The Geography Of An Irish Oath
by William Carleton
No pen can do justice to the extravagance and frolic inseparable from
the character of of the Irish people; nor has any system of philosophy
been discovered that can with moral fitness be applied to them.
Phrenology fails to explain it; for, so far as the craniums of Irishmen
are concerned, according to the most capital surveys hitherto made and
reported on, it appears that, inasmuch as their moral and intellectual
organs predominate over the physical and sensual, the people ought,
therefore, to be ranked at the very tip-top of morality. We would warn
the phrenologists, however, not to be too sanguine in drawing inferences
from an examination of Paddy's head. Heaven only knows the scenes in
which it is engaged, and the protuberances created by a long life of
hard fighting. Many an organ and development is brought out on it by the
cudgel, that never would have appeared had Nature been left to herself.
Drinking, fighting, and swearing, are the three great characteristics
of every people. Paddy's love of fighting and of whiskey has been long
proverbial; and of his tact in swearing much has also been said. But
there is one department of oath-making in which he stands unrivalled and
unapproachable; I mean the alibi. There is where he shines, where his
oath, instead of being a mere matter of fact or opinion, rises up
into the dignity of epic narrative, containing within itself, all the
complexity of machinery, harmony of parts, and fertility of invention,
by which your true epic should be characterized.
The Englishman, whom we will call the historian in swearing, will depose
to the truth of this or that fact, but there the line is drawn; he
swears his oath so far as he knows, and stands still. "I'm sure, for my
part, I don't know; I've said all I knows about it," and beyond this his
besotted intellect goeth not.
The Scotchman, on the other hand, who is the metaphysician in swearing,
sometimes borders on equivocation. He decidedly goes farther than the
Englisman, not because he has less honesty, but more prudence. He will
assent to, or deny a proposition; for the Englishman's "I don't know,"
and the Scotchman's "I dinna ken," are two very distinct assertions when
properly understood. The former stands out a monument of dulness, an
insuperable barrier against inquiry, ingenuity, and fancy; but the
latter frequently stretches itself so as to embrace hypothetically a
But Paddy! Put him forward to prove an alibi for his fourteenth or
fifteenth cousin, and you will be gratified by the pomp, pride, and
circumstance of true swearing. Every oath with him is an epic—pure
poetry, abounding with humor, pathos, and the highest order of invention
and talent. He is not at ease, it is true, under facts; there is
something too commonplace in dealing with them, which his genius scorns.
But his flights—his flights are beautiful; and his episodes admirable
and happy. In fact, he is an improvisatore at oath-taking; with
this difference, that his extempore oaths possess all the ease and
correctness of labor and design.
He is not, however, altogether averse to facts: but, like your true
poet, he veils, changes, and modifies them with such skill, that they
possess all the merit and graces of fiction. If he happen to make an
assertion incompatible with the plan of the piece, his genius acquires
fresh energy, enables him to widen the design, and to create new
machinery, with such happiness of adaptation, that what appeared out
of proportion of character is made, in his hands, to contribute to the
general strength and beauty of the oath.
'Tis true, there is nothing perfect under the sun; but if there were,
it would certainly be Paddy at an alibi. Some flaws, no doubt, occur;
some slight inaccuracies may be noticed by a critical eye; an occasional
anachronism stands out, and a mistake or so in geography; but let it
be recollected that Paddy's alibi is but a human production; let us not
judge him by harsher rules than those which we apply to Homer, Virgil,
"Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus," is allowed on all hands. Virgil made
Dido and AEneas contemporary, though they were not so; and Shakspeare,
by the creative power of his genius, changed an inland town into a
seaport. Come, come, have bowels. Let epic swearing be treated with the
same courtesy shown to epic poetry, that is, if both are the production
of a rare genius. I maintain, that when Paddy commits a blemish he
is too harshly admonished for it. When he soars out of sight here, as
occasionally happens, does he not frequently alight somewhere about
Sydney Bay, much against his own inclination? And if he puts forth
a hasty production, is he not compelled, for the space of seven or
fourteen years, to revise his oath? But, indeed, few words of fiction
are properly encouraged in Ireland.
It would be unpardonable in us, however, to overlook the beneficial
effects of Paddy's peculiar genius in swearing alibis. Some persons, who
display their own egregious ignorance of morality, may be disposed to
think that it tends to lessen the obligation of an oath, by inducing
a habit among the people of swearing to what is not true. We look upon
such persons as very dangerous to Ireland and to the repeal of the
Union; and we request them not to push their principles too far in the
disturbed parts of the country. Could society hold together a single
day, if nothing but truth were spoken, would not law and lawyers soon
become obsolete, if nothing but truth were sworn what would become of
parliament if truth alone were uttered there? Its annual proceedings
might be dispatched in a month. Fiction is the basis of society, the
bond of commercial prosperity, the channel of communication between
nation and nation, and not unfrequently the interpreter between a man
and his own conscience.
For these, and many other reasons which we could adduce, we say with
Paddy, "Long life to fiction!" When associated with swearing, it shines
in its brightest colors. What, for instance, is calculated to produce
the best and purest of the moral virtues so beautifully, as the swearing
an alibi? Here are fortitude and a love of freedom resisting oppression;
for it is well known that all law is oppression in Ireland.
There is compassion for the peculiar state of the poor boy, who,
perhaps, only burned a family in their beds; benevolence to prompt the
generous effort in his behalf; disinterestedness to run the risk of
becoming an involuntary absentee; fortitude in encountering a host
of brazen-faced lawyers; patience under the unsparing gripe of a
cross-examiner; perseverance in conducting the oath to its close against
a host of difficulties; and friendship, which bottoms and crowns them
Paddy's merits, however, touching the alibi, rest not here. Fiction on
these occasions only teaches him how to perform a duty. It may be,
that he is under the obligation of a previous oath not to give evidence
against certain of his friends and associates. Now, could anything in
the whole circle of religion or ethics be conceived that renders the
epic style of swearing so incumbent upon Paddy? There is a kind of moral
fitness in all things; for where the necessity of invention exists, it
is consolatory to reflect that the ability to invent is bestowed along
Next to the alibi comes Paddy's powers in sustaining a
cross-examination. Many person thinks that this is his forte; but we
cannot yield to such an opinion, nor compromise his originality
of conception in the scope and plan of an alibi. It is marked by a
minuteness of touch, and a peculiarity of expression which give it every
appearance of real life. The circumstances are so well imagined,
the groups so naturally disposed, the coloring so finished, and the
background in such fine perspective, that the whole picture presents you
with such keeping and vraisemblance, as could be accomplished only by
the genius of a master.
In point of interest, however, we must admit that his ability in a
cross-examination ranks next to his skill in planning an alibi. There
is, in the former, a versatility of talent that keeps him always ready;
a happiness of retort, generally disastrous to the wit of the most
established cross-examiner; an apparent simplicity, which is quite as
impenetrable as the lawyer's assurance; a vis comica, which puts the
court in tears; and an originality of sorrow, that often convulses it
with laughter. His resources, when he is pressed, are inexhaustible; and
the address, with which he contrives to gain time, that he may suit his
reply to the object of his evidence, is beyond all praise. And yet his
appearance when he mounts the table is anything but prepossessing; a
sheepish look, and a loose-jointed frame of body, wrapped in a frieze
great-coat, do not promise much. Nay, there is often a rueful blank
expression in his visage, which might lead a stranger to anticipate
nothing but blunders and dulness. This, however, is hypocrisy of the
first water. Just observe the tact with which he places his caubeen upon
the table, his kippeen across it, and the experienced air with which he
pulls up the waistbands of his breeches, absolutely girding his loins
for battle. 'Tis true his blue eye has at present nothing remarkable in
it, except a drop or to of the native; but that is not remarkable.
When the direct examination has been concluded, nothing can be finer
than the simplicity with which he turns round to the lawyer who is to
cross-examine him. Yet, as if conscious that firmness and caution are
his main guards, he again pulls up his waistbands with a more vigorous
hitch, looks shyly into the very eyes of his opponent, and awaits the
The question at length comes; and Paddy, after having raised the collar
of his big coat on his shoulder, and twisted up the shoulder along
with it, directly puts the query back to the lawyer, without altering a
syllable of it, for the purpose of ascertaining more accurately whether
that is the precise question that has been put to him; for Paddy is
conscientious. Then is the science displayed on both sides. The one,
a veteran, trained in all the technicalities of legal puzzles,
irony, blarney, sarcasm, impudence, stock jokes, quirks, rigmarolery,
brow-beating, ridicule, and subtlety; the other a poor peasant, relying
only upon the justice of a good cause and the gifts of nature; without
either experience, or learning, and with nothing but his native modesty
to meet the forensic effrontery of his antagonist.
Our readers will perceive that the odds are a thousand to one against
Paddy; yet, when he replies to a hackneyed genius at cross-examination,
how does it happen that he uniformly elicits those roars of laughter
which rise in the court, and convulse it from the judge to the crier? In
this laugh, which is usually at the expense of the cross-examiner, Paddy
himself always joins, so that the counsel has the double satisfaction of
being made not only the jest of the judge and his brother lawyers, but
of the ragged witness whom he attempted to make ridiculous.
It is not impossible that this merry mode of dispensing justice may
somewhat encourage Paddy in that independence of mind which relishes
not the idea of being altogether bound by oaths that are too often
administered with a jocular spirit. To most of the Irish in general an
oath is a solemn, to some, an awful thing. Of this wholesome reverence
for its sanction, two or three testimonies given in a court of justice
usually cured them. The indifferent, business-like manner in which the
oaths are put, the sing-song tone of voice, the rapid utterance of the
words, give to this solemn act an appearance of excellent burlesque,
which ultimately renders the whole proceedings remarkable for the
absence of truth and reality; but, at the same time, gives them
unquestionable merit as a dramatic representation, abounding with
fiction, well related and ably acted.
Thumb-kissing is another feature in Paddy's adroitness too important to
be passed over in silence. Here his tact shines out again! It would
be impossible for him, in many cases, to meet the perplexities of a
cross-examination so cleverly as he does, if he did not believe that he
had, by kissing his thumb instead of the book, actually taken no oath,
and consequently given to himself a wider range of action. We must
admit, however, that this very circumstance involves him in difficulties
which are sometimes peculiarly embarrassing. Taking everything into
consideration, the prospect of freedom for his sixth cousin, the
consciousness of having kissed his thumb, or the consoling reflection
that he swore only on a Law Bible, it must be granted that the
opportunities presented by a cross-examination are well calculated to
display his wit, humor, and fertility of invention. He is accordingly
great in it; but still we maintain that his execution of an alibi is
his ablest performance, comprising, as it does, both the conception and
construction of the work.
Both the oaths and imprecations of the Irish display, like those who use
them, indications of great cruelty and great humor. Many of the
former exhibit that ingenuity which comes out when Paddy is on his
cross-examination in a court of justice. Every people, it is true,
have resorted to the habit of mutilating or changing in their oaths
the letters which form the Creator's name; but we question if any have
surpassed the Irish in the cleverness with which they accomplish it.
Mock oaths are habitual to Irishmen in ordinary conversation; but the
use of any or all of them is not considered to constitute an oath: on
the contrary, they are in the mouths of many who would not, except upon
a very solemn occasion indeed, swear by the name of the Deity in its
The ingenuity of their mock oaths is sufficient to occasion much
perplexity to any one disposed to consider it in connection with the
character and moral feelings of the people. Whether to note it as a
reluctance on their part to incur the guilt of an oath, or as a proof of
habitual tact in evading it by artifice, is manifestly a difficulty hard
to be overcome. We are decidedly inclined to the former; for although
there is much laxity of principle among Irishmen, naturally to
be expected from men whose moral state has been neglected by the
legislature, and deteriorated by political and religious asperity,
acting upon quick passions and badly regulated minds—yet we know
that they possess, after all, a strong, but vague undirected sense of
devotional feeling and reverence, which are associated with great crimes
and awfully dark shades of character. This explains one chief cause of
the sympathy which is felt in Ireland for criminals from whom the law
exacts the fatal penalty of death; and it also accounts, independently
of the existence of any illegal association, for the terrible
retribution inflicted upon those who come forward to prosecute them.
It is not in Ireland with criminals as in other countries, where the
character of a murderer or incendiary is notoriously bad, as resulting
from a life of gradual profligacy and villany. Far from it. In Ireland
you will find those crimes perpetrated by men who are good fathers, good
husbands, good sons, and good neighbors—by men who would share
their last morsel or their last shilling with a fellow-creature in
distress—who would generously lose their lives for a man who had
obliged them, provided he had not incurred their enmity—and who would
protect a defenseless stranger as far as lay in their power. There are
some mock oaths among Irishmen which must have had their origin amongst
those whose habits of thought were much more elevated than could be
supposed to characterize the lower orders. "By the powers of death" is
never now used as we have written it; but the ludicrous travestie of it,
"by the powdhors o' delf," is quite common. Of this and other mock oaths
it may be right to observe, that those who swear by them are in general
ignorant of their proper origin. There are some, however, of this
description whose original form is well known. One of these Paddy
displays considerable ingenuity in using. "By the cross" can scarcely be
classed under the mock oaths, but the manner in which it is pressed into
asseverations is amusing. When Paddy is affirming a truth he swears
"by the crass" simply, and this with him is an oath of considerable
obligation. He generally, in order to render it more impressive,
accompanies it with suitable action, that is, he places the forefinger
of each hand across, that he may assail you through two senses instead
of one. On the contrary, when he intends to hoax you by asserting what
is not true, he ingeniously multiplies the oath, and swears "by the five
crashes," that is by his own five fingers, placing at the same time his
four fingers and his thumbs across each other in a most impressive and
vehement manner. Don't believe him then—the knave is lying as fast as
possible, and with no remorse. "By the crass o' Christ" is an oath of
much solemnity, and seldom used in a falsehood. Paddy also often places
two bits of straws across, and sometimes two sticks, upon which he
swears with an appearance of great heat and sincerity—sed caveto!
Irishmen generally consider iron as a sacred metal. In the interior of
the country, the thieves (but few in number) are frequently averse to
stealing it. Why it possesses this hold upon their affections it is
difficult to say, but it is certain that they rank it among their sacred
things, consider that to find it is lucky, and nail it over their doors
when found in the convenient shape of a horse-shoe. It is also used as
a medium of asserting truth. We believe, however, that the sanction it
imposes is not very strong. "By this blessed iron!"—"by this blessed
an' holy iron!" are oaths of an inferior grade; but if the circumstance
on which they are founded be a matter of indifference, they seldom
depart from truth in using them.
We have said that Paddy, when engaged in a fight, is never at a loss for
a weapon, and we may also affirm that he is never at a loss for an
oath. When relating a narrative, or some other circumstance of his own
invention, if contradicted, he will corroborate it, in order to sustain
his credit or produce the proper impression, by an abrupt oath upon the
first object he can seize. "Arrah, nonsense! by this pipe in my hand,
it's as thrue as"—and then, before he completes the illustration, he
goes on with a fine specimen of equivocation—"By the stool I'm sittin'
an, it is; an' what more would, you have from me barrin' I take my book
oath of it?" Thus does he, under the mask of an insinuation, induce you
to believe that he has actually sworn it, whereas the oath is always
left undefined and incomplete.
Sometimes he is exceedingly comprehensive in his adjurations, and swears
upon a magnificent scale; as, for instance,—"By the contints of all
the books that ever wor opened an' shut, it's as thrue as the sun to
the dial." This certainly leaves "the five crasses" immeasurably behind.
However, be cautious, and not too confident in taking so sweeping and
learned an oath upon trust, notwithstanding its imposing effect. We
grant, indeed, that an oath which comprehends within its scope all the
learned libraries of Europe, including even the Alexandrian of old, is
not only an erudite one, but establishes in a high degree the taste of
the swearer, and displays on his part an uncommon grasp of intellect.
Still we recommend you, whenever you hear an alleged fact substantiated
by it, to set your ear as sharply as possible; for, after all, it
is more than probable that every book by which he has sworn might be
contained in a nutshell. The secret may be briefly explained:—Paddy is
in the habit of substituting the word never for ever. "By all the books
that never wor opened or shut," the reader perceives, is only a nourish
of trumpets—a mere delusion of the enemy.
In fact, Paddy has oaths rising gradually from the lying ludicrous to
the superstitious solemn, each of which finely illustrates the nature of
the subject to which it is applied. When he swears "By the contints o'
Moll Kelly's Primer," or "By the piper that played afore Moses," you
are, perhaps, as strongly inclined to believe him as when he draws upon
a more serious oath; that is, you almost regret the thing is not the
gospel that Paddy asserts it to be. In the former sense, the humorous
narrative which calls forth the laughable burlesque of "By the piper o'
Moses," is usually the richest lie in the whole range of fiction.
Paddy is, in his ejaculatory, as well as in all his other mock oaths, a
kind, of smuggler in morality, imposing as often as he can upon his own
conscience, and upon those who exercise spiritual authority over him.
Perhaps more of his oaths are blood-stained than would be found among
the inhabitants of all Christendom put together.
Paddy's oaths in his amours are generally rich specimens of humorous
knavery and cunning. It occasionally happens—but for the honor of
our virtuous countrywomen, we say but rarely—that by the honey of his
flattering and delusive tongue, he succeeds in placing some unsuspecting
girl's reputation in rather a hazardous predicament. When the priest
comes to investigate the affair, and to cause him to make compensation
to the innocent creature who suffered by his blandishments, it is almost
uniformly ascertained that, in order to satisfy her scruples as to
the honesty of his promises, he had sworn marriage to her on a book
of ballads!!! In other cases blank books have been used for the same
If, however, you wish to pin Paddy up in a corner, get him a Relic, a
Catholic prayer-book, or a Douay Bible to swear upon. Here is where the
fox—notwithstanding all his turnings and windings upon heretic Bibles,
books, or ballads, or mock oaths—is caught at last. The strongest
principle in him is superstition. It may be found as the prime mover in
his best and worst actions. An atrocious man, who is superstitious, will
perform many good and charitable actions, with a hope that their merit
in the sight of God may cancel the guilt of his crimes. On the other
hand, a good man, who is superstitiously the slave of his religious
opinions, will lend himself to those illegal combinations, whose object
is, by keeping ready a system of organized opposition to an heretical
government, to fulfil, if a political crisis should render it
practicable, the absurd prophecies of Pastorini and Columbkil. Although
the prophecies of the former would appear to be out of date to a
rational reader, yet Paddy, who can see farther into prophecy than any
rational reader, honestly believes that Pastorini has left for those who
are superstitiously given, sufficient range of expectation in several
parts of his work.
We might enumerate many other oaths in frequent use among the peasantry;
but as our object is not to detail them at full length, we trust that
those already specified may be considered sufficient to enable our
readers to get a fuller insight into their character, and their moral
influence upon the people.
The next thing which occurs to us in connection with the present
subject, is cursing; and here again Paddy holds the first place. His
imprecations are often full, bitter, and intense. Indeed, there is more
poetry and epigrammatic point in them than in those of any other country
in the world.
We find it a difficult thing to enumerate the Irish curses, so as to do
justice to a subject so varied and so liable to be shifted and improved
by the fertile genius of those who send them abroad. Indeed, to reduce
them into order and method would be a task of considerable difficulty.
Every occasion, and every fit of passion, frequently produce a new
curse, perhaps equal in bitterness to any that has gone before it.
Many of the Irish imprecations are difficult to be understood, having
their origin in some historical event, or in poetical metaphors that
require a considerable process of reasoning to explain them. Of this
twofold class is that general one, "The curse of Cromwell on you!" which
means, may you suffer all that a tyrant like Cromwell would inflict! and
"The curse o'the crows upon you!" which is probably an allusion to
the Danish invasion—a raven being the symbol of Denmark; or it may be
tantamount to "May you rot on the hills, that the crows may feed upon
your carcass!" Perhaps it may thus be understood to imprecate death upon
you or some member of your house—alluding to the superstition of rooks
hovering over the habitations of the sick, when the malady with which
they are afflicted is known to be fatal. Indeed, the latter must
certainly be the meaning of it, as is evident from the proverb of "Die,
an' give the crow a puddin'."
"Hell's cure to you!—the devil's luck to you!—high hanging to
you!—hard feeling to you!—a short coorse to you!" are all pretty
intense, and generally used under provocation and passion. In these
cases the curses just mentioned are directed immediately to the
offensive object, and there certainly is no want of the malus animus
to give them energy. It would be easy to multiply the imprecations
belonging to this class among the peasantry, but the task is rather
unpleasant. There are a few, however, which, in consequence of their
ingenuity, we cannot pass over: they are, in sooth, studies for the
swearer. "May you never die till you see your own funeral!" is a very
beautiful specimen of the periphrasis: it simply means, may you be
hanged; for he who is hanged is humorously said to be favored with a
view of that sombre spectacle, by which they mean the crowd that attends
an execution. To the same purpose is, "May you die wid a caper in your
heel!"—"May you die in your pumps!"—"May your last dance be a hornpipe
on the air!" These are all emblematic of hanging, and are uttered
sometimes in jest, and occasionally in earnest. "May the grass grow
before your door!" is highly imaginative and poetical. Nothing, indeed,
can present the mind with a stronger or more picturesque emblem of
desolation and ruin. Its malignity is terrible.
There are also mock imprecations as well as mock oaths. Of this
character are, "The devil go with you an' sixpence, an' thin you'll
want neither money nor company!" This humorous and considerate curse
is generally confined to the female sex. When Paddy happens to be in a
romping mood, and teases his sweetheart too much, she usually utters it
with a countenance combating with smiles and frowns, while she stands in
the act of pinning up her dishevelled hair; her cheeks, particularly the
one next Paddy, deepened into a becoming blush.
"Bad scran to you!" is another form seldom used in anger: it is the same
as "Hard feeding to you!" "Bad win' to you!" is "Ill health to you!"
it is nearly the same as "Consumin' (consumption) to you!" Two other
imprecations come under this head, which we will class together, because
they are counterparts of each other, with this difference, that one of
them is the most subtilely and intensely withering in its purport that
can well be conceived. The one is that common curse, "Bad 'cess to you!"
that is, bad success to you: we may identify it with "Hard fortune to
you!" The other is a keen one, indeed—"Sweet bad luck to you!" Now,
whether we consider the epithet sweet as bitterly ironical, or deem it
as a wish that prosperity may harden the heart to the accomplishment of
future damnation, as in the case of Dives, we must in either sense grant
that it is an oath of powerful hatred and venom. Occasionally the curse
of "Bad luck to you!" produces an admirable retort, which is pretty
common. When one man applies it to another, he is answered with "Good
luck to you, thin; but may neither of thim ever happen."
"Six eggs to you, an' half-a-dozen o' them rotten!"—like "The devil go
with you an' sixpence!" is another of those pleasantries which mostly
occur in the good-humored badinage between the sexes. It implies
There is a species of imprecation prevalent among Irishmen which we may
term neutral. It is ended by the word bit, and merely results from a
habit of swearing where there is no malignity of purpose. An Irishman,
when corroborating an assertion, however true or false, will often
say, "Bad luck to the bit but it is;"—"Divil fire the bit but it's
thruth!"—"Damn the bit but it is!" and so on. In this form the mind is
not moved, nor the passions excited: it is therefore probably the most
insipid of all their imprecations.
Some of the most dreadful maledictions are to be heard among the
confirmed mendicants of Ireland. The wit, the gall, and the poetry
of these are uncommon. "May you melt off the earth like snow off the
ditch!" is one of a high order and intense malignity; but it is not
exclusively confined to mendicants, although they form that class among
which it is most prevalent. Nearly related to this is, "May you melt
like butther before a summer sun!" These are, indeed, essentially
poetical; they present the mind with appropriate imagery, and exhibit a
comparison perfectly just and striking. The former we think unrivalled.
Some of the Irish imprecations would appear to have come down to us from
the Ordeals. Of this class, probably, are the following: "May this be
poison to me!"—"May I be roasted on red hot iron!" Others of them,
from their boldness of metaphor, seem to be of Oriental descent. One
expression, indeed, is strikingly so. When a deep offence is offered
to an Irishman, under such peculiar circumstances that he cannot
immediately retaliate, he usually replies to his enemy—"You'll sup
sorrow for this!"—"You'll curse the day it happened!"—"I'll make you
rub your heels together!" All those figurative denunciations are used
for the purpose of intimating the pain and agony he will compel his
enemy to suffer.
We cannot omit a form of imprecation for good, which is also habitual
among the peasantry of Ireland. It is certainly harmless, and argues
benevolence of heart. We mean such expressions as the following:
"Salvation to me!—May I never do harm!—May I never do an ill
turn!—May I never sin!" These are generally used by men who are
blameless and peaceable in their lives—simple and well-disposed in
their intercourse with the world.
At the head of those Irish imprecations which are dreaded by the people,
the Excommunication, of course, holds the first and most formidable
place. In the eyes of men of sense it is as absurd as it is illiberal:
but to the ignorant and superstitious, who look upon it as anything but
a brutum fulmen, it is terrible indeed.
Next in order are the curses of priests in their private capacity,
pilgrims, mendicants, and idiots. Of those also Paddy entertains a
wholesome dread; a circumstance which the pilgrim and mendicant turn
with great judgment to their own account. Many a legend and anecdote do
such chroniclers relate, when the family, with whom they rest for
the night, are all seated around the winter hearth. These are often
illustrative of the baneful effects of the poor man's curse. Of course
they produce a proper impression; and, accordingly, Paddy avoids
offending such persons in any way that might bring him under their
A certain class of cursers much dreaded in Ireland are those of
the widow and the orphan. There is, however, something touching and
beautiful in this fear of injuring the sorrowful and unprotected. It
is, we are happy to say, a becoming and prominent feature in Paddy's
character; for, to do him justice in his virtues as well as in his
vices, we repeat that he cannot be surpassed in his humanity to the
lonely widow and her helpless orphans. He will collect a number of his
friends, and proceed with them in a body to plant her bit of potato
ground, to reap her oats, to draw home her turf, or secure her hay. Nay,
he will beguile her of her sorrows with a natural sympathy and delicacy
that do him honor; his heart is open to her complaints, and his hand
ever extended to assist her.
There is a strange opinion to be found in Ireland upon the subject of
curses. The peasantry think that a curse, no matter how uttered, will
fall on something; but that it depends upon the person against whom it
is directed, whether or not it will descend on him. A curse, we have
heard them say, will rest for seven years in the air, ready to alight
upon the head of the person who provoked the malediction. It hovers
over him, like a kite over its prey, watching the moment when he may
be abandoned by his guardian angel: if this occurs, it shoots with the
rapidity of a meteor on his head, and clings to him in the shape of
illness, temptation, or some other calamity.
They think, however, that the blessing of one person may cancel the
curse of another; but this opinion does not affect the theory we have
just mentioned. When a man experiences an unpleasant accident, they will
say, "He has had some poor body's curse;" and, on the contrary, when he
narrowly escapes it, they say, "He has had some poor body's blessing."
There is no country in which the phrases of good-will and affection are
so strong as in Ireland. The Irish language actually flows with the milk
and honey of love and friendship. Sweet and palatable is it to the other
sex, and sweetly can Paddy, with his deluding ways, administer it to
them from the top of his mellifluous tongue, as a dove feeds her young,
or as a kind mother her babe, shaping with her own pretty mouth every
morse of the delicate viands before it goes into that of the infant. In
this manner does Paddy, seated behind a ditch, of a bright Sunday, when
he ought to be at Mass, feed up some innocent girl, not with "false
music," but with sweet words; for nothing more musical or melting than
his brogue ever dissolved a female heart. Indeed, it is of the danger
to be apprehended from the melody of his voice, that the admirable and
appropriate proverb speaks; for when he addresses his sweetheart, under
circumstances that justify suspicion, it is generally said—"Paddy's
feedin' her up wid false music."
What language has a phrase equal in beauty and tenderness to cushla
machree—pulse of my heart? Can it be paralleled in the whole
range of all that are, ever were, or ever will be spoken, for music,
sweetness, and a knowledge of anatomy? If Paddy is unrivalled at
swearing, he fairly throws the world behind him at the blarney. In
professing friendship, and making love, give him but a taste of the
native, and he is a walking honey-comb, that every woman who sees him
wishes to have a lick at; and Heaven knows, that frequently, at all
times, and in all places, does he get himself licked on their account.
Another expression of peculiar force is vick machree—or, son of my
heart. This is not only elegant, but affectionate, beyond almost any
other phrase except the foregoing. It is, in a sense, somewhat different
from that in which the philosophical poet has used it, a beautiful
comment upon the sentiment of "the child's the father of the man,"
uttered by the great, we might almost say, the glorious, Wordsworth.
We have seen many a youth, on more occasions than one, standing in
profound affliction over the dead body of his aged father, exclaiming,
"Ahir, vick machree—vick machree—wuil thu marra wo'um? Wuil thu marra
wo'um? Father, son of my heart, son of my heart, art thou dead
from me—art thou dead from me?" An expression, we think, under
any circumstances, not to be surpassed in the intensity of domestic
affection which it expresses; but under those alluded to, we consider
it altogether elevated in exquisite and poetic beauty above the most
powerful symbols of Oriental imagery.
A third phrase peculiar to love and affection, is "Manim asthee
hu—or, My soul's within you." Every person acquainted with languages
knows how much an idiom suffers by a literal translation. How beautiful,
then, how tender and powerful, must those short expressions be, uttered,
too, with a fervor of manner peculiar to a deeply feeling people, when,
even after a literal translation, they carry so much of their tenderness
and energy into a language whose genius is cold when compared to the
glowing beauty of the Irish.
Mauourneen dheelish, too, is only a short phrase, but, coming warm and
mellowed from Paddy's lips into the ear of his colleen dhas, it is
a perfect spell—a sweet murmur, to which the lenis susurrus of the
Hybla bees is, with all their honey, jarring discord. How tame is
"My sweet darling," its literal translation, compared to its soft and
lulling intonations. There is a dissolving, entrancing, beguiling,
deluding, flattering, insinuating, coaxing, winning, inveigling,
roguish, palavering, come-overing, comedhering, consenting, blarneying,
killing, willing, charm in it, worth all the philters that ever the
gross knavery of a withered alchemist imposed upon the credulity of
those who inhabit the other nations of the earth—for we don't read that
these shrivelled philter-mongers ever prospered in Ireland.
No, no—let Paddy alone. If he hates intensely and effectually, he loves
intensely, comprehensively, and gallantly. To love with power is a proof
of a large soul, and to hate well is, according to the great moralist,
a thing in itself to be loved. Ireland is, therefore, through all its
sects, parties, and religions, an amicable nation. Their affections are,
indeed, so vivid, that they scruple not sometimes to kill each other
with kindness: but we hope that the march of love and friendship will
not only keep pace with, but outstrip, the march of intellect.
Peter Cornell was for many years of his life a pattern and proverb
for industry and sobriety. He first began the world as keeper of a
shebeen-house at the cross-roads, about four miles from the town of
Ballypoteen. He was decidedly an honest man to his neighbors, but a
knave to excisemen, whom he hated by a kind of instinct that he had,
which prompted him, in order to satisfy his conscience, to render
them every practicable injury within the compass of his ingenuity.
Shebeen-house keepers and excisemen have been, time out of mind,
destructive of each other; the exciseman pouncing like a beast or bird
of prey upon the shebeen man and his illicit spirits; the shebeen man
staving in the exciseman, like a barrel of doublings, by a knock
from behind a hedge, which sometimes sent him to that world which is
emphatically the world of spirits. For this, it some happened that the
shebeen man was hanged; but as his death only multiplied that of the
excisemen in a geometrical ratio, the sharp-scented fraternity resolved,
if possible, not to risk their lives, either by exposing themselves to
the necessity of travelling by night, or prosecuting by day. In this
they acted wisely and prudently: fewer of the unfortunate peasantry
were shot in their rencounters with the yeomanry or military on such
occasions, and the retaliations became by degrees less frequent, until,
at length, the murder of a gauger became a rare occurrence in the
Peter, before his marriage, had wrought as laboring servant to a man
who kept two or three private stills in those caverns among the remote
mountains, to which the gauger never thought of penetrating, because he
supposed that no human enterprise would have ever dreamt of advancing
farther into them than appeared to him to be practicable. In this he
was frequently mistaken: for though the still-house was in many cases
inaccessible to horses, yet by the contrivance of slipes—a kind of
sledge—a dozen men could draw a couple of sacks of barley with less
trouble, and at a quicker pace, than if horses only had been employed.
By this, and many other similar contrivances, the peasantry were often
able to carry on the work of private distillation in places so distant,
that few persons could suspect them as likely to be chosen for such
purposes. The uncommon personal strength, the daring spirit, and great
adroitness of Peter Connell, rendered him a very valuable acquisition
to his master in the course of his illicit occupations. Peter was,
in addition to his other qualities, sober and ready-witted, so that
whenever the gauger made his appearance, his expedients to baffle him
were often inimitable. Those expedients did not, however, always arise
from the exigency of the moment; they were often deliberately, and with
much exertion of ingenuity, planned by the proprietors and friends
of such establishments, perhaps for weeks before the gauger's visit
occurred. But, on the other hand, as the gauger's object was to
take them, if possible, by surprise, it frequently happened that his
appearance was as unexpected as it was unwelcome. It was then that the
prompt ingenuity of the people was fully seen, felt, and understood
by the baffled exciseman, who too often had just grounds for bitterly
cursing their talent at outwitting him.
Peter served his master as a kind of superintendent in such places,
until he gained the full knowledge of distilling, according to the
processes used by the most popular adepts in the art. Having acquired
this, he set up as a professor, and had excellent business. In the
meantime, he had put together by degrees a small purse of money, to
the amount of about twenty guineas—no inconsiderable sum for a
young Irishman who intends to begin the world on his own account. He
accordingly married, and, as the influence of a wife is usually not to
be controlled during the honey-moon, Mrs. Connell prevailed on Peter
to relinquish his trade of distiller, and to embrace some other mode of
life that might not render their living so much asunder necessary. Peter
suffered himself to be prevailed upon, and promised to have nothing more
to do with private distillation, as a distiller. One of the greatest
curses attending this lawless business, is the idle and irregular habit
of life which it gradually induces. Peter could not now relish the
labor of an agriculturist, to which he had been bred, and yet he was
too prudent to sit down and draw his own and his wife's support from so
exhaustible a source as twenty guineas. Two or three days passed, during
which "he cudgelled his brains," to use his own expression, in plans for
future subsistence; two or three consultations were held with Ellish,
in which their heads were laid together, and, as it was still the
honey-moon, the subject-matter of the consultation, of course, was
completely forgotten. Before the expiration of a second month, however,
they were able to think of many other things, in addition to the
fondlings and endearments of a new-married couple. Peter was every day
becoming more his own man, and Ellish by degrees more her own woman.
"The purple light of love," which had changed Peter's red head into
a rich auburn, and his swivel eye into a knowing wink, exceedingly
irresistible in his bachelorship, as he made her believe, to the country
girls, had passed away, taking the aforesaid auburn along with it and
leaving nothing but the genuine carrot behind. Peter, too, on opening
his eyes one morning about the beginning of the third month, perceived
that his wife was, after all, nothing more than a thumping red-cheeked
wench, with good eyes, a mouth rather large, and a nose very much
resembling, in its curve, the seat of a saddle, allowing the top to
correspond with the pummel.
"Pether," said she, "it's like a dhrame to me that you're neglectin'
your business, alanna."
"Is it you, beauty? but, maybe, you'd first point out to me what
business, barrin' buttherin' up yourself, I have to mind, you phanix
"Quit yourself, Pether! it's time for you to give up your ould ways; you
caught one bird wid them, an' that's enough. What do you intind to do!
It's full time for you to be lookin' about you."
"Lookin' about me! What do you mane Ellish?"
"The dickens a bit o' me thought of it," replied the wife, laughing
at the unintentional allusion to the circumspect character of Peter's
eyes,—"upon my faix, I didn't—ha, ha, ha!"
"Why, thin, but you're full o'your fun, sure enough, if that's what
you're at. Maybe, avourneen, if I had looked right afore me, as I ought
to do, it's Katty Murray an' her snug farm I'd have, instead of"—
Peter hesitated. The rapid feelings of a woman, and an Irishwoman, quick
and tender, had come forth and subdued him. She had not voluntarily
alluded to his eyes; but on seeing Peter offended, she immediately
expressed that sorrow and submission which are most powerful when
accompanied by innocence, and when meekly assumed, to pacify rather than
to convince. A tear started to her eye, and with a voice melted into
unaffected tenderness, she addressed him, but he scarcely gave her time
"No, avourneen, no, I won't say what I was goin' to mintion. I won't
indeed, Ellish, dear; an' forgive me for woundin' your feelin's alanna
dhas. (* My pretty child.) Hell resave her an' her farm! I dunna what
put her into my head at all; but I thought you wor jokin' me about my
eyes: an' sure if you war, acushla, that's no rason that I'd not allow
you to do that an' more wid your own Pether. Give me a slewsther, (* a
kiss of fondness) agrah—a sweet one, now!"
He then laid his mouth to hers, and immediately a sound, nearly
resembling a pistol-shot, was heard through every part of the house. It
was, in fact, a kiss upon a scale of such magnitude, that the Emperor
of Morocco might not blush to be charged with it. A reconciliation took
place, and in due time it was determined that Peter, as he understood
poteen, should open a shebeen house. The moment this resolution was
made, the wife kept coaxing him, until he took a small house at the
cross-roads before alluded to, where, in the course of a short time,
he was established, if not in his own line, yet in a mode of life
approximating to it as nearly as the inclination of Ellish would permit.
The cabin which they occupied had a kitchen in the middle, and a room at
each end of it, in one of which was their own humble chaff bed, with its
blue quilted drugget cover; in the other stood a couple of small tables,
some stools, a short form, and one chair, being a present from his
father-in-law. These constituted Peter's whole establishment, so far +as
it defied the gauger. To this we must add! a five-gallon keg of spirits
hid in the garden, and a roll of smuggled tobacco. From the former he
bottled, over night, as much as was usually drank the following day;
and from the tobacco, which was also kept under ground, he cut, with the
same caution, as much as to-morrow's exigencies might require. This he
kept in his coat-pocket, a place where the gauger would never think
of searching for it, divided into halfpenny and pennyworths, ounces or
half-ounces, according as it might be required; and as he had it without
duty, the liberal spirit in which he dealt it out to his neighbors soon
brought him a large increase of custom.
Peter's wife was an excellent manager, and he himself a pleasant,
good-humored man, full of whim and inoffensive mirth. His powers of
amusement were of a high order, considering his station in life and his
want of education. These qualities contributed, in a great degree, to
bring both the young and old to his house during the long winter nights,
in order to hear the fine racy humor with which he related his frequent
adventures and battles with excisemen. In the summer evenings, he
usually engaged a piper or a fiddler, and had a dance, a contrivance by
which he not only rendered himself popular, but increased his business.
In this mode of life, the greatest source of anxiety to Peter and Ellish
was the difficulty of not offending their friends by refusing to give
them credit. Many plans, were, with great skill and forethought, devised
to obviate this evil; but all failed. A short board was first procured,
on which they got written with chalk—
"No credit giv'n—barrin' a thrifle to Pether's friends."
Before a week passed, after this intimation, the number of "Pether's
friends" increased so rapidly, that neither he nor Ellish knew the half
of them. Every scamp in the parish was hand and glove with him: the
drinking tribe, particularly, became desperately attached to him and
Ellish. Peter was naturally kind-hearted, and found that his firmest
resolutions too often gave way before the open flattery with which he
was assailed. He then changed his hand, and left Ellish to bear the
brunt of their blarney. Whenever any person or persons were seen
approaching the house, Peter, if he had reason to suspect an attack upon
his indulgence, prepared himself for a retreat. He kept his eye to
the window, and if they turned from the direct line of the road, he
immediately slipped into bed, and lay close in order to escape them. In
the meantime they enter.
"God save all here. Ellish, agra machree, how are you?"
"God save you kindly! Faix, I'm mid-dim', I thank you, Condy: how is
yourself, an' all at home?"
"Devil a heartier, barrin' my father, that's touched wid a loss of
appetite afther his meals—ha, ha, ha!"
"Musha, the dickens be an you, Condy, but you're your father's son, any
way; the best company in Europe is the same man. Throth, whether you're
jokin' or not, I'd be sarry to hear of anything to his disadvantage,
dacent man. Boys, won't you go down to the other room?"
"Go way wid yez, boys, till I spake to Ellish here about the affairs
o' the nation. Why, Ellish, you stand the cut all to pieces. By the
contints o' the book, you do; Pether doesn't stand it half so well. How
is he, the thief?"
"Throth, he's not well, to-day, in regard of a smotherin' about the
heart he tuck this mornin' afther his breakfast. He jist laid himself
on the bed a while, to see if it would go off of him—God be praised for
all his marcies!"
"Thin, upon my solevation, I'm sarry to hear it, and so will all at
home, for there's not in the parish we're sittin' in a couple that our
family has a greater regard an' friendship for, than him and yourself.
Faix, my modher, no longer ago than Friday night last, argued down
Bartle Meegan's throath, that you and Biddy Martin wor the two portliest
weemen that comes into the chapel. God forgive myself, I was near
quarrelin' wid Bartle on the head of it, bekase I tuck my modher's part,
as I had a good right to do."
"Thrath, I'm thankful to you both, Condy, for your kindness."
"Oh, the sarra taste o' kindness was in it at all, Ellish, 'twas only
the truth; an' as long as I live, I'll stand up for that."
"Arrah, how is your aunt down at Carntall?"
"Indeed, thin, but middlin', not gettin' her health: she'll soon give
the crow a puddin', any way; thin, Ellish, you thief, I'm in for the
yallow boys. Do you know thim that came in wid me?"
"Why, thin, I can't say I do. Who are they, Condy?"
"Why one o' them's a bachelor to my sisther Norah, a very dacent boy,
indeed—him wid the frieze jock upon him, an' the buckskin breeches.
The other three's from Teernabraighera beyant. They're related to my
brother-in-law, Mick Dillon, by his first wife's brother-in-law's uncle.
They're come to this neighborhood till the 'Sizes, bad luck to them,
goes over; for you see, they're in a little throuble."
"The Lord grant them safe out of it, poor boys!"
"I brought them up here to treat them, poor fellows; an', Ellish,
avourneen, you must credit me for whatsomever we may have. The thruth
is, you see, that when we left home, none of us had any notion of
drinkin' or I'd a put somethin' in my pocket, so that I'm taken at an
average.—Bud-an'-age! how is little Dan? Sowl, Ellish, that goorsoon,
when he grows up, will be a credit to you. I don't think there's a finer
child in Europe of his age, so there isn't."
"Indeed, he's a good child, Condy. But Condy, avick, about givin'
credit:—by thim five crasses, if I could give score to any boy in the
parish, it 'ud be to yourself. It was only last night that I made a
promise against doin' such a thing for man or mortual. We're a'most
broken an' harrish'd out o' house an' home by it; an' what's more,
Condy, we intend to give up the business. The landlord's at us every day
for his rint, an' we owe for the two last kegs we got, but hasn't a
rap to meet aither o' thim; an' enough due to us if we could get
it together: an' whisper, Condy, atween ourselves, that's what ails
Pettier, although he doesn't wish to let an to any one about it."
"Well, but you know I'm safe, Ellish?"
"I know you are, avourneen, as the bank itself; an' should have what you
want wid a heart an' a half, only for the promise I made an my two knees
last night, aginst givin' credit to man or woman. Why the dickens didn't
you come yistherday?"
"Didn't I tell you, woman alive, that it was by accident, an' that I
wished to sarve the house, that we came at all. Come, come, Ellish;
don't disgrace me afore my sisther's bachelor an' the sthrange boys
that's to the fore. By this staff in my hand, I wouldn't for the best
cow in our byre be put to the blush afore thim; an' besides, there's a
cleeveen (* a kind of indirect relationship) atween your family an'
"Condy, avourneen, say no more: if you were fed from the same breast wid
me, I couldn't, nor wouldn't break my promise. I wouldn't have the sin
of it an me for the wealth o' the three kingdoms."
"Beclad, you're a quare woman; an' only that my regard for you is great
entirely, we would be two, Ellish; but I know you're dacent still."
He then left her and joined his friends in the little room that was
appropriated for drinking, where, with a great deal of mirth, he related
the failure of the plan they had formed for outwitting Peter and Ellish.
"Boys," said he, "she's too many for us! St. Pettier himself wouldn't
make a hand of her. Faix, she's a cute one. I palavered her at the
rate of a hunt, an' she ped me back in my own coin, with dacent
intherest—but no whiskey!—Now to take a rise out o' Pettier. Jist sit
where ye are, till I come back."
He left them enjoying the intended "spree," and went back to Ellish.
"Well, I'm sure, Ellish, if any one had tuck their book oath that you'd
refuse my father's son such a thrifle, I wouldn't believe them. It's not
wid Pettier's knowledge you do it, I'll be bound. But bad as you thrated
us, sure we must see how the poor fellow is, at an rate."
As he spoke, and before Ellish had time to prevent him, he pressed into
the room where Peter lay.
"Why, tare alive, Pether, is it in bed you are at this hour of the day?"
"Eh? Who's that—who's that? oh!"
"Why thin, the sarra lie undher you, is that the way wid you?"
"Oh!—oh! Eh? Is that Condy?"
"All that's to the fore of him. What's asthray wid you man alive?"
"Throth, Condy, I don't know, rightly. I went out, wantin' my coat,
about a week ago, an' got cowld in the small o' the back; I've a pain in
it ever since. Be sittin'."
"Is your heart safe? You have no smotherin' or anything upon it?"
"Why thin, thank goodness, no; it's all about my back an' my inches."
"Divil a thing it is but a complaint they call an alloverness ails
you, you shkaimer o' the world wide. 'Tis the oil o' the hazel, or a
rubbin' down wid an oak towel you want. Get up, I say, or, by this an'
by that, I'll flail you widin an inch o' your life."
"Is it beside yourself you are, Condy?"
"No, no, faix; I've found you out: Ellish is afther tellin' me that it
was a smotherin' on the heart; but it's a pain in the small o' the back
wid yourself. Oh, you born desaver! Get up, I say agin, afore I take the
stick to you!"
"Why, thin, all sorts o' fortune to you, Condy—ha, ha, ha!—but you're
the sarra's pet, for there's no escapin' you. What was that I hard
atween you an' Ellish?" said Peter, getting up.
"The sarra matther to you. If you behave yourself, we may let you into
the wrong side o' the sacret afore you die. Go an' get us a pint of what
you know," replied Condy, as he and Peter entered the kitchen.
"Ellish," said Peter, "I suppose we must give it to thim. Give it—give
it, avourneen. Now, Condy, whin 'ill you pay me for this?"
"Never fret yourself about that; you'll be ped. Honor bright, as the
black said whin he stole the boots."
"Now Pettier," said the wife, "sure it's no use axin' me to give it,
afther the promise I made last night. Give it yourself; for me, I'll
have no hand in such things good or bad. I hope we'll soon get out of it
altogether, for myselfs sick an' sore of it, dear knows!"
Pettier accordingly furnished them with the liquor, and got a promise
that Condy would certainly pay him at mass on the following Sunday,
which was only three days distant. The fun of the boys was exuberant
at Condy's success: they drank, and laughed, and sang, until pint after
pint followed in rapid succession.
Every additional inroad upon the keg brought a fresh groan from Ellish;
and even Peter himself began to look blank as their potations deepened.
When the night was far advanced they departed, after having first
overwhelmed Ellish with professions of the warmest friendship, promising
that in future she exclusively should reap whatever benefit was to be
derived from their patronage.
In the meantime, Condy forgot to perform his promise. The next Sunday
passed, but Peter was not paid, nor was his clever debtor seen at mass,
or in the vicinity of the shebeen-house, for many a month afterwards—an
instance of ingratitude which mortified his creditor extremely. The
latter, who felt that it was a take in, resolved to cut short all hopes
of obtaining credit from them in future. In about a week after the
foregoing hoax, he got up a board, presenting a more vigorous refusal
of score than the former. His friends, who were more in number than he
could have possibly imagined, on this occasion, were altogether wiped
out of the exception. The notice ran to the following effect:—
"Notice to the Public, and to Pether Connell's friends in
particular.—Divil resave the morsel of credit will be got or given in
this house, while there is stick or stone of it together, barrin' them
that axes it has the ready money.
"Pettier X his mark Connell,
"Ellish X her mark Connell."
This regulation, considering everything, was a very proper one. It
occasioned much mirth among Peter's customers; but Peter cared little
about that, provided he made the money.
The progress of his prosperity, dating it from so small a beginning, was
decidedly slow. He owed it principally to the careful habits of Ellish,
and his own sobriety. He was prudent enough to avoid placing any sign in
his window, by which his house could be known as a shebeen; for he was
not ignorant that there is no class of men more learned in this species
of hieroglyphics than excisemen. At all events, he was prepared for
them, had they come to examine his premises. Nothing that could bring
him within the law was ever kept visible. The cask that contained the
poteen was seldom a week in the same place of concealment, which was
mostly, as we have said, under ground. The tobacco was weighed and
subdivided into small quantities, which, in addition to what he carried
in his pocket, were distributed in various crevices and crannies of
the house; sometimes under the thatch; sometimes under a dish on the
dresser, but generally in a damp place.
When they had been about two or three years thus employed, Peter, at the
solicitation of the wife, took a small farm.
"You're stout an' able," said she; "an' as I can manage the house widout
you, wouldn't it be a good plan to take a bit o' ground—nine or
ten acres, suppose—an' thry your hand at it? Sure you wor wanst the
greatest man in the parish about a farm. Surely that 'ud be dacenter nor
to be slungein' about, invintin' truth and lies for other people, whin
they're at their work, to make thim laugh, an you doin' nothin' but
standin' over thim, wid your hands down to the bottom o' your pockets?
Do, Pether, thry it, avick, an' you'll see it 'ill prosper wid us, plase
"Faix I'm ladin' an asier life, Ellish."
"But are you ladin' a dacenter or a more becominer life?"
"Why, I think, widout doubt, that it's more becominer to walk about like
a gintleman, nor to be workin' like a slave."
"Gintleman! Musha, is it to the fair you're bringin' yourself? Why, you
great big bosthoon, isn't it both a sin an' a shame to see you sailin'
about among the neighbors, like a sthray turkey, widout a hand's turn to
do? But, any way, take my advice, avillish,—will you, aroon?—an' faix
you'll see how rich we'll get, wid a blessin'?"
"Ellish, you're a deludher!"
"Well, an' what suppose? To be sure I am. Usen't you be followin' me
like a calf afther the finger?—ha, ha, ha!—Will you do my biddin',
Peter gave her a shrewd, significant wink, in contradiction to what he
considered the degrading comparison she had just made.
"Ellish, you're beside the mark, you beauty; always put the saddle on
the right horse, woman alive! Didn't you often an' I often swear to me,
upon two green ribbons, acrass one another, that you liked a red head
best, an' that the redder it was you liked it the betther?"
"An' it was thruth, too; an' sure, by the same a token, whore could
I get one half so red as your own? Faix, I knew what I was about! I
wouldn't give you yet for e'er a young man in the parish, if I was a
widow to-morrow. Will you take the land?"
"So thin, afther all, if the head hadn't been an me, I wouldn't be a
favorite wid you?—ha, ha, ha!"
"Get out wid you, and spake sinse. Throth, if you don't say aither ay or
no, I'll give myself no more bother about it, There we are now wid some
guineas together, an'—Faix, Pettier, you're vexin' me!"
"Do you want an answer?"
"Why, if it's plasin' to your honor, I'd have no objection."
"Well, will you have my new big coat made agin Shraft?" (* Shrovetide)
"Ay, will I, in case you do what I say; but if you don't the sarra
stitch of it 'll go to your back this twelvemonth, maybe, if you vex me.
"Well, I'll tell you what: my mind's made up—I will take the land; an'
I'll show the neighbors what Pether Connell can do yit."
"Augh! augh! mavoumeen, that you wor! Throth I'll fry a bit o' the bacon
for our dinner to-day, on the head o' that, although I didn't intind to
touch it till Sunday. Ay, faix, an' a pair o' stockins, too, along wid
the coat; an' somethin' else, that you didn't hear of yit."
Ellish, in fact, was a perfect mistress of the science of wheedling;
but as it appears instinctive in the sex, this is not to be wondered at.
Peter himself was easy, or rather indolent, till properly excited by
the influence of adequate motives; but no sooner were the energies that
slumbered in him called into activity, than he displayed a firmness of
purpose, and a perseverance in action, that amply repaid his exertions.
The first thing he did, after taking, his little farm, was to prepare
for its proper cultivation, and to stock it. His funds were not,
however, sufficient for this at the time. A horse was to be bought, but
the last guinea they could spare had been already expended, and this
purchase was, therefore, out of the question. The usages of the small
farmers, however, enabled him to remedy this inconvenience. Peter made
a bargain with a neighbor, in which he undertook to repay him by an
exchange of labor, for the use of his plough and horses in getting
down his crop. He engaged to give him, for a stated period in the slack
season, so many days' mowing as would cover the expenses of ploughing
and harrowing his land. There was, however, a considerable portion
of his holding potato-ground; this Peter himself dug with his spade,
breaking it as he went along into fine mould. He then planted the
seed—got a hatchet, and selecting the best thorn-bush he could find,
cut it down, tied a rope to the trunk, seized the rope, and in this
manner harrowed his potato-ground. Thus did he proceed, struggling to
overcome difficulties by skill, and substituting for the more efficient
modes of husbandry, such rude artificial resources as his want of
capital compelled him to adopt.
In the meantime, Ellish, seeing Peter acquitting himself in his
undertaking with such credit, determined not to be outdone in her
own department. She accordingly conceived the design of extending her
business, and widening the sphere of her exertions. This intention,
however, she kept secret from Peter, until by putting penny to penny,
and shilling to shilling, she was able to purchase a load of crockery.
Here was a new source of profit opened exclusively by her own address.
Peter was astonished when he saw the car unloaded, and the crockery
piled in proud array by Ellish's own hands.
"I knew," said she, "I'd take a start out o' you. Faix, Pether, you'll
see how I'll do, never fear, wid the help o' Heaven! I'll be off to the
market in the mornin', plase God, where I'll sell rings around me * o'
them crocks and pitchers. An' now, Pether, the sarra one o' me would do
this, good or bad, only bekase your managin' the farm so cleverly. Tady
Gormley's goin' to bring home his meal from the mill, and has promised
to lave these in the market for me, an' never fear but I'll get some o'
the neighbors to bring them home, so that there's car-hire saved. Faix,
Pether, there's nothin' like givin' the people sweet words, any way;
sure they come chape."
* This is a kind of hyperbole for selling a grout
"Faith, an' I'll back you for the sweet words agin any woman in the
three kingdoms, Ellish, you darlin'. But don't you know the proverb,
'sweet words butther no parsnips.'"
"In throth, the same proverb's a lyin' one, and ever was; but it's not
parsnips I'll butther wid 'em, you gommoch."
"Sowl, you butthered me wid 'em long enough, you deludher—devil a lie
in it; but thin, as you say, sure enough, I was no parsnip—not so soft
as that either, you phanix."
"No? Thin I seldom seen your beautiful head without thinkin' of a
carrot, an' it's well known they're related—ha, ha, ha!—Behave,
Pether—behave, I say—Pether, Pether—ha, ha, ha!—let me alone! Katty
Hacket, take him away from me—ha, ha, ha!"
"Will ever you, you shaver wid the tongue that you are? Will ever you, I
say? Will ever you make delusion to my head again—eh?"
"Oh, never, never—but let me go, an' me go full o' tickles! Oh, Pether,
avourneen, don't, you'll hurt me, an' the way I'm in—quit, avillish!"
"Bedad, if you don't let my head alone, I'll—will ever you?"
"Never, never. There now—ha, ha, ha!—oh, but I'm as wake as wather wid
what I laughed. Well now, Pether, didn't I manage bravely—didn't I?"
"Wait till we see the profits first, Ellish—crockery's very tindher
"Ay!—just wait, an'I'll engage I'll turn the penny. The family's risin'
"Very thrue," replied Peter, giving a sly wink at the wife—"no doubt of
"—Kisin' wid us—I tell you to have sinse, Pether; an' it's our duty to
have something for the crathurs when they grow up."
"Well, that's a thruth—sure I'm not sayin' against it."
"I know that; but what I say is, if we hould an, we may make money.
Everything, for so far, has thruv wid us, God be praised for it. There's
another thing in my mind, that I'll be tellin' you some o' these days."
"I believe, Ellish, you dhrame about makin' money."
"Well, an' I might do worse; when I'm dhramin' about it, I'm doin' no
sin to any one. But, listen, you must keep the house to-morrow while I'm
at the market. Won't you, Pether?"
"An' who's to open the dhrain in the bottom below?"
"That can be done the day afther. Won't you, abouchal?"
"Ellish, you're a deludher, I tell you. Sweet words;—sowl, you'd
smooth a furze bush wid sweet words. How-an-ever, I will keep the house
to-morrow, till we see the great things you'll do wid your crockery."
Ellish's success was, to say the least of it, quite equal to, her
expectations. She was certainly an excellent wife, full of acuteness,
industry, and enterprise. Had Peter been married to a woman of a
disposition resembling his own, it is probable that he would have sunk
into indolence, filth, and poverty, these miseries might have soured
their tempers, and driven them into all the low excesses and crimes
attendant upon pauperism. Ellish, however, had sufficient spirit to act
upon Peter's natural indolence, so as to excite it to the proper pitch.
Her mode of operation was judiciously suited to his temper. Playfulness
and kindness were the instruments by which she managed him. She knew
that violence, or the assumption of authority, would cause a man who,
like him, was stern when provoked, to react, and meet her with an
assertion of his rights and authority not to be trifled with. This she
consequently avoided, not entirely from any train of reasoning on the
subject; but from that intuitive penetration which taught her to know
that the plan she had resorted to was best calculated to make him
subservient to her own purposes, without causing him to feel that he was
Indeed, every day brought out her natural cleverness more clearly. Her
intercourse with the world afforded her that facility of understanding
the tempers and dispositions of others, which can never be acquired
when it has not been bestowed as a natural gift. In her hands it was
a valuable one. By degrees her house improved in its appearance, both
inside and outside. From crockery she proceeded to herrings, then to
salt, in each of which she dealt with surprising success. There was,
too, such an air of bustle, activity, and good-humor about her that
people loved to deal with her. Her appearance was striking, if not
grotesque. She was tall and strong, walked rapidly, and when engaged
in fair or market disposing of her coarse merchandise, was dressed in a
short red petticoat, blue stockings, strong brogues, wore a blue cloak,
with the hood turned up, over her head, on the top of which was a man's
hat, fastened by a, ribbon under her chin. As she thus stirred about,
with a kind word and a joke for every one, her healthy cheek in full
bloom, and her blue-gray eye beaming with an expression of fun and
good-nature, it would be difficult to conceive a character more
adapted for intercourse with, a laughter-loving people. In fact, she
soon became a favorite, and this not the less that she was as ready to
meet her rivals in business with a blow as with a joke. Peter witnessed
her success with unfeigned pleasure; and although every feasible
speculation was proposed by her, yet he never felt that he was a mere
nonentity when compared to his wife. 'Tis true, he was perfectly capable
of executing her agricultural plans when she proposed them, but his own
capacity for making a lucky hit was very limited. Of the two, she was
certainly the better farmer; and scarcely an improvement took place in
his little holding which might not be traced to Ellish.
In the course of a couple of years she bought him a horse, and Peter was
enabled, to join with a neighbor, who had another. Each had a plough
and tackle, so that here was a little team made up, the half of which
belonged to Peter. By this means they ploughed week about, until their
crops were got down. Peter finding his farm doing well, began to feel a
kind of rivalship with his wife—that is to say, she first suggested
the principle, and afterwards contrived to make him imagine that it was
originally his own.
"The sarra one o' you, Pettier," she exclaimed to him one day, "but's
batin' me out an' out. Why, you're the very dickins at the farmin', so
you are. Faix, I suppose, if you go an this way much longer, that
you'll be thinkin' of another farm, in regard that we have some guineas
together. Pettier, did you ever think of it, abouchal?"
"To be sure, I did, you beauty; an' amn't I in fifty notions to take
Harry Neal's land, that jist lies alongside of our own."
"Faix, an' you're right, maybe; but if it's strivin' again me you are,
you may give it over: I tell you, I'll have more money made afore this
time twelvemonth than you will."
"Arrah, is it jokin' you are? More money? Would you advise me to take
Harry's land? Tell me that first, you phanix, an' thin I'm your man!"
"Faix, take your own coorse, avourneen. If you get a lase of it at a
fair rint, I'll buy another horse, any how. Isn't that doin' the thing
"More power to you, Ellish! I'll hold you a crown, I pay you the price
o' the horse afore this time twelvemonth."
"Done! The sarra be off me but done!—an' here's Barny Dillon an' Katty
Hacket to bear witness."
"Sure enough we will," said Barny, the servant.
"I'll back the misthress any money," replied the maid.
"Two to one on the masther," said the man. "Whoo! our side o' the house
for ever! Come, Pether, hould up your head, there's money bid for you!"
"Ellish, I'll fight for you ankle deep," said Katty—"depind your life
"In the name o' goodness, thin, it's a bargain," said Ellish; "an' at
the end o' the year, if we're spared, we'll see what we'll see. We'll
have among ourselves a little sup o' tay, plase goodness, an' we'll be
comfortable. Now, Barny, go an' draw home thim phaties from the pits
while the day's fine; and Katty, a colleen, bring in some wather, till
we get the pig killed and scalded—it'll hardly have time to be good
bacon for the big markets at Christmas. I don't wish," she continued,
"to keep it back from them that we have a thrifle o' money. One always
does betther when it's known that they're not strugglin'. There's Nelly
Cummins, an' her customers is lavin' her, an' dalin' wid me, bekase
she's goin' down in business. Ay an', Pether, ahagur, it's the way o'
"Well but, Ellish, don't you be givin' Nelly Cummins the harsh word, or
lanin' too heavily upon her, the crathur, merely in regard that she is
goin' down. Do you hear, acolleen?"
"Indeed I don't do it, Pether; but you know she has a tongue like a
razor at times, and whin it gets loose she'd provoke St. Pether himself.
Thin she's takin' to the dhrink, too, the poor misfortunate vagabone!"
"Well, well, that's no affair o' yours, or mine aither—only don't be
risin' ructions and norrations wid her. You threwn a jug at her the
last day you war out, an' hot the poor ould Potticary as he was passin'.
You see I hard that, though you kept it close from me!—ha, ha, ha!"
"Ha, ha, ha!—why you'd split if you had seen the crathur whin he fell
into Pether White's brogue-creels, wid his heels up. But what right
had she to be sthrivin' to bring away my customers afore my face? Ailey
Dogherty was buying a crock wid me, and Nelly shouts over to her from
where she sot like a queen on her stool, 'Ailey,' says she, 'here's a
betther one for three fardens less, an' another farden 'ill get you a
pennorth o' salt.' An', indeed, Ailey walks over, manely enough, an'
tuck her at her word. Why, flesh an' blood couldn't bear it."
"Indeed, an' you're raal flesh and blood, Ellish, if that's thrue."
"Well, but consarnin' what I mintioned awhile agone—hut! the poor mad
crathur, let us have no more discoorse about her—I say, that no one
ever thrives so well as when the world sees that they are gettin' an,
an' prosperin'; but if there's not an appearance, how will any one know
whether we are prosperin' or not, barrin' they see some sign of it about
us; I mane, in a quiet rasonable way, widout show or extravagance. In
the name o' goodness, thin, let us get the house brushed up, an' the
outhouses dashed. A bushel or two of lime 'ill make this as white as
an egg widin, an' a very small expinse will get it plastered, and
whitewashed widowt. Wouldn't you like it, avourneen? Eh, Pether?"
"To be sure I'd like it. It'll give a respectful look to the house and
"Ay, an' it'll bring customers, that's the main thing. People always
like to come to a snug, comfortable place. An', plase God, I'm thinkin'
of another plan that I'll soon mintion."
"An' what may that be, you skamer? Why, Ellish, you've ever and always
some skam'e or other in that head o' yours. For my part, I don't know
how you get at them."
"Well, no matter, acushla, do you only back me; just show me how I ought
to go on wid them, for nobody can outdo you at such things, an' I'll
engage we'll thrive yit, always wid a blessin' an us."
"Why, to tell God's thruth, I'd bate the devil himself at plannin' out,
an' bringin' a thing to a conclusion—eh, you deludher?"
"The sarra doubt of it; but takin' the other farm was the brightest
thought I seen wid you yit. Will you do it, avillish?"
"To be sure. Don't I say it? An' it'll be up wid the lark wid me. Hut,
woman, you don't see the half o' what's in me, yet."
"I'll buy you a hat and a pair o' stockins at Christmas."
"Will you, Ellish? Then, by the book, I'll work like a horse."
"I didn't intind to tell you, but I had it laid out for you."
"Faith, you're a beauty, Ellish. What'll we call this young chap that's
"Now, Pether, none o' your capers. It's time enough when the thing
happens to be thinkin' o' that, Glory be to God!"
"Well, you may talk as you plase, but I'll call him Pether."
"An' how do you know but he'll be a girl, you omadhawn?"
"Murdher alive, ay, sure enough! Faith, I didn't think o' that!"
"Well, go up now an' spake to Misther Eccles about the land; maybe
somebody else 'ud slip in afore us, an' that wouldn't be pleasant.
Here's your brave big coat, put it an; faix, it makes a man of
you—gives you a bodagh* look entirely; but that's little to what you'll
be yet, wid a blessin'—a Half-Sir, any way."
* This word is used in Ireland sometimes in a good and
sometimes in a bad sense. For instance, the peasantry
will often say in allusion to some individual who may
happen to be talked of, "Hut! he's a dirty bodagh;" but
again, you may hear them use it in a sense directly the
reverse of this; for instance, "He's a very dacent
man, and looks the bodagh entirely." As to the "Half
sir," he stands about half-way between the bodagh and
the gentleman, Bodagh—signifying churl—was applied
originally as a term of reproach to the English
In fact, Ellish's industry had already gained a character for both
herself and her husband. He got credit for the assiduity and activity to
which she trained him: and both were respected for their cleverness in
advancing themselves from so poor a beginning to the humble state of
independence they had then reached. The farm which Ellish was so anxious
to secure was the property of the gentleman from whom they held the
other. Being a man of sense and penetration, he fortunately saw—what,
indeed, was generally well known—that Peter and Ellish were rising in
the world, and that their elevation was the consequence of their own
unceasing efforts to become independent, so that industry is in every
possible point of view its own reward. So long as the farm was open to
competition the offers for it multiplied prodigiously, and rose in equal
proportion. Persons not worth twenty shillings in the world offered
double the rent which the utmost stretch of ingenuity, even with
suitable capital, could pay. New-married couples, with nothing but the
strong imaginative hopes peculiar to their country, proposed for it in
a most liberal spirit. Men who had been ejected out of their late farms
for non-payment of rent, were ready to cultivate this at a rent much
above that which, on better land, they were unable to pay. Others, who
had been ejected from farm after farm—each of which they undertook as a
mere speculation, to furnish them with present subsistence, but without
any ultimate expectation of being able to meet their engagements—came
forward with the most laudable efforts. This gentleman, however, was
none of those landlords who are so besotted and ignorant of their own
interests, as to let their lands simply to the highest bidders, without
taking into consideration their capital, moral character, and habits
of industry. He resided at home, knew his tenants personally, took an
interest in their successes and difficulties, and instructed them in the
best modes of improving their farms.
Peter's first interview with him was not quite satisfactory on
either side. The honest man was like a ship without her rudder, when
transacting business in the absence of his wife. The fact was, that on
seeing the high proposals which were sent in, he became alarmed lest, as
he flattered himself, that the credit of the transaction should be all
his own, the farm might go into the hands of another, and his character
for cleverness suffer with Ellish. The landlord was somewhat astounded
at the rent which a man who bore so high a name for prudence offered
him. He knew it was considerably beyond what the land was worth, and he
did not wish that any tenant coming upon his estate should have no other
prospect than that of gradually receding into insolvency.
"I cannot give you any answer now," said he to Peter; "but if you will
call in a day or two I shall let you know my final determination."
Peter, on coming home, rendered an account of his interview with the
landlord to his wife, who no sooner heard of the extravagant proposal he
made, than she raised her hands and eyes, exclaiming—
"Why, thin, Pether, alanna, was it beside yourself you wor, to go for to
offer a rint that no one could honestly pay! Why, man alive, it 'ud
lave us widout house or home in do time, all out! Sure Pettier, acushla,
where 'ud be the use of us or any one takin' land, barrin' they could
make somethin' by it? Faix, if the gintleman had sinse, he wouldn't give
the same farm to anybody at sich a rint; an' for good rasons too—bekase
they could never pay it, an' himself 'ud be the sufferer in the long
"Dang me, but you're the long-headedest woman alive this day, Ellish.
Why, I never wanst wint into the rason o' the thing, at all. But you
don't know the offers he got."
"Don't I? Why do you think he'd let the Mullins, or the Conlans, or the
O'Donog-hoes, or the Duffys, upon his land, widout a shillin' in one o'
their pockets to stock it, or to begin workin' it properly wid. Hand me
my cloak from the pin there, an' get your hat. Katty, avourneen, have an
eye to the house till we come back; an' if Dick Murphy comes here to get
tobaccy on score, tell him I can't afford it, till he pays up what he
got. Come, Pether, in the name o' goodness—come, abouchal."
Ellish, during their short journey to the landlord's, commenced, in her
own way, a lecture upon agricultural economy, which, though plain and
unvarnished, contained excellent and practical sense. She also pointed
out to him when to speak and when to be silent; told him what rent to
offer, and in what manner he should offer it; but she did all this so
dexterously and sweetly, that honest Peter thought the new and corrected
views which she furnished him with, were altogether the result of his
own penetration. The landlord was at home when they arrived, and ordered
them into the parlor, where he soon made his appearance.
"Well, Connell," said he, smiling, "are you come to make me a higher
"Why thin no, plase your honor," replied Peter, looking for confidence
to Ellish: "instead o' that, sir, Ellish here—"
"Never heed me, alanna; tell his honor what you've to say, out o' the
face. Go an acushla."
"Why, your honor, to tell the blessed thruth, the dickens a bit o'
myself but had a sup in my head when I was wid your honor to-day
Ellish was thunderstruck at this most unexpected apology from Peter; but
the fact was, that the instructions which she had given him on their
way had completely evaporated from his brain, and he felt himself thrown
altogether upon his own powers of invention. Here, however, he was at
home; for it was well known among all his acquaintances, that, however
he might be deficient in the management of a family when compared to his
wife, he was capable, notwithstanding, of exerting a certain imaginative
faculty in a very high degree. Ellish felt that to contradict him on the
spot must lessen both him and herself in the opinion of the landlord, a
circumstance that would have given her much pain.
"I'm sorry to hear that, Connell," said Mr. Eccles; "you bear the
character of being strictly sober in your habits. You must have been
early at the bottle, too, which makes your apology rather unhappy. Of
all tipplers, he who drinks early is the worst and most incurable."
"Thrue for you, sir, but this only happens me wanst a year, your honor."
"Once a year! But, by the by, you had no appearance of being tipsy,
"Tipsy! Bud-a'-age, your honor, I was never seen tipsy in all my life,"
said Peter,—"That's a horse of another color, sir, plase your honor."
The reader must at once perceive that Peter here was only recovering
himself from the effects of the injurious impression which his first
admission was calculated to produce against him in the mind of his
landlord. "Tipsy! No, no, sir; but the rason of it, sir, was this: it
bein' my birthday, sir, I merely tuck a sup in the mornin', in honor o'
the day. It's altogether a lucky day to me, sir!"
"Why, to be sure, every man's birthday may, probably, be called
such—the gift of existence being, I fear, too much undervalued."
"Bedad, your honor, I don't mane that, at all."
"Then what do you mean, Peter?"
"Why, sir, you see, it's not that I was entirely born on this day, but
partly, sir; I was marrid to Ellish here into the bargain,—one o'
the best wives, sir—however, I'll say no more, as she's to the fore
herself. But, death alive, sir, sure when we put both conclusions
together—myself bein' sich a worthy man, and Ellish such a tip-top
wife, who could blame me for smellin' the bottle?—for divil a much more
I did—about two glasses, sir—an' so it got up into my head a little
when I was wid your honor to-day before."
"But what is the amount of all this, Peter?"
"Why, sir, you see only I was as I said, Sir—not tipsy, your honor, any
way, but seein' things double or so; an' that was, I suppose, what made
me offer for the farm double what I intinded. Every body knows, sir,
that the 'crathur' gives the big heart to us, any how, your honor."
"But you know, Peter, we entered into no terms about it. I, therefore,
have neither power nor inclination to hold you to the offer you made."
"Faith, sir, you're not the gintleman to do a shabby turn, nor ever was,
nor one o' your family. There's not in all Europe"—
Ellish, who was a point blank dealer, could endure Peter's mode of
transacting business no longer. She knew that if he once got into the
true spirit of applying the oil of flattery to the landlord, he would
have rubbed him into a perfect froth ere he quitted him. She, therefore,
took up the thread of the discourse, and finished the compliment with
much more delicacy than honest Peter could have displayed.
"Thrue for you, Pether," she added; "there is not a kinder family to
the poor, nor betther landlords in the country they live in. Pether an'
myself, your honor, on layin' both our 'heads together, found that he
offered more rint for the land nor any! tenant could honestly pay. So,
sir, where's the use of keepin' back God's truth—Pether, sir"—
Peter here trembled from an apprehension that the wife, in accomplishing
some object of her own in reference to the land, was about to undeceive
the landlord, touching the lie which he had so barefacedly palmed upon
that worthy gentleman for truth. In fact, his anxiety overcame his
prudence, and he resolved to anticipate her.
"I'd advise you, sir," said he, with a smile of significant good-humor,
"to be a little suspicious of her, for, to tell the truth, she draws
the"—here he illustrated the simile with his staff—"the long bow of an
odd time; faith she does. I'd kiss the book on the head of what I tould
you, sir, plase your honor. For the sacret of it is, that I tuck the
moistare afore she left her bed."
"Why, Peter, alanna," said Ellish, soothingly, "what's comin' over you,
at all, an' me; goin' to explain to his honor the outs and ins I of our
opinion about the land? Faix, man, we're not thinkin' about you, good or
"I believe the drop has scarcely left your head yet, Peter," said the
"Bud-an'-age, your honor, sure we must have our joke, any how—doesn't
she deserve it for takin' the word out o' my mouth?"
"Whisht, avillish; you're too cute for us all, Pether. There's no use,
sir, as I was sayin', for any one to deny that when they take a farm
they do it to make by it, or at the laste to live comfortably an it.
That's the thruth, your honor, an' it's no use to keep it back from you,
"I perfectly agree with you," said the landlord. "It is with these
motives that a tenant should wish to occupy land; and it is the duty of
every landlord who has his own interest truly at heart, to see that
his land be not let at such a rent as will preclude the possibility of
comfort or independence on the part of his tenantry. He who lets his
land above its value, merely because people are foolish enough to offer
more for it than it is worth, is as great an enemy to himself as he is
to the tenant."
"It's God's thruth, sir, an' it's nothin' else but a comfort to hear
sich words comin' from the lips of a gintleman that's a landlord
"Ay, an' a good one, too," said Peter; "an' kind father for his honor to
be what he is. Divil resave the family in all Europe"—
"Thrue for you, avourneen, an' even' one knows that. We wor talkin' it
over, sir, betuxt ourselves, Pether an' me, an' he says very cutely,
that, upon second thoughts, he offered more nor we could honestly pay
out o' the land: so"—
"Faith, it's a thrue as gospel, your honor. Says I, 'Ellish, you
"I thought," observed Mr. Eccles, "that she sometimes drew the long bow,
"Oh, murdher alive, sir, it was only in regard of her crassin' in an'
whippin' the word out o' my mouth, that I wanted to take a rise out
of her. Oh, bedad, sir, no; the crathur's thruth to the backbone, an'
farther if I'd say it."
"So, your honor, considherin' everything, we're willin' to offer thirty
shillin's an acre for the farm. That rint, sir, we'll be able to pay,
wid the help o' God, for sure we can do nothin' widout his assistance,
glory be to his name! You'll get many that'll offer you more, your
honor; but if it 'ud be plasin' to you to considher what manes they have
to pay it, I think, sir, you'd see, out o' your own sinse, that it's not
likely people who is gone to the bad, an' has nothin' could stand it out
"I wish to heaven," replied Mr. Eccles, "that every tenant in Ireland
possessed your prudence and good sense. Will you permit me to ask, Mrs.
Connell, what capital you and your husband can command provided I should
let you have it."
"Wid every pleasure in life, sir, for it's but a fair question to put.
An' sure, it is to God we owe it, whatever it is, plase your honor. But,
sir, if we get the land, we're able to stock it, an' to crop it well an'
dacently; an' if your honor would allow us for sartin improvements, sir,
we'd run it into snug fields, by plantin' good hedges, an' gettin' up
shelther for the outlyin' cattle in the hard seasons, plase your honor,
and you know the farm is very naked and bare of shelter at present."
"Sowl, will we, sir, an' far more nor that if we get it. I'll
undhertake, sir, to level"—
"No, Pether, we'll promise no more nor we'll do; but anything that his
honor will be plased to point out to us, if we get fair support, an'
that it remains on the farm afther us, we'll be willin' to do it."
"Willin'!" exclaimed Peter!—"faith, whether we're willin' or not, if
his honor but says the word"——
"Mrs. Connell," said their landlord, "say no more. The farm is yours,
and you may, consider yourselves as my tenants."
"Many thanks to you, sir, for the priference. I hope, sir, you'll not
rue what you did in givin' it to us before them that offered a higher
rint. You'll find, sir, wid the help o' the Almighty, that we'll pay you
your rint rigular an' punctual."
"Why, thin, long life, an' glory, an' benedication to your honor! Faith,
it's only kind father for you, sir, to be what you are. The divil resave
the family in all Europe"—
"Peter, that will do," replied the landlord, "it would be rather
hazardous for our family to compete with all Europe. Go home, Peter,
and be guided by your wife, who has more sense in her little finger than
ever your family had either in Europe or out of it, although I mean you
no offense by going beyond Europe."
"By all the books that never wor opened an' shut," replied Peter,
with the intuitive quickness of perception peculiar to Irishmen, "an
innocenter boy than Andy Connell never was sent acrass the water. I
proved as clear an alibi for him as the sun in the firmanent; an' yit,
bad luck to the big-wig O'Grady, he should be puttin' in his leek an me
afore the jury, jist whin I had the poor boy cleared out dacently, an'
wid all honor. An' bedad, now, that we're spakin about it, I'll tell
your honor the whole conclusions of it. You see, sir, the Agint was shot
one night; an' above all nights in the year, your honor, a thief of a
toothache that I had kep me"—
"Pether, come away, abouchal: his honor kaows as much about it as you
do, Come, aroon; you know we must help to scald an' scrape the pig afore
night, an' it's late now."
"Bodad, sir, she's a sweet one, this."
"Be guided by her, Peter, if you're wise, she's a wife you ought to be
"Thrue for you, sir; divil resave the word o' lie in that, any how.
Come, Ellish; come, you deludher, I'm wid you."
"God bless your honor, sir, an' we're ob'laged to you for you kindness
an' patience wid the likes o' us."
"I say ditto, your honor. Long life an' glory to you every day your
Peter, on his way home, entered into a defence of his apology for
offering so high a rent to the landlord; but although it possessed both
ingenuity and originality, it was, we must confess, grossly defective in
those principles usually inculcated by our best Ethic writers.
"Couldn't you have tould him what we agreed upon goin' up," observed
Ellish; "but instead o' that, to begin an' tell the gintlemen so many
lies about your bein' dhrunk, an' this bein' your birth-day, an' the
day we wor marrid, an',——Musha, sich quare stories to come into your
"Why," said Peter, "what harm's in all that, whin he didn't find me
"But why the sarra did you go to say that I was in the custom o' tellin'
"Faix, bekase I thought you wor goin' to let out all, an' I thought
it best to have the first word o' you. What else?—but sure I brought
myself off bravely."
"Well, well, a hudh; don't be invintin' sich things another time, or
you'll bring yourself into a scrape, some way or other."
"Faix, an' you needn't spake, Ellish; you can let out a nate bounce
yourself, whin it's to sarve you. Come now, don't run away wid the
"Well, if I do, it's in the way o' my business; whin I'm batin' them
down in the price o' what I'm buyin', or gettin' thim to bid up for any
thing I'm sellin': besides, it's to advance ourselves in the world that
I do it, abouchal."
"Go an, go an; faix, you're like the new moon, sharp at both corners:
but what matther, you beauty, we've secured the farm, at any rate, an',
by this an' by that, I'll show you tip-top farmin' an it."
A struggle now commenced between the husband and wife, as to which of
them should, in their respective departments, advance themselves with
greater rapidity in life. This friendly contest was kept up principally
by the address of Ellish, who, as she knew those points in her husband's
character most easily wrought upon, felt little difficulty in shaping
him to her own purposes. Her great object was to acquire wealth; and it
mostly happens, that when this is the ruling principle in life, there is
usually to be found, in association with it, all those qualities which
are best adapted to secure it. Peter, on finding that every succeeding
day brought something to their gains, began to imbibe a portion of
that spirit which wholly absorbed Ellish. He became worldly; but it
was rather the worldliness of habit than of principle. In the case
of Ellish, it proceeded from both; her mind was apt, vigorous, and
conceptive; her body active, her manners bland and insinuating, and her
penetration almost intuitive. About the time of their entering upon the
second farm, four children had been, the fruit of their marriage—two
sons and two daughters. These were now new sources of anxiety to their
mother, and fresh impulses to her industry. Her ignorance, and that of
her husband, of any kind of education, she had often, in the course
of their business, bitter cause to regret. She now resolved that their
children should be well instructed; and no time was lost in sending them
to school, the moment she thought them capable of imbibing the simplest
elements of instruction.
"It's hard to say," she observed to her husband, "how soon they may be
useful to us. Who knows, Pether, but we may have a full shop yit,
an' they may be able to make up bits of accounts for us, poor things?
Throth, I'd be happy if I wanst seen it."
"Faix, Ellish," replied Peter, "if we can get an as we're doin', it is
hard to say. For my own part, if I had got the larnin' in time, I might
be a bright boy to-day, no doubt of it—could spake up to the best
o' thim. I never wint to school but wanst, an' I remimber I threw the
masther into a kiln-pot, an' broke the poor craythur's arm; an' from
that day to this, I never could be brought a single day to school."
Peter and Ellish now began to be pointed out as a couple worthy of
imitation by those who knew that perseverance and industry never fail of
securing their own reward. Others, however,—that is to say, the lazy,
the profligate, and the ignorant,—had a ready solution of the secret of
"Oh, my dear, she's a lucky woman, an' anything she puts her hand to
prospers. Sure sho was born wid a lucky caul* an her head; an', be
sure, ahagur, the world will flow in upon thim. There's many a neighbor
about thim works their fingers to the stumps, an' yit you see they can't
get an: for Ellish, if she'd throw the sweepins of her hearth to the
wind, it 'ud come back to her in money. She was born to it, an' nothin'
can keep her from her luck!"**
* The caul is a, thin membrane, about the consistence
of very fine silk, which sometimes covers the head on a
new-born infant like a cap. It is always the omen of
great good fortune to the infant and parents; and in
Ireland, when any one has unexpectedly fallen into the
receipt of property, or any other temporal good, it is
customary to say, "such a person was born with a 'lucky
caul' on his head."
Why these are considered lucky, it would be a very
difficult matter to ascertain. Several instances of
good fortune, happening to such as were born with them,
might, by their coincidences, form a basis for the
superstition; just as the fact of three men during one
severe winter having been found drowned, each with two
shirts on, generated an opinion which has now become
fixed and general in that parish, that it is unlucky to
wear two shirts at once. We are not certain whether the
caul is in general the perquisite of the midwife—
sometimes we believe it is; at all events, her
integrity occasionally yields to the desire of
possessing it. In many cases she conceals its
existence, in order that she may secretly dispose of it
to good advantage, which she frequently does; for it is
considered to be the herald of good fortune to those
who can get it into their possession. Now, let not our
English neighbors smile at us for those things until
they wash their own hands clear of such practices. At
this day a caul will bring a good price in the most
civilized city in the world—to wit, the good city of
London—the British metropolis. Nay to such lengths has
the mania for cauls been carried there, that they have
been actually advertised for in the Times newspaper.
* This doctrine of fatalism is very prevalent among the
lower orders in Ireland.
Such are many of the senseless theories that militate against exertion
and industry in Ireland, and occasion many to shrink back from the
laudible race of honest enterprise, into filth, penury, and crime. It
is this idle and envious crew, who, with a natural aversion to domestic
industry, become adepts in politics, and active in those illegal
combinations and outrages which retard the prosperity of the country,
and bring disgrace upon the great body of its peaceable inhabitants.
In the meantime Ellish was rapidly advancing in life, while such persons
were absurdly speculating upon the cause of her success. Her business
was not only increased, but extended. From crockery, herrings, and salt,
she advanced gradually to deal in other branches adapted to her station,
and the wants of the people. She bought stockings, and retailed them
every market-day. By and by a few pieces of soap might be seen in her
windows; starch, blue, potash, and candles, were equally profitable.
Pipes were seen stuck across each other, flanked by tape, cakes,
children's books, thimbles, and bread. In fact, she was equally clever
and expert in whatever she undertook. The consciousness of this, and the
reputation of being "a hard honest woman," encouraged her to get a cask
or two of beer, and a few rolls of tobacco. Peter, when she proposed
the two last, consented only to sell them still as smuggled, goods—sub
silentio. With her usual prudence, however, she declined this.
"We have gone on that way purty far," she replied, "an' never got a
touch, (* never suffered by the exciseman) thanks to the kindness o' the
neighbors that never informed an us: but now, Pether, that we're able we
had betther do everything above boord. You know the ould say, 'long runs
the fox, but he's catched at last:' so let us give up in time, an' get
out a little bit o' license."
"I don't like that at all," replied Peter: "I cain't warm my heart to
the license. I'll back you in anything but that. The gauger won't come
next or near us: he has thried it often, an' never made anything of it.
Dang me, but I'd like to have a bit o' fun with the gauger to see if my
hand's still ready for practice."
"Oh, thin, Pether, how can you talk that way, asthore? Now if what
I'm sayin' was left to yourself wouldn't you be apt to plan it as
I'm doin'?—wouldn't you, acushla? Throth, I know you're to cute an'
sinsible not to do it."
"Why thin, do you know what, Ellish—although I didn't spake it out,
upon my faix I was thinkin' of it. Divil a word o' lie in it."
"Oh, you thief o' the world, an' never to tell it to me. Faix, Pether,
you're a cunnin' shaver, an' as deep as a draw well."
"Let me alone. Why I tell you if I study an' lay myself down to it, I
can conthrive anything. When I was young, many a time my poor father,
God be good to him! said that if there was any possibility of gettin' me
to take to larnin', I'd be risin' out o' the ashes every mornin' like a
"But won't you hould to your plan about the license?"
"Hould! To be sure I will. What was I but takin' a rise out o' you. I
intinded it this good while, you phanix—faix, I did."
In this manner did Ellish dupe her own husband into increasing wealth.
Their business soon became so extensive, that a larger house was
absolutely necessary. To leave that, beneath whose roof she succeeded
so well in all her speculations, was a point—be it of prudence or of
prejudice—which Ellish could not overcome. Her maxim was, whereever you
find yourself doing well, stay there. She contrived, however, to remedy
this. To the old house additional apartments were, from time to time,
added, into which their business soon extended. When these again became
too small, others were also built; so that in the course of about twenty
years, their premises were so extensive, that the original shebeen-house
constituted a very small portion of Peter's residence. Peter, during
Ellish's progress within doors, had not been idle without. For every new
room added to the house, he was able to hook in a fresh farm in addition
to those he had already occupied. Unexpected success had fixed his heart
so strongly upon the accumulation of money, and the pride of rising
in the world, as it was possible for a man, to whom they were only
adventitious feelings, to experience. The points of view in which he
and his wife were contemplated by the little public about them were
peculiar, but clearly distinct. The wife was generally esteemed for
her talents and incessant application to business; but she was not so
cordially liked as Peter. He, on the other hand, though less esteemed,
was more beloved by all their acquaintances than Ellish. This might
probably originate from the more obvious congeniality which existed
between Peter's natural disposition, and the national character; for
with the latter, Ellish, except good humor, had little in common.
The usual remarks upon both were—"she would buy an' sell him"—"'twas
she that made a man of him; but for all that, Pether's worth a ship-load
of her, if she'd give him his own way." That is, if she would permit him
to drink with the neighbors, to be idle and extravagant.
Every year, now that their capital was extending, added more perceptibly
to their independence. Ellish's experience in the humbler kinds of
business, trained her for a higher line; just as boys at school rise
from one form to another. She made no plunges, nor permitted Peter, who
was often, inclined to jump at conclusions, to make any. Her elevation
was gradual and cautious; for her plans were always so seasonable and
simple that every new description of business, and every new success,
seemed to arise naturally from that which went before it.
Having once taken out a license, their house soon became a decent
country spirit establishment; from soap, and candles, and tobacco, she
rose into the full sweep of groceries; and from dealing in Connemara
stockings and tape, she proceeded in due time to sell woollen and linen
drapery. Her crockery was now metamorphosed into delf, pottery, and
hardware; her gingerbread into stout loaves, for as Peter himself grew
wheat largely, she seized the opportunity presented by the death of the
only good baker in the neighborhood, of opening an extensive bakery.
It may be asked, how two illiterate persons, like Peter and Ellish,
could conduct business in which so much calculation was necessary,
without suffering severely by their liability to make mistakes. To this
we reply—first, that we should have liked to see any person attempting
to pass a bad note or a light guinea upon Ellish after nine or ten
years' experience; we should like to have seen a smug clerk taking his
pen from behind his ear, and after making his calculation, on inquiring
from Ellish if she had reckoned up the amount, compelled to ascertain
the error which she pointed out to him. The most remarkable point in
her whole character, was the rapid accuracy she displayed in mental
calculation, and her uncommon sagacity in detecting bad money.
There is, however, a still more satisfactory explanation of this
circumstance to be given. She had not neglected the education of her
children. The eldest was now an intelligent boy, and a smart accountant,
who, thanks to his master, had been taught to keep their books by Double
Entry. The second was little inferior to him as a clerk, though as a
general dealer he was far his superior. The eldest had been principally
behind the counter; whilst the younger, in accompanying his mother in
all her transactions and bargain-making, had in a great measure imbibed
her address and tact.
It is certainly a pleasing, and, we think, an interesting thing, to
contemplate the enterprise of an humble, but active, shrewd woman,
enabling her to rise, step by step, from the lowest state of poverty to
a small sense of independence; from this, by calling-fresh powers into
action, taking wider views, and following them up by increased efforts,
until her shebeen becomes a small country public-house; until her roll
of tobacco, and her few pounds of soap and starch, are lost in the
well-filled drawers of a grocery shop; and her gray Connemara stockings
transformed by the golden wand of industry into a country cloth
warehouse. To see Peter—from the time when he first harrowed part of
his farm with a thorn-bush, and ploughed it by joining his horse to that
of a neighbor—adding farm to farm, horse to horse, and cart to cart,
until we find him a wealthy and extensive agriculturist.
The progress of Peter and Ellish was in another point of view a good
study for him who wishes to look into human nature, whilst adapting
itself to the circumstances through which it passes. When this couple
began life, their friends and acquaintancess were as poor as themselves;
as they advanced from one gradation to another, and rose up from a lower
to a higher state, their former friends, who remained in their original
poverty, found themselves left behind in cordiality and intimacy, as
well as in circumstances; whilst the subjects of our sketch continued
to make new friendships of a more respectable stamp, to fill up, as it
were, the places held in their good will by their humble, but neglected,
intimates. Let not our readers, however, condemn them for this.
It was the act of society, and not of Peter and Ellish. On their parts,
it was involuntary; their circumstances raised them, and they were
compelled, of course, to rise with their circumstances. They were
passing through the journey of life, as it were, and those with whom
they set out, not having been able to keep up with them, soon lost their
companionship, which was given to those with whom they travelled for
the time being. Society is always ready to reward the enterprising and
industrious by its just honors, whether they are sought or not; it is so
disposed, that every man falls or rises into his proper place in it,
and that by the wisdom and harmony of its structure. The rake, who
dissipates by profligacy and extravagance that which might have secured
him an honorable place in life, is eventually brought to the work-house;
whilst the active citizen, who realizes an honest independence, is
viewed with honor and esteem.
Peter and Ellish were now people of consequence in the parish; the
former had ceased to do anything more than superintend the cultivation
of his farms; the latter still took an active part in her own business,
or rather in the various departments of business Which she carried on.
Peter might be seen the first man abroad in the morning proceeding to
some of his farms mounted upon a good horse, comfortably dressed in
top boots, stout corduroy breeches, buff cashmere waistcoat, and
blue broad-cloth coat, to which in winter was added a strong frieze
greatcoat, with a drab velvet collar, and a glazed hat. Ellish was also
respectably dressed, but still considerably under her circumstances.
Her mode of travelling to fairs or markets was either upon a common car,
covered with a feather-bed and quilt, or behind Peter upon a pillion.
This last method flattered Peter's vanity very much; no man could ride
on these occasions with a statelier air. He kept himself as erect and
stiff as a poker, and brandished the thong of his loaded whip with the
pride of a gentleman farmer.
'Tis true, he did not always hear the sarcastic remarks which were
passed upon him by those who witnessed his good-natured vanity:
"There he goes," some laboring man on the wayside would exclaim, "a
purse-proud bodagh upon our hands. Why, thin, does he forget that we
remimber when he kept the shebeen-house, an' sould his smuggled to-baccy
in gits (* the smallest possible quantities) out of his pocket, for
fraid o' the gauger! Sowl, he'd show a blue nose, any way, only for the
wife—'Twas she made a man of him."
"Faith, an' I for one, won't hear Pether Connell run down," his
companion would reply; "he's a good-hearted, honest man, an' obligin'
enough; an' for that matter so is the wife, a hard honest woman, that
made what they have, an' brought herself an' her husband from nothin' to
"Thrue for you, Tim; in throth, they do desarve credit. Still, you see,
here's you an' me, an' we've both been slavin' ourselves as much as they
have, an' yet you see how we are! However, its their luck, and there's
no use in begrudgin' it to them."
When their children were full-grown, the mother did not, as might have
been supposed, prevent them from making a respectable appearance.
With excellent judgment, she tempered their dress, circumstances, and
prospects so well together, that the family presented an admirable
display of economy, and a decent sense of independence. From the moment
they were able to furnish solid proofs of their ability to give a
comfortable dinner occasionally, the priest of the parish began to
notice them; and this new intimacy, warmed by the honor conferred on
one side, and by the good dinners on the other, ripened into a strong
friendship. For many a long year, neither Peter nor Ellish, God forgive
them, ever troubled themselves about going to their duty. They soon
became, however, persons of too much importance to be damned without
an effort made for their salvation. The worthy gentleman accordingly
addressed them on the subject, and as the matter was one of perfect
indifference to both, they had not the slightest hesitation to go to
confession—in compliment to the priest. We do not blame the priest for
this; God forbid that we should quarrel with a man for loving a good
dinner. If we ourselves were a priest, it is very probable,—nay, from
the zest with which we approach a good dinner, it is quite certain—that
we would have cultivated honest Peter's acquaintance, and drawn him
out to the practice of that most social of virtues—hospitality. The
salvation of such a man's soul was worth looking after; and, indeed,
we find a much warmer interest felt, in all churches, for those who are
able to give good dinners, than for those poor miserable sinners who can
scarcely get even a bad one.
But besides this, there was another reason for the Rev. Mr. Mulcahy's
anxiety to cultivate a friendship with Peter and his wife—which
reason consisted in a very laudable determination to bring about a match
between his own niece, Miss Granua Mulcahy, and Peter's eldest son, Dan.
This speculation he had not yet broached to the family, except by broken
hints, and jocular allusions to the very flattering proposals that had
been made by many substantial young men for Miss Granua.
In the mean time the wealth of the Connells had accumulated to
thousands; their business in the linen and woollen drapery line was
incredible. There was scarcely a gentleman within many miles of them,
who did not find it his interest to give them his custom. In the
hardware, flour, and baking concerns they were equally fortunate. The
report of their wealth had gone far and near, exaggerated, however,
as everything of the kind is certain to be; but still there were ample
grounds for estimating it at a very high amount.
Their stores were large, and well filled with many a valuable bale;
their cellars well stocked with every description of spirits; and their
shop, though not large in proportion to their transactions, was well
filled, neat, and tastefully fitted up. There was no show, however—no
empty glare to catch the eye; on the contrary, the whole concern was
marked by an air of solid, warm comfort, that was much more indicative
of wealth and independence than tawdry embellishment would have been.
"Avourneen," said Ellish, "the way to deck out your shop is to keep
the best of goods. Wanst the people knows that they'll get betther
money-worth here than they'll get anywhere else, they'll come here,
whether the shop looks well or ill. Not savin' but every shop ought to
be clane an' dacent, for there's rason in all things."
This, indeed, was another secret of their success. Every article in
their shop was of the best description, having been selected by Ellish's
own eye and hand in the metropolis, or imported directly from the place
of its manufacture. Her periodical visits to Dublin gave her great
satisfaction; for it appears that those with whom she dealt, having
had sufficient discrimination to appreciate her talents and integrity,
treated her with marked respect.
Peter's farm-yard bore much greater evidence of his wealth than did
Ellish's shop. It was certainly surprising to reflect, that by the
capacity of two illiterate persons, who began the world with nothing,
all the best and latest improvements in farming were either adopted or
anticipated. The farmyard was upon a great scale; for Peter cultivated
no less than four hundred acres of land—to such lengths had his
enterprise carried him. Threshing machines, large barns, corn kilns,
large stacks, extensive stables, and immense cow-houses, together with
the incessant din of active employment perpetually going on—all gave
a very high opinion of their great prosperity, and certainly reflected
honor upon those whose exertions had created such a scene about them.
One would naturally suppose, when the family of the Connells had arrived
to such unexpected riches, and found it necessary to conduct a system
whose machinery was so complicated and extensive that Ellish would have
fallen back to the simple details of business, from a deficiency of
that comprehensive intelligence which is requisite to conduct the higher
order of mercantile transactions; especially as her sons were admirably
qualified by practice, example, and education, to ease her of a task
which would appear one of too much difficulty for an unlettered farmer's
wife. Such a supposition would be injurious to this excellent woman. So
far from this being the case, she was still the moving spirit, the
chief conductor of the establishment. Whenever any difficulty arose
that required an effort of ingenuity and sagacity, she was able in the
homeliest words to disentangle it so happily, that those who heard her
wondered that it should at all have appeared to them as a difficulty.
She was everywhere. In Peter's farm-yard her advice was as excellent
and as useful as in her own shop. On his farms she was the better
agriculturist, and she frequently set him right in his plans and
speculations for the ensuing year.
She herself was not ignorant of her skill. Many a time has she surveyed
the scene about her with an eye in which something like conscious pride
might be seen to kindle. On those occasions she usually shook her head,
and exclaimed, either in soliloquy, or by way of dialogue, to some
person near her:—
"Well, avourneen, all's very right, an' goin' an bravely; but I only
hope that when I'm gone I won't be missed!"
"Missed," Peter would reply, if he happened to hear her; "oh, upon my
credit"—he was a man of too much consequence to swear "by this and
by that" now—"upon my credit, Ellish, if you die soon, you'll see the
genteel wife I'll have in your place."
"Whisht, avourneen! Although you're but jokin', I don't like to hear it,
avillish! No, indeed; we wor too long together, Pether, and lived too
happily wid one another, for you to have the heart to think of sich a
"No, in troth, Ellish, I would be long sarry to do it. It's displasin'
to you, achree, an' I won't say it. God spare you to us! It was you put
the bone in us, an' that's what all the country says, big an' little,
young and ould; an' God He knows it's truth, and nothin' else."
"Indeed, no, thin, Pether, it's not altogether thruth, you desarve your
full share of it. You backed me well, acushla, in everything, an' if you
had been a dhrinkin', idle, rollikin' vagabone, what 'ud signify all,
that me or the likes o' me could do."
"Faith, an' it was you made me what I am, Ellish; you tuck the soft
side o' me, you beauty; an' it's well you did, for by this—hem, upon
my reputation, if you had gone to cross purposes with me you'd find
yourself in the wrong box. An', you phanix of beauty, you managed the
childhre, the crathurs, the same way—an' a good way it is, in throth."
"Pether, wor you ever thinkin' o' Father Muloahy's sweetness to us of
"No, thin, the sorra one o' me thought of it. Why, Ellish?"
"Didn't you obsarve that for the last three or four months he's full of
attintions to us? Every Sunday he brings you up, an' me, if I'd go, to
the althar,—an' keeps you there by way of showin' you respect. Pether,
it's not you, but your money he respects; an' I think there ought to be
no respect o' persons in the chapel, any how. You're not a bit nearer
God by bein' near the althar; for how do we know but the poorest crathur
there is nearer to heaven than we are!"
"Faith, sure enough, Ellish; but what deep skame are you penethratin'
now, you desaver?"
"I'd lay my life, you'll have a proposial o' marriage from Father
Mulcahy, atween our Dan an' Miss Granua. For many a day he's hintin' to
us, from time to time, about the great offers she had; now what's the
rason, if she had these great offers, that he didn't take them?"
"Bedad, Ellish, you're the greatest headpiece in all Europe. Murdher
alive, woman, what a fine counsellor you'd make. An' suppose he did
offer, Ellish, what 'ud you be sayin' to him?"
"Why, that 'ud depind entirely upon what he's able to give her—they say
he has money. It 'ud depind, too, upon whether Dan has any likin' for
her or not."
"He's often wid her, I know; an' I needn't tell you, Ellish, that afore
we wor spliced together, I was often wid somebody that I won't mintion.
At all evints, he has made Dan put the big O afore the Connell, so that
he has him now full namesake to the Counsellor; an', faith, that itself'
'ud get him a wife."
"Well, the best way is to say nothin', an' to hear nothin', till his
Reverence spates out, an' thin we'll see what can be done."
Ellish's sagacity had not misled her. In a few months afterwards Father
Mulcahy was asked by young Dan Connell to dine; and as he and holiest
Ellish were sitting together, in the course of the evening, the priest
broached the topic as follows:—
"Mrs. Connell, I think this whiskey is better than my four-year old,
that I bought at the auction the other day, although Dan says mine's
better. Between ourselves, that Dan is a clever, talented young fellow;
and if he happens upon a steady, sensible wife, there is no doubt but he
will die a respectable man. But, by the by, Mrs. Connell, you've never
tried my whiskey; and upon my credit, you must soon, for I know your
opinion would decide the question."
"Is it worth while to decide it, your Reverence? I suppose the thruth
is, sir, that both is good enough for anyone; an' I think that's as much
as we want."
Thus far she went, but never alluded to Dan, judiciously throwing the
onus of introducing that subject upon the priest.
"Dan says mine's better," observed Father Mulcahy; "and I would
certainly give a great deal for his opinion upon that or any other
subject, except theology."
"You ought," replied Ellish, "to be a bether judge of whiskey nor either
Dan nor me; an' I'll tell you why—you dhrink it in more places, and can
make comparishment one wid another; but Dan an' me is confined mostly to
our own, an' of that same we take very little, an' the less the betther
for people in business, or indeed for anybody."
"Very true, Mrs. Connell! But for all that, I won't give up Dan's
judgment in anything within his own line of business, still excepting
theology, for which, he hasn't the learning."
"He's a good son, without tayology—as good as ever broke the world's
bread," said Peter, "glory be to God! Although, for that matther, he
ought to be as well acquainted wid tayology as your Reverence, in
regard that he sells more of it nor you do."
"A good son, they say, Mrs. Connell, will make a good husband. I wonder
you don't think of settling him in life. It's full time."
"Father, avourneen, we must lave that wid himself. I needn't be tellin'
you, that it 'ud be hard to find a girl able to bring what the girl that
'ud expect Dan ought to bring."
This was a staggerer to the priest, who recruited his ingenuity by
drinking Peter's health, and Ellish's.
"Have you nobody in your eye for him, Mrs. Connell?"
"Faith, I'll engage she has," replied Peter, with a ludicrous
grin—"I'll venture for to say she has that."
"Very right, Mrs. Connell; it's all fair. Might one ask who she is; for,
to tell you the truth, Dan is a favorite of mine, and must make it a
point to see him well settled."
"Why, your Reverence," replied Peter again, "jist the one you
"Who? I? Why I mentioned nobody."
"An' that's the very one she has in her eye for him, plase your
Reverence—ha, ha, ha! What's the world widout a joke, Docthor? beggin'
your pardon for makin' so free wid you."
"Peter, you're still a wag," replied the priest; "but, seriously, Mrs.
Connell, have you selected any female, of respectable connections, as a
likely person to be a wife for Dan?"
"Indeed no, your Reverence, I have not. Where could I pitch upon a
girl—barrin' a Protestant, an' that 'ud never do—who has a fortune to
meet what Dan's to get?"
The priest moved his chair a little, and drank their healths a second
"But you know, Mrs. Connell, that Dan needn't care so much about
fortune, if he got a girl of respectable connections. He has an
"Thrue for you, father; but what right would any girl have to expect to
be supported by the hard arnin' of me an' my husband, widout bringin'
somethin' forrid herself? You know, sir, that the fortune always goes
wid the wife; but am I to fortune off my son to a girl that has nothin'?
If my son, plase your Reverence, hadn't a coat to his back, or a guinea
in his pocket—as, God be praised, he has both—but, supposin' he
hadn't, what right would he have to expect a girl wid a handsome fortune
to marry him? There's Paddy Neil your sarvint-boy; now, if Paddy, who's
an honest man's son, axed your niece, wouldn't you be apt to lose your
"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Connell, I think your fire's rather hot—allow
me to drawback a little. Mrs. Connell, your health again!—Mr. Connell,
"Thank you, Docthor; but faith I think you ought hardly to dhrink the
same fireside, becase it appears to be rather hot for your Reverence, at
the present time—ha, ha, ha! Jokin' still, Docthor, we must be. Well,
what harm! I wish we may never do worse!"
"And what fortune would you expect with a girl of genteel connexion—a
girl that's accomplished, well say in music, plain work, and Irish,
vernacularly?—hem! What fortune would you be expecting with such a
"Why, Docthor, ahagur, the only music I'd wish for my son's wife is a
good timper; an' that's what their music-masthers can't tache thim.
The plain work, although I don't know what you mane by it, sounds well
enough; an' as to Irish, whick-whacku-larly, if you mane our own ould
tongue, he may get thousands that can spake it whackinly, an' nothin'
"You're a wealthy woman, certainly, Mrs. Connell, and what's more, I'm
not at all surprised at it. Your health, once more, and long life to
you! Suppose, however, that Dan got a fitting wife, what would you
expect as a proper portion? I have a reason for asking."
"Dan, plase your Reverence, will get four thousand to begin the world
wid; an', as he's to expect none but a Catholic, I suppose if he gets
the fourth part of that, it's as much as he ought to look for."
"A thousand pounds!—hut tut! The woman's beside herself. Why look about
you and try where you can find a Catholic girl with a thousand pounds
fortune, except in a gentleman's family, where Dan could never think of
"That's thrue, any how, your Reverence," observed Peter.—"A thousand
pounds! Ellish! you needn't look for it. Where is it to be had out of a
gintleman's family, as his Reverence says thrue enough."
"An' now, Docthor," said Ellish, "what 'ud you think a girl ought to
bring a young man like Dan, that's to have four thousand pounds?"
"I don't think any Catholic girl of his own rank in the county, could
get more than a couple of hundred."
"That's one shillin' to every pound he has," replied Ellish, almost
instantaneously. "But, Father, you may as well spake out at wanst," she
continued, for she was too quick and direct in all her dealings to be
annoyed by circumlocution; "you're desairous of a match between Dan an'
"Exactly," said the priest; "and what is more, I believe they are fond
of each other. I know Dan is attached to her, for he told me so.
But, now that we have mentioned her, I say that there is not a more
accomplished girl of her persuasion in the parish we sit in. She can
play on the bagpipes better than any other piper in the province, for
I taught her myself; and I tell you that in a respectable man's wife
a knowledge of music is a desirable thing. It's hard to tell, Mrs.
Connell, how they may rise in the World, and get into fashionable
company, so that accomplishments, you persave, are good, she can make a
shirt and wash it, and she can write Irish. As for dancing, I only wish
you'd see her at a hornpipe. All these things put together, along with
her genteel connections, and the prospect of what I may be able to lave
her—I say your son may do worse."
"It's not what you'd lave her, sir, but what you'd give her in the first
place, that I'd like to hear. Spake up, your Reverence, an' let us know
how far you will go."
"I'm afeard, sir," said Peter, "if it goes to a clane bargain atween
yez, that Ellish will make you bid up for Dan. Be sharp; sir, or you'll
have no chance; faix, you won't."
"But, Mrs. Connell;" replied the priest, "before I spake up, consider
her accomplishments. I'll undertake to say, that the best bred girl in
Dublin cannot perform music in such style, or on such an instrument as
the one she uses. Let us contemplate Dan and her after marriage, in an
elegant house, and full business, the dinner over, and they gone up to
the drawing-room. Think how agreeable and graceful it would be for Mrs.
Daniel O'Connell to repair to the sofa, among a few respectable friends,
and, taking up her bagpipes, set her elbow a-going, until the drone
gives two or three broken groans, and the chanter a squeak or two, like
a child in the cholic, or a cat that you had trampled on by accident.
Then comes the real ould Irish music, that warms the heart. Dan
looks upon her graceful position, until the tears of love, taste, and
admiration are coming down his cheeks. By and by, the toe of him moves:
here another foot is going; and, in no time, there is a hearty dance,
with a light heart and a good conscience. You or I, perhaps, drop in to
see them, and, of course, we partake of the enjoyment."
"Divil a pleasanter," said Peter: "I tell you, I'd like it well; an',
for my own part, if the deludher here has no objection, I'm not goin' to
Ellish looked hard at the priest; her keen blue eye glittered with
a sparkling light, that gave decided proofs of her sagacity being
"All that you've said," she replied, "is very fine; but in regard o'
the bag-pipes, an' Miss Granua Mulcahy's squeezin' the music out o'
thim—why, if it plased God to bring my son to the staff an' bag—a
common beggar—indeed, in that case, Miss Granua's bagpipes might sarve
both o' thim, an' help, maybe, to get them a night's lodgin' or so;
but until that time comes, if you respect your niece, you'll burn her
bagpipes, dhrone, chanther, an' all. If you are for a match, which I
doubt, spake out, as I said, and say what fortune you'll pay down on
the nail wid her, otherwise we're losin' our time, an' that's a loss one
can't make up."
The priest, who thought he could have bantered Ellish into an alliance,
without pledging himself to pay any specific fortune, found that it
was necessary for him to treat the matter seriously, if he expected to
succeed. He was certainly anxious for the match; and as he really
wished to see his niece—who, in truth, was an excellent girl, and
handsome—well settled, he resolved to make a stretch and secure Dan if
"Mrs. Connell," said he, "I will be brief with you. The most I can give
her is three hundred pounds, and even that by struggling and borrowing:
I will undertake to pay it as you say—on the nail! for I am really
anxious that my niece should be connected with so worthy and industrious
a family. What do you say?"
"I'm willin' enough," replied Peter. It's not asy to get that and a
"There's some thruth in what you say, aroon, sure enough," observed
Ellish; "an' if his Reverence puts another hundhre to it, why, in
the name of goodness, let them go together. If you don't choose that,
Docthor, never breathe the subject to me agin. Dan's not an ould man
yit, an' has time enough to get wives in plenty."
"Come," replied the priest, "there's my hand, it's a bargain; although
I must say there's no removing you from your point. I will give four
hundred, hook or crook; but I'll have sad scrambling to get it together.
Still I'll make it good."
"Down on the nail?" inquired Ellish.
"Ay! ay! Down on the nail," replied the priest.
"Well, in the name o' Goodness, a bargain be it," said Peter; "but, upon
my credit, Ellish, I won't have the bag-pipes burnt, anyhow. Faith, I
must hear an odd tune, now an' thin, when I call to see the childhre."
"Pether, acushla, have sinse. Would you wish to see your daughter-in-law
playin' upon the bag-pipes, when she ought to be mindin' her business,
or attendin' her childhre? No, your Reverence, the pipes must be laid
aside. I'll have no pipery connection for a son of mine."
The priest consented to this, although Peter conceded it with great
reluctance. Further preliminaries were agreed upon, and the evening
passed pleasantly, until it became necessary for Mr. Mulcahy to bid them
When they were gone, Peter and Ellish talked over the matter between
themselves in the following dialogue:
"The fortune's a small one," said Ellish to her husband; "an' I suppose
you wondher that I consinted to take so little."
"Sure enough, I wondhered at it," replied Peter, "but, for my own
part, I'd give my son to her widout a penny o' fortune, in ordher to
be connected wid the priest; an' besides, she's a fine, handsome, good
girl—ay, an' his fill of a wife, if she had but the shift to her back."
"Four hundhre wid a priest's niece, Pether, is before double the money
wid any other. Don't you know, that when they set up for themselves,
he can bring the custom of the whole parish to them? It's unknown the
number o' ways he can sarve them in. Sure, at stations an' weddins,
wakes, marriages, and funerals, they'll all be proud to let the priest
know that they purchased whatever they wanted from his niece an' her
husband. Betther!—faix, four hundhre from him is worth three times as
much from another."
"Glory to you, Ellish!—bright an' cute for ever! Why, I'd back you for
a woman' that could buy an' sell Europe, aginst the world. Now, isn't it
odd that I never think of these long-headed skames?"
"Ay do you, often enough, Pether; but you keep them to yourself,
"Faith, I'm close, no doubt of it; an'—but there's no use in sayin' any
more about it—you said whatsomever came into my own head consarnin' it.
Faith, you did, you phanix."
In a short time the marriage took place.
Dan, under the advice of his mother, purchased a piece of ground most
advantageously located, as the site of a mill, whereon an excellent
one was built; and as a good mill had been long a desideratum in the
country, his success was far beyond his expectations. Every speculation,
in fact, which Ellish touched, prospered. Fortune seemed to take
delight, either in accomplishing or anticipating her wishes. At least,
such was the general opinion, although nothing could possibly be more
erroneous than to attribute her success to mere chance. The secret of
all might be ascribed to her good sense, and her exact knowledge of the
precise moment when to take the tide of fortune at its flow. Her son,
in addition to the mill, opened an extensive mercantile establishment in
the next town, where he had ample cause to bless the instructions of
his mother, and her foresight in calculating upon the advantage of being
married to the priest's niece.
Soon after his marriage, the person who had for many years kept the
head inn of the next town died, and the establishment was advertised
for sale. Ellish was immediately in action. Here was an opportunity of
establishing the second son in a situation which had enabled the late
proprietor of it to die nearly the richest man in the parish. A few
days, therefore, before that specified for the sale, she took her
featherbed car, and had an interview with the executors of the late
proprietor. Her character was known, her judgment and integrity duly
estimated, and, perhaps, what was the weightiest argument in her favor,
her purse was forthcoming to complete the offer she had made. After some
private conversation between the executors, her proposal was accepted,
and before she returned home, the head inn, together with its fixtures
and furniture, was her property.
The second son, who was called after his father, received the
intelligence with delight. One of his sisters was, at his mother's
suggestion, appointed to conduct the housekeeping department, and
keep the bar, a duty for which she was pretty well qualified by her
experience at home.
"I will paint it in great style," said Peter the Younger. "It must be a
head Inn no longer; I'll call it a Hotel, for that's the whole fashion."
"It wants little, avourneen," said his mother; "it was well kept—some
paintin' an other improvements it does want, but don't be extravagant.
Have it clane an' dacent, but, above all things, comfortable, an'
the attindance good. That's what'll carry you, an—not a flourish o'
paintin' outside, an' dirt, an' confusion, an' bad attindance widin.
Considher, Pether darlin', that the man who owned it last, feathered
his nest well in it, but never called it a Hotill. Let it appear on the
outside jist as your old customers used to see it; but improve it widin
as much as you can, widout bein' lavish an it, or takin' up the place
"At all evints, I'll have a picture of the Liberator over the door, an'
O'Connell' written under it. It's both our names, and besides it will be
'killin' two birds with one stone.'"
"No, avourneen. Let me advise you, if you wish to prosper in life, to
keep yourself out of party-work. It only stands betune you an' your
business; an' it's surely wiser for you to mind your own affairs than
the affairs of the nation. There's rason in everything. No man in trade
has a right, widout committin' a sin, to neglect his family for politics
or parties. There's Jack Cummins that was doin' well in his groceries
till he began to make speeches, an' get up public meetins, an' write
petitions, an' now he has nothin' to throuble him but politics, for his
business is gone. Every one has liberty to think as they plase. We can't
expect Protestants to think as we do, nor Protestants can't suppose that
we ought to think as they'd wish; an' for that same rason, we should
make allowance on both sides, an' not be like many we know, that have
their minds up, expectin' they don't know, what, instead of workin' for
themselves and their families as they ought to do. Pether, won't you
give that up, avillish?"
"I believe you're right, mother. I didn't see it before in the light
you've placed it in."
"Then, Pether darlin', lose no time in gettin' into your place—you an'
Alley; an' faix, if you don't both manage it cleverly, I'll never spake
Here was a second son settled, and nothing remained but to dispose
of their two daughters in marriage to the best and most advantageous
offers. This, in consequences of their large fortunes, was not a matter
of much difficulty. The eldest, Alley, who assisted her brother to
conduct the Inn, became the wife of an extensive grazier, who lived in
an adjoining county. The younger, Mary, was joined to Father Mulcahy's
nephew, not altogether to the satisfaction of the mother, who feared
that two establishments of the same kind, in the same parish, supported
by the same patronage, must thrive at the expense of each other. As it
was something of a love-match, however, she ultimately consented.
"Avourneen," said she, "the parish is big enough, an' has customers
enough to support two o' them; an' I'll engage his Reverence will do
what he can for them both."
In the meantime, neither she nor her husband was dependent upon their
children. Peter still kept the agricultural department in operation;
and although the shop and warehouse were transferred to Mr. Mulcahy, in
right of his wife, yet it was under the condition of paying a yearly sum
to Mrs. Connell and her husband, ostensibly as a provision, but really
as a spur to their exertions. A provision they could not want, for their
wealth still amounted to thousands, independently of the large annual
profits arising out of their farms.
For some time after the marriage of her youngest daughter, Mrs. Connell
took a very active part in her son-in-law's affairs. He possessed
neither experience, nor any knowledge of business whatsoever, though he
was not deficient in education, nor in capacity to acquire both.
This pleased Mrs. Connell very much, who set herself to the task of
instructing him in the principles of commercial life, and in the best
methods of transacting business.
"The first rules," said she to him, "for you to obsarve is these: tell
truth; be sober; be punctual; rise early; persavere; avoid extravagance;
keep your word; an watch your health. Next: don't be proud; give no
offince; talk sweetly; be ready to oblage, when you can do it widout
inconvanience, but don't put yourself or your business out o' your ways
to sarve anybody.
"Thirdly: keep an appearance of substance an' comfort about your place,
but don't go beyant your manes in doin' it; when you make a bargain,
think what a corrocther them you dale wid bears, an' whether or not you
found them honest before, if you ever had business wid them.
"When you buy a thing, appear to know your own mind, an' don't be
hummin' an' hawin', an' higglin', an' longin' as if your teeth wor
watherin' afther it; but be manly, downright, an' quick; they'll then
see that you know your business, an' they won't be keepin' off an' an,
but will close wid you at wanst.
"Never drink at bargain makin'; an' never pay money in a public-house if
you can help it; if you must do it, go into an inn, or a house that you
know to be dacent.
"Never stay out late in a fair or market; don't make a poor mouth; on
the other hand, don't boast of your wealth; keep no low company; don't
be rubbin' yourself against your betthers, but keep wid your aquils.
File your loose papers an' accounts, an' keep your books up to the day.
Never put off anything that can be done, when it ought to be done. Go
early to bed; but be the last up at night, and the first in the mornin',
and there's no fear o' you."
Having now settled all her children in comfort and independence, with
each a prospect of rising still higher in the world, Mrs. Connell felt
that the principal duties devolving upon her had been discharged. It was
but reasonable, she thought, that, after the toil of a busy life, her
husband and herself should relax a little, and enjoy with lighter minds
the ease for which they had labored so long and unremittingly.
"Do you know what I'm thinkin' of, Pether?" said she, one summer evening
in their farm-yard.
"Know, is it?" replied Peter—"some long-headed plan that none of us 'ud
ever think of, but that will stare us in the face the moment you mintion
it. What is it, you ould sprig o' beauty?"
"Why, to get a snug jauntin'-car, for you an' me. I'd like to see you
comfortable in your old days, Peter. You're gettin' stiff, ahagur, an'
will be good for nothin' by an' by."
"Stiff! Arrah, by this an' by—my reputation, I'm younger nor e'er a one
o' my sons yet, you——eh?" said Peter, pausing—
"Faith, then I dunna that. Upon my credit, I think, on second thoughts,
that a car 'ud be a mighty comfortable thing for me. Faith, I do, an'
for you, too, Ellish."
"The common car," she continued, "is slow and throublesome, an' joults
the life out o' me."
"By my reputation, you're not the same woman since you began to use it,
that you wor before at all. Why, it'll shorten your life. The pillion's
dacent enough; but the jauntin'-car!—faix, it's what 'ud make a fresh
woman o' you—divil a lie in it."
"You're not puttin' in a word for yourself now, Pether?"
"To be sure I am, an' for both of us. I'd surely be proud to see
yourself an' myself sittin' in our glory upon our own jauntin'-car. Sure
we can afford it, an' ought to have it, too. Bud-an'-ager! what's the
rason I didn't, think of it long ago?"
"Maybe you did, acushla; but you forgot, it. Wasn't that the way wid
you, Pether? Tell the thruth."
"Why, thin, bad luck to the lie in it, since you must know. About this
time twelve months—no, faix, I'm wrong, it was afore Dan's marriage—I
had thoughts o' spakin' ta you about it, but somehow it left my head.
Upon my word, I'm in airnest, Ellish."
"Well, avick, make your mind asy; I'll have one from Dublin in less nor
a fortnight. I can thin go about of an odd time, an' see how Dan an'
Pether's comin' an. It'll be a pleasure to me to advise an' direct them,
sure, as far an' as well as I can. I only hope? God will enable thim to
do as much for their childher, as he enabled us to do for them, glory be
to his name!"
Peter's eye rested upon her as she spoke—a slight shade passed over
his face, but it was the symptom of deep feeling and affection, whose
current had run smooth and unbroken during the whole life they had spent
"Ellish," said he, in a tone of voice that strongly expressed what
he felt, "you wor one o' the best wives that ever the Almighty gev to
mortual man. You wor, avourneen—-you wor, you wor!"
"I intind, too, to begin an' make my sowl, a little," she continued; "we
had so much to do, Pether, aroon, that, indeed, we hadn't time to think
of it all along; but now, that everything else is settled, we ought to
think about that, an' make the most of our time—while we can."
"Upon my conscience, I've strong notions myself o' the same thing,"
replied Peter. "An' I'll back you in that, as well as in every thing
else. Never fear, if we pull together, but we'll bring up the lost time.
Faith, we will! Sowl, if you set about it, let me see them that 'ud
prevint you goin' to heaven!"
"Did Paddy Donovan get the bay filly's foot aised, Pether?"
"He's gone down wid her to the forge: the poor crathur was very lame
"That's right; an' let Andy Murtagh bring down the sacks from Drumdough
early to-morrow. That what ought to go to the market on Thursday, an'
the other stacks ought to be thrashed out of hand."
"Well, well; so it will be all done. Tare alive! if myself knows how
you're able to keep an eye on everything. Come in, an' let us have our
For a few months after this, Ellish was perfectly in her element. The
jaunting-car was procured; and her spirits seemed to be quite elevated.
She paid regular visits to both her sons, looked closely into their
manner of conducting business, examined their premises, and subjected
every fixture and improvement made or introduced without her sanction,
to the most rigorous scrutiny. In fact, what, between Peter's farm, her
daughter's shop, and the establishments of her sons, she never found
herself more completely encumbered with business. She had intended "to
make her soul," but her time was so fully absorbed by the affairs of
those in whom she felt so strong an interest, that she really forgot the
spiritual resolution in the warmth of her secular pursuits.
One evening, about this time, a horse belonging to Peter happened to
fall into a ditch, from which he was extricated with much difficulty
by the laborers. Ellish, who thought it necessary to attend, had been
standing for some time directing them how to proceed; her dress was
rather thin, and the hour, which was about twilight, chilly, for it was
the middle of autumn. Upon returning home she found herself cold, and
inclined to shiver. At first she thought but little of these symptoms;
for having never had a single day's sickness, she was scarcely competent
to know that they were frequently the forerunners of very dangerous and
fatal maladies. She complained, however, of slight illness, and went
to bed without taking anything calculated to check what she felt. Her
sufferings during the night were dreadful: high fever had set in with a
fury that threatened to sweep the powers of life like a wreck before
it. The next morning the family, on looking into her state more closely,
found it necessary to send instantly for a physician.
On arriving, he pronounced her to be in a dangerous pleurisy, from
which, in consequence of her plethoric habit, he expressed but faint
hopes of her recovery. This was melancholy intelligence to her sons and
daughters: but to Peter, whose faithful wife she had been for thirty
years, it was a dreadful communication indeed.
"No hopes, Docthor!" he exclaimed, with a bewildered air: "did you say
no hopes, sir?—Oh! no, you didn't—you couldn't say that there's no
"The hopes of her recovery, Mr. Connell, are but slender,—if any."
"Docthor, I'm a rich man, thanks be to God an' to——" he hesitated,
cast back a rapid and troubled look towards the bed whereon she lay,
then proceeded—"no matther, I'm a rich man: but if you can spare her to
me, I'll divide what I'm worth in the world wid you: I will, sir; an' if
that won't do, I'll give up my last shillin' to save her, an' thin I'd
beg my bit an' sup through the counthry, only let me have her wid me."
"As far as my skill goes," said the doctor, "I shall, of course, exert
it to save her; but there are some diseases which we are almost always
able to pronounce fatal at first sight. This, I fear, is one of them.
Still I do not bid you despair—there is, I trust, a shadow of hope."
"The blessin' o' the Almighty be upon you, sir, for that word! The best
blessing of the heavenly Father rest upon you an' yours for it!"
"I shall return in the course of the day," continued the physician; "and
as you feel the dread of her loss so powerfully, I will bring two other
medical gentlemen of skill with me."
"Heavens reward you for that, sir! The heavens above reward you an' them
for it! Payment!—och, that signifies but little: but you and them 'll
be well paid. Oh, Docthor, achora, thry an' save her!—Och, thry an'
"Keep her easy," replied the doctor, "and let my directions be
faithfully followed. In the meantime, Mr. Connell, be a man and display
proper fortitude under a dispensation which is common to all men in your
To talk of resignation to Peter was an abuse of words. The poor man
had no more perception of the consolation arising from a knowledge of
religion than a child. His heart sank within him, for the prop on which
his affections had rested was suddenly struck down from under them.
Poor Ellish was in a dreadful state. Her malady seized her in the very
midst of her worldly-mindedness; and the current of her usual thoughts,
when stopped by the aberrations of intellect peculiar to her illness,
bubbled up, during the temporary returns of reason, with a stronger
relish of the world. It was utterly impossible for a woman like her,
whose habits of thought and the tendency of whose affections had been
all directed towards the acquisition of wealth, to wrench them for ever
and at once from the objects on which they were fixed. This, at any
time, would have been to her a difficult victory to achieve; but now,
when stunned by the stroke of disease, and confused by the pangs of
severe suffering, tortured by a feverish pulse and a burning brain, to
expect that she could experience the calm hopes of religion, or feel the
soothing power of Christian sorrow, was utter folly. 'Tis true, her life
had been a harmless one: her example, as an industrious and enterprising
member of society, was worthy of imitation. She was an excellent mother,
a good neighbor, and an admirable wife; but the duties arising out of
these different relations of life, were all made subservient to, and
mixed up with, her great principle of advancing herself in the world,
whilst that which is to come never engaged one moment's serious
When Father Mulcahy came to administer the rites of the church to
Ellish, he found her in a state of incoherency. Occasional gleams of
reason broke out through the cloud that obscured her intellect, but they
carried with them the marks of a mind knit indissolubly to wealth and
aggrandizement. The same tenor of thought, and the same broken fragments
of ambitious speculation, floated in rapid confusion through the
tempests of delirium which swept with awful darkness over her spirit.
"Mrs. Connell," said he, "can you collect yourself? Strive to compose
your mind, so far as to be able to receive the aids of religion."
"Oh, oh!—my blood's boilin'! Is that—is that Father Mulcahy?"
"It is, dear: strive now to keep your mind calm, till you prepare
yourself for judgment."
"Keep up his head, Paddy—keep up his head, or he'll be smothered undher
the wather an' the sludge. Here, Mike, take this rope: pull, man,—pull,
or the horse will be lost! Oh, my head!—I'm boilin'—I'm burnin'!"
"Mrs. Connell, let me entreat you to remember that you are on the
point of death, and should raise your heart to God, for the pardon and
remission of your sins."
"Oh! Father dear, I neglected that, but I intinded—I intinded—Where's
Pether!—bring, bring—Pether to me!"
"Turn your thoughts to God, now, my dear. Are you clear enough in your
mind for confession?"
"I am, Father! I am, avourneen. Come, come here, Pether! Pether, I'm
goin' to lave you, asthore machree! I could part wid them all but—but
"Mrs. Connell, for Heaven's sake."—.
"Is this—is this—Father Mulcahy? Oh! I'm ill—ill!"—
"It is, dear; it is. Compose yourself and confess your sins."
"Where's Mary? She'll neglect—neglect to lay in a stock o' linen,
although I—I—Oh, Father, avourneen! won't you pity me! I'm sick—oh,
I'm very sick!"
"You are, dear—you are, God help you, very sick, but you'll be better
soon. Could you confess, dear?—do you think you could?"
"Oh, this pain—this pain!—it's killin' me!—Pether—Pether, a
suillish, machree, (* The light of my heart) have, have you des—have
you desarted me."
The priest, conjecturing that if Peter made his appearance she might
feel soothed, and perhaps sufficiently composed to confess, called him
in from the next room.
"Here's Peter," said the priest, presenting him to her view—"Here's
"Oh! what a load is on me! this pain—this pain is killin' me—won't you
bring me, Pether? Oh, what will I do? Who's there?"
The mental pangs of poor Peter were, perhaps, equal in intensity to
those which she suffered physically.
"Ellish," said he, in smothered sobs—"Ellish, acushla machree, sure I'm
wid you here; here I'm sittin' on the bed wid you, achora machree."
"Catch my hand, thin. Ah, Pether! won't you pity your Ellish?—Won't you
pity me—won't you pity me? Oh! this pain—this pain—is killin' me!"
"It is, it is, my heart's delight—it's killin' us both. Oh, Ellish,
Ellish! I wish I was dead sooner nor see you in this agony. I ever loved
you!—I ever an' always loved you, avourneen dheelish; but now I would
give my heart's best blood, if it'ud save you. Here's Father Mulcahy
"About the mon—about the money—Pether—what do you intind——Oh! my
blood—my blood's a-fire!—Mother o'Heaven!—Oh! this pain is—is takin'
me from all—faix!—Rise me up!"
"Here, my darlin'—treasure o' my heart here—I'm puttin' your head
upon my breast—upon my breast, Ellish, ahagur. Marciful Virgin—Father
dear," said Peter, bursting into bitter tears—"her head's like fire! O!
Ellish, Ellish, Ellish!—but my heart's brakin' to feel this! Have
marcy on her, sweet God—have marcy on her! Bear witness, Father of
heaven—bear witness, an' hear the vow of a brakin' heart. I here
solemnly promise before God, to make, if I'm spared life an' health to
do it, a Station on my bare feet to Lough Derg, if it plases you, sweet
Father o' pity, to spare her to me this day! Oh! but the hand o' God,
Father dear, is terrible!—feel her brow!—Oh! but it's terrible!"
"It is terrible," said the priest; "and terribly is it laid upon her,
poor woman! Peter, do not let this scene be lost. Remember it."
"Oh, Father dear, can I ever forget it?—can I ever forget seein' my
darlin' in sich agony?"
"Pether," said the sick woman, "will you get the car ready for
to-mor—to-morrow—till I look at that piece o' land that Dan bought,
before he—he closes the bargain?"
"Father, jewel!" said Pether, "can't you get the world banished out of
her heart? Oh, I'd give all I'm worth to see that heart fixed upon God!
I could bear to part wid her, for she must die some time; but to go
wid this world's thoughts an' timptations ragin' strong in her
heart—mockin' God, an' hope, an' religion, an' everything:—oh!—that
I can't bear! Sweet Jasus, change her heart!—Queen o' Heaven, have pity
on her, an' save her!"
The husband wept with great sorrow as he uttered these words.
"Neither reasoning nor admonition can avail her," replied the priest;
"she is so incoherent that no train of thought is continued for a single
minute in her mind. I will, however, address her again. Mrs. Connell,
will you make a straggle to pay attention to me for a few minutes? Are
you not afraid to meet God? You are about to die!—prepare yourself for
"Oh, Father dear! I can't—I can't—I am af—afraid—Hooh!—hooh!—God!
You must do some thin'for—for me! I never done anything for myself."
"Glory be to God! that she has that much sinse, any way," exclaimed her
husband. "Father, ahagur, I trust my vow was heard."
"Well, my dear—listen to me," continued the priest—"can you not make
the best confession possible? Could you calm yourself for it?"
"Pether, avick machree—Pether,"—
"Ellish, avourneen, I'm here!—my darlin', I am your vick machree, an'
ever was. Oh, Father! my heart's brakin'! I can't bear to part wid her.
Father of heaven, pity us this day of throuble?"
"Be near me, Pether; stay wid me—I'm very lonely. Is this you keepin'
my head up?"
"It is, it is! I'll never lave you till—till"—
"Is the carman come from Dublin wid—wid the broadcloth?"
"Father of heaven! she's gone back again!" exclaimed the husband.
"Father, jewel! have you no prayers that you'd read for her? You wor
ordained for these things, an' comin' from you, they'll have more
stringth. Can you do nothin' to save my darlin'?"
"My prayers will not be wanting," said the priest: "but I am watching
for an interval of sufficient calmness to hear her confession; and I
very much fear that she will pass in darkness. At all events, I will
anoint her by and by. In the meantime, we must persevere a little
longer; she may become easier, for it often happens that reason gets
clear immediately before death."
Peter sobbed aloud, and wiped away the tears that streamed from
his cheeks. At this moment her daughter and son-in-law stole in, to
ascertain how she was, and whether the rites of the church had in any
degree soothed or composed her.
"Come in, Denis," said the priest to his nephew, "you may both come in.
Mrs. Mulcahy, speak to your mother: let us try every remedy that might
possibly bring her to a sense of her awful state."
"Is she raving still?" inquired the daughter, whose eyes were red with
The priest shook his head; "Ah, she is—she is! and I fear she will
scarcely recover her reason before the judgment of heaven opens upon
"Oh thin may the Mother of Glory forbid that!" exclaimed her
daughter—"anything at all but that! Can you do nothin' for her, uncle?"
"I'm doing all I can for her, Mary," replied the priest; "I'm watching a
calm moment to get her confession, if possible."
The sick woman had fallen into a momentary silence, during which, she
caught the bed-clothes like a child, and felt them, and seemed to handle
their texture, but with such an air of vacancy as clearly manifested
that no corresponding association existed in her mind.
The action was immediately understood by all present. Her daughter again
burst into tears; and Peter, now almost choked with grief, pressing the
sick woman to his heart, kissed her burning lips.
"Father, jewel," said the daughter, "there it is, and I feard it—the
sign, uncle—the sign!—don't you see her gropin' the clothes? Oh,
mother, darlin', darlin'!—are we going to lose you for ever?"
"Oh! Ellish, Ellish—won't you spake one word to me afore you go? Won't
you take one farewell of me—of me, aroon asthore, before you depart
from us for ever!" exclaimed her husband.
"Feeling the bed-clothes," said the priest, "is not always a, sign of
death; I have known many to recover after it.
"Husht," said Peter—"husht!—Mary—Mary! Come hear—hould your tongues!
Oh, it's past—it's past!—it's all past, an' gone—all hope's over!
The daughter, after listening for a moment, in a paroxysm of wild grief,
clasped her mother's recumbent body in her arms, and kissed hen lips
with a vehemence almost frantic. "You won't go, my darlin'—is it from
your own Mary that you'd go? Mary, that you loved best of all your
childhre!—Mary that you always said, an' every body said, was your own
image! Oh, you won't go without one word, to say you know her!"
"For Heaven's sake," said Father Mulcahy, "what do you mean?—are you
"Oh! uncle dear! don't you hear?—don't you hear?—listen an' sure you
will—all hope's gone now—gone—gone! The dead rattle!—listen!—the
dead rattle's in her throat!"—
The priest bent his ear a moment, and distinctly heard the gurgling
noise produced by the phlegm, which is termed with wild poetical
accuracy, by the peasantry—the "dead rattle," or "death rattle,"
because it is the immediate and certain forerunner of death.
"True," said the priest—"too true; the last shadow of hope is gone. We
must now make as much of the time as possible. Leave the room for a few
minutes till I anoint her, I will then call you in."
They accordingly withdrew, but in about fifteen or twenty minutes he
once more summoned them to the bed of the dying woman.
"Come in," said he, "I have anointed her—come in, and kneel down till
we offer up a Rosary to the Blessed Virgin, under the hope that she may
intercede with God for her, and cause her to pass out of life happily.
She was calling for you, Peter, in your absence; you had better stay
"I will," said Peter, in a broken voice; "I'll stay nowhere else."
"An'I'll kneel at the bed-side," said the daughter. "She was the kind
mother to me, and to us all; but to me in particular. 'Twas with me she
took her choice to live, when they war all striving for her. Oh," said
she, taking her mother's hand between hers, and kneeling-down to kiss
it, "a Vahr dheelish! (* sweet mother) did we ever think to see you
departing from us this way! snapped away without a minute's warning! If
it was a long-sickness, that you'd be calm and sinsible in, but to be
hurried away into eternity, and your mind dark! Oh, Vhar dheelish, my
heart is broke to see you this way!"
"Be calm," said the priest; "be quiet till I open the Rosary."
He then offered up the usual prayers which precede its repetition,
and after having concluded them, commenced what is properly called the
Rosary itself, which consists of fifteen Decades, each Decade containing
the Hail Mary repeated ten times, and the Lord's Prayer once. In this
manner the Decade goes round from one to another, until, as we have said
above, it is repeated fifteen times; or, in all, the Ave Maria's one
hundred and sixty-five times, without variation. From the indistinct
utterance, elevated voice, and rapid manner in which it is pronounced,
it certainly has a wild effect, and is more strongly impressed with
the character of a mystic rite, or incantation, than with any other
religious ceremony with which we could compare it.
"When the priest had repeated the first part, he paused for the
response: neither the husband nor daughter, however, could find
"Denis," said he, to his nephew, "do you take up the next."
His nephew complied; and with much difficulty Peter and his daughter
were able to join in it, repeating here and there a word or two, as well
as their grief and sobbings would permit them.
The heart must indeed have been an unfeeling one, to which a scene like
this would not have been deeply touching and impressive. The poor dying
woman reclined with her head upon her husband's bosom; the daughter
knelt at the bed-side, with her mother's hand pressed against her lips,
she herself convulsed with sorrow—the priest was in the attitude of
earnest supplication, having the stole about his neck, his face and arms
raised towards heaven—the son-in-law was bent over a chair, with his
face buried in his hands. Nothing could exceed the deep, the powerful
expression of entreaty, which marked every tone and motion of the
parties, especially those of the husband and daughter. They poured an
energy into the few words which they found voice to utter, and displayed
such a concentration of the faculties of the soul in their wild
unregulated attitudes, and streaming, upturned eyes, as would seem to
imply that their own salvation depended upon that of the beloved object
before them. Their words, too, were accompanied by such expressive
tokens of their attachment to her, that the character of prayer was
heightened by the force of the affection which they bore her. When
Peter, for instance, could command himself to utter a word, he pressed
his dying wife to his bosom, and raised his eyes to heaven in a manner
that would have melted any human heart; and the daughter, on joining
occasionally in the response, pressed her mother's hand to her heart,
and kissed it with her lips, conscious that the awful state of her
parent had rendered more necessary the performance of the two tenderest
duties connected with a child's obedience—prayer and affection.
When the son-in-law had finished his Decade, a pause followed, for there
was none now to proceed but her husband, or her daughter.
"Mary, dear," said the priest, "be a woman; don't let your love for
your mother prevent you from performing a higher duty. Go on with the
prayer—you see she is passing fast."
"I'll try, uncle," she replied—"I'll try; but—but—it's hard, hard,
She commenced, and by an uncommon effort so far subdued her grief, as
to render her words intelligible. Her eyes, streaming with tears, were
fixed with a mixture of wildness, sorrow, and devotedness, upon the
countenance of her mother, until she had completed her Decade.
Another pause ensued. It was now necessary, according to the order
and form of the Prayer, that Peter should commence and offer up his
supplications for the happy passage from life to eternity of her who
had been his inward idol during a long period. Peter knew nothing about
sentiment, or the philosophy of sorrow; but he loved his wife with the
undivided power of a heart in which nature had implanted her strongest
affections. He knew, too, that his wife had loved him with a strength of
heart equal to his own. He loved her, and she deserved his love.
The pause, when the prayer had gone round to him, was long; those who
were present at length turned their eyes towards him, and the priest,
now deeply affected, cleared his voice, and simply said, "Peter," to
remind him that it was his duty to proceed with the Rosary.
Peter, however, instead of uttering the prayer, burst out into a tide
of irrepressible sorrow.—"Oh!" said he, enfolding her in his arms, and
pressing his lips to hers: "Ellish, ahagur machree! sure when I think of
all the goodness, an' kindness, an' tendherness that you showed me—whin
I think of your smiles upon me, whin you wanted me to do the right, an'
the innocent plans you made out, to benefit me an' mine!—Oh! where
was your harsh word, avillish?—where was your could brow, or your
bad tongue? Nothin' but goodness—nothin' but kindness, an' love, an'
wisdom, ever flowed from these lips! An' now, darlin', pulse o' my
broken heart! these same lips can't spake to me—these eyes don't know
me—these hands don't feel me—nor your ears doesn't hear me!"
"Is—is—it you?" replied his wife feebly—"is it—you?—come—come near
me—my heart—my heart says it misses you—come near me!"
Peter again pressed her in an embrace, and, in doing so, unconsciously
received the parting breath of a wife whose prudence and affection had
saved him from poverty, and, probably, from folly or crime.
The priest, on turning round to rebuke Peter for not proceeding with the
prayer, was the first who discovered that she had died; for the grief of
her husband was too violent to permit him to notice anything with much
"Peter," said he, "I beg your pardon; let me take the trouble of
supporting her for a few minutes, after which I must talk to you
The firm, authoritative tone in which the priest spoke, together with
Peter's consciousness that he had acted wrongly by neglecting to join in
the Rosary, induced him to retire from the bed with a rebuked air. The
priest immediately laid back the head' of Mrs. Connell on the pillow,
and composed the features of her lifeless face with his own hands. Until
this moment none of them, except himself, knew that she was dead.
"Now," continued he, "all her cares, and hopes, and speculations,
touching this world, are over—so is her pain; her blood will soon
be cold enough, and her head will ache no more. She is dead. Grief is
therefore natural; but let it be the grief of a man, Peter. Indeed,
it is less painful to look upon her now, than when she suffered such
excessive agony. Mrs. Mulcahy, hear me! Oh, it's in vain! Well, well, it
is but natural; for it was an unexpected and a painful death!"
The cries of her husband and daughter soon gave intimation to her
servants that her pangs were over. From the servants it immediately went
to the neighbors, and thus did the circle widen until it reached the
furthest ends of the parish. In a short time, also, the mournful sounds
of the church-bell, in slow and measured strokes, gave additional notice
that a Christian soul had passed into eternity.
It is in such scenes as these that the Roman Catholic clergy knit
themselves so strongly into the affections of the people. All men are
naturally disposed to feel the offices of kindness and friendship more
deeply, when tendered at the bed of death or of sickness, than under
any other circumstances. Both the sick-bed and the house of death are
necessarily the sphere of a priest's duty, and to render them that
justice which we will ever render, when and wheresoever it may be due,
we freely grant that many shining, nay, noble instances of Christian
virtue are displayed by them on such occasions.
When the violence of grief produced by Ellish's death had subsided, the
priest, after giving them suitable exhortations to bear the affliction
which had just befallen them with patience, told Peter, that as God,
through the great industry and persevering exertions of her who had then
departed to another world, had blessed him abundantly with wealth and
substance, it was, considering the little time which had been allowed
her to repent in a satisfactory manner for her transgressions, his
bounden and solemn duty to set aside a suitable portion of that wealth
for the delivery of her soul from purgatory, where, he trusted, in the
mercy of God, it was permitted to remain.
"Indeed, your Reverence," replied Peter, "it wasn't necessary to mintion
it, considherin' the way she was cut off from among us, widout even time
"But blessed be God," said the daughter, "she received the ointment at
any rate, and that of itself would get her to purgatory."
"And I can answer for her," said Peter, "that she intended, as soon
as she'd get everything properly settled for the childhre, to make her
"Ah! good intentions," said the priest, "won't do. I, however, have
forewarned you of your duty, and must now leave the guilt or the merit
of relieving her departed spirit, upon you and the other members of her
family, who are all bound to leave nothing undone that may bring her
from pain and fire, to peace and happiness."
"Och! och! asthore, asthore! you're lyin' there—an', oh, Ellish,
avourneen, could you think that I—I—would spare money—trash—to bring
you to glory wid the angels o' heaven! No, no, Father dear. It's good,
an' kind, an' thoughtful of you to put it into my head; but I didn't
intind to neglect or forget it. Oh, how will I live wantin' her,
Father? When I rise in the mornin', avillish, where 'ud be your smile
and your voice? We won't hear your step, nor see you as we used to do,
movin' pleasantly about the place. No—you're gone, avoumeen—gone—an'
we'll see you and hear you no more!"
His grief was once more about to burst forth, but the priest led him out
of the room, kindly chid him for the weakness of his immoderate sorrow,
and after making arrangements about the celebration of mass for the
dead, pressed his hand, and bade the family farewell.
The death of Ellish excited considerable surprise, and much conversation
in the neighborhood. Every point of her character was discussed freely,
and the comparisons instituted between her and Peter were anything but
flattering to the intellect of her husband.
"An' so Ellish is whipped off, Larry," said a neighbor to one of Peter's
laboring men, "Faix, an' the best feather in their wing is gone."
"Ay, sure enough, Risthard, you may say that. It was her cleverness made
them what they are. She was the best manager in the three kingdoms."
"Ah, she was the woman could make a bargain. I only hope she hasn't
brought the luck o' the family away wid her!"
"Why, man alive, she made the sons and daughters as clever as
herself—put them up to everything. Indeed, it's quare to think of how
that one woman brought them ris them to what they are!"
"They shouldn't forget themselves as they're doin', thin; for betune
you an' me, they're as proud as Turks, an' God he sees it ill becomes
them—sits very badly on them, itself, when everything knows that their
father an' mother begun the world wid a bottle of private whiskey an'
half a pound of smuggled tobaccy."
"Poor Pether will break his heart, any way. Oh, man, but she was the
good wife. I'm livin' wid them going an seven year, an' never hard a
cross word from the one to the other. It's she that had the sweet tongue
all out, an' did manage him; but, afther all, he was worth the full o'
the Royal George of her. Many a time, when some poor craythur 'ud come
to ax whiskey on score to put over* some o' their friends, or for a
weddin', or a christenin', maybe, an' when the wife 'ud refuse it,
Pether 'ud send what whiskey they wanted afther them, widout lettin' her
know anything about it. An', indeed, he never lost anything by that; for
if they wor to sell their cow, he should be ped, in regard of the kindly
way he gave it to them."
* To put over—the corpse of a friend, to be drunk at
the wake and funeral.
"Well, we'll see how they'll manage now that she's gone; but Pether an'
the youngest daughter, Mary, is to be pitied."
"The sarra much; barrin' that they'll miss her at first from about the
place. You see she has left them above the world, an' full of it.
Wealth and substance enough may they thank her for; and that's very good
comfort for sorrow, Risthard."
"Faith, sure enough, Larry. There's no lie in that, any way!"
"Awouh! Lie! I have you about it."
Such was the view which had been taken of their respective characters
through life. Yet, notwithstanding that the hearts of their
acquaintances never warmed to her—to use a significant expression
current among the peasantry—as they did to Peter, still she was
respected almost involuntarily for the indefatigable perseverance with
which she pushed forward her own interests through life. Her funeral was
accordingly a large one; and the conversation which took place at it,
turning, as it necessarily did, upon her extraordinary talents and
industry, was highly to the credit of her memory and virtues. Indeed,
the attendance of many respectable persons of all creeds and opinions,
gave ample proof that the qualities she possessed had secured for her
general respect and admiration.
Poor Peter, who was an object of great compassion, felt himself
completely crushed by the death of his faithful partner. The reader
knows that he had hitherto been a sober, and, owing to Ellish's prudent
control, an industrious man. To thought or reflection he was not,
however, accustomed; he had, besides, never received any education; if
his morals were correct, it was because a life of active employment had
kept him engaged in pursuits which repressed immorality, and separated
him from those whose society and influence might have been prejudicial
to him. He had scarcely known calamity, and when it occurred he was
prepared for it neither by experience nor a correct view of moral duty.
On the morning of his wife's funeral, such was his utter prostration
both of mind and body, that even his own sons, in order to resist the
singular state of collapse into which he had sunk, urged him to take
some spirits. He was completely passive in their hands, and complied.
This had the desired effect, and he found himself able to attend the
funeral. When the friends of Ellish assembled, after the interment, as
is usual, to drink and talk together, Peter, who could scarcely join
in the conversation, swallowed glass after glass of punch with great
rapidity. In the mean time, the talk became louder and more animated;
the punch, of course, began to work, and as they sat long, it was
curious to observe the singular blending of mirth and sorrow, singing
and weeping, laughter and tears, which characterized this remarkable
scene. Peter, after about two hours' hard drinking, was not an exception
to the influence of this trait of national manners. His heart having
been deeply agitated, was the more easily brought under the effects of
contending emotions. He was naturally mirthful, and when intoxication
had stimulated the current of his wonted humor, the influence of this
and his recent sorrow produced such an anomalous commixture of fun and
grief as could seldom, out of Ireland, be found checkering the mind of
It was in the midst of this extraordinary din that his voice was heard
commanding silence in its loudest and best-humored key:
"Hould yer tongues," said he; "bad win to yees, don't you hear me
wantin' to sing! Whist wid yees. Hem—och—'Eise up'—Why, thin, Phil
Callaghan, you might thrate me wid more dacency, if you had gumption in
you; I'm sure no one has a betther right to sing first in this company
nor myself; an' what's more, I will sing first. Hould your tongues!
He accordingly commenced a popular song, the air of which, though
simple, was touchingly mournful.
"Och, rise up, Willy Reilly, an' come wid me,
I'm goin' for to go wid you, and lave this counteree;
I'm goin' to lave my father, his castles and freelands—
An' away what Willy Reilly, an' his own Colleen Bawn.
"Och, they wint o'er hills an' mountains, and valleys that was
An' fled before her father as you may shortly hear;
Her father followed afther wid a well-chosen armed band,
Och, an' taken was poor Reilly, an' his own Colleen Bawn."
The simple pathos of the tune, the affection implied by the words, and
probably the misfortune of Willy Reilly, all overcame him, He finished
the second verse with difficulty, and on attempting to commence a third
he burst into tears.
"Colleen bawn! (fair, or fair-haired girl)—Colleen bawn!" he exclaimed;
"she's lyin' low that was my colleen bawn! Oh, will ye hould your
tongues, an' let me think of what has happened me? She's gone: Mary,
avourneen, isn't she gone from us? I'm alone, an' I'll be always lonely.
Who have I now to comfort me? I know I have good childhre, neighbors;
but none o' them, all of them, if they wor ten times as many, isn't
aqual to her that's in the grave. Her hands won't be about me—there was
tindherness in their very touch. An', of a Sunday mornin', how she'd tie
an my handkerchy, for I never could rightly tie it an myself, the knot
was ever an' always too many for me; but, och, och, she'd tie it an so
snug an' purty wid her own hands, that I didn't look the same man! The
same song was her favorite, Here's your healths; an' sure it's the first
time ever we wor together that she wasn't wid us: but now, avillish,
your voice is gone—you're silent and lonely in the grave; an' why
shouldn't I be sarry for the wife o' my heart that never angered me?
Why shouldn't I? Ay, Mary, asthore, machree, good right you have to cry
afther her; she was the kind mother to you; her heart was fixed in you;
there's her fatures on your face; her very eyes, an' fair hair, too, an'
I'll love you, achora, ten times more nor ever, for her sake. Another
favorite song of hers, God rest her, was 'Brian O'Lynn.' Troth an' I'll
sing it, so I will, for if she was livin' she'd like it.
'Och, Brian O'Lynn, he had milk an' male,
A two-lugged porringer wanfcin' a tail.'
Oh, my head's through other! The sarra one o' me I bleeve, but's out o'
the words, or, as they say, there's a hole in the ballad. Send round
the punch will ye? By the hole o' my coat, Parra Gastha, I'll whale you
wid-in an inch of your life, if you don't Shrink. Send round the
punch, Dan; an' give us a song, Parra Gastha. Arrah, Paddy, do you
remimber—ha, ha, ha—upon my credit, I'll never forget it, the fun we
had catchin' Father Soolaghan's horse, the day he gave his shirt to the
sick man in the ditch. The Lord rest his sowl in glory—ha, ha, ha—I'll
never forget it. Paddy, the song, you thief?"
"No, but tell them about that, Misther Connell."
"Throth, an' I will; but don't be Mitherin me. Faith, this is The height
o' good punch. You see—ha, ha, ha! You see, it was one hard summer
afore I was married to Ellish—mavourneen, that you wor, asthore! Och,
och, are we parted at last? Upon my sowl, my heart's breakin'—breakin',
(weeps) an' no wondher! But as I was sayin'—all your healths! faith,
it is tip-top punch that—the poor man fell sick of a faver, an' sure
enough, when it was known what ailed him, the neighbors built a little
shed on the roadside for him, in regard that every one was afeard to let
him into their place. Howsomever—ha, ha, ha—Father Soolaghan was one
day ridin' past upon his horse, an' seein' the crathur lyin' undher the
shed, on a whisp o' straw, he pulls bridle, an' puts the spake on the
poor sthranger. So, begad, it came out, that the neighbors were very
kind to him, an' used to hand over whatsomever they thought best for him
from the back o' the ditch, as well as they could.
"'My poor fellow,' said the priest, 'you're badly off for linen.'
"'Thrue for you, sir,' said the sick man, 'I never longed for anything
so much in my life, as I do for a clane shirt an' a glass o' whiskey.'
"'The devil a glass o' whiskey I have about me, but you shall have
the clane shirt, you poor compassionate crathur,' said the priest,
stretchin' his neck up an' down to make sure there was no one comin' on
the road—ha, ha, ha!
"Well an' good—'I have three shirts,' says his Reverence, 'but I have
only one o' them an me, an' that you shall have.'
"So the priest peels himself on the spot, an' lays his black coat and
waistcoat afore him acrass the saddle, thin takin' off his shirt, he
threw it acrass the ditch to the sick man. Whether it was the white
shirt, or the black coat danglin' about the horse's neck, the divil a
one o' myself can say, but any way, the baste tuck fright, an' made off
wid Father Soolaghan, in the state I'm tellin' yez, upon his back—ha,
"Parra Gastha, here, an' I war goin' up at the time to do a little in
the distillin' way for Tom Duggan of Aidinasamlagh, an' seen what was
goin' an. So off we set, an we splittin' our sides laughin'—ha, ha,
ha—at the figure the priest cut. However, we could do no good, an'
he never could pull up the horse, till he came full flight to his own
house, opposite the pound there below, and the whole town in convulsions
when they seen him. We gother up his clothes, an' brought them home to
him, an' a good piece o' fun-we had wid him, for he loved the joke as
well as any man. Well, he was the good an' charitable man, the same
Father Soolaghan; but so simple that he got himself into fifty scrapes,
God rest him! Och, och, she's lyin' low that often laughed at that, an'
I'm here—ay, I have no one, no one that 'ud show me sich a warm heart
as she would. (Weeps.) However, God's will be done. I'll sing yez a song
'Och, Brian O'Lynn, he had milk an' male,
A two-lugged porringer wantin' a tail.'
Musha, I'm out agin—ha, ha, ha! Why, I b'lieve there's pishthrogues
an me, or I'd remember it. Bud-an-age, dhrink of all ye. Lie in to the
liquor, I say; don't spare it. Here, Mike, send us up another gallon,
Faith, we'll make a night of it.
'Och, three maidens a milkin' did go
An' three maidens a milkin' did go;
An' the winds they blew high
An' the winds they blew low,
An' they dashed their milkin' pails to an' fro.'
All your healths, childhre! Neighbors, all your healths! don't spare
what's before ye. It's long since I tuck a jorum myself an—come, I say,
plase God, we'll often meet ins' way, so we will. Faith, I'll take a sup
from this forrid, with a blessin'. Dhrink, I say, dhrink!"
By the time he had arrived at this patch, he was able to engross no
great portion either of the conversation or attention. Almost every one
present had his songs, his sorrows, his laughter, or his anecdotes, as
well as himself. Every voice was loud; and every tongue busy. Intricate
and entangled was the talk, which, on the present occasion, presented
a union of all the extremes which the lights and shadows of the Irish
character alone could exhibit under such a calamity as that which
brought the friends of the deceased together.
Peter literally fulfilled his promise of taking a jorum in future. He
was now his own master; and as he felt the loss of his wife deeply,
he unhappily had recourse to the bottle, to bury the recollection of a
woman, whose death left a chasm in his heart, which he thought nothing
but the whiskey could fill up.
His transition from a life of perfect sobriety to one of habitual, nay,
of daily intoxication, was immediate. He could not bear to be sober;
and his extraordinary bursts of affliction, even in his cups, were often
calculated to draw tears from the eyes of those who witnessed them. He
usually went out in the morning with a flask of whiskey in his pocket,
and sat down to weep behind a ditch—where, however, after having
emptied his flask, he might be heard at a great distance, singing the
songs which Ellish in her life-time was accustomed to love. In fact, he
was generally pitied; his simplicity of character, and his benevolence
of heart, which was now exercised without fear of responsibility, made
him more a favorite than he ever had been. His former habits of industry
were thrown aside; as he said himself, he hadn't heart to work; his
farms were neglected, and but for his son-in-law, would have gone to
ruin. Peter himself was sensible of this.
"Take them," said he, "into your own hands, Denis; for me, I'm not able
to do anything more at them; she that kep me up is gone, an' I'm broken
down. Take them—take them into your own hands. Give me my bed, bit, an'
sup, an' that's all I Want."
Six months produced an incredible change in his appearance.
Intemperance, whilst it shattered his strong frame, kept him in frequent
exuberance of spirits; but the secret grief preyed on him within.
Artificial excitement kills, but it never cures; and Peter, in the midst
of his mirth and jollity, was wasting away into a shadow. His children,
seeing him go down the hill of life so rapidly, consulted among each
other on the best means of winning him back to sobriety. This was a
difficult task, for his powers of bearing liquor were prodigious. He has
often been known to drink so many as twenty-five, and sometimes thirty
tumblers of punch, without being taken off his legs, or rendered
incapable of walking about. His friends, on considering who was most
likely to recall him to a more becoming life, resolved to apply to his
landlord—the gentleman whom we have already introduced to our readers.
He entered warmly into their plan, and it was settled, that Peter should
be sent for, and induced, if possible, to take an oath against liquor.
Early the following-day a liveried servant came down to inform him that
his master wished to speak with him. "To be sure," said Peter; "divil
resave the man in all Europe I'd do more for than the same gintleman, if
it was only on account of the regard he had for her that's gone. Come,
I'll go wid you in a minute."
He accordingly returned with the flask in his hand, saying, "I never
thravel widout a pocket-pistol, John. The times, you see, is not overly
safe, an' the best way is to be prepared!—ha, ha, ha! Och, och! It
houlds three half-pints."
"I think," observed the servant, "you had better not taste that till
after your return."
"Come away, man," said Peter; "we'll talk upon it as we go along: I
couldn't do readily widout it. You hard that I lost Ellish?"
"Yes," replied the servant, "and I was very sorry to hear it."
"Did you attind the berrin?"
"No, but my master did," replied the man; "for, indeed, his respect for
your wife was very great, Mr. Connell."
This was before ten o'clock in the forenoon, and about one in the
afternoon a stout countryman was seen approaching the gentleman's house,
with another man bent round his neck, where he hung precisely as a calf
hangs round the shoulders of a butcher, when he is carrying it to his
"Good Heavens!" said the owner of the mansion to his lady, "what has
happened to John Smith, my dear? Is he dead?"
"Dead!" said his lady, going in much alarm to the drawing-room window:
"I protest I fear so, Frank. He is evidently dead! For God's sake go
down and see what has befallen him."
Her husband went hastily to the hall-door, where he met Peter with his
"In the name of Heaven, what has happened, Connell?—what is the matter
with John? Is he living or dead?"
"First, plase your honor, as I have him on my shouldhers, will you tell
me where his bed is?" replied Peter. "I may as well lave him snug, as my
hand's in, poor fellow. The devil's bad head he has, your honor. Faith,
it's a burnin' shame, so it is, an' nothin' else—to be able to bear so
The lady, children, and servants, were now all assembled about the dead
footman, who hung, in the mean time, very quietly round Peter's neck.
"Gracious Heaven! Connell, is the man dead?" she inquired.
"Faith, thin, he is, ma'am,—for a while, any how; but, upon my credit,
it's a burnin' shame, so it is,"—
"The man is drunk, my dear," said her husband—"he's only drunk."
"—a burnin' shame, so it is—to be able to bear no more nor about six
glasses, an' the whiskey good, too. Will you ordher one o' thim to show
me his bed, ma'am, if you plase," continued Peter, "while he's an me?
It'll save throuble."
"Connell is right," observed his landlord. "Gallagher, show him John's
Peter accordingly followed another servant, who pointed out his bed, and
assisted to place the vanquished footman in a somewhat easier position
than that in which Peter had carried him.
"Connell," said his landlord, when he returned, "how did this happen?"
"Faith, thin, it's a burnin' shame," said Connell, "to be able only to
"But how did it happen? for he has been hitherto a perfectly sober man."
"Faix, plase your honor, asy enough," replied Peter; "he began to
lecthur me about! dhrinkin' so, says I, 'Come an' sit down behind the
hedge here, an' we'll talk it over between us;' so we went in, the two
of us, a-back o' the ditch—an' he began to advise me agin dhrink, an'
I began to tell him about her that's gone, sir. Well, well! och, och!
no matther!—So, sir, one story an' one pull from the bottle, brought
on another, for divil a glass we had at all, sir. Faix, he's a
tindher-hearted boy, anyhow; for as myself I begun to let the tears
down, whin the bottle was near out, divil resave the morsel of him but
cried afther poor Ellish, as if she had been his mother. Faix, he did!
An' it won't be the last sup we'll have together, plase goodness! But
the best of it was, sir, that the dhrunker he got, he abused me the more
for dhrinkin'. Oh, thin, but he's the pious boy whin he gets a sup
in his head! Faix, it's a pity ever he'd be sober, he talks so much
scripthur an' devotion in his liquor!"
"Connell," said the landlord, "I am exceedingly sorry to hear that you
have taken so openly and inveterately to drink as you have done,
ever since the death of your admirable wife. This, in fact, was what
occasioned me to send for you. Come into the parlor. Don't go, my dear;
perhaps your influence may also be necessary. Gallagher, look to Smith,
and see that every attention is paid him, until he recovers the effects
of his intoxication."
He then entered the parlor, where the following dialogue took place
between him and Peter:—
"Connell, I am really grieved to hear that you have become latterly so
incorrigible a drinker; I sent for you to-day, with the hope of being
able to induce you to give it up."
"Faix, your honor, it's jist what I'd expect from your father's
son—kindness, an' dacency, an' devotion, wor always among yez. Divil
resave the family in all Europe I'd do so much for as the same family:"
The gentleman and lady looked at each other, and smiled. They knew that
Peter's blarney was no omen of their success in the laudable design they
"I thank you, Peter, for your good opinion; but in the meantime allow me
to ask, what can you propose to yourself by drinking so incessantly as
"What do I propose to myself by dhrinkin', is it? Why thin to banish
grief, your honor. Surely you'll allow that no man has reason to
complain who's able to banish the thief for two shillins a-day. I reckon
the whiskey at first cost, so that it doesn't come to more nor that at
the very outside."
"That is taking a commercial view of affliction, Connell; but you must
promise me to give up drinking."
"Why thin upon my credit, your honor astonishes me. Is it to give up
banishin' grief? I have a regard for you, sir, for many a dalin we had
together; but for all that, faix, I'd be miserable for no man, barrin'
for her that's gone. If I'd be so to oblage any one, I'd do it for your
family; for divil the family in all Europe "—
"Easy, Connell—I am not to be palmed off in that manner; I really have
a respect for the character which you bore, and wish you to recover it
once more. Consider that you are disgracing yourself and your children
by drinking so excessively from day to day—indeed, I am told, almost
from hour to hour."
"Augh! don't believe the half o' what you hear, sir. Faith, somebody
has been dhraw-in' your honor out! Why I'm never dhrunk, sir; faith, I'm
"You will destroy your health, Connell, as well as your character;
besides, you are not to be told that it is a sin, a crime against. God,
and an evil example to society."
"Show me the man, plase your honor, that ever seen me incapable. That's
the proof o' the thing."
"But why do you drink at all? It is not-necessary."
"An' do you never taste a dhrop yourself, sir, plase your honor? I'll be
bound you do, sir, raise your little finger of an odd time, as well as
another. Eh, Ma'am? That's comin' close to his honor! An' faix, small
blame to him, an' a weeshy sup o' the wine to the misthress herself, to
correct the tindherness of her dilicate appetite."
"Peter, this bantering must not pass: I think I have a claim upon your
respect and deference. I have uniformly been your friend and the friend
of your children and family, but more especially of your late excellent
and exemplary wife."
"Before God an' man I acknowledge that, sir—I do—I do. But, sir;
to spake sarious—it's thruth, Ma'am, downright—to spake sarious, my
heart's broke, an' every day it's brakin' more an' more. She's gone,
sir, that used to manage me; an' now I can't turn myself to anything,
barrin' the dhrink—God help me!"
"I honor you, Connell, for the attachment which you bear towards the
memory of your wife, but I utterly condemn the manner in which you
display it. To become a drunkard is to disgrace her memory. You know it
was a character she detested."
"I know it all, sir, an' that you have thruth an rason on your side;
but, sir, you never lost a wife that you loved; an' long may you be so,
I pray the heavenly Father this day! Maybe if you did, sir, plase your
honor, that, wid your heart sinkin' like a stone widin you, you'd thry
whether or not something couldn't rise it. Sir, only for the dhrink I'd
"There I totally differ from you, Connell. The drink only prolongs
your grief, by adding to it the depression of spirits which it always
produces. Had you not become a drinker, you would long before this have
been once more a cheerful, active, and industrious man. Your
sorrow would have worn away gradually, and nothing but an agreeable
melancholy—an affectionate remembrance of your excellent wife—would
have remained. Look at other men."
"But where's the man, sir, had sich a wife to grieve for as she was?
Don't be hard on me, sir. I'm not a dhrunkard. It's thrue I dhrink
a great dale; but thin I can bear a great dale, so that I'm never
"Connell," said the lady, "you will break down your constitution, and
bring yourself to an earlier death than you would otherwise meet."
"I care very little, indeed, how soon I was dead, not makin' you, Ma'am,
an ill answer."
"Oh fie, Connell, for you, a sensible man and a Christian, to talk in
such a manner!"
"Throth, thin, I don't, Ma'am. She's gone, an' I'd be glad to folly her
as soon as I could. Yes, asthore, you're departed from me! an' now
I'm gone asthray—out o' the right an' out o' the good! Oh, Ma'am," he
proceeded, whilst the tears rolled fast down his cheeks, "if you knew
her—her last words, too—Oh, she was—she was—but where's the use o'
sayin' what she was?—I beg your pardon, Ma'am,—your honor, sir, 'ill
forgive my want o' manners, sure I know it's bad breedin', but I can't
"Well, promise," said his landlord, "to give up drink. Indeed, I wish
you would take an oath against it: you are a conscientious man, and
I know would keep it, otherwise I should not propose it, for I
discountenance such oaths generally. Will you promise me this, Connell?"
"I'll promise to think of it, your honor,—aginst takin' a sartin
quantity, at any rate."
"If you refuse it, I'll think you are unmindful of the good feeling
which we have ever shown your family."
"What?—do you think, sir, I'm ungrateful to you? That's a sore cut,
sir, to make a villain o' me. Where's the book?—I'll swear this minute.
Have you a Bible, Ma'am?—I'll show you that I'm not mane, any way."
"No, Connell, you shall not do it rashly; you must be cool and composed:
but go home, and turn it in your mind," she replied; "and remember, that
it is the request of me and my husband, for your own good."
"Neither must you swear before me," said his landlord, "but before Mr.
Mulcahy, who, as it is an oath connected with your moral conduct, is the
best person to be present. It must be voluntary, however. Now, good-bye,
Connell, and think of what we said; but take care never to carry home
any of my servants in the same plight in which you put John Smith
"Faix thin, sir, he had no business, wid your honor's livery upon his
back, to begin lecthurin' me again dhrinkin', as he did. We may all do
very well, sir, till the timptation crasses us—but that's what thries
us. It thried him, but he didn't stand it—faix he didn't!—ha, ha, ha!
Good-mornin', sir—God bless you, Ma'am! Divil resave the family in all
"Good-morning, Connell—good-morning! —Pray remember what we said."
Peter, however, could not relinquish the whiskey. His sons, daughters,
friends, and neighbors, all assailed him, but with no success. He either
bantered them in his usual way, or reverted to his loss, and sank
into sorrow. This last was the condition in which they found him most
intractable; for a man is never considered to be in a state that admits
of reasoning or argument, when he is known to be pressed by strong
gushes of personal feeling. A plan at length struck Father Mulcahy,
which lie resolved to put into immediate execution.
"Peter," said he, "if you don't abandon drink, I shall stop the masses
which I'm offering up for the repose of your wife's soul, and I will
also return you the money I received for saying them."
This was, perhaps, the only point on which Peter was accessible. He
felt staggered at such an unexpected intimation, and was for some time
"You will then feel," added the priest, "that your drunkenness is
prolonging the sufferings of your wife, and that she is as much
concerned in your being sober as you are yourself."
"I will give in," replied Peter; "I didn't see the thing in that light.
No—I will give it up; but if I swear against it, you must allow me a
rasonable share every day, an' I'll not go beyant it, of coorse. The
truth is, I'd die soon if I gev it up altogether."
"We have certainly no objection against that," said the priest,
"provided you keep within what would injure your health, or make you
tipsy. Your drunkenness is not only sinful but disreputable; besides,
you must not throw a slur upon the character of your children, who hold
respectable and rising situations in the world."
"No," said Peter, in a kind of soliloquy, "I'd lay down my life,
avoumeen, sooner nor I'd cause you a minute's sufferin'. Father Mulcahy,
go an wid the masses. I'll get an oath drawn up, an' whin it's done,
I'll swear to it. I know a man that'll do it for me."
The priest then departed, quite satisfied with having accomplished his
object; and Peter, in the course of that evening, directed his steps to
the house of the village schoolmaster, for the purpose of getting him to
"draw up" the intended oath.
"Misther O'Flaherty," said he, "I'm comin' to ax a requist of you an'
I hope you'll grant it to me. I brought down a sup in this flask, an'
while we're takin' it, we can talk over what I want."
"If it be anything widin the circumference of my power, set it down,
Misther Connell, as already operated upon. I'd drop a pen to no man at
keepin' books by double enthry, which is the Italian method invinted by
Pope Gregory the Great. The Three sets bear a theological ratio to the
three states of a thrue Christian. 'The Waste-book,' says Pope Gregory,
'is this world, the Journal is purgatory, an' the Ledger is heaven. Or
it may be compared,' he says, in the priface of the work, 'to the three
states of the Catholic church—the church Militant, the church Suffering
and the church Triumphant.' The larnin' of that man was beyant the reach
"Arra, have you a small glass, Masther? You see, Misther O'Flaherty,
it's consarnin' purgatory, this that I want to talk about."
"Nancy, get us a glass—oh, here it is! Thin if it be, it's a wrong
enthry in the Journal."
"Here's your health, Masther!—Not forgetting you, Mrs. O'Flaherty.
No, indeed, thin it's not in the Journal, but an oath I'm goin' to take
"Nothin' is asier to post than it is. We must enter it it undher the
head of—let me see!—it must go in the spirit account, undher the head
of Profit an' Loss, Your good health, Mr. Connell!—Nancy, I dhrink ta
your improvement in imperturbability! Yes, it must be enthered undher
"Faix, undher the rose, I think," observed Pether; "don't you know the
smack, of it? You see since I took to it, I like the smell o' what I
used to squeeze out o' the barley myself, long ago. Mr. O'Flaherty, I
only want you to dhraw up an oath against liquor for me; but it's not
for the books, good or bad. I promised to Father Mulcahy, that I'd do
it. It's regardin' my poor Ellish's sowl in purgatory."
"Nancy, hand me a slate an' cutter. Faith, the same's a provident
resolution; but how is it an' purgatory concatenated?"
"The priest, you see, won't go an wid the masses for her till I take the
"That's but wake logic, if you ped him for thim."
"Faix, an' I did—an' well, too;—but about the oath? Have you the
"I have; jist lave the thing to me."
"Asy, Masther—you don't undherstand it yit. Put down two tumblers for
me at home."
"How is that, Misther Connell?—It's mysterious, if you're about to
swear against liquor!"
"I am. Put down, as I said, two tumblers for me at home—Are they down?"
"They are down—but"—
"Asy!—very good!—Put down two more for me at Dan's. Let me see!—two
more; behind the garden. Well!—put down one at Father Mulcahy's;—two
more at, Frank M'Carrol's of Kilclay. How many's that?"
"Very good. Now put down one wid ould' Bartle Gorman, of Cargah; an' two
over wid honest Roger M'Gaugy, of Nurchasey. How-many have you now?"
"Twelve in all!!!! But, Misther Connelly there's a demonstration badly
wanted here. I must confis I was always bright, but at present I'm as
dark as Nox. I'd thank you for a taste of explanation."
"Asy, man alive! Is there twelve in all?"
"Twelve in all: I've calculated them."
"Well, we'll hould to that. Och, och!—I'm sure, avourneen, afore
I'd let you suffer one minute's pain, I'd not scruple to take an oath
against liquor, any way. He may go an wid the masses now for you, as
soon as he likes! Mr. O'Flaherty, will you put that down on paper,—an'
I'll swear to it, wid a blessin', to-morrow."
"But what object do you wish to effectuate by this?"
"You see, Masther, I dhrink one day wid another from a score to two
dozen tumblers, an' I want to swear to no more nor twelve in the
"Why, there's intelligibility in that!—Wid great pleasure, Mr.
Connell, I'll indite it. Katty, tare me a lafe out o' Brian Murphy's
"You see, Masther, it's for Ellish's sake I'm doin' this. State that in
"I know it; an' well she desarved that specimen of abstinence from you,
Misther Connell. Thank you!—Your health agin! an' God grant you grace
an' fortitude to go through wid the same oath!—An' so he will, or I'm
greviously mistaken in you."
"OATH AGAINST LIQUOR,
made by me, Cornelius O'Flaherty, Philomath, on behalf
of Mr. Peter Connell, of the cross-roads, Merchant, on
one part—and of the soul of Mrs. Ellish Connell, now
in purgatory, Merchantess, on the other.
"I solemnly and meritoriously, and soberly swear, that
a single tumbler of whiskey punch shall not cross my
lips during the twenty-four hours of the day, barring
twelve, the locality of which is as followeth:
"Imprimis—Two tumblers at home, 2
Secundo—Two more ditto at my son Dan's, 2
Tertio—Two more ditto behind my own garden, 2
Quarto—One ditto at the Reverend Father Mulcahy's, 1
Quinto—Two more ditto at Frank M'Carroll s, of Kilclay, 2
Sexto—One ditto wid ould Bartle Gorman, of Cargah, 1
Septimo—Two more ditto wid honest Roger M'Gaugy, of Nurchasey, 2
N.B.—Except in case any Docthor of Physic might
think it right and medical to ordher me more for my
health; or in case I could get Father Mulcahy to take
the oath off of me for a start, at a wedding, or a
christening, or at any other meeting of friends where
Peter X Connell.
Cornelius O'Flaherty, Philomath.
June the 4th, 18—
I certify that I have made and calculated this oath for
Misther Pettier Connell, Merchant, and that it is
strictly and arithmetically proper and correct.
"Cornelius O'Flaherty, Philomath.
"Dated this Mh day of June, 18—."
"I think, Misther O'Flaherty, it's a dacent oath as it stands. Plase
God, I'll swear to it some time to-morrow evenin'."
"Dacent! Why I don't wish to become eulogistically addicted; but I'd
back tha same oath, for both grammar and arithmetic, aginst any that
ever was drawn up by a lawyer—ay, by the great Counsellor himself!—but
faith, I'd not face him at a Vow, for all that; he's the greatest man at
a Vow in the three kingdoms."
"I'll tell you what I'm thinkin', Masther—as my hand's in, mightn't I
as well take another wid an ould friend of mine, Owen Smith, of Lisbuy?
He's a dacent ould residenther, an' likes it. It'll make the baker's or
the long dozen."
"Why, it's not a bad thought; but won't thirteen get into your head?"
"No, nor three more to the back o' that. I only begin to get hearty
about seventeen, so that the long dozen, afther all, is best; for—God
he knows, I've a regard for Owen Smith this many a year, an' I wouldn't
wish to lave him out."
"Very well,—I'll add it up to the other part of the oath.
'Octavo—One ditto out of respect for dacent Owen Smith, of
Now I must make the total amount thirteen, an' all will be right."
"Masther, have you a prayer-book widin?—bekase if you have, I may as
well swear here, and you can witness it."
"Katty, hand over the Spiritual Exercises—a book aquil to the Bible
itself for piety an' devotion."
"Sure they say, Masther, any book that, the name o' God's in, is good
for an oath. Now, wid the help o' goodness, repate the words afore me,
an' I'll sware thim."
O'Flaherty hemmed two or three times, and complied with Peter's wishes,
who followed him in the words until the oath was concluded. He then
kissed the book, and expressed himself much at ease, as well, he said,
upon the account of Ellish's soul, as for the sake of his children.
For some time after this, his oath was the standing jest of the
neighborhood: even to this day, Peter Connell's oath against liquor is a
proverb in that part of the country. Immediately after he had sworn,
no one could ever perceive that he violated it in the slightest degree;
indeed there could be no doubt as to literally fulfilling it. A day
never passed in which he did not punctually pay a visit to those whose
names wore dotted down, with whom he sat, pulled out his flask, and
drank his quantum. In the meantime the poor man was breaking down
rapidly; so much so, that his appearance generally excited pity, if not
sorrow, among his neighbors. His character became simpler every day, and
his intellect evidently more exhausted. The inoffensive humor, for which
he had been noted, was also completely on the wane; his eye waxed dim,
his step feeble, but the benevolence of his heart never failed him. Many
acts of his private generosity are well known, and still remembered with
In proportion as the strength of his mind and constitution diminished,
so did his capacity for bearing liquor. When he first bound himself
by the oath not to exceed the long dozen, such was his vigor, that the
effects of thirteen tumblers could scarcely be perceived on him. This
state of health, however, did not last. As he wore away, the influence
of so much liquor was becoming stronger, until at length he found that
it was more than he could bear, that he frequently confounded the
names of the men, and the number of tumblers mentioned in the oath, and
sometimes took in, in his route, persons and places not to be found in
it at all. This grieved him, and he resolved to wait upon O'Flaherty
for the purpose of having some means devised of guiding him during his
"Masther," said he, "we must thry an' make this oath somethin' plainer.
You see when I get confused, I'm not able to remimber things as I ought.
Sometimes, instid o' one tumbler, I take two at the wrong place; an'
sarra bit o' me but called in an' had three wid ould Jack Rogers, that
isn't in it at all. On another day I had a couple wid honest Barney
Casey, an my way acrass to Bartle Gorman's. I'm not what I was, Masther,
ahagm; so I'd thank you to dhraw it out more clearer, if you can, nor it
"I see, Mr. Connell; I comprehend wid the greatest ase in life, the
very plan for it. We must reduce the oath to Geography, for I'm at home
there, bein' a Surveyor myself. I'll lay down a map o' the parish, an'
draw the houses of your friends at their proper places, so that you'll
never be out o' your latitude at all."
"Faix, I doubt that, Masther—ha, ha, ha!" replied Peter; "I'm afeard I
will, of an odd time, for I'm not able to carry what I used to do; but
no matther: thry what you can do for me this time, any how. I think I
could bear the long dozen still if I didn't make mistakes."
O'Flaherty accordingly set himself to work; and as his knowledge, not
only of the parish, but of every person and house in it, was accurate,
he soon had a tolerably correct skeleton map of it drawn for Peter's
"Now," said he, "lend me your ears."
"Faix, I'll do no sich thing," replied Peter—"I know a thrick worth two
of it. Lend you my ears, inagh!—catch me at it! You have a bigger pair
of your own nor I have—ha, ha, ha!"
"Well, in other words, pay attintion. Now, see this dot—that's your own
"Put a crass there," said Peter, "an' thin I'll know it's the
"Upon my reputation, you're right; an' that's what I call a good
specimen of ingenuity. I'll take the hint from that, an' we'll make it
a Hieroglyphical as well as a Geographical oath. Well, there's a crass,
wid two tumblers. Is that clear?"
"It is, it is! faix"
"Now here we draw a line to your son Dan's. Let me see; he keeps a mill,
an' sells cloth. Very good. I'll dhraw a mill-wheel an' a yard-wand.
There's two tumblers. Will you know that?"
"I see it: go an, nothin' can be clearer. So far, I can't go asthray."
"Well, what next? Two behind your own garden. What metaphor for the
garden? Let me see!—let me cogitate! A dragon—the Hesperides! That's
beyant you. A bit of a hedge will do, an' a gate."
"Don't put a gate in, it's not lucky. You know, when a man takes to
dhrink, they say he's goin' a gray gate, or a black gate, or a bad
gate. Put that out, an' make the hedge longer, an' it'll do—wid the two
"They're down. One at the Reverend Father Mulcahy's. How will we
thranslate the priest?"
"Faix, I doubt that will be a difficquilt business."
"Upon my reputation, I agree wid you in that, especially whin he repates
Latin. However, we'll see. He writes P.P. afther his name;—pee-pee is
what we call the turkeys wid. What 'ud you think o' two turkeys?"
"The priest would like them roasted, but I couldn't undherstand that.
No; put down the sign o' the horsewhip, or the cudgel; for he's handy,
an' argues well wid both?"
"Good! I'll put down the horsewhip first, an' the cudgel alongside of
it; then the tumbler, an' there'll be the sign o' the priest."
"Ay, do, Masther, an' faix the priest 'll be complate—there can be no
mistakin' him thin. Divil a one but that's a good thought!"
"There it is in black an' white. Who comes next? Frank M'Carroll. He's
a farmer. I'll put down a spade an' a harrow. Well, that's done—two
"I won't mistake that, aither. It's clear enough."
"Bartle Gorman's of Cargah. Bartle's a little lame, an' uses a staff wid
a cross on the end that he houlds in his hand. I'll put down a staff wid
a cross on it."
"Would there be no danger of me mistakin' that for the priest's cudgel?"
"Divil the slightest. I'll pledge my knowledge of geography, they're two
very different weapons."
"Well, put it down—I'll know it."
"Roger M'Gaugy of Nurchasy. What for him? Roger's a pig-driver. I'll put
down pig. You'll comprehend that?"
"I ought; for many a pig I sould in my day. Put down the pig; an' if you
could put two black spots upon his back, I'd know it to be one I sould
him about four years agone—the fattest ever was in the country—it had
to be brought home on a car, for it wasn't able to walk wid fat."
"Very good; the spots are on it. The last is Owen Smith of Lisbuy. Now,
do you see that I've drawn a line from place to place, so that you have
nothing to do only to keep to it as you go. What for Owen?"
"Owen! Let me see—Owen! Pooh! What's come over me, that I've nothin'
for Owen? Ah! I have it. He's a horse-jockey: put down a gray mare I
sould him about five years agone."
"I'll put down a horse; but I can't make a gray mare wid black ink."
"Well, make a mare of her, any way."
"Faith, an' that same puzzles me. Stop, I have it; I'll put a foal along
"As good as the bank. God bless you, Misther O'Flaherty. I think this
'll keep me from mistakes. An' now, if you'll slip up to me afther dusk,
I'll send you down a couple o' bottles and a flitch. Sure you desarve
more for the throuble you tuck."
Many of our readers, particularly of our English readers, will be
somewhat startled to hear that, except the change of names and places,
there is actually little exaggeration in the form of this oath; so just
is the observation, that the romance of truth frequently exceeds that of
Peter had, however, over-rated his own strength in supposing that he
could bear the long dozen in future; ere many months passed he was
scarcely able to reach the half of that number without sinking into
intoxication. Whilst in this state, he was in the habit of going to the
graveyard in which his wife lay buried, where he sat, and wept like a
child, sang her favorite songs, or knelt and offered up his prayers for
the repose of her soul. None ever mocked him for this; on the contrary,
there was always some kind person to assist him home. And as he
staggered on, instead of sneers and ridicule, one might hear such
expressions as these:—
"Poor Pether! he's nearly off; an' a dacent, kind neighbor he ever was.
The death of the wife broke his heart—he never ris his head since."
"Ay, poor man! God pity him! Hell soon be sleepin' beside her, beyant
there, where she's lyin'. It was never known of Peter Connell that he
offinded man, woman, or child since he was born, barrin' the gaugers,
bad luck to thim, afore he was marrid—but that was no offince. Sowl, he
was their match, any how. When he an' the wife's gone, they won't lave
their likes behind them. The sons are bodaghs—gintlemen, now; an'
it's nothin' but dinners an' company. Ahagur, that wasn't the way their
hardworkin' father an' mother made the money that they're houldin' their
heads up wid such consequence upon."
The children, however, did not give Peter up as hopeless. Father
Mulcahy, too, once-more assailed him on his weak side. One morning, when
he was sober, nervous, and depressed, the priest arrived, and finding
him at home, addressed him as follows:—
"Peter, I'm sorry, and vexed, and angry this morning; and you are the
cause of it"
"How is that, your Reverence?" said Peter. "God help me," he added,
"don't be hard an me, sir, for I'm to be pitied. Don't be hard on me,
for the short time I'll be here. I know it won't be long—I'll be wid
her soon. Asthore machree, we'll' be together, I hope, afore long—an',
oh! if it was the will o' God, I would be glad if it was afore night!"
The poor, shattered, heart-broken creature wept bitterly, for he felt
somewhat sensible of the justice of the reproof which he expected from
the priest, as well as undiminished sorrow for his wife.
"I'm not going to be hard on you," said the good-natured priest; "I only
called to tell you a dream that your son Dan had last night about you
and his mother."
"About Ellish! Oh, for heaven's sake what about her, Father, avourneen?"
"She appeared to him, last night," replied Father Mulcahy, "and told him
that your drinking kept her out of happiness."
"Queen of heaven!" exclaimed Peter, deeply affected, "is that true? Oh,"
said he, dropping on his knees, "Father, ahagur machree, pardon me—oh,
forgive me! I now promise, solemnly and seriously, to drink neither
in the house nor out of it, for the time to come, not one drop at all,
good, bad, or indifferent, of either whiskey, wine, or punch—barrin'
one glass. Are you now satisfied? an' do you think she'll get to
"All will be well, I trust," said the priest. "I shall mention this to
Dan and the rest, and depend upon it, they, too, will be happy to hear
"Here's what Mr. O'Flaherty an' myself made up," said Peter: "burn it,
Father; take it out of my sight, for it's now no use to me."
"What is this at all?" said Mr. Mulcahy, looking into it. "Is it an
"It's the Joggraphy of one I swore some time ago; but it's now out of
date—I'm done wid it."
The priest could not avoid smiling when he perused it, and on getting
from Peter's lips an explanation of the hieroglyphics, he laughed
heartily at the ingenious shifts they had made to guide his memory.
Peter, for some time after this, confined himself to one glass, as
he had promised; but he felt such depression and feebleness, that he
ventured slowly, and by degrees, to enlarge the "glass" from which he
drank. His impression touching the happiness of his wife was, that as he
had for several months strictly observed his promise, she had probably
during that period gone to heaven. He then began to exercise his
ingenuity gradually, as we have said, by using, from time to time, a
glass larger than the preceding one; thus receding from the spirit of
his vow to the letter, and increasing the quantity of his drink from a
small glass to the most capacious tumbler he could find. The manner in
which he drank this was highly illustrative of the customs which prevail
on this subject in Ireland. He remembered, that in making the vow, he
used the words, "neither in the house nor out of it;" but in order
to get over this dilemma, he usually stood with one foot outside the
threshold, and the other in the house, keeping himself in that position
which would render it difficult to determine whether he was either
out or in. At other times, when he happened to be upstairs, he usually
thrust one-half of his person out of the window, with the same ludicrous
intention of keeping the letter of his vow.
Many a smile this adroitness of his occasioned to the lookers-on: but
further ridicule was checked by his wobegone and afflicted look. He was
now a mere skeleton, feeble and tottering.
One night, in the depth of winter, he went into the town where his two
sons resided; he had been ill in mind and body during the day, and he
fancied that change of scene and society might benefit him. His daughter
and son-in-law, in consequence of his illness, watched him so closely,
that he could not succeed in getting his usual "glass." This offended
him, and he escaped without their knowledge to the son who kept the inn.
On arriving there, he went upstairs, and by a douceur to the waiter,
got a large tumbler filled with spirits. The lingering influences of
a conscience that generally felt strongly on the side of a moral duty,
though poorly instructed, prompted him to drink it in the usual manner,
by keeping one-half of his body, as, nearly as he could guess, out of
the window, that it might be said he drank it neither in nor out of the
house. He had scarcely finished his draught, however, when he lost his
balance, and was precipitated upon the pavement. The crash of his fall
was heard in the bar, and his son, who had just come in, ran, along with
several others, to ascertain what had happened. They found him, however,
only severely stunned. He was immediately brought in, and medical aid
sent for; but, though he recovered from the immediate effects of the
fall, the shock it gave to his broken constitution, and his excessive
grief, carried him off in a few months afterwards. He expired in the
arms of his son and daughter, and amidst the tears of those who knew his
simplicity of character, his goodness of heart, and his attachment to
the wife by whose death that heart had been broken.
Such was the melancholy end of the honest and warm-hearted Peter
Connell, who, unhappily, was not a solitary instance of a man driven to
habits of intoxication and neglect of business by the force of sorrow,
which time and a well-regulated mind might otherwise have overcome. We
have held him up, on the one hand, as an example worthy of imitation
in that industry and steadiness which, under the direction of his wife,
raised him from poverty to independence and wealth; and, on the other,
as a man resorting to the use of spirituous liquors that he might
be enabled to support affliction—a course which, so far from having
sustained him under it, shattered his constitution, shortened his life,
and destroyed his happiness. In conclusion, we wish our countrymen of
Peter's class would imitate him in his better qualities, and try to
avoid his failings.