Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

exhortation, solemn Tows of amendment and repentance are made, and a powerful and earnest preacher — as one of these fathers undoubtedly was — has for the time an enormous power over an excitable Irish congregation. The immediate result of these gatherings is always beneficial; you find less drunkenness, less debauchery of every kind. But the change is in its nature, spasmodic, and its effect is in the main transitory. Human nature is only human nature, to the end of the chapter. Precisely the same sort of thing, under a different name, had been going on among the Protestants— sensational prayer meetings or 'revivals,' introduced by the Rev. Mr. McGosh. The whole population was drunk from excessive spiritual dram-drinking. The few sober and discreet among them kept wisely in the background, while the froth and scum boiled over.

"Matters were brought to a crisis by the erection of a large wooden cross in the chapel yard, commemorating the visit of the Dominican fathers. The religious convictions of a party of Orangemen returning from church were so outraged by the spectacle of an old woman kneeling at the foot of this cross, offering up her prayers, and perhaps renewing her vows, that, in their zeal, they pelted her with clods and stones. Next day they were somewhat astonished to find themselves severely punished by the new magistrate, who was immediately branded as a Papist in disguise. He was no more that than I am; but a blunt, honest, fearless, sensible, even-handed gentleman (as I soon found out), honestly accepting the broad truths of religion which admit the possibility that there are priests and parsons who will enter heaven, as surely as that there are priests and parsons who will not. That's what plays the deuce with a fine country, sir," said the Captain, rather confusedly. But we all understood him.

"You mean religious discord ?" I interrupted.

"I mean religious balderdash!" he replied, striking the table with his fist—a habit of his when he wished to add emphasis to his remarks; "I mean confounded religious bosh — between man and man."

"That's the real Irish difficulty," I remarked.

"Of course it is," said he; "it's at the bottom of all our misfortunes."

-1 vote we don't enter into it," said I. "It is as abstruse a question, to all appearance, now, as it was a hundred years ago. Well shirk it. We can't settle it in one night.''

"In one night I" he retorted. "Look here 1 By the living Jingo, I'd settle it in less than five minutes, and prove it in one generation of"

"If it was left to you."

"Just so — if it was left to me; denominational education, and all the rest of it into the bargain. I'd just add a common clause to all the Christian creeds professed in Ireland, declaring that any man might be saved who followed, honestly, any one of them just as well as another. I'd insist on every child being taught that, at all events; and every father, priest, or parson who objected to it should have three months' hard labour I"

We let the argument go by default, and assented without opposition or prejudice, for obvious reasons. It was a subject, evidently, upon which his mind was made up; and when an Irishman's mind •'.-• made up, it is just as well not to disturb it — if you wisli to consult your own ease. I speak as a " native, to the manor born."

"Well, gentlemen," he continued, " the magistrate had a temporary triumph. The Orangemen were punished, but they had their revenge; for, the following night the cross was cut up into square bits, which were piled in a heap and left there, by some person or persons unknown, as the phrase is, and who were never discovered from that time to this."

"It must have required some skill," said I, "to keep a fellow like Tim out of scrapes in such a place as Carrigahinch."

"(scrapes I Confound it; that's a mild word," responded the Captain. "If he had been a soldier, the consequences might often have been serious; but, fortunately, he was only a retainer in quite a civil capacity— my servant, in fact. When he got into difficulties, he was always brought before the town authorities, instead of a Court Martial. It was generally a case of fine; and as I had to pay, he did not mind enjoying himself.

"The very next night after our arrival he was locked up. A policeman came with the news to me while I was at breakfast, and I started off immediately to hear the case, which had been on some time when I got in. It was the result of a public-house row. An assault was clearly proved, in which Tim got the best of it, for he always contrived to keep himself sober.

"' Now ' said the magistrate, addressing him, ' you may consider it most fortunate that your position is not more serious. You have had a narrow escape. This is your first offence, as far as I am aware, and'

"' Yes, your worship, by raisin it's my first visit,' said Tim, apologetically,' I only kem yesterday.'

"' Do you know anybody in the town?'

"' Divil a wun I was regularly introduced to yet but your honour."

"' Is there no one who will speak to your character, or go bail for you?'

"Tim hesitated: it was a critical moment. I advanced from the rear of the court to the bench. I was in uniform, and the crowd made way for me, out of curiosity as much as anything else.

'"Arrahl Captain, darlin',' shouted Tim,'More power! Sure, didn't I make up the mare before I stirred out?'

"I spoke a few words in his behalf, which had the desired effect.

"' You'll be more cautious for the future, I hope," said the magistrate; 'let this be a warning to you. I am determined to allow no party expressions here — mind that.' You must hide your proclivities or'

"' My what, your worship? That's a very scare word.'

"' If you wish to express your sentiments about King William, you had better not do it in such a way as to render yourself liable to be brought before me again. I tine you five shillings. Call the next case.'

'• The next case was called; but, before Tim could get out he was surrounded by the idlers in court, who got him into a redhot rage by bantering him.

"' You'll let King Billy alone for awhile, I'll take iny davy,' said one.

"Tim retorted, in an unmistakeable Kerry brogue, and at the top of his voice —' Why would I? To hell with him, the owld reprobate! Get out of my road, or I'll'

"' Bring that man up again,' shouted the magistrate, rising to his feet. 'I fine you now, sir, an additional five shillings.'

"There was a shout of laughter.

"' Long life to your honour,' responded Tim.

"' Silence !' said the magistrate,' or I'll have the court cleared. I can't allow such unseemly exhibitions. Look you here, sir, I have a great mind to fine you separately for each of the five assaults. What would you say to thatV'

"' Well, that would be too expinaive intirely, your worship,' replied Tim, going down this time very meekly; 'but there's no charge for sintiments, I suppose, your worship?'

*' That depends on how you express them.'

"' Well, thin,' said he, making good his

retreat towards the door, 'barrin' the cost, your worship, I Tuctk so Still.' And he vanished as the last word was uttered.

"' Tim,' said I, as we walked back together, ' I don't miud ten shillings now and again; but I must warn you, once for all, that if you don't keep yourself quiet in Carrigahinch, it will be absolutely out of my power to retain you in my service. It is as much as my commission is worth to run the risks I am running every day. Confound you I We are in a most ticklish position here, and will have to be on our guard.'

"' Ticklish, is it Captain; worse thau that by long chalks! It bates the divil — saving your presence — and 'tisn't for want of religion naither.'

"' What's that got to do with it?' 1 inquired.

"' Sure there's the chapel and a church, and a power of praitching-houses besides. The place is alive wid 'ein, so it is. I counted nine of 'em I'm cartain sure.'

"' The more the merrier, I suppose,' said I, not paying much attention at the moment.

"' Bedad, may bo so I But, sure, Captain, I never heard tell of more than two religions in Ballybog, where I was reared. Father Welsh and the minister had it all between themselves."

"' There are a great many more than that,' said I; 'how do you make it out?'

"'Make it out, is it? Aisy enough. Catholics and Protestants — that's all they had in Kerry.'

"' Every one who doesn't go to Mass, Tim, is a Protestant,' I exclaimed.

"' Faix, may be so,' he exclaimed, 'but there's only wan right church at all events — the other is like the owld woman that had so many childer she didn't know what to do — and all of 'em fighting like a pack of red divils,'

"'I'm not going to argue the point with you,' said I,' and I'd advise you not to argue it with anybody else while you're here. Take my advice and keep yourself quiet. Sergeant Skinner is quite at home in Carrigahinch; and I see that, in spite of my wishes, he has taken to preaching again.'

"' Sure enough," said Tim,' I saw him ! out last night, arm in arm with owld McGosh — him that used to be ranting in Cokehampton, long ago.'

"' I remember. It strikes me very forcibly Tim that you'll get your neck broke before a week is out.'

"' Bruck, is it I bad luck to the stick in the parish that's able to brake it. Don't be in dread, divil a dint they'll put in it.'

"I hoped not, quite as fervently on my own account as on his; but I had misgivings as I parted with him. I left him reading a huge placard on the pier, which announced in large capitals the fact that the Rev. Mephibosheth McGosh would next day deliver an open air discourse on the errors of Popery, taking for his subject 'Prayers for the dead."

"I went in to my quarters. The local newspaper, just out, fresh and damp, lay on my table; it had been sent without solicitation on my part, I therefore naturally concluded that it contained something unpleasant, and intended expressly for my eye. 1 was right. The leading article consisted of a bitter attack upon the Government for sending us to Carrigahinch at all. It went on to say that nearly all the men were Papists, and that of the three officers in command, one was hopelessly ill (this was poor Denis), another was a Papist, and a third, this was me, nothing in particular — only hike-warm, or something like that. It wound up by calling on all the good and true men of Carrigahinch to assert their rights to assemble in their might, and a lot more to the like effect; and it called upon me to see that McGosh was protected from mob violence in the exercise of an undoubted right. Evidently Sergeant Skinuer was at the bottom of the whole business; he owed me a grudge for endeavouring to stop his preaching in the regiment. I wished him and McGosh at the dencc, and made up my mind for the worst. I had serious thoughts of keeping Tim a prisoner altogether, till the storm had blown over, if I could see my way to it, but I couldn't.

"We held a conncil of war after dinner, over our punch. There was no time to be lost, that was clear; and that was about all the conclusion we could come to after our deliberations.

"' Suppose we send for Tim ' suggested Wilkins,' and give him a caution.'

The raal fighting min won't be in, I'm towld, till after dark; but there's a power of spectators there already. I overheard a party saying that Mr. McGosh wanted to swear some informations that he was in dread of his life. The magistrate said it was all humbug, and McGosh is coming to see you.'

"' The devil he is!' said I.

"' It's best to be on the look out, any way, sir. Maybe it's not alone he'll be; he might have a gathering after him.'

"' He'll not have time to come to-morrow,1 said Denis; 'his hands will be full.'

'"Slmre he has time to-night, sir,' replied Tim.

"' My mind is made up,' said I. 'Look here, I'll just confine all the men to the barracks.'

"' To the workhouse, you main, sir.'

"'Well, to the workhouse. I'll not let a man out to-morrow for love or money, unless we are sent for by the authorities. Tell Sergeant Skinner — or, stay; I'll write it, and you may deliver it at once, Tim.'

"I wrote, ordering the sergeant to send out at once a strong picket of the guard, and to bring in forthwith all stragglers; afterwards to close the gates, and keep the soldiers in til! further directions from me, I folded this order, and gave it to Tim for delivery.

"' And see here; tell him to place an extra sentry on duty at the back entrance leading out of the long blank wall at the rear. There's no thoroughfare there, but it is just as well to be on the safe side. There's an old watchman's box in the yard of the workhouse; have it brought to the back gate, and post a man in it. Can I trust you V'

'"Trust me is it! Shure it is not me that you're trusting at all, but the sergeant,' said Tim. 'You might trust me if the divil was at the hall door, captain.'

"' Well, just deliver the letter, and I'll

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

He

has a free pass from the Coord of Guar

plied.

"'Give him a tumbler of punch then,' said Denis. 'You may as well have him up at all events and hear what he says, j dians to visit the sick paupers any time at You may bo sure he has been out.' 'all, bad luck to him!'

"The. news he brought us was not reas-1 "' Don't let anyone in with him, at all soring. The town was filling rapidly. Peo-1 events. See that lie comes by himself.' pie were pouring in from all sides. I "' All right, sir. Good night, gentlethrew up the window. The distant hum | was clearly audible from where we sat — a noise as of many voices and of many feet.

"'Bedad, sir, there's every prospect of

a good day's divarshun, and no mistake.

"We kept it up rather late, not caring to retire till the noise outside had somewhat abated. I hadn't been in bed half an hour when I heard Tim's voice. He was evidently in altercation with some one, but as he was also indulging in occasional snatches of song, I concluded that nothing serious had occurred. I did not discover the whole truth till he told me himself all about it afterwards.

"It appeared that McGosh did turn up about midnight. Tim slept in the loft over the stable at the end of the long passage, and quite close to my quarters. He was sitting at the window, in the dark, smoking his last pipe previous to turuing in, when he caught sight of the reverend gentleman, just as he was rounding the workhouse square under his window. Tim whistled; there was an answering whistle from the gate at the end of the passage, which he seemed to understand. He put his hand on the window-sill, and easily vaulted to the ground. The night was rather dark, but clear: there was no mistake about his man — he'd have sworn to McGosh among a thousand on a darker night than this.

"'Halt!' shouted Tim, 'or, be jabers, I'll be afther putting a bullet through you! Who goes there?'

"' A friend,' responded McGosh, obeying the command.

"' Stand and give the countersign!' said Tim.

"' I don't know it,' replied McGosh.

"' And how dare you show your ugly nose here without it? That's sudden death, at wanst, so it is.'

"'I'm a clergyman,'explained McGosh, 'I have a free pass; I visit the paupers when I like. Do you know Captain Howley?'

"'I do,'said Tim.

"' I want to see him.'

"' Shure, he's no pauper,' said Tim.

"'No matter; ray business is urgent. Do you know which is his room?'

'"Well, I do.'

"'I'd bo obliged if you'd point it out."

"'That's a horse of another colour," said Tim, purposely blocking the way, 'maybe he mightn't though.' And he began tuning:

Says she,
You fool!
You're fresh from school.

Arrail ! Get away — Closes — Saaun,*
Ommadhaun ! t

"' Be so good as to let me pass, then.'

"'Di vila foot!' said Tim.

"'You're a most impertinent, presuming fellow 1 I have business with him — I must see him!' and he made a vigorous

* Shan a — Irish for Jack.

t Ommadhaun — Irish for a simple fellow.

effort to pass; but Tim had him by the tails of his coat. The threads of the garment began to give way, and the owner yielded to the pressure from behind. PerI haps, on second thoughts, McGosh concluded that, all things considered, it would , be as well if he didn't provoke collision [ with the huge fellow before him. Discretion is acknowledged, at all times, to be the better part of valour; moreover, was 1 it not more consistent with his duty as a * Christian minister to avoid strife as much as possible. On the impulse of the moI ment he turned to go; but changed his mind as suddenly again.

'" Perhaps you wouldn't object to take up my name to the captain? I shall not detain him long. Say that I wish to see him on important business. My name is McGosh—the Rev. Mephibosheth McGosh. I'm not in a hurry; I'll wait.'

"' Faith, then, if you do, it'll be agin mv will, anyhow! Do you think I'd disturb the gintleman at this time of night?'

"' I suppose I need not ask your leave,' said McGosh, 'just point out the way and I'll go myself.'

"' Naither wan nor the other,' replied Tim, growing truculent; 'give me none of your chat. Right about, face 1 quick march! Make yourself scarce, and be smart about it!'

"McGosh hesitated. There was no time for ceremony. Tim seized him by the collar, turned him about, and pushed him vigorously and by main force towards the gate leading from the lane. Resistance was in vain, so McGosh gave in.

"' Good-night. Thank you,' he said,' I can find my way. This is the way I came; you needn't mind coming any further.' He didn't quite like the escort.

"' I'll wait till I see your reverence a bit of the road, at all events," was the response. 'You owld psalm-singing humbug I very little would make me'

'•' I muit beg you to'

"' Howld 1' said Tim, shaking him to within an inch of his life. 'Not another word out of you between this and the gate, or I'll put my fist down your ugly throat 1'

"McGosh did as he was bid, hoping that when he got to the gate he would be released without further molestation. He calculated his chances, and concluded that if the worst went to the worst, he might get a kick behind which might possibly be due, but not dangerous.

"They reached the sentry-box at last 'Tim, is that yourself all right?' said a voice inside.

"' Bedad, it is just myself sure enough, and in the best of company. Wouldn't yon have the common dacency to step outside and salute his reverence?'

"'Is it the praitnher you mane? I thought he'd slip up unknownst to you.'

"'What a chicken I am I' replied Tim, contemptuously. 'The divil is in it if we don't put him through his pacings. Come out and howld him.'

"The heart of McGosh began to sink within him. He was completely in the power of two huge Irishmen. There was nobody about at that time of night who would be likely to take his part; he was at the wrong side of the gate for that. He couldn't run, for Tim's knnckles were in his collar. He was afraid to shout, remembering the injunctions of his captor. It wasn't so dark but that he could discern the faint outline of what appeared to be a musket in the sentry's hand.

"' Howld him!' reiterated Tim; 'come out of that and ketch him by the neck, while I see is the coast clear. Bad luck to you, is it afeard you are?'

"'I wouldn't lay hand on him at all,1 said the other. 'Divil a bit of me would touch him for a tin-pound-note — the owld heretic I'

"This was at least consolatory if it was not very complimentary to McGosh.

"'Clap him into the box, then, and stand outside of him.'

"Having satisfied himself, Tim returned immediately. 'It's all right; let bis reverence out.'

"McGosh hesitated to avail himself of the indulgence.

"'Put him out if he won't come then': hell keep us here all night.'

"' Give me the word and I'll walk straight in,' said the sentry.

"' You wouldn't murder a man in cold blood!' gasped McGosh, finding words at last; — 'an innocent man!'

"'I never kilt a man yet," said Tim, 'and it isn't the likes of you I'd begin on.'

«' Quick, marchl'

"The musket was levelled just on a line with the pit of the reverend gentleman's stomach, and the order was instantly obeyed. He was just in time to slip out edgeways. The weapon went through the back of the sentry-box with a crash, the sound of which sent terror into his heart.

"' Down on your knees at wanst,' •aid Tim, pouncing on his victim again. 'Make haste I It'll soon be over.' McGosh submitted in abject fear.

"' Take your hat now.'

"McGosh obeyed.

'"Sign yourself,' said Tim

"' I — I don't understand 1* McGosh.

"' Sign! — bless yourself 1 — make the sign of the cross. Be smart!'

"' I don't know how I' pleaded McGosh.

•'' More shame for yon! I'll soon larn you. Put your fust finger on your forehead; draw it straight down till you get to the last button on the waistcoat. Now put it on your left shoulder, and draw it over, across your chest. That's it! Now you have it complate I You won't forget that, in case I ask it again V'

"' No,' replied McGosh.

"' What arc you going to praitch about to-morrow, your reverence, I'd like to be sure?'

"' Prayers for the dead I'

"'Draw your breath now — you seem to be short of it. I want you to repate a few words for me, and I'll let you go. Are' you ready?'

"' Quite I' said McGosh, with a sigh of relief.

"' Well, now, spake after me : "May the Lord have mercy on the sowl of Bridget Flannagan, al(f)as Conroy!" That's my owld mother that was.'

"' I couldn't," said McGosh, growing courageous; 'I couldn't — don't ask me. I could never bring myself to utter such blasphemous words!'

"' Out with them,' said Tim, 'or by this and by that I won't lave a whole bone in your skin or a sound tooth in your head I"

'"I can only do so, then, on compulsion.'

"' You'll just do it on your knees,' said Tim.

"' Under fear of my life — under protest!'

"' Divil may care, only spake up. Say em out, that's all: " The Lord have mercy on the sotcl of Bridget Flannagan, Al(i)as Conroy."'

"McGosh obeyed. Tim did not like his Latin. 'Al(i)as Conroy, and none of your humbugging. That's what they call in court a mental reservation you're making — like when a man kisses his thumb instid of the book. Say it right at wonst.'

"' The Lord have mercy on the soul of Bridget Flannagan Elias Conroy,' repeated McGosh, as near as he could.

"' Bless yourself wanst more, till I see how you do it.'

"McGosh obeyed.

"' That'll do, now, your reverence. That's more than ever you said for your

« AnteriorContinuar »