takes away from the poorer classes one of the strongest incitements
to industry; for instance, if every Pauper in Ireland were confined to his
own parish, and compelled to beg from his acquaintances, the sense of
shame alone would, by stirring them up to greater industry, reduce the
number of mendicants one-half. There is a strong spirit of family pride in
Ireland, which would be sufficient to make many poor, of both sexes, exert
themselves to the uttermost rather than cast a stain upon their name, or
bring a blush to the face of their relations. But now it is not so: the
mendicant sets out to beg, and in most instances commences his new mode of
life in some distant part of the country, where his name and family are
Indeed, it is astonishing how any man can, for a moment, hesitate to form
his opinion upon the subject of poor laws. The English and Scotch gentry
know something about the middle and lower classes of their respective
countries, and of course they have a fixed system of provision for the
poor in each. The ignorance of the Irish gentry, upon almost every subject
connected with the real good of the people, is only in keeping with their
ignorance of the people themselves. It is to be feared, however, that
their disinclination to introduce poor laws arises less from actual
ignorance, than from an illiberal selfishness. The facts of the case are
these: In Ireland the whole support of the inconceivable multitude of
paupers, who swarm like locusts over the surface of the country, rests
upon the middle and lower classes, or rather upon the latter, for there is
scarcely such a thing in this unhappy country as a middle class. In not
one out of a thousand instances do the gentry contribute to the mendicant
poor. In the first place, a vast proportion of our landlords are
absentees, who squander upon their own pleasures or vices, in the
theatres, saloons, or gaming-houses of France, or in the softer
profligacies of Italy, that which ought to return in some shape to stand
in the place of duties so shamefully neglected. These persons contribute
nothing to the poor, except the various evils which their absence entails
On the other hand, the resident gentry never in any case assist a beggar,
even in the remote parts of the country, where there are no Mendicity
Institutions. Nor do the beggars ever think of applying to them. They know
that his honor's dogs would be slipped at them; or that the whip might be
laid, perhaps, to the shoulders of a broken-hearted father, with his brood
of helpless children wanting food; perhaps, upon the emaciated person of a
miserable widow, who begs for her orphans, only because the hands that
supported, and would have defended both her and them, are mouldered into
Upon the middle and lower classes, therefore, comes directly the heavy
burden of supporting the great mass of pauperism that presses upon
Ireland. It is certain that the Irish landlords know this, and that they
are reluctant to see any law enacted which might make the performance of
their duties to the poor compulsory. This, indeed, is natural in men who
have so inhumanly neglected them.
But what must the state of a country be where those who are on the way to
pauperism themselves are exclusively burdened with the support of the
vagrant poor? It is like putting additional weight on a man already
sinking under the burden he bears. The landlords suppose, that because the
maintenance of the idle who are able, and of the aged and infirm who are
not able to work, comes upon the renters of land, they themselves are
exempted from their support. This, if true, is as bitter a stigma upon
their humanity as upon their sense of justice: but it is not true. Though
the cost of supporting such an incredible number of the idle and helpless
does, in the first place, fall upon the tenant, yet, by diminishing his
means, and by often compelling him to purchase, towards the end of the
season, a portion of food equal to that which he has given away in
charity, it certainly becomes ultimately a clear deduction from the
landlord's rent. In either case it is a deduction, but in the latter it is
often doubly so; inasmuch as the poor tenants must frequently pay, at the
close of a season, double, perhaps treble, the price which provision
brought at the beginning of it.
Any person conversant with the Irish people must frequently have heard
such dialogues as the following, during the application of a beggar for
Mendicant.—"We're axin your charity for God's sake!"
Poor Tenant.—"Why thin for His sake you would get it, poor crathur,
if we had it; but it's not for you widin the four corners of the house. It
'ud be well for us if we had now all we gave away in charity durin' the
Whole year; we wouldn't have to be buyin' for ourselves at three prices.
Why don't you go up to the Big House? They're rich and can afford it."
Mendicant, with a shrug, which sets all his coats and bags in motion—"Och!
och! The Big House, inagh! Musha, do you want me an' the childhre here, to
be torn to pieces wid the dogs? or lashed wid a whip by one o' the
sarvints? No, no, avourneen!" (with a hopeless shake of the head.) "That
'ud be a blue look-up, like a clear evenin'."
Poor Tenant.—"Then, indeed, we haven't it to help you, now, poor
man. We're buyin' ourselves."
Mendicant.—"Thin, throth, that's lucky, so it is! I've as purty a
grain o' male here, as you'd wish to thicken wather wid, that I sthruv to
get together, in hopes to be able to buy a quarther o' tobaccy, along wid
a pair o' new bades an' scapular for myself. I'm suspicious that there's
about a stone ov it, altogether. You can have it anunder the market price,
for I'm frettin' at not havin' the scapular an me. Sure the Lord will sind
me an' the childhre a bit an' sup some way else—glory to his name!—beside
a lock of praties in the corner o' the bag here, that'll do us for this
day, any way."
The bargain is immediately struck, and the poor tenant is glad to
purchase, even from a beggar, his stone of meal, in consequence of getting
it a few pence under market price. Such scenes as this, which are of
frequent occurrence in the country parts of Ireland, need no comment.
This, certainly, is not a state of things which should be permitted to
exist. Every man ought to be compelled to support the poor of his native
parish according to his means. It is an indelible disgrace to the
legislature so long to have neglected the paupers of Ireland. Is it to bo
thought of with common patience that a person rolling in wealth shall feed
upon his turtle, his venison, and his costly luxuries of every
description, for which he will not scruple to pay the highest price—that
this heartless and selfish man, whether he reside at home or abroad, shall
thus unconscionably pamper himself with viands purchased by the toil of
the people, and yet not contribute to assist them, when poverty, sickness,
or age, throws them upon the scanty support of casual charity?
Shall this man be permitted to batten in luxury in a foreign land, or at
home; to whip our paupers from his carriage; or hunt them, like beasts of
prey, from his grounds, whilst the lower classes—the gradually
decaying poor—are compelled to groan under the burden of their
support, in addition to their other burdens? Surely it is not a question
which admits of argument. This subject has been darkened and made
difficult by fine-spun and unintelligible theories, when the only
knowledge necessary to understand it may be gained by spending a few weeks
in some poor village in the interior of the country. As for Parliamentary
Committees upon this or any other subject, they are, with reverence be it
spoken, thoroughly contemptible. They will summon and examine witnesses
who, for the most part, know little about the habits or distresses of the
poor; public money will be wasted in defraying their expenses and in
printing reports; resolutions will be passed; something will be said about
it in the House of Commons; and, in a few weeks, after resolving and
re-resolving, it is as little thought of, as if it had never been the
subject of investigation. In the meantime the evil proceeds—becomes
more inveterate—eats into the already declining prosperity of the
country—whilst those who suffer under it have the consolation of
knowing that a Parliamentary Committee sat longer upon it than so many
geese upon their eggs, but hatched nothing. Two circumstances, connected
with pauperism in Ireland, are worthy of notice. The first is this—the
Roman Catholics, who certainly constitute the bulk of the population, feel
themselves called upon, from the peculiar tenets of their religion, to
exercise indiscriminate charity largely to the begging poor. They act
under the impression that eleemosynary good works possess the power of
cancelling sin to an extent almost incredible. Many of their religious
legends are founded upon this view of the case; and the reader will find
an appropriate one in the Priest's sermon, as given in our tale of the
"Poor Scholar." That legend is one which the author has many a time heard
from the lips of the people, by whom it was implicitly believed. A man who
may have committed a murder overnight, will the next day endeavor to wipe
away his guilt by alms given for the purpose of getting the benefit of
"the poor man's prayer." The principle of assisting our distressed
fellow-creatures, when rationally exercised, is one of the best in
society; but here it becomes entangled with error, superstition, and even
with crime—acts as a bounty upon imposture, and in some degree
predisposes to guilt, from an erroneous belief that sin may be cancelled
by alms and the prayers of mendicant impostors. The second point, in
connection with pauperism, is the immoral influence that I proceeds from
the relation in which the begging poor in Ireland stand towards the class
by whom they are supported. These, as we have already said, are the
poorest, least educated, and consequently the most ignorant description of
the people. They are also the most numerous. There have been for
centuries, probably since the Reformation itself, certain opinions
floating among the lower classes in Ireland, all tending to prepare them
for some great change in their favor, arising from the discomfiture of
heresy, the overthrow of their enemies, and the exaltation of themselves
and their religion.
Scarcely had the public mind subsided after the Rebellion of Ninety-eight,
when the success of Buonaparte directed the eyes and the hopes of the
Irish people towards him, as the person designed to be their deliverer.
Many a fine fiction has the author of this work heard about that great
man's escapes, concerning the bullets that conveniently turned aside from
his person, and the sabres that civilly declined to cut him down. Many
prophecies too were related, in which the glory of this country under his
reign was touched off in the happiest colors. Pastorini also gave such
notions an impulse. Eighteen twenty-five was to be the year of their
deliverance: George the Fourth was never to fill the British throne; and
the mill of Lowth was to be turned three times with human blood. "The
miller with the two thumbs was then living," said the mendicants, for they
were the principal propagators of these opinions, and the great expounders
of their own prophecies; so that of course there could be no further doubt
upon the subject. Several of them had seen him, a red-haired man with
broad shoulders, stout legs, exactly such as a miller ought to have, and
two thumbs on his right hand; all precisely as the prophecy had stated.
Then there was Beal-derg, and several others of the fierce old
Milesian chiefs, who along with their armies lay in an enchanted sleep,
all ready to awake and take a part in the delivery of the country. "Sure
such a man," and they would name one in the time of the mendicant's
grandfather, "was once going to a fair to sell a horse—well and
good; the time was the dawn of morning, a little before daylight: he met a
man who undertook to purchase his horse; they agreed upon the price, and
the seller of him followed the buyer into a Bath, where he found a range
of horses, each with an armed soldier asleep by his side, ready to spring
upon him if awoke. The purchaser cautioned the owner of the horse as they
were about to enter the subterraneous dwelling, against touching either
horse or man; but the countryman happening to stumble, inadvertently laid
his hand, upon a sleeping soldier, who immediately leaped up, drew his
sword, and asked, 'Wuil anam inh?' 'Is the time in it? Is the time
arrived?' To which the horse-dealer of the Bath replied, 'Ha niel. Gho
dhee collhow areesht.' 'No: go to sleep again.' Upon this the soldier
immediately sank down in his former position, and unbroken sleep reigned
throughout the cave." The influence on the warm imaginations of an
ignorant people, of such fictions concocted by vagrant mendicants, is very
pernicious. They fill their minds with the most palpable absurdities, and,
what is worse, with opinions, which, besides being injurious to those who
receive them, in every instance insure for those who propagate them a
cordial and kind reception.
These mendicants consequently pander, for their own selfish ends, to the
prejudices of the ignorant, which they nourish and draw out in a manner
that has in no slight degree been subversive of the peace of the country.
Scarcely any political circumstance occurs which they do not immediately
seize upon and twist to their own purposes, or, in other words, to the
opinions of those from whom they derive their support. When our present
police first appeared in their uniforms and black belts, another prophecy,
forsooth, was fulfilled. Immediately before the downfall of heresy, a body
of "Black Militia" was to appear; the police, then, are the black militia,
and the people consider themselves another step nearer the consummation of
their vague speculations.
In the year Ninety-eight, the Irish mendicants were active agents, clever
spies, and expert messengers on the part of the people; and to this day
they carry falsehood, and the materials of outrage in its worst shape,
into the bosom of peaceable families, who would, otherwise, never become
connected with a system which is calculated to bring ruin and destruction
upon those who permit themselves to join it.
This evil, and it is no trifling one, would, by the introduction of
poor-laws, be utterly abolished, the people would not only be more easily
improved, but education, when received, would not be corrupted by the
infusion into it of such ingredients as the above. In many other points of
view, the confirmed and hackneyed mendicants of Ireland are a great evil
to the morals of the people. We could easily detail them, but such not
being our object at present, we will now dismiss the subject of poor-laws,
and resume our narrative.
Far—far different from this description of impostors, were Owen
M'Carthy and his family. Their misfortunes were not the consequences of
negligence or misconduct on their own part. They struggled long but
unavailingly against high rents and low markets; against neglect on the
part of the landlord and his agent; against sickness, famine, and death.
They had no alternative but to beg or starve. Owen was willing to work,
but he could not procure employment: and provided he could, the miserable
sum of sixpence a day, when food was scarce and dear, would not support
him, his wife, and six little ones. He became a pauper, therefore, only to
Heavy and black was his heart, to use the strong expression of the people,
on the bitter morning when he set out to encounter the dismal task of
seeking alms, in order to keep life in himself and his family. The plan
was devised on the preceding night, but to no mortal, except his wife, was
it communicated. The honest pride of a man whose mind was above committing
a mean action, would not permit him to reveal what he considered the first
stain that ever was known to rest upon the name of M'Carthy; he therefore
sallied out under the beating of the storm, and proceeded, without caring
much whither he went, until he got considerably beyond the bounds of his
In the meantime hunger pressed deeply upon him and them. The day had no
appearance of clearing up; the heavy rain and sleet beat into their thin,
worn garments, and the clamor of his children for food began to grow more
and more importunate. They came to the shelter of a hedge which inclosed
on one side a remote and broken road, along which, in order to avoid the
risk of being recognized, they had preferred travelling. Owen stood here
for a few minutes to consult with his wife, as to where and when they
should "make a beginning;" but on looking round, he found her in tears.
"Kathleen, asthore," said he, "I can't bid you not to cry; bear up,
acushla machree; bear up: sure, as I said when we came out this mornin',
there's a good God above us, that can still turn over the good lafe for
us, if we put our hopes in him."
"Owen," said his sinking wife, "it's not altogether bekase we're brought
to this that I'm cryin'; no, indeed."
"Thin what ails you, Kathleen darlin'?"
The wife hesitated, and evaded the question for some time; but at length,
upon his pressing her for an answer, with a fresh gush of sorrow, she
"Owen, since you must know—och, may God pity us!—since you
must know, it's wid hunger—wid hunger! I kept, unknownst, a little
bit of bread to give the childhre this mornin', and that was part of it I
gave you yesterday early—I'm near two days fastin'."
"Kathleen! Kathleen! Och! sure I know your worth, avillish. You were too
good a wife, an' too good a mother, a'most! God forgive me, Kathleen! I
fretted about beginnin', dear; but as my Heavenly Father's above me, I'm
now happier to beg wid you by my side, nor if I war in the best house of
the province widout you! Hould up, avour-neen, for a while. Come on,
childhre, darlins, an' the first house we meet we'll ax their char—,
their assistance. Come on, darlins, and all of yees. Why my heart's asier,
so it is. Sure we have your mother, childhre, safe wid us, an' what
signifies anything so long as she's left to us?"
He then raised his wife tenderly, for she had been compelled to sit from
weakness, and they bent their steps to a decent farmhouse that stood a few
perches off the road, about a quarter of a mile before them.
As they approached the door, the husband hesitated a moment; his face got
paler than usual, and his lip quivered, as he said—"Kathleen—"
"I know what you're goin' to say, Owen. No, acushla, you won't; I'll ax it
"Do," said Owen, with difficulty; "I can't do it; but I'll overcome my
pride afore long, I hope. It's thryin' to me, Kathleen, an' you know it is—for
you know how little I ever expected to be brought to this."
"Husht, avillish! We'll thry, then, in the name o' God."
As she spoke, the children, herself, and her husband entered, to beg, for
the first time in their lives, a morsel of food. Yes! timidly—with a
blush, of shame, red even to crimson, upon the pallid features of Kathleen—with
grief acute and piercing—they entered the house together.
For some minutes they stood and spoke not. The unhappy woman, unaccustomed
to the language of supplication, scarcely knew in what terms to crave
assistance. Owen himself stood back, uncovered, his fine, but much changed
features overcast with an expression of deep affliction. Kathleen cast a
single glance, at him, as if for encouragement. Their eyes met; she saw
the upright man—the last remnant of the M'Carthy—himself once
the friend of the poor, of the unhappy, of the afflicted—standing
crushed and broken down by misfortunes which he had not deserved, waiting
with patience for a morsel of charity. Owen, too, had his remembrances. He
recollected the days when he sought and gained the pure and fond
affections of his Kathleen: when beauty, and youth, and innocence
encircled her with their light and their grace, as she spoke or moved; he
saw her a happy wife and mother in her own home, kind and benevolent to
all who required her good word or her good office, and remembered the
sweetness of her light-hearted song; but now she was homeless. He
remembered, too, how she used to plead with himself for the afflicted. It
was but a moment; yet when their eyes met, that moment was crowded by
recollections that flashed across their minds with a keen, sense of a lot
so bitter and wretched as theirs. Kathleen could not speak, although she
tried; her sobs denied her utterance; and Owen involuntarily sat upon a
chair, and covered his face with his hand.
To an observing eye it is never difficult to detect the cant of imposture,
or to perceive distress when it is real. The good woman of the house, as
is usual in Ireland, was in the act of approaching them, unsolicited, with
a double handful of meal—that is what the Scotch and northern Irish
call a goivpen, or as much as both hands locked together can contain—when,
noticing their distress, she paused a moment, eyed them more closely, and
"What's this? Why there's something wrong wid you, good people! But first
an' foremost take this, in the name an' honor of God."
"May the blessin' of the same Man* rest upon yees!" replied
Kathleen. "This is a sorrowful thrial to us; for it's our first day to be
upon the world; an' this is the first help of the kind we ever axed for,
or ever got; an' indeed now I find we haven't even a place to carry it in.
I've no—b—b—cloth, or anything to hould it."
* God is sometimes thus termed in Ireland. By "Man"
here is meant person or being. He is also called the
"Man above;" although this must have been intended for,
and often is applied to, Christ only.
"Your first, is it?" said the good woman. "Your first! May the marciful
queen o' heaven look down upon yees, but it's a bitther day yees war
driven out in! Sit down, there, you poor crathur. God pity you, I pray
this day, for you have a heart-broken look! Sit down awhile, near the
fire, you an' the childre! Come over, darlins, an' warm yourselves. Och,
oh! but it's a thousand pities to see sich fine childre—handsome an'
good lookin' even as they are, brought to this! Come over, good man; get
near the fire, for you're wet an' could all of ye. Brian, ludher them two
lazy thieves o' dogs out o' that. Eiree suas, a wadhee bradagh, agus go
mah a shin!—be off wid yez, ye lazy divils, that's not worth
your feedin'! Come over, honest man." Owen and his family were placed near
the fire; the poor man's heart was full, and he sighed heavily.
"May He that is plased to thry us," he exclaimed, "reward you for this! We
are," he continued, "a poor an' a sufferin' family; but it's the will of
God that we should be so; an' sure we can't complain widout committin'
sin. All we ax now, is, that it may be plasin' to him that brought us low,
to enable us to bear up undher our thrials. We would take it to our choice
to beg an' be honest, sooner, nor to be wealthy, an' wicked! We have our
failings, an' our sins, God help us; but still there's nothin' dark or
heavy on our consciences. Glory be to the name o' God for it!"
"Throth, I believe you," replied the farmer's wife; "there's thruth an'
honesty in your face; one may easily see the remains of dacency about you
all. Musha, throw your little things aside, an' stay where ye are today:
you can't bring out the childre under the teem of rain an' sleet that's in
it. Wurrah dheelish, but it's the bitther day all out! Faix, Paddy will
get a dhrookin, so he will, at that weary fair wid the stirks, poor
bouchal—a son of ours that's gone to Bally-boulteen to sell some
cattle, an' he'll not be worth three hapuns afore he comes back. I hope
he'll have sinse to go into some house, when he's done, an' dhry himself
well, anyhow, besides takin' somethin' to keep out the could. Put by your
things, an' don't, think of goin' out sich a day."
"We thank you," replied Owen. "Indeed we're glad to stay undher your roof;
for poor things, they're badly able to thravel sich a day—these
"Musha, ye ate no breakfast, maybe?" Owen and his family were silent. The
children looked wistfully at their parents, anxious that they should
confirm what the good woman surmised; the father looked again at his
famished brood and his sinking wife, and nature overcame him.
"Food did not crass our lips this day," replied Owen; "an' I may say
hardly anything yestherday."
"Oh, blessed mother! Here, Katty Murray, drop scrubbin' that dresser, an'
put down, the midlin' pot for stirabout. Be livin' manim an diouol,
woman alive, handle yourself; you might a had it boilin' by this. God
presarve us!—to be two days widout atin! Be the crass, Katty, if
you're not alive, I'll give you a douse o' the churnstaff that'll bring
the fire to your eyes! Do you hear me?"
"I do hear you, an' did often feel you, too, for fraid hearin' wouldn't
do. You think there's no places in the world but your own, I b'lieve.
Faix, indeed! it's well come up wid us, to be randied about wid no less a
switch than a churnstaff!"
"Is it givin' back talk, you are? Bad end to me, if you look crucked but
I'll lave you a mark to remimber me by. What woman 'ud put up wid you but
myself, you shkamin flipe? It wasn't to give me your bad tongue I hired
you, but to do your business; and be the crass above us, if you turn your
tongue on me agin, I'll give you the weight o' the churnstaff. Is it
bekase they're poor people that it plased God to bring to this, that you
turn up your nose at doin' anything to sarve them? There's not wather
enough there, I say—put in more what signifies all the stirabout
that 'ud make? Put plinty in: it's betther always to have too much than
too little. Faix, I tell you, you'll want a male's meat an' a night's
lodgin' afore you die, if you don't mend your manners."
"Och, musha, the poor girl is doin' her best," observed Kathleen; "an' I'm
sure she wouldn't be guilty of usin' pride to the likes of us, or to any
one that the Lord has laid his hand upon."
"She had betther not, while I'm to the fore," said her mistress. "What is
she herself? Sure if it was a sin to be poor, God help the world. No; it's
neither a sin nor a shame."
"Thanks be to God, no," said Owen: "it's neither the one nor the other. So
long as we keep a fair name, an' a clear conscience, we can't ever say
that our case is hard."
After some further conversation, a comfortable breakfast was prepared for
them, of which they partook with an appetite sharpened by their long
abstinence from food. Their stay here was particularly fortunate, for as
they were certain of a cordial welcome, and an abundance of that which
they much wanted—wholesome food—the pressure of immediate
distress was removed. They had time to think more accurately upon the
little preparations for misery which were necessary, and, as the day's
leisure was at their disposal, Kathleen's needle and scissors were
industriously plied in mending the tattered clothes of her husband and her
children, in order to meet the inclemency of the weather.
On the following morning, after another abundant breakfast, and
substantial marks of kindness from their entertainers, they prepared to
resume their new and melancholy mode of life. As they were about to
depart, the farmer's wife addressed them in the following terms—the
farmer himself, by the way, being but the shadow of his worthy partner in
Wife—"Now, good people, you're takin' the world on your heads—"
Farmer—"Ay, good people, you're takin' the world on your heads—"
Wife—"Hould your tongue, Brian, an' suck your dhudeen. It's me
that's spakin' to them, so none of your palaver, if you plase, till I'm
done, an' then you may prache till Tib's Eve, an' that's neither before
Christmas nor afther it."
Farmer—"Sure I'm sayin' nothin', Elveen, barrin' houldin' my tongue,
a shuchar" (* my sugar).
Wife—"Your takin' the world on yez, an' God knows 'tis a heavy load
to carry, poor crathurs."
Farmer—"A heavy load, poor crathurs! God he knows it's that."
Wife—"Brian! Gluntho ma?—did you hear me? You'll be
puttin' in your gab, an' me spakin'? How-an-iver, as I was sayin', our
house was the first ye came to, an' they say there's a great blessin' to
thim that gives, the first charity to a poor man or woman settin' out to
look for their bit."
Farmer—"Throgs, ay! Whin they set out; to look for their bit."
Wife—"By the crass, Brian, you'd vex a saint. What have you to say
in it, you pittiogue?* Hould your whisht now, an' suck your
dhudeen, I say; sure I allow you a quarther o' tobaccy a week, an' what
right have you to be puttin' in your gosther when other people's spakin'?"
* Untranslatable—but means a womanly man a poor,
Wife—"So, you see, the long an' the short of it is that whenever you
happen to be in this side of the counthry, always come to us. You know the
ould sayin'—when the poor man comes he brings a blessin', an' when
he goes he carries away a curse. You have as much, meal as will last yez a
day or two; an' God he sees you're heartily welcome to all ye got?"
Farmer—"God he sees you're heartily welcome—"
Wife—"Chorp an diouol, Brian, hould your tongue, Or I'll turn
you out o' the kitchen. One can't hear their own ears for you, you poor
squakin' dhrone. By the crass, I'll—eh? Will you whisht, now?"
Farmer—"Go an. Amn't I dhrawin' my pipe?"
Wife—"Well dhraw it; but don't dhraw me down upon you, barrin—.
Do you hear me? an' the sthrange people to the fore, too! Well, the Lord
be wid yez, an' bless yez! But afore yez go, jist lave your blessin' wid
us; for it's a good thing to have the blessin' of the poor?"
"The Lord bless you, an yours!" said Owen, fervently. "May you and them
never—oh, may you never—never suffer what we've suffered; nor
know what it is to want a male's mate, or a night's lodgin'!"
"Amin!" exclaimed Kathleen; "may the world flow upon you! for your good,
kind heart desarves it."
Farmer—"An' whisper; I wish you'd offer up a prayer for the rulin'
o' the tongue. The Lord might hear you, but there's no great hopes that
ever he'll hear me; though I've prayed for it almost ever since I was
married, night an' day, winther and summer; but no use, she's as bad as
This was said in a kind of friendly insinuating undertone to Owen; who, on
hearing it, simply nodded his head, but made no other reply.
They then recommenced their journey, after having once more blessed, and
been invited by their charitable entertainers, who made them promise never
to pass their house without stopping a night with them.
It is not our intention to trace Owen M'Carthy and his wife through all
the variety which a wandering pauper's life affords. He never could
reconcile himself to the habits of a mendicant. His honest pride and
integrity of heart raised him above it: neither did he sink into the whine
and cant of imposture, nor the slang of knavery. No; there was a touch of
manly sorrow about him, which neither time, nor familiarity with his
degraded mode of life, could take away from him. His usual observation to
his wife, and he never made it without a pang of intense bitterness, was—"Kathleen,
dar-lin', it's thrue we have enough to ate an' to dhrink; but we have no
home—no home!" to a man like him it was a thought of surpassing
"Ah! Kathleen," he would observe, "if we had but the poorest shed that
could be built, provided it was our own, wouldn't we be happy? The bread
we ate, avourneen, doesn't do us good. We don't work for it; it's the
bread of shame and idleness: and yet it's Owen M'Carthy that ates it! But,
avourneen, that's past; an' we'll never see our own home, or our own
hearth agin. That's what's cuttin' into my heart, Kathleen. Never!—never!"
Many a trial, too, of another kind, was his patience called upon to
sustain; particularly from the wealthy and the more elevated in life, when
his inexperiences as a mendicant led him to solicit their assistance.
"Begone, sirrah, off my grounds!" one would say. "Why don't you work, you
sturdy impostor," another would exclaim, "rather than stroll about so
lazily, training your brats to the gallows?"
"You should be taken up, fellow, as a vagrant," a third would observe;
"and if I ever catch you coming up my avenue again, depend upon it, I will
slip my dogs at you and your idle spawn."
Owen, on these occasions, turned away in silence; he did not curse them;
but the pangs of his honest heart went before Him who will, sooner or
later, visit upon the heads of such men their cruel spurning and neglect
of the poor.
"Kathleen," he observed to his wife, one day, about a, year or more after
they had begun to beg; "Kathleen, I have been turnin' it in my mind, that
some of these childhre might sthrive to earn their bit an' sup, an' their
little coverin' of clo'es, poor things. We might put them to herd cows in
the summer, an' the girshas to somethin' else in the farmers' house. What
do you think, asthore?"
"For God's sake do, Owen; sure my heart's crushed to see them—my own
childhre, that I could lay down my life for—beggin' from door to
door. Och, do something for them that way, Owen, an' you'll relieve the
heart that loves them. It's a sore sight to a mother's eye, Owen, to see
her childhre beggin' their morsel."
"It is darlin'—it is; we'll hire out the three eldest—Brian,
an' Owen, an' Pether, to herd cows; an' we may get Peggy into some
farmer's house to do loose jobs an' run of messages. Then we'd have only
little Kathleen an' poor Ned along wid us. I'll try any way, an' if I can
get them places, who knows what may happen? I have a plan in my head that
I'll tell you, thin."
"Arrah, what is it, Owen, jewel. Sure if I know it, maybe when I'm
sorrowful, that thinkin' of it, an' lookin' forrid to it will make me
happier. An' I'm sure, acushla, you would like that."
"But maybe, Kathleen, if it wouldn't come to pass, that the disappointment
'ud be heavy on you?"
"How could it, Owen? Sure we can't be worse nor we are, whatever happens?"
"Thrue enough, indeed, I forgot that; an' yet we might, Kathleen. Sure
we'd be worse, if we or the childhre had bad health."
"God forgive me thin, for what I said! We might be worse. Well, but what
is the plan, Owen?"
"Why, when we got the childhre places, I'll sthrive to take a little
house, an' work as a cottar. Then, Kathleen, we'd have a home of our own.
I'd work from light to light; I'd work before hours an' afther hours; ay,
nine days in the week, or we'd be comfortable in our own little home. We
might be poor, Kathleen, I know that, an' hard pressed too; but then, as I
said, we'd have our own home, an' our own hearth; our morsel, if it 'ud be
homely, would be sweet, for it would be the fruits of our own labor."
"Now, Owen, do you think you could manage to get that?"
"Wait, acushla, till we get the childhre settled. Then I'll thry the other
plan, for it's good to thry anything that could take us out of this
This humble speculation was a source of great comfort to them. Many a time
have they forgotten their sorrows in contemplating the simple picture of
their happy little cottage. Kathleen, in particular, drew with all the
vivid coloring of a tender mother, and an affectionate wife, the various
sources of comfort and contentment to be found even in a cabin, whose
inmates are blessed with a love of independence, industry, and mutual
Owen, in pursuance of his intention, did not neglect, when the proper
season arrived, to place out his eldest children among the farmers. The
reader need not be told that there was that about him which gained
respect. He had, therefore, little trouble in obtaining his wishes on this
point, and to his great satisfaction, he saw three of them hired out to
earn their own support.
It was now a matter of some difficulty for him to take a cabin and get
employment. They had not a single article of furniture, and neither bed
nor bedding, with the exception of blankets almost worn past use. He was
resolved, however, to give up, at all risks, the life of a mendicant. For
this purpose, he and the wife agreed to adopt a plan quite usual in
Ireland, under circumstances somewhat different from his: this was, that
Kathleen should continue to beg for their support, until the first
half-year of their children's service should expire; and in the meantime,
that he, if possible, should secure employment for himself. By this means,
his earnings and that of his children might remain untouched, so that in
half a year he calculated upon being able to furnish a cabin, and proceed,
as a cotter, to work for, and support his young children and his wife, who
determined, on her part, not to be idle any more than her husband. As the
plan was a likely one, and as Owen was bent on earning his bread, rather
than be a burthen to others, it is unnecessary to say that it succeeded.
In less than a year he found himself once more in a home, and the force of
what he felt on sitting, for the first time since his pauperism, at his
own hearth, may easily be conceived by the reader. For some years after
this, Owen got on slowly enough; his wages as a daily laborer being so
miserable, that it required him to exert every nerve to keep the house
over their head. What, however, will not carefulness and a virtuous
determination, joined to indefatigable industry, do?
After some time, backed as he was by his wife, and even by his youngest
children, he, found himself beginning to improve. In the mornings and
evenings he cultivated his garden and his rood of potato-ground. He also
collected with a wheelbarrow, which he borrowed, from an acquaintance,
compost from the neighboring road; scoured an old drain before his door;
dug rich earth, and tossed, it into the pool of rotten water beside the
house, and in fact adopted several other modes of collecting manure. By
this means he had, each spring, a large portion of rich stuff on which to
plant his potatoes. His landlord permitted him to spread this for planting
upon his land; and Owen, ere long, instead of a rood, was able to plant
half an acre, and ultimately, an acre of potatoes. The produce of this,
being more than sufficient for the consumption of his family, he sold the
surplus, and with the money gained by the sale was enabled to sow half an
acre of oats, of which, when made into meal, he disposed of the greater
Industry is capital; for even when unaided by capital it creates it;
whereas, idleness with capital produces only poverty and ruin. Owen, after
selling his meal and as much potatoes as he could spare, found himself
able to purchase a cow. Here was the means of making more manure; he had
his cow, and he had also straw enough for her provender during the winter.
The cow by affording milk to his family, enabled them to live more
cheaply; her butter they sold, and this, in addition to his surplus meal
and potatoes every year, soon made him feel that he had a few guineas to
spare. He now bethought him of another mode of helping himself forward in
the world: after buying the best "slip" of a pig he could find, a sty was
built for her, and ere long he saw a fine litter of young pigs within a
snug shed. These he reared until they were about two months old, when he
sold them, and found that he had considerably gained by the transaction.
This, department, however, was under the management of Kathleen, whose
life was one of incessant activity and employment. Owen's children, during
the period of his struggles and improvements, were, by his advice,
multiplying their little capital as fast as himself. The two boys, who had
now shot up into the stature of young men, were at work as laboring
servants in the neighborhood. The daughters were also engaged as servants
with the adjoining farmers. The boys bought each a pair of two-year old
heifers, and the daughter one. These they sent to graze up in the
mountains at a trifling charge, for the first year or two: when they
became springers, they put them to rich infield grass for a few months,
until they got a marketable appearance, after which their father brought
them to the neighboring fairs, where they usually sold to great advantage,
in consequence of the small outlay required in rearing them.
In fact, the principle of industry ran through the family. There was none
of them idle; none of them a burthen or a check upon the profits made by
the laborer. On the contrary, "they laid their shoulders together," as the
phrase is, and proved to the world, that when the proper disposition is
followed up by suitable energy and perseverance, it must generally reward
him who possesses it.
It is certainly true that Owen's situation in life now was essentially
different from that which it had been during the latter years of his
struggles an a farmer. It was much more favorable, and far better
calculated to develop successful exertion. If there be a class of men
deserving public sympathy, it is that of the small farmers of Ireland.
Their circumstances are fraught with all that is calculated to depress and
ruin them; rents far above their ability, increasing poverty, and bad
markets. The land which, during the last war, might have enabled the
renter to pay three pounds per acre, and yet still maintain himself with
tolerable comfort, could not now pay more than one pound, or, at the most,
one pound ten; and yet, such is the infatuation of landlords, that, in
most instances, the terms of leases taken out then are rigorously exacted.
Neither can the remission of yearly arrears be said to strike at the root
of the evils under which they suffer. The fact of the disproportionate
rent hanging over them is a disheartening circumstance, that paralyzes
their exertion, and sinks their spirits. If a landlord remit the rent for
one term, he deals more harshly with the tenant at the next; whatever
surplus, if any, his former indulgence leaves in the tenant's hands,
instead of being expended upon his property as capital, and being
permitted to lay the foundation of hope and prosperity, is drawn from him,
at next term, and the poor, struggling tenant is thrown back into as much
distress, embarrassment, and despondency as ever. There are, I believe,
few tenants in Ireland of the class I allude to, who are not from one gale
to three in arrear. Now, how can it be expected that such men will labor
with spirit and earnestness to raise crops which they may never reap?
crops which the landlord may seize upon to secure as much of his rent as
I have known a case in which the arrears were not only remitted, but the
rent lowered to a reasonable standard, such as, considering the markets,
could be paid. And what was the consequence? The tenant who was looked
upon as a negligent man, from whom scarcely any rent could be got, took
courage, worked his farm with a spirit and success which he had not
evinced before; and ere long was in a capacity to pay his gales to the
very day; so that the judicious and humane landlord was finally a gainer
by his own excellent economy. This was an experiment, and it succeeded
Owen M'Carthy did not work with more zeal and ability as an humble cotter
than he did when a farmer; but the tide was against him as a landholder,
and instead of having advanced, he actually lost ground until he became a
pauper. No doubt the peculiarly unfavorable run of two hard seasons,
darkened by sickness and famine, were formidable obstacles to him; but he
must eventually have failed, even had they not occurred. They accelerated
his downfall, but did not cause it.
The Irish people, though poor, are exceedingly anxious to be independent.
Their highest ambition is to hold a farm. So strong is this principle in
them, that they will, without a single penny of capital, or any visible
means to rely on, without consideration or forethought, come forward and
offer a rent which, if they reflected only for a moment, they must feel to
be unreasonably high. This, indeed, is a great evil in Ireland. But what,
in the meantime, must we think of those imprudent landlords, and their
more imprudent agents, who let their land to such persons, without proper
inquiry into their means, knowledge of agriculture, and general character
as moral and industrious men? A farm of land is to be let; it is
advertised through the parish; application is to be made before such a
day, to so and so. The day arrives, the agent or the land-steward looks
over the proposals, and after singling out the highest, bidder, declares
him tenant, as a matter of course. Now, perhaps, this said tenant does not
possess a shilling in the world, nor a shilling's worth. Most likely he is
a new-married man, with nothing but his wife's bed and bedding, his
wedding-suit, and his blackthorn cudgel, which we may suppose him to keep
in reserve for the bailiff. However, he commences his farm; and then
follow the shiftings, the scramblings, and the fruitless struggles to
succeed, where success is impossible. His farm is not half tilled; his
crops are miserable; the gale-day has already passed; yet, he can pay
nothing until he takes it out of the land. Perhaps he runs away—makes
a moonlight flitting—and, by the aid of his friends, succeeds in
bringing the crop with him. The landlord, or agent, declares he is a
knave; forgetting that the man had no other alternative, and that they
were the greater knaves and fools too, for encouraging him to undertake a
task that was beyond his strength.
In calamity we are anxious to derive support from the sympathy of our
friends; in our success, we are eager to communicate to them the power of
participating in our happiness. When Owen once more found himself
independent and safe, he longed to realize two plans on which he had for
some time before been seriously thinking. The first was to visit his
former neighbors, that they might at length know that Owen McCarthy's
station in the world was such as became his character. The second was, if
possible, to take a farm in his native parish, that he might close his
days among the companions of his youth, and the friends of his maturer
years. He had, also, another motive; there lay the burying-place of the
M'Carthys, in which slept the mouldering dust of his own "golden-haired"
Alley. With them—in his daughter's grave—he intended to sleep
his long sleep. Affection for the dead is the memory of the heart. In no
other graveyard could he reconcile it to himself to be buried; to it had
all his forefathers been gathered; and though calamity had separated him
from the scenes where they had passed through existence, yet he was
resolved that death should not deprive him of its last melancholy
consolation;—that of reposing with all that remained of the
"departed," who had loved him, and whom he had loved. He believed, that to
neglect this, would be to abandon a sacred duty, and felt sorrow at the
thought of being like an absent guest from the assembly of his own dead;
for there is a principle of undying hope in the heart, that carries, with
bold and beautiful imagery, the realities of life into the silent recesses
of death itself.
Having formed the resolution of visiting his old friends at Tubber Derg,
he communicated it to Kathleen and his family; Ids wife received the
intelligence with undisguised delight.
"Owen," she replied, "indeed I'm glad you mintioned it. Many a time the
thoughts of our place, an' the people about it, comes over me. I know,
Owen, it'll go to your heart to see it; but still, avourneen, you'd like,
too, to see the ould faces an' the warm hearts of them that pitied us, an'
helped us, as well as they could, whin we war broken down."
"I would, Kathleen; but I'm not going merely to see thim an' the place. I
intind, if I can, to take a bit of land somewhere near Tubber Derg. I'm
unasy in my mind, for 'fraid I'd not sleep in the grave-yard where all
belongin' to me lie."
A chord of the mother's heart was touched; and in a moment the memory of
their beloved child brought the tears to her eyes.
"Owen, avourneen, I have one requist to ax of you, an' I'm sure you won't
refuse it to me; if I die afore you, let me be buried wid Alley. Who has a
right to sleep so near her as her own mother?"
"The child's in my heart still," said Owen, suppressing his emotion;
"thinkin' of the unfortunate mornin' I wint to Dublin, brings her back to
me. I see her standin', wid her fair pale face—pale—oh, my
God!—wid hunger an' sickness—her little thin clo'es, an' her
goolden hair, tossed about by the dark blast—the tears in her eyes,
an' the smile, that she once had, on her face—houldin' up her mouth,
an' sayin' 'Kiss me agin, father;' as if she knew, somehow, that I'd never
see her, nor her me, any more. An' whin I looked back, as I was turnin'
the corner, there she stood, strainin' her eyes after her father, that she
was then takin' the last sight of until the judgment-day."
His voice here became broken, and he sat in silence for a few minutes.
"It's sthrange," he added, with more firmness, "how she's so often in my
"But, Owen, dear," replied Kathleen, "sure it was the will of God that she
should lave us. She's now a bright angel in heaven, an' I dunna if it's
right—indeed, I doubt it's sinful for us to think so much about her.
Who knows but her innocent spirit is makin' inthercession for us all,
before the blessed Mother o' God! Who knows but it was her that got us the
good fortune that flowed in upon us, an' that made our strugglin' an' our
laborin' turn out so lucky."
The idea of being lucky or unlucky is, in Ireland, an enemy to industry.
It is certainly better that the people should believe success in life to
be, as it is, the result of virtuous exertion, than of contingent
circumstances, over which they themselves have no control. Still there was
something beautiful in the superstition of Kathleen's affections;
something that touched the heart and its! dearest associations.
"It's very true, Kathleen," replied her husband; "but God is ever ready to
help them that keeps an honest heart, an' do everything in their power to
live creditably. They may fail for a time, or he may thry them for awhile,
but sooner or later good, intintions and honest labor will be rewarded.
Look at ourselves—blessed be his name!"
"But whin do you mane to go to Tubber Derg, Owen!"
"In the beginnin' of the next week. An', Kathleen, ahagur, if you remimber
the bitther mornin' we came upon the world—but we'll not be spakin'
of that now. I don't like to think of it. Some other time, maybe, when
we're settled among our ould friends, I'll mintion it."
"Well, the Lord bliss your endayvors, anyhow! Och, Owen, do thry an' get
us a snug farm somewhere near them. But you didn't answer me about Alley,
"Why, you must have your wish, Kathleen, although I intended to keep that
place for myself. Still we can sleep one on aich side of her; an' that may
be aisily done, for our buryin'-ground is large: so set your mind at rest
on that head. I hope God won't call us till we see our childhre settled
dacently in the world. But sure, at all evints, let his blessed will be
"Amin! amin! It's not right of any one to keep their hearts fixed too much
upon the world; nor even, they say, upon one's own childhre."
"People may love their childhre as much as they plase, Kathleen, if they
don't let their grah for them spoil the crathurs, by givin' them
their own will, till they become headstrong an' overbearin'. Now, let my
linen be as white as a bone before Monday, plase goodness; I hope, by that
time, that Jack Dogherty will have my new clo'es made; for I intind to go
as dacent as ever they seen me in my best days."
"An' so you will, too, avillish. Throth, Owen, it's you that'll be the
proud man, steppin' in to them in all your grandeur! Ha, ha, ha! The
spirit o' the M'Carthys is in you still, Owen."
"Ha, ha, ha! It is, darlin'; it is, indeed; an' I'd be sarry it wasn't. I
long to see poor Widow Murray. I dunna is her son, Jemmy, married. Who
knows, afther all we suffered, but I might be able to help her yet?—that
is, if she stands in need of it. But, I suppose, her childhre's grown up
now, an' able to assist her. Now, Kathleen, mind Monday next; an' have
everything ready. I'll stay away a week or so, at the most, an' afther
that I'll have news for you about all o' them."
When Monday morning arrived, Owen found himself ready to set out for
Tubber Derg. The tailor had not disappointed him; and Kathleen, to do her
justice, took care that the proofs of her good housewifery should be
apparent in the whiteness of his linen. After breakfast, he dressed
himself in all his finery; and it would be difficult to say whether the
harmless vanity that peeped out occasionally from his simplicity of
character, or the open and undisguised triumph of his faithful wife, whose
eye rested on him with pride and affection, was most calculated to produce
"Now, Kathleen," said he, when preparing for his immediate departure,
"I'm, thinkin' of what they'll say, when they see, me so smooth an'
warm-lookin'. I'll engage they'll be axin' one another, 'Musha, how, did
Owen M'Carthy get an, at all, to be so well to do in the world, as he
appears to be, afther failin' on his ould farm?'"
"Well, but Owen, you know how to manage them."
"Throth, I do that. But there is one thing they'll never get out o' me,
"You won't tell that to any o' them, Owen?"
"Kathleen, if I thought they only suspected it, I'd never show my face in
Tubber Derg agin. I think I could bear to be—an' yet it 'ud be a
hard struggle with me too—but I think I could bear to be buried
among black strangers, rather than it should be said, over my grave, among
my own, 'there's where Owen M'Carthy lies—who was the only man, of
his name, that ever begged his morsel on the king's highway. There he
lies, the descendant of the great M'Carthy Mores, an' yet he was a
beggar.' I know, Kathleen achora, it's neither a sin nor a shame to ax
one's bit from our fellow-creatures, whin, fairly brought to it, widout
any fault of our own; but still I feel something in me, that can't bear to
think of it widout shame an' heaviness of heart."
"Well, it's one comfort, that nobody knows it but ourselves. The poor
childhre, for their own sakes, won't ever breathe it; so that it's likely
the sacret 'll be berrid wid us."
"I hope so, acushla. Does this coat sit asy atween the shouldhers? I feel
it catch me a little."
"The sorra nicer. There; it was only your waistcoat that was turned down
in the collar. Here—hould your arm. There now—it wanted to be
pulled down a little at the cuffs. Owen, it's a beauty; an' I think I have
good right to be proud of it, for it's every thread my own spinnin'."
"How do I look in it, Kathleen? Tell me thruth, now."
"Throth, you're twenty years younger; the never a day less."
"I think I needn't be ashamed to go afore my ould friends in it, any way.
Now bring me my staff, from undher the bed above; an', in the name o' God,
I'll set out."
"Which o' them, Owen? Is it the oak or the blackthorn?"
"The oak, acushla. Oh, no; not the blackthorn. It's it that I brought to
Dublin wid me, the unlucky thief, an' that I had while we wor a shaughran.
Divil a one o' me but 'ud blush in the face, if I brought it even in my
hand afore them. The oak, ahagur; the oak. You'll get it atween the foot
o' the bed an' the wall."
When Kathleen placed the staff in his hand, he took off his hat and
blessed himself, then put it on, looked at his wife, and said—"Now
darlin', in the name o' God, I'll go. Husht, avillish machree, don't be
cryin'; sure I'll be back to you in a week."
"Och! I can't help it, Owen. Sure this is the second time you wor ever
away from me more nor a day; an' I'm thinkin' of what happened both to you
an' me, the first time you wint. Owen, acushla, I feel that if anything
happened you, I'd break my heart."
"Arrah, what 'ud happen me, darlin', wid God to protect me? Now, God be
wid you, Kathleen dheelish, till I come back to you wid good news, I hope.
I'm not goin' in sickness an' misery, as I wint afore, to see a man that
wouldn't hear my appale to him; an' I'm lavin' you comfortable, agrah, an'
wantin' for nothin'. Sure it's only about five-an'-twenty miles from this—a
mere step. The good God bless an' take care of you, my darlin' wife, till
I come home to you!"
He kissed the tears that streamed from her eyes; and, hemming several
times, pressed her hand, his face rather averted, then grasped his staff,
and commenced his journey.
Scenes like this were important events to our humble couple. Life, when
untainted by the crimes and artificial manners which destroy its purity,
is a beautiful thing to contemplate among the virtuous poor; and, where
the current of affection runs deep and smooth, the slightest incident will
agitate it. So it was with Owen M'Carthy and his wife. Simplicity, truth,
and affection, constituted their character. In them there was no
complication of incongruous elements. The order of their virtues was not
broken, nor the purity of their affections violated, by the anomalous
blending together of opposing principles, such as are to be found in those
who are involuntarily contaminated by the corruption of human society.
Owen had not gone far, when Kathleen called to him: "Owen, ahagur—stand,
darlin'; but don't come back a step, for fraid o' bad luck."*
* When an Irish peasant sets out on a journey, or to
transact business in fair or market, he will not, if
possible, turn back. It is considered unlucky: as it is
also to be crossed by a hare, or met by a red-haired
"Did I forget anything, Kathleen?" he inquired. "Let me see; no; sure I
have my beads an' my tobaccy box, an' my two clane shirts an' handkerchers
in the bundle. What is it, acushla?"
"I needn't be axin' you, for I know you wouldn't forget it; but for 'fraid
you might—Owen, whin you're at Tubber Derg, go to little Alley's
grave, an' look at it; an' bring me back word how it appears. You might
get it cleaned up, if there's weeds or anything growin' upon it; an' Owen,
would you bring me a bit o' the clay, tied up in your pocket. Whin you're
there, spake to her; tell her it was the lovin' mother that bid you, an'
say anything that you think might keep her asy, an' give her pleasure.
Tell her we're not now as we wor whin she was wid us; that we don't feel
hunger, nor cowld, nor want; an' that nothin' is a throuble to us, barrin'
that we miss her—ay, even yet—a suillish machree (*
light of my heart), that she was—that we miss her fair face an'
goolden hair from among us. Tell her this; an' tell her it was the lovin'
mother that said it, an' that sint the message to her."
"I'll do it all, Kathleen; I'll do it all—all, An' now go in,
darlin', an' don't be frettin'. Maybe we'll soon be near her, plase God,
where we can see the place she sleeps in, often."
They then separated again; and Owen, considerably affected by the maternal
tenderness of his wife, proceeded on his journey. He had not, actually,
even at the period of his leaving home, been able to determine on what
particular friend he should first call. That his welcome would be
hospitable, nay, enthusiastically so, he was certain. In the meantime he
vigorously pursued his journey; and partook neither of refreshment nor
rest, until he arrived, a little after dusk, at a turn of the well-known
road, which, had it been daylight, would have opened to him a view of
Tubber Derg. He looked towards the beeches, however, under which it stood;
but to gain a sight of it was impossible. His road now lying a little to
the right, he turned to the house of his sterling friend, Frank Farrell,
who had given him and his family shelter and support, when he was driven,
without remorse, from his own holding. In a short time he reached Frank's
residence, and felt a glow of sincere satisfaction at finding the same air
of comfort and warmth about it as formerly. Through the kitchen window he
saw the strong light of the blazing fire and heard, ere he presented
himself, the loud hearty laugh of his friend's wife, precisely as light
and animated as it had been fifteen years before.
Owen lifted the latch and entered, with that fluttering of the pulse which
every man feels on meeting with a friend, after an interval of many years.
"Musha, good people, can ye tell me is Frank Farrell at home?"
"Why, thin, he's not jist widin now, but he'll be here in no time
entirely," replied one of his daughters. "Won't you sit down, honest man,
an' we'll sind for him."
"I'm thankful to you," said Owen. "I'll sit, sure enough, till he comes
"Why thin!—eh! it must—it can be no other!" exclaimed
Farrell's wife, bringing! over a candle and looking Owen earnestly in the
face; "sure I'd know that voice all the world over! Why, thin, marciful
Father—Owen M'Carthy,—Owen M'Carthy, is it your four quarthers
that's livin' an' well? Queen o' heaven, Owen M'Carthy darlin', you're
welcome!" the word was here interrupted by a hearty kiss from the kind
housewife;—welcome a thousand an' a thousand times! Vick ne
hoiah! Owen dear, an' are you livin' at all? An' Kathleen, Owen, an'
the childhre, an' all of yez—an' how are they?"
"Throth, we're livin' an' well, Bridget; never was betther, thanks be to
God an' you, in our lives."
Owen was now surrounded by such of Farrell's children as were old enough
to remember him; every one of whom he shook hands with, and kissed.
"Why, thin, the Lord save my sowl, Bridget," said he, "are these the
little bouchaleens an' colleens that were runnin' about my feet whin I was
here afore? Well, to be sure! How they do shoot up! An' is this Atty?"
"No: but this is Atty, Owen; faix, Brian outgrew him; an' here's Mary, an'
this is Bridget Oge."
"Well!—well! But where did these two; young shoots come from? this
boy an' the colleen here? They worn't to the fore, in my time, Bridget."
"This is Owen, called afther yourself,—an' this is Kathleen. I
needn't tell you who she was called afther."
"Gutsho, alanna? thurm pogue?—come here, child, and kiss me,"
said Owen to his little namesake; "an' sure I can't forget the little
woman here; gutsho, a colleen, and kiss: me too."
Owen took her on his knee, and kissed her twice.
"Och, but poor Kathleen," said he, "will be the proud woman of this, when
she hears it; in throth she will be that."
"Arrah! what's comin' over me!" said Mrs. Farrell. "Brian, run up to Micky
Lowrie's for your father, An' see, Brian, don't say who's wantin' him,
till we give him a start. Mary, come here, acushla," she added to her
eldest daughter in a whisper—"take these two bottles an' fly up to
Peggy Finigan's for the full o' them o' whiskey. Now be back before you're
there, or if you don't, that I mightn't, but you'll see what you'll get.
Fly, aroon, an' don't let the grass grow undher your feet. An' Owen,
darlin'—but first sit over to the fire:—here get over to this
side, it's the snuggest;—arrah, Owen—an' sure I dunna what to
ax you first. You're all well? all to the fore?"
"All well, Bridget, an' thanks be to heaven, all to the fore."
"Glory be to God! Throth it warms my heart to hear it. An' the childre's
all up finely, boys an' girls?"
"Throth, they are, Bridget, as good-lookin' a family o' childre as you'd
wish to see. An' what is betther, they're as good as they're
"Throth, they couldn't but be that, if they tuck at all afther their
father an' mother. Bridget, aroon, rub the pan betther—an' lay the
knife down, I'll cut the bacon myself, but go an' get a dozen o' the
freshest eggs;—an' Kathleen, Owen, how does poor Kathleen look? Does
she stand it as well as yourself?"
"As young as ever you seen her. God help her!—a thousand degrees
betther nor whin you seen her last."
"An' well to do, Owen?—now tell the truth? Och, musha, I forget who
I'm spakin' to, or I wouldn't disremimber the ould sayin' that's abroad
this many a year:—'who ever knew a M'Carthy of Tubber Derg to tell a
lie, break his word, or refuse to help a friend in distress.' But, Owen,
you're well to do in' the world?"
"We're as well, Bridget, or may be betther, nor you ever knew us, except,
indeed, afore the ould lase was run out wid us."
"God be praised again? Musha, turn round a little, Owen, for 'fraid Frank
'ud get too clear a sight of your face at first. Arrah, do you think he'll
know you? Och, to be sure he will; I needn't ax. Your voice would tell
upon you, any day."
"Know me! Indeed Frank 'ud know my shadow. He'll know me wid half a look."
And Owen was right, for quickly did the eye of his old friend recognize
him, despite of the little plot that was laid to try his penetration. To
describe their interview would be to repeat the scene we have already
attempted to depict between Owen and Mrs. Farrell. No sooner were the
rites of hospitality performed, than the tide of conversation began to
flow with greater freedom. Owen ascertained one important fact, which we
will here mention, because it produces, in a great degree, the want of
anything like an independent class of yeomanry in the country. On
inquiring after his old acquaintances, he discovered that a great many of
them, owing to high rents, had emigrated to America. They belonged to that
class of independent farmers, who, after the expiration of their old
leases, finding the little capital they had saved beginning to diminish,
in consequence of rents which they could not pay, deemed it more prudent,
while anything remained in their hands, to seek a country where capital
and industry might be made available. Thus did the landlords, by their
mismanagement and neglect, absolutely drive off their estates, the only
men, who, if properly encouraged, were capable of becoming the strength
and pride of the country. It is this system, joined to the curse of
middlemen and sub-letting, which has left the country without any third
grade of decent, substantial yoemen, who might stand as a bond of peace
between the highest and the lowest classes. It is this which has split the
kingdom into two divisions, constituting the extreme ends of society—the
wealthy and the wretched, If this third class existed, Ireland would
neither be so political nor discontented as she is; but, on the contrary,
more remarkable for peace and industry. At present, the lower classes,
being too poor, are easily excited by those who promise them a better
order of things than that which exists. These theorists step into the
exercise of that legitimate influence which the landed proprietors have
lost by their neglect. There is no middle class in the country, who can
turn round to them and say, "Our circumstances are easy, we want nothing;
carry your promises to the poor, for that which you hold forth to their
hopes, we enjoy in reality." The poor soldier, who, because he was
wretched, volunteered to go on the forlorn hope, made a fortune; but when
asked if he would go on a second enterprise of a similar kind, shrewdly
replied, "General, I am now an independent man; send some poor devil on
your forlorn hope who wants to make a fortune."
Owen now heard anecdotes and narratives of all occurrences, whether
interesting or strange, that had taken place during his abscence. Among
others, was the death of his former landlord, and the removal of the agent
who had driven him to beggary. Tubber Derg, he found, was then the
property of a humane and considerate man, who employed a judicious and
benevolent gentleman to manage it.
"One thing, I can tell you," said Frank; "it was but a short time in the
new agent's hands, when the dacent farmers stopped goin' to America."
"But Frank," said Owen, and he sighed on putting the question, "who is in
Tubber Derg, now?"
"Why, thin, a son of ould Rousin' Redhead's of Tullyvernon—young Con
Roe, or the Ace o' Hearts—for he was called both by the youngsters—if
you remimber him. His head's as red an' double as big, even, as his
father's was, an' you know that no hat would fit ould Con, until he sent
his measure to Jemmy Lamb, the hatter. Dick Nugent put it out on him, that
Jemmy always made Rousin' Red-head's hat, either upon the half-bushel pot
or a five-gallon keg of whiskey. 'Talkin' of the keg,' says Dick, 'for the
matther o' that,' says he, 'divil a much differ the hat will persave; for
the one'—meanin' ould Con's head, who was a hard dhrinker—'
the one,' says Con, 'is as much a keg as the other—ha! ha! ha!' Dick
met Rousin' Redhead another day: 'Arrah, Con,' says he, 'why do you get
your hats made upon a pot, man alive? Sure that's the rason that you're so
fond o' poteen.' A quare mad crathur was Dick, an' would go forty miles
for a fight. Poor fellow, he got his skull broke in a scrimmage betwixt
the Redmonds and the O'Hanlons; an' his last words were, 'Bad luck to you,
Redmond—O'Hanlon, I never thought you, above all men dead and gone,
would be the death o' me.' Poor fellow! he was for pacifyin' them, for a
wondher, but instead o' that he got pacified himself."
"An' how is young Con doin', Frank?"
"Hut, divil a much time he has to do aither well or ill, yit. There was
four tenants on Tubber Derg since you left it, an' he's the fifth. It's
hard to say how he'll do; but I believe he's the best o' thim, for so far.
That may be owin' to the landlord. The rent's let down to him; an' I think
he'll be able to take bread, an' good bread too, out of it."
"God send, poor man!"
"Now, Owen, would you like to go back to it?"
"I can't say that. I love the place, but I suffered too much in it. No;
but I'll tell you, Frank, if there was e'er a snug farm near it that I
could get rasonable, I'd take it."
Frank slapped his knee exultingly. "Ma chuirp!—do you say so, Owen?"
"Indeed, I do."
"Thin upon my song, thats the luckiest thing I ever knew. There's, this
blessed minute, a farm o' sixteen acres, that the Lacys is lavin'—goin'
to America—an' it's to be set. They'll go the week afther next, an'
the house needn't be cowld, for you can come to it the very day afther
they Live it."
"Well," said Owen, "I'm glad of that. Will you come wid me to-morrow, an'
we'll see about it?"
"To be sure I will; an' what's betther, too; the Agint is a son of ould
Misther Rogerson's, a man that knows you, an' the history o' them you came
from, well. An', another thing, Owen! I tell you, whin it's abroad that
you want to take the farm, there's not a man in the parish will bid agin
you. You may know that yourself."
"I think, indeed, they would rather sarve me than otherwise," replied
Owen; "an', in the name o' God, we'll see what can be done. Misther
Rogerson, himself, 'ud spake to his son for me; so that I'll be sure of
his intherest. Arrah, Frank, how is an ould friend o' mine, that I have a
great regard for—poor Widow Murray?"
"Widow Murray. Poor woman, she's happy."
"You don't mane she's dead?"
"She's dead, Owen, and happy, I trust, in the Saviour. She died last
spring was a two years."
"God be good to her sowl! An' are the childhre in her place still? It's
she that was the dacent woman."
"Throth, they are; an' sorrow a betther doin' family in the parish than
they are. It's they that'll be glad to see you, Owen. Many a time I seen
their poor mother, heavens be her bed, lettin' down the tears, whin she
used to be spakin' of you, or mintion how often you sarved her;
espeshially, about some way or other that you privinted her cows from
bein' canted for the rint. She's dead now, an' God he knows, an honest
hard-workin' woman she ever was."
"Dear me, Frank, isn't it a wondher to think how the people dhrop off!
There's Widow Murray, one o' my ouldest frinds, an' Pether M'Mahon, an'
Barny Lorinan—not to forget pleasant Rousin' Red-head—all
taken away! Well!—Well! Sure it's the will o' God! We can't be here
After much conversation; enlivened by the bottle, though but sparingly
used on the part of Owen, the hour of rest arrived, when the family
separated for the night.
The gray dawn of a calm, beautiful summer's morning found Owen up and
abroad, long before the family of honest Frank had risen. When dressing
himself, with an intention of taking an early walk, he was asked by his
friend why he stirred so soon, or if he—his host—should
accompany him. "No," replied Owen; "lie still; jist let me look over the
counthry while it's asleep. When I'm musin' this a-way I don't like
anybody to be along wid me. I have a place to go an' see, too—an' a
message—a tendher message, from poor Kathleen, to deliver, that I
wouldn't wish a second person to hear. Sleep, Frank. I'll jist crush the
head o' my pipe agin' one o' the half-burned turf that the fire was raked
wid, an' walk out for an hour or two. Afther our breakfast we'll go-an'
look about this new farm."
He sallied out as he spoke, and closed the door after him in that quiet,
thoughtful way for which he was ever remarkable. The season was midsummer,
and the morning wanted at least an hour of sunrise. Owen ascended a little
knoll, above Frank's house, on which he stood and surveyed the surrounding
country with a pleasing but melancholy interest. As his eye rested on
Tubber Derg, he felt the difference strongly between the imperishable
glories of nature's works, and those which are executed by man. His house
he would not have known, except by its site. It was not, in fact, the same
house, but another which had been built in its stead. This disappointed
and vexed him. An object on which his affections had been placed was
removed. A rude stone house stood before him, rough and unplastered;
against each end of which was built a stable-and a cow-house, sloping down
from the gables to low doors at booh sides; adjoining these rose two
mounds of filth, large enough to be easily distinguished from the knoll on
which he stood. He sighed as he contrasted it with the neat and beautiful
farm-house, which shone there in his happy days, white as a lily, beneath
the covering of the lofty beeches. There was no air of comfort, neatness,
or independence, about it; on the contrary, everything betrayed the
evidence of struggle and difficulty, joined, probably, to want both of
skill and of capital. He was disappointed, and turned his gaze upon the
general aspect of the country, and the houses in which either his old
acquaintances or their children lived. The features of the landscape were,
certainly, the same; but even here was a change for the worse. The warmth
of coloring which wealth and independence give to the appearance of a
cultivated country, was gone. Decay and coldness seemed to brood upon
everything, he saw. The houses, the farm-yards, the ditches, and
enclosures, were all marked by the blasting proofs of national decline.
Some exceptions there were to this disheartening prospect, but they were
only sufficient to render the torn and ragged evidences of poverty, and
its attendant—carelessness—more conspicuous. He left the
knoll, knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and putting it into his
waistcoat pocket, ascended a larger hill, which led to the grave-yard,
where his child lay buried. On his way to this hill, which stood about
half a mile distant, he passed a few houses of an humble description, with
whose inhabitants he had been well acquainted. Some of these stood nearly
as he remembered them; but others were roofless, with their dark mud
gables either fallen in or partially broken down. He surveyed their
smoke-colored walls with sorrow; and looked, with a sense of the transient
character of all man's works upon the chickweed, docks, and nettles, which
had shot up so rankly on the spot where many a chequered scene of joy and
sorrow had flitted over the circumscribed circle of humble life, ere the
annihilating wing of ruin swept away them and their habitations.
When he had ascended the hill, his eye took a wider range. The more
distant and picturesque part of the country lay before him. "Ay!" said he
in a soliloquy, "Lord bless us, how sthrange is this world!—an' what
poor crathurs are men! There's the dark mountains, the hills, the rivers,
an' the green glens, all the same; an' nothin' else a'most but's changed!
The very song of that blackbird, in the thorn-bushes an' hazels below me,
is like the voice of an ould friend to my ears. Och, indeed, hardly that,
for even the voice of man changes; but that song is the same as I heard it
for the best part o' my life. That mornin' star, too, is the same bright
crathur up there that it ever was! God help us! Hardly any thing changes
but man, an' he seems to think that he can never change; if one is to
judge by his thoughtlessness, folly, an' wickedness!"
A smaller hill, around the base of which went the same imperfect road that
crossed the glen of Tubber Derg, prevented him from seeing the grave-yard
to which he was about to extend his walk. To this road he directed his
steps. On reaching it he looked, still with a strong memory of former
times, to the glen in which his children, himself, and his ancestors had
all, during their day, played in the happy thoughtlessness of childhood
and youth. But the dark and ragged house jarred upon his feelings. He
turned from it with pain, and his eye rested upon the still green valley
with evident relief. He thought of his "buried flower"—"his-golden-haired
darlin'," as he used to call her—and almost fancied that he saw her
once more wandering waywardly through its tangled mazes, gathering
berries, or strolling along the green meadow, with a garland of gowans
about her neck. Imagination, indeed, cannot heighten the image of the dead
whom we love; but even if it could, there was no standard of ideal beauty
in her father's mind beyond that of her own. She had been beautiful; but
her beauty was pensive: a fair yet melancholy child; for the charm that
ever encompassed her was one of sorrow and tenderness. Had she been
volatile and mirthful, as children usually are, he would not have carried
so far into his future life the love of her which he cherished. Another
reason why he still loved her strongly, was a consciousness that her death
had been occasioned by distress and misery; for, as he said, when looking
upon the scenes of her brief but melancholy existence—"Avour-neen
machree, I remimber to see you pickin' the berries; but asthore—asthore—it
wasn't for play you did it. It was to keep away the cuttin' of hunger from
your heart! Of all our childhre every one said that you wor the M'Carthy—never
sayin' much, but the heart in you ever full of goodness and affection. God
help me, I'm glad—an', now, that I'm comin' near it—loth to
see her grave."
He had now reached the verge of the graveyard. Its fine old ruin stood
there as usual, but not altogether without the symptoms of change. Some
persons had, for the purposes of building, thrown down one of its most
picturesque walls. Still its ruins clothed with ivy, its mullions
moss-covered, its gothic arches and tracery, gray with age, were the same
in appearance as he had ever seen them.
On entering this silent palace of Death, he reverently uncovered his head,
blessed himself, and, with feelings deeply agitated, sought the grave of
his beloved child. He approached it; but a sudden transition from sorrow
to indignation took place in his mind, even before he reached the spot on
which she lay. "Sacred Mother!" he exclaimed, "who has dared to bury in
our ground? Who has—what villain has attimpted to come in upon the
M'Carthys—upon the M'Carthy Mores, of Tubber Derg? Who could—had
I no friend to prev—eh? Sacred Mother, what's this? Father of heaven
forgive me! Forgive me, sweet Saviour, for this bad feelin' I got into!
Who—who—could raise a head-stone over the darlin' o' my heart,
widout one of us knowin' it! Who—who could do it? But let me see if
I can make it out. Oh, who could do this blessed thing, for the poor an'
the sorrowful?" He began, and with difficulty read as follows:—
"Here lies the body of Alice M'Carthy, the beloved daughter of Owen and
Kathleen M'Carthy, aged nine years. She was descended from the M'Carthy
"Requiescat in pace.
"This head-stone was raised over her by widow Murray, and her son, James
Murray, out of grateful respect for Owen and Kathleen M'Carthy, who never
suffered the widow and orphan, or a distressed neighbor, to crave
assistance from them in vain, until it pleased God to visit them with
"Thanks to you, my Saviour!" said Owen, dropping on his knees over the
grave,—"thanks an' praise be to your holy name, that in the middle
of my poverty—of all my poverty—I was not forgotten! nor my
darlin' child let to lie widout honor in the grave of her family! Make me
worthy, blessed Heaven, of what is written down upon me here! An' if the
departed spirit of her that honored the dust of my buried daughter is
unhappy, oh, let her be relieved, an' let this act be remimbered to her!
Bless her son, too, gracious Father, an' all belonging to her on this
earth! an', if it be your holy will, let them never know distress, or
poverty, or wickedness?"
He then offered up a Pater Noster for the repose of his child's soul, and
another for the kind-hearted and grateful widow Murray, after which he
stood to examine the grave with greater accuracy.
There was, in fact, no grave visible. The little mound, under which lay
what was once such a touching image of innocence, beauty, and feeling, had
sunk down to the level of the earth about it. He regretted this, inasmuch
as it took away, he thought, part of her individuality. Still he knew it
was the spot wherein she had been buried, and with much of that vivid
feeling, and strong figurative language, inseparable from the habits of
thought and language of the old Irish families, he delivered the mother's
message to the inanimate dust of her once beautiful and heart-loved child.
He spoke in a broken voice, for even the mention of her name aloud, over
the clay that contained her, struck with a fresh burst of sorrow upon his
"Alley," he exclaimed in Irish, "Alley, nhien machree, your father
that loved you more nor he loved any other human crathur, brings a message
to you from the mother of your heart, avourneen! She bid me call to see
the spot where you're lyin', my buried flower, an' to tell you that we're
not now, thanks be to God, as we wor whin you lived wid us. We are well to
do now, acushla oge machree, an' not in hunger, an' sickness, an'
misery, as we wor whin you suffered them all! You will love to hear this,
pulse of our hearts, an' to know that, through all we suffered—an'
bittherly we did suffer since you departed—we never let you out of
our memory. No, asthore villish, we thought of you, an' cried
afther our poor dead flower, many an' many's the time. An' she bid me tell
you, darlin' of my heart, that we feel: nothin' now so much as that you
are not wid us to share our comfort an' our happiness. Oh, what wouldn't
the mother give to have you back wid her; but it can't be—an' what
wouldn't I give to have you before my eyes agin, in health an' in life—but
it can't be. The lovin' mother sent this message to you, Alley. Take it
from her; she bid me tell you that we are well an' happy; our name is
pure, and, like yourself, widout spot or stain. Won't you pray for us
before God, an' get him an' his blessed Mother to look on us wid favor an'
compassion? Farewell, Alley asthore! May you slelp in peace, an' rest on
the breast of your great Father in Heaven, until we all meet in happiness
together. It's your father that's spakin' to you, our lost flower; an' the
hand that often smoothed your goolden head is now upon your grave."
He wiped his eyes as he concluded, and after lifting a little of the clay
from her grave, he tied it carefully up, and put it into his pocket.
Having left the grave-yard, he retraced his steps towards Frank Farrell's
house. The sun had now risen, and as Owen ascended the larger of the two
hills which we have mentioned, he stood again to view the scene that
stretched beneath him. About an hour before all was still, the whole
country lay motionless, as if the land had been a land of the dead. The
mountains, in the distance, were covered with the thin mists of morning;
the milder and richer parts of the landscape had appeared in that dim gray
distinctness which gives to distant objects such a clear outline. With the
exception of the blackbird's song, every thing seemed as if stricken into
silence; there was not a breeze stirring; both animate and inanimate
nature reposed as if in a trance; the very trees appeared asleep, and
their leaves motionless, as if they had been of marble. But now the scene
was changed. The sun had flung his splendor upon the mountain-tops, from
which the mists were tumbling in broken fragments to the valleys between
them. A thousand birds poured their songs upon the ear; the breeze was up,
and the columns of smoke from the farm-houses and cottages played, as if
in frolic, in the air. A white haze was beginning to rise from the
meadows; early teams were afoot; and laborers going abroad to their
employment. The lakes in the distance shone like mirrors; and the clear
springs on the mountain-sides glittered in the sun, like gems on which the
eye could scarcely rest. Life, and light, and motion, appear to be
inseparable. The dew of morning lay upon nature like a brilliant veil,
realizing the beautiful image of Horace, as applied to woman:
Vultus nimium lubricus aspici.
By-and-by the songs of the early workmen were heard; nature had awoke, and
Owen, whose heart was strongly, though unconsciously, alive to the
influence of natural religion, participated in the general elevation of
the hour, and sought with freshened spirits the house of his entertainer.
As he entered this hospitable roof, the early industry of his friend's
wife presented him with a well-swept hearth and a pleasant fire, before
which had been placed the identical chair that they had appropriated to
his own use. Frank was enjoying "a blast o' the pipe," after having risen;
to which luxury the return of Owen gave additional zest and placidity. In
fact, Owen's presence communicated a holiday spirit to the family; a
spirit, too, which declined not for a moment during the period of his
"Frank," said Owen, "to tell you the thruth, I'm not half plased wid you
this mornin'. I think you didn't thrate me as I ought to expect to be
"Musha, Owen M'Carthy, how is that?"
"Why, you said nothin' about widow Murray raisin' a head-stone over our
child. You kept me in the dark there, Frank, an' sich a start I never got
as I did this mornin', in the grave-yard beyant."
"Upon my sowl, Owen, it wasn't my fau't, nor any of our fau'ts; for, to
tell you the thruth, we had so much to think and discoorse of last night,
that it never sthruck me, good or bad. Indeed it was Bridget that put it
first in my head, afther you wint out, an' thin it was too late. Ay, poor
woman, the dacent strain was ever in her, the heaven's be her bed."
"Frank, if any one of her family was to abuse me till the dogs wouldn't
lick my blood, I'd only give them back good for evil afther that. Oh,
Frank, that goes to my heart! To put a head-stone over my weeny
goolden-haired darlin', for the sake of the little thrifles I sarved thim
in! Well! may none belongin' to her ever know poverty or hardship! but if
they do, an' that I have it——How-an'-iver, no matther. God
bless thim! God bless thim! Wait till Kathleen hears it!"
"An' the best of it was, Owen, that she never expected to see one of your
faces. But, Owen, you think too much about that child. Let us talk about
something else. You've seen Tubber Derg wanst more?"
"I did; an' I love it still, in spite of the state it's in."
"Ah! it's different from what it was in your happy days. I was spakin' to
Bridget about the farm, an' she advises us to go, widout losin' a minute,
an' take it if we can."
"It's near this place I'll die, Frank. I'd not rest in my grave if I
wasn't berrid among my own; so we'll take the farm if possible."
"Well, then, Bridget, hurry the breakfast, avourneen; an' in the name o'
goodness, we'll set out, an' clinch the business this very day."
Owen, as we said, was prompt in following up his determinations. After
breakfast they saw the agent and his father, for both lived together. Old
Rogerson had been intimately acquainted with the M'Carthys, and, as Frank
had anticipated, used his influence with the agent in procuring for the
son of his old friend and acquaintance the farm which he sought.
"Jack," said the old gentleman, "you don't probably know the history and
character of the Tubber Derg M'Carthys so well as I do. No man ever
required the written bond of a M'Carthy; and it was said of them, and is
said still, that the widow and orphan, the poor man or the stranger, never
sought their assistance in vain. I, myself, will go security, if
necessary, for Owen M'Carthy."
"Sir," replied Owen, "I'm thankful to you; I'm grateful to you. But I
wouldn't take the farm, or bid for it at all, unless I could bring forrid
enough to stock it as I wish, an' to lay in all that's wantin' to work it
well. It 'ud be useless for me to take it—to struggle a year or two—impoverish
the land—an' thin run away out of it. No, no; I have what'll put me
upon it wid dacency an' comfort."
"Then, since my father has taken such an interest in you, M'Carthy, you
must have the farm. We shall get leases prepared, and the business
completed in a few days; for I go to Dublin on this day week. Father, I
now remember the character of this family; and I remember, too, the
sympathy which was felt for one of them, who was harshly ejected about
seventeen or eighteen years ago, out of the lands on which his forefathers
had lived, I understand, for centuries."
"I am that man, sir," returned Owen. "It's too long a story to tell now;
but it was only out o' part of the lands, sir, that I was put. What I held
was but a poor patch compared to what the family held in my grandfather's
time. A great part of it went out of our hands at his death."
"It was very kind of you, Misther Rogerson, to offer to go security for
him," said Frank; "but if security was wantin, sir, Id not be willin' to
let anybody but myself back him. I'd go all I'm worth in the world—an'
by my sowl, double as much—for the same man."
"I know that, Frank, an' I thank you; but I could put security in Mr.
Rogerson's hands, here, if it was wanted. Good-mornin' an' thank you both,
gintleman. To tell yez the thruth," he added, with a smile, "I long to be
among my ould friends—manin' the people, an' the hills, an' the
green fields of Tubber Derg—agin; an' thanks be to goodness, sure I
In fact, wherever Owen went, within the bounds of his native parish, his
name, to use a significant phrase of the people, was before him. His
arrival at Frank Farrel's was now generally known by all his
acquaintances, and the numbers who came to see him were almost beyond
belief. During the two or three successive days, he went among his old
"cronies;" and no sooner was his arrival at any particular house
intimated, than the neighbors all flocked to him. Scythes were left idle,
spades were stuck in the earth, and work neglected for the time being; all
crowded about him with a warm and friendly interest, not proceeding from
idle curiosity, but from affection and respect for the man.
The interview between him and widow Murray's children was affecting. Owen
felt deeply the delicate and touching manner in which they had evinced
their gratitude for the services he had rendered them; and young Murray
remembered with a strong gush of feeling, the distresses under which they
lay when Owen had assisted them. Their circumstances, owing to the
strenuous exertions of the widow's eldest son, soon afterwards improved;
and, in accordance with the sentiments of hearts naturally grateful, they
had taken that method of testifying what they felt. Indeed, so well had
Owen's unparalleled affection for his favorite child been known, that it
was the general opinion about Tubber Derg that her death had broken his
"Poor Owen, he's dead," they used to say; "the death of his weeny one,
while he was away in Dublin, gave him the finishin' blow. It broke his
Before the week was expired, Owen had the satisfaction of depositing the
lease of his new farm, held at a moderate rent, in the hands of Frank
Farrel; who, tying it up along with his own, secured it in the "black
chest." Nothing remained now but to return home forthwith, and communicate
the intelligence to Kathleen. Frank had promised, as soon as the Lacy's
should vacate the house, to come with a long train of cars, and a number
of his neighbors, in order to transfer Owen's family and furniture to his
new dwelling. Everything therefore, had been arranged; and Owen had
nothing to do but hold himself in readiness for the welcome arrival of
Frank and his friends.
Owen, however, had no sense of enjoyment when not participated in by his
beloved Kathleen. If he felt sorrow, it was less as a personal feeling
than as a calamity to her.
If he experienced happiness, it was doubly sweet to him as reflected from
his' Kathleen. All this was mutual between them. Kathleen loved Owen
precisely as he loved Kathleen. Nor let our readers suppose that such
characters are not in humble life. It is in humble life, where the Springs
of feeling are not corrupted by dissimulation and evil knowledge, that the
purest, and tenderest, and strongest virtues are to be found.
As Owen approached his home, he could not avoid contrasting the
circumstances of his return now with those under which, almost
broken-hearted after his journey to Dublin, he presented himself to his
sorrowing and bereaved wife about eighteen years before. He raised his
hat, and thanked God for the success which had, since that period,
attended him, and, immediately after his silent thanksgiving, entered the
His welcome, our readers may be assured, was tender and affectionate. The
whole family gathered about him, and, on his informing them that they were
once more about to reside on a farm adjoining to their beloved Tubber
Derg, Kathleen's countenance brightened, and the tear of delight gushed to
"God be praised, Owen," she exclaimed; "we will have the ould place afore
our eyes, an' what is betther, we will be near where Alley is lyin'. But
that's true, Owen," she added, "did you give the light of our hearts the
Owen paused, and his features were slightly overshadowed, but only by the
solemnity of the feeling.
"Kathleen," said he, "I gave her your message; but, avourneen, have
sthrange news for you about Alley."
"What, Owen? What is it, acushla? Tell me quick?"
"The blessed child was not neglected—no, but she was honored in our
absence. A head-stone was put over her, an' stands there purtily this
"Mother of Glory, Owen!"
"It's thruth. Widow Murray an' her son Jemmy put it up, wid words upon it
that brought the tears to my eyes. Widow Murray is dead, but her
childher's doin' well. May God bless an' prosper them, an' make her
The delighted mother's heart was not proof against the widow's gratitude,
expressed, as it had been, in a manner so affecting. She rocked herself to
and fro in silence, whilst the tears fell in showers down her cheeks. The
grief, however, which this affectionate couple felt for their child, was
not always such as the reader has perceived it to be. It was rather a
revival of emotions that had long slumbered, but never died; and the
associations arising from the journey to Tubber Derg, had thrown them
back, by the force of memory, almost to the period of her death. At times,
indeed, their imagination had conjured her up strongly, but the present
was an epoch in the history of their sorrow.
There is little more to be said. Sorrow was soon succeeded by cheerfulness
and the glow of expected pleasure, which is ever the more delightful, as
the pleasure is pure. In about a week their old neighbors, with their
carts and cars, arrived; and before the day was closed on which Owen
removed to his new residence, he found himself once more sitting at his
own hearth, among the friends of his youth, and the companions of his
maturer years. Ere the twelvemonth elapsed, he had his house perfectly
white, and as nearly resembling that of Tubber Derg in its better days as
possible. About two years ago we saw him one evening in the month of June,
as he sat on a bench beside the door, singing with a happy heart his
favorite song of "Colleen dhas crootha na mo." It was about an hour
before sunset. The house stood on a gentle eminence, beneath which a sweep
of green meadow stretched away to the skirts of Tubber Derg. Around him
was a country naturally fertile, and, in spite of the national depression,
still beautiful to contemplate. Kathleen and two servant maids were
milking, and the whole family were assembled about the door.
"Well, childher," said the father, "didn't I tell yez the bitther mornin'
we left Tubber Derg, not to cry or be disheartened—that there was a
'good God above who might do somethin' for us yet?' I never did give up
may trust in Him, an' I never will. You see, afther all our little
troubles, He has wanst more brought us together, an' made us happy. Praise
an' glory to His name!"
I looked at him as he spoke. He had raised his eyes to heaven, and a gleam
of elevated devotion, perhaps worthy of being-called sublime, irradiated
his features. The sun, too, in setting, fell upon his broad temples and
iron-gray locks, with a light solemn and religious. The effect to me, who
knew his noble character, and all that he had suffered, was as if the eye
of God then rested upon the decline of a virtuous man's life with
approbation;—as if he had lifted up the glory of his countenance
upon him. Would that many of his thoughtless countrymen had been present!
They might have blushed for their crimes, and been content to sit and
learn wisdom at the feet of Owen M'Carthy.