Under the Thumb by Anonymous

Duck Davie's wife's brother, Paddy Doolan, lives among his pigs, poultry, and potatos, over-right Mick's place,—the man that saw the little Fairy in the oysther-shells. Paddy gets his bread by rearing turkies and geese, and similar commodities, and buying bits o' pigs about here and there, where he can, and selling them at the market in the next town,—may be, once a month or so;—and many's the penny Pat has turned one way or another, any how. Well,—Pat has a wife,—and not a bad one, he ought to think, if he looks about him and sees what other men's are, and draws comparisons. She's not very big; but she has a black eye, and bustles about; and though she wears a whiskey-bottle, she keeps Pat from doing himself harm from much drinking: and if she does have a drop between whiles, more than does her good exactly, why, she keeps up appearances, by always making wry faces whenever she takes a sup of comfort afore her neighbours. She has a limp in her gait, but cooks a cobbler's nob dilicately; and her temper's not bad, though not much better than just middling like the peathees, as we say: still, there's few in the barony with less holes, and holes sooner mended too, in her sherkeen, than Mistress Doolan; and, as wives go, as I said, there's worse than Pat's. She's forty-nine years of age, come Candlemas; but does not keep the house so clane as she might:—but then, to be sure, there's the pigs—

Now for Pat:—he's bow-legged,—which comes, as his wife, who admires him, says, from his riding so much to and fro across the panniers on his garron to market and back: but some think he was so from a boy,—still that doesn't matter;—his legs are quite good enough for every-day work, and nature wouldn't be wise to give holiday limbs to a higgler—would she now? Pat's forefathers must have been from beyond-sea parts, I think; or how would he have such a pale face, and large dull black eyes, without one feature, barring the cocked nose, of us raal ould Irish? If he was a fisherman, may be, he'd get a colour; but, as it is, though he never knows a day's sickness, he's as pale as a white night-cap; and his big eye looks like a piece of sea-coal in milk, or a town chimney-sweep in a snow-storm.

Pat seems so innocent, that many suspect him to be a rogue,—a little sly, or that way inclined;—but Pat says no, and so does Mistress Doolan, and that's something. People tell how much some men and their wives are alike,—faith! so much, as often to be taken for brother and sister; and its true of Dick Reardon who buys Pat's poultry wholesale and sells them out retail, that he and his good woman are as like one another, as a couple of ducks. But that's not the case with Pat and his deary, for they don't match, and you'd wonder what made them mate.

Seventeen or eighteen years ago,—I can't say precisely to a year, but I'll swear to the day,—it was a Tuesday; by token, that it happened the day after Luna mon moch,—the good woman's Monday,—Pat's wife was looking out for him coming home from market; and as he rode down the hill, she saw one of the panniers on the poney weighed down as if it had a load, and the other up in the air. Pat, I must tell you, was the first who brought panniers into this part of the country; the likes o' them was never seen here before, and few with any but himself since. "What ails you, Pat?" said the wife, as soon as Pat came within reach of her voice; it's a little voice when you're near, but it goes a good way for all that:—"what ails you?" says she; "couldn't you sell your turkies?"

"May be, I couldn't; what then?" says he.

"Then why not load the garron partly o' both sides?"

"May be, I couldn't," says Pat again.

"And why couldn't you?"

"Mistress Doolan, would you like to be struck in a heap?"

"Is it by you, Pat?—what news, then?—any how why not spake it out?"

"Don't bother me now; isn't it to The Beg I'm going?"

"Wid a load you picked up on the road, Pat, is it?"

"Aha!" says he, "can't I keep a thing from you?"

"What is it, Pat?" said she; and he'd now just met the wife; for, finding the conversation grow interesting, she had left the door, and walked away up the hill to meet him, quickening her pace at each question. "What is it, Pat?" says she, trying to peep into the pannier; but Pat wouldn't let her.

"Sally," says he,—for that's her name;—"would you think it, that there's mighty bad people about?"

"Why not?" says she; "there's bad people all over the world."

"But not bad enough to put their babies on big stones by the road-side, and lave them there by thimselves, wid a bit of a switch stuck up, and a shred of a souldier's red jacket on the top of it, the way people might notice thim;—there's not such people as that all over the world I hope,—is there, Sally?"

"Murther, man! is it a child you've picked up, then?"

"Look at that!" says Fat, taking a baby out of the place, and houlding it up to the full view of his wife; "look at that, and tell me if it isn't enough like a child for a man to swear by, Mistress Doolan!"

"Won't you let me see it closer, Pat?" said Mistress D. And as she took the child out of Pat's clumsy paw, where he sat on the poney, the little crature smiled up in her face, and half stole the very heart of her, before she had once hugged it to her side. It was the most beautiful baby, they say, that was seen for many's the day; and Paddy Doolan's wife took it into the cabin, sat down by the fire, warmed it on her lap, and fed it with new milk, while Pat remained on his panniers, waiting for her to come out again.

"Is it all day you're going to be staying there, Paddy?" says she at last; "ar'n't you coming in?"

"Ar'n't I waiting for the gorloch, to take up to The Beg? I won't be sint back wid it, I'll engage."

"Ah! Pat, why trouble yourself?—Couldn't we keep it ourselves?—Good luck would follow us,—and we've no child of our own, Pat."

Well, where's the use of making a long story of it?—the wife persuaded Pat, with much ado, and a dale of begging and beseeching, to let her keep the little crature herself; but he insisted upon first taking it off to the lady who bought The Beg.

"I'll take the little thing up to her at once," says Pat; "and may be, well get something for our charity." And sure enough so they did, for my lady kissed the little crature betuxt the two eyes, and gave Pat a trifle in hand, and promised to allow him so much a week, for keeping the child, until she grew—did I tell you she was a girl?—until she grew up intirely. And a fine young woman she's grown, and all the boys about are dying for her as, to say nothing of her good-looking face, Pat has promised her a fortune of fifteen pounds; and I don't know but it might be a match with her and my niece's son Paudrigg, wasn't it for one thing;—she won't have him.

Now, after this, though Paddy Doolan did well by the little one, and had the allowance, and over and above it often, from my lady, things didn't go right with him. He wint on swimmingly for two or three years or so; but from that time, Pat's appearance grew poorer, and the wife's bit of finery wasn't brought home so often, when Pat wint to market. And where he used to crack a joke with a friend, living by the road-side, as he came along, he'd sigh, and say uncivil things of this world, and make wry faces. You'll think Pat was right, for a good deed ought not to go unrewarded; and you'll like to know how it was. I'll tell you that in a few words,—more or less;—it's foolish to promise.

At the place where Pat carried his property to market, there was a half-rogue of a fellow,—Larry Morris by name,—something in Pat's way of business; but he also bought and sould badgers, and foxes, and poisoned rats for people; and wouldn't mind, may be, tying up a dog that followed him home, and lying by till a reward was given out for the brute. What I mane to say is this,—Larry hadn't the very best of characters. One day, after coming from somewhere, where he'd been, it so fell out, that Larry passed by Pat Doolan's cabin, and who should be playing in front of it, but the child Pat picked up that time two years, or thereabouts.

"Whose child have you there?" says he to Mrs. Doolan, who was plucking a duck or a goose at the door.

"Why do you ask, sir?" says she.

"May be, I know the mother of it," says he.

When they got inside the cabin,—for Mistress Doolan was a woman, and hearing what she did, of course, invited him in, to know the middle and both ends of the matter,—she began questioning him: but he was too deep for her, and got the whole pedigree and history of Pat's finding the baby, and the lady's giving him money to keep it dacent, and what else I don't know. Says Larry, when she'd done, "I know the child as if I'd never lost sight of it. The features are oulder than when I last saw it, but not changed: and here's the four little round spots on its temple, like shot-marks, or the picks of a domino. Her mother lodged in a back room of mine, and ran away one day, no small trifle in arrear with me, and I never set eyes on her or the child since, before to-day. So much for the mother;—and"—continued he, in the same breath, turning to Pat Doolan, who just then walked into the cabin,—"may I be moon-struck," says he, pointing to Pat, "but here comes the father!"

What to do, any way, Pat didn't know. You'll agree with me, perhaps, he'd a right to look astonished. There was Mistress Doolan, who had lifted her eye-brows up under her hair with the surprise, standing as mute and as motionless as Pat himself, whose tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth nearly; while the child was innocently giggling below, and trying to undo Pat's gaiters. After a while, Mistress Doolan found her speech. "Is this you, Pat?" says she, quite quietly, for she was too thunderstruck to be in a passion.

"Faith! and why not, Mistress Doolan?" says he, "worse luck!"—for it was true, and he couldn't deny it. And Larry Morris went on to tell the wife, that the child's mother said she was married, and made an excuse for her husband coming to see her now and then only; and who should the husband be, but Pat? Moreover, since she had walked off, the way I tould you, Larry had never seen Pat; and, sure enough, Mistress Doolan remembered that Pat convinced her, about that time, it would be well for him to carry his poultry to another market; and he did so.

Doolan put as good a face as he could upon all this. Larry said he was sorry to be a maker of mischief; but the rogue took advantage of it, for he drew Pat aside, and, from what passed privately between them, Pat carried his poultry afterwards to the town where Larry lived.

From that day, poor Paddy Doolan pined;—wouldn't any one in such a way?—Larry stood between Pat and the market, making Pat sell all his poultry to him at an under-price, and then going to the great buyers that sould them again to the consumers; so making a profit beyond Christian credence out of Pat. And what would you have Doolan do? Wasn't he afraid of Larry's telling upon him? And if he haggled to get any way near a fair price, didn't Larry tell him—"Paddy, boy, ar'n't you under my thumb?" He did: and Doolan was as much afraid of the disgrace of being exposed, as the loss of my lady's allowance. So he struggled and struggled, and every day got worse in the world; and bitterly did he suffer and repent for what he had done. His wife didn't quarrel with the child this while, but loved and nourished it as if it was her own; so did Pat—and he had a right, you'll say:—but I wouldn't swear to that; for who knows but Pat himself might have been cheated, as well as he cheated Sally his wife?

Now I'm coming near the end of my story—no bad news that, you'll say:—Pat was tortured for a long time by Larry, "like a toad under the harrow," as the story goes, till he could scarcely scrape enough together to get on with from week's end to week's end. At last and in the long run, what does Larry do,—like others like him, who, trying to make the most of their villany, ruin all outright,—what does he do, but insist upon Pat's paying him half the allowance he got from my lady, to hould his peace?—Doolan knocked him down with a goose he had in his hand at the time; jumped on his garron; and if you want to know the rate he came home at, ask the people by the road-side. Grogy, his little garron, wondered whether Ireland was sinking, or what was the matter,—and no blame to him.

When Doolan got home, he tould the wife how he had ruined himself by knocking down Larry. "You've done well," says she, "and it was high time you did."—Didn't you ever remark, that when a man gets at his wits' end, and don't know which way to turn, how well a woman will carry him through? I'm sure you have; and seen the courage of the poor creatures too, when men are cowed, and can't look the danger that threatens them full in the face. "You shall be under the thumb no longer, Pat," says she:—"you've done that by me I don't like, but it's forgiven, if not forgot; and let the worst come to the worst, we'll be as well as we are:—so, come with me at once."

"Where'll I go?" says Doolan, staring at her, and drawing back, for he half suspected what she intinded. But Sally was resolute; she took the child in her hand, and half persuaded, half dragged Pat away, up to my lady at The Beg. Doolan went down on his knees, while his wife tould her ladyship the whole story; and when it was done, Pat got such a lecture as he never had before; no—not even from his wife after Larry's first visit.

"Look at the fruits," said my lady; "look at the consequences, Patrick Doolan, of your misdoings:—didn't you know that sin is always followed by sorrow?—that deceit can never long plaster up iniquity? You have richly merited your sufferings, Pat. I shall, of course, stop the allowance, and take away the child from you. When I find you are so far deserving, you shall have my protection, and the little girl again; till then, I withdraw both."

Terribly downcast was Pat, to be sure, as you may guess but he was no longer under the thumb. Besides, he'd a hope left, of getting into grace again by good conduct so to work he went like a Trojan. Larry came down as hard as he could after Pat, determined to ruin him or make him knock under again: but when he got to the village, Pat was back from The Beg, and had tould all his neighbours what he'd been doing; so that they hadn't much the laugh of him; and as Pat wasn't disliked, the boys and girls made such a mudlark of Larry, nobody could tell the colour of his coat.

Pat began to prosper, and, by-and-by, got on well enough: in a year or two after, the little girl walked into his cabin one day, with a goulden guinea in her hand, and has lived under Pat's roof ever since. Among us, she is, as I tould you, much admired for her beauty,—to say nothing of her being an heiress.

People generally trate a fable as the boys do a dog sometimes,—tie a moral tay-kittle to its tail; and so would I, if my story was a fable: but it's neither a story nor a fable, but the downright truth, and if I made a moral to it, you'd suspect 'twas a fable; as the boys suspect the dog, if they meet him with a kittle in his train, to be a suspicious and a stray dog,—don't you see?—and so despise and pelt him. However, for all that, there can't be much harm in just mentioning that a man will do well to take warning by Paddy Doolan, and do nothing in the wide world that may bring him under the thumb.