The Midnight Mass by William Carleton
Frank M'Kenna was a snug farmer, frugal and industrious in his habits,
and, what is rare amongst most men of his class, addicted to neither drink
nor quarrelling. He lived at the skirt of a mountain, which ran up in long
successive undulations, until it ended in a dark, abrupt peak, very
perpendicular on one side, and always, except on a bright day, capped with
clouds. Before his door lay a hard plain, covered only with a kind of
bent, and studded with round gray rocks, protruding somewhat above its
surface. Through this plain, over a craggy channel, ran a mountain
torrent, that issued to the right of M'Kenna's house, from a rocky and
precipitous valley which twisted itself round the base of the mountain
until it reached the perpendicular side, where the peak actually overhung
it. On looking either from the bottom of the valley or the top of the
peak, the depth appeared immense; and, on a summer's day, when the black
thorns and other hardy shrubs that in some placas clothed its rocky sides
were green, to view the river sparkling below you in the sun, as it flung
itself over two or three cataracts of great depth and boldness, filled the
mind with those undefinable sensations of pleasure inseparable from a
contemplation of the sublimities of nature. Nor did it possess less
interest when beheld in the winter storm. Well do we remember, though then
ignorant of our own motives, when we have, in the turmoil of the elements,
climbed its steep, shaggy sides, disappearing like a speck, or something
not of earth, among the dark clouds that rolled over its summit, for no
other purpose than to stand upon its brow, and look down on the red
torrent, dashing with impetuosity from crag to crag, whilst the winds
roared, and the clouds flew in dark columns around us, giving to the
natural wildness of the place an air of wilder desolation.—Beyond
this glen the mountains stretched away for eight or ten miles in swelling
masses, between which lay many extensive sweeps, well sheltered and
abundantly stocked with game, particularly with hares and grouse.
M'Kenna's house stood, as I said, at the foot of this mountain, just where
the yellow surface of the plain began to darken into the deeper hues of
the heath; to the left lay a considerable tract of stony land in a state
of cultivation; and beyond the river, exactly opposite the house, rose a
long line of hills, studded with houses, and in summer diversified with
pasture and corn fields, the beauty of which was heightened by the columns
of smoke that slanted across the hills, as the breeze carried them through
the lucid haze of the atmosphere.
M'Kenna's family consisted of himself, his wife, two daughters, and two
sons. One of these was a young man addicted to drink, idle, ill-tempered,
and disobedient; seldom taking a part in the labors of the family, but
altogether devoted to field sports, fairs, markets, and dances. In many
parts of Ireland it is usual to play at cards for mutton, loaves, fowls,
or whiskey, and he was seldom absent from such gambling parties, if held
within a reasonable distance. Often had the other members of the family
remonstrated with him on his idle and immoral courses; but their
remonstrances only excited his bad passions, and produced, on his part,
angry and exasperating language, or open determination to abandon the
family altogether and enlist. For some years he went on in this way, a
hardened, ungodly profligate, spurning the voice of reproof and of
conscience, and insensible to the entreaties of domestic affection, or the
commands of parental authority. Such was his state of mind and mode of
life when our story opens.
At the time in which the incidents contained in this sketch took place,
the peasantry of Ireland, being less encumbered with heavy rents, and more
buoyant in spirits than the decay of national prosperity has of late
permitted them to be, indulged more frequently, and to a greater stretch,
in those rural sports and festivities so suitable to their natural love of
humor and amusement. Dances, wakes, and weddings, were then held according
to the most extravagant forms of ancient usage; the people were easier in
their circumstances, and consequently indulged in them with lighter
hearts, and a stronger relish for enjoyment. When any of the great
festivals of their religion approached, the popular mind, unrepressed by
poverty and national dissension, gradually elevated itself to a species of
wild and reckless mirth, productive of incidents irresistibly ludicrous,
and remarkably characteristic of Irish manners. It is not, however, to be
expected, that a people whose love of fighting is so innate a principle in
their disposition, should celebrate these festive seasons without an
occasional crime, which threw its deep shadow over the mirthful character
of their customs. Many such occurred; but they were looked upon then with
a degree of horror and detestation of which we can form but a very
inadequate idea at present.
It was upon the advent of one of those festivals—Christmas—which
the family of M'Kenna, like every other family in the neighborhood, were
making preparations to celebrate with the usual hilarity. They cleared out
their barn in order to have a dance on Christmas-eve; and for this
purpose, the two sons and the servant-man wrought with that kind of
industry produced by the cheerful prospect of some happy event. For a week
or fortnight before the evening on which the dance was appointed to be
held, due notice of it had been given to the neighbors, and, of course,
there was no doubt but that it would be numerously attended.
Christmas-eve, as the day preceding Christmas is called, has been always a
day of great preparation and bustle. Indeed the whole week previous to it
is also remarkable, as exhibiting the importance attached by the people to
those occasions on which they can give a loose to their love of fun and
frolic. The farm-house undergoes a thorough cleansing. Father and sons
are, or rather used to be, all engaged in repairing the out-houses,
patching them with thatch where it was wanted, mending mangers, paving
stable-floors, fixing cow-stakes, making boraghs,* removing nuisances, and
* The rope with which a cow is tied in the cowhouse.
On the ether hand, the mother, daughters and maids, were also engaged in
their several departments; the latter scouring the furniture with sand:
the mother making culinary preparations, baking bread, killing fowls, or
salting meat; whilst the daughters were unusually intent upon the
decoration of their own dress, and the making up of the family linen. All,
however, was performed with an air of gayety and pleasure; the ivy and
holly were disposed about the dressers and collar beams with great glee;
the chimneys were swept amidst songs and laughter; many bad voices, and
some good ones, were put in requisition; whilst several who had never been
known to chaunt a stave, alarmed the listeners by the grotesque and
incomprehensible nature of their melody. Those who were inclined to
devotion—and there is no lack of it in Ireland—took to carols
and hymns, which they sang, for want of better airs, to tunes highly
comic. We have ourselves often heard the Doxology sung in Irish verse to
the facetious air of "Paudeen O'Rafferty," and other hymns to the tune of
"Peas upon a Trencher," and "Cruskeen Lawn." Sometimes, on the contrary,
many of them, from the very fulness of jollity, would become pathetic, and
indulge in those touching old airs of their country, which maybe
truly,called songs of sorrow, from the exquisite and simple pathos with
which they abound. This, though it may seem anomalous, is but natural; for
there is nothing so apt to recall to the heart those friends, whether
absent or dead, with whom it has been connected, as a stated festival.
Affection is then awakened, and summons to the hearth where it presides
those on whose face it loves to look; if they be living, it places them in
the circle of happiness which surrounds it; and if they be removed forever
from such scenes, their memory, which, amidst the din of ordinary life,
has almost passed away, is now restored, and their loss felt as if it had
been only just then sustained. For this reason, at such times, it is not
at all unusual to see the elders of Irish families touched by pathos as
well as humor. The Irish are a people whose affections are as strong as
their imaginations are vivid; and, in illustration of this, we may add,
that many a time have we seen them raised to mirth and melted into tears
almost at the same time, by a song of the most comic character. The mirth,
however, was for the song, and the sorrow for the memory of some beloved
relation who had been remarkable for singing it, or with whom it had been
We do not affirm that in the family of the M'Kennas there were, upon the
occasion which we were describing, any tears shed. The enjoyments of the
season and the humors of the expected dance, both combined to give them a
more than usual degree of mirth and frolic At an early hour all that was
necessary for the due celebration of that night and the succeeding day,
had been arranged and completed. The whiskey had been laid in, the
Christmas candles bought, the barn cleared out, the seats laid; in short,
every thing in its place, and a place for everything. About one o'clock,
however, the young members of the family began to betray some symptoms of
uneasiness; nor was M'Kenna himself, though the farithee or man of
the house, altogether so exempt from what they felt, as might, if the
cause of it were known to our readers, be expected from a man of his years
From time to time one of the girls tripped out as far as the stile before
the door, where she stood looking in a particular direction until her
sight was fatigued.
"Och,' och," her mother exclaimed during her absence, "but that colleen's
sick about Barny!—musha, but it would be the beautiful joke, all
out, if he'd disappoint the whole of yez. Faix, it wouldn't be unlike the
same man, to go wherever he can make most money; and sure small blame to
him for that; what's one place to him more than another?"
"Hut," M'Kenna replied, rising, however, to go out himself, "the girsha's
makin' a bauliore (* laughing stock) of herself."
"An' where's yourself slippin' out to?" rejoined his wife, with a wink of
shrewd humor at the rest. "I say, Frank, are you goin' to look for him
too? Mavrone, but that's sinsible! Why, thin, you snakin' ould rogue, is
that the way wid you? Throth I have often hard it said, that 'one fool
makes many;' but sure enough, 'an ould fools worse nor any.' Come in here
this minute, I say—walk back—you to have your horn up! Faix,
"Why! I am only goin' to get the small phaties boiled for the pigs, poor
crathurs, for their Christmas dinner. Sure we oughtn't to neglect thim no
more than ourselves, the crathurs, that can't spake their wants, except by
"Saints above!—the Lord forgive me for bringin' down their names
upon a Christmas Eve, but it's beside himself the man is! an' him knows
that the phaties wor boiled an' made up into balls for them airly this
In the meantime, the wife's good-natured attack upon her husband produced
considerable mirth in the family. In consequence of what she said, he
hesitated: but ultimately was proceeding towards the door, when the
daughter returned, her brow flushed, and her eye sparkling with mirth and
"Ha!" said the father, with a complacent smile, "all's right, Peggy, you
seen him, alanna. The music's in your eye, acushla; an' the' feet of you
can't keep themselves off o' the ground; an' all bekase you seen Barny
Dhal (* blind Barney) pokin' acrass the fields, wid his head up, an' his
skirt stickn' out behind him wid Granua Waile." (* The name of his fiddle)
The father had conjectured properly, for the joy which animated the girl's
countenance could not be misunderstood.
"Barny's comin'," she exclaimed, clapping her hands with great glee, "an'
our Frank wid him; they're at the river, and Frank has him on his back,
and Granua Waile undhor his arm! Come out, come out! You'll die for good,
lookin' at them staggerin' acrass. I knew he'd come! I knew it! and be
good to thim that invinted Christmas; it's a brave time, faix!"
In a moment the inmates were grouped before the door, all anxious to catch
a glimpse of Barny and Granua Waile.
"Faix ay! Sure enough.. Sarra doubt if it! Wethen, I'd never mistrust
Barny!" might be heard in distinct exclamations from each.
"Faith he's a Trojan," said the farithee, an' must get lashins of
the best we have. Come in, childher, an' red the hob for him.
"'Och, Christmas comes but wanst a year,
An' Christmas comes but wanst a year;
An' the divil a mouth
Shall be friends wid drouth,
While I have whiskey, ale, or beer.
Och, Christmas comes but wanst a year,
An' Christmas comes but waust a year;
Wid han' in han',
An' can to can,
Then Hi for the whiskey, ale, and beer.
Och, Christmas comes but wanst a year,
An' Christmas comes but wanst a year;
Then the high and the low
Shall shake their toe,
When primed wid whiskey, ale, an' beer.'
For all that, the sorra fig I care for either ale or beer, barrin' in
regard of mere drouth; give me the whiskey, Eh, Alley—won't we have
a jorum any how?"
"Why, thin," replied the wife, "the devil be from me (the crass about us
for namin' him) but you're a greater Brinoge than some of your
childher! I suppose its your capers Frank has in him. Will you behave
yourself, you old slingpoke? Behave, I say, an let me go. Childher, will
you help me to flake this man out o' the place? Look at him, here,
caperin' an' crackin' his fingers afore me, an' pullin' me out to dance!"
"Och, och, murdher alive," exclaimed the good man out of breath, "I seen
the day, any way! An', maybe, could show a step or two yet, if I was well
fixed. You can't forget ould times, Alley? Eh, you thief?"
"Musha, have sinse, man alive," replied the wife, in a tone of placid
gravity, which only betrayed the pleasure she herself felt in his
happiness. "Have sinse, an' the strange man comin' in, an' don't let him
see you in such figaries."
The observation of the good woman produced a loud laugh among them. "Arrah
what are yez laughing at?" she inquired.
"Why, mother," said one of her daughters "how could Barny Dhal, a
blind man, see anybody?"
Alley herself laughed at her blunder, but wittily replied, "Faith,
avourneen, maybe he can often see as nately through his ear as you could
do wid your eyes open; sure they say he can hear the grass growin'."
"For that matther," observed the farithee, joining in the joke, "he can
see as far as any of us—while we're asleep."
The conversation was thus proceeding, when Barney Dhal and young
Frank M'Kenna entered the kitchen.
In a moment all hands were extended to welcome Barney: "Millia failte
ghud, Barny!" "Cead millia failte ghud, Barny!" "Oh, Barny, did
you come at last? You're welcome." "Barny, my Trojan, how is every
cart-load of you?" "How is Granua Waile, Barny?"
"Why, thin, holy music, did you never see Barny Dhal afore? Clear
off from about me, or, by the sweets of rosin, I'll play the devil an'
brake things. 'You're welcome, Barny!'—an' 'How are you, Barny?' Why
thin, piper o' Moses, don't I know I'm welcome, an' yit you must be
tellin' me what everybody knows! But sure I have great news for you all!"
"What is that, Barny?"
"Well, but can yez keep a sacret? Can yez, girls?"
"Faix can we, Barny, achora."
"Well, so can I—ha, ha, ha! Now, are,yez sarved? Come, let me to the
"Here, Barny; I'll lead you, Barny."
"No, I have him; come, Barny, I'll lead you: here, achora, this is
the spot—that's it. Why, Barny," said the arch girl, as she placed
him in the corner, "sorra one o' the hob but knows you: it never stirs—ha,
"Throth, a colleen, that tongue o' yours will delude some one afore long,
if it hasn't done so already."
"But how is Granua Waile, Barny?"
"Poor Granua is it? Faith, times is hard wid her often. 'Granua,' says I
to her 'what do you say, acushla? we're axed to go to two or three places
to-day—what do you say? Do you lead, an' I'll follow: your will is
my pleasure.' 'An' where are we axed to?' says Granua, sinsible enough.
'Why,' says I, 'to Paddy Lanigan's, to Mike Hartigan's, to Jack Lynch's,
an' at the heel o' the hunt, to Frank M'Kenna's, of the Mountain Bar.' 'By
my song,' says she, 'you may go where you plase; as for me, I'm off to
Frank M'Kenna's, one of the dacentest men in Europe, an' his wife the
same. Divil a toe I'll set a waggin' in any other place this night,' says
she; 'for 'tis there we're both well thrated wid the best the house can
afford. So,' says she, 'in the name of all that's musical, you're welcome
to the poker an' tongs anywhere else; for me, I'm off to Frank's.' An'
faith, sure enough, she took to her pumps; an' it was only comin' over the
hill there, that young Frank an' I overtuck her: divil a lie in it."
In fact, Barney, besides being a fiddler, was a senachie of the first
water; could tell a story, or trace a genealogy as well as any man living,
and draw the long bow in either capacity much better than he could in the
practice of his more legitimate profession.
"Well, here she is, Barny, to the fore," said the aforesaid arch girl,
"an' now give us a tune."
"What!" replied the farithee, "is it wid-out either aitin' or dhrinkin'?
Why, the girsha's beside herself! Alley, aroon, get him the linin'* an' a
sup to tighten his elbow."
* Linin'—lining, so eating and drinking are often
humorously termed by the people.
The good woman instantly went to provide refreshments for the musician.
"Come, girls," said Barny, "will yez get me a scythe or a handsaw."
"A scythe or a handsaw! eh, then what to do, Barny?"
"Why, to pare my nails, to be sure," replied Barny, with a loud laugh;
"but stay—come back here—I'll make shift to do wid a pair of
scissors this bout.
"'The parent finds his sons,
The tutherer whips them;
The nailer makes his nails,
The fiddler clips them.'"
Wherever Barny came there was mirth, and a disposition to be pleased, so
that his jokes always told.
"Musha, the sorra pare you, Barny," said one of the girls; "but
there's no bein' up to you, good or bad."
"The sorra pair me, is it? faix, Nancy, you'll soon be paired
yourself wid some one, avourneen. Do you know a sartin young man wid a
nose on him runnin' to a point like the pin of a sun-dial, his knees
brakin' the king's pace, strikin' one another ever since he was able to
walk, an' that was about four years afther he could say his Father
Nosther; an' faith, whatever you may think, there's no makin' them
paceable except by puttin' between them! The wrong side of his shin, too,
is foremost; an' though the one-half of his two feet is all heels, he
keeps the same heels for set days an' bonfire nights, an' savinly walks on
his ankles. His leg, too, Nancy, is stuck in the middle of his foot, like
a poker in a pick-axe; an', along wid all—"
"Here, Barny, thry your hand at this," said the good woman, who had not
heard his ludicrous description of her fictitious son-in-law—"eeh
arran agus bee laudher, Barny, ate bread and be strong. I'll
warrant when you begin to play, they'll give you little time to do
anything but scrape away;—taste the dhrink first, anyway, in the
name o' God,"—and she filled him a glass.
"Augh, augh! faith you're the moral of a woman. Are you there, Frank
M'Kenna?—here's a sudden disholution to your family! May they be
scattered wid all speed—manin' the girls—to all corners o' the
parish!—ha, ha, ha! Well, that won't vex them, anyhow; an' next,
here's a merry Chris'mas to us, an' many o' them! Whooh! blur-an'-age!
whooh! oh, by gorra!—that's—that's—Frank run afther my
breath—I've lost it—run, you tory: oh, by gor, that's stuff as
sthrong as Sampson, so it is. Arrah, what well do you dhraw that from?
for, faith, 'twould be mighty convanient to live near it in a hard frost."
Barny was now silent for some time, which silence was produced by the
industry he displayed in assailing the substantial refreshments before
him. When he had concluded his repast he once more tasted the liquor;
after which he got Granua Waile, and continued playing their favorite
tunes, and amusing them with anecdotes, both true and false, until the
hour drew nigh when his services were expected by the young men and
maidens who had assembled to dance in the barn. Occasionally, however,
they took a preliminary step in which they were joined by few of their
neighbors. Old Frank himself felt his spirits elevated by contemplating
the happiness of his children and their young associates.
"Frank," said he, to the youngest of his sons, "go down to Owen
Reillaghan's, and tell him an' his family to come up to the dance early in
the evenin'. Owen's a pleasant man," he added, "and a good neighbor, but a
small thought too strict in his duties. Tell him to come up, Frank, airly,
I say; he'll have time enough to go to the Midnight Mass afther dancin'
the 'Rakes of Ballyshanny,' and 'the Baltihorum jig;' an' maybe he can't
do both in style!"
"Ay," said Frank, in a jeering manner, "he carries a handy heel at the
dancin', and a soople tongue at the prayin'; but let him alone for
bringin' the bottom of his glass and his eyebrow acquainted. But if he'd
"Go along, a veehonce, (* you profligate) an' bring him up,"
replied the father: "you to talk about prayin'! Them that 'ud catch you at
a prayer ought to be showed for the world to wondher at: a man wid two
heads an him would be a fool to him. Go along, I say, and do what you're
"I'm goin'," said Frank. "I'm off; but what if he doesn't come? I'll then
have my journey for nothin'."
"An' it's good payment for any journey ever you'll make, barrin' it's to
the gallows," replied the father, nearly provoked at his reluctance in
obeying him: "won't you have dancin' enough in the coorse o' the night,
for you'll not go to the Midnight Mass, and why don't you be off wid you
Frank shrugged his shoulders two or three times, being loth to leave the
music and dancing; but on seeing his father about to address him in
sharper language, he went out with a frown on his brows, and a
half-smothered imprecation bursting from his lips.
He had not proceeded more than a few yards from the door, when he met Rody
Teague, his father's servant, on his way to the kitchen. "Rody," said he,
"isn't this a purty business? My father wantin' to send me down to Owen
Reillaghan's; when, by the vartue o' my oath, I'd as soon go half way into
hell, as to any place where his son, Mike Reillaghan, 'ud be. How will I
"Why," replied Rody, "as to meetin' wid Mike, take my advice and avoid
him. And what is more I'd give up Peggy Gartland for good. Isn't it a mane
thing for you, Frank, to be hangin' afther a girl that's fonder of another
than she is of yourself. By this and by that, I'd no more do it—avvouh!
catch me at it—I'd have spunk in me."
Frank's brow darkened as Rody spoke; instead of instantly replying', he
was silent and appeared to be debating some point in his own mind, on
which he had not come to a determination.
"My father didn't hear of the fight between Mike and me?" said he,
interrogatively—"do you think he did, Rody?"
"Not to my knowledge," replied the servant; "if he did, he wouldn't surely
send you down; but talking of the fight, you are known to be a stout,
well-fought boy—no doubt of that—still, I say, you had no
right to provoke Mike as you did, who, it's well known, could bate any two
men in the parish; and so sign, you got yourself dacently trounced, about
a girl that doesn't love a bone in your skin."
"He disgraced me, Rody," observed Frank—"I can't rise my head; and
you know I was thought, by all the parish, as good a man as him. No, I
wouldn't, this blessed Christmas Eve above us, for all that ever my name
was worth, be disgraced by him as I am. But—hould, man—have
"Throth and, Frank, that's what you never had," said Eody; "and as to
bein' disgraced, you disgraced yourself. What right had you to challenge
the boy to fight, and to strike him into the bargain, bekase Peggy
Gartland danced with him, and wouldn't go out wid you? Death alive, sure
that wasn't his fault."
Every word of reproof which proceeded from Rody's lips but strengthened
Frank's rage, and added to his sense of shame; he looked first in the
direction of Reillaghan's house, and immediately towards the little
village in which Peggy Gartland lived.
"Rody," said he, slapping him fiercely on the shoulder, "go in—I've—I've
made up my mind upon what I'll do; go in, Eody, and get your dinner; but
don't be out of the way when I come back."
"And what have you made up your mind to?" inquired Eody.
"Why, by the sacred Mother o' Heaven, Rody, to—to—be friends
"Ay, there's sinse and rason in that," replied Eody; "and if you'd take my
advice you'd give up Peggy Gartland, too."
"I'll see you when I come back, Eody; don't be from about the place."
And as he spoke, a single spring brought him over the stile at which they
held the foregoing conversation.
On advancing, he found himself in one of his father's fields, under the
shelter of an elder-hedge. Here he paused, and seemed still somewhat
uncertain as to the direction in which he should proceed. At length he
decided; the way towards Peggy Gartland's was that which he took, and as
he walked rapidly, he soon found himself at the village in which she
It was now a little after twilight; the night was clear the moon being in
her first quarter, and the clouds through which she appeared to struggle,
were light and fleecy, but rather cold-looking, such, in short, as would
seem to promise a sudden fall of snow. Frank had passed the two first
cabins of the village, and was in the act of parrying the attacks of some
yelping cur that assailed him, when he received a slap on the back,
accompanied by a gho manhi Dhea gliud, a Franchas, co wul thu guilh a
nish, a rogora duh?*
* God save you, Frank! where are you going now, you
"Who's this?" exclaimed Frank: "eh! why, Darby More, you sullin' thief o'
the world, is this you?"
"Ay, indeed; an' you're goin' down to Peggy's?" said the the other,
pointing significantly towards Peggy Gartland's house. "Well, man, what's
the harm? She may get worse, that is, hopin' still that you'll mend your
manners, a bouchal: but isn't your nose out o' joint there, Frank,
"No sich thing at all, Darby," replied Frank, gulping down his
indignation, which rose afresh on hearing that the terms on which he stood
with Peggy were so notorious.
"Throth but it is," said Darby, "an' to tell the blessed thruth, I'm not
sarry that it's out o' joint; for when I tould you to lave the case in my
hands, along wid a small thrifle o' silver that didn't signify much to you—whoo!
not at all: you'd rather play it at cards, or dhrink it, or spind it wid
no good. Out o' joint! nrasha, if ever a man's nose was to be pitied, and
yours is: why, didn't Mike Reillaghan put it out o' joint, twist? first in
regard to Peggy, and secondly by the batin' he gave you an it."
"It's well known, Darby," replied Frank, "that 'twas by a chance blow he
did it; and, you know, a chance blow might kill the devil."
"But there was no danger of Mike's gettin' the chance blow," observed the
sarcastic vagrant, for such he was.
"Maybe it's afore him," replied his companion: "we'll have another thrial
for it, any how; but where are you goin', Darby? Is it to the dance?"
Me! Is it a man "wid two holy ordhers an him?* No, no! I might go up, may
be, as far as your father's, merely to see the family, only for the night
that's in it; but I'm goin' to another frind's place to spind my
Chris'mas, an' over an' above, I must go to the Midnight Mass. Frank,
change your coorses, an' mend your life, an' don't be the talk o' the
parish. Remimber me to the family, an' say I'll see them soon."
* The religious orders, as they are termed, most
commonly entered into by the peasantry, are those of
the Scapular and St. Francis. The order of Jesus—or
that of the Jesuits, is only entered into by the clergy
and the higher lay classes.
"How long will you stop in the neighborhood?" inquired Frank.
"Arrah why, acushla?" replied the mendicant, softening his language.
"I might be wantin to see you some o' these days," said the other:
"indeed, it's not unlikely, Darby; so don't go, any how, widout seein'
"Ah!" said Darby, "had you taken a fool's advice—but it can't be
helped now—the harm's done, I doubt; how-an'-ever, for the matther
o' that, may be I have as good as Peggy in my eye for you; by the same
token, as the night's could, warm your tooth, avick; there's waker wather
nor this in Lough Mecall. Sorra sup of it over I keep for my own use at
all, barrin' when I take a touch o' configuration in my bowels, or, may
be, when I'm too long at my prayers; for, God help me, sure I'm but
sthrivin', wid the help o' one thing an' another, to work out my salvation
as well as I can! Your health, any how, an' a merry Chris'mas to you!—not
forgettin' myself," he added, putting to his lips a large cow's horn,
which he kept slung beneath his arm, like the bugle of a coach-guard, only
that this was generally concealed by an outside coat, no two inches of
which were of the same materials of color. Having taken a tolerably large
draught from this, which, by the "way, held near two quarts, he handed it
with a smack and a shrug to Frank, who immediately gave it a wipe with the
skirt of his coat, and pledged his companion.
"I'll be wantin'," observed Frank, "to see you in the hollydays—faith,
that stuff's to be christened yet, Darby—so don't go till we have a
dish o' discoorse about somethin' I'll mintion to you. As for Peggy
Gartland, I'm done wid her; she may marry ould Nick for me."
"Or you for ould Nick," said the cynic, "which would be nearly the same
thing: but go an, avick, an' never heed me; sure I must have my spake—doesn't
every body know Darby More?"
"I've nothin' else to say now," added Frank, "and you have my authority to
spread it as far as you plase. I'm done wid her: so good-night, an' good
cuttin' (* May what's in it never fail) to your horn, Darby!—You
damn ould villian!" he subjoined in a low voice, when Darby had got out of
his hearing: "surely it's not in yourself, but in the blessed words and
things you have about you, that there is any good."
"Musha, good-night, Frank alanna," replied the other;—"an' the divil
sweep you, for a skamin' vagabone, that's a curse to the country, and has
kep me out o' more weddins than any one I ever met wid, by your roguery in
puttin' evil between frinds an' neighbors, jist whin they'd be ready for
the priest to say the words over them! Good won't come of you, you
The last words were scarcely uttered by the sturdy mendicant, when he
turned round to observe whether or not Frank would stop at Larry
Gartland's, the father of the girl to whom he had hitherto unsuccessfully
avowed his attachment.
"I'd depind an him," said he, in a soliloquy, "as soon as I'd depind upon
ice of an hour's growth: an', whether or not, sure as I'm an my way to
Owen Reillaghan's, the father of the dacent boy that he's strivin' to
outdo, mayn't I as well watch his motions, any way?"
He accordingly proceeded along the shadowy side of the street, in order to
avoid Frank's eye, should he chance to look back, and quietly dodged on
until he fairly saw him enter the house.
Having satisfied himself that the object of Frank's visit to the village
was in some shape connected with Peggy Gartland, the mendicant immediately
retraced his steps, and at a pace more rapid than usual, strided on to
Owen Reillaghan's, whither he arrived just in time to secure an excellent
In Ireland, that description of mendicants which differ so strikingly from
the common crowd of beggars as to constitute a distinct species,
comprehends within itself as anomalous an admixture of fun and devotion,
external rigor and private licentiousness, love of superstition and of
good whiskey, as might naturally be supposed, without any great sketch of
credulity, to belong to men thrown among a people in whom so many extremes
of character and morals meet. The known beggar, who goes his own rounds,
and has his own walk, always adapts his character to that of his
benefactor, whose whims and peculiarities of temper he studies with
industry, and generally with success. By this means, joined to a dexterity
in tracing out the private history of families and individuals, he is
enabled to humor the capprices, to manage the eccentricities, and to touch
with a masterly hand the prejudices, and particular opinions, of his
patrons; and this he contrives to do with great address and tact. Such was
the character of Darby More, whose person, naturally large, was increased
to an enormous size by the number of coats, blankets, and bags, with which
he was encumbered. A large belt, buckled round his body, contained within
its girth much more of money, meal, and whiskey, than ever met the eye;
his hat was exceedingly low in the crown; his legs were cast in at least
three pairs of stockings; and in his hand he carried a long cant, spiked
at the lower end, with which he slung himself over small rivers and dykes,
and kept dogs at bay. He was a devotee, too, notwithstanding the whiskey
horn under his arm; attended wakes, christenings, and weddings: rubbed for
the rose (* a scrofulous swelling) and king's evil, (for the varlet
insisted that he was a seventh son); cured toothaches, colics, and
headaches, by charms; but made most money by a knack which he possessed of
tatooing into the naked breast the representation of Christ upon the
cross. This was a secret of considerable value, for many of the
superstitious people believed that by having this stained in upon them,
they would escape unnatural deaths, and be almost sure of heaven.
When Darby approached Reillaghan's house, he was considering the propriety
of disclosing to his son the fact of having left his rival with Peggy
Gartland. He ultimately determined that it would be proper to do so; for
he was shrewd enough to suspect that the wish Frank had expressed of
seeing him before he left the country, was but a ruse to purchase his
silence touching his appearance in the village. In this, however, he was
"God save the house!" exclaimed Darby, on entering—"God save the
house, an' all that's in it! God save it to the North!" and he formed the
sign of the cross in every direction to which he turned: "God save it to
the South! + to the Aiste! + and to the Waiste! + Save it upwards! + and
save it downwards! + Save it backwards! + and save it forwards! + Save it
right! + and save it left! + Save it by night! + save it by day! + Save it
here! + save it there! + Save it this way! + an' save it that way! + Save
it atin'! + + + an' save it drinkin'! + + + + + + + + Oxis Doxis
Glorioxis—Amin. An' now that I've blessed the place in the name
of the nine Patriarchs, how are yez all, man, woman, an' child? An' a
merry Christmas to yez, says Darby More!"
Darby, in the usual spirit of Irish hospitality, received a sincere
welcome, was placed up near the fire, a plate filled with the best food on
the table laid before him, and requested to want nothing for the asking.
"Why, Darby," said Reillaghan, "we expected you long ago: why didn't you
"The Lord's will be done! for ev'ry man has his throubles," replied Darby,
stuffing himself in the corner like an Epicure; "an' why should a sinner
like me, or the likes of me, be without thim? 'Twas a dhrame I had last
night that kep me. They say, indeed, that dhrames go by contriaries, but
not always, to my own knowledge."
"An' what was the dhrame about, Darby?" inquired Reillaghan's wife.
"Why, ma'am, about some that I see on this hearth, well, an' in good
health; may they long live to be so! Oxis Doxis Glorioxis—Amin!" + +
"Blessed Virgin! Darby, sure it would be nothin' bad that's to happen?
Would it, Darby?"
"Keep yourself aisy on that head. I have widin my own mind the power of
makin' it come out for good—I know the prayer for it. Oxis Doxis!" +
"God be praised for that, Darby; sure it would be a terrible business, all
out, if any thing was to happen. Here's Mike that was born on Whissle *
Monday, of all days in the year, an' you know, they say that any child
born on that day is to die an unnatural death. We named Mike after St.
Michael that he might purtect him."
* The people believe the superstition to be as is
stated above. Any child born on Whitsunday, or the day
after, is supposed to be doomed to die an unnatural
death. The consequence is, that the child is named
after and dedicated to some particular saint, in the
hope that his influence may obviate his evil doom.
"Make yourself aisy, I say; don't I tell you I have the prayer to keep it
back—hach! hach!—why, there's a bit stuck in my throath, some
way! Wurrah dheelish, what's this! Maybe, you could give me a sup o'
dhrink—wather, or anything to moisten the morsel I'm atin? Wurrah,
ma'am dear, make haste, it's goin' agin' the breath wid me!"
"Oh, the sorra taste o' wather, Darby," said Owen; "sure this is
Christmas-eve, you know: so you see, Darby, for ould acquaintance sake,
an' that you may put up an odd prayer now an' thin for us, jist be thryin'
Darby honored the gift by immediate acceptance.
"Well, Owen Reillaghan," said he, "you make me take more o' this stuff nor
any man I know; and particularly by rason that bein' given, wid a
blessin', to the ranns, an' prayers, an' holy charms, I don't think it so
good; barrin', indeed, as Father Donnellan towld me, when the wind, by
long fastin', gets into my stomach, as was the case today, I'm often
throubled, God help me, wid a configuration in the—hugh! ugh—an'
thin it's good for me—a little of it."
"This would make a brave powdher-horn, Darby Moore," observed one of
Reilla-ghan's sons, "if it wasn't so big. What do you keep in it, Darby?"
"Why, avillish, (* my sweet) nothin' indeed but a sup o' Father
Donnellan's holy water, that they say by all accounts it costs him great
trouble to make, by rason that he must fast a long time, and pray by the
day, afore he gets himself holy enough to consecrate it."
"It smells like whiskey, Darby," said the boy, without any intention,
however, of offending him. "It smells very like poteen."
"Hould yer tongue, Risthard," said the elder Reillaghan; "what 'ud make
the honest man have whiskey in it? Didn't he tell you what's in it?"
"The gorsoon's right enough," replied Darby. "I got the horn from Barny
Dalton a couple o' days agone; 'twas whiskey he had in it, an' it smells
of it sure enough, an' will, indeed, for some time longer. Och! och! the
heavens be praised, I've made a good dinner! May they never know want that
gave it to me! Oxis Doxis Glorioxis—Amin!" + + +
"Darby, thry this again," said Reillaghan, offering him another bumper.
"Troth an' I will, thin, for I find myself a great dale the betther of the
one I tuck. Well, here's health an' happiness to us, an' may we all meet
in heaven! Risthard, hand me that horn till I be goin' out to the barn, in
ordher to do somethin' for my sowl. The holy wather's a good thing to have
"But the dhrame, Darby?" inquired Mrs. Reillaghan. "Won't you tell it to
"Let Mike follow me to the barn," he replied, "an' I'll tell him as much
of it as he ought to hear. An' now let all of yez prepare for the Midnight
Mass; go there wid proper intuitions, an' not to be coortin' or dhrinkin'
by the way. We're all sinners, any way, an' oughtn't to neglect our sowls.
Oxis Doxis Glorioxis. Amin!"
He immediately strided with the horn under his arm, towards the barn,
where he knelt, and began his orisons in a tone sufficiently loud to be
heard in the kitchen. When he was gone, Mrs. Reillaghan, who, with the
curiosity natural to her sex, and the superstition peculiar to her station
in life, felt anxious to hear Darby's dream, urged Mike to follow him
forthwith, that he might prevail on him to detail it at full length.
Darby, who knew not exactly what the dream ought to be, replied to Mike's
"Mike," said he, "until the proper time comes, I can't tell it; but
listen; take my advice, an' slip down to Peggy Gartland's by and by. I
have strong suspicions, if my dhrame is thrue, that Frank M'Kenna has a
design upon her. People may be abroad this night widout bein' noticed, by
rason o' the Midnight Mass; Frank has, friends in Kilnaheery, down behind
the moors; an' the divil might tempt him to bring her there. Keep your eye
an him, or rather an Peggy. If my dhrame's true, he was there this night."
"I thought I gave him enough on her account," said. Mike. "The poor girl
hasn't a day's pace in regard of him; but, plase goodness, I'll soon put
an end to it, for I'll marry her durin' the Hollydays."
"Go, avick, an' let me finish my Pudheran Partha: I have to get through it
before the Midnight Mass comes. Slip down, and find out what he was doin';
and when you come back, let me know."
Mike, perfectly aware of young M'Kenna's character, immediately went
towards Lisrum, for so the village where Peggy Gartland lived was called.
He felt the danger to be apprehended from the interference of his rival
the more acutely, inasmuch as he was not ignorant of the feuds and
quarrels which the former had frequently produced between friends and
neighbors, by the subtle poison of his falsehoods, which were both wanton
and malicious. He therefore advanced at an unusually brisk pace, and had
nearly reached the village, when he perceived in the distance a person
resembling Frank approaching him at a pace nearly as rapid as his own.
"If it's Frank M'Kenna," thought he, "he must pass me, for this is his
straight line home."
It appeared, however, that he had been mistaken; for he whom he had
supposed to be the object of his enmity, crossed the field by a different
path, and seemed to be utterly ignorant of the person whom he was about to
meet—so far, at least, as a quick, free, unembarrassed step could
intimate his unacquaintance with him.
The fact, however, was, that Reillaghan, had the person whom he met
approached him more nearly, would have found his first suspicions correct.
Frank was then on his return from Gartland's, and no sooner perceived
Reillaghan, whom he immediately recognized by his great height, than he
took another path in order to avoid him. The enmity between these rivals
was, deep and implacable; aggravated on the one hand by a sense of
unmerited injury, and on the other by personal defeat and the bitterest
jealousy. For this reason neither of them wished to meet, particularly
Frank M'Kenna, who not only hated, but feared his enemy.
Having succeeded in avoiding Reillaghan, the latter soon reached home; but
here he found the door closed, and the family, without a single exception,
in the barn, which was now nearly crowded with the youngsters of both
sexes from the surrounding villages.
Frank's arrival among them gave a fresh impulse to their mirth and
enjoyment. His manners were highly agreeable, and his spirits buoyant
almost to levity. Notwithstanding the badness of his character in the
opinion of the sober, steady, and respectable inhabitants of the parish,
yet he was a favorite with the desolate and thoughtless, and with many who
had not an opportunity of seeing him except in his most favorable aspect.
Whether he entertained on this occasion any latent design that might have
induced him to assume a frankness of manner, and an appearance of
good-humor, which he did not feel, it is difficult to determine. Be this
as it may, he made himself generally agreeable, saw that every one was
comfortable, suggested an improvement in the arrangement of the seats,
broke several jests on Bariry and Granua Waile—which, however, were
returned with interest—and, in fact, acquitted himself so
creditably, that his father whispered with a sigh to his mother—"Alley,
achora, wouldn't we be the happy family if that misfortunate boy of ours
was to be always the thing he appears to be? God help him! the gommach, if
he had sinse, and the fear o' God before him, he'd not be sich a pace o'
desate to sthrangers, and such a divil's limb wid ourselves: but he's
young, an' may see his evil coorses in time, wid the help o' God."
"Musha, may God grant it!" exclaimed his mother: "a fine slip he is, if
his heart 'ud only turn to the right thoughts. One can't help feelin'
pride out o' him, when they see him actin' wid any kind o' rason."
The Irish dance, like every other assembly composed of Irishmen and
Irishwomen, presents the spectators with those traits which enter into our
conception of rollicking fun and broad humor. The very arrangements are
laughable; and when joined to the eccentric strains of some blind fiddler
like Barny Dhal, to the grotesque and caricaturish faces of the men, and
the modest, but evidently arch and laughter-loving countenances of the
females, they cannot fail to impress an observing mind with the obvious
truth, that a nation of people so thoughtless and easily directed from the
serious and useful pursuits of life to such scenes, can seldom be
industrious and wealthy, nor, despite their mirth and humor, a happy
The barn in which they danced on this occasion was a large one. Around the
walls were placed as many seats as could be spared from the neighbors'
houses; these were eked out by sacks of corn laid length-wise, logs of
round timber, old creels, iron pots with their bottoms turned up, and some
of them in their usual position. On these were the youngsters seated, many
of the "boys" with their sweethearts on their knees, the arms of the fair
ones lovingly around their necks; and, on the contrary many of the young
women with their bachelors on their laps, their own necks also gallantly
encircled by the arms of their admirers. Up in a corner sat Barny,
surrounded by the seniors of the village, sawing the fiddle with
indefatigable vigor, and leading the conversation with equal spirit.
Indeed, his laugh was the loudest, and his joke the best; whilst, ever and
anon, his music became perfectly furious—that is to say, when he
rasped the fiddle with a desperate effort "to overtake the dancers," from
whom, in the heat of the conversation, he had unwittingly lagged behind.
Dancing in Ireland, like everything else connected with the amusement of
the people, is frequently productive of bloodshed. It is not unusual for
crack dancers from opposite parishes, or from distant parts of the same
parish, to meet and dance against each other for victory. But as the
judges in those cases consist of the respective friends or factions of the
champions, their mode of decision may readily be conjectured. Many a
battle is fought in consequence of such challenges, the result usually
being that not he who has the lightest heel, but the hardest head,
generally comes off the conqueror.
While the usual variety of Irish dances—the reel, jig, fling,
three-part-reel, four-part-reel, rowly-powly, country-dance, cotillion, or
cut-along (as the peasantry call it), and minuet, vulgarly minion, and
minionet—were going forward in due rotation, our readers may be
assured that those who were seated around the walls did not permit the
time to pass without improving it. Many an attachment is formed at such
amusements, and many a bitter jealousy is excited: the prude and coquette,
the fop and rustic Lothario, stand out here as prominently to the eye of
him who is acquainted with human nature, as they do in similar assemblies
among the great: perhaps more so, as there is less art, and a more limited
knowledge of intrigue, to conceal their natural character.
The dance in Ireland usually commences with those who sit next the door,
from whence it goes round with the sun. In this manner it circulates two
or three times, after which the order is generally departed from, and they
dance according as they can. This neglect of the established rule is also
a fertile source of discord; for when two persons rise at the same time,
if there be not room for both, the right of dancing first is often decided
At the dance we are describing, however, there was no dissension; every
heart appeared to be not only elated with mirth, but also free from
resentment and jealousy. The din produced by the thumping of vigorous feet
upon the floor, the noise of the fiddle, the chat between Barny and the
little sober knot about him, together with the brisk murmur of the general
conversation, and the expression of delight which sat on every
countenance, had something in them elevating to the spirits.
Barny, who knew their voices, and even the mode of dancing peculiar to
almost every one in the barn, had some joke for each. When a young man
brings out his sweetheart—which he frequently does in a manner
irresistibly ludicrous, sometimes giving a spring from the earth, his
caubeen set with a knowing air on one side of his head, advancing at a
trot on tiptoe, catching her by the ear, leading her out to her position,
which is "to face the fiddler," then ending by a snap of the fingers, and
another spring, in which he brings his heel backwards in contact with his
ham;—we say, when a young man brings out his sweetheart, and places
her facing the fiddler, he asks her what will she dance; to which, if she
as no favorite tune, she uniformly replies—"Your will is my
pleasure." This usually made Barny groan aloud.
"What ails you, Barny?"
"Oh, thin, murdher alive, how little thruth's in this world! Your will's
my pleassure! Baithirshin! but, sowl, if things goes an, it won't
be long so!"
"Why, Barny," the young man would exclaim, "is the ravin' fit comin' over
"No, in troth, Jim; but it's thinkin' of home I am. Howandiver, do
you go an; but, naboklish! what'll ye have?"
"'Jig Polthouge,' Barny: but on your wrist ma bouchal, or Katty will lave
us both ut o' sight in no time. Whoo! success! clear the coorse. Well
done, Barny! That's the go."
When the youngsters had danced for some time, the fathers and mothers of
the village were called upon "to step out." This was generally the most
amusing scene in the dance. No excuse is ever taken on such occasions, for
when they refuse, about a dozen young fellows place them, will they will
they, upright upon the floor, from whence neither themselves nor their
wives are permitted to move until they dance. No sooner do they commence,
than, they are mischievously pitted against each other by two sham
parties, one encouraging the wife, the other cheering on the good man;
whilst the fiddler, falling in with the frolic, plays in his most furious
style. The simplicity of character, and, perhaps, the lurking vanity of
those who are the butts of the mirth on this occasion, frequently heighten
"Why, thin, Paddy, is it strivin' to outdo me you are? Faiks, avourneen,
you never seen that day, any way," the old woman would exclaim, exerting
all her vigor.
"Didn't I? Sowl, I'll sober you before I lave the flure, for all that,"
her husband would reply.
"An' do you forget," she would rejoin, "that the M'Carthy dhrop is in me;
ay, an' it's to the good still."
And the old dame would accompany the boast with a fresh attempt at
agility; to which Paddy would respond by "cutting the buckle," and
snapping his fingers, whilst fifty voices, amidst roars of laughter, were
loud in encouraging each.
"Handle your feet, Kitty, darlin'—the mettle's lavin' him!"
"Off wid the brogues, Paddy, or she'll do you. That's it; kick off the
other, an' don't spare the flure."
"A thousand guineas on Katty! M'Carthy agin Gallagher for ever!—whirroo!"
"Blur alive the flure's not benefittin by you, Paddy. Lay on it, man!—That's
it!—Bravo!—Whish!—Our side agin Europe!"
"Success, Paddy! Why you could dance the Dusty Miller upon a flure paved
wid drawn razures, you're so soople."
"Katty for ever! The blood's in you, Katty; you'll win the day, a ban
choir! (* decent woman). More power to you!"
"I'll hould a quart on Paddy. Heel an' toe, Paddy, you sinner!"
"Right an' left, Katty; hould an', his breath's goin'."
"Right an' wrong, Paddy, you spalpeen. The whiskey's an you, man alive: do
it decently, an' don't let me lose the wager."
In this manner would they incite some old man, and, perhaps, his older
wife, to prolonged exertion, and keep them bobbing and jigging about,
amidst roars of laughter, until the worthy couple could dance no longer.
During stated periods of the night, those who took the most prominent part
in the dance, got a plate and hat, with which they went round the
youngsters, to make collections for the fiddler. Barny reserved his best
and most sarcastic jokes for these occasions; for so correct was his ear,
that he felt little difficulty in detecting those whose contributions to
him were such as he did not relish.
The aptitude of the Irish for enjoying humorous images was well displayed
by one or two circumstances which occurred on this night. A few of both
sexes, who had come rather late, could get no other seats than the metal
pots to which we have alluded. The young women were dressed in white, and
their companions, who were also their admirers, exhibited, in proud
display, each a bran-new suit, consisting of broadcloth coat, yellow-buff
vest, and corduroy small-clothes, with a bunch of broad silk ribbons
standing out at each knee. They were the sons and daughters of respectable
farmers, but as all distinctions here entirely ceased, they were fain to
rest contented with such seats as they could get, which on this occasion
consisted of the pots aforesaid. No sooner, however, had they risen to
dance than the house was convulsed with laughter, heightened by the sturdy
vigor with which, unconscious of their appearance, they continued to
dance. That part of the white female dresses which had come in contact
with the pots, exhibited a circle like the full moon, and was black as
pitch. Nor were their partners more lucky: those who sat on the mouths of
the pots had the back part of their dresses streaked with dark circles,
equally ludicrous. The mad mirth with which they danced, in spite of their
grotesque appearance, was irresistible. This, and other incidents quite as
pleasant—such as the case of a wag who purposely sank himself into
one of the pots, until it stuck to him through half the dance—increased
the laughter, and disposed them to peace and cordiality.
No man took a more active part in these frolics than young Frank M'Kenna.
It is true, a keen eye might have noticed under his gayety something of a
moody and dissatisfied air. As he moved about from time to time, he
whispered something to above a dozen persons, who were well known in the
country as his intimate companions, young fellows whose disposition and
character were notoriously bad. When he communicated the whisper, a nod of
assent was given by his confidants, after which it might be remarked that
they moved round to the door with a caution that betrayed a fear of
observation, and quietly slunk out of the barn one by one, though Frank
himself did not immediately follow them. In about a quarter of an hour
afterwards, Rody came in, gave him a signal and sat down. Frank then
followed his companions, and after a few minutes Rody also disappeared.
This was about ten o'clock, and the dance was proceeding with great gayety
Frank's dread of openly offending his parents prevented him from
assembling his associates in the dwelling-house; the only convenient place
of rendezvous, therefore, of which they could avail themselves, was the
stable. Here they met, and Frank, after uncorking a bottle of poteen,
addressed them to the following effect:
"Boys, there's great excuse for me, in regard of my fight wid Mike
Reillaghan; that you'll all allow. Come, boys, your healths! I can tell
yez you'll find this good, the divil a doubt of it; be the same token,
that I stole it from my father's Christmas dhrink; but no matther for that—I
hope we'll never do worse. So, as I was sayin', you must bear me out as
well as you can, when I'm brought before the Dilegates to-morrow, for
challengin' and strikin' a brother.* But, I think, you'll stand by me,
* Those connected with illegal combinations are sworn
to have no private or personal quarrels, nor to strike
nor provoke each other to fight. He and Mike were
members of such societies.
"By the tarn-o'-war, Frank, myself will fight to the knees for you."
"Faith, you may depend on us, Frank, or we're not to the fore."
"I know it, boys; and now for a piece of fun for this night. You see—come,
Lanty, tare-an'-ounkers, drink, man alive—you see, wid regard to
Peggy Gartland—eh? what the hell! is that a cough?"
"One o' the horses, man—go an."
"Rody, did Darby More go into the barn before you came out of it?"
"Darby More? not he. If he did, I'd a seen him surely."
"Why, thin, I'd kiss the book I seen him goin' towards the barn, as I was
comin' into the stable. Sowl, he's a made boy, that; an' if I don't
mistake, he's in Mike Reillaghan's intherest. You know divil a secret can
"Hut! the prayin' ould crathur was on his way to the Midnight Mass; he
thravels slow, and, of coorse, has to set out early; besides, you know, he
has Carols, and bades, and the likes, to sell at the chapel."
"Thrue, for you, Rody; why, I thought he might take it into his head to
watch my motions, in regard that, as I said, I think him in Mike's
"Nonsense, man, what the dickens 'ud bring him into the stable loft? Why,
you're beside yourself?"
"Be Gor, I bleeve so, but no matther. Boys, I want yez to stand to me
to-night: I'm given to know for a sartinty that Mike and Peggy will be
buckled to durin' the Hollydays. Now, I wish to get the girl myself; for
if I don't get her, may I be ground to atoms if he will."
"Well, but how will you manage? for she's fond of him."
"Why, I'll tell you that. I was over there this evenin', and I understand
that all the family is goin' to the Midnight Mass, barrin' herself. You
see, while they are all gone to the 'mallet-office,'* we'll slip down wid
a thrifle o' soot on our mugs, and walk down wid her to Kilnaheery, beyant
the mountains, to an uncle o' mine; an' affcher that, let any man marry
her who chooses to run the risk. Be the contints o' the book, Atty, if you
don't dhrink I'll knock your head agin the wall, you gommoch!"
* Mass, humorously so called, from the fact of those
who attend it beating their breasts during their
"Why, thin, by all that's beautiful, it's a good spree; and we'll stick to
you like pitch."
"Be the vartue o' my oath, you don't desarve to be in it, or you'd dhrink
dacent. Why, here's another bottle, an' maybe there's more where that was.
Well, let us finish what we have, or be the five crasses, I'll give up the
"Why, thin, here's success to us, any way; an' high hangin' to them that
'ud desart you in your skame this blessed an' holy night that's in it!"
This was re-echoed by his friends, who pledged themselves by the most
solemn oaths not to abandon him in the perpetration of the outrage which
they had concerted. The other bottle was immediately opened, and while it
lasted, the details of the plan were explained at full length. This over,
they entered the barn one by one as before, except Frank and Rody, who as
they were determined to steal another bottle from the father's stock, did
not appear among the dancers until this was accomplished.
The re-appearance of these rollicking and reckless young fellows in the
dance, was hailed by all present; for their outrageous mirth was in
character with the genius of the place. The dance went on with spirit;
brag dancers were called upon to exhibit in hornpipes; and for this
purpose a table was bought in from Frank's kitchen on which they performed
in succession, each dancer applauded by his respective party as the best
in the barn.
In the meantime the night had advanced; the hour might be about half-past
ten o'clock; all were in the zenith of enjoyment, when old Frank M'Kenna
addressed them as follows:—
"Neighbors, the dickens o' one o' me would like to break up the sport—an',
in throth, harmless and dacent sport it is; but you all know that this is
Christmas night, and that it's our duty to attind the Midnight Mass.
Anybody that likes to hear it may go, for it's near time to be home and
prepare for it; but the sorra one o' me wants to take any of yez from your
sport, if you prefer it; all I say is, that I must lave yez; so God be wid
yez till we meet agin!"
This short speech produced a general bustle in the barn; many of the
elderly neighbors left it, and several of the young persons also. It was
Christmas Eve, and the Midnight Mass had from time immemorial so strong a
hold upon their prejudices and affections, that the temptation must indeed
have been great which would have prevented them from attending it. When
old Frank went out, about one-third of those who were present left the
dance along with them; and as the hour for mass was approaching, they lost
no time in preparing for it.
The Midnight Mass is, no doubt, a phrase familiar to our Irish readers;
but we doubt whether those in the sister kingdoms, who may honor our book
with a perusal, would, without a more particular description, clearly
This ceremony-was performed as a commemoration not only of the night, but
of the hour in which Christ was born. To connect it either with
edification, or the abuse of religion, would be invidious; so we overlook
that, and describe it as it existed within our own memory, remarking, by
the way, that though now generally discontinued, it is in some parts of
Ireland still observed, or has been till within in a few years ago.
The parish in which the scene of this story is laid was large,
consequently the attendance of the people was proportionably great. On
Christmas day a Roman Catholic priest has, or is said to have, the
privilege of saying three masses, though on every other day in the year he
can celebrate but two. Each priest, then, said one at midnight, and two on
the following day.
Accordingly, about twenty or thirty years ago, the performance of the
Midnight Mass was looked upon as an ordinance highly important and
interesting. The preparations for it were general and fervent; so much so,
that not a Roman Catholic family slept till they heard it. It is true it
only occurred once a year; but had any person who saw it once, been called
upon to describe it, he would say that religion could scarcely present a
scene so wild and striking.
The night in question was very dark, for the moon had long disappeared,
and as the inhabitants of the whole parish were to meet in one spot, it
may be supposed that the difficulty was very great, of traversing, in the
darkness of midnight, the space between their respective residences, and
the place appointed by the priest for the celebration of mass. The
difficulty, they contrived to surmount. From about eleven at night till
twelve or one o'clock, the parish presented a scene singularly
picturesque, and, to a person unacquainted with its causes, altogether
mysterious. Over the surface of the surrounding country were scattered
myriads of blazing torches, all converging to one point; whilst at a
distance, in the central part of the parish, which lay in a valley, might
be seen a broad focus of red light, quite stationary, with which one or
more of the torches that moved across the fields mingled every moment.
These torches were of bog-fir, dried and split for the occasion; all
persons were accordingly furnished with them, and by their blaze contrived
to make way across the country with comparative ease. This Mass having
been especially associated with festivity and enjoyment, was always
attended by such excessive numbers, that the ceremony was in most parishes
celebrated in the open air, if the weather were at all favorable.
Altogether, as we have said, the appearance of the country at this dead
hour of the night, was wild and impressive. Being Christmas every heart
was up, and every pocket replenished with money, if it could at all be
procured. This general elevation of spirits was nowhere more remarkable
than in contemplating the thousands of both sexes, old, young, each
furnished, as before said, with a blazing flambeau of bog-fir, all
streaming down the mountain sides, along the roads, or across the fields,
and settling at last into one broad sheet of fire. Many a loud laugh might
then be heard ringing the night echo into reverberation; mirthful was the
gabble in hard guttural Irish; and now and then a song from some one whose
potations had been, rather copious, would rise on the night-breeze, to
which a chorus was subjoined by a dozen voices from the neighboring
On passing the shebeen and public-houses, I the din of mingled voices that
issued from them was highly amusing, made up, as it was, of songs, loud
talk, rioting and laughter, with an occasional sound of weeping from some
one who had become penitent in big drink. In the larger public-houses—for
in Ireland there usually are one or two of these in the immediate vicinity
of each chapel, family parties were assembled, who set in to carouse both
before and after mass. Those however, who had any love affair on hands
generally selected the shebeen house, as being private, and less
calculated to expose them to general observation. As a matter of course,
these jovial orgies frequently produced such disastrous consequences, both
to human life and female reputation, that the intrigues between the sexes,
the quarrels, and violent deaths resulting from them, ultimately
occasioned the discontinuance of a ceremony which was only productive of
evil. To this day, it is an opinion among the peasantry in many parts of
Ireland, that there is something unfortunate connected with all drinking
bouts held upon Christmas Eve. Such a prejudice naturally arises from a
recollection of the calamities which so frequently befell many individuals
while Midnight Masses were in the habit of being generally celebrated,
although it is not attributed to their existence.
None of Frank M'Kenna's family attended mass but himself and his wife. His
children having been bound by all the rules of courtesy to do the honors
of the dance, could not absent themselves from it; nor, indeed, were they
disposed to do so. Frank, however, and his "good woman," carried their
torches, and joined the crowds which flocked to this scene of fun and
When they had arrived at the cross-roads beside which the chapel was
situated, the first object that presented itself so prominently as to
attract observation was Darby More, dressed out in all his paraphernalia
of blanket and horn, in addition to which he held in his hand an immense
torch, formed into the figure of a cross. He was seated upon a stone,
surrounded by a ring of old men and women, to whom he sang and sold a
variety of Christmas Carols, many of them rare curiosities in their way,
inasmuch as they were his own composition. A littlee beyond them stood
Mike Keillaghan and Peggy Gartland, towards both of whom he cast from time
to time a glance of latent humor and triumph. He did not simply confine
himself to singing his carols, but, during the pauses of the melody,
addressed the wondering and attentive crowd as follows:—
"Good Christians—This is the day—howandiver, it's night now,
Glory be to God—that the angel Lucifer appeared to Shud'orth,
Meeshach, an' To-bed-we-go, in the village of Constantinople, near
Jerooslem. The heavens be praised for it, 'twas a blessed an' holy night,
an' remains so from that day to this—Oxis doxis glorioxis, Amin!
Well, the sarra one of him but appeared to thim at the hour o' midnight,
but they were asleep at the time, you see, and didn't persave him go—wid
that he pulled out a horn like mine—an', by the same token, it's
lucky to wear horns about one from that day to this—an' he put it to
his lips, an' tuck a good dacent—I mane, gave a good dacent blast
that soon roused them. 'Are yez asleep?' says he, when they awoke: 'why
then, bud-an'-age!' says he, 'isn't it a burnin' shame for able stout
fellows like yez to be asleep at the hour o' midnight of all hours o' the
night. Tare-an'-age!' says he, 'get up wid yez, you dirty spalpeens!
There's St. Pathrick in Jerooslem beyant; the Pope's signin' his mittimus
to Ireland, to bless it in regard that neither corn, nor barley, nor
phaties will grow on the land in consequence of a set of varmints called
Black-dugs that ates it up; an' there's not a glass o' whiskey to be had
in Ireland for love or money,' says Lucifer. 'Get up wid yez,' says he,
'an' go in an' get his blessin'; sure there's not a Catholic-in the
counthry, barrin' Swaddlers, but's in the town by this,' says he: 'ay, an'
many of the Protestants themselves, and the Black-mouths, an'
Blue-bellies, (* Different denominations of Dissenters) are gone in to get
a share of it. And now,' says he, 'bekase you wor so heavy-headed, I
ordher it from this out, that the present night is to be obsarved in the
Catholic church all over the world, an' must be kept holy; an' no thrue
Catholic ever will miss from this pariod an opportunity of bein' awake at
midnight,' says he, 'glory be to God!' An' now, good Christians, you have
an account o' the blessed Carol I was singin' for yez. They're but hapuns
a-piece; an' anybody that has the grace to keep one o' these about them,
will never meet wid sudden deaths or accidents, sich as hangin', or
drownin', or bein' taken suddenly wid a configuration inwardly. I wanst
knew a holy man that had a dhrame—about a friend of his, it was——Will
any of yez take one?—
"Thank you, a colleen: my blessin', the bless-in' o' the pilgrim, be an
you! God bless you, Mike Reillaghan; an' I'm proud that he put it into
your heart to buy one for the rasons you know. An' now that Father
Hoolaghan's comin', any of yez that 'ill want them 'ill find me here agin
when mass is over—Oxis doxis glorioxis, Amin!"
The priest at this time made his appearance, and those who had been
assembled on the cross-roads joined the crowd at the chapel. No sooner was
it bruited among them that their pastor had arrived, than the noise,
gabble, singing, and laughing were immediately hushed; the shebeen and
public-houses were left untenanted; and all flocked to the chapel-green,
where mass was to be said, as the crowd was too large to be contained
within the small chapel.
Mike Reillaghan and Peggy Gartland were among the last who sought the
"green;" as lovers, they probably preferred walking apart, to the
inconvenience of being jostled by the multitude. As they sauntered on
slowly after the rest, Mike felt himself touched on the shoulder, and on
turning round, found Darby More beside him.
"It's painful to my feelin's," observed the mendicant, "to have to say
this blessed night that your father's son should act so shabby an'
"Saints above! how, Darby?"
"Why, don't you know that only for me—for what I heard, an' what I
tould you—you'd not have the purty girl here at your elbow? Wasn't
it, as I said, his intintion to come and whip down the colleen to
Kilnaheery while the family 'ud be at mass; sure only for this, I say, you
bosthoon, an' that I made you bring her to mass, where 'ud the purty
colleen be? why half way to Kilnaheery, an' the girl disgraced for ever!"
"Thrue for you, Darby, I grant it: but what do you want me to do?"
"Oh, for that matther, nothin' at all, Mike; only I suppose that when your
tailor made the clothes an you, he put no pockets to them?"
"Oh, I see where you are, Darby! well, here's a crown for you; an' when
Peggy an' I's made man and wife, you'll get another."
"Mike, achora, I see you are your father's son still; now listen to me:
first you needn't fear sudden death while you keep that blessed Carol
about you; next get your friends together goin' home, for Frank might jist
take the liberty, wid about a score of his 'boys,' to lift her from you
even thin. Do the thing, I say—don't thrust him; an' moreover, watch
in her father's house tonight wid your friends. Thirdly, make it up wid
Frank; there's an oath upon you both, you persave? Make it up wid him, if
he axes you: don't have a broken oath upon you; for if you refuse, he'll
put you out o' connection, (* That is, out of connection with Ribbonism)
an' that 'ud plase him to the back-bone."
Mike felt the truth and shrewdness of this advice, and determined to
follow it. Both young men had been members of an illegal society, and in
yielding to their passions so far as to assault each other, had been
guilty of perjury. The following Christmas-day had been appointed by their
parish Delegates to take the quarrel into consideration; and the best
means of escaping censure was certainly to express regret for what had
occurred, and to terminate the hostility by an amicable adjustment of
They had now reached the chapel-green, where the scene that presented
itself was so striking and strange, that we will give the reader an
imperfect sketch of its appearance. He who stood at midnight upon a little
mount which rose behind the chapel, might see between five and six
thousand torches, all blazing together, and forming a level mass of red
dusky light, burning against the dark horizon. These torches were so close
to each other that their light seemed to blend, as if they had constituted
one wide surface of flame; and nothing could be more preternatural-looking
than the striking and devotional countenances of those who were assembled
at their midnight worship, when observed beneath this canopy of fire. The
Mass was performed under the open sky, upon a table covered with the
sacrificial linen, and other apparatus for the ceremony. The priest stood,
robed in white, with two large torches on each side of his book, reciting
the prayers in a low, rapid voice, his hands raised, whilst the
congregation were hushed and bent forward in the reverential silence of
devotion, their faces touched by the strong blaze of the torches into an
expression of deep solemnity. The scenery about the place was wild and
striking; and the stars, scattered thinly over the heavens, twinkled with
a faint religious light, that blended well with the solemnity of this
extraordinary worship, and rendered the rugged nature of the abrupt cliffs
and precipices, together with the still outline of the stern mountains,
sufficiently visible to add to the wildness and singularity of the
ceremony. In fact, there was an unearthly character about it; and the
spectre-like appearance of the white-robed priest as he
"Muttered his prayer to the midnight air,"
would almost impress a man with the belief that it was a meeting of the
dead, and that the priest was repeating, like the Gray Friar, his
"Mass of the days that were gone."
On the ceremony being concluded, the scene, however, was instantly
changed: the lights were waved and scattered promiscuously among each
other, giving an idea of confusion and hurry that was strongly contrasted
with the death-like stillness that prevailed a few minutes before. The
gabble and laugh were again heard loud and hearty, and the public and
shebeen houses once more became crowded. Many of the young I people made,
on these occasions, what is I called "a runaway;" (* Rustic elopement) and
other peccadilloes took place, for which the delinquents were "either read
out from the altar," or sent; probably to St. Patrick's Purgatory at Lough
Derg, to do penance. Those who did not choose to stop in the
whiskey-houses now hurried home with all speed, to take some sleep before
early Mass, which was to be performed the next morning about daybreak. The
same number of lights might therefore be seen streaming in different ways
over the parish; the married men holding the torches, and leading their
wives; bachelors escorting their sweethearts, and not unfrequently
extinguishing their flambeaux, that the dependence of the females upon
their care and protection might more lovingly call forth their gallantry.
When Mike Reillaghan considered with due attention the hint which Darby
More had given him, touching the necessity of collecting his friends as an
escort for Peggy Gartland, he had strong reasons to admit its justness and
propriety. After Mass he spoke to about two dozen young fellows who joined
him, and under their protection Peggy now returned safely to her father's
Frank M'Kenna and his wife reached home about two o'clock; the dance was
comparatively thin, though still kept up with considerable spirit. Having
solemnized himself by the grace of so sacred a rite, Frank thought proper
to close the amusement, and recommend those whom he found in the barn to
return to their respective dwellings.
"You have had a merry night, childher," said he; "but too much o' one
thing's good for nothin'; so don't make a toil of a pleasure, but go all
home dacently an' soberly, in the name o' God."
This advice was accordingly followed. The youngsters separated, and
M'Kenna joined his family, "to have a sup along wid them and Barny, in
honor of what they had hard." It was upon this occasion he missed his son
Frank, whose absence from the dance he had not noticed since his return
"Musha, where's Frank," he inquired: "I'll warrant him, away wid his
blackguards upon no good. God look down upon him! Many a black heart has
that boy left us! If it's not the will o' heaven, I fear he'll come to no
good. Barny, is he long gone from the dance?"
"Troth, Frank, wid the noise an' dancin', an' me bem' dark," replied
Barny, shrewdly, "I can't take on me to say. For all you spake agin him,
the sorra one of him but's a clane, dacent, spirited boy, as there is
widin a great ways of him. Here's all your, healths! Faix, 'girls, you'll
all sleep sound."
"Well," said Mrs. M'Kenna, "the knowledge of that Darby More is
unknowable! Here's a Carol I bought from him, an' if you wor but to hear
the explanations he put to it! Why Father Hoolaghan could hardly outdo
"Divil a-man in the five parishes can dance 'Jig Polthogue' wid him, for
all that," said Barny. "Many a time Granua an' I played it for him, an'
you'd know the tune upon his feet. He undherstands a power o' ranns and
prayers, an' has charms an' holy herbs for all kinds of ailments, no
"These men, you see," observed Mrs. M'Kenna, in the true spirit of
credulity and superstition, "may do many things that the likes of us
oughtn't to do, by raison of their great fastin' an' prayin'."
"Thrue for you, Alley," replied her husband: "but come, let us have a sup
more in comfort: the sleep's gone a shraugran an us this night, any
way, so, Barny, give us a song, an' afther that we'll have a taste o'
prayers, to close the night."
"But you don't think of the long journey I've before me," replied Barny:
"how-and-iver, if you promise to send some one home wid me, we'll have the
song. I wouldn't care, but the night bein' dark, you see, I'll want
somebody to guide me."
"Faith, an' it's but rasonable, Barny, an' you must get Rody home wid you.
I suppose he's asleep in his bed by this, but we'll rouse him!"
Barny replied by a loud triumphant laugh, for this was one of his standing
"Well, Frank," said he, "I never thought you war so soft, and me can pick
my steps me same at night as in daylight! Sure that's the way I done them
to-night, when one o' Granua's strings broke. 'Sweets o' psin,' says I; 'a
candle—bring me a candle immediately.' An' down came Rody in all
haste wid a candle. 'Six eggs to you, Rody,' says myself, 'an'
half-a-dozen o' them rotten! but you're a bright boy, to bring a candle to
a blind man!' and then he stood a bouloare to the whole house—ha,
Barny, who was not the man to rise first from the whiskey, commenced the
relation of his choicest anecdotes; old Frank and the family, being now in
a truly genial mood, entered into the spirit of his jests, so that between
chat, songs, and whiskey, the hour had now advanced to four o'clock. The
fiddler was commencing another song, when the door opened, and Frank
presented himself, nearly, but not altogether in a state of intoxication;
his face was besmeared with blood; and his whole appearance that of a man
under the influence of strong passion, such as would seem to be produced
by disappointment and defeat.
"What!" said the father, "is it snowin', Frank? Your clothes are covered
"Lord, guard us!" exclaimed the mother, "is that blood upon your face,
"It is snowin', and it is blood that's upon my face," answered Frank,
moodily—"do you want to know more news?"
"Why, ay indeed," replied his mother, "we want to hear how you came to be
"You won't hear it, thin," he replied.
The mother was silent, for she knew the terrible fits of passion to which
he was subject.
The father groaned deeply, and exclaimed—"Frank, Frank, God help
you, an' show you the sins you're committin', an' the heart-scaldin'
you're givin' both your mother and me! What fresh skrimmage had you that
you're in that state?"
"Spare yourself the throuble of inquirin'," he replied: "all I can say,"
he continued, starting up into sudden fury—"all I can say, an' I say
it—I swear it—where's the prayer-book?" and he ran frantically
to a shelf beside the dresser on which the prayer-book lay,—"ay! by
him that made me I'll sware it—by this sacred book, while I live,
Mike Keillaghan, the husband of Peggy Gartland you'll never be, if I
should swing for it! Now you all seen I kissed the book!" as he spoke, he
tossed it back upon the shelf.
The mirth that had prevailed in the family was immediately hushed, and a
dead silence ensued; Frank sat down, but instantly rose again, and flung
the chair from him with such violence that it was crashed to pieces; he
muttered oaths and curses, ground his teeth, and betrayed all the symptoms
of jealousy, hatred, and disappointment.
"Frank, a bouchal," said Barny, commencing to address him in a
conciliatory tone—"Frank, man alive——"
"Hould your tongue, I say, you blind vagabone, or by the night above us,
I'll break your fiddle over your skull, if you dar to say another word.
What I swore I'll do, an' let no one crass me."
He was a powerful young man, and such was his temper, and so well was it
understood, that not one of the family durst venture a word of
The father arose, went to the door, and returned. "Barny," said he, "you
must content yourself where you are for this night. It's snowin' heavily,
so you had betther sleep wid Rody; I see a light in the barn, I suppose
he's after bringing in his bed an' makin' it."
"I'll do any thing," replied the poor fiddler, now apprehensive of
violence from the outrageous temper of young Frank.
"Well, thin," added the good man, "let us all go to bed, in the name of
God. Micaul, bring Barny to the barn, and see that he's comfortable."
This was complied with, and the family quietly and timidly retired to
rest, leaving the violent young man storming and digesting his passion,
Mass on Christmas morning was then, as now, performed at day-break, and
again the Roman Catholic inhabitants of the parish were up betimes to
attend it. Frank M'Kenna's family were assembled, notwithstanding their
short sleep, at an early breakfast; but their meal, in consequence of the
unpleasant sensation produced by the outrage of their son, was less
cheerful than it would I otherwise have been. Perhaps, too, the gloom
which hung over them, was increased by the snow that had fallen the night
before, and by the wintry character of the day, which was such as to mar
much of their expected enjoyment. There was no allusion made to their
son's violence over-night; neither did he himself appear to be in any
degree affected by it. When breakfast was over, they prepared to attend
mass, and, what was unusual, young Frank was the first to set out for the
"Maybe," said the father, after he was gone—"maybe that fool of a
boy is sarry for his behavior. It's many a day since I knew him to go to
mass of his own accord. It's a good sign, any way."
"Musha," inquired his mother, "what could happen atween him an' that civil
boy, Mike Reillaghan?"
"The sorra one o' me knows," replied his father: "an' now that I think of
it, sure enough there was none o' them at the dance last night, although I
sent himself down for them. Micaul," he added, addressing the other son,
"will you put an your big coat, slip down to Reillaghan's, an' bring me
word what came atween them at all; an' tell Owen himself the thruth that
this boy's brakin' our hearts by his coorses."
Micaul, who, although he knew the cause of the enmity between these
rivals, was ignorant of that which occasioned his brother's rash oath,
also felt anxious to ascertain the circumstances of the last quarrel. For
this purpose, as well as in obedience to his father's wishes, he proceeded
to Reillaghan's and arrived just as Darby More and young Mike had set out
"What," said the mendicant, "can be bringing Micaul down, I wondher?
somethin' about that slip o' grace, his brother."
"I suppose, so," said Mike; "an' I wish the same slip was as dacent an'
inoffensive as he is. I don't know a boy livin' I'd go farther for nor the
same Micaul.—He's a credit to the family as much as the other's a
stain upon them."
"Well, any how, you war Frank's match, an' more, last night. How bitther
he was bint on bringin' Peggy aff', when he an' his set waited till they
seen the country clear, an' thought the family asleep? Had you man for
"Ay, about that; an' we sat so snug in Peggy's that you'd hear a pin
fallin'. A hard tug, too, there was in the beginnin'; but whin they found
that we had a strong back, they made away, an' we gave them purshute from
about the house."
"You may thank me, any how, for havin' her to the good; but I knew by my
dhrame, wid the help o' God, that there was somethin' to happen; by the
same a token, that your mother's an' her high horse about that dhrame. I'm
to tell it to her, wid the sinse of it, in the evenin', when the day's
past, an' all of us in comfort."
"What was it, Darby? sure you may let me hear it."
"Maybe I will in the evenin'. It was about you an' Peggy, the darlin'. But
how will you manage in regard of brakin' the oath, an' sthrikin' a
"Why, that I couldn't get over it, when he sthruck me first: sure he's
worse off. I'll lave it to the Dilegates, an' whatever judgment they give
out, I'll take wid it."
"Well," observed Darby, sarcastically, "it made him do one good turn, any
"What was that, Darby? for good turns are but scarce wid him."
"Why, it made him hear mass to-day," replied the mendicant; "an' that's
what he hadn't the grace to do this many a year. It's away in the
mountains wid his gun he'd be, thracin', an' a fine day it is for it—only
this business prevints him. Now, Mike," observed. Darby, "as we're comin'
out upon the boreen, I'll fall back, an' do you go an; I have part of my
padareem to say, before I get to the chapel, wid a blessin'; an' we had as
good not be seen together."
The mendicant, as he spoke, pulled out a long pair of beads, on which he
commenced his prayers, occasionally accosting an aquaintance with the Gho
mhany Deah ghud, (* God save you) and sometimes taking a part in the
conversation for a minute or two, after which he resumed the prayers as
The day was now brightening up, although the earlier part of the morning
had threatened severe weather. Multitudes were flocking to the chapel; the
men well secured in frieze great-coats, in addition to which, many of them
had their legs bound with straw ropes, and others with leggings made of
old hats, cut up for the purpose. The women were secured with cloaks, the
hoods of which were tied with kerchiefs of some showy color over their
bonnets or their caps, which, together with their elbows projecting
behind, for the purpose of preventing their dress from being dabbled in
the snow, gave them a marked and most picturesque appearance.
Reillaghan and M'Kenna both reached the chapel a considerable time before
the arrival of the priest; and as a kind of Whiteboy committee was to sit
for the purpose of investigating their conduct in holding out so dangerous
an example as they did, by striking each other, contrary to their oaths as
brothers under the same system, they accordingly were occupied each in
collecting his friends, and conciliating those whom they supposed to be
hostile to them on the opposite party. It had been previously arranged
that this committee should hold a court of inquiry, and that, provided
they could not agree, the matter was to be referred to two
hedge-schoolmasters, who should act as umpires; but if it happened that
the latter could not decide it, there was no other tribunal appointed to
which a final appeal could be made.
According to these regulations, a court was opened in a shebeen-house,
that stood somewhat distant from the road. Twelve young fellows seated
themselves on each side of a deal table, with one of the umpires at each
end of it, and a bottle of whiskey in the middle. In a higher sphere of
life it is usual to refer such questionable conduct as occurs in duelling,
to the arbitration of those who are known to be qualified by experience in
the duello. On this occasion the practice was not much departed from,
those who had been thus selected as the committee being the notoriously
pugnacious "boys" in the whole parish.
"Now, boys," said one of the schoolmasters, "let us proceed to operations
wid proper spirit," and he filled a glass of whiskey as he spoke. "Here's
all your healths, and next, pace and unanimity to us! Call in the
Both were accordingly admitted, and the first speaker resumed—"Now,
in the second place, I'll read yez that part of the oath which binds us
all under the obligation of not strikin' one another—hem! hem! 'No
brother is to strike another, knowing him to be such; he's to strike him—hem!—neither
in fair nor market, at home nor abroad, neither in public nor in private,
neither on Sunday nor week-day, present or absent, nor—'"
"I condimn that," observed the other master—"I condimn it, as bein'
too latitudinarian in principle, an' containing a para-dogma; besides it's
"You're rather airly in the market wid your bad grammar," replied the
other: "I'll grant you the paradogma, but I'll stand up for the grammar of
it, while I'm able to stand up for anything."
"Faith, an' if you rise to stand up for that," replied his friend, "and
doesn't choose to sit down till you prove it to be good grammar, you'll be
a standin' joke all your life."
"I bleeve it's purty conspicuous in the parish, that I have often, in our
disputations about grammar, left you widout a leg to stand upon at all,"
replied the other.
This sally was well received, but his opponent was determined to push home
the argument at once.
"I would be glad to know," he inquired, "by what beautiful invintion a man
could contrive to strike another in his absence? Have you good grammar for
"And did you never hear of detraction?" replied his opponent; "that is, a
man who's in the habit of spaking falsehoods of his friends whin their
backs are turned—that is to say, whin they are absent. Now, sure, if
a man's absent whin his back's turned, mayn't any man whose back's turned
be said to be absent—ergo, to strike a man behind his back is to
strike him whin he's absent. Does that confound you? where's your logic
and grammar to meet proper ratiocination like what I'm displaying?"
"Faith," replied the other, "you may have had logic and grammar, but I'll
take my oath it was in your younger years, for both have been absent ever
since I knew you: they turned their backs upon you, man alive; for they
didn't like, you see, to be keepin' bad company—ha, ha, ha!"
"Why, you poor crathur," said his antagonist, "if I'd choose to let myself
out, I could make a hare of you in no time entirely."
"And an ass of yourself," retorted the other: "but you may save yourself
the throuble in regard of the last, for your frinds know you to be an ass
ever since they remimber you. You have them here, man alive, the
auricles," and he pointed to his ears.
"Hut! get out wid you, you poor Jamaica-headed castigator, you; sure you
never had more nor a thimbleful o' sinse on any subject."
"Faith, an' the thimble that measured yours was a tailor's, one widout a
bottom in it, an' good measure you got, you miserable flagellator! what
are you but a nux vomica? A fit of the ague's a thrifle compared to
The "boys" were delighted at this encounter, and utterly forgetful of the
pacific occasion on which they had assembled, began to pit them against
each other with great glee.
"That's a hard hit, Misther Costigan; but you won't let it pass, any how."
"The ague an' you are ould acquaintances," retorted Costigan; "whenever a
skrimmage takes place, you're sure to resave a visit from it."
"Why, I'm not such a hare as yourself," replied his rival, "nor such a
great hand at batin' the absent—ha, ha, ha!"
"Bravo, Misther Connell—that's a leveller; come, Misther Costigan,
bedad, if you don't answer that you're bate."
"By this and by that, man alive, if you don't mend your manners, maybe I'd
make it betther for you to be absent also. You'll only put me to the
throuble of men din' them for you."
"Mend my manners!" exclaimed his opponent, with a bitter sneer,—"you
to mend them! out wid your budget and your hammer, then; you're the very
tinker of good manners—bekase for one dacency you'd mend, you'd
"I'm able to hammer you at all events, or, for that matther, any one of
your illiterate gineration. Sure it's well known that you can't tach
Voshther (Voster) widout the Kay."
"Hould there, if you plase," exclaimed one of his opponent's relations;
"don't lug in his family; that's known to be somewhat afore your own, I
bleeve. There's no Informers among them, Misther Costigan: keep at home,
masther, if you plase."
"At home! That's more than some o' your own cleavings (* distant
relations) have been able to do," rejoined Costigan, alluding to one of
the young fellow's acquaintances who had been transported.
"Do you mane to put an affront upon me?" said the other.
"Since the barrhad (* cap) fits you, wear it," replied Costigan.
"Very right, masther, make him a present of it," exclaimed one of
Costigan's distant relations; "he desarves that, an' more if he'd get it."
"Do I?" said the other; "an' what have you to say on the head of it,
"Why, not much," answered Bartle, "only that you ought to've left it
betune them; an' that I'll back Misther Costigan agin any rascal that 'ud
say there was ever a dhrop of his blood in an Informer's veins."
"I say it for one," replied the other.
"And I, for another," said Connell; "an' what's worse, I'll hould a wager,
that if he was searched this minute, you'd find a Kay to Gough in his
pocket, although he throws Vosther in my teeth: the dunce never goes
widout one. Sure he's not able to set a dacent copy, or headline, or to
make a dacent hook, nor a hanger, nor a down stroke, and was a poor
"I'll give you a down stroke in the mane time, you ignoramus," said the
pedagogue, throwing' himself to the end of the table at I which his enemy
sat, and laying him along the floor by a single blow.
He was instantly attacked by the friend of the prostrate academician, who
was in his turn attacked by the friend of Costigan. The adherents of the
respective teachers I were immediately rushing to a general engagement,
when the door opened, and Darby More made his appearance.
"Asy!—stop wid yees!—hould back, ye I disgraceful villains!"
exclaimed the mendicant, in a thundering voice. "Be asy, I say. Saints in
glory! is this the way you're settlin' the dispute between the two dacent
young men, that's sorry, both o' them, I'll go bail, for what they done.
Sit down, every one o' yez, or, by the blessed ordhers I wear about me,
I'll report yez to Father Hoolaghan, an' have yez read out from the
althar, or sint to Lough Derg! Sit down, I say!"
As he spoke, he extended his huge cant between the hostile parties, and
thrust them one by one to their seats with such muscular energy, that he
had them sitting before another blow could be given.
"Saints in glory!" he exclaimed again, "isn't this blessed doins an the
sacred day that's in it! that a poor helpless ould man like me can't come
to get somethin' to take away this misfortunit touch o' configuration that
I'm afflicted wid in cowld weather—that I can't take a little sup of
the only thing that I cures me—widout your ructions and battles! You
came here to make pace between two dacent men's childher, an' you're as
bad, if not worse, yourselves!—Oh, wurrah dheelish, what's this! I'm
in downright agony! Oh, murdher sheery! Has none o' yez a hand to thry if
there's e'er a dhrop of relief in that bottle? or am I to die all out, in
the face o' the world, for want of a sup o' somethin' to warm me?"
"Darby, thry the horn," said M'Kenna.
"Here, Darby," said one of them, "dhrink this off, an' my life for yours,
it'll warm you to the marrow!"
"Och, musha, but I wanted it badly," replied Darby, swallowing it at once;
"it's the only thing that does me good when I'm this way. Deah
Graslhias! Oxis Doxis Glorioxis. Amin!"
"I think," said M'Kenna, "that what's in the horn's far afore it."
"Oh, thin, you thoughtless crathur, if you knew somethin' I hard about you
a while ago, you'd think otherwise. But, indeed, it's thrue for you; I'm
sure I'd be sarry to compare what's in it to anything o' the kind I tuck.
Deah Grasthias! Throth, I'm asier now a great dale nor I was."
"Will you take another sup, Darby?" inquired the young fellow in whose
hands the bottle was now nearly empty; there's jist about another glass."
"Indeed, an' I 'will, avillish; an' sure you'll have my blessin' for it,
an' barrin' the priest's own, you couldn't have a more luckier one—blessed
be God for it—sure that's well known. In throth, they never came to
ill that had it, an' never did good that got my curse! Hoop! do you hear
how that rises the wind off o' my stomach! Houp!—Deah Grasthias for
"How did you larn all the prayers an' charms you have, Darby?" inquired
"It would take me too long to tell you that, avillish! But, childher, now
that you're all together, make it up wid one another. Aren't you all
frinds an' brothers, sworn brothers, an' why would you be fightin' among
other? Misther Costigan, give me your hand; sure I heard a thrifle o' what
you were sayin' while I was suckin' my dudeen at the fire widout. Come
here, Misther Connell. Now, before the saints in glory, I lay my bitter
curse an him that refuses to shake hands wid his inimy. There now—I'm
proud to see it. Mike, avourneen, come here—Frank M'Kenna, gustho (*
come hither), walk over here; my bitther heart's curse upon of yez, if you
don't make up all quarrels this minit! Are you willin, Mike lieillaghan?"
"I have no objection in life," replied Mike, "if he'll say that Peggy
Gartland won't be put to any more throuble through his manes."
"There's my hand, Mike," said Frank, "that I forget an' forgive all that's
past; and in regard to Peggy Gartland, why, as she's so dark agin me, I
lave her to you for good."*
"Well! see what it is to have the good intintions!—to be makin' pace
an' friendship atween inimies! That's all I think about, an' nothin' gives
me greater pleas—Saints o' glory!—what's this!—Oh
wurrah!—that thief of a—wurrah dheelish!—that touch o'
configuration's comin' back agin!—O, thin, but it's hard to get it
"I'm sarry for it, Darby," replied he who held the now empty bottle; "for
the whiskey's out."
"Throth, an' I'm sarry myself, for nothin' else does me good; an' Father
Hoolaghan says nothin' can keep it down, barrin' the sup o' whiskey. It's
best burnt, wid a little bit o' butther an it; but I can't get that
always, it overtakes me so suddenly, glory be to God!"
"Well," said M'Kenna, "as Mike an' myself was the manes of bringin' us
together, why, if he joins me, we'll have another bottle."
"Throth, an' its fair an' dacent, an' he must do it; by the same a token,
that I'll not lave the house till it's dhrunk, for there's no thrustin'
yez together, you're so hot-headed an' ready to rise the hand," said
M'Kenna and Mike, having been reconciled, appeared in a short time warmer
friends than ever. While the last bottle went round, those who had before
been on the point of engaging in personal conflict, now laughed at their
own foibles, and expressed the kindness and good-will which they felt for
each other at heart.
"Now," said the mendicant, "go all of you to mass, an' as soon as you can,
to confission, for it's not good to have the broken oath an' the sin of it
over one. Confiss it, an' have your conscience light: sure it's a
happiness that you can have the guilt taken off o' yez, childher."
"Thrue for you, Darby," they replied; "an' we'll be thinkin' of your
"Ay, do, childher; an' there's Father Hoolaghan comin' down the road, so,
in the name o' Goodness, we haven't a minnit to lose."
They all left the shebeen-house as he spoke except Frank and himself, who
remained until they had gone out of hearing.
"Darby," said he, "I want you to come up to our house in the mornin', an'
bring along wid you the things that you Stamp the crass upon the skin wid:
I'm goin' to get the crucifix put upon me. But on the paril o' your life,
don't brathe a word of it to mortual."
"God enable you, avick! it's a good intintion. I will indeed be up wid you—airly
too, wid a blessin'. It is that, indeed—a good intintion, sure
The parish chapel was about one hundred perches from the shebeen-house in
which the "boys" had assembled; the latter were proceeding there in a body
when Frank overtook them.
"Mike," said he aside to Reillaghan, "we'll have time enough—walk
back a bit; I'll tell you what I'm thinkin'; you never seen in your life a
finer day for thracin; what 'ud you say if we give the boys the slip,
never heed mass, an' set off to the mountains?"
"Won't we have time enough afther mass?" said Reillaghan.
"Why, man, sure you did hear mass once to-day. Weren't you at it last
night? No, indeed, we won't be time enough afther it; for this bein'
Chris'mas day, we must be home at dinner-time; you know it's not lucky to
be from the family upon set days. Hang-an-ounty, come: we'll have fine
sport! I have cocksticks * enough. The best part of the day 'll be gone if
we wait for mass. Come, an' let us start."
* A cockstick was so called from being used on Cock-
Monday, to throw at a cook tied to a stake, which was a
game common among the people It was about the length of
a common stick, but much heavier and thicker at one
"Well, well," replied Reillaghan, "the sorra hair I care; so let us go.
I'd like myself to have a rap at the hares in the Black Hills, sure
enough; but as it 'ud be remarkable for us to be seen lavin' mass, why let
us crass the field here, an' get out upon the road above the bridge."
To this his companion assented, and they both proceeded at a brisk pace,
each apparently anxious for the sport, and resolved to exhibit such a
frank cordiality of manner as might convince the other that all their past
enmity was forgotten and forgiven.
The direct path to the mountains lay by M'Kenna's house, where it was
necessary they should call, in order to furnish themselves with
cocksticks, and to bring dogs which young Frank kept for the purpose. The
inmates of the family were at mass, with the exception of Frank's mother,
and Rody, the servant-man, whom they found sitting on his own bed in the
barn, engaged at cards, the right hand against the left.
"Well, Rody," said Frank, "who's winnin'?"
"The left entirely," replied his companion: "the divil a game at all the
right's gettin', whatever's the rason of it, an' I'm always turnin' up
black. I hope none of my friends or acquaintances will die soon."
"Throw them aside—quit of them," said Prank, "give them to me, I'll
put them past; an' do you bring us out the gun. I've the powdher an' shot
here; we may as well bring her, an' have a slap at them. One o' the
officers in the barracks of —— keeps me in powdher an' shot,
besides givin' me an odd crown, an' I keep him in game."
"Why, thin, boys," observed Rody, "what's the manin' o' this?—two o'
the biggest inimies in Europe last night an' this mornin' an' now as great
as two thieves! How does that come?"
"Very asy, Rody," replied Reillaghan; "we made up the quarrel, shuck
hands, an's good frinds as ever."
"Bedad, that bates cock-fightin'," said Body, as he went to bring in the
In the mean time, Prank, with the cards in his hand, went to the eave of
the barn, I thrust them up under the thatch, and took out of the same nook
a flask of whiskey.
"We'll want this," said he, putting it to his lips, and gulping down a
portion. "Come Mike, be tastin'; and aftherwards i put this in your
Mike followed his example, and was corking the flask when Rody returned
with the gun.
"She's charged," said Frank; "but we'd betther put in fresh primin' for
'fraid of her hangin' fire."
He then primed the gun, and handed it to Reillaghan. "Do you keep the gun,
Mike," he added, "an' I'll keep the cocksticks. Rody, I'll bet you a
shillin' I kill more wid! the cockstick, nor he will wid the gun, will you
take me up?"
"I know a safer thrick," replied Rody; "you're a dead aim wid the
cockstick, sure enough, an' a deader with the gun, too; catch me at it."
"You show some sinse, for a wondher," observed Frank, as he and his
companion left the barn, and turned towards the mountains, which rose
frowning behind the house. Rody stood looking after them until they wound
up slowly out of sight among the hills; he then shook his head two or
three times, and exclaimed, "By dad, there's somethin' in this, if one
could make out: what it is. I know Frank."
Christmas-day passed among the peasantry, as it usually passes in Ireland.
Friends met before dinner in their own, in their neighbors', in shebeen or
in public houses, where they drank, sang, or fought, according to their
natural dispositions, or the quantity of liquor they had taken. The
festivity of the day might be known by the unusual reek of smoke that
danced from each chimney, by the number of persons who crowded the roads,
by their bran-new dresses,—for if a young man or country girl can
afford a dress at all, they provide it for Christmas,—and by the
striking appearance of those who, having drunk a little too much, were
staggering home in the purest happiness, singing, stopping their friends,
shaking hands with them, or kissing them, without any regard to sex. Many
a time might be seen two Irishmen,' who had got drunk together, leaving a
fair or market, their arms about each other's necks, from whence they only
removed them to kiss and hug one another more lovingly. Notwithstanding
this, there is nothing more probable than that these identical two will
enjoy the luxury of a mutual battle, by way of episode, and again proceed
on their way, kissing and hugging as if nothing had happened to interrupt
their friendship. All the usual effects of jollity and violence, fun and
fighting, love and liquor, were, of course, to be seen, felt, heard, and
understood on this day, in a manner much more remarkable than on common
occasions; for it maybe observed, that the national festivals of the Irish
bring-out their strongest points of character with peculiar distinctness.
The family of Frank M'Kenna were sitting down to their Christmas dinner;
the good man had besought a blessing upon the comfortable and abundant
fare of which they were about to partake, and nothing was amiss, save the
absence of their younger son.
"Musha, where on earth can this boy be stayin'?" said the father: "I'm
sure this, above all days in the year, is one he oughtn't to be from home
The mother was about to inform him of the son's having gone to the
mountains, when the latter returned, breathless, pale, and horror-struck.
Rody eyed him keenly, and laid down the bit he was conveying to his mouth.
"Heavens above us!" exclaimed his mother, "what ails you?"
He only replied by dashing his hat upon the ground, and exclaiming, "Up
wid yez!—up wid yez!—quit your dinners! Oh, Rody! what'll be
done? Go down to Owen Reillaghan's—go 'way—go down—an'
tell thim—Oh, vick-na-hoie! but this was the unfortunate day to us
all? Mike reillaghan is shot with my gun; she went off in his hand goin'
over a snow wreath, an' he's lyin' dead in the mountains?"
The screams and the wailing which immediately rose in the family were
dreadful. Mrs. M'Kenna almost fainted; and the father, after many
struggles to maintain his firmness, burst into the bitter tears of
disconsolation and affliction. Rody was calmer, but turned his eyes from
one to another with a look of deep compassion, and again eyed Frank keenly
Frank's eye caught his, and the glance which had surveyed him with such a
scrutiny did not escape his observation. "Rody," said he, "do you go an'
brake it to the, Reillaghans: you're the best to do it; for, when we were
settin' out, you saw that he-carried the gun, an' not me."
"Thrue for you," said Rody; "I saw that, Frank, and can swear to it; but
that's all I did see. I know nothing of what happened in the mountains."
"Damnho sheery orth! (* Eternal perdition on you!) What do you mane, you
villain?" exclaimed Prank, seizing the tongs, and attempting to strike
him: "do you dar to suspect that I had any hand in it."
"Wurrah dheelish, Frank," screamed the sisters, "are you goin' to murdher
"Murdher," he shouted, in a paroxysm of fury, "Why the curse o' God upon
you all, what puts murdher into your heads? Is it my own family that's the
first to charge me wid it?"
"Why, there's no one chargin' you wid it," replied Rody; "not one,
whatever makes you take it to yourself."
"An' what did you look at me for, thin, the way you did? What did you look
at me for, I say?"
"Is it any wondher," replied the servant coolly, "when you had sich a
dreadful story to tell?"
"Go off," replied Frank, now hoarse with passion—"go off! an' tell
the Reillaghans what happened; but, by all the books that ever was opened
or shut, if you breathe a word about murdher—about—if you do,
you villain, I'll be the death o' you!"
When Rody was gone on this melancholy errand, old M'Kenna first put the
tongs, and everything he feared might be used as a weapon by his frantic
son, out of his reach; he then took down the book on which he had the
night before sworn so rash and mysterious an oath, and desired his son to
look upon it.
"Frank," said he, solemnly, "you swore on that blessed book last night,
that Mike Reillaghan never would be the husband of Peggy Gartland—he's
a corpse to-day! Yes," he continued, "the good, the honest, the
industhrious boy is"—his sobs became so loud and thick that he
appeared almost suffocated. "Oh," said he, "may God pity us! As I hope to
meet my blessed Savior, who was born on this day, I would rather you wor
the corpse, an' not Mike Reillaghan!"
"I don't doubt that," said the son, fiercely; "you never showed me much
grah, (* affection) sure enough."
"Did you ever desarve it?" replied the father. "Heaven above me knows it
was too much kindness was showed you. When you ought to have been well
corrected, you got your will an' your way, an' now see the upshot."
"Well," said the son, "it's the last day ever I'll stay in the family;
thrate me as bad as you plase. I'll take the king's bounty, an' list, if I
live to see to-morrow."
"Oh, thin, in the name o' Goodness, do so," said the father; "an' so far
from previntin' you, we'll bless you when you're gone, for goin'."
"Arrah, Frank, aroon," said Mrs. M'Kenna, who was now recovered, "maybe,
afther all, it was only an accident: sure we often hard of sich things.
Don't you remimber Squire Elliott's son, that shot himself by accident,
out fowlin'? Frank, can you clear yourself before us?"
"Ah, Alley! Alley!" exclaimed the father, wiping away his tears, "don't
you remimber his oath, last night?"
"What oath?" inquired the son, with an air of surprise—"What oath,
last night? I know I was drunk last night, but I remimber nothing about an
"Do you deny it, you hardened boy?"
"I do deny it; an' I'm not a hardened boy. What do you all mane? do you
want to dhrive me mad? I know nothin' about any oath last night;" replied
the son in a loud voice. The grief of the mother and daughters was loud
during the pauses of the conversation. Micaul, the eldest son, sat beside
his father in tears.
"Frank," said he, "many an advice I gave you between ourselves, and you
know how you tuck them. When you'd stale the oats, an' the meal, and the
phaties, an' hay, at night, to have money for your cards an' dhrinkin', I
kept it back, an' said nothin' about it. I wish I hadn't done so, for it
wasn't for your good: but it was my desire to have, as much pace and
quietness as possible."
"Frank," said the father, eyeing him solemnly, "it's possible that you do
forget the oath you made last night, for you war in liquor: I would give
the wide world that it was thrue. Can you now, in the presence of God,
clear yourself of havin' act or part in the death of Mike Reillaghan?"
"What 'ud ail me," said the son, "if I liked?"
"Will you do it now for our satisfaction, an' take a load of misery off of
our hearts? It's the laste you may do, if you can do it. In the presence
of the great God, will you clear yourself now?"
"I suppose," said the son, "I'll have to clear myself to-morrow, an'
there's no use in my doin' it more that wanst. When the time comes, I'll
The father put his hands on his eyes, and groaned aloud: so deep was his
affliction, that the tears trickled through his fingers during this fresh
burst of sorrow. The son's refusal to satisfy them renewed the grief of
all, as well as of the father: it rose again, louder than before, whilst
young Frank sat opposite the door, silent and sullen.
It was now dark, but the night was calm and agreeable. M'Kenna's family
felt the keen affliction which we have endeavored to describe; the dinner
was put hastily aside, and the festive spirit peculiar to this night
became changed into one of gloom and sorrow. In this state they sat, when
the voice of grief was heard loud in the distance; the strong cry of men,
broken and abrupt, mingled with the shrieking wail of female lamentation.
The M'Kennas started, and Frank's countenance assumed an expression which
it would be difficult to describe. There was, joined to his extreme
paleness, a restless, apprehensive, and determined look; each trait
apparently struggling for the ascendancy in his character, and attempting'
to stamp his countenance with its own expression.
"Do you hear that?" said his father. "Oh, musha, Father of heaven, look
down an' support that family this night! Frank if you take my advice,
you'll lave their sight; for surely if they brain you on the spot, who
could blame them?"
"Why ought I lave their sight?" replied Frank. "I tell you all that I had
no hand in his death. The gun went off by accident as he was crassin' a
wreath o' snow. I was afore him, and when I heard the report, an' turned
round, there he lay, shot an' bleedin'. I thought it mightn't signify, but
on lookin' at him closely, I found him quite dead. I then ran home, never
touchin' the gun at all, till his family and the neighbors 'ud see him.
Surely, it's no wondher I'd be distracted in my mind; but that's no rason
you should all open upon me as if I had murdhered the boy!"
"Well," said the father, "I'm glad to hear you say even that much. I hope
it maybe betther wid you than we all think; an' oh! grant it, sweet mother
o' Heaven, this day! Now carry yourself quietly afore the people. If they
abuse you, don't fly into a passion, but make allowance for their grief
In the mean time, the tumult was deepening as it approached M'Kenna's
house. The report had almost instantly spread through in the village which
Reillaghan lived; and the loud cries of his father and brothers, who, in
the wildness of their despair, continually called upon his name, had been
heard at the houses which lay scattered over the neighborhood. Their
inmates, on listening to such unusual sounds, sought the direction from
which they proceeded, for it was quite evident that some terrible calamity
had befallen the Reillaghans, in consequence of the son's name being borne
on the blasts of night with such loud and overwhelming tones of grief and
anguish. The assembly, on reaching M'Kenna's, might, therefore, be
numbered at thirty, including the females of Reillaghan's immediate
family, who had been strung by the energy of despair to a capability of
bearing any fatigue, or rather to an utter insensibility of all bodily
We must leave the scene which ensued to the reader's imagination, merely
observing, that as neither the oath which young Frank had taken on the
preceding night, nor indeed the peculiar bitterness of his enmity towards
the deceased, was known by the Reillaghans, they did not, therefore,
discredit the account of his death which they had heard.
Their grief was exclamatory and full of horror: consisting of prolonged
shrieks on the part of the women, and frantic howlings on that of the men.
The only words they uttered were his name, with epithets and ejaculations.
Oh a Vichaul dheelish—a Vichaul dheelish—a bouchal bane
machree—wuil thu marra—wuil thu marra? "Oh, Michael, the
beloved—Michael, the beloved—fair boy of our heart—are
you dead?—are you dead?" From M'Kenna's the crowd, at the head of
which was Darby More, proceeded towards the mountains, many of them
bearing torches, such as had been used on their way to the Midnight Mass.
The moon had disappeared, the darkness was deepening, and the sky was
overhung with black heavy clouds, that gave a stormy character to scenery
in itself re wild and gloomy.
Young M'Kenna and the pilgrim led them to the dreary waste in which the
corpse lay. It was certainly an awful spectacle to behold these unhappy
people toiling up the mountain solitude at such an hour, their convulsed
faces thrown into striking relief by the light of the torches, and their
cries rising in wild irregular cadences upon the blast which swept over
them with a dismal howl, in perfect character with their affliction, and
the circumstances which produced it.
On arriving within view of the corpse, there was a slight pause; for,
notwithstanding the dreadful paroxysms of their grief, there was something
still more startling and terrible in contemplating the body thus stretched
out in the stillness of death, on the lonely mountain. The impression it
produced was peculiarly solemn: the grief was hushed for a moment, but
only for a moment; it rose again wilder than before, and in a few minutes
the friends of Reillaghan were about to throw themselves upon the body,
under the strong impulse of sorrow and affection.
The mendicant, however, stepped forward "Hould back," said he; "it's hard
to ax yez to do it, but still you must. Let the neighbors about us here
examine the body, in ordher to see whether it mightn't be possible that
the dacent boy came by his death from somebody else's hand than his own.
Hould forrid the lights," said he, "till we see how he's lyin', an' how
the gun's lyin'."
"Darby," said young Frank, "I can't but be oblaged to you for that. You're
the last man livin' ought to say what you said, afther you seein' us both
forget an' forgive this day. I call upon you now to say whether you didn't
see him an' me shakin' hands, and buryin' all bad feelin' between us?"
"I'll spake to you jist now," replied the mendicant. "See here, neighbors,
obsarve this; the boy was shot in the breast, an' here's not a snow
wreath, but a weeshy dhrift that a child 'ud step acrass widout an
accident. I tell you all, that I suspect foul play in this."
"Hell's fire," exclaimed the brother of the deceased, "what's that you
say? What! Can it be—can it—can it—that you murdhered
him, you villain, that's known to be nothin' but a villain? But I'll do
for you!" He snatched at the gun as he spoke, and would probably have
taken ample and fearful vengeance upon Frank, had not the mendicant and
others prevented him.
"Have sinse," said Darby; "this is not the way to behave, man; lave the
gun lyin' where she is, till we see more about us. Stand back there, an'
let me look at these marks: ay, about five yards—there's the track
of feet about five yards before him—here they turn about, an' go
back. Here, Savior o' the world! see here! the mark, clane an' clear, of
the butt o' the gun! Now if that boy stretched afore us had the gun in his
hand the time she went off, could the mark of it be here? Bring me down
the gun—an' the curse o' God upon her for an unlucky thief, whoever
had her! It's thrue!—it's too thrue!" he continued—"the man
that had the gun stood on this spot."
"It's a falsity," said Frank; "it's a damnable falsity. Rody Teague, I
call upon you to spake for me. Didn't you see, when we went out to the
hills, that it was Mike carried the gun, an' not me?"
"I did," replied Rody. "I can swear to that."
"Ay," exclaimed Prank, with triumph; "an' you yourself, Darby, saw us, as
I said, makin' up whatsomever little differences there was betwixt us."
"I did," replied the mendicant, sternly; "but I heard you say, no longer
ago than last night—say!—why you swhore it, man alive!—that
if you wouldn't have Peggy Gartland, he never should. In your own stable I
heard it, an' I was the manes of disappointin' you an' your gang, when you
thought to take away the girl by force. You're well known too often to
carry a fair face when the heart under it is black wid you."
"All I can say is," observed young Reillaghan, "that if it comes out agin
you that you played him foul, all the earth won't save your life; I'll
have your heart's blood, if I should hang for it a thousand times."
This dialogue was frequently interrupted by the sobbings and clamor of the
women, and the detached conversation of some of the men, who were
communicating to each other their respective opinions upon the melancholy
event which had happened.
Darby More now brought Reillaghan's father aside, and thus addressed him:—
"Gluntho! (* Listen)—to tell God's thruth, I've sthrong suspicions
that your son was murdhered. This sacred thing that I put the crass upon
people's breast wid, saves people from hangin' an' unnatural deaths. Frank
spoke to me last night, no longer ago, to come up an' mark it an' him
to-morrow. My opinion is, that he intinded to murdher him at that time,
an' wanted to have a protection agin what might happen to him in regard o'
the black deed."
"Can we prove it agin him?" inquired the disconsolate father: "I know
it'll be hard, as there was no one present but themselves; an' if he did
it, surely he'll not confess it."
"We may make him do it maybe," said the mendicant; "the villain's asily
frightened, an' fond o' charms an' pisthrogues,* an' sich holy things, for
all his wickedness. Don't say a word. We'll take him by, surprise; I'll
call upon him to touch the corpse. Make them women—an' och, it's
hard to expect it—make them stop clappin' their hands an' cryin';
an' let there be a dead silence, if you can."
During this and some other observations made by Darby, Frank had got the
gun in his possession; and, whilst seeming to be engaged in looking at it,
and examining the lock, he actually contrived to reload it without having
"Now, neighbors," said Darby, "hould your tongues for a weeshy start, till
I ax Frank M'Kenna a question or two. Frank M'Kenna, as you hope to meet
God, at Judgment, did you take his life that's lyin' a corpse before us'?"
"I did not," replied M'Kenna; "I could clear myself on all the books in
Europe, that he met his death as I tould you; an' more nor that," he
added, dropping upon his knees, and uncovering his head, "may I die widout
priest or prayer—widout help, hope, or happiness, upon the spot
where he's now stretched, if I murdhered or shot him."
"I say amin to that," replied Darby; "Oxis Doxis Glorioxis!—So far,
that's right, if the blood of him's not an you. But there's one thing more
to be done: will you walk over undher the eye of God, an' touch the
corpse? Hould back, neighbors, an' let him come over alone: I an' Owen
Reillaghan will stand here wid the lights, to see if the corpse bleeds."
"Give me, too, a light," said M'Kenna's father; "my son must get fair
play, anyway: must be a witness myself to it, an' will, too."
"It's but rasonable," said Owen Reillaghan; "come over beside Darby an'
myself: I'm willin' that your son should stand or fall by what'll happen."
Frank's father, with a taper in his hand, immediately went, with a pale
face and trembling steps, to the place appointed for him beside the
corpse, where he took his stand.
When young M'Kenna heard Darby's last question he seemed as if seized by
an inward spasm: the start which he gave, and his gaspings for breath,
were visible to all present. Had he seen the spirit of the murdered man
before him, his horror could not have been greater; for this ceremony had
been considered a most decisive test in cases of suspicion of murder—an
ordeal, indeed, to which few murderers wished to submit themselves. In
addition to this we may observe, that Darby's knowledge of the young man's
character was correct; with all his crimes he was weak-minded and
He stood silent for some time after the ordeal had been proposed to him;
his hair became literally erect, with the dread of this formidable
scrutiny, his cheeks turned white, and the cold perspiration fell from him
in large drops. All his strength appeared to have departed from him; he
stood, as if hesitating, and even energy necessary to stand seemed to be
the result of an effort.
"Remember," said Darby, pulling out the large crucifix which was attached
to his heads, "that the eye of God is upon you. If you've committed the
murdher, thrimble; if not, Frank, you've little to fear in touchin' the
Frank had not uttered a word; but, leaning himself on the gun, he looked
wildly around him, cast his eyes up to the stormy sky, then turned them
with a dead glare upon the corpse and the crucifix.
"Do you confiss the murdher?" said Darby.
"Murdher!" rejoined Frank: "no! I confess no murdher: you villain, do you
want to make me guilty;—do you want to make me guilty, you deep
It seemed as if the current of his thoughts and feelings had taken a new
direction, though it is probable that the excitement which appeared to be
rising within him was only the courage of fear.
"You all wish to find me guilty," he added: "but I'll show you that I'm
He immediately walked towards the corpse, and stooping down, touched the
body with one hand, holding the gun in the other. The interest of that
moment was intense, and all eyes were strained towards the spot. Behind
the corpse, at each shoulder—for the body lay against a small
snow-wreath, in a recumbent position—stood the father of the
deceased and the father of the accused, each wound up by feelings of a
directly opposite character to a pitch of dreadful excitement over them,
in his fantastic dress and white beard, stood the tall mendicant, who held
up his crucifix to Frank, with an awful menace upon his strongly marked
countenance. At a little distance to the left of the body stood other men
who were assembled, having their torches held aloft in their hands, and
their forms bent towards the corpse, their laces indicating expectation,
dread, and horror The female relations of the deceased nearest his
remains, their torches extended in the same direction, their visages
exhibiting the passions of despair and grief in their wildest characters,
but as if arrested by some supernatural object immediately before their
eyes, that produced a new and more awful feeling than grief. When the body
was touched, Frank stood as if himself bound by a spell to the spot. At
length he turned his eyes to the mendicant, who stood silent and
motionless, with the crucifix still extended in his hand.
"Are you satisfied now?" said he.
"That's wanst," said the pilgrim: "you're to touch it three times."
Frank hesitated a moment, but immediately stooped again, and touched it
twice in succession; but it remained still and unchanged as before! His
father broke the silence by a fervent ejaculation of thanksgiving to God
for the vindication of his son's character which he had just witnessed.
"Now!" exclaimed M'Kenna, in a loud, exulting tone, "you all see that I
did not murdher him!"
"You did!" said a voice, which was immediately recognized to be that of
M'Kenna shrieked aloud, and immediately fled with his gun towards the
mountains, pursued by Reillaghan's other son. The crowd rushed in towards
the body, whilst sorrow, affright, exultation, and wonder, marked the
extraordinary scene which ensued.
"Queen o' Heaven!" exclaimed old M'Kenna, "who could believe this only
they hard it?"
"The murdher wouldn't lie?" shrieked out Mrs. Reillaghan—"the
murdher wouldn't lie!—the blood o' my darlin' son spoke it!—his
blood spoke it; or God, or his angel, spoke it for him!"
"It's beyant anything ever known!" some exclaimed, "to come back an' tell
the deed upon his murdherer! God presarve us, an' save us, this night! I
wish we wor at home out o' this wild place!"
Others said they had heard of such things; but this having happened before
their own eyes, surpassed anything that could be conceived.
The mendicant now advanced, and once more mysteriously held up his
"Keep silence!" said he, in a solemn, sonorous voice: "Keep silence, I
say, an' kneel I down all o' yez before what I've in my hand. If you want
to know who or what the voice came from, I can tell yez:—it was the
crucifix THAT SPOKE!!"
This communication was received with a feeling of devotion too deep for
words. His injunction was instantly complied with: they knelt, and bent
down in worship before it in the mountain wilds.
"Ay," said he, "little ye know the virtues of that crucifix! It was
consecrated by a friar so holy that it was well known there was but the
shadow of him upon the earth, the other part of him bein' night an' day in
heaven among the archangels. It shows the power of this Crass, any way; an
you may tell your frinds, that I'll sell bades touched wid it to the
faithful at sixpence apiece. They can be put an your padareens as Dicades,
wid a blessin'. Oxis Doxis Glorioxis—Amin! Let us now bear the
corpse home, antil it's dressed and laid out dacently as it ought to be."
The body was then placed upon an easy litter, formed of great-coats
buttoned together, and supported by the strongest men present, who held it
one or two at each corner. In this manner they advanced at a slow pace,
until they reached Owen Reillaghan's house, where they found several of
the country-people assembled, waiting for their return.
It was not until the body had been placed in an inner room, where none
were admitted until it should be laid out, that the members of the family
first noticed the prolonged absence of Reillaghan's other son. The moment
it had been alluded to, they were seized with new alarm and consternation.
"Hanim an diouol!" said Reillaghan, bitterly, in Irish, "but I
doubt the red-handed villain has cut short the lives of my two brave sons!
I only hope he may stop in the country: I'm not widout friends an'
followers that 'ud think it no sin in a just cause to pay him in his own
coin, an' to take from him an' his a pound o' blood for every ounce of
ours they shed."
A number of his friends instantly volunteered to retrace their way to the
mountains, and search for the other son. "There's little danger of his
life," said a relation; "it's a short time Frank 'ud stand him
particularly as the gun wasn't charged. We'll go, at any rate, for 'fraid
he might lose himself in the mountains, or walk into some o' the lochs on
his way home. We had as good bring some whiskey wid us, for he may want it
While they had been speaking, however, the snow began to fall and the wind
to blow in a manner that promised a heavy and violent storm. They
proceeded, notwithstanding, on their search, and on whistling for the dog,
discovered that he was not to be found.
"He went wid us to the mountains, I know," said the former speaker; "an' I
think it likely he'll be found wid Owen, wherever he is. Come, boys, step
out: it's a dismal night, any way, the Lord knows.
"Och, och!" And with sorrowful but vigorous steps they went in quest of
the missing brother.
Nothing but the preternatural character of the words which Were so
mysteriously pronounced immediately before Owen's pursuit of M'Kenna,
could have prevented that circumstance, together with the flight of the
latter, from exciting greater attention among the crowd. His absence,
however, now that they had time to reflect on it, produced unusual alarm,
not only on account of M'Kenna's bad character, but from the apprehension
of Owen being lost in the mountains.
The inextinguishable determination of revenge with which an Irishman
pursues any person who, either directly or indirectly, takes the life of a
near relation, or invades the peace of his domestic affections, was
strongly illustrated by the nature of Owen's pursuit after M'Kenna,
considering the appalling circumstances under which he undertook it. It is
certainly more than probable that M'Kenna, instead of flying would have
defended himself with the loaded gun, had not his superstitious fears been
excited by the words which so mysteriously charged him with the murder.
The direction he accidentally took led both himself and his pursuer into
the wildest recesses of the mountains. The chase was close and desperate,
and certainly might have been fatal to Reillaghan, had M'Kenna thought of
using the gun. His terror, however, exhausted him, and overcame his
presence of mind to such a degree, that so far from using the weapon in
his defence, he threw it aside, in order to gain ground upon his pursuer.
This he did but slowly, and the pursuit was as yet uncertain. At length
Owen found the distance between himself and his brother's murderer
increasing; the night was dark, and he himself feeble and breathless: he
therefore gave over all hope of securing him, and returned to follow those
who had accompanied him to the spot where his brother's body lay. It was
when retracing his path that the nature of his situation occurred to him:
the snow had not began to fall, but the appearance of the sky was strongly
calculated to depress him.
Every person knows with what remarkable suddenness snow storms descend. He
had scarcely advanced homewards more than twenty minutes, when the gray
tempest spread its dusky wings over the heavens, and a darker shade
rapidly settled upon the white hills—now becoming indistinct in the
gloom of the air, which was all in commotion, and groaned aloud with the
noise of the advancing storm. When he saw the deep gloom, and felt the
chilling coldness pierce his flesh so bitterly, he turned himself in the
direction which led by the shortest possible line towards his father's
house. He was at this time nearly three miles from any human habitation;
and as he looked into the darkness, his heart began to palpitate with an
alarm almost bordering on hopelessness. His dog, which had, up till this
boding' change, gone on before him, now partook in his master's
apprehensions, and trotted anxiously at his feet.
In the meantime the winds howled in a melancholy manner along the
mountains, and carried with them from the upper clouds the rapidly
descending sleet. The storm-current, too, was against him, and as the air
began to work in dark confusion, he felt for the first time how utterly
helpless a thing he was under the fierce tempest in this dreadful
A length the rushing sound which he first heard in the distance approached
him in all its terrors; and in a short time he was staggering, like a
drunken man, under the incessant drifts which swept over him and about
him. Nothing could exceed the horrors of the atmosphere at this moment.
From the surface of the earth the whirlwinds swept immense snow-clouds
that rose up instantaneously, and shot off along the brows and ravines of
the solitary wild, sometimes descending into the valleys, and again
rushing up the almost perpendicular sides of the mountains, with a speed,
strength, and noise, that mocked at everything possessing life; whilst in
the air the tumult and the darkness continued to deepen in the most awful
manner. The winds seemed to meet from every point of the compass, and the
falling drifts flew backward and forward in every direction; the cold
became intense, and Owen's efforts to advance homewards were beginning to
fail. He was driven about like an autumn leaf, and his dog, which kept
close to him, had nearly equal difficulty in proceeding. No sound but that
of the tempest could now be heard, except the screaming of the birds as
they were tossed on sidewing through the commotion which prevailed. In
this manner was Owen whirled about, till he lost all knowledge of his
local situation, being ignorant whether he advanced towards home or
otherwise, His mouth and eyes were almost filled with driving sleet;
sometimes a' cloud of light sandlike drift would almost bury him, as it
crossed, or followed, or opposed his path; sometimes he would sink to the
middle in a snow-wreath, from which he extricated himself with great
difficulty; and among the many terrors by which he was beset, that of
walking into a lake, or over a precipice, was not the least paralyzing.
Owen was a young man of great personal strength and activity, for the
possession of which, next to his brother, he had been distinguished among
his companions; but he now became totally exhausted; the chase after
M'Kenna, his former exertion, his struggles, his repeated falls, his
powerful attempts to get into the vicinity of life, the desperate strength
he put forth in breaking through the vortex of the whirlwind, all had left
him faint, and completely at the mercy of the elements.
The cold sleet scales were now frozen to ice on his cheeks; his clothes
were completely incrusted with the hard snow, which had been beating into
them by the strength of the blast, and his joints were getting stiff and
benumbed. The tumult of the tempest, the whirling of the snow-clouds, and
the thick snow, now falling, and again tossed upwards by sudden gusts to
the sky, deprived him of all power of reflection, and rendered him, though
not altogether blind or deaf, yet incapable of forming any distinct
opinion upon what he saw or heard. Still, actuated by the unconscious
principle of self preservation, he tottered on, cold, feeble, and
breathless, now driven back like a reed by the strong rush of the storm,
or prostrated almost to suffocation under the whirlwinds, that started up
like savage creatures of life about him.
During all this time his faithful dog never abandoned him; but his wild
bowlings only heightened the horrors of his situation. When he fell, the
affectionate creature would catch the flap of his coat, or his arm, in his
teeth, and attempt to raise him; and as long as his master had presence of
mind, with the unerring certainty of instinct, he would turn him, when
taking a wrong direction, into that which led homewards.
Owen was not, however, reduced to this state without experiencing
sensations of which no language could convey adequate notions. At first he
struggled heroically with the storm; but when utter darkness threw its
impervious shades over the desolation around him, and the fury of the
elements grew so tremendous, all the strong propensities to life became
roused, the convulsive throes of a young heart on the steep of death threw
a wild and corresponding energy into his vigorous frame, and occasioned
him to cling to existence with a tenacity rendered still stronger by the
terrible consciousness of his unprepared state, and the horror of being
plunged into eternity unsupported by the rites of his church, whilst the
crime of attempting to take away human life lay on his soul. Those
domestic affections, too, which in Irishmen are so strong, became excited;
his home, his fireside, the faces of his kindred, already impressed with
affliction for the death of one brother, were conjured up in the powerful
imagery of natural feeling, the fountains of which were opened in his
heart, and his agonizing cry for life rose wildly from the mountain desert
upon the voice of the tempest. Then, indeed, when the gulf of a twofold
death yawned before him, did the struggling spirit send up its shrieking
prayer to heaven with desperate impulse. These struggles, however, as well
as those of the body, became gradually weaker as the storm tossed him
about, and with the chill of its breath withered him into total
helplessness. He reeled on, stiff and insensible, without knowing whither
he went, falling with every blast, and possessing scarcely any faculty of
life except mere animation.
After about an hour, however, the storm subsided, and the clouds broke
away into light, fleecy columns before the wind; the air, too, became less
cold, and the face of nature more visible. The driving sleet and hard,
granular snow now ceased to fall; but were succeeded by large feathery
flakes, that descended slowly upon the still air.
Had this trying scene lasted much longer, Owen must soon have been a
stiffened corpse. The child-like strength, however, which just enabled him
to bear up without sinking in despair to die, now supported him when there
was less demand for energy. The dog, too, by rubbing itself against him,
and licking his face, enabled him, by a last effort, to recollect himself,
so as to have a glimmering perception of his situation. His confidence
returned, and with a greater degree of strength. He shook, as well as he
could, the snow from his 'clothes, where it had accumulated heavily, and
felt himself able to proceed, slowly, it is true, towards his father's
house, which he had nearly reached when he met his friends, who were once:
more hurrying out to the mountains in quest of him, having been compelled
to return in consequence of the storm, when they had I first set out. The
whiskey, their companionship, and their assistance soon revived him. One
or two were despatched home before them, to apprise the afflicted family
of his safety; and the intelligence was hailed with melancholy joy by the
Reillaghans. A faint light played for a moment over the gloom Which had
settled among them, but it was brief; for on ascertaining the safety of
their second son, their grief rushed back with renewed violence, and
nothing could be heard but the voice of sorrow and affliction.
Darby More, who had assumed the control of the family, did everything in
his power to console them; his efforts, however, were viewed with a
feeling little short of indignation.
"Darby," said the afflicted mother, "you have, undher God, in some sense,
my fair son's death to account for. You had a dhrame, but you wouldn't
tell it to us. If you had, my boy might be livin' this day, for it would
be asy for him to be an his guard."
"Musha, poor woman," replied Darby, "sure you don't know, you afflicted
crathur, what you're spakin' about. Tell my dhrame! Why, thin, it's myself
towld it to him from beginning to ind, and that whin we wor goin' to mass
this day itself. I desired him, on the paril of his life, not to go out a
tracin' or toards the mountains, good or bad."
"You said you had a prayer that 'ud keep it back," observed the mother,
"an' why didn't you say it?"
"I did say it," replied Darby, "an' that afore a bit crassed my throath
this mornin'; but, you see, he broke his promise of not goin' to the
mountains, an' that was what made the dhrame come thrue."
"Well, well, Darby, I beg your pardon, an' God's pardon, for judgin' you
in the wrong. Oh, wurrah sthrue! my brave son, is it there you're lyin'
wid us, avourneen machree!" and she again renewed her grief.
"Oh, thin, I'm sure I forgive you," said Darby: "but keep your grief in
for a start, till I say the De Prowhinjis over him, for the pace
an' repose of his sowl. Kneel down all of yez."
He repeated this prayer in language which it would require one of Edward
Irving's adepts in the Unknown Tongues to interpret. When he had recited
about half of it, Owen, and those who had gone to seek him, entered the
house, and after the example of the others, reverently knelt down until he
Owen's appearance once more renewed their grief. The body of his brother
had been removed to a bed beyond the fire in the kitchen; and when Owen
looked upon the features of his beloved companion, he approached, and
stooped down to kiss his lips. He was still too feeble, however, to bend
by his own strength; and it is also probable that the warm air of the
house relaxed him. Be this, however, as it may, he fell forward, but
supported himself by his hands, which were placed upon the body; a deep
groan was heard, and the apparently dead man opened his eyes, and feebly
exclaimed—"A dhrink? a dhrink!"
Darby More, had, on concluding the De profundus, seated himself
beside the bed on which Mike lay; but on hearing the groan, and the call
for drink, he leaped rapidly to: his legs and exclaimed, "My sowl to hell
an' the divil, Owen Reillaghan, but your son's alive!! Off wid two or
three of yez, as the divil can dhrive yez, for the priest an' docthor!!
Off wid yez! ye damned spalpeens, aren't ye near there by this! Give us my
cant! Are yez gone? Oh, by this and by that—hell—eh—aren't
yez—" But ere he could finish the sentence, they had set chit.
"Now," he exclaimed in a voice whose tremendous tones were strongly at
variance with his own injunctions—"Now, neighbors, d—n yez,
keep silence. Mrs. Reillaghan, get a bottle of whiskey an' a mug o'
wather. Make haste. Hanim an diouol! don't be all night!"
The poor mother, however, could not stir; the unexpected revulsion of
feeling which she had so suddenly experienced was more than she could
sustain. A long fainting-fit! was the consequence, and Darby's commands
were obeyed by the wife of a friendly neighbor.
The mendicant immediately wetted Mike's lips, and poured some spirits,
copiously diluted with water, down his throat; after which he held the
whiskey-bottle, like a connoisseur, between himself and the light. "I
hope," said he, "this whiskey is the raal crathur." He put the bottle to
his mouth as he spoke, and on holding it a second time before his eye, he
shook his head complacently—"Ay," said he, "if anything could bring
the dead back to this world, my sowl to glory, but that would. Oh, thin,
it would give the dead life, sure enough!" He put it once more to his
lips, from which it was not separated without relinquishing a considerable
portion of its contents.
"Dhea Grashthias!" he exclaimed; "throth, I find myself, the betther o'
that sup, in regard that it's good for this touch 'o' configuration that
I'm throubled wid inwardly! Doxis Doxis Glorioxis? Amin!" These words he
spoke in a low, placid voice, lest the wounded man might be discomposed by
The rapidity with which the account of Mike's restoration to life spread
among the neighbors was surprising. Those who had gone for the priest and
doctor communicated to all they met, and these again to others: that in a
short time the house was surrounded by great numbers of their
acquaintances, all anxious to hear the particulars more minutely.
Darby, who never omitted an opportunity of impressing the people with a
belief in his own sanctity, and in that of his crucifix came out among
them, and answered their inquiries by a solemn shake of his head, and a
mysterious indication of his finger to the crucifix, but said nothing
more. This was enough. The murmur of reverence and wonder spread among
them, and ere long there were few present who did not believe that
Reillaghan had been restored to life by a touch of Darby's crucifix; an
opinion which is not wholly exploded until this day.
Peggy Gartland, who fortunately had not heard the report of her lover's
death until it was contradicted by the account of his revival, now
entered, and by her pale countenance betrayed strong symptoms of affection
and sympathy. She sat by his side, gazing mournfully on his features, and
with difficulty suppressed her tears.
For some time before her arrival, the mother and sisters of Mike had been
removed to another room, lest the tumultuous expression of their mingled
joy and sorrow might disturb him. The fair, artless girl, although
satisfied that he still lived, entertained no hopes of his recovery; but
she ventured, in a low, trembling voice, to inquire from Darby some
particulars of the melancholy transaction which was likely to deprive her
of her betrothed husband.
"Where did the shot sthrike him, Darby?"
"Clane through the body, avillish; jist where Captain Cramer was shot at
the battle o' Bunker's Hill, where he lay as good as dead for twelve
hours, and was near bein' berried a corp, an' him alive all the time, only
that as they were pullin' him off o' the cart, he gev a shout, an' thin, a
colleen dhas, they began to think he might be livin' still. Sure enough,
he was, too, an' lived successfully, till he died wid dhrinkin' brandy, as
a cure for the gout; the Lord be praised!"
"Where's the villain, Darby?"
"He's in the mountains, no doubt, where he had thim to fight wid that's a
match for him—God, an' the dark storm that fell awhile agone.
They'll pay him, never fear, for his thrachery to the noble boy that
chastised him for your sake, acushla oge! (* my young pulse) sthrong was
your hand, a Veehal, an' ginerous was your affectionate heart; an' well
you loved the fair girl that's sitting beside you! Throth, Peggy, my
heart's black with sarrow about the darlin' young man. Still, life's in
him; an' while there's life there's hope; glory be to God!"
The eulogium of the pilgrim, who was, in truth, much attached to Mike,
moved the heart of the affectionate girl, whose love and sympathy were
pure as the dew on the grass-blade, and now as easily affected by the
slightest touch. She remained silent for a time, but secretly glided her
hand towards that of her lover, which she clasped in hers, and by a gentle
and timid pressure, strove to intimate to him that she was beside him.
Long, but unavailing, was the struggle to repress her sorrow; her bosom
heaved; she gave two or three loud sobs, and burst into tears and
"Don't cry, avourneen," whispered Darby—"Don't cry; I'll warrant you
that Darby More will ate share of your weddin' dinner an' his, yit.
There's a small taste of color comin' to his face, which, I think, undher
God, is owin' to my touchin' him wid the cruciwhix. Don't cry, a colleen,
he'll get over it an' more than it, yit, a colleen bawn!"
Darby then hurried her into the room where Mike's mother and sisters were.
On entering she threw herself into the arms of the former, laid her face
on her bosom, and wept bitterly. This renewed the mother's grief: she
clasped the interesting girl in a sorrowful embrace; so did his sisters.
They threw themselves into each other's arms, and poured forth those
touching, but wild bursts of pathetic language, which are always heard
when the heart is struck by some desolating calamity.
"Husht!" said a neighboring man who was present; "husht! it's a shame for
yez, an' the boy not dead yit."
"I'm not ashamed," said Peggy: "why should I be ashamed of bein' sarry for
the likes of Mike Reillaghan? Where was his aquil? Wasn't all hearts upon
him? Didn't the very poor on the road bless him whin he passed? Who ever
had a bad word agin him, but the villain that murdhered him? Murdhered
him! Heaven above! an' why? For my sake! For my sake the pride of the
parish is laid low! Ashamed! Is it for cryin' for my betrothed husband,
that was sworn to me, an' I to him, before the eye of God above us? This
day week I was to be his bride; an' now—now—Oh, Vread
Reillaghan, take me to you! Let me go to his mother! My heart's broke,
Vread Reillaghan! Let me go to her: nobody's grief for him is like ours.
You're his mother, an' I'm his wife in the sight o' God. Proud was I out
of him: my eyes brightened when they seen him, an' my heart got light when
I heard his voice; an' now, what's afore me?—what's afore me but
sorrowful days an' a broken heart!"
Mrs. Reillaghan placed her tenderly and affectionately beside her, on the
bed whereon she herself sat. With the corner of her handkerchief she wiped
the tears from the weeping girl, although her own flowed fast. Her
daughters, also, gathered about her, and in language of the most endearing
kind, endeavored to soothe and console her.
"He may live yet, Peggy, avourheen," said his mother; "my brave and noble
son may live yet, an' you may be both,happy! Don't be cryin' so much, asthore
galh machree (* The beloved white (girl) of my heart); sure he's in
the hands o' God avourneen; an' your young heart won't be broke, I hope.
Och, the Lord pity her young feelins!" exclaimed the mother affected even
by the consolation she herself offered to the betrothed bride of her son:
"is it any whundher she'd sink undher sich a blow! for, sure enough, where
was the likes of him? No, asthore; it's no wondher—it's no wondher!
lonesome will your heart be widout him; for I know what he'd feel if a
hair of your head was injured."
"Oh, I know it—I know it! There was music in his voice, an' grah
and. kindness to every crathur on God's earth; but to me—to me—oh,
no one knew his love to me, but myself an' God. Oh, if I was dead, that I
couldn't feel this, or if my life could save his! Why didn't the villain,—the
black villain, wid God's curse upon him—why didn't he shoot me, thin
I could never be Mike's wife, an' his hand o' murdher might be satisfied?
If he had, I wouldn't feel as I do. Ay! the warmest, an' the best, an' the
dearest blood of my heart, I could shed for him. That heart was his, an'
he had a right to it. Our love wasn't of yistherday: afore the links of my
hair came to my showldhers I loved him, an' thought of him; an many a time
he tould me that I was his first! God knows he was my first, an' he will
be my last, let him live or die."
"Well, but, Peggy achora," said his sister, "maybe it's sinful to be
cryin' this way, an' he not dead."
"God forgive me, if it's a sin," replied Peggy; "I'd not wish to do
anything sinful or displasin' to God; an' I'll sthrive to keep down my
grief: I will, as well as I can."
She put her hands on her face, and by all effort of firmness, subdued the
tone of her grief to a low, continuous murmur of sorrow.
"An' along wid that," said the sister, "maybe the noise is disturbin' him.
Darby put us all out o' the kitchen to have pace an' quietness about him."
"An' 'twas well thought o' Darby," she replied; "an' may the blessin' o'
God rest upon him for it! A male's mate or a nights lodgin' he'll never
want under my father's roof for that goodness to him. I'll be quiet."
There was now a short pause, during which those in the room heard a smack,
accompanied by the words, "Dheah. Grashthias! throth I'm the betther o'
that sup, so I am. Nothin' keeps this thief of a configuration down but
it. Dheah Grashthias for that! Oh, thin, this is the stuff! It warms the
body to the top o' the nails!"
"Don't spare it, Darby," said old Reillaghan, "if it does you good."
"Avourneen," said Darby, "it's only what gives me a little relief I ever
take, jist by way of cure, for it's the only thing does me good, when I am
Several persons in the neighborhood were, in the mean time, flocking to
Reillaghan's house. A worthy man, accompanied by his wife, entered as the
pilgrim had concluded. The woman, in accordance with the custom of the
country, raised the Irish cry, in a loud melancholy wail, that might be
heard at a great distance.
Darby, who prided himself on maintaining silence, could not preserve the
consistency of his character upon this occasion, any more than on that of
Mike's recent symptoms of life.
"Your sowl to the divil, you faggot!" he exclaimed, "what do you mane? The
divil whip the tongue out o' you! are you going to come here only to
disturb the boy that's not dead yet? Get out o' this, an' be asy wid your
skhreechin', or by the crass that died for us, only you're a woman, I'd
tumble you wid a lick o' my cant. Keep asy, you vagrant, an' the dacent
boy not dead yet. Hell bellows you, what do you mane?"
"Not dead!" exclaimed the woman, with her body bent in the proper
attitude, her hands extended, and the crying face turned with amazement to
Darby. "Not dead! Wurrah, man alive, isn't he murdhered?"
"Hell resave the matther for that!" replied Darby. "I tell you he's livin'
an' will live I hope, barrin' your skirlin' dhrives the life that's in him
out of him. Go into the room there to the women, an' make yourself scarce
out o' this, or by the padareens about me, I'll malivogue you."
"We can't be angry wid the dacent woman," observed old Reillaghan, "in
regard that she came to show her friendship and respect."
"I'd be angry wid St. Pettier," said Darby, "an' 'ud not scruple to give
him a lick o' my c—— Lord presarve us! what was I goin' o say!
Why, throth, I believe the little wits I had are all gone a shaughran! I
must fast a Friday or two for the same words agin St. Pether. Oxis Doxis
Hope is strong in love and in life. Peggy, now that grief had eased her
heart of its load of accumulated sorrow, began to reflect upon Darby's
anecdote of Captain Cramer, which she related to those about her. They all
rejoiced to hear that it was possible to be wounded so severely and live.
They also consoled and supported each other, and expressed their trust
that Mike might also recover. The opinion of the doctor was waited for
with such anxiety as a felon feels when the foreman of the jury hands down
the verdict which consigns him to life or death.
Whether Darby's prescription was the result of chance or sagacity we know
not. We are bound, however, to declare that Reillaghan's strength was in
some degree restored, although the pain he suffered amounted to torture.
The surgeon (who was also a physician, and, moreover, supplied his own
medicines) and the priest, as they lived in the same town, both arrived
together. The latter administered the rites of his church to him; and the
former, who was a skilful man, left nothing undone to accomplish his
restoration to health. He had been shot through the body with a bullet—a
circumstance which was not known until the arrival of the surgeon. This
gentlemen expressed much astonishment at his surviving the wound, but said
that circumstances of a similar nature had occurred, particularly on the
field of battle, although he admitted that they were few.
Darby, however, who resolved to have something like a decided opinion from
him, without at all considering whether such a thing was possible, pressed
him strongly upon the point.
"Arrah, blur-an-age, Docthor Swither, say one thing or other. Is he to
live or die? Plain talk, Docthor, is all we want, an' no feasthalagh
"The bullet, I am inclined to think," replied the Doctor, "must either not
have touched a vital part, or touched it only slightly. I have known cases
similar, it is true; but it is impossible for me to pronounce a decisive
opinion upon him just now."
"The divil resave the yarrib* ever I'll gather for you agin, so
long as my name's Darby More, except you say either 'life' or 'death,'"
said Darby, who forgot his character of sanctity altogether.
* Herb-Men of Darby's cast were often in the habit of
collecting rare medicinal plants for the apothecaries;
and not bad botanists some of them were.
"Darby, achora," said Mrs. Reillaghan, "don't crass the gintleman, an' him
sthrivin' to do his best. Here, Paddy Gormly, bring some wather till the
docthor washes his hands."
"Darby," replied the Doctor, to whom he was well known, "you are a good
herbalist, but even although you should not serve me as usual in that
capacity, yet I cannot say exactly either life or death. The case is too
critical a one; but I do not despair, Darby, if that will satisfy you."
"More power to you, Docthor, achora. Hell-an-age, where's that bottle?
bring it here. Thank you, Vread. Docthor, here's wishin' you all
happiness, an' may you set Mike on his legs wanst more! See, Docthor—see,
man alive—look at this purty girl here, wid her wet cheeks; give her
some hope, ahagur, if you can; keep the crathur's spirits up, an' I'll
furnish you wid every yarrib in Europe, from the nettle to the rose."
"Don't despair, my good girl," said the Doctor, addressing Peggy. "I hope,
I trust, that he may recover; but he must be kept easy and quiet."
"May the blessing of God, sir, light down on you for the same words,"
replied Peggy, in a voice tremulous, with gratitude and joy.
"Are you done wid him, Docthor?" said old Reillaghan.
"At present," replied the Doctor, "I can do nothing more for him; but I
shall see him early to-morrow morning."
"Bekase, sir," continued the worthy man, "here's Darby More, who's
afflicted with a comflamboration, or some sich thing, inwardly, an' if you
should ase him, sir, I'd pay the damages, whatever they might be."
The Doctor smiled slightly. "Darby's complaint," said he, "is beyond my
practice; there is but one cure for it, and that is, if I have any skill,
a little of what's in the bottle here, taken, as our prescriptions
sometimes say, 'when the patient is inclined for it.'"
"By my sou—sanctity, Docthor," said Darby, "you're a man of skill,
any how, an' that's well known, sir. Nothin', as Father Hoolaghan says,
but the sup of whiskey does this sarra of a configuration good. It rises
the wind off o' my stomach, Docthor!"
"It does, Darby, it does. Now let all be peace and quietness," continued
the Doctor: "take away a great part of this fire, and don't attempt to
remove him to any other bed until I desire you. I shall call again
tomorrow morning early."
The Doctor's attention to his patient was unremitting; everything that
human skill, joined to long experience and natural talent, could do to
restore the young man to his family was done; and in the course of a few
weeks the friends of Keillaghan had the satisfaction of seeing him
completely out of danger.
Mike declared, after his recovery, that though incapable of motion on the
mountains, he was not altogether insensible to what passed around him. The
loud tones of their conversation he could hear. The oath which young
M'Kenna uttered in a voice so wild and exalted, fell clearly on his ear,
and he endeavored to contradict it, in order that he might be secured and
punished in the event of his death. He also said; that the pain he
suffered in the act of being conveyed home, occasioned him to groan
feebly; but that the sobs, and cries, and loud conversation of those who
surrounded him, prevented his moans from being heard. It is probable,
after all, that were it not for the accidental fall of Owen upon his body,
he might not have survived the wound, inasmuch as the medical skill, which
contributed to restore him, would not have been called in.
Though old Frank M'Kenna and his family felt an oppressive load of misery
taken off their hearts by the prospect of Reillaghan's recovery, yet it
was impossible for them to be insensible to the fate of their son, knowing
as they did, that he must have been out among the mountains during the
storm. His unhappy mother and Rody sat up the whole night, expecting his
return, but morning arrived without bringing him home. For six days
afterwards the search for him was general and strict; his friends and
neighbors traversed the mountain wastes until they left scarcely an acre
of them unexplored. On the sixth day there came a thaw, and towards the
close of the seventh he was found a "stiffened corpse," upon the very
spot where he had shot his rival, and on which he had challenged the
Almighty to stretch him in death, without priest or prayer, if he were
guilty of the crime with which he had been charged. He was found lying
with a, circle drawn round him, his head pillowed upon the innocent blood
which he had shed with the intention of murder, and a bloody cross marked
upon his breast and forehead. It was thought that in the dread of
approaching death he had formed it with his hand, which came accidentally
in contact with the blood that lay in clots about him.
The manner of his death excited a profound and wholesome feeling among the
people, with respect to the crime which he attempted to commit. The
circumstances attending it, and his oath upon the spot where he shot
Reillaghan, are still spoken of by the fathers of the neighboring
villages, and even by some who were present at the search for his body, it
was also doubly remarkable on account of a case of spectral illusion which
it produced, and which was ascribed to the effect of M'Kenna's
supernatural appearance at the time. The daughter of a herdsman in the
mountains was strongly affected by the spectacle of his dead body borne
past her father's door. In about a fortnight afterwards she assured her
family that he appeared to her. She saw the apparition, in the beginning,
only at night; but ere long it ventured, as she imagined, to appear in
day-light. Many imaginary conversations took place between them; and the
fact of the peasantry flocking to the herd's house to satisfy themselves
as to the truth of the rumor, is yet well remembered in the parish. It,
was also affirmed, that as the funeral of M'Kenna passed to the
churchyard, a hare crossed it, which some one present struck on the side
with a stone. The hare, says the tradition, was not injured, but the sound
of the stroke resembled that produced on striking an empty barrel.
We have nearly wound up our story, in which we have feebly endeavored to
illustrate scenes that were, some time ago, not unusual in Irish life.
There is little more to be added, except that Mike Reillaghan almost
miraculously recovered; that he and Peggy Gartland were happily married,
and that Darby More lost his character as a dreamer in that parish, Mike,
with whom, however, he still continued a favorite, used frequently to
allude to the speaking crucifix, the dream aforesaid, and his bit of
fiction, in assuring his mother that he had dissuaded him against
"tracing" on that eventful day.
"Well, avourneen," Darby would exclaim, "the holiest of us has our
failins; but, in throth, the truth of it is, that myself didn't know what
I was sayin', I was so through other (* agitated); for I renumber
that I was badly afflicted with this thief of a configuration inwardly at
the time. That, you see, and your own throubles, put my mind ashanghran
for 'a start. But, upon my sanctity,—an' sure that's a great oath
wid me—only for the Holy Carol you bought from me the night before,
an' above all touchin' you wid the blessed Cruciwhix, you'd never a' got
over the same accident. Oh, you may smile an' shake your head, but it's
thruth whether or not! Glory be to God!"
The priest of the parish, on ascertaining correctly the incidents
mentioned in this sketch, determined to deprive the people of at least one
pretext for their follies. He represented the abuses connected with such a
ceremony to the bishop; and from that night to the present time, the
inhabitants of Kilnaheery never had, in their own parish, an opportunity
of hearing a Midnight Mass.