Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: St. Patrick's Eve
Author: Lever, Charles James, 1806-1872
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "St. Patrick's Eve" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



ST. PATRICK'S EVE

By Charles James Lever

Illustr. by Phiz.


London:

Chapman And Hall, 186 Strand.

MDCCCXLV.



TO MY CHILDREN

MY DEAR CHILDREN,

There are few things less likely than that it will ever be your lot
to exercise any of the rights or privileges of landed property. It may
chance, however, that even in your humble sphere, there may be those
who shall look up to you for support, and be, in some wise, dependent
on your will; if so, pray let this little story have its lesson in your
hearts, think, that when I wrote it, I desired to inculcate the truth,
that prosperity has as many duties as adversity has sorrows; that those
to whom Providence has accorded many blessings are but the stewards of
His bounty to the poor; and that the neglect of an obligation so sacred
as this charity is a grievous wrong, and may be the origin of evils
for which all your efforts to do good through life will be but a poor
atonement.

Your affectionate Father,

CHARLES LEVER.

Templeogue, March 1, 1845.



[Illustration: 012]



FIRST ERA.

IT was on the 16th of March, the eve of St. Patrick, not quite twenty
years ago, that a little village on the bank of Lough Corrib was
celebrating in its annual fair "the holy times," devoting one day to
every species of enjoyment and pleasure, and on the next, by practising
prayers and penance of various kinds, as it were to prepare their minds
to resume their worldly duties in a frame of thought more seemly and
becoming.

If a great and wealthy man might smile at the humble preparations for
pleasure displayed on this occasion, he could scarcely scoff at the
scene which surrounded them. The wide valley, encircled by lofty
mountains, whose swelling outlines were tracked against the blue sky, or
mingled gracefully with clouds, whose forms were little less fantastic
and wild. The broad lake, stretching away into the distance, and either
lost among the mountain-passes, or contracting as it approached the
ancient city of Galway: a few, and but very few, islands marked its
surface, and these rugged and rocky; on one alone a human trace was
seen-the ruins of an ancient church; it was a mere gable now, but you
could still track out the humble limits it had occupied-scarce space
sufficient for twenty persons: such were once, doubtless, the full
number of converts to the faith who frequented there. There was a wild
and savage grandeur in the whole: the very aspect of the mountains
proclaimed desolation, and seemed to frown defiance at the efforts of
man to subdue them to his use; and even the herds of wild cattle seemed
to stray with caution among the cliffs and precipices of this dreary
region. Lower down, however, and as if in compensation of the infertile
tract above, the valley was marked by patches of tillage and grass-land,
and studded with cottages; which, if presenting at a nearer inspection
indubitable signs of poverty, yet to the distant eye bespoke something
of rural comfort, nestling as they often did beneath some large rock,
and sheltered by the great turf-stack, which even the poorest possessed.
Many streams wound their course through this valley; along whose
borders, amid a pasture brighter than the emerald, the cattle grazed,
and there, from time to time some peasant child sat fishing as he
watched the herd.

Shut in by lake and mountain, this seemed a little spot apart from all
the world; and so, indeed, its inhabitants found it. They were a poor
but not unhappy race of people, whose humble lives had taught them
nothing of the comforts and pleasures of richer communities. Poverty
had, from habit, no terrors for them; short of actual want, they never
felt its pressure heavily.

Such were they who now were assembled to celebrate the festival of their
Patron Saint. It was drawing towards evening; the sun was already low,
and the red glare that shone from behind the mountains shewed that he
was Bear his setting. The business of the fair was almost concluded;
the little traffic so remote a region could supply, the barter of a few
sheep, the sale of a heifer, a mountain pony, or a flock of goats, had
all passed off; and now the pleasures of the occasion were about to
succeed. The votaries to amusement, as if annoyed at the protracted
dealings of the more worldly minded, were somewhat rudely driving away
the cattle that still continued to linger about; and pigs and poultry
were beginning to discover that they were merely intruders. The canvass
booths, erected as shelter against the night-air, were becoming crowded
with visitors; and from more than one of the number the pleasant sounds
of the bagpipe might now be heard, accompanied by the dull shuffling
tramp of heavily-shod feet.

[Illustration: 016]

Various shows and exhibitions were also in preparation, and singular
announcements were made by gentlemen in a mingled costume of Turk and
Thimble-rigger, of "wonderful calves with two heads;" "six-legged pigs;"
and an "infant of two years old that could drink a quart of spirits at a
draught, if a respectable company were assembled to witness it;"-a feat
which, for the honour of young Ireland, it should be added, was ever
postponed from a deficiency in the annexed condition.

Then there were "restaurants" on a scale of the most primitive
simplicity, where boiled beef or "spoleen" was sold from a huge
pot, suspended over a fire in the open air, and which was invariably
surrounded by a gourmand party of both sexes; gingerbread and cakes of
every fashion and every degree of indigestion also abounded; while
jugs and kegs flanked the entrance to each tent, reeking with a
most unmistakable odour of that prime promoter of native drollery and
fun--poteen. All was stir, movement, and bustle; old friends, separated
since the last occasion of a similar festivity, were embracing
cordially, the men kissing with an affectionate warmth no German ever
equalled; pledges of love and friendship were taken in brimming glasses
by many, who were perhaps to renew the opportunity for such testimonies
hereafter, by a fight that very evening; contracts, ratified by whisky,
until that moment not deemed binding; and courtships, prosecuted with
hopes, which the whole year previous had never suggested; kind
speeches and words of welcome went round; while here and there some
closely-gathered heads and scowling glances gave token, that other
scores were to be acquitted on that night than merely those of commerce;
and in the firmly knitted brow, and more firmly grasped blackthorn, a
practised observer could foresee, that some heads were to carry away
deeper marks of that meeting, than simple memory can impress;--and thus,
in this wild sequestered spot, human passions were as rife as in the
most busy communities of pampered civilisation. Love, hate, and hope,
charity, fear, forgiveness, and malice; long-smouldering revenge,
long--subdued affection; hearts pining beneath daily drudgery, suddenly
awakened to a burst of pleasure and a renewal of happiness in the sight
of old friends, for many a day lost sight of; words of good cheer;
half mutterings of menace; the whispered syllables of love; the
deeply-uttered tones of vengeance; and amid all, the careless reckless
glee of those, who appeared to feel the hour one snatched from the grasp
of misery, and devoted to the very abandonment of pleasure. It seemed in
vain that want and poverty had shed their chilling influence over hearts
like these. The snow-drift and the storm might penetrate their frail
dwellings; the winter might blast, the hurricane might scatter their
humble hoardings; but still, the bold high-beating spirit that lived
within, beamed on throughout every trial; and now, in the hour of
long-sought enjoyment, blazed forth in a flame of joy, that was all but
frantic.

The step that but yesterday fell wearily upon the ground, now smote the
earth with a proud beat, that told of manhood's daring; the voices were
high, the eyes were flashing; long pent-up emotions of every shade and
complexion were there; and it seemed a season where none should wear
disguise, but stand forth in all the fearlessness of avowed resolve;
and in the heart-home looks of love, as well as in the fiery glances of
hatred, none practised concealment. Here, went one with his arm round
his sweetheart's waist,--an evidence of accepted affection none dared
even to stare at; there, went another, the skirt of his long loose coat
thrown over his arm, in whose hand a stick was brandished--his gesture,
even without his wild hurroo! an open declaration of battle, a challenge
to all who liked it. Mothers were met in close conclave, interchanging
family secrets and cares; and daughters, half conscious of the parts
they themselves were playing in the converse, passed looks of sly
intelligence to each other. And beggars were there too--beggars of a
class which even the eastern Dervish can scarcely vie with: cripples
brought many a mile away from their mountain-homes to extort charity by
exhibitions of dreadful deformity; the halt, the blind, the muttering
idiot, the moping melanc holy mad, mixed up with strange and motley
figures in patched uniforms and rags--some, amusing the crowd by their
drolleries, some, singing a popular ballad of the time--while through
all, at every turn and every corner, one huge fellow, without legs, rode
upon an ass, his wide chest ornamented by a picture of himself, and a
paragraph setting forth his infirmities. He, with a voice deeper than
a bassoon, bellowed forth his prayer for alms, and seemed to monopolise
far more than his proportion of charity, doubtless owing to the more
artistic development to which he had brought his profession.

[Illustration: 020]

"De prayers of de holy Joseph be an yez, and relieve de maimed; de
prayers and blessins of all de Saints on dem that assists de suffering!"
And there were pilgrims, some with heads venerable enough for the
canvass of an old master, with flowing beards, and relics hung round
their necks, objects of worship which failed not to create sentiments of
devotion in the passers-by. But among these many sights and sounds, each
calculated to appeal to different classes and ages of the motley mass,
one object appeared to engross a more than ordinary share of attention;
and although certainly not of a nature to draw marked notice elsewhere,
was here sufficiently strange and uncommon to become actually a
spectacle. This was neither more nor less than an English groom, who,
mounted upon a thorough-bred horse, led another by the bridle, and
slowly paraded backwards and forwards, in attendance on his master.

"Them's the iligant bastes, Darby," said one of the bystanders, as the
horses moved past. "A finer pair than that I never seen."

"They're beauties, and no denying it," said the other; "and they've
skins like a looking-glass."

"Arrah, botheration t' yez! what are ye saying about their skins?" cried
a third, whose dress and manner betokened one of the jank of a small
farmer. "'Tis the breeding that's in 'em; that's the raal beauty. Only
look at their pasterns; and see how fine they run off over the quarter."

"Which is the best now, Phil?" said another, addressing the last speaker
with a tone of some deference.

"The grey horse is worth two of the dark chesnut," replied Phil
oracularly.

"Is he, then!" cried two or three in a breath. "Why is that, Phil?"

"Can't you perceive the signs of blood about the ears? They're long, and
coming to a point--"

"You're wrong this time, my friend," said a sharp voice, with an accent
which in Ireland would be called English. "You may be an excellent
judge of an ass, but the horse you speak of, as the best, is not worth
a fourth part of the value of the other." And so saying, a young and
handsome man, attired in a riding costume, brushed somewhat rudely
through the crowd, and seizing the rein of the led horse, vaulted
lightly into the saddle and rode off, leaving Phil to the mockery and
laughter of the crowd, whose reverence for the opinion of a gentleman
was only beneath that they accorded to the priest himself.

"Faix, ye got it there, Phil!" "'Tis down on ye he was that time!"
"Musha, but ye may well get red in the face!" Such and such-like
were the comments on one who but a moment before was rather a popular
candidate for public honours.

"Who is he, then, at all?" said one among the rest, and who had come up
too late to witness the scene.

"'Tis the young Mr. Leslie, the landlord's son, that's come over to fish
the lakes," replied an old man reverentially.

"Begorra, he's no landlord of mine, anyhow," said Phil, now speaking for
the first time. "I hould under Mister Martin, and his family was here
before the Leslies was heard of." These words were said with a certain
air of defiance, and a turn of the head around him, as though to imply,
that if any one would gainsay the opinion, he was ready to stand by and
maintain it. Happily for the peace of the particular moment, the crowd
were nearly all Martins, and so, a simple buzz of approbation followed
this announcement. Nor did their attention dwell much longer on the
matter, as most were already occupied in watching the progress of the
young man, who, at a fast swinging gallop, had taken to the fields
beside the lake, and was now seen flying in succession over each dyke
and wall before him, followed by his groom. The Irish passion for feats
of horsemanship made this the most fascinating attraction of the fair;
and already, opinions ran high among the crowd, that it was a race
between the two horses, and more than one maintained, that "the little
chap with the belt" was the better horseman of the two. At last, having
made a wide circuit of the village and the green, the riders were seen
slowly moving down, as if returning to the fair.

There is no country where manly sports and daring exercises are held
in higher repute than Ireland. The chivalry that has died out in richer
lands still reigns there; and the fall meed of approbation will ever be
his, who can combine address and courage before an Irish crowd. It is
needless to say, then, that many a word of praise and commendation
was bestowed on young Leslie. His handsome features, his slight but
well-formed figure, every particular of his dress and gesture, had
found an advocate and an admirer; and while some were lavish in their
epithets on the perfection of his horsemanship, others, who had seen him
on foot, asserted, "that it was then he looked well entirely." There is
a kind of epidemic character pertaining to praise. The snow-ball gathers
not faster by rolling, than do the words of eulogy and approbation; and
so now, many recited little anecdotes of the youth's father, to shew
that he was a very pattern of landlords and country gentlemen, and had
only one fault in life,--that he never lived among his tenantry.

"'Tis the first time I ever set eyes on him," cried one, "and I hould my
little place under him twenty-three years come Michaelmas."

"See now then, Barney," cried another, "I'd rather have a hard man that
would stay here among us, than the finest landlord ever was seen that
would be away from us. And what's the use of compassion and pity when
the say would be between us? 'Tis the Agent we have to look to."

"Agent! 'Tis wishing them, I am, the same Agents! Them's the boys has
no marcy for a poor man: I'm tould now"--and here the speaker assumed
a tone of oracular seriousness that drew several listeners towards
him--"I'm tould now, the Agents get a guinea for every man, woman, and
child they turn out of a houldin." A low murmur of indignant anger ran
through the group, not one of whom ventured to disbelieve a testimony
thus accredited.

"And sure when the landlords does come, devil a bit they know about
us--no more nor if we were in Swayden; didn't I hear the ould gentleman
down there last summer, pitying the people for the distress. 'Ah,' says
he, 'it's a hard sayson ye have, and obliged to tear the flax out of the
ground, and it not long enough to cut!'"

A ready burst of laughter followed this anecdote, and many similar
stories were recounted in corroboration of the opinion.

[Illustration: 027]

"That's the girl takes the shine out of the fair," said one of the
younger men of the party, touching another by the arm, and pointing to a
tall young girl, who, with features as straight and regular as a classic
model, moved slowly past. She did not wear the scarlet cloak of the
peasantry, but a large one of dark blue, lined with silk of the same
colour; a profusion of brown hair, dark and glossy, was braided on each
side of her face, and turned up at the back of the head with the grace
of an antique cameo. She seemed not more than nineteen years of age, and
in the gaze of astonishment and pleasure she threw around her, it might
be seen how new such scenes and sights were to her.

"That's Phil Joyce's sister, and a crooked disciple of a brother she
has," said the other; "sorra bit if he'd ever let her come to the
'pattern' afore to-day; and she's the raal ornament of the place now
she's in it."

"Just mind Phil, will ye! watch him now; see the frown he's giving the
boys as they go by, for looking at his sister. I wouldn't coort a girl
that I couldn't look in the face and see what was in it, av she owned
Ballinahinch Castle," said the former.

"There now; what is he at now?" whispered the other; "he's left her in
the tent there: and look at him, the way he's talking to ould Bill; he's
telling him something about a fight; never mind me agin, but there'll be
'wigs on the green' this night."

"I don't know where the Lynchs and the Connors is to-day," said the
other, casting a suspicious look around him, as if anxious to calculate
the forces available in the event of a row. "They gave the Joyces their
own in Ballinrobe last fair. I hope they're not afeard to come down
here."

"Sorra bit, ma bouchai," said a voice from behind his shoulder; and at
the same moment the speaker clapped his hands over the other's eyes:
"Who am I, now?"

"Arrah! Owen Connor; I know ye well," said the other; "and His yourself
ought not to be here to-day. The ould father of ye has nobody but
yourself to look after him."

"I'd like to see ye call him ould to his face," said Owen, laughing:
"there he is now, in Poll Dawley's tent, dancing."

"Dancing!" cried the other two in a breath.

"Aye, faix, dancing 'The little bould fox;' and may I never die in sin,
if he hasn't a step that looks for all the world as if he made a hook
and eye of his legs."

The young man who spoke these words was in mould and gesture the very
ideal of an Irish peasant of the west; somewhat above the middle size,
rather slightly made, but with the light and neatly turned proportion
that betokens activity, more than great strength, endurance, rather than
the power of any single effort. His face well became the character of
his figure; it was a handsome and an open one, where the expressions
changed and crossed each other with lightning speed, now, beaming with
good nature, now, flashing in anger, now, sparkling with some witty
conception, or frowning a bold defiance as it met the glance of some
member of a rival faction. He looked, as he was, one ready and willing
to accept either part from fortune, and to exchange friendship and hard
knocks with equal satisfaction. Although in dress and appearance he was
both cleanly and well clad, it was evident that he belonged to a very
humble class among the peasantry. Neither his hat nor his greatcoat,
those unerring signs of competence, had been new for many a day before;
and his shoes, in their patched and mended condition, betrayed the pains
it had cost him to make even so respectable an appearance as he then
presented.

"She didn't even give you a look to-day, Owen," said one of the former
speakers; "she turned her head the other way as she went by."

"Faix, I'm afeard ye've a bad chance," said the other.

"Joke away, boys, and welcome," said Owen, reddening to the eyes as he
spoke, and shewing that his indifference to their banterings was very
far from being real; "'tis little I mind what ye say,--as little as she
herself would mind _me_," added he to himself.

"She's the purtiest girl in the town-land, and no second word to
it,--and even if she hadn't a fortune--"

"Bad luck to the fortune!--that's what I say," cried Owen, suddenly;
"'tis that same that breaks my rest night and day; sure if it wasn't for
the money, there's many a dacent boy wouldn't be ashamed nor afeard to
go up and coort her."

"She'll have two hundred, divil a less, I'm tould," interposed the
other; "the ould man made a deal of money in the war-time."

"I wish he had it with him now," said Owen, bitterly.

"By all accounts he wouldn't mislike it himself. When Father John was
giving him the rites, he says, 'Phil,' says he, 'how ould are ye now?'
and the other didn't hear him, but went on muttering to himself; and
the Priest says agin, 'Tis how ould you are, I'm axing.' 'A hundred and
forty-three,' says Phil, looking up at him. 'The Saints be good to
us,' says Father John, 'sure you're not that ould,--a hundred and
forty-three?' 'A hundred and forty-seven.' 'Phew! he's more of it--a
hundred and forty-seven!' 'A hundred and fifty,' cries Phil, and he gave
the foot of the bed a little kick, this way--sorra more--and he died;
and what was it but the guineas he was countin' in a stocking under the
clothes all the while? Oh, musha! how his sowl was in the money, and he
going to leave it all! I heerd Father John say, 'it was well they found
it out, for there'd be a curse on them guineas, and every hand that
would touch one of them _in secla seclorum_;' and they wer' all tuck
away in a bag that night, and buried by the Priest in a saycret place,
where they'll never be found till the Day of Judgment."

Just as the story came to its end, the attention of the group was drawn
off by seeing numbers of people running in a particular direction, while
the sound of voices and the general excitement shewed something new was
going forward. The noise increased, and now, loud shouts were heard,
mingled with the rattling of sticks and the utterance of those party
cries so popular in an Irish fair. The young men stood still as if the
affair was a mere momentary ebullition not deserving of attention, nor
sufficiently important to merit the taking any farther interest in it;
nor did they swerve from the resolve thus tacitly formed, as from time
to time some three or four would emerge from the crowd, leading forth
one, whose bleeding temples, or smashed head, made retreat no longer
dishonourable.

"They're at it early," was the cool commentary of Owen Connor, as with a
smile of superciliousness he looked towards the scene of strife.

"The Joyces is always the first to begin," remarked one of his
companions.

"And the first to lave off too," said Owen; "two to one is what they
call fair play."

"That's Phil's voice!--there now, do you hear him shouting?"

"'Tis that he's best at," said Owen, whose love for the pretty Mary
Joyce was scarcely equalled by his dislike of her ill-tempered brother.

At this moment the shouts became louder and wilder, the screams of the
women mingling with the uproar, which no longer seemed a mere passing
skirmish, but a downright severe engagement.

"What is it all about, Christy?" said Owen, to a young fellow led past
between two friends, while the track of blood marked every step he went.

"'Tis well it becomes yez to ax," muttered the other, with his swollen
and pallid lips, "when the Martins is beating your landlord's eldest son
to smithereens."

"Mr. Leslie--young Mr. Leslie?" cried the three together; but a wild
war-whoop from the crowd gave the answer back. "Hurroo! Martin for ever!
Down with the Leslies! Ballinashough! Hurroo! Don't leave one of them
living! Beat their sowles out!"

"Leslie for ever!" yelled out Owen, with a voice heard over every part
of the field; and with a spring into the air, and a wild flourish of his
stick, he dashed into the crowd.

"Here's Owen Connor, make way for Owen;" cried the non-combatants, as
they jostled and parted each other, to leave a free passage for one
whose prowess was well known.

"He'll lave his mark on some of yez yet!" "That's the boy will give you
music to dance to!" "Take that, Barney!" "Ha! Terry, that made your nob
ring like a forty-shilling pot!" Such and such-like were the comments
on him who now, reckless of his own safety, rushed madly into the very
midst of the combatants, and fought' his way onwards to where some seven
or eight were desperately engaged over the fallen figure of a man. With
a shrill yell no Indian could surpass, and a bound like a tiger, Owen
came down in the midst of them, every stroke of his powerful blackthorn
telling on his man as unerringly as though it were wielded by the hand
of a giant.

"Save the young Master, Owen! Shelter him! Stand over him, Owen Connor!"
were how the cries from all sides; and the stout-hearted peasant,
striding over the body of young Leslie, cleared a space around him, and,
as he glanced defiance on all sides, called out, "Is that your courage,
to beat a young gentleman that never handled a stick in his life? Oh,
you cowardly set! Come and face the men of your own barony if you dare!
Come out on the green and do it!--Pull him away--pull him away quick,"
whispered he to his own party eagerly. "Tear-an-ages! get him out of
this before they're down on me."

As he spoke, the Joyces rushed forward with a cheer, their party now
trebly as strong as the enemy. They bore down with a force that nothing
could resist. Poor Owen--the mark for every weapon--fell almost the
first, his head and face one undistinguishable mass of blood and
bruises, but not before some three or four of his friends had rescued
young Leslie from his danger, and carried him to the outskirts of
the fair. The fray now became general, neutrality was impossible, and
self-defence almost suggested some participation in the battle. The
victory was, however, with the Joyces. They were on their own territory;
they mustered every moment stronger; and in less than half an hour they
had swept the enemy from the field, save where a lingering wounded man
remained, whose maimed and crippled condition had already removed him
from all the animosities of combat.

[Illustration: 036]

"Where's the young master?" were the first words Owen Connor spoke, as
his friends carried him on the door of a cabin, hastily unhinged for the
purpose, towards his home.

"Erra! he's safe enough, Owen," said one of his bearers, who was by no
means pleased that Mr. Leslie had made the best of his way out of the
fair, instead of remaining to see the fight out.

"God be praised for that same, anyhow!" said Owen piously. "His life was
not worth a 'trawneen' when I seen him first."

It may be supposed from this speech, and the previous conduct of him
who uttered it, that Owen Connor was an old and devoted adherent of the
Leslie family, from whom he had received many benefits, and to whom he
was linked by long acquaintance. Far from it. He neither knew Mr. Leshe
nor his father. The former he saw for the first time as he stood over
him in the fair; the latter he had never so much as set eyes upon, at
any time; neither had he or his been favoured by them. The sole tie that
subsisted between them--the one link that bound the poor man to the
rich one--was that of the tenant to his landlord. Owen's father and
grandfather before him had been cottiers on the estate; but being very
poor and humble men, and the little farm they rented, a half-tilled
half-reclaimed mountain tract, exempt from all prospect of improvement,
and situated in a remote and unfrequented place, they were merely known
by their names on the rent-roll. Except for this, their existence had
been as totally forgotten, as though they had made part of the wild
heath upon the mountain.

While Mr. Leslie lived in ignorance that such people existed on his
property, they looked up to him with a degree of reverence almost
devotional. The owner of the soil was a character actually sacred in
their eyes; for what respect and what submission were enough for one,
who held in his hands the destinies of so many; who could raise them
to affluence, or depress them to want, and by his mere word control the
Agent himself, the most dreaded of all those who exerted an influence on
their fortunes?

There was a feudalism, too, in this sentiment that gave the reverence a
feeling of strong allegiance. The landlord was the head of a clan, as it
were; he was the culminating point of that pyramid of which they formed
the base; and they were proud of every display of his wealth and his
power, which they deemed as ever reflecting credit upon themselves. And
then, his position in the county--his rank--his titles--the amount
of his property--his house--his retinue--his very equipage, were all
subjects on which they descanted with eager delight, and proudly exalted
in contrast with less favoured proprietors. At the time we speak of,
absenteeism had only begun to impair the warmth of this affection; the
traditions of a resident landlord were yet fresh in the memory of the
young; and a hundred traits of kindness and good-nature were mingled
in their minds with stories of grandeur and extravagance, which, to
the Irish peasant's ear, are themes as grateful as ever the gorgeous
pictures of Eastern splendour were to the heightened imagination and
burning fancies of Oriental listeners.

Owen Connor was a firm disciple of this creed. Perhaps his lone
sequestered life among the mountains, with no companionship save that
of his old father, had made him longer retain these convictions in
all their force, than if, by admixture with his equals, and greater
intercourse with the world, he had conformed his opinions to the
gradually changed tone of the country. It was of little moment to
him what might be the temper or the habits of his landlord. The
monarchy--and not the monarch of the soil--was the object of his
loyalty; and he would have deemed himself disgraced and dishonoured had
he shewn the slightest backwardness in his fealty. He would as soon have
expected that the tall fern that grew wild in the valley should have
changed into a blooming crop of wheat, as that the performance of such
a service could have met with any requital. It was, to his thinking, a
simple act of duty, and required not any prompting of high principle,
still less any suggestion of self-interest. Poor Owen, therefore, had
not even a sentiment of heroism to cheer him, as they bore him slowly
along, every inequality of the ground sending a pang through his aching
head that was actually torture.

"That's a mark you'll carry to your dying day, Owen, my boy," said one
of the bearers, as they stopped for a moment to take breath. "I can see
the bone there shining this minute."

"It must be good stuff anyways the same head," said Owen, with a sickly
attempt to smile. "They never put a star in it yet; and faix I seen the
sticks cracking like dry wood in the frost."

"It's well it didn't come lower down," said another, examining the deep
cut, which gashed his forehead from the hair down to the eyebrow. "You
know what the Widow Glynn said at Peter Henessy's wake, when she saw
the stroke of the scythe that laid his head open--it just come, like
yer own, down to that--'Ayeh!' says she, 'but he's the fine corpse; and
wasn't it the Lord spared his eye!'"

"Stop, and good luck to you, Freney, and don't be making me laugh; the
pain goes through my brain like the stick of a knife," said Owen, as he
lifted his trembling hands and pressed them on either side of his head.

They wetted his lips with water, and resumed their way, not speaking
aloud as before, but in a low undertone, only audible to Owen at
intervals; for he had sunk into a half-stupid state, they believed to be
sleep. The path each moment grew steeper; for, leaving the wild "boreen"
road, which led to a large bog on the mountainside, it wound now
upwards, zigzaging between masses of granite rock and deep tufts of
heather, where sometimes the foot sunk to the instep. The wet and spongy
soil increased the difficulty greatly; and although all strong and
powerful men, they were often obliged to halt and rest themselves.

"It's an elegant view, sure enough," said one, wiping his dripping
forehead with the tail of his coat. "See there! look down where the fair
is, now! it isn't the size of a good griddle, the whole of it. How purty
the lights look shining in the water!"

"And the boats, too! Musha! they're coming up more of them. There'll be
good divarshin there, this night." These last words, uttered with a half
sigh, shewed with what a heavy heart the speaker saw himself debarred
from participating in the festivity.

"'Twas a dhroll place to build a house then, up there," said another,
pointing to the dark speck, far, far away on the mountain, where Owen
Connor's cabin stood.

"Owen says yez can see Galway of a fine day, and the boats going out
from the Claddagh; and of an evening, when the sun is going down, you'll
see across the bay, over to Clare, the big cliffs of Mogher."

"Now, then! are ye in earnest? I don't wonder he's so fond of the
place after all. It's an elegant thing to see the whole world, and fine
company besides. Look at Lough Mask! Now, boys, isn't that beautiful
with the sun on it?"

"Come, it's getting late, Freney, and the poor boy ought to be at home
before night;" and once more they lifted their burden and moved forward.

For a considerable time they continued to ascend without speaking, when
one of the party in a low cautious voice remarked, "Poor Owen will think
worse of it, when he hears the reason of the fight, than for the cut on
the head--bad as it is."

"Musha; then he needn't," replied another; "for if ye mane about Mary
Joyce, he never had a chance of her."

"I'm not saying that he had," said the first speaker; "but he's just as
fond of her; do you mind the way he never gave back one of Phil's blows,
but let him hammer away as fast as he plazed?"

"What was it at all, that Mr. Leslie did?" asked another; "I didn't hear
how it begun yet."

"Nor I either, rightly; but I believe Mary was standing looking at the
dance, for she never foots a step herself--maybe she's too ginteel--and
the young gentleman comes up and axes her for a partner; and something
she said; but what does he do, but put his arm round her waist and gives
her a kiss; and, ye see, the other girls laughed hearty, because they
say, Mary's so proud and high, and thinking herself above them all. Phil
wasn't there at the time; but he heerd it afterwards, and come up to
the tent, as young Mr. Leslie was laving it, and stood before him and
wouldn't let him pass. 'I've a word to say to ye,' says Phil, and
he scarce able to spake with passion; 'that was my sister ye had the
impudence to take a liberty with.' 'Out of the way, ye bogtrotter,' says
Leslie: them's the very words he said; 'out of the way, ye bog-trotter,
or I'll lay my whip across your shoulders.' 'Take that first,' says
Phil; and he put his fist between his two eyes, neat and clean;--down
went the Squire as if he was shot. You know the rest yourselves. The
boys didn't lose any time, and if 'twas only two hours later, maybe the
Joyces would have got as good as they gave."

A heavy groan from poor Owen now stopped the conversation, and they
halted to ascertain if he were worse,--but no; he seemed still sunk in
the same heavy sleep as before, and apparently unconscious of all about
him. Such, however, was not really the case; by some strange phenomenon
of sickness, the ear had taken in each low and whispered word, at the
time it would have been deaf to louder sounds; and every syllable they
had spoken had already sunk deeply into his heart; happily for him, this
was hut a momentary pang; the grief stunned him at once, and he became
insensible.

It was dark night as they reached the lonely cabin where Owen lived,
miles away from any other dwelling, and standing at an elevation of
more than a thousand feet above the plain. The short, sharp barking of a
sheep-dog was the only sound that welcomed them; for the old man had not
heard of his son's misfortune until long after they quitted the fair.
The door was hasped and fastened with a stick; precaution enough in such
a place, and for all that it contained, too. Opening this, they carried
the young man in, and laid him upon the bed; and, while some busied
themselves in kindling a fire upon the hearth, the others endeavoured,
with such skill as they possessed, to dress his wounds, an operation
which, if not strictly surgical in all its details, had at least the
recommendation of tolerable experience in such matters.

"It's a nate little place when you're at it, then," said one of them, as
with a piece of lighted bog-pine he took a very leisurely and accurate
view of the interior.

The opinion, however, must be taken by the reader, as rather reflecting
on the judgment of him who pronounced it, than in absolute praise of the
object itself. The cabin consisted of a single room, and which, though
remarkably clean in comparison with similar ones, had no evidence of
anything above very narrow circumstances. A little dresser occupied
the wall in front of the door, with its usual complement of crockery,
cracked and whole; an old chest of drawers, the pride of the house,
flanked this on one side; a low settle-bed on the other; various prints
in very florid colouring decorated the walls, all religious subjects,
where the Apostles figured in garments like bathing-dresses; these
were intermixed with ballads, dying speeches, and suchlike ghostly
literature, as form the most interesting reading of an Irish peasant;
a few seats of unpainted deal, and a large straw chair for the old man,
were the principal articles of furniture. There was a gun, minus the
lock, suspended over the fireplace; and two fishing-rods, with a gaff
and landing-net, were stretched upon wooden pegs; while over the bed was
an earthenware crucifix, with its little cup beneath, for holy water;
the whole surmounted by a picture of St. Francis Xavier in the act of
blessing somebody: though, if the gesture were to be understood without
the explanatory letter-press, he rather looked like a swimmer preparing
for a dive. The oars, mast, and spritsail of a boat were lashed to the
rafters overhead; for, strange as it may seem, there was a lake at that
elevation of the mountain, and one which abounded in trout and perch,
affording many a day's sport to both Owen and his father.

Such were the details which, sheltered beneath a warm roof of
mountain-fern, called forth the praise we have mentioned; and, poor as
they may seem to the reader, they were many degrees in comfort beyond
the majority of Irish cabins.

The boys--for so the unmarried men of whatever age are called--having
left one of the party to watch over Owen, now quitted the house, and
began their return homeward. It was past midnight when the old man
returned; and although endeavouring to master any appearance of emotion
before the "strange boy," he could with difficulty control his feelings
on beholding his son. The shirt matted with blood, contrasting with
the livid colourless cheek--the heavy irregular breathing--the frequent
startings as he slept--were all sore trials to the old man's nerve; but
he managed to seem calm and collected, and to treat the occurrence as an
ordinary one.

"Harry Joyce and his brother Luke--big Luke as they call him--has sore
bones to-night; they tell me that Owen didn't lave breath in their
bodies," said he, with a grim smile, as he took his place by the fire.

"I heerd the ribs of them smashing like an ould turf creel," replied the
other.

"'Tis himself can do it," said the old fellow, with eyes glistening with
delight; "fair play and good ground, and I'd back him agin the Glen."

"And so you might, and farther too; he has the speret in him--that's
better nor strength, any day."

And thus consoled by the recollection of Owen's prowess, and gratified
by the hearty concurrence of his guest, the old father smoked and
chatted away till daybreak. It was not that he felt any want of
affection for his son, or that his heart was untouched by the sad
spectacle he presented,--far from this; the poor old man had no other
tie to life--no other object of hope or love than Owen; but years of a
solitary life had taught him rather to conceal his emotions within his
own bosom, than seek for consolation beyond it; besides that, even in
his grief the old sentiment of faction-hatred was strong, and vengeance
had its share in his thoughts also.

It would form no part of our object in this story, to dwell longer
either on this theme, or the subject of Owen's illness; it will be
enough to say, that he soon got better, far sooner perhaps than if all
the appliances of luxury had ministered to his recovery; most certainly
sooner than if his brain had been ordinarily occupied by thoughts and
cares of a higher order than his were. The conflict, however, had left
a deeper scar behind, than the ghastly wound that marked his brow. The
poor fellow dwelt upon the portions of the conversation he overheard as
they carried him up the mountain; and whatever might have been his fears
before, now he was convinced that all prospect of gaining Mary's love
was lost to him for ever.

This depression, natural to one after so severe an injury, excited
little remark from the old man; and although he wished Owen might make
some effort to exert himself, or even move about in the air, he left him
to himself and his own time, well knowing that he never was disposed to
yield an hour to sickness, beyond what he felt unavoidable.

It was about eight or nine days after the fair, that the father was
sitting mending a fishing-net at the door of his cabin, to catch the
last light of the fading day. Owen was seated near him, sometimes
watching the progress of the work, sometimes patting the old sheep-dog
that nestled close by, when the sound of voices attracted them: they
listened, and could distinctly hear persons talking at the opposite side
of the cliff, along which the pathway led; and before they could even
hazard a guess as to who they were, the strangers appeared at the
angle of the rock. The party consisted of two persons; one, a gentleman
somewhat advanced in life, mounted on a stout but rough-looking
pony--the other, was a countryman, who held the beast by the bridle, and
seemed to take the greatest precaution for the rider's safety.

The very few visitors Owen and his father met with were for the most
part people coming to fish the mountain-lake, who usually hired ponies
in the valley for the ascent; so that when they perceived the animal
coming slowly along, they scarce bestowed a second glance upon them, the
old man merely remarking, "They're three weeks too early for this water,
any how;" a sentiment concurred in by his son. In less than five minutes
after, the rider and his guide stood before the door.

"Is this where Owen Connor lives?" asked the gentleman.

"That same, yer honor," said old Owen, uncovering his head, as he rose
respectfully from his low stool.

"And where is Owen Connor himself?"

"'Tis me, sir," replied he; "that's my name."

"Yes, but it can scarcely be you that I am looking for; have you a son
of that name?"

"Yes, sir, I'm young Owen," said the young man, rising, but not without
difficulty; while he steadied himself by holding the door-post.

"So then I am all right: Tracy, lead the pony about, till I call you;"
and so saying, he dismounted and entered the cabin.

"Sit down, Owen; yes, yes--I insist upon it, and do you, also. I have
come up here to-day to have a few moments' talk with you about an
occurrence that took place last week at the fair. There was a young
gentleman, Mr. Leslie, got roughly treated by some of the people: let me
hear your account of it."

Owen and his father exchanged glances; the same idea flashed across
the minds of both, that the visitor was a magistrate come to take
information against the Joyces for an assault; and however gladly they
would have embraced any course that promised retaliation for their
injuries, the notion of recurring to the law was a degree of baseness
they would have scorned to adopt.

"I'll take the 'vestment' I never seen it at all," said the old man
eagerly, and evidently delighted that no manner of cross-questioning or
badgering could convert him into an informer.

"And the little I saw," said Owen, "they knocked out of my memory with
this;" and he pointed to the half-healed gash on his forehead.

"But you know something of how the row begun?"

"No, yer honor, I was at the other side of the fair."

"Was young Mr. Leslie in fault--did you hear that?"

"I never heerd that he did any thing--unagreeable," said Owen, after
hesitating for a few seconds in his choice of a word.

"So then, I'm not likely to obtain any information from either of you."

They made no reply, but their looks gave as palpable a concurrence to
this speech, as though they swore to its truth.

"Well, I have another question to ask. It was you saved this young
gentleman, I understand; what was your motive for doing so? when, as by
your own confession, you were at a distance when the fight begun."

"He was my landlord's son," said Owen, half roughly; "I hope there is no
law agin that."

"I sincerely trust not," ejaculated the gentleman; "have you been long
on the estate?"

"Three generations of us now, yer honor," said the old man.

"And what rent do you pay?"

"Oh, musha, we pay enough! we pay fifteen shillings an acre for the bit
of callows below, near the lake, and we give ten pounds a year for the
mountain--and bad luck to it for a mountain--it's breaking my heart,
trying to make something out of it."

"Then I suppose you'd be well pleased to exchange your farm, and take
one in a better and more profitable part of the country?"

Another suspicion here shot across the old man's mind; and turning to
Owen he said in Irish: "He wants to get the mountain for sporting over;
but I'll not lave it."

The gentleman repeated his question.

"Troth, no then, yer honor; we've lived here so long we'll just stay our
time in it."

"But the rent is heavy, you say."

"Well, we'll pay it, plaze God."

"And I'm sure it's a strange wild place in winter."

"Its wholesome, any how," was the short reply.

"I believe I must go back again as wise as I came," muttered the
gentleman. "Come, my good old man,--and you, Owen; I want to know how
I can best serve you, for what you've done for me: it was my son you
rescued in the fair--"

"Are you the landlord--is yer honor Mr. Leslie?" exclaimed both as they
rose from their seats, as horrified as if they had taken such a liberty
before Royalty.

"Yes, Owen; and I grieve to say, that I should cause so much surprise to
any tenant, at seeing me. I ought to be better known on my property;
and I hope to become so: but it grows late, and I must reach the valley
before night. Tell me, are you really attached to this farm, or have I
any other, out of lease at this time, you like better?"

"I would not leave the ould spot, with yer honor's permission, to get a
demesne and a brick house; nor Owen neither."

"Well, then, be it so; I can only say, if you ever change your mind,
you'll find me both ready and willing to serve you; meanwhile you must
pay no more rent, here."

"No more rent!"

"Not a farthing; I'm sorry the favour is so slight a one, for indeed the
mountain seems a bleak and profitless tract."

"There is not its equal for mutton--"

"I'm glad of it, Owen; and it only remains for me to make the shepherd
something more comfortable;--well, take this; and when I next come up
here, which I intend to do, to fish the lake, I hope to find you in a
better house;" and he pressed a pocket-book into the old man's hand as
he said this, and left the cabin: while both Owen and his father
were barely able to mutter a blessing upon him, so overwhelming and
unexpected was the whole occurrence.



[Illustration: 060]



SECOND ERA

From no man's life, perhaps, is hope more rigidly excluded than from
that of the Irish peasant of a poor district. The shipwrecked mariner
upon his raft, the convict in his cell, the lingering sufferer on a sick
hed, may hope; but he must not.

Daily labour, barely sufficient to produce the commonest necessaries of
life, points to no period of rest or repose; year succeeds year in the
same dull routine of toil and privation; nor can he look around him and
see one who has risen from that life of misery, to a position of even
comparative comfort.

The whole study of his existence, the whole philosophy of his life, is,
how to endure; to struggle on under poverty and sickness; in seasons of
famine, in times of national calamity, to hoard up the little pittance
for his landlord and the payment for his Priest; and he has nothing
more to seek for. Were it our object here, it would not be difficult
to pursue this theme further, and examine, if much of the imputed
slothfulness and indolence of the people was not in reality due to that
very hopelessness. How little energy would be left to life, if you took
away its ambitions; how few would enter upon the race, if there were no
goal before them! Our present aim, however, is rather with the fortunes
of those we have so lately left. To these poor men, now, a new existence
opened. Not the sun of spring could more suddenly illumine the landscape
where winter so late had thrown its shadows, than did prosperity fall
brightly on their hearts, endowing life with pleasures and enjoyments,
of which they had not dared to dream before.

In preferring this mountain-tract to some rich lowland farm, they
were rather guided by that spirit of attachment to the home of their
fathers--so characteristic a trait in the Irish peasant--than by the
promptings of self-interest. The mountain was indeed a wild and bleak
expanse, scarce affording herbage for a few sheep and goats; the callows
at its foot, deeply flooded in winter, and even by the rains of autumn,
made tillage precarious and uncertain; yet the fact that these were
rent-free, that of its labour and its fruits all was now their own,
inspired hope and sweetened toil. They no longer felt the dreary
monotony of daily exertion, by which hour was linked to hour, and year
to year, in one unbroken succession;--no; they now could look forward,
they could lift up their hearts and strain their eyes to a future, where
honest industry had laid up its store for the decline of life; they
could already fancy the enjoyments of the summer season, when they
should look down upon their own crops and herds, or think of the winter
nights, and the howling of the storm without, reminding them of the
blessings of a home.

How little to the mind teeming with its bright and ambitious aspirings
would seem the history of their humble hopes! how insignificant and how
narrow might appear the little plans and plots they laid for that new
road in life, in which they were now to travel! The great man might
scoff at these, the moralist might frown at their worldliness; but there
is nothing sordid or mean in the spirit of manly independence; and they
who know the Irish people, will never accuse them of receiving worldly
benefits with any forgetfulness of their true and only source. And now
to our story.

The little cabin upon the mountain was speedily added to, and fashioned
into a comfortable-looking farmhouse of the humbler class. Both father
and son would willingly have left it as it was; but the landlord's
wish had laid a command upon them, and they felt it would have been a
misapplication of his bounty, had they not done as he had desired. So
closely, indeed, did they adhere to his injunctions, that a little room
was added specially for his use and accommodation, whenever he came
on that promised excursion he hinted at. Every detail of this little
chamber interested them deeply; and many a night, as they sat over their
fire, did they eagerly discuss the habits and tastes of the "quality,"
anxious to be wanting in nothing which should make it suitable for one
like him.

Sufficient money remained above all this expenditure to purchase some
sheep, and even a cow; and already their changed fortunes had excited
the interest and curiosity of the little world in which they lived.

There is one blessing, and it is a great one, attendant on humble life.
The amelioration of condition requires not that a man should leave the
friends and companions he has so long sojourned with, and seek, in a
new order, others to supply their place; the spirit of class does
not descend to him, or rather, he is far above it; his altered state
suggests comparatively few enjoyments or comforts in which his old
associates cannot participate; and thus the Connors' cabin was each
Sunday thronged by the country people, who came to see with their own
eyes, and hear with their own ears, the wonderful good fortune that
befell them.

Had the landlord been an angel of light, the blessings invoked upon
him could not have been more frequent or fervent; each measured the
munificence of the act by his own short standard of worldly possessions;
and individual murmurings for real or fancied wrongs were hushed in the
presence of one such deed of benevolence.

This is no exaggerated picture. Such was peasant-gratitude once; and
such, O landlords of Ireland! it might still have been, if you had not
deserted the people. The meanest of your favours, the poorest show
of your good-feeling, were acts of grace for which nothing was deemed
requital. Your presence in the poor man's cabin--your kind word to him
upon the highway--your aid in sickness--your counsel in trouble, were
ties which bound him more closely to your interest, and made him more
surely yours, than all the parchments of your attorney, or all the
papers of your agent. He knew you then as something more than the
recipient of his earnings. That was a time, when neither the hireling
patriot nor the calumnious press could sow discord between you. If it be
otherwise now, ask yourselves, are you all blameless? Did you ever
hope that affection could be transmitted through your agent, like the
proceeds of your property? Did you expect that the attachments of a
people were to reach you by the post? Or was it not natural, that, in
their desertion by you, they should seek succour elsewhere? that in
their difficulties and their trials they should turn to any who might
feel or feign compassion for them?

Nor is it wonderful that, amid the benefits thus bestowed, they should
imbibe principles and opinions fatally in contrast with interests like
yours.

There were few on whom good fortune could have fallen, without exciting
more envious and jealous feelings on the part of others, than on
the Connors. The rugged independent character of the father--the gay
light-hearted nature of the son, had given them few enemies and many
friends. The whole neighbourhood flocked about them to offer their good
wishes and congratulations on their bettered condition, and with
an honesty of purpose and a sincerity that might have shamed a more
elevated sphere. The Joyces alone shewed no participation in this
sentiment, or rather, that small fraction of them more immediately
linked with Phil Joyce. At first, they affected to sneer at the stories
of the Connors' good fortune; and when denial became absurd, they
half-hinted that it was a new custom in Ireland for men "to fight for
money." These mocking speeches were not slow to reach the ears of the
old man and his son; and many thought that the next fair-day would bring
with it a heavy retribution for the calamities of the last. In this,
however, they were mistaken. Neither Owen nor his father appeared that
day; the mustering of their faction was strong and powerful, but they,
whose wrongs were the cause of the gathering, never came forward to head
them.

This was an indignity not to be passed over in silence; and the murmurs,
at first low and subdued, grew louder and louder, until denunciations
heavy and deep fell upon the two who "wouldn't come out and right
themselves like men." The faction, discomfited and angered, soon broke
up; and returning homeward in their several directions, they left the
field to the enemy without even a blow. On the succeeding day, when the
observances of religion had taken place of the riotous and disorderly
proceedings of the fair, it was not customary for the younger men to
remain. The frequenters of the place were mostly women; the few of the
other sex were either old and feeble men, or such objects of compassion
as traded on the pious feelings of the votaries so opportunely evoked.
It was with great difficulty the worthy Priest of the parish had
succeeded in dividing the secular from the holy customs of the time,
and thus allowing the pilgrims, as all were called on that day, an
uninterrupted period for their devotions. He was firm and resolute,
however, in his purpose, and spared no pains to effect it: menacing
this one--persuading that; suiting the measure of his arguments to the
comprehension of each, he either cajoled or coerced, as the circumstance
might warrant. His first care was to remove all the temptations to
dissipation and excess; and for this purpose, he banished every show
and exhibition, and every tent where gambling and drinking went
forward;--his next, a more difficult task, was the exclusion of all
those doubtful characters, who, in every walk of life, are suggestive of
even more vice than they embody in themselves. These, however, abandoned
the place, of their own accord, so soon as they discovered how few were
the inducements to remain; until at length, by a tacit understanding, it
seemed arranged, that the day of penance and mortification should suffer
neither molestation nor interruption from those indisposed to partake
of its benefits. So rigid was the Priest in exacting compliance in this
matter, that he compelled the tents to be struck by daybreak, except
by those few, trusted and privileged individuals, whose ministerings to
human wants were permitted during the day of sanctity.

And thus the whole picture was suddenly changed. The wild and riotous
uproar of the fair, the tumult of voices and music, dancing, drinking,
and fighting, were gone; and the low monotonous sound of the pilgrims'
prayers was heard, as they moved along upon their knees to some holy
well or shrine, to offer up a prayer, or return a thanksgiving for
blessings bestowed. The scene was a strange and picturesque one; the
long lines of kneeling figures, where the rich scarlet cloak of the
women predominated, crossed and recrossed each other as they wended
their way to the destined altar; their muttered words blending with the
louder and more boisterous appeals of the mendicants,--who, stationed
at every convenient angle or turning, besieged each devotee with
unremitting entreaty,--deep and heartfelt devotion in every face, every
lineament and feature impressed with religious zeal and piety; but
still, as group met group going and returning, they interchanged their
greetings between their prayers, and mingled the worldly salutations
with aspirations heavenward, and their "Paters," and "Aves," and
"Credos," were blended with inquiries for the "childer," or questions
about the "crops."

"Isn't that Owen Connor, avick, that's going there, towards the
Yallow-well?" said an old crone as she ceased to count her beads.

"You're right enough, Biddy; 'tis himself, and no other; it's a turn he
took to devotion since he grew rich."

"Ayeh! ayeh! the Lord be good to us! how fond we all be of life, when
we've the bit of bacon to the fore!" And with that she resumed her pious
avocations with redoubled energy, to make up for lost time.

The old ladies were as sharp-sighted as such functionaries usually are
in any sphere of society. It was Owen Connor himself, performing his
first pilgrimage. The commands of his landlord had expressly forbidden
him to engage in any disturbance at the fair; the only mode of complying
with which, he rightly judged, was by absenting himself altogether. How
this conduct was construed by others, we have briefly hinted at. As for
himself, poor fellow, if a day of mortification could have availed him
any thing, he needn't have appeared among the pilgrims;--a period of
such sorrow and suffering he had never undergone before. But in justice
it must be confessed, it was devotion of a very questionable character
that brought him there that morning. Since the fair-day, Mary Joyce had
never deigned to notice him; and though he had been several times at
mass, she either affected not to be aware of his presence, or designedly
looked in another direction. The few words of greeting she once gave him
on every Sunday morning--the smile she bestowed--dwelt the whole week in
his heart, and made him long for the return of the time, when, even for
a second or two, she would be near, and speak to him. He was not slow
in supposing how the circumstances under which he rescued the landlord's
son might be used against him by his enemies; and he well knew that she
was not surrounded by any others than such. It was, then, with a heavy
heart poor Owen witnessed how fatally his improved fortune had dashed
hopes far dearer than all worldly advantage. Not only did the new
comforts about him become distasteful, but he even accused them to
himself as the source of all his present calamity; and half suspected
that it was a judgment on him for receiving a reward in such a cause. To
see her--to speak to her if possible--was now his wish, morn and night;
to tell her that he cared more for one look, one glance, than for all
the favours fortune did or could bestow: this, and to undeceive her as
to any knowledge of young Leslie's rudeness to herself, was the sole aim
of his thoughts. Stationing himself therefore in an angle of the ruined
church, which formed one of the resting-places for prayer, he waited for
hours for Mary's coming; and at last, with a heart half sickened with
deferred hope, he saw her pale but beautiful features, shaded by the
large blue hood of her cloak, as with downcast eyes she followed in the
train.

"Give me your place, acushla; God will reward you for it; I'm late at
the station," said he, to an old ill-favoured hag that followed next
to Mary; and at the same time, to aid his request, slipped half-a-crown
into her hand.

The wrinkled face brightened into a kind of wicked intelligence as she
muttered in Irish: "'Tis a gould guinea the same place is worth; but
I'll give it to you for the sake of yer people;" and at the same time
pocketing the coin in a canvass pouch, among relics and holy clay, she
moved off, to admit him in the line.

Owen's heart beat almost to bursting, as he found himself so close to
Mary; and all his former impatience to justify himself, and to speak to
her, fled in the happiness he now enjoyed. No devotee ever regarded the
relic of a Saint with more trembling ecstacy than did he the folds of
that heavy mantle that fell at his knees; he touched it as men would do
a sacred thing. The live-long day he followed her, visiting in turn each
shrine and holy spot; and ever, as he was ready to speak to her, some
fear that, by a word, he might dispel the dream of bliss he revelled in,
stopped him, and he was silent.

[Illustration: 074]

It was as the evening drew near, and the Pilgrims were turning towards
the lake, beside which, at a small thorn-tree, the last "station" of all
was performed, that an old beggar, whose importunity suffered none to
escape, blocked up the path, and prevented Mary from proceeding until
she had given him something. All her money had been long since bestowed;
and she said so, hurriedly, and endeavoured to move forward.

"Let Owen Connor, behyind you, give it, acushla! He's rich now, and can
well afford it," said the cripple.

She turned around at the words; the action was involuntary, and their
eyes met. There are glances which reveal the whole secret of a lifetime;
there are looks which dwell in the heart longer and deeper than words.
Their eyes met for merely a few seconds; and while in _her_ face
offended pride was depicted, poor Owen's sorrow-struck and broken aspect
spoke of long suffering and grief so powerfully, that, ere she turned
away, her heart had half forgiven him.

"You wrong me hardly, Mary," said he, in a low, broken voice, as the
train moved on. "The Lord, he knows my heart this blessed day! _Pater
noster, qui es in colis?_'" added he, louder, as he perceived that his
immediate follower had ceased his prayers to listen to him. "He knows
that I'd rather live and die the poorest--'Beneficat tuum nomen!'" cried
he, louder. And then, turning abruptly, said:

"Av it's plazing to you, sir, don't be trampin' on my heels. I can't
mind my devotions, an' one so near me.

"It's not so unconvaynient, maybe, when they're afore you," muttered
the old fellow, with a grin of sly malice. And though Owen overheard the
taunt, he felt no inclination to notice it.

"Four long years I've loved ye, Mary Joyce; and the sorra more
encouragement I ever got nor the smile ye used to give me. And if ye
take _that_ from me, now--Are ye listening to me, Mary? do ye hear me,
asthore?--Bad scran to ye, ye ould varmint! why won't ye keep behind?
How is a man to save his sowl, an' you making him blasphame every
minit?"

"I was only listenin' to that elegant prayer ye were saying," said the
old fellow, drily.

"'Tis betther you'd mind your own, then," said Owen, fiercely; "or, by
the blessed day, I'll teach ye a new penance ye never heerd of afore!"

The man dropped back, frightened at the sudden determination these words
were uttered in; and Owen resumed his place.

"I may never see ye again, Mary. 'Tis the last time you'll hear me spake
to you. I'll lave the ould man. God look to him! I'll lave him now,
and go be a sodger. Here we are now, coming to this holy well; and
I'll swear an oath before the Queen of Heaven, that before this time
to-morrow--"

"How is one to mind their prayers at all, Owen Connor, if ye be talking
to yourself, so loud?" said Mary, in a whisper, but one which lost not a
syllable, as it fell on Owen's heart.

"My own sweet darling, the light of my eyes, ye are!" cried he, as
with clasped hands he muttered blessings upon her head; and with such
vehemence of gesture, and such unfeigned signs of rapture, as to evoke
remarks from some beggars near, highly laudatory of his zeal.

"Look at the fine young man there, prayin' wid all his might. Ayeh, the
Saints give ye the benefit of your Pilgrimage!"

"Musha! but ye'r a credit to the station; ye put yer sowl in it,
anyhow!" said an old Jezebel, whose hard features seemed to defy
emotion.

Owen looked up; and directly in front of him, with his back against a
tree, and his arms crossed on his breast, stood Phil Joyce: his brow was
dark with passion, and his eyes glared like those of a maniac. A cold
thrill ran through Owen's heart, lest the anger thus displayed should
fall on Mary; for he well knew with what tyranny the poor girl was
treated. He therefore took the moment of the pilgrims' approach to the
holy tree, to move from his place, and, by a slightly circuitous path,
came up to where Joyce was standing.

"I've a word for you, Phil Joyce," said he, in a low voice, where every
trace of emotion was carefully subdued. "Can I spake it to you here?"

Owen's wan and sickly aspect, if it did not shock, it at least
astonished Joyce, for he looked at him for some seconds without
speaking; then said, half rudely:

"Ay, here will do as well as any where, since ye didn't like to say it
yesterday."

There was no mistaking this taunt; the sneer on Owen's want of courage
was too plain to be misconstrued; and although for a moment he looked
as if disposed to resent it, he merely shook his head mournfully, and
replied: "It is not about that I came to speak; it's about your sister,
Mary Joyce."

Phil turned upon him a stare of amazement, as quickly followed by a
laugh, whose insulting mockery made Owen's cheek crimson with shame.

"True enough, Phil Joyce; I know your meanin' well," said he, with an
immense effort to subdue his passion. "I'm a poor cottier, wid a bit of
mountain-land--sorra more--and has no right to look up to one like her.
But listen to me, Phil!" and here he grasped his arm, and spoke with a
thick guttural accent: "Listen to me! Av the girl wasn't what she is,
but only your sister, I'd scorn her as I do yourself;" and with that,
he pushed him from him with a force that made him stagger. Before he had
well recovered, Owen was again at his side, and continued:--"And now,
one word more, and all's ended between us. For you, and your likings or
mis-likings, I never cared a rush: but 'tis Mary herself refused me, so
there's no more about it; only don't be wreaking your temper on her, for
she has no fault in it."

"Av a sister of mine ever bestowed a thought on the likes o' ye, I'd
give her the outside of the door this night," said Joyce, whose courage
now rose from seeing several of his faction attracted to the spot, by
observing that he and Connor were conversing. "'Tis a disgrace--divil a
less than a disgrace to spake of it!"

"Well, we won't do so any more, plaze God!" said Owen, with a smile of
very fearful meaning. "It will be another little matter we'll have to
settle when we meet, next. There's a score there, not paid off yet:"
and at the word he lifted his hat, and disclosed the deep mark of the
scarce-closed gash on his forehead: "and so, good bye to ye."

A rude nod from Phil Joyce was all the reply, and Owen turned homewards.

If prosperity could suggest the frame of mind to enjoy it, the rich
would always be happy; but such is not the dispensation of Providence.
Acquisition is but a stage on the road of ambition; it lightens the way,
but brings the goal no nearer. Owen never returned to his mountain-home
with a sadder heart. He passed without regarding them, the little
fields, now green with the coming spring; he bestowed no look nor
thought upon the herds that already speckled the mountain-side;
disappointment had embittered his spirit; and even love itself now gave
way to faction-hate, the old and cherished animosity of party.

If the war of rival factions did not originally spring from the personal
quarrels of men of rank and station, who stimulated their followers
and adherents to acts of aggression and reprisal, it assuredly was
perpetuated, if not with their concurrence, at least permission; and
many were not ashamed to avow, that in these savage encounters the "bad
blood" of the country was "let out," at less cost and trouble than by
any other means. When legal proceedings were recurred to, the landlord,
in his capacity of magistrate, maintained the cause of his tenants; and,
however disposed to lean heavily on them himself, in the true spirit of
tyranny he opposed pressure from any other hand than his own. The people
were grateful for this advocacy--far more, indeed, than they often
proved for less questionable kindness. They regarded the law with so
much dread--they awaited its decisions with such uncertainty--that he
who would conduct them through its mazes was indeed a friend. But,
was the administration of justice, some forty or fifty years back in
Ireland, such as to excite or justify other sentiments? Was it not this
tampering with right and wrong, this recurrence to patronage, that made
legal redress seem an act of meanness and cowardice among the people?
No cause was decided upon its own merits. The influence of the great
man--the interest he was disposed to take in the case--the momentary
condition of county politics--with the general character of the
individuals at issue, usually determined the matter; and it could
scarcely be expected that a triumph thus obtained should have exercised
any peaceful sway among the people.

"He wouldn't be so bould to-day, av his landlord wasn't to the fore,"
was Owen Connor's oft-repeated reflection, as he ascended the narrow
pathway towards his cabin; "'tis the good backing makes us brave, God
help us!" From that hour forward, the gay light-hearted peasant became
dark, moody, and depressed; the very circumstances which might be
supposed calculated to have suggested a happier frame of mind, only
increased and embittered his gloom. His prosperity made daily labour
no longer a necessity. Industry, it is true, would have brought
more comforts about him, and surrounded him with more appliances of
enjoyment; but long habits of endurance had made him easily satisfied
on this score, and there were no examples for his imitation which
should make him strive for better. So far, then, from the landlord's
benevolence working for good, its operation was directly the reverse;
his leniency had indeed taken away the hardship of a difficult and
onerous payment, but the relief suggested no desire for an equivalent
amelioration of condition. The first pleasurable emotions of gratitude
over, they soon recurred to the old customs in every thing, and
gradually fell hack into all the observances of their former state, the
only difference being, that less exertion on their parts was now called
for than before.

Had the landlord been a resident on his property--acquainting himself
daily and hourly with the condition of his tenants--holding up examples
for their imitation--rewarding the deserving--discountenancing the
unworthy--extending the benefits of education among the young--and
fostering habits of order and good conduct among all, Owen would have
striven among the first for a place of credit and honour, and speedily
have distinguished himself above his equals. But alas! no; Mr. Leslie,
when not abroad, lived in England. Of his Irish estates he knew nothing,
save through the half-yearly accounts of his agent. He was conscious of
excellent intentions; he was a kind, even a benevolent man; and in the
society of his set, remarkable for more than ordinary sympathies with
the poor. To have ventured on any reflection on a landlord before him,
would have been deemed a downright absurdity.

He was a living refutation of all such calumnies; yet how was it,
that, in the district he owned, the misery of the people was a thing to
shudder at? that there were hovels excavated in the bogs, within which
human beings lingered on between life and death, their existence like
some terrible passage in a dream? that beneath these frail roofs famine
and fever dwelt, until suffering, and starvation itself, had ceased to
prey upon minds on which no ray of hope ever shone? Simply he did not
know of these things; he saw them not; he never heard of them. He was
aware that seasons of unusual distress occurred, and that a more than
ordinary degree of want was experienced by a failure of the potato-crop;
but on these occasions, he read his name, with a subscription of a
hundred pounds annexed, and was not that a receipt in full for all the
claims of conscience? He ran his eyes over a list in which Royal and
Princely titles figured, and he expressed himself grateful for so much
sympathy with Ireland! But did he ask himself the question, whether, if
he had resided among his people, such necessities for alms-giving
had ever arisen? Did he inquire how far his own desertion of his
tenantry--his ignorance of their state--his indifference to their
condition--had fostered these growing evils? Could he acquit himself of
the guilt of deriving all the appliances of his ease and enjoyment, from
those whose struggles to supply them were made under the pressure
of disease and hunger? Was unconsciousness of all this, an excuse
sufficient to stifle remorse? Oh, it is not the monied wealth dispensed
by the resident great man; it is not the stream of affluence, flowing in
its thousand tiny rills, and fertilising as it goes, we want. It is far
more the kindly influence of those virtues which. And their congenial
soil in easy circumstances; benevolence, sympathy, succour in sickness,
friendly counsel in distress, timely aid in trouble, encouragement to
the faint-hearted, caution to the over-eager: these are gifts, which,
giving, makes the bestower richer; and these are the benefits which,
better than gold, foster the charities of life among a people, and bind
up the human family in a holy and indissoluble league. No benevolence
from afar, no well wishings from distant lands, compensate for the want
of them. To neglect such duties is to fail in the great social compact
by which the rich and poor are united, and, what some may deem of more
moment still, to resign the rightful influence of property into the
hands of dangerous and designing men.

It is in vain to suppose that traditionary deservings will elicit
gratitude when the present generation are neglectful. On the contrary,
the comparison of the once resident, now absent landlord, excites very
different feelings; the murmurings of discontent swell into the louder
language of menace; and evils, over which no protective power of human
origin could avail, are ascribed to that class, who, forgetful of one
great duty, are now accused of causing every calamity. If not present
to exercise the duties their position demands, their absence exaggerates
every accusation against them; and from the very men, too, who have, by
the fact of their desertion, succeeded in obtaining the influence that
should be theirs.

Owen felt this desertion sorely. Had Mr. Leslie been at home, he would
at once have had recourse to him. Mr. French, the agent, lived on the
property--but Mr. French was "a hard man," and never liked the Connors;
indeed, he never forgave them for not relinquishing the mountain-farm
they held, in exchange for another he offered them, as he was anxious
to preserve the mountain for his own shooting. At the time we speak of,
intemperance was an Irish vice, and one which prevailed largely. Whisky
entered into every circumstance and relation of life. It cemented
friendships and ratified contracts; it celebrated the birth of the
newly-born, it consoled the weeping relatives over the grave of
the departed; it was a welcome and a bond of kindness, and, as the
stirrup-cup, was the last pledge at parting. Men commemorated their
prosperity by drink, and none dared to face gloomy fortune without it.
Owen Connor had recourse to it, as to a friend that never betrayed. The
easy circumstances, in comparison with many others, he enjoyed, left him
both means and leisure for such a course; and few days passed without
his paying a visit to the "shebeen-house" of the village. If the old man
noticed this new habit, his old prejudices were too strong to make him
prompt in condemning it. Indeed, he rather regarded it as a natural
consequence of their bettered fortune, that Owen should frequent these
places; and as he never returned actually drunk, and always brought back
with him the current rumours of the day, as gathered from newspapers and
passing gossip, his father relied on such scraps of information for his
evening's amusement over the fire.

It was somewhat later than usual that Owen was returning home one night,
and the old man, anxious and uneasy at his absence, had wandered part
of the way to meet him, when he saw him coming slowly forward, with that
heavy weariness of step, deep grief and pre-occupation inspire. When
the young man had come within speaking distance of his father, he halted
suddenly, and looking up at him, exclaimed, "There's sorrowful news for
ye to-night, father!"

"I knew it! I knew it well!" said the old man, as he clasped his hands
before him, and seemed preparing himself to bear the shock with courage.
"I had a dhrame of it last night; and 'tis death, wherever it is."

"You're right there. The master's dead!"

Not another word was spoken by either, as side by side they slowly
ascended the mountain-path. It was only when seated at the fire-side,
that Owen regained sufficient collectedness to detail the particulars he
had learned in the village. Mr. Leslie had died of the cholera at
Paris. The malady had just broken out in that city, and he was among its
earliest victims. The terrors which that dreadful pestilence inspired,
reached every remote part of Europe, and at last, with all the
aggravated horrors of its devastating career, swept across Ireland. The
same letter which brought the tidings of Mr. Leslie's death, was the
first intelligence of the plague. A scourge so awful needed not the
fears of the ignorant to exaggerate its terrors; yet men seemed to vie
with each other in their dreadful conjectures regarding it.

All the sad interest the landlord's sudden death would have occasioned
under other circumstances was merged in the fearful malady of which he
died. Men heard with almost apathy of the events that were announced as
likely to succeed, in the management of the property; and only listened
with eagerness if the pestilence were mentioned. Already its arrival in
England was declared; and the last lingering hope of the devotee was,
that the holy island of St. Patrick might escape its ravages. Few cared
to hear what a few weeks back had been welcome news--that the old agent
was to be dismissed, and a new one appointed. The speculations which
once would have been rife enough, were now silent. There was but one
terrible topic in every heart and on every tongue--the Cholera.

The inhabitants of great cities, with wide sources of information
available, and free conversation with each other, can scarcely estimate
the additional degree of terror the prospect of a dreadful epidemic
inspires among the dwellers in unfrequented rural districts. The cloud,
not bigger than a man's hand at first, gradually expands itself, until
the whole surface of earth is darkened by its shadow. The business of
life stands still; the care for the morrow is lost; the proneness
to indulge in the gloomiest anticipations common calamity invariably
suggests, heightens the real evil, and disease finds its victims more
than doomed at its first approach. In this state of agonising suspense,
when rumours arose to be contradicted, reasserted, and again disproved,
came the tidings that the Cholera was in Dublin. The same week it had
broken out in many other places; at last the report went, that a poor
man, who had gone into the market of Galway to sell his turf, was found
dead on the steps of the chapel. Then, followed the whole array of
precautionary measures, and advices, and boards of health. Then, it
was announced that the plague was raging fearfully--the hospitals
crowded--death in every street.

Terrible and appalling as these tidings were, the fearful fact never
realised itself in the little district we speak of, until a death
occurred in the town close by. He was a shopkeeper in Oughterarde, and
known to the whole neighbourhood. This solitary instance brought with
it more of dreadful meaning than all the shock of distant calamity. The
heart-rending wail of those who listened to the news smote many more
with the cold tremour of coming death. Another case soon followed, a
third, and a fourth succeeded, all fatal; and the disease was among
them.

It is only when a malady, generally fatal, is associated with the
terrors of contagion, that the measure of horror and dread flows over.
When the sympathy which suffering sickness calls for is yielded in a
spirit of almost despair, and the ministerings to the dying are but
the prelude to the same state, then indeed death is armed with all his
terrors. No people are more remarkable for the charities of the sick-bed
than the poor Irish. It is with them less a sentiment than a religious
instinct; and though they watched the course of the pestilence, and saw
few, if any, escape death who took it, their devotion never failed them.
They practised, with such skill as they possessed, every remedy in turn.
They, who trembled but an hour before at the word when spoken, faced the
danger itself with a bold heart; and, while the insidious signs of the
disease were already upon them--while their wearied limbs and clammy
hands bespoke that their own hour was come, they did not desist from
their good offices, until past the power to render them.

It was spring-time, the season more than usually mild, the prospects of
the year were already favourable, and all the signs of abundance rife
in the land. What a contrast the scene without to that presented by
the interior of each dwelling! There, death and dismay were met with at
every step. The old man and the infant prostrated by the same
stroke; the strong and vigorous youth who went forth to labour in the
morning--at noon, a feeble, broken-spirited creature--at sunset, a
corpse.

As the minds and temperaments of men were fashioned, so did fear operate
upon them. Some, it made reckless and desperate, careless of what should
happen, and indifferent to every measure of precaution; some, became
paralysed with fear, and seemed unable to make an effort for safety,
were it even attainable; others, exaggerating every care and caution,
lived a life of unceasing terror and anxiety; while a few--they were
unfortunately a very few--summoned courage to meet the danger in a
spirit of calm and resolute determination; while in their reformed
habits it might be seen how thoroughly they felt that their own hour
might be a brief one. Among these was Owen Connor. From the day the
malady appeared in the neighbourhood, he never entered the public-house
of the village, but, devoting himself to the work of kindness the
emergency called for, went from cabin to cabin rendering every service
in his power. The poorest depended on him for the supply of such little
comforts as they possessed, for at every market-day he sold a sheep or
a lamb to provide them; the better-off looked to him for advice and
counsel, following his directions as implicitly as though he were a
physician of great skill. All recognised his devotedness in their cause,
and his very name was a talisman for courage in every humble cabin
around. His little ass-cart, the only wheeled vehicle that ever ascended
the mountain where he lived, was seen each morning moving from door to
door, while Owen brought either some small purchase he was commissioned
to make at Oughterarde, or left with the more humble some offering of
his own benevolence.

"There's the salt ye bid me buy, Mary Cooney; and here's fourpence out
of it,--do ye all be well, still?"

"We are, and thank ye, Owen." "The Lord keep ye so!" "How's Ned Daly?"
"He's off, Owen dear; his brother James is making the coffin; poor boy,
he looks very weak himself this morning."

The cart moved on, and at length stopped at a small hovel built against
the side of a clay ditch. It was a mere assemblage of wet sods with the
grass still growing, and covered by some branches of trees and loose
straw over them. Owen halted the ass at the opening of the miserable
den, through which the smoke now issued, and at the same moment a
man, stooping double to permit him to pass out into the open air, came
forward: he was apparently about fifty years of age--his real age was
not thirty; originally a well-formed and stout-built fellow, starvation
and want had made him a mere skeleton. His clothes were, a ragged coat,
which he wore next his skin, for shirt he had none, and a pair of worn
corduroy trousers; he had neither hat, shoes, nor stockings; but still,
all these signs of destitution were nothing in comparison with the
misery displayed in his countenance. Except that his lip trembled with
a convulsive shiver, not a feature moved--the cheeks were livid and
flattened--the dull grey eyes had lost all the light of intelligence,
and stared vacantly before him.

"Well, Martin, how is she?"

"I don't know, Owen dear," said he, in a faltering voice; "maybe 'tis
sleeping she is."

Owen followed him within the hut, and stooping down to the fire, lighted
a piece of bogwood to enable him to see. On the ground, covered only by
a ragged frieze coat, lay a young woman quite dead: her arm, emaciated
and livid, was wrapped round a little child of about three years old,
still sleeping on the cold bosom of its mother.

[Illustration: 096]

"You must take little Patsy away," said Owen in a whisper, as he lifted
the boy in his arms; "_she's_ happy now."

The young man fell upon his knees and kissed the corpse, but spoke not
a word; grief had stupified his senses, and he was like one but half
awake. "Come with me, Martin; come with me, and I'll settle every thing
for you." He obeyed mechanically, and before quitting the cabin, placed
some turf upon the fire, as he was wont to do. The action was a simple
one, but it brought the tears into Owen's eyes. "I'll take care of
Patsy for you till you want him. He's fond of me of ould, and won't
be lonesome with me;" and Owen wrapped the child in his greatcoat, and
moved forwards.

When they had advanced a few paces, Martin stopped suddenly and
muttered, "She has nothing to drink!" and then, as if remembering
vaguely what had happened, added, "It's a long sleep, Ellen dear!"

Owen gave the directions for the funeral, and leaving poor Martin in the
house of one of the cottiers near, where he sat down beside the hearth,
and never uttered a word; he went on his way, with little Patsy still
asleep within his arms.

"Where are you going, Peggy?" asked Owen, as an old lame woman moved
past as rapidly as her infirmity would permit: "you're in a hurry this
morning."

"So I am, Owen Connor--these is the busy times wid me--I streaked five
to-day, early as it is, and I'm going now over to Phil Joyce's. What's
the matter wid yourself, Owen? sit down, avich, and taste this."

"What's wrong at Phil's?" asked Owen, with a choking fulness in his
throat.

"It's the little brother he has; Billy's got it, they say.

"Is Mary Joyce well--did ye hear?"

"Errah! she's well enough now, but she may be low before night,"
muttered the crone; while she added, with a fiendish laugh, "her purty
faytures won't save her now, no more nor the rest of us."

"There's a bottle of port wine, Peggy; take it with ye, dear. 'Tis the
finest thing at all, I'm tould, for keeping it off--get Mary to take a
glass of it; but mind now, for the love o' ye, never say it was me gav
it. There's bad blood between the Joyces and me, ye understand."

"Ay, ay, I know well enough," said the hag, clutching the bottle
eagerly, while opening a gate on the roadside, she hobbled on her way
towards Phil Joyce's cabin.

It was near evening as Owen was enabled to turn homewards; for besides
having a great many places to visit, he was obliged to stop twice to get
poor Patsy something to eat, the little fellow being almost in a state
of starvation. At length he faced towards the mountain, and with a sad
heart and weary step plodded along.

"Is poor Ellen buried?" said he, as he passed the carpenter's door,
where the coffin had been ordered.

"She's just laid in the mould--awhile ago."

"I hope Martin bears up better;--did you see him lately?"

"This is for him," said the carpenter, striking a board with his hammer;
"he's at peace now."

"Martin! sure he's not dead?--Martin Neale, I mean."

"So do I too; he had it on him since morning, they say; but he just
slipped away without a word or a moan."

"O God, be good to us, but the times is dreadful!" ejaculated Owen.

"Some says it's the ind of the world's comin'," said an old man, that
sat moving his stick listlessly among the shavings; "and 'twould be well
for most of us it was too."

"Thrue for you, Billy; there's no help for the poor."

No sentiment could meet more general acceptance than this--none less
likely to provoke denial. Thrown upon each other for acts of kindness
and benevolence, they felt from how narrow a store each contributed to
another's wants, and knew well all the privations that charity like this
necessitated, at the same time that they felt themselves deserted by
those whose generosity might have been exercised without sacrificing
a single enjoyment, or interfering with the pursuit of any accustomed
pleasure.

There is no more common theme than the ingratitude of the poor--their
selfishness and hard-heartedness; and unquestionably a life of poverty
is but an indifferent teacher of fine feelings or gentle emotions. The
dreary monotony of their daily lives, the unvarying sameness of the
life-long struggle between labour and want, are little suggestive of
any other spirit than a dark and brooding melancholy: and it were well,
besides, to ask, if they who call themselves benefactors have been
really generous, and not merely just? We speak more particularly of the
relations which exist between the owner of the land and those who till
it; and where benevolence is a duty, and not a virtue depending on the
will: not that they, in whose behalf it is ever exercised, regard it
in this light--very far from it! Their thankfulness for benefits is
generally most disproportioned to their extent; but we are dissatisfied
because our charity has not changed the whole current of their fortunes,
and that the favours which cost us so little to bestow, should not
become the ruling principle of their lives.

Owen reflected deeply on these things as he ascended the mountain-road.
The orphan child he carried in his arms pressed such thoughts upon
him, and he wondered why rich men denied themselves the pleasures of
benevolence. He did not know that many great men enjoyed the happiness,
but that it was made conformable to their high estate by institutions
and establishments; by boards, and committees, and guardians; by all
the pomp and circumstance of stuccoed buildings and liveried attendants.
That to save themselves the burden of memory, their good deeds were
chronicled in lists of "founders" and "life-subscribers," and their
names set forth in newspapers; while, to protect their finer natures
from the rude assaults of actual misery, they deputed others to be the
stewards of their bounty.

Owen did not know all this, or he had doubtless been less unjust
regarding such persons. He never so much as heard of the pains that
are taken to ward off the very sight of poverty, and all the appliances
employed to exclude suffering from the gaze of the wealthy. All his
little experience told him was, how much of good might be done within
the sphere around him by one possessed of affluence. There was not a
cabin around, where he could not point to some object claiming aid or
assistance. Even in seasons of comparative comfort and abundance, what a
deal of misery still existed; and what a blessing it would bring on him
who sought it out, to compassionate and relieve it! So Owen thought,
and so he felt too; not the less strongly that another heart then
beat against his own, the little pulses sending a gush of wild delight
through his bosom as he revelled in the ecstacy of benevolence. The
child awoke, and looked wildly about him; but when he recognised in
whose arms he was, he smiled happily, and cried, "Nony, Nony," the name
by which Owen was known among all the children of the village and its
neighbourhood.

"Yes, Patsy," said Owen, kissing him, "your own Nony! you're coming home
with him to see what a nice house he has upon the mountain for you, and
the purty lake near it, and the fish swimming in it."

[Illustration: 104]

The little fellow clapped his hands with glee, and seemed delighted at
all he heard.

"Poor darlin'," muttered Owen, sorrowfully; "he doesn't know 'tis the
sad day for him;" and as he spoke, the wind from the valley bore on it
the mournful cadence of a death-cry, as a funeral moved along the road.
"His father's berrin'!" added he. "God help us! how fast misfortune does
be overtaking us at the time our heart's happiest! It will be many a day
before he knows all this morning cost him."

The little child meanwhile caught the sounds, and starting up in Owen's
arms, he strained his eyes to watch the funeral procession as it slowly
passed on. Owen held him up for a few seconds to see it, and wiped the
large tears that started to his own eyes. "Maybe Martin and poor Ellen's
looking down on us now!" and with that he laid the little boy back in
his arms and plodded forward.

It was but seldom that Owen Connor ascended that steep way without
halting to look down on the wide valley, and the lake, and the distant
mountains beyond it. The scene was one of which he never wearied;
indeed, its familiarity had charms for him greater and higher than mere
picturesque beauty can bestow. Each humble cabin with its little family
was known to him; he was well read in the story of their lives; he had
mingled in all their hopes and fears from childhood to old age; and,
as the lights trembled through the dark night, and spangled the broad
expanse, he could bring before his mind's eye the humble hearths round
which they sat, and think he almost heard their voices. Now, he heeded
not these things, but steadily bent his steps towards home.

At last, the twinkle of a star-like light shewed that he was near his
journey's end. It shone from the deep shadow of a little glen, in
which his cabin stood. The seclusion of the spot was in Owen's eyes its
greatest charm. Like all men who have lived much alone, he set no common
store by the pleasures of solitude, and fancied that most if not all of
his happiness was derived from this source. At this moment his gratitude
was more than usual, as he muttered to himself, "Thank God for it! we've
a snug little place away from the sickness, and no house near us at
all;" and with this comforting reflection he drew near the cabin. The
door, contrary to custom at nightfall, lay open; and Owen, painfully
alive to any suspicious sign, from the state of anxiety his mind had
suffered, entered hastily.

"Father! where are you?" said he quickly, not seeing the old man in his
accustomed place beside the fire; but there was no answer. Laying the
child down, Owen passed into the little chamber which served as the
old man's bedroom, and where now he lay stretched upon the bed in his
clothes. "Are ye sick, father? What ails ye, father dear?" asked the
young man, as he took his hand in his own.

"I'm glad ye've come at last, Owen," replied his father feebly. "I've
got the sickness, and am going fast."

"No--no, father! don't be down-hearted!" cried Owen, with a desperate
effort to suggest the courage he did not feel; for the touch of the cold
wet hand had already told him the sad secret. "'Tis a turn ye have."

"Well, maybe so," said he, with a sigh; "but there's a cowld feeling
about my heart I never knew afore. Get me a warm drink, anyway."

While Owen prepared some cordial from the little store he usually
dispensed among the people, his father told him, that a boy from a sick
house had called at the cabin that morning to seek for Owen, and from
him, in all likelihood, he must have caught the malady. "I remember,"
said the old man, "that he was quite dark in the skin, and was weak in
his limbs as he walked."

"Ayeh!" muttered Owen, "av it was the 'disease' he had, sorra bit of
this mountain he'd ever get up. The strongest men can't lift a cup of
wather to their lips, when it's on them; but there's a great scarcity in
the glen, and maybe the boy eat nothing before he set out."

Although Owen's explanation was the correct one, it did not satisfy the
old man's mind, who, besides feeling convinced of his having the malady,
could not credit his taking it by other means than contagion. Owen never
quitted his side, and multiplied cares and attentions of every kind; but
it was plain the disease was gaining ground, for ere midnight the old
man's strength was greatly gone, and his voice sunk to a mere whisper.
Yet the malady was characterised by none of the symptoms of the
prevailing epidemic, save slight cramps, of which from time to time he
complained. His case seemed one of utter exhaustion. His mind was clear
and calm; and although unable to speak, except in short and broken
sentences, no trait of wandering intellect appeared. His malady was
a common one among those whose fears, greatly excited by the disease,
usually induced symptoms of prostration and debility, as great, if
not as rapid, as those of actual cholera. Meanwhile his thoughts were
alternately turning from his own condition to that of the people in the
glen, for whom he felt the deepest compassion. "God help them!" was his
constant expression. "Sickness is the sore thing; but starvation
makes it dreadful. And so Luke Clancy's dead! Poor ould Luke! he was
seventy-one in Michaelmas. And Martin, too! he was a fine man."

The old man slept, or seemed to sleep, for some hours, and on waking
it was clear daylight. "Owen, dear! I wish," said he, "I could see the
Priest; but you mustn't lave me: I couldn't bear that now."

Poor Owen's thoughts were that moment occupied on the same subject,
and he was torturing himself to think of any means of obtaining Father
John's assistance, without being obliged to go for him himself.

"I'll go, and be back here in an hour--ay, or less," said he, eagerly;
for terrible as death was to him, the thought of seeing his father die
unanointed, was still more so.

"In an hour--where'll I be in an hour, Owen dear? the blessed Virgin
knows well, it wasn't my fault--I'd have the Priest av I could--and
sure, Owen, you'll not begrudge me masses, when I'm gone. What's that?
It's like a child crying out there."

"'T'is poor Martin's little boy I took home with me--he's lost father
and mother this day;" and so saying, Owen hastened to see what ailed
the child. "Yer sarvent, sir," said Owen, as he perceived a stout-built,
coarse-looking man, with a bull-terrier at his heels, standing in the
middle of the floor; "Yer sarvent, sir. Who do ye want here?"

"Are you Owen Connor?" said the man, gruffly.

"That same," replied Owen, as sturdily.

"Then this is notice for you to come up to Mr. Lucas's office in Galway
before the twenty-fifth, with your rent, or the receipt for it, which
ever you like best."

"And who is Mr. Lucas when he's at home?" said Owen, half-sneeringly.

"You'll know him when you see him," rejoined the other, turning to leave
the cabin, as he threw a printed paper on the dresser; and then, as if
thinking he had not been formal enough in his mission, added, "Mr.
Lucas is agent to your landlord, Mr. Leslie; and I'll give you a bit of
advice, keep a civil tongue in your head with him, and it will do you no
harm."

This counsel, delivered much more in a tone of menace than of friendly
advice, concluded the interview, for having spoken, the fellow left the
cabin, and began to descend the mountain.

Owen's heart swelled fiercely--a flood of conflicting emotions were
warring within it; and as he turned to throw the paper into the fire,
his eye caught the date, 16th March. "St. Patrick's Eve, the very day
I saved his life," said he, bitterly. "Sure I knew well enough how it
would be when the landlord died! Well, well, if my poor ould father
doesn't know it, it's no matter.--Well, Patsy, acushla, what are ye
crying for? There, my boy, don't be afeard, 'tis Nony's with ye."

The accents so kindly uttered quieted the little fellow in a moment, and
in a few minutes after he was again asleep in the old straw chair beside
the fire. Brief as Owen's absence had been, the old man seemed much
worse as he entered the room. "God forgive me, Owen darling," said he,
"but it wasn't my poor sowl I was thinking of that minit. I was thinking
that you must get a letter wrote to the young landlord about this little
place--I'm sure he'll never say a word about rent, no more nor his
father; and as the times wasn't good lately--"

"There, there, father," interrupted Owen, who felt shocked at the old
man's not turning his thoughts in another direction; "never mind those
things," said he; "who knows which of us will be left? the sickness
doesn't spare the young, no more than the ould."

"Nor the rich, no more nor the poor," chimed in the old man, with a kind
of bitter satisfaction, as he thought on the landlord's death; for of
such incongruous motives is man made up, that calamities come lighter
when they involve the fall of those in station above our own. "'Tis
a fine day, seemingly," said he, suddenly changing the current of his
thoughts; "and elegant weather for the country; we'll have to turn in
the sheep over that wheat; it will be too rank: ayeh," cried he, with a
deep sigh, "I'll not be here to see it;" and for once, the emotions, no
dread of futurity could awaken, were realised by worldly considerations,
and the old man wept like a child.

"What time of the month is it?" asked he, after a long interval in which
neither spoke; for Owen was not really sorry that even thus painfully
the old man's thoughts should be turned towards eternity.

"'Tis the seventeenth, father, a holy-day all over Ireland!"

"Is there many at the 'station?'--look out at the door and see."

Owen ascended a little rising ground in front of the cabin, from which
the whole valley was visible; but except a group that followed a funeral
upon the road, he could see no human thing around. The green where the
"stations" were celebrated was totally deserted. There were neither
tents nor people; the panic of the plague had driven all ideas of
revelry from the minds of the most reckless; and, even to observe the
duties of religion, men feared to assemble in numbers. So long as the
misfortune was at a distance, they could mingle their prayers in common,
and entreat for mercy; but when death knocked at every door, the terror
became almost despair.

"Is the 'stations' going on?" asked the old man eagerly, as Owen
re-entered the room. "Is the people at the holy well?"

"I don't see many stirring at all, to-day," was the cautious answer; for
Owen scrupled to inflict any avoidable pain upon his mind.

"Lift me up, then!" cried he suddenly, and with a voice stronger, from
a violent effort of his will. "Lift me up to the window, till I see the
blessed cross; and maybe I'd get a prayer among them. Come, be quick,
Owen!"

Owen hastened to comply with his request; but already the old man's eyes
were glazed and filmy. The effort had but hastened the moment of his
doom; and, with a low faint sigh, he lay back, and died.

To the Irish peasantry, who, more than any other people of Europe, are
accustomed to bestow care and attention on the funerals of their friends
and relatives, the Cholera, in its necessity for speedy interment, was
increased in terrors tenfold. The honours which they were wont to lavish
on the dead--the ceremonial of the wake--the mingled merriment and
sorrow--the profusion with which they spent the hoarded gains of
hard-working labour--and lastly, the long train to the churchyard,
evidencing the respect entertained for the departed, should all be
foregone; for had not prudence forbid their assembling in numbers, and
thus incurring the chances of contagion, which, whether real or not,
they firmly believed in, the work of death was too widely disseminated
to make such gatherings possible. Each had some one to lament within the
limits of his own family, and private sorrow left little room for public
sympathy. No longer then was the road filled by people on horseback and
foot, as the funeral procession moved forth. The death-wail sounded
no more. To chant the _requiem_ of the departed, a few--a very
few--immediate friends followed the body to the grave, in silence
unbroken. Sad hearts, indeed, they brought, and broken spirits; for in
this season of pestilence few dared to hope.

By noon, Owen was seen descending the mountain to the village, to make
the last preparations for the old man's funeral. He carried little Patsy
in his arms; for he could not leave the poor child alone, and in the
house of death. The claims of infancy would seem never stronger than in
the heart sorrowing over death. The grief that carries the sufferer in
his mind's eye over the limits of this world, is arrested by the tender
ties which bind him to life in the young. There is besides a hopefulness
in early life--it is, perhaps, its chief characteristic--that combats
sorrow, better than all the caresses of friendship, and all the
consolations of age. Owen felt this now--he never knew it before. But
yesterday, and his father's death had left him without one in the world
on whom to fix a hope; and already, from his misery, there arose that
one gleam, that now twinkled like a star in the sky of midnight. The
little child he had taken for his own was a world to him; and as he
went, he prayed fervently that poor Patsy might be spared to him through
this terrible pestilence.

When Owen reached the carpenter's, there were several people there;
some, standing moodily brooding over recent bereavements; others, spoke
in low whispers, as if fearful of disturbing the silence; but all were
sorrow-struck and sad.

"How is the ould man, Owen?" said one of a group, as he came forward.

"He's better off than us, I trust in God!" said Owen, with a quivering
lip. "He went to rest this morning."

A muttered prayer from all around shewed how general was the feeling of
kindness entertained towards the Connors.

"When did he take it, Owen?"

"I don't know that he tuk it at all; but when I came home last night he
was lying on the bed, weak and powerless, and he slept away, with scarce
a pain, till daybreak; then--"

"He's in glory now, I pray God!" muttered an old man with a white beard.
"We were born in the same year, and I knew him since I was a child, like
that in your arms; and a good man he was."

"Whose is the child, Owen?" said another in the crowd.

"Martin Neale's," whispered Owen; for he feared that the little fellow
might catch the words. "What's the matter with Miles? he looks very low
this morning."

This question referred to a large powerful-looking man, who, with a
smith's apron twisted round his waist, sat without speaking in a corner
of the shop.

"I'm afeard he's in a bad way," whispered the man to whom he spoke.
"There was a process-server, or a bailiff, or something of the kind,
serving notices through the townland yesterday, and he lost a shoe off
his baste, and would have Miles out, to put it on, tho' we all tould him
that he buried his daughter--a fine grown girl--that mornin'. And what
does the fellow do, but goes and knocks at the forge till Miles comes
out. You know Miles Regan, so I needn't say there wasn't many words
passed between them. In less nor two minutes--whatever the bailiff
said--Miles tuck him by the throat, and pulled him down from the horse,
and dragged him along to the lake, and flung him in. 'Twas the Lord's
marcy he knew how to swim; but we don't know what'll be done to Miles
yet, for he was the new agent's man."

"Was he a big fellow, with a bull-dog following him?" asked Owen.

"No; that's another; sure there's three or four of them goin' about. We
hear, that bad as ould French was, the new one is worse."

"Well--well, it's the will of God!" said Owen, in that tone of
voice which bespoke a willingness for all endurance, so long as the
consolation remained, that the ill was not unrecorded above; while he
felt that all the evils of poverty were little in comparison with the
loss of those nearest and dearest. "Come, Patsy, my boy!" said he at
last, as he placed the coffin in the ass-cart, and turned towards the
mountain; and, leading the little fellow by the hand, he set out on his
way--"Come home."

It was not until he arrived at that part of the road from which the
cabin was visible, that Owen knew the whole extent of his bereavement;
then, when he looked up and saw the door hasped on the outside, and
the chimney from which no smoke ascended, the full measure of his lone
condition came at once before him, and he bent over the coffin and wept
bitterly. All the old man's affection for him, his kind indulgence and
forbearance, his happy nature, his simple-heartedness, gushed forth from
his memory, and he wondered why he had not loved his father, in life,
a thousand times more, so deeply was he now penetrated by his loss. If
this theme did not assuage his sorrows, it at least so moulded his heart
as to bear them in a better spirit; and when, having placed the body in
the coffin, he knelt down beside it to pray, it was in a calmer and more
submissive frame of mind than he had yet known.

It was late in the afternoon ere Owen was once more on the road down
the mountain; for it was necessary--or at least believed so--that the
internment should take place on the day of death.

"I never thought it would be this way you'd go to your last home, father
dear," said Owen aloud and in a voice almost stifled with sobs; for the
absence of all his friends and relatives at such a moment, now smote
on the poor fellow's heart, as he walked beside the little cart on which
the coffin was laid. It was indeed a sight to move a sterner nature than
his: the coffin, not reverently carried by bearers, and followed by its
long train of mourners, but laid slant-wise in the cart, the spade and
shovel to dig the grave beside it, and Patsy seated on the back of the
ass, watching with infant glee the motion of the animal, as with careful
foot he descended the rugged mountain. Poor child! how your guileless
laughter shook that strong man's heart with agony!

[Illustration: 120]

It was a long and weary way to the old churchyard. The narrow road,
too, was deeply rutted and worn by wheel-tracks; for, alas, it had been
trodden by many, of late. The grey daylight was fast fading as Owen
pushed wide the old gate and entered. What a change to his eyes did the
aspect of the place present! The green mounds of earth which marked
the resting-place of village patriarchs, were gone; and heaps of
fresh-turned clay were seen on every side, no longer decorated, as of
old, with little emblems of affectionate sorrow; no tree, nor stone,
not even a wild flower, spoke of the regrets of those who remained. The
graves were rudely fashioned, as if in haste--for so it was--few dared
to linger there!

Seeking out a lone spot near the ruins, Owen began to dig the grave,
while the little child, in mute astonishment at all he saw, looked on.

"Why wouldn't you stay out in the road, Patsy, and play there, till I
come to you? This is a cowld damp place for you, my boy."

"Nony! Nony!" cried the child, looking at him with an affectionate
smile, as though to say he'd rather be near him.

"Well, well, who knows but you're right? if it's the will of God to take
me, maybe you might as well go too. It's a sore thing to be alone in
the world, like me now!" And as he muttered the last few words he ceased
digging, and rested his head on the cross of the spade.

"Was that you, Patsy? I heard a voice somewhere."

The child shook his head in token of dissent.

"Ayeh! it was only the wind through the ould walls; but sure it might
be nat'ral enough for sighs and sobs to be here: there's many a one has
floated over this damp clay."

He resumed his work once more. The night was falling fast as Owen
stepped from the deep grave, and knelt down to say a prayer ere he
committed the body to the earth.

"Kneel down, darlin', here by my side," said he, placing his arm round
the little fellow's waist; "'tis the likes of you God loves best;"
and joining the tiny hands with his own, he uttered a deep and fervent
prayer for the soul of the departed. "There, father!" said he, as he
arose at last, and in a voice as if addressing a living person at his
side; "there, father: the Lord, he knows my heart inside me; and if
walking the world barefoot would give ye peace or ease, I'd do it, for
you were a kind man and a good father to me." He kissed the coffin as he
spoke, and stood silently gazing on it.

Arousing himself with a kind of struggle, he untied the cords, and
lifted the coffin from the cart. For some seconds he busied himself in
arranging the ropes beneath it, and then ceased suddenly, on remembering
that he could not lower it into the grave unassisted.

"I'll have to go down the road for some one," muttered he to himself;
but as he said this, he perceived at some distance off in the churchyard
the figure of a man, as if kneeling over a grave. "The Lord help him, he
has his grief too!" ejaculated Owen, as he moved towards him. On coming
nearer he perceived that the grave was newly made, and from its size
evidently that of a child.

"I ax your pardon," said Owen, in a timid voice, after waiting for
several minutes in the vain expectation that the man would look up; "I
ax your pardon for disturbing you, but maybe you'll be kind enough to
help me to lay this coffin in the ground. I have nobody with me but a
child."

The man started and looked round. Their eyes met; it was Phil Joyce and
Owen who now confronted each other. But how unlike were both to what
they were at their last parting! Then, vindictive passion, outraged
pride, and vengeance, swelled every feature and tingled in every fibre
of their frames. Now, each stood pale, care-worn, and dispirited,
wearied out by sorrow, and almost brokenhearted. Owen was the first to
speak.

"I axed your pardon before I saw you, Phil Joyce, and I ax it again now,
for disturbing you; but I didn't know you, and I wanted to put my poor
father's body in the grave."

"I didn't know he was dead," said Phil, in a hollow voice, like one
speaking to himself. "This is poor little Billy here," and he pointed to
the mound at his feet.

"The heavens be his bed this night!" said Owen, piously; "Good night!"
and he turned to go away; then stopping suddenly, he added, "Maybe,
after all, you'll not refuse me, and the Lord might be more merciful to
us both, than if we were to part like enemies."

"Owen Connor, I ask your forgiveness," said Phil, stretching forth his
hand, while his voice trembled like a sick child's. "I didn't think the
day would come I'd ever do it; but my heart is humble enough now, and
maybe 'twill be lower soon. Will you take my hand?"

"Will I, Phil? will I, is it? ay, and however ye may change to me after
this night, I'll never forget this." And he grasped the cold fingers in
both hands, and pressed them ardently, and the two men fell into each
other's arms and wept.

Is it a proud or a humiliating confession for humanity--assuredly it is
a true one--that the finest and best traits of our nature are elicited
in our troubles, and not in our joys? that we come out purer through
trials than prosperity? Does the chastisement of Heaven teach us better
than the blessings lavished upon us? or are these gifts the compensation
sent us for our afflictions, that when poorest before man we should
be richest before God? Few hearts there are which sorrow makes not
wiser--none which are not better for it. So it was here. These men,
in the continuance of good fortune, had been enemies for life; mutual
hatred had grown up between them, so that each yearned for vengeance on
the other; and now they walked like brothers, only seeking forgiveness
of each other, and asking pardon for the past.

The old man was laid in his grave, and they turned to leave the
churchyard.

"Won't ye come home with me, Owen?" said Phil, as they came to where
their roads separated; "won't ye come and eat your supper with us?"

Owen's throat filled up: he could only mutter, "Not to-night,
Phil--another time, plaze God." He had not ventured even to ask for
Mary, nor did he know whether Phil Joyce in his reconciliation might
wish a renewal of any intimacy with his sister. Such was the reason of
Owen's refusal; for, however strange it may seem to some, there is a
delicacy of the heart as well as of good breeding, and one advantage it
possesses--it is of all lands, and the fashion never changes.

Poor Owen would have shed his best blood to be able to ask after
Mary--to learn how she was, and how she bore up under the disasters of
the time; but he never mentioned her name: and as for Phil Joyce, his
gloomy thoughts had left no room for others, and he parted from Owen
without a single allusion to her. "Good night, Owen," said he, "and don't
forget your promise to come and see us soon."

"Good night, Phil," was the answer; "and I pray a blessing on you and
yours." A slight quivering of the voice at the last word was all he
suffered to escape him; and they parted.



[Illustration: 128]



THIRD ERA

From that day, the pestilence began to abate in violence. The cases of
disease became fewer and less fatal; and at last, like a spent bolt, the
malady ceased to work its mischief. Men were slow enough to recognise
this bettered aspect of their fortune. Calamity had weighed too heavily
on them to make them rally at once. They still walked like those who
felt the shadow of death upon them, and were fearful lest any imprudent
act or word might bring back the plague among them.

With time, however, these features passed off: people gradually resumed
their wonted habits; and, except where the work of death had been more
than ordinarily destructive, the malady was now treated as "a thing that
had been."

If Owen Connor had not escaped the common misfortune of the land,
he could at least date one happy event from that sad period--his
reconciliation with Phil Joyce. This was no passing friendship. The
dreadful scenes he had witnessed about him had made Phil an altered
character. The devotion of Owen--his manly indifference to personal
risk whenever his services were wanted by another--his unsparing
benevolence,--all these traits, the mention of which at first only
irritated and vexed his soul, were now remembered in the day of
reconciliation; and none felt prouder to acknowledge his friendship than
his former enemy.

Notwithstanding all this, Owen did not dare to found a hope upon his
change of fortune; for Mary was even more distant and cold to him than
ever, as though to shew that, whatever expectations he might conceive
from her brother's friendship, he should not reckon too confidently on
her feelings. Owen knew not how far he had himself to blame for this; he
was not aware that his own constrained manner, his over-acted reserve,
had offended Mary to the quick; and thus, both mutually retreated in
misconception and distrust. The game of love is the same, whether the
players be clad in velvet or in hodden grey. Beneath the gilded ceilings
of a palace, or the lowly rafters of a cabin, there are the same hopes
and fears, the same jealousies, and distrusts, and despondings; the
wiles and stratagems are all alike; for, after all, the stake is human
happiness, whether he who risks it be a peer or a peasant! While Owen
vacillated between hope and fear, now, resolving to hazard an avowal
of his love and take his stand on the result, now, deeming it better to
trust to time and longer intimacy, other events were happening around,
which could not fail to interest him deeply. The new agent had commenced
his campaign with an activity before unknown. Arrears of rent were
demanded to be peremptorily paid up; leases, whose exact conditions had
not been fulfilled, were declared void; tenants occupying sub-let
land were noticed to quit; and all the threatening signs of that rigid
management displayed, by which an estate is assumed to be "admirably
regulated," and the agent's duty most creditably discharged.

Many of the arrears were concessions made by the landlord in seasons of
hardship and distress, but were unrecorded as such in the rent-roll or
the tenant's receipt. There had been no intention of ever redemanding
them; and both parties had lost sight of the transaction until the sharp
glance of a "new agent" discovered their existence. So of the leases:
covenants to build, or plant, or drain, were inserted rather as
contingencies, which prosperity might empower, than as actual conditions
essential to be fulfilled; and as for sub-letting, it was simply the act
by which a son or a daughter was portioned in the world, and enabled to
commence the work of self-maintenance.

This slovenly system inflicted many evils. The demand of an extravagant
rent rendered an abatement not a boon, but an act of imperative
necessity; and while the overhanging debt supplied the landlord with a
means of tyranny, it deprived the tenant of all desire to improve his
condition. "Why should I labour," said he, "when the benefit never can
be mine?" The landlord then declaimed against ingratitude, at the time
that the peasant spoke against oppression. Could they both be right? The
impossibility of ever becoming independent soon suggested that dogged
indifference, too often confounded with indolent habits. Sustenance was
enough for him, who, if he earned more, should surrender it; hence the
poor man became chained to his poverty. It was a weight which grew with
his strength; privations might as well be incurred with little labour as
with great; and he sunk down to the condition of a mere drudge, careless
and despondent. "He can only take all I have!" was the cottier's
philosophy; and the maxim suggested a corollary, that the "all" should
be as little as might be.

But there were other grievances flowing from this source. The extent of
these abatements usually depended on the representation of the tenants
themselves, and such evidences as they could produce of their poverty
and destitution. Hence a whole world of falsehood and dissimulation was
fostered. Cabins were suffered to stand half-roofed; children left to
shiver in rags and nakedness; age and infirmity exhibited in attitudes
of afflicting privation; habits of mendicity encouraged;--all, that
they might impose upon the proprietor, and make him believe that any
sum wrung from such as these must be an act of cruelty. If these schemes
were sometimes successful, so in their failure they fell as heavy
penalties upon the really destitute, for whose privations no pity was
felt. Their misery, confounded in the general mass of dissimulation, was
neglected; and for one who prospered in his falsehood, many were visited
in their affliction.

That men in such circumstances as these should listen with greedy
ears to any representation which reflected heavily on their wealthier
neighbours, is little to be wondered at. The triumph of knavery and
falsehood is a bad lesson for any people; but the fruitlessness of
honest industry is, if possible, a worse one. Both were well taught by
this system. And these things took place, not, be it observed, when the
landlord or his agent were cruel and exacting--very far from it.
They were the instances so popularly expatiated on by newspapers and
journals; they were the cases headed--"Example for Landlords!" "Timely
Benevolence!" and paragraphed thus:--"We learn, with the greatest
pleasure, that Mr. Muldrennin, of Kilbally-drennin, has, in
consideration of the failure of the potato-crop, and the severe pressure
of the season, kindly abated five per cent of all his rents. Let this
admirable example be generally followed, and we shall once more see,"
&c. &c. There was no explanatory note to state the actual condition of
that tenantry, or the amount of that rent from which the deduction was
made. Mr. Muldrennin was then free to run his career of active puffery
throughout the kingdom, and his tenantry to starve on as before.

Of all worldly judgments there is one that never fails. No man was
ever instrumental, either actively or through neglect, to another's
demoralisation, that he was not made to feel the recoil of his conduct
on himself. Such had been palpably the result here. The confidence of
the people lost, they had taken to themselves the only advisers in their
power, and taught themselves to suppose that relief can only be effected
by legislative enactments, or their own efforts. This lesson once
learned, and they were politicians for life. The consequence has
been, isolation from him to whom once all respect and attachment were
rendered; distrust and dislike follow--would that the catalogue went no
further!

And again to our story. Owen was at last reminded, by the conversation
of those about, that he too had received a summons from the new agent to
attend at his office in Galway--a visit which, somehow or other, he had
at first totally neglected; and, as the summons was not repeated,
he finally supposed had been withdrawn by the agent, on learning the
condition of his holding. As September drew to a close, however, he
accompanied Phil Joyce on his way to Galway, prepared, if need be, to
pay the half-year's rent, but ardently hoping the while it might never
be demanded. It was a happy morning for poor Owen--the happiest of
his whole life. He had gone over early to breakfast at Joyce's, and on
reaching the house found Mary alone, getting ready the meal. Their usual
distance in manner continued for some time; each talked of what their
thoughts were least occupied on; and at last, after many a look from the
window to see if Phil was coming, and wondering why he did not arrive,
Owen drew a heavy sigh and said, "It's no use, Mary; divil a longer I
can be suffering this way; take me or refuse me you must this morning!
I know well enough you don't care for me; but if ye don't like any one
else better, who knows but in time, and with God's blessin', but ye'll
be as fond of me, as I am of you?"

"And who told ye I didn't like some one else?" said Mary, with a sly
glance; and her handsome features brightened up with a more than common
brilliancy.

"The heavens make him good enough to desarve ye, I pray this day!" said
Owen, with a trembling lip. "I'll go now! that's enough!"

"Won't ye wait for yer breakfast, Owen Connor? Won't ye stay a bit for
my brother?"

"No, thank ye, ma'am. I'll not go into Galway to-day."

"Well, but don't go without your breakfast. Take a cup of tay anyhow,
Owen dear!"

"Owen dear! O Mary, jewel! don't say them words, and I laving you for
ever."

The young girl blushed deeply and turned away her head, but her
crimsoned neck shewed that her shame was not departed. At the moment,
Phil burst into the room, and standing for a second with his eyes fixed
on each in turn, he said, "Bad scran to ye, for women; but there's
nothing but decate and wickedness in ye; divil a peace or ease I ever
got when I quarrelled with Owen, and now that we're friends, ye're as
cross and discontented as ever. Try what you can do with her yourself,
Owen, my boy; for I give her up."

"'Tis not for me to thry it," said Owen, despondingly; "'tis another has
the betther luck."

"That's not true, anyhow," cried Phil; "for she told me so herself."

"What! Mary, did ye say that?" said Owen, with a spring across the room;
"did ye tell him that, darling?"

"Sure if I did, ye wouldn't believe me," said Mary, with a side-look;
"women is nothing but deceit and wickedness."

"Sorra else," cried Owen, throwing his arm round her neck and kissing
her; "and I'll never believe ye again, when ye say ye don't love me."

"'Tis a nice way to boil the eggs hard," said Phil, testily; "arrah,
come over here and eat your breakfast, man; you'll have time enough for
courting when we come back."

[Illustration: 138]

There needed not many words to a bargain which was already ratified; and
before they left the house, the day of the wedding was actually fixed.

It was not without reason, then, that I said it was a happy day for
Owen. Never did the long miles of the road seem so short as now; while,
with many a plan for the future, and many a day-dream of happiness to
come, he went at Phil's side scarce crediting his good fortune to be
real.

When they arrived at the agent's office in the square at Galway, they
found a great many of their neighbours and friends already there;
some, moody and depressed, yet lingered about the door, though they
had apparently finished the business which brought them; others,
anxious-looking and troubled, were waiting for their turn to enter. They
were all gathered into little groups and parties, conversing eagerly
together in Irish; and as each came out of the office, he was speedily
surrounded by several others, questioning him as to how he had fared,
and what success he met with.

Few came forth satisfied--not one happy-looking. Some, who were
deficient a few shillings, were sent back again, and appeared with the
money still in their hands, which they counted over and over, as
if hoping to make it more. Others, trusting to promptitude in their
payments, were seeking renewal of their tenures at the same rent, and
found their requests coldly received, and no pledge returned. Others,
again, met with severe reproaches as to the condition of their dwellings
and the neglected appearance of their farms, with significant hints that
slovenly tenants would meet with little favour, and, although pleading
sickness and distress, found the apology hut slightly regarded.

"We thought the ould agent bad enough; but, faix, this one bates him
out, entirely." Such was the comment of each and all, at the treatment
met with, and such the general testimony of the crowd.

"Owen Connor! Owen Connor!" called out a voice, which Owen in a moment
recognised as that of the fellow who had visited his cabin; and passing
through the densely crowded hall, Owen forced his way into the small
front parlour, where two clerks were seated at a table, writing.

"Over here; this way, if you please," said one of them, pointing with
his pen to the place he should stand in. "What's your name?"

"Owen Connor, sir."

"What's the name of your holding?"

"Ballydorery, Knockshaughlin, and Cushaglin, is the townlands, and the
mountain is Slieve-na-vick, sir."

"Owen Connor, Owen Connor," said the clerk, repeating the name three or
four times over. "Oh, I remember; there has been no rent paid on your
farm for some years.''

"You're right there, sir," said Owen; "the landlord, God be good to him!
tould my poor father--"

"Well, well, I have nothing to do with that--step inside--Mr. Lucas
will speak to you himself;--shew this man inside, Luffey;" and the grim
bailiff led the way into the back parlour, where two gentlemen were
standing with their backs to the fire, chatting; they were both young
and good-looking, and, to Owen's eyes, as unlike agents as could be. .

"Well, what does this honest fellow want?--no abatement, I hope; a
fellow with as good a coat as you have, can't be very ill off."

"True for you, yer honor, and I am not," said Owen in reply to the
speaker, who seemed a few years younger than the other. "_I_ was bid
spake to yer honor about the little place I have up the mountains, and
that Mr. Leslie gave my father rent-free--"

"Oh, you are the man from Maam, an't you?"

"The same, sir; Owen Connor."

"That's the mountain I told you of, Major," said Lucas in a whisper;
then, turning to Owen, resumed: "Well, I wished to see you very much,
and speak to you. I've heard the story about your getting the land
rent-free, and all that; but I find no mention of the matter in the
books of the estate; there is not the slightest note nor memorandum that
I can see, on the subject; and except your own word--which of course, as
far as it goes, is all very well--I have nothing in your favour."

While these words were being spoken, Owen went through a thousand
tortures; and many a deep conflicting passion warred within him. "Well,
sir," said he at last, with a heavily drawn sigh, "well, sir, with God's
blessin', I'll do my best; and whatever your honour says is fair, I'll
thry and pay it: I suppose I'm undher rent since March last?"

"March! why, my good fellow, there's six years due last twenty-fifth;
what are you thinking of?"

"Sure you don't mean I'm to pay, for what was given to me and my
father?" said Owen, with a wild look that almost startled the agent.

"I mean precisely what I say," said Lucas, reddening with anger at the
tone Owen assumed. "I mean that you owe six years and a half of rent;
for which, if you neither produce receipt nor money, you'll never owe
another half year for the same holding."

"And that's flat!" said the Major, laughing.

"And that's flat!" echoed Lucas, joining in the mirth.

Owen looked from one to the other of the speakers, and although never
indisposed to enjoy a jest, he could not, for the life of him, conceive
what possible occasion for merriment existed at the present moment.

"Plenty of grouse on that mountain, an't there?" said the Major, tapping
his boot with his cane.

But, although the question was addressed to Owen, he was too deeply sunk
in his own sad musings to pay it any attention.

"Don't you hear, my good fellow? Major Lynedoch asks, if there are not
plenty of grouse on the mountain."

"Did the present landlord say that I was to pay this back rent?" said
Owen deliberately, after a moment of deep thought.

"Mr. Leslie never gave me any particular instructions on your account,"
said Lucas smiling; "nor do I suppose that his intentions regarding you
are different from those respecting other tenants."

[Illustration: 144]

"I saved his life, then!" said Owen; and his eyes flashed with
indignation as he spoke.

"And you saved a devilish good fellow, I can tell you," said the
Major, smiling complacently, as though to hint that the act was a very
sufficient reward for its own performance.

"The sorra much chance he had of coming to the property that day,
anyhow, till I came up," said Owen, in a half soliloquy.

"What! were the savages about to scalp him? Eh!" asked the Major.

Owen turned a scowl towards him that stopped the already-begun laugh;
while Lucas, amazed at the peasant's effrontery, said, "You needn't wait
any longer, my good fellow; I have nothing more to say."

"I was going to ask yer honner, sir," said Owen, civilly, "if I paid
the last half-year--I have it with me--if ye'll let me stay in the place
till ye'll ask Mr. Leslie--"

"But you forget, my friend, that a receipt for the last half-year is a
receipt in full," said Lucas, interrupting.

"Sure; I don't want the receipt!" said Owen hurriedly; "keep it
yourself. It isn't mistrusting the word of a gentleman I'd be."

"Eh, Lucas! blarney! I say, blarney, and no mistake!" cried the Major,
half-suffocated with his own drollery.

"By my sowl! it's little blarney I'd give you, av I had ye at the side
of Slieve-na-vick," said Owen; and the look he threw towards him left
little doubt of his sincerity.

"Leave the room, sir! leave the room!" said Lucas, with a gesture
towards the door.

"Dare I ax you where Mr. Leslie is now, sir?" said Owen, calmly.

"He's in London: No. 18 Belgrave Square."

"Would yer honour be so kind as to write it on a bit of paper for me?"
said Owen, almost obsequiously.

Lucas sat down and wrote the address upon a card, handing it to Owen
without a word.

"I humbly ax yer pardon, gentlemen, if I was rude to either of ye," said
Owen, with a bow, as he moved towards the door; "but distress of mind
doesn't improve a man's manners, if even he had more nor I have; but if
I get the little place yet, and that ye care for a day's sport--"

"Eh, damme, you're not so bad, after all," said the Major: "I say,
Lucas--is he, now?"

"Your servant, gentlemen," said Owen, who felt too indignant at the
cool insolence with which his generous proposal was accepted, to trust
himself with more; and with that, he left the room.

"Well, Owen, my boy," said Phil, who long since having paid his own
rent, was becoming impatient at his friend's absence; "well, Owen, ye
might have settled about the whole estate by this time. Why did they
keep you so long?"

In a voice tremulous with agitation, Owen repeated the result of his
interview, adding, as he concluded, "And now, there's nothing for it,
Phil, but to see the landlord himself, and spake to him. I've got the
name of the place he's in, here--it's somewhere in London; and I'll
never turn my steps to home, before I get a sight of him. I've the
half-year's rent here in my pocket, so that I'll have money enough, and
to spare; and I only ax ye, Phil, to tell Mary how the whole case is,
and to take care of little Patsy for me till I come back--he's at your
house now."

"Never fear, we'll take care of him, Owen; and I believe you're doing
the best thing, after all."

The two friends passed the evening together, at least until the
time arrived, when Owen took his departure by the mail. It was a sad
termination to a day which opened so joyfully, and not all Phil's
endeavours to rally and encourage his friend could dispossess Owen's
mind of a gloomy foreboding that it was but the beginning of misfortune.
"I have it over me," was his constant expression as they talked; "I have
it over me, that something bad will come out of this;" and although
his fears were vague and indescribable, they darkened his thoughts as
effectually as real evils.

The last moment came, and Phil, with a hearty '"God speed you," shook
his friend's hand, and he was gone.

It would but protract my story, without fulfilling any of its objects,
to speak of Owen's journey to England and on to London. It was a season
of great distress in the manufacturing districts; several large
failures had occurred--great stagnation of trade existed, and a general
depression was observable over the population of the great trading
cities. There were daily meetings to consider the condition of the
working classes, and the newspapers were crammed with speeches and
resolutions in their favour. Placards were carried about the streets,
with terrible announcements of distress and privation, and processions
of wretched-looking men were met with on every side.

Owen, who, from motives of economy, prosecuted his journey on foot,
had frequent opportunities of entering the dwellings of the poor, and
observing their habits and modes of life. The everlasting complaints of
suffering and want rung in his ears from morning till night; and yet, to
his unaccustomed eyes, the evidences betrayed few, if any, of the evils
of great poverty. The majority were not without bread--the very poorest
had a sufficiency of potatoes. Their dwellings were neat-looking and
comfortable, and, in comparison with what he was used to, actually
luxurious. Neither were their clothes like the ragged and tattered
coverings Owen had seen at home. The fustian jackets of the men were
generally whole and well cared for; but the children more than all
struck him. In Ireland, the young are usually the first to feel the
pressure of hardship--their scanty clothing rather the requirement of
decency, than a protection against weather: here, the children were
cleanly and comfortably dressed--none were in rags, few without shoes
and stockings.

What could such people mean by talking of distress, Owen could by no
means comprehend. "I wish we had a little of this kind of poverty in
ould Ireland!" was the constant theme of his thoughts. "'Tis little
they know what distress is! Faix, I wondher what they'd say if they saw
Connemarra?" And yet, the privations they endured were such as had not
been known for many years previous. Their sufferings were really
great, and the interval between their ordinary habits as wide, as
ever presented itself in the fortunes of the poor Irishman's life.
But poverty, after all, is merely relative; and they felt that as
"starvation" which Paddy would hail as a season of blessing and
abundance.

"With a fine slated house over them, and plenty of furniture inside, and
warm clothes, and enough to eat,--that's what they call distress! Musha!
I'd like to see them, when they think they're comfortable," thought
Owen, who at last lost all patience with such undeserved complainings,
and could with difficulty restrain himself from an open attack on their
injustice.

He arrived in London at last, and the same evening hastened to Belgrave
Square; for his thoughts were now, as his journey drew to a close,
painfully excited at the near prospect of seeing his landlord. He found
the house without difficulty: it was a splendid town-mansion, well
befitting a man of large fortune; and Owen experienced an Irishman's
gratification in the spacious and handsome building he saw before him.
He knocked, at first timidly, and then, as no answer was returned, more
boldly; but it was not before a third summons that the door was opened;
and an old mean-looking woman asked him what he wanted.

"I want to see the masther, ma'am, av it's plazing to ye!" said Owen,
leaning against the door-jamb as he spoke.

"The master? What do you mean?"

"Mr. Leslie himself, the landlord."

"Mr. Leslie is abroad--in Italy."

"Abroad! abroad!" echoed Owen, while a sickly faint-ness spread itself
through his frame. "He's not out of England, is he?"

"I've told you he's in Italy, my good man."

"Erra! where's that at all?" cried Owen, despairingly.

"I'm sure I don't know; but I can give you the address, if you want it."

"No, thank ye, ma'am--it's too late for that, now," said he. The old
woman closed the door, and the poor fellow sat down upon the steps,
overcome by this sad and unlooked-for result.

It was evening. The streets were crowded with people,--some on foot,
some on horseback and in carriages. The glare of splendid equipages,
the glittering of wealth--the great human tide rolled past, unnoticed by
Owen, for his own sorrows filled his whole heart.

Men in all their worldliness,--some, on errands of pleasure, some,
care-worn and thoughtful, some, brimful of expectation, and others,
downcast and dejected, moved past: scarcely one remarked that poor
peasant, whose travelled and tired look, equally with his humble dress,
bespoke one who came from afar.

"Well, God help me, what's best for me to do now?" said Owen Connor, as
he sat ruminating on his fortune; and, unable to find any answer to his
own question, he arose and walked slowly along, not knowing nor caring
whither.

There is no such desolation as that of a large and crowded city to him,
who, friendless and alone, finds himself a wanderer within its walls.
The man of education and taste looks around him for objects of interest
or amusement, yet saddened by the thought that he is cut off from all
intercourse with his fellow-men; but, to the poor unlettered stranger,
how doubly depressing are all these things! Far from speculating on the
wealth and prosperity around him, he feels crushed and humiliated in its
presence. His own humble condition appears even more lowly in contrast
with such evidences of splendour; and instinctively he retreats from the
regions where fashion, and rank, and riches abound, to the gloomy abodes
of less-favoured fortunes.

When Owen awoke the following morning, and looked about him in the
humble lodging he had selected, he could scarcely believe that already
the end of his long journey had been met by failure. Again and again he
endeavoured to remember if he had seen his landlord, and what reply he
had received; but except a vague sense of disappointment, he could fix
on nothing. It was only as he drew near the great mansion once more,
that he could thoroughly recollect all that had happened; and then,
the truth flashed on his mind, and he felt all the bitterness of his
misfortune. I need not dwell on this theme. The poor man turned again
homeward; why, he could not well have answered, had any been cruel
enough to ask him. The hope that buoyed him up before, now spent and
exhausted, his step was slow and his heart heavy, while his mind, racked
with anxieties and dreads, increased his bodily debility, and made each
mile of the way seem ten.

On the fourth day of his journey--wet through from morning till late in
the evening--he was seized with a shivering-fit, followed soon after by
symptoms of fever. The people in whose house he had taken shelter for
the night, had him at once conveyed to the infirmary, where for eight
weeks he lay dangerously ill; a relapse of his malady, on the day before
he was to be pronounced convalescent, occurred, and the third month was
nigh its close, ere Owen left the hospital.

It was more than a week ere he could proceed on his journey, which
he did at last, moving only a few miles each day, and halting before
nightfall. Thus wearily plodding on, he reached Liverpool at last, and
about the middle of January arrived in his native country once more.

His strength regained, his bodily vigour restored, he had made a long
day's journey to reach home, and it was about ten o'clock of a bright
and starry night that he crossed the mountains that lie between
Ballinrobe and Maam. To Owen, the separation from his home seemed like
a thing of years long; and his heart was full to bursting as each
well-remembered spot appeared, bringing back a thousand associations of
his former life. As he strode along he stopped frequently to look down
towards the village, where, in each light that twinkled, he could
mark the different cabins of his old friends. At length, the long low
farmhouse of the Joyces came into view--he could trace it by the line
of light that glittered from every window--and from this, Owen could not
easily tear himself away. Muttering a heartfelt prayer for those beneath
that roof, he at last moved on, and near midnight gained the little glen
where his cabin stood. Scarcely, however, had he reached the spot, when
the fierce challenge of a dog attracted him. It was not his own poor
colley--he knew his voice well--and Owen's blood ran chilly at the sound
of that strange bark. He walked on, however, resolutely grasping his
stick in his hand, and suddenly, as he turned the angle of the cliff,
there stood his cabin, with a light gleaming from the little window.

"'Tis Phil Joyce maybe has put somebody in, to take care of the place,"
said he; but his fears gave no credence to the surmise.

Again the dog challenged, and at the same moment the door was opened,
and a man's voice called out, "Who comes there?" The glare of the fire
at his back shewed that he held a musket in his hand.

"'Tis me, Owen Connor," answered Owen, half sulkily, for he felt that
indescribable annoyance a man will experience at any question, as to his
approaching his own dwelling, even though in incognito.

"Stay back, then," cried the other; "if you advance another step, I'll
send a bullet through you."

"Send a bullet through me!" cried Owen, scornfully, yet even more
astonished than indignant. "Why, isn't a man to be let go to his own
house, without being fired at?"

"I'll be as good as my word," said the fellow; and as he spoke, Owen saw
him lift the gun to his shoulder and steadily hold it there. "Move one
step now, and you'll see if I'm not."

Owen's first impulse was to rush forward at any hazard, and if not
wounded, to grapple with his adversary; but he reflected for a second
that some great change must have occurred in his absence, which, in all
likelihood, no act of daring on his part could avert or alter. "I'll
wait for morning, anyhow," thought he; and without another word, or
deigning any answer to the other, he slowly turned, and retraced his
steps down the mountain.

There was a small mud hovel at the foot of the mountain, where Owen
determined to pass the night. The old man who lived there, had been a
herd formerly, but age and rheumatism had left him a cripple, and he now
lived on the charity of the neighbours.

"Poor Larry! I don't half like disturbing ye," said Owen, as he arrived
at the miserable contrivance of wattles that served for a door; but
the chill night air, and his weary feet decided the difficulty, and he
called out, "Larry--Larry Daly! open the door for me--Owen Connor. 'Tis
me!"

The old man slept with the light slumber of age, and despite the
consequences of his malady, managed to hobble to the door in a few
seconds. "Oh! wirra, wirra! Owen, my son!" cried he, in Irish; "I hoped
I'd never see ye here again--my own darlin'."

"That's a dhroll welcome, anyhow, Larry, for a man coming back among his
own people."

"'Tis a thrue one, as sure as I live in sin. The Lord help us, this is
bad fortune."

"What do you mean, Larry? What did I ever do to disgrace my name, that I
wouldn't come back here?"

"'Tisn't what ye done, honey, but what's done upon ye. Oh, wirra, wirra;
'tis a black day that led ye home here."

It was some time before Owen could induce the old man to moderate his
sorrows, and relate the events which had occurred in his absence. I will
not weary my reader by retailing the old man's prolixity, but tell them
in the fewest words I am able, premising, that I must accompany the
narrative by such explanations as I may feel necessary.

Soon after Owen's departure for England, certain disturbances occurred
through the country. The houses of the gentry were broken open at
night and searched for arms by men with blackened faces and in various
disguises to escape recognition. Threatening notices were served on many
of the resident families, menacing them with the worst if they did not
speedily comply with certain conditions, either in the discharge of some
obnoxious individuals from their employment, or the restoration of some
plot of ground to its former holder. Awful denunciations were uttered
against any who should dare to occupy land from which a former tenant
was ejected; and so terrible was the vengeance exacted, and so sudden
its execution, that few dared to transgress the orders of these savage
denunciators. The law of the land seemed to stand still, justice
appeared appalled and affrighted, by acts which bespoke deep and
wide-spread conspiracy. The magistrates assembled to deliberate on what
was to be done; and the only one who ventured to propose a bold and
vigorous course of acting was murdered on his way homeward. Meanwhile,
Mr. Lucas, whose stern exactions had given great discontent, seemed
determined to carry through his measures at any risk. By influence with
the government he succeeded in obtaining a considerable police-force,
and, under cover of these, he issued his distress-warrants and
executions, distrained and sold, probably with a severity increased by
the very opposition he met with.

The measures undertaken by government to suppress outrage failed most
signally. The difficulty of arresting a suspected individual was great
in a country where a large force was always necessary. The difficulty of
procuring evidence against him was still greater; for even such as were
not banded in the conspiracy, had a greater dread of the reproach of
informer, than of any other imputation; and when these two conditions
were overcome, the last and greatest of all difficulties remained
behind,--no jury could be found to convict, when their own lives might
pay the penalty of their honesty. While thus, on one side, went the
agent, with his cumbrous accompaniments of law-officers and parchments,
police constables and bailiffs, to effect a distress or an ejectment;
the midnight party with arms patrolled the country, firing the haggards
and the farmhouses, setting all law at defiance, and asserting in their
own bloody vengeance the supremacy of massacre.

Not a day went over without its chronicle of crime; the very calendar
was red with murder. Friends parted with a fervour of feeling, that
shewed none knew if they would meet on the morrow; and a dark, gloomy
suspicion prevailed through the land, each dreading his neighbour, and
deeming his isolation more secure than all the ties of friendship. All
the bonds of former love, all the relations of kindred and affection,
were severed by this terrible league. Brothers, fathers, and sons were
arrayed against each other. A despotism was thus set up, which even they
who detested dared not oppose. The very defiance it hurled at superior
power, awed and terrified themselves. Nor was this feeling lessened
when they saw that these dreadful acts--acts so horrible as to make
men shudder at the name of Ireland when heard in the farthest corner
of Europe--that these had their apologists in the press, that even
a designation was invented for them, and murder could be spoken of
patriotically as the "Wild Justice" of the people.

There is a terrible contagion in crime. The man whose pure heart had
never harboured a bad thought cannot live untainted where wickedness
is rife. The really base and depraved were probably not many; but
there were hardships and sufferings every where; misery abounded in
the land--misery too dreadful to contemplate. It was not difficult to
connect such sufferings with the oppressions, real or supposed, of the
wealthier classes. Some, believed the theory with all the avidity of men
who grasp at straws when drowning; others, felt a savage pleasure at the
bare thought of reversing the game of sufferance; while many, mixed up
their own wrongs with what they regarded as national grievances, and
converted their private vengeance into a patriotic daring. Few stood
utterly aloof, and even of these, none would betray the rest.

The temporary success of murder, too, became a horrible incentive to its
commission. The agent shot, the law he had set in motion stood still,
the process fell powerless; the "Wild Justice" superseded the slower
footsteps of common law, and the murderer saw himself installed in
safety, when he ratified his bond in the blood of his victim.

Habitual poverty involves so much of degradation, that recklessness of
life is its almost invariable accompaniment; and thus, many of these men
ceased to speculate on the future, and followed the dictates of their
leaders in blind and dogged submission. There were many, too, who felt
a kind of savage enthusiasm in the career of danger, and actually loved
the very hazard of the game. Many more had private wrongs--old debts of
injury to wipe out--and grasped at the occasion to acquit them; but even
when no direct motives existed, the terror of evil consequences induced
great numbers to ally themselves with this terrible conspiracy, and when
not active partisans, at least to be faithful and secret confidants.

Among the many dispossessed by the agent was Owen Connor. Scarcely had
he left the neighbourhood, than an ejectment was served against him; and
the bailiff, by whose representations Owen was made to appear a man of
dangerous character, installed in his mountain-farm. This fellow was
one of those bold, devil-may-care ruffians, who survive in every contest
longer than men of more circumspect courage; and Lucas was not sorry
to find that he could establish such an outpost in this wild and dreary
region. Well armed, and provided with a sufficiency of ammunition, he
promised to maintain his strong-hold against any force--a boast not so
unreasonable, as there was only one approach to the cabin, and that,
a narrow path on the very verge of a precipice. Owen's unexpected
appearance was in his eyes, therefore, a signal for battle; he supposed
that he was come back to assert his ancient right, and in this spirit
it was, he menaced him with instant death if he advanced another step.
Indeed, he had been more than once threatened that Owen's return would
be a "dark day" for him, and prepared himself for a meeting with him,
as an occasion which might prove fatal to either. These threats, not
sparingly bandied by those who felt little inclination to do battle on
their own account, had become so frequent, that many looked for Owen's
reappearance as for an event of some moment.

Old Larry often heard these reports, and well knowing Owen's ardent
disposition and passionate temper, and how easily he became the tool of
others, when any deed of more than ordinary hazard was presented to him,
grieved deeply over the consequences such promptings might lead to; and
thus it was, that he received him with that outburst of sorrow for which
Owen was little prepared.

If Owen was shocked as he listened first to the tale of anarchy
and bloodshed the old man revealed, a savage pleasure came over him
afterwards, to think, what terror these midnight maraudings were making
in the hearts of those who lived in great houses, and had wealth and
influence. His own wrongs rankled too deeply in his breast to make him
an impartial hearer; and already, many of his sympathies were with the
insurgents.

It was almost day-break ere he could close his eyes; for although
tired and worn out, the exciting themes he was revolving banished every
thought of sleep, and made him restless and fretful. His last words to
Larry, as he lay down to rest, were a desire that he might remain for
a day or two concealed in his cabin, and that none of the neighbours
should learn anything of his arrival. The truth was, he had not courage
to face his former friends, nor could he bear to meet the Joyces: what
step he purposed to take in the mean while, and how to fashion his
future course, it is hard to say: for the present, he only asked time.

The whole of the following day he remained within the little hut; and
when night came, at last ventured forth to breathe the fresh air and
move his cramped limbs. His first object, then, was to go over to
Joyce's house, with no intention of visiting its inmates--far from it.
The poor fellow had conceived a shrinking horror of the avowal he should
be compelled to make of his own failure, and did not dare to expose
himself to such a test.

The night was dark and starless: that heavy, clouded darkness which
follows a day of rain in our western climate, and makes the atmosphere
seem loaded and weighty. To one less accustomed than was Owen, the
pathway would have been difficult to discover; but he knew it well in
every turning and winding, every dip of the ground, and every rock and
streamlet in the course. There was the stillness of death on every side;
and although Owen stopped more than once to listen, not the slightest
sound could be heard. The gloom and dreariness suited well the "habit of
his soul." His own thoughts were not of the brightest, and his step was
slow and his head downcast as he went.

At last the glimmering of light, hazy and indistinct from the foggy
atmosphere, came into view, and a few minutes after, he entered the
little enclosure of the small garden which flanked one side of the
cabin. The quick bark of a dog gave token of his approach, and Owen
found some difficulty in making himself recognised by the animal,
although an old acquaintance. This done, he crept stealthily to the
window from which the gleam of light issued. The shutters were closed,
hut between their joinings he obtained a view of all within.

At one side of the fire was Mary--his own Mary, when last he parted with
her. She was seated at a spinning-wheel, but seemed less occupied with
the work, than hent on listening to some noise without. Phil also stood
in the attitude of one inclining his ear to catch a sound, and held a
musket in his hand like one ready to resist attack. A farm-servant, a
lad of some eighteen, stood at his side, armed with a horse-pistol, his
features betraying no very equivocal expression of fear and anxiety.
Little Patsy nestled at Mary's side, and with his tiny hands had grasped
her arm closely.

They stood there, as if spell-bound. It was evident they were afraid, by
the slightest stir, to lose the chance of hearing any noise without; and
when Mary at last lifted up her head, as if to speak, a quick motion
of her brother's hand warned her to be silent. What a history did that
group reveal to Owen, as, with a heart throbbing fiercely, he gazed upon
it! But a few short months back, and the inmates of that happy home
knew not if at night the door was even latched; the thought of attack or
danger never crossed their minds. The lordly dwellers in a castle felt
less security in their slumbers than did these peasants; now, each night
brought a renewal of their terrors. It came no longer the season of
mutual greeting around the wintry hearth, the hour of rest and repose;
but a time of anxiety and dread, a gloomy period of doubt, harassed by
every breeze that stirred, and every branch that moved.

"'Tis nothing _this time_," said Phil, at last. "Thank God for that
same!" and he replaced his gun above the chimney, while Mary blessed
herself devoutly, and seemed to repeat a prayer to herself. Owen gave
one parting look, and retired as noiselessly as he came.

To creep forth with the dark hours, and stand at this window, became
with Owen, now, the whole business of life. The weary hours of the day
were passed in the expectancy of that brief season--the only respite
he enjoyed from the corroding cares of his own hard fortune. The dog,
recognising him, no longer barked as he approached; and he could stand
unmolested and look at that hearth, beside which he was wont once to sit
and feel at home.

Thus was it, as the third week was drawing to a close, when old Larry,
who had ventured down to the village to make some little purchase,
brought back the news, that information had been sworn by the bailiff
against Owen Connor, for threatening him with death, on pain of his not
abandoning his farm. The people would none of them give any credit to
the oath, as none knew of Owen's return; and the allegation was only
regarded as another instance of the perjury resorted to by their
opponents, to crush and oppress them.

"They'll have the police out to-morrow, I hear, to search after ye; and
sure the way ye've kept hid will be a bad job, if they find ye after
all."

"_If_ they do, Larry!" said Owen, laughing; "but I think it will puzzle
them to do so." And the very spirit of defiance prevented Owen at once
surrendering himself to the charge against him. He knew every cave and
hiding-place of the mountain, from childhood upwards, and felt proud to
think how he could baffle all pursuit, no matter how persevering his
enemies. It was essential, however, that he should leave his present
hiding-place at once; and no sooner was it dark, than Owen took leave
of old Larry and issued forth. The rain was falling in torrents,
accompanied hy a perfect hurricane, as he left the cabin; fierce gusty
blasts swept down the bleak mountain-side, and with wild and melancholy
cadence poured along the valley; the waters of the lake plashed and beat
upon the rocky shore; the rushing torrents, as they forced their way
down the mountain, swelled the uproar, in which the sound of crashing
branches and even rocks were mingled.

"'Tis a dreary time to take to the cowld mountain for a home," said
Owen, as he drew his thick frieze coat around him, and turned his
shoulder to the storm. "I hardly think the police, or the king's throops
either, will try a chase after me this night."

There was more of gratified pride in this muttered reflection than at
first sight might appear; for Owen felt a kind of heroism in his own
daring at that moment, that supported and actually encouraged him in
his course. The old spirit of bold defiance, which for ages has
characterised the people; the resolute resistance to authority, or
to tyranny, which centuries have not erased, was strong in his hardy
nature; and he asked for nothing better, than to pit his own skill,
ingenuity, and endurance against his opponents, for the mere pleasure of
the encounter.

As there was little question on Owen's mind that no pursuit of him would
take place on such a night, he resolved to pass the time till day-break
within the walls of the old churchyard, the only spot he could think
of which promised any shelter. There was a little cell or crypt there,
where he could safely remain till morning. An hour's walking brought him
to the little gate, the last time he had entered which, was at his poor
father's funeral. His reflection, now, was rather on his own altered
condition since that day; but even on that thought he suffered himself
not to dwell. In fact, a hardy determination to face the future, in
utter forgetfulness of the past, was the part he proposed to himself;
and he did his utmost to bend his mind to the effort.

As he drew near the little crypt I have mentioned, he was amazed to see
the faint flickering of a fire within it. At first a superstitious fear
held him back, and he rapidly repeated some prayers to himself; but the
emotion was soon over, and he advanced boldly toward it. "Who's there?
stand! or give the word!" said a gruff voice from within. Owen stood
still, but spoke not. The challenge was like that of a sentry, and he
half-feared he had unwittingly strayed within the precincts of a patrol.
"Give the word at once! or you'll never spake another," was the savage
speech which, accompanied by a deep curse, now met his ears, while the
click of a gun-Cock was distinctly audible.

"I'm a poor man, without a home or a shelter," said Owen, calmly; "and
what's worse, I'm without arms, or maybe you wouldn't talk so brave."

"What's yer name? Where are ye from?"

"I'm Owen Connor; that's enough for ye, whoever ye are," replied he,
resolutely; "it's a name I'm not ashamed nor afraid to say, anywhere."

The man within the cell threw a handful of dry furze upon the
smouldering flame, and while he remained concealed himself, took a
deliberate survey of Owen as he stood close to the doorway. "You're
welcome, Owen," said he, in an altered voice, and one which Owen
immediately recognised as that of the old blacksmith, Miles Regan;
"you're welcome, my boy! better late than never, anyhow!"

"What do you mean, Miles? 'Tisn't expecting me here ye were, I suppose?"

"'Tis just that same then, I was expecting this many a day," said Miles,
as with a rugged grasp of both hands he drew Owen within the narrow
cell. "And 't'aint me only was expecting it, but every one else. Here,
avich, taste this--ye're wet and cowld both; that will put life in
ye--and it never ped tha king sixpence."

And he handed Owen a quart bottle as he spoke, the odour of which was
unmistakeable enough, to bear testimony to his words.

"And what brings you here, Miles, in the name of God?" said Owen, for
his surprise at the meeting increased every moment.

"'Tis your own case, only worse," said the other, with a drunken laugh,
for the poteen had already affected his head.

"And what's that, if I might make bould?" said Owen, rather angrily.

"Just that I got the turn-out, my boy. That new chap, they have over the
property, sould me out, root and branch; and as I didn't go quiet, ye
see, they brought the polis down, and there was a bit of a fight, to
take the two cows away; and somehow"--here he snatched the bottle rudely
from Owen's hand, and swallowed a copious draught of it--"and, somehow,
the corporal was killed, and I thought it better to be away for a
while--for, at the inquest, though the boys would take 'the vestment'
they seen him shot by one of his comrades, there was a bit of a smash
in his skull, ye see"--here he gave a low fearful laugh--"that fitted
neatly to the top of my eleven-pound hammer; ye comprehend?"

Owen's blood ran cold as he said, "Ye don't mean it was you that killed
him?"

"I do then," replied the other, with a savage grin, as he placed
his face within a few inches of Owen's. "There's a hundred pounds
blood-money for ye, now, if ye give the information! A hundred pounds,"
muttered he to himself; "musha, I never thought they'd give ten
shillings for my own four bones before!"

Owen scorned to reply to the insinuation of his turning informer, and
sat moodily thinking over the event.

"Well, I'll be going, anyhow," said he rising, for his abhorrence of
his companion made him feel the storm and the hurricane a far preferable
alternative.

"The divil a one foot ye'll leave this, my boy," said Miles, grasping
him with the grip of his gigantic hand; "no, no, ma bouchai, 'tisn't so
easy airned as ye think; a hundred pounds, naboclish!

"Leave me free! let go my arm!" said Owen, whose anger now rose at the
insolence of this taunt.

"I'll break it across my knee, first," said the infuriated ruffian, as
he half imitated by a gesture his horrid threat.

There was no comparison in point of bodily strength between them; for
although Owen was not half the other's age, and had the advantage of
being perfectly sober, the smith was a man of enormous power, and held
him, as though he were a child in his grasp.

"So that's what you'd be at, my boy, is it?" said Miles, scoffing; "it's
the fine thrade you choose! but maybe it's not so pleasant, after all.
Stay still there--be quiet, I say--by----," and here he uttered a most
awful oath--"if you rouse me, I'll paste your brains against that
wall;" and as he spoke, he dashed his closed fist against the rude and
crumbling masonry, with a force that shook several large stones from
their places, and left his knuckles one indistinguishable mass of blood
and gore.

"That's brave, anyhow," said Owen, with a bitter mockery, for his own
danger, at the moment, could not repress his contempt for the savage
conduct of the other.

Fortunately, the besotted intellect of the smith made him accept the
speech in a very different sense, and he said, "There never was the man
yet, I wouldn't give him two blows at me, for one at him, and mine to be
the last."

"I often heard of that before," said Owen, who saw that any attempt
to escape by main force was completely out of the question, and that
stratagem alone could present a chance.

"Did ye ever hear of Dan Lenahan?" said Miles, with a grin; "what I did
to Dan: I was to fight him wid one hand, and the other tied behind my
back; and when he came up to shake hands wid me before the fight, I just
put my thumb in my hand, that way, and I smashed his four fingers over
it."

"There was no fight that day, anyhow, Miles."

"Thrue for ye, boy; the sport was soon over--raich me over the bottle,"
and with that, Miles finished the poteen at a draught, and then lay
back against the wall, as if to sleep. Still, he never relinquished his
grasp, but, as he fell off asleep, held him as in a vice.

As Owen sat thus a prisoner, turning over in his mind every possible
chance of escape, he heard the sound of feet and men's voices rapidly
approaching; and, in a few moments, several men turned into the
churchyard, and came towards the crypt. They were conversing in a low
but hurried voice, which was quickly hushed as they came nearer.

"What's this," cried one, as he entered the cell; "Miles has a prisoner
here!"

"Faix, he has so, Mickey;" answered Owen, for he recognised in the
speaker an old friend and schoolfellow. The rest came hurriedly forward
at the words, and soon Owen found himself among a number of his former
companions. Two or three of the party were namesakes and relations.

The explanation of his capture was speedily given, and they all laughed
heartily at Owen's account of his ingenious efforts at flattery.

"Av the poteen held out, Owen dear, ye wouldn't have had much trouble;
but he can drink two quarts before he loses his strength."

In return for his narrative, they freely and frankly told their own
story. They had been out arms-hunting--unsuccessfully, however--their
only exploit being the burning of a haggard belonging to a farmer who
refused to join the "rising."

Owen felt greatly relieved to discover, that his old friends regarded
the smith with a horror fully as great as his own. But they excused
themselves for the companionship by saying, "What are we to do with
the crayture? Ye wouldn't have us let him be taken?" And thus they were
compelled to practise every measure for the security of one they had no
love for, and whose own excesses increased the hazard tenfold.

The marauding exploits they told of, were, to Owen's ears, not devoid of
a strange interest, the danger alone had its fascination for him; and,
artfully interwoven as their stories were with sentiments of affected
patriotism and noble aspirations for the cause of their country, they
affected him strongly.

For, strange as it may seem, a devotion to country--a mistaken sense of
national honour--prompted many to these lawless courses. Vague notions
of confiscated lands to be restored to their rightful possessors;
ancient privileges reconferred; their church once more endowed with
its long-lost wealth and power: such were the motives of the more
high-spirited and independent. Others sought redress for personal
grievances; some real or imaginary hardship they laboured under; or,
perhaps, as was not unfrequent, they bore the memory of some old grudge
or malice, which they hoped now to have an opportunity of requiting.
Many were there, who, like the weak-minded in all popular commotions,
float with the strong tide, whichever way it may run. They knew not the
objects aimed at; they were ignorant of the intentions of their leaders;
but would not be under the stain of cowardice among their companions,
nor shrink from any cause where there was danger, if only for that very
reason. Thus was the mass made up, of men differing in various ways; but
all held together by the common tie of a Church and a Country. It might
be supposed that the leaders in such a movement would be those who,
having suffered some grievous wrong, were reckless enough to adventure
on any course that promised vengeance;--very far from this. The
principal promoters of the insurrection were of the class of
farmers--men well to do, and reputed, in many cases wealthy. The
instruments by which they worked were indeed of the very poorer
class--the cottier, whose want and misery had eat into his nature, and
who had as little room for fear as for hope in his chilled heart. Some
injury sustained by one of these, some piece of justice denied him; his
ejection from his tenement; a chance word, perhaps, spoken to him in
anger by his landlord or the agent, were the springs which moved a man
like this, and brought him into confederacy with those who promised him
a speedy repayment of his wrongs, and flattered him into the belief
that his individual case had all the weight and importance of a national
question. Many insurrectionary movements have grown into the magnitude
of systematic rebellion from the mere assumption on the part of others,
that they were prearranged and predetermined. The self-importance
suggested by a bold opposition to the law, is a strong agent in arming
men against its terrors. The mock martyrdom of Ireland is in this way,
perhaps, her greatest and least curable evil.

Owen was, of all others, the man they most wished for amongst them.
Independent of his personal courage and daring, he was regarded as one
fruitful in expedients, and never deterred by difficulties. This mingled
character of cool determination and headlong impulse, made him exactly
suited to become a leader; and many a plot was thought of, to draw
him into their snares, when the circumstances of his fortune thus
anticipated their intentions.

It would not forward the object of my little tale to dwell upon the life
he now led. It was indeed an existence full of misery and suffering. To
exaggerate the danger of his position, his companions asserted that the
greatest efforts were making for his capture, rewards offered, and spies
scattered far and wide through the country; and while they agreed with
him that nothing could be laid to his charge, they still insisted, that
were he once taken, false-swearing and perjury would bring him to the
gallows, "as it did many a brave boy before him."

Half-starved, and harassed by incessant change of place; tortured by the
fevered agony of a mind halting between a deep purpose of vengeance and
a conscious sense of innocence, his own daily sufferings soon brought
down his mind to that sluggish state of gloomy desperation, in which the
very instincts of our better nature seem dulled and blunted. "I cannot
be worse!" was his constant expression, as he wandered alone by some
unfrequented mountain-path, or along the verge of some lonely ravine.
"I cannot be worse!" It is an evil moment that suggests a thought like
this!

Each night he was accustomed to repair to the old churchyard, where some
of the "boys," as they called themselves, assembled to deliberate on
future measures, or talk over the past. It was less in sympathy
with their plans that Owen came, than for the very want of human
companionship. His utter solitude gave him a longing to hear their
voices, and see their faces; while in their recitals of outrage, he
felt that strange pleasure the sense of injury supplies, at any tale of
sorrow and suffering.

At these meetings the whisky-bottle was never forgotten; and while some
were under a pledge not to take more than a certain quantity--a vow they
kept most religiously--others drank deeply. Among these was Owen. The
few moments of reckless forgetfulness he then enjoyed were the coveted
minutes of his long dreary day, and he wished for night to come as the
last solace that was left him.

His companions knew him too well, to endeavour by any active influence
to implicate him in their proceedings. They cunningly left the work to
time and his own gloomy thoughts; watching, however, with eager anxiety,
how, gradually he became more and more interested in all their doings;
how, by degrees he ceased even the half-remonstrance against some deed
of unnecessary cruelty; and listened with animation where before he but
heard with apathy, if not repugnance. The weeds of evil grow rankest in
the rich soil of a heart whose nature, once noble, has been perverted
and debased. Ere many weeks passed over, Owen, so far from disliking the
theme of violence and outrage, became half-angry with his comrades,
that they neither proposed any undertaking to him, nor even asked his
assistance amongst them.

This spirit grew hourly stronger in him; offended pride worked within
his heart during the tedious days he spent alone, and he could scarcely
refrain from demanding what lack of courage and daring they saw in him,
that he should be thus forgotten and neglected.

In this frame of mind, irresolute as to whether he should not propose
himself for some hazardous scheme, or still remain a mere spectator
of others, he arrived one evening in the old churchyard. Of late, "the
boys," from preconcerted arrangements among themselves, had rather
made a show of cold and careless indifference in their manner to
Owen--conduct which deeply wounded him.

As he approached now the little crypt, he perceived that a greater
number than usual were assembled through the churchyard, and many
were gathered in little knots and groups, talking eagerly together; a
half-nod, a scarcely muttered "Good even," was all the salutation he
met, as he moved towards the little cell, where, by the blaze of a piece
of bog-pine, a party were regaling themselves--the custom and privilege
of those who had been last out on any marauding expedition. A smoking
pot of potatoes and some bottles of whisky formed the entertainment, at
which Owen stood a longing and famished spectator.

"Will yez never be done there eatin' and crammin' yerselves?" said a
gruff voice from the crowd to the party within; "and ye know well enough
there's business to be done to-night."

"And ain't we doing it?" answered one of the feasters. "Here's your
health, Peter!" and so saying, he took a very lengthened draught from
the "poteen" bottle.

"'Tis the thrade ye like best, anyhow," retorted the other. "Come, boys;
be quick now!"

The party did not wait a second bidding, but arose from the place, and
removing the big pot to make more room, they prepared the little cell
for the reception of some other visitors.

"That's it now! We'll not be long about it. Larry, have yez the deck,'
my boy?"

"There's the book, darlint," said a short, little, de-crepid creature,
speaking with an asthmatic effort, as he produced a pack of cards,
which, if one were to judge from the dirt, made the skill of the game
consist as much in deciphering as playing them.

"Where's Sam M'Guire?" called out the first speaker, in a voice loud
enough to be heard over the whole space around; and the name was
repeated from voice to voice, till it was replied to by one who cried--

"Here, sir; am I wanted?"

"You are, Sam; and 'tis yourself is always to the fore when we need yez."

"I hope so indeed," said Sam, as he came forward, a flush of gratified
pride on his hardy cheek. He was a young, athletic fellow, with a fine
manly countenance, expressive of frankness and candour.

"Luke Heffernan! where's Luke?" said the other.

"I'm here beside ye," answered a dark-visaged, middle-aged man, with
the collar of his frieze coat buttoned high on his face; "ye needn't be
shouting my name that way--there may be more bad than good among uz.

"There's not an informer, any way--if that's what ye mean," said the
other quickly. "Gavan Daly! Call Gavan Daly, will ye, out there?"
And the words were passed from mouth to mouth in a minute, but no one
replied to the summons.

"He's not here--Gavan's not here!" was the murmured answer of the crowd,
given in a tone that hoded very little in favour of its absent owner.

"Not here!" said the leader, as he crushed the piece of paper, from
which he read, in his hand; "not here! Where is he, then? Does any of
yez know where's Gavan Daly?"

But there was no answer.

"Can no body tell?--is he sick?--or is any belonging to him sick and
dying, that he isn't here this night, as he swore to be?"

"I saw him wid a new coat on him this morning early in Oughterarde, and
he said he was going to see a cousin of his down below Oranmore," said a
young lad from the outside of the crowd, and the speaker was in a moment
surrounded by several, anxious to find out some other particulars of
the absent man. It was evident that the boy's story was far from being
satisfactory, and the circumstance of Daly's wearing a new coat, was one
freely commented on by those who well knew how thoroughly they were in
the power of any who should betray them.

"He's in the black list this night," said the leader, as he motioned
the rest to be silent; "that's where I put him now; and see, all of
yez--mind my words--if any of uz comes to harm, it will go hard but some
will be spared; and if there was only one remaining, he wouldn't be
the cowardly villain not to see vengeance on Gavan Daly, for what he's
done."

A murmur of indignation at the imputed treachery of the absent man
buzzed through the crowd; while one fellow, with a face flushed by
drink, and eyes bleared and bloodshot, cried out: "And are ye to stop
here all night, calling for the boy that's gone down to bethray yez? Is
there none of yez will take his place?"

"I will! I will! I'm ready and willin'!" were uttered by full twenty, in
a breath.

"Who will ye have with yez? take your own choice!" said the leader,
turning towards M'Quire and Heffernan, who stood whispering eagerly
together.

"There's the boy I'd take out of five hundred, av he was the same I knew
once," said M'Guire, laying his hand on Owen's shoulder.

"Begorra then, I wondher what ye seen in him lately to give you a
consate out of him," cried Heffernan, with a rude laugh. "'Tisn't all
he's done for the cause anyway."

Owen started, and fixed his eyes first on one, then on the other of the
speakers; but his look was rather the vacant stare of one awakening from
a heavy sleep, than the expression of any angry passion--for want
and privation had gone far to sap his spirit, as well as his bodily
strength.

"There, avich, taste that," said a man beside him, who was struck by his
pale and wasted cheek, and miserable appearance.

Owen almost mechanically took the bottle, and drank freely, though the
contents was strong poteen.

"Are ye any betther now?" said Heffernan, with a sneering accent.

"I am," said Owen, calmly, for he was unconscious of the insolence
passed off on him; "I'm a deal better."

"Come along, ma bouchal!" cried M'Guire; "come into the little place
with us, here."

"What do ye want with me, boys?" asked Owen, looking about him through
the crowd.

"'Tis to take a hand at the cards, divil a more," said an old fellow
near, and the speech sent a savage laugh among the rest.

"I'm ready and willin'," said Owen; "but sorra farthen I've left me to
play; and if the stakes is high--"

"Faix, that's what they're not," said Heffernan; "they're the lowest
ever ye played for."

"Tell me what it is, anyway," cried Owen.

"Just, the meanest thing at all--the life of the blaguard that turned
yerself out of yer holdin'--Lucas the agent."

"To kill Lucas?"

"That same; and if ye don't like the game, turn away and make room for a
boy that has more spirit in him."

"Who says I ever was afeard?" said Owen, on whom now the whisky was
working. "Is it Luke Heffernan dares to face me down?--come out here,
fair, and see will ye say it again."

"If you won't join the cause, you mustn't be bringing bad blood among
us," cried the leader, in a determined tone; "there's many a brave boy
here to-night would give his right hand to get the offer you did."

"I'm ready--here I am, ready now," shouted Owen wildly; "tell me what you
want me to do, and see whether I will or no."

A cheer broke from the crowd at these words, and all within his reach
stretched out their hands to grasp Owen's; and commendations were poured
on him from every side.

Meanwhile Heffernan and his companion had cleared the little crypt of
its former occupants, and having heaped fresh wood upon the fire, sat
down before the blaze, and called out for Owen to join them. Owen took
another draught from one of the many bottles offered by the bystanders,
and hastened to obey the summons.

"Stand back now, and don't speak a word," cried the leader, keeping off
the anxious crowd that pressed eagerly forward to witness the game; the
hushed murmuring of the voices shewing how deeply interested they felt.

The three players bent their heads forward as they sat, while Heffernan
spoke some words in a low whisper, to which the others responded by
a muttered assent. "Well, here's success to the undhertakin' anyhow,"
cried he aloud, and filling out a glass of whisky, drank it off; then
passing the liquor to the two others, they followed his example.

"Will ye like to deal, Owen?" said M'Guire; "you're the new-comer, and
we'll give ye the choice."

"No, thank ye, boys," said Owen; "do it yerselves, one of ye; I'm sure
of fair play."

Heffernan then took the cards, and wetting his thumb for the convenience
of better distributing them, slowly laid five cards before each player;
he paused for a second before he turned the trump, and in a low voice
said: "If any man's faint-hearted, let him say it now--"

"Turn the card round, and don't be bothering us," cried M'Guire; "one
'ud think we never played a game before."

"Come, be alive," said Owen, in whom the liquor had stimulated the
passion for play.

"What's the thrump--is it a diamond? look over and tell us," murmured
the crowd nearest the entrance.

"'Tis a spade!--I lay fourpence 'tis a spade!"

"Why wouldn't it be?" said another; "it's the same spade will dig
Lucas's grave this night!"

"Look! see!" whispered another, "Owen Connor's won the first thrick!
Watch him now! Mind the way he lays the card down, with a stroke of his
fist!"

"I wish he wouldn't be drinking so fast!" said another.

"Who won that? who took that thrick?" "Ould Heffernan, divil fear him! I
never see him lose yet."

"There's another; that's Owen's!" "No; by Jonas! 'tis Luke again has
it." "That's Sam M'Quire's! See how aizy he takes them up."

"Now for it, boys! whisht! here's the last round!" and at this moment,
a breathless silence prevailed among the crowd; for while such as were
nearest were eagerly bent on observing the progress of the game, the
more distant bent their heads to catch every sound that might indicate
its fortune.

"See how Luke grins! watch his face!" whispered a low voice. "He doesn't
care how it goes, now, he's out of it!" and so it was. Heffernan had
already won two of the five tricks, and was safe whatever the result of
the last one. The trial lay between M'Guire and Owen.

"Come, Owen, my hearty!" said M'Guire, as he held a card ready to play,
"you or I for it now; we'll soon see which the devil's fondest of.
There's the two of clubs for ye!"

"There's the three, then!" said Owen, with a crash of his hand, as he
placed the card over the other.

"And there's the four!" said Heffernan, "and the thrick is Sam
M'Guire's."

"Owen Connor's lost!" "Owen's lost!" murmured the crowd; and, whether in
half-compassion for his defeat, or grief that so hazardous a deed should
be entrusted to a doubtful hand, the sensation created was evidently of
gloom and dissatisfaction.

"You've a right to take either of us wid ye, Owen," said M'Guire,
slapping him on the shoulder. "Luke or myself must go, if ye want us."

"No; I'll do it myself," said Owen, in a low hollow voice.

"There's the tool, then!" said Heffernan, producing from the breast of
his frieze coat a long horse-pistol, the stock of which was mended by a
clasp of iron belted round it; "and if it doesn't do its work, 'tis the
first time it ever failed. Ould Miles Cregan, of Gurtane, was the last
that heard it spake."

Owen took the weapon, and examined it leisurely, opening the pan and
settling the priming, with a finger that never trembled. As he drew
forth the ramrod to try the barrel, Heffernan said, with a half-grin,
"There's two bullets in it, avich!--enough's as good as a feast."

Owen sat still and spoke not, while the leader and Heffernan explained
to him the circumstances of the plot against the life of Mr. Lucas.
Information had been obtained by some of the party, that the agent would
leave Galway on the following evening, on his way to Westport, passing
through Oughterarde and their own village, about midnight. He usually
travelled in his gig, with relays of horses ready at different stations
of the way, one of which was about two miles distant from the old ruin,
on the edge of the lake--a wild and dreary spot, where stood a solitary
cabin, inhabited by a poor man who earned his livelihood by fishing.
No other house was within a mile of this; and here, it was determined,
while in the act of changing horses, the murder should be effected.
The bleak common beside the lake was studded with furze and brambles,
beneath which it was easy to obtain shelter, though pursuit was not to
be apprehended--at least they judged that the servant would not venture
to leave his master at such a moment; and as for the fisherman, although
not a sworn member of their party, they well knew he would not dare to
inform against the meanest amongst them.

Owen listened attentively to all these details, and the accurate
directions by which they instructed him on every step he should take.
From the moment he should set foot within the cover to the very instant
of firing, each little event had its warning.

"Mind!" repeated Heffernan, with a slow, distinct whisper, "he never
goes into the house at all; but if the night's cowld--as it's sure to be
this sayson--he'll be moving up and down, to keep his feet warm. Cover
him as he turns round; but don't fire the first cover, but wait till
he comes back to the same place again, and then blaze. Don't stir then,
till ye see if he falls: if he does, be off down the common; but if he's
only wounded--but sure ye'll do better than that!"

"I'll go bail he will!" said M'Guire. "Sorra fear that Owen Connor's
heart would fail him! and sure if he likes me to be wid him--"

"No, no!" said Owen, in the same hollow voice as before, "I'll do it all
by myself; I want nobody."

"'Tis the very words I said when I shot Lambert of Kilclunah!" said
M'Guire. "I didn't know him by looks, and the boys wanted me to take
some one to point him out. 'Sorra bit!' says I, 'leave that to me;' and
so I waited in the gripe of the ditch all day, till, about four in the
evening, I seen a stout man wid a white hat coming across the fields, to
where the men was planting potatoes. So I ups to him wid a letter in
my hand, this way, and my hat off--'Is yer honner Mr. Lambert?' says I.
'Yes,' says he; 'what do ye want with me?' ''Tis a bit of a note I've
for yer honner,' says I; and I gav him the paper. He tuck it and opened
it; but troth it was little matter there was no writin' in it, for he
would'nt have lived to read it through. I sent the ball through his
heart, as near as I stand to ye; the wadding was burning his waistcoat
when I left him. 'God save you!' says the men, as I went across the
potato-field. 'Save you kindly!' says I. 'Was that a shot we heard?'
says another. 'Yes,' says I; 'I was fright'ning the crows;' and sorra
bit, but that's a saying they have against me ever since." These last
few words were said in a simper of modesty, which, whether real or
affected, was a strange sentiment at the conclusion of such a tale.

The party soon after separated, not to meet again for several nights;
for the news of Lucas's death would of course be the signal for a
general search through the country, and the most active measures to
trace the murderer. It behoved them, then, to be more than usually
careful not to be absent from their homes and their daily duties for
some days at least: after which they could assemble in safety as before.

Grief has been known to change the hair to grey in a single night; the
announcement of a sudden misfortune has palsied the hand that held the
ill-omened letter; but I question if the hours that are passed before
the commission of a great crime, planned and meditated beforehand,
do not work more fearful devastation on the human heart, than all the
sorrows that ever crushed humanity. Ere night came, Owen Connor seemed
to have grown years older. In the tortured doublings of his harassed
mind he appeared to have spent almost a lifetime since the sun last
rose. He had passed in review before him each phase of his former
existence, from childhood--free, careless, and happy childhood--to days
of boyish sport and revelry; then came the period of his first manhood,
with its new ambitions and hopes. He thought of these, and how, amid the
humble circumstances of his lowly fortune, he was happy. What would he
have thought of him who should predict such a future as this for him?
How could he have believed it? And yet the worst of all remained to
come. He tried to rally his courage and steel his heart, by repeating
over the phrases so frequent among his companions. "Sure, aint I driven
to it? is it my fault if I take to this, or theirs that compelled me?"
and such like. But these words came with no persuasive force in the
still hour of conscience: they were only effectual amid the excitement
and tumult of a multitude, when men's passions were high, and their
resolutions daring. "It is too late to go back," muttered he, as he
arose from the spot, where, awaiting nightfall, he had lain hid for
several hours; "they mustn't call me a coward, any way."

As Owen reached the valley the darkness spread far and near, not a star
could be seen; great masses of cloud covered the sky, and hung down
heavily, midway upon the mountains. There was no rain; but on the wind
came from time to time a drifted mist, which shewed that the air was
charged with moisture. The ground was still wet and plashy from recent
heavy rain. It was indeed a cheerless night and a cheerless hour; but
not more so than the heart of him who now, bent upon his deadly purpose,
moved slowly on towards the common.

On descending towards the lake-side, he caught a passing view of the
little village, where a few lights yet twinkled, the flickering stars
that shone within some humble home. What would he not have given to
be but the meanest peasant there, the poorest creature that toiled and
sickened on his dreary way! He turned away hurriedly, and with his hand
pressed heavily on his swelling heart walked rapidly on. "It will soon
be over now," said Owen; he was about to add, with the accustomed piety
of his class, "thank God for it," but the words stopped in his throat,
and the dreadful thought flashed on him, "Is it when I am about to shed
His creature's blood, I should say this?"

[Illustration: 202]

He sat down upon a large stone beside the lake, at a spot where the road
came down to the water's edge, and where none could pass unobserved by
him. He had often fished from that very rock when a boy, and eaten his
little dinner of potatoes beneath its shelter. Here he sat once more;
saying to himself as he did so, "'Tis an ould friend, anyway, and I'll
just spend my last night with him;", for so in his mind he already
regarded his condition. The murder effected, he determined to make
no effort to escape. Life was of no value to him. The snares of the
conspiracy had entangled him, but his heart was not in it.

As the night wore on, the clouds lifted, and the wind, increasing to
a storm, bore them hurriedly through the air; the waters of the lake,
lashed into waves, beat heavily on the low shore; while the howling
blast swept through the mountain-passes, and over the bleak, wide
plain, with a rushing sound. The thin crescent of a new moon could be
seen from time to time as the clouds rolled past: too faint to shed any
light upon the earth, it merely gave form to the dark masses that moved
before it.

"I will do it here," said Owen, as he stood and looked upon the dark
water that beat against the foot of the rock; "here, on this spot."

He sat for some moments with his ear bent to listen, but the storm was
loud enough to make all other sounds inaudible; yet, in every noise he
thought he heard the sound of wheels, and the rapid tramp of a horse's
feet. The motionless attitude, the cold of the night, but more than
either, the debility brought on by long fasting and hunger, benumbed his
limbs, so that he felt almost unable to make the least exertion, should
any such be called for.

He therefore descended from the rock and moved along the road; at first,
only thinking of restoring lost animation to his frame, but at length,
in a half unconsciousness, he had wandered upwards of two miles beyond
the little hovel where the change of horses was to take place. Just as
he was on the point of returning, he perceived at a little distance, in
front, the walls of a now ruined cabin, once the home of the old smith.
Part of the roof had fallen in, the doors and windows were gone, the
fragment of an old shutter alone remained, and this banged heavily back
and forwards as the storm rushed through the wretched hut.

Almost without knowing it, Owen entered the cabin, and sat down beside
the spot where once the forge-fire used to burn. He had been there, too,
when a boy many a time--many a story had he listened to in that same
corner; but why think of this now? The cold blast seemed to freeze
his very blood--he felt his heart as if congealed within him. He sat
cowering from the piercing blast for some time; and at last, unable
to bear the sensation longer, determined to kindle a fire with the
fragments of the old shutter. For this purpose he drew the charge of
the pistol, in which there were three bullets, and not merely two, as
Heffernan had told him. Laying these carefully down in his handkerchief,
he kindled a light with some powder, and, with the dexterity of one not
unaccustomed to such operations, soon saw the dry sticks blazing on the
hearth. On looking about he discovered a few sods of turf and some dry
furze, with which he replenished his fire, till it gradually became a
warm and cheering blaze. Owen now reloaded the pistol, just as he had
found it. There was a sense of duty in his mind to follow out every
instruction he received, and deviate in nothing. This done, he held his
numbed fingers over the blaze, and bared his chest to the warm glow of
the fire.

The sudden change from the cold night-air to the warmth of the cabin
soon made him drowsy. Fatigue and watching aiding the inclination to
sleep, he was obliged to move about the hut, and even expose himself to
the chill blast, to resist its influence. The very purpose on which he
was bent, so far from dispelling sleep, rather induced its approach;
for, strange as it may seem, the concentration with which the mind
brings its powers to bear on any object will overcome all the interest
and anxiety of our natures, and bring on sleep from very weariness.

He slept, at first, calmly and peacefully--exhaustion would have its
debt acquitted--and he breathed as softly as an infant. At last, when
the extreme of fatigue was passed, his brain began to busy itself with
flitting thoughts and fancies,--some long-forgotten day of boyhood, some
little scene of childish gaiety, flashed across him, and he dreamed of
the old mountain-lake, where so often he watched the wide circles of
the leaping trout, or tracked with his eye the foamy path of the wild
water-hen, as she skimmed the surface. Then suddenly his chest heaved
and fell with a strong motion, for with lightning's speed the current
of his thoughts was changed; his heart was in the mad tumult of a
faction-fight, loud shouts were ringing in his ears, the crash of
sticks, the cries of pain, entreaties for mercy, execrations and
threats, rung around him, when one figure moved slowly before his
astonished gaze, with a sweet smile upon her lips, and love in her
long-lashed eyes. She murmured his name; and now he slept with a
low-drawn breath, his quivering lips repeating, "Mary!"

Another and a sadder change was coming. He was on the mountains, in
the midst of a large assemblage of wild-looking and haggard men, whose
violent speech and savage gestures well suited their reckless air. A
loud shout welcomed him as he came amongst them, and a cry of "Here's
Owen Connor--Owen at last!" and a hundred hands were stretched out to
grasp his, but as suddenly withdrawn, on seeing that his hands were not
bloodstained nor gory.

He shuddered as he looked upon their dripping fingers; but he shuddered
still more as they called him "Coward!" What he said he knew not; but in
a moment they were gathered round him, and clasping him in their arms;
and now, his hands, his cheeks, his clothes, were streaked with blood;
he tried to wipe the foul stains out, but his fingers grew clotted,
and his feet seemed to plash in the red stream, and his savage comrades
laughed fiercely at his efforts, and mocked him.

"What am I, that you should clasp me thus?" he cried; and a voice from
his inmost heart replied, "A murderer!" The cold sweat rolled in great
drops down his brow, while the foam of agony dewed his pallid lips, and
his frame trembled in a terrible convulsion. Confused and fearful images
of bloodshed and its penalty, the crime and the scaffold, commingled,
worked in his maddened brain. He heard the rush of feet, as if thousands
were hurrying on, to see him die, and voices that swelled like the sea
at midnight. Nor was the vision all unreal: for already two men had
entered the hut.

The dreadful torture of his thoughts had now reached its climax, and
with a bound Owen sprang from his sleep, and cried in a shriek of
heart-wrung anguish, "No, never--I am not a murderer. Owen Connor can
meet his death like a man, but not with blood upon him."

"Owen Connor! Owen Connor, did you say?" repeated one of the two who
stood before him; "are you, then, Owen Connor?"

"I am," replied Owen, whose dreams were still the last impression on his
mind. "I give myself up;--do what ye will with me;--hang, imprison, or
transport me; I'll never gainsay you."

"Owen, do you not know me?" said the other, removing his travelling cap,
and brushing back the hair from his forehead.

"No, I know nothing of you," said he, fiercely.

"Not remember your old friend--your landlord's son, Owen?"

Owen stared at him without speaking; his parted lips and fixed gaze
evidencing the amazement which came over him.

"You saved my life, Owen," said the young man, horror-struck by the
withered and wasted form of the peasant.

"And you have made me this," muttered Owen, as he let fall the pistol
from his bosom. "Yes," cried he, with an energy very different from
before, "I came out this night, sworn to murder that man beside
you--your agent, Lucas; my soul is perjured if my hands are not bloody."

Lucas instantly took a pistol from the breast of his coat, and cocked
it; while the ghastly whiteness of his cheek shewed he did not think the
danger was yet over.

"Put up your weapon," said Owen, contemptuously. "What would I care for
it, if I wanted to take your life? do you think the likes of me has any
hould on the world?" and he laughed a scornful and bitter laugh.

"How is this, then?" cried Leslie; "is murder so light a crime that a
man like this does not shrink from it?"

"The country," whispered Lucas, "is indeed in a fearful state. The
rights of property no longer exist among us. That fellow--because he
lost his farm--"

"Stop, sir!" cried Owen, fiercely; "I will deny nothing of my guilt--but
lay not more to my charge than is true. Want and misery have brought me
low--destitution and recklessness still lower--but if I swore to have
your life this night, it was not for any vengeance of my own."

"Ha! then there is a conspiracy!" cried Lucas, hastily. "We must have it
out of you--every word of it--or it will go harder with yourself."

Owen's only reply was a bitter laugh; and from that moment, he never
uttered another word. All Lucas's threats, all Leslie's entreaties, were
powerless and vain. The very allusion to becoming an informer was too
revolting to be forgiven, and he firmly resolved to brave any and every
thing, rather than endure the mere proposal.

They returned to Galway as soon as the post-boys had succeeded in
repairing the accidental breakage of the harness, which led to the
opportune appearance of the landlord and his agent in the hut; Owen
accompanying them without a word or a gesture.

So long as Lucas was present, Owen never opened his lips; the dread
of committing himself, or in any way implicating one amongst his
companions, deterred him; but when Leslie sent for him, alone, and asked
him the circumstances which led him to the eve of so great a crime, he
confessed all--omitting nothing, save such passages as might involve
others--and even to Leslie he was guarded on this topic.

The young landlord listened with astonishment and sorrow to the
peasant's story. Never till now did he conceive the mischiefs neglect
and abandonment can propagate, nor of how many sins mere poverty can be
the parent. He knew not before that the very endurance of want can teach
another endurance, and make men hardened against the terrors of the law
and its inflictions. He was not aware of the condition of his tenantry;
he wished them all well off and happy; he had no self-accusings of a
grudging nature, nor an oppressive disposition, and he absolved himself
of any hardships that originated with "the agent."

The cases brought before his notice rather disposed him to regard the
people as wily and treacherous, false in their pledges and unmindful
of favours; and many, doubtless, were so; but he never inquired how far
their experience had taught them, that dishonesty was the best policy,
and that trick and subtlety are the only aids to the poor man. He
forgot, above all, that they had neither examples to look up to, nor
imitate, and that when once a people have become sunk in misery, they
are the ready tools of any wicked enough to use them for violence, and
false enough to persuade them, that outrage can be their welfare; and,
lastly, he overlooked the great fact, that in a corrupt and debased
social condition, the evils which, under other circumstances, would be
borne with a patient trust in future relief, are resented in a spirit
of recklessness; and that men soon cease to shudder at a crime, when
frequency has accustomed them to discuss its details.

I must not--I dare not dwell longer on this theme. Leslie felt all the
accusations of an awakened conscience. He saw himself the origin of many
misfortunes--of evils of whose very existence he never heard before.
Ere Owen concluded his sad story, his mind was opened to some of the
miseries of Ireland; and when he had ended, he cried, "I will live at
home with ye, amongst ye all, Owen! I will try if Irishmen cannot learn
to know who is their true friend; and while repairing some of my own
faults, mayhap I may remedy some of theirs."

"Oh! why did you not do this before I came to my ruin?" cried Owen, in
a passionate burst of grief; for the poor fellow all along had given
himself up for lost, and imagined, that his own plea of guilt must bring
him to the gallows. Nor was it till after much persuasion and great
trouble, that Leslie could reconcile him to himself, and assure him,
that his own fortunate repentance had saved him from destruction.

"You shall go back to your mountain-cabin, Owen; you shall have your own
farm again, and be as happy as ever," said the young man. "The law must
deal with those who break it, and no one will go farther than myself to
vindicate the law; but I will also try if kindness and fair-dealing will
not save many from the promptings of their own hearts, and teach men
that, even here, the breach of God's commandments can bring neither
peace nor happiness."

My object in this little story being to trace the career of one humble
man through the trials and temptations incident to his lot in life,
I must not dwell upon the wider theme of national disturbance. I
have endeavoured--how weakly, I am well aware--to shew, that social
disorganisation, rather than political grievances, are the source of
Irish outrage; that neglect and abandonment of the people on the part
of those who stood in the position of friends and advisers towards them,
have disseminated evils deeper and greater than even a tyranny could
have engendered. But for this desertion of their duties, there had
been no loss of their rightful influence, nor would the foul crime
of assassination now stain the name of our land. With an educated and
resident proprietary, Ireland could never have become what she now is;
personal comfort, if no higher motive could be appealed to, would have
necessitated a watchful observance of the habits of the people--the
tares would have been weeded from the wheat; the evil influence of bad
men would not have been suffered to spread its contagion through the
land.

Let me not be supposed for a moment as joining in the popular cry
against the landlords of Ireland. As regards the management of their
estates, and the liberality of their dealings with their tenantry, they
are, of course with the exceptions which every country exhibits, a class
as blameless, and irreproachable as can be found any where--their real
dereliction being, in my mind, their desertion of the people. To this
cause, I believe, can be traced every one of the long catalogue of
disasters to which Ireland is a prey: the despairing poverty, reckless
habits, indifference to the mandates of the law, have their source here.
The impassioned pursuit of any political privilege, which they are given
to suppose will alleviate the evils of their state, has thrown them
into the hands of the demagogue, and banded them in a league, which they
assume to be National. You left them to drift on the waters, and you may
now be shipwrecked among the floating fragments!

My tale is ended. I have only one record more to add. The exercise of
the law, assisted by the energy and determination of a fearless and
resident landlord, at length suppressed outrage and banished those who
had been its originators. Through the evidence of Gavan Daly, whose
treachery had been already suspected, several of the leaders were found
guilty, and met the dreadful penalty of their crimes. The fact of an
informer having been found amongst them, did, however, far more to break
up this unholy league than all the terrors of the law, unassisted by
such aid; but it was long before either peace or happiness shed their
true blessings on that land: mutual distrust, the memory of some lost
friend, and the sad conviction of their own iniquity, darkened many a
day, and made even a gloomier depth than they had ever known in their
poverty.

There came, however, a reverse for this. It was a fine day in
spring--the mountain and the lake were bright in the sunshine--the
valley, rich in the promise of the coming year, was already green with
the young wheat--the pleasant sounds of happy labour rose from the
fields fresh-turned by the plough--the blue smoke curled into thin air
from many a cabin, no longer mean-looking and miserable as before, but
with signs of comfort around, in the trim hedge of the little garden and
the white walls that glistened in the sun.

Towards the great mountain above the lake, however, many an eye was
turned from afar, and many a peasant lingered to gaze upon the scene
which now marked its rugged face.

Along the winding path which traced its zigzag course from the lake-side
to the little glen where Owen's cabin stood, a vast procession could
be seen moving on foot and some on horseback. Some, in country cars,
assisted up the steep ascent by men's strong shoulders; others, mounted
in twos and threes upon some slow-footed beast; but the great number
walking, or rather, clambering their way--for in their eagerness to
get forward, they, each moment, deserted the path to breast the ferny
mountain-side. The scarlet cloaks of the women, as they fluttered in the
wind, and their white caps, gave a brilliancy to the picture, which, as
the masses emerged from the depth of some little dell and disappeared
again, had all the semblance of some gorgeous panorama. Nor was eye the
only sense gladdened by the spectacle--for even in the valley could be
heard the clear ringing laughter as they went along, and the wild cheer
of merriment that ever and anon burst forth from happy hearts, while,
high above all, the pleasant sounds of the bagpipe rose, as, seated
upon an ass, and entrusted to the guidance of a boy, the musician moved
along; his inspiriting strains taken advantage of at every spot of level
ground, by some merry souls, who would not "lose so much good music."

[Illustration: 218]

As the head of the dense column wound its way upward, one little group
could be seen by those below, and were saluted by many a cheer and
the waving of handkerchiefs. These were a party, whose horses and gear
seemed far better than the rest; and among them rode a gentleman mounted
on a strong pony,-his chief care was bestowed less on his own beast,
than in guiding that of a young country girl, who rode beside him. She
was enveloped in a long blue cloak of dark cloth, beneath which she wore
a white dress; a white ribbon floated through her dark hair, too; but
in her features and the happy smile upon her lip, the bride was written
more palpably than in all these.

High above her head, upon a pinnacle of rock, a man stood, gazing at the
scene; at his side a little child of some four or five years old, whose
frantic glee seemed perilous in such a place, while his wild accents
drew many an upward glance from those below, as he cried--

"See, Nony, see! Mary is coming to us at last!" This, too, was a "St.
Patrick's Eve," and a happy one.--May Ireland see many such!


THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "St. Patrick's Eve" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home