AN OLD CROPPY'S NOTIONS OF SECURITY OF TENURE.
FATHER HANNIGAN and Maurice Kearney, with old Phil Morris and Phil Lahy, and a few more choice spirits, drew close together round the social board, and enjoyed themselves in their own way.
"I gave my daughter to Ned Brophy," said old Larry Clancy, in reply to a question of Father Hannigan's — "I gave my daughter to Ned Brophy, because he has a good lase."
"A good landlord is as good as a good lease," said Maurice Kearney.
"I do not know that," returned Larry Clancy, slowly and emphatically. "For my own part, I'd rather have a good lase wud the worst landlord, than no lase wad the best landlord that ever broke bread. Security is the only thing to give a man courage."
"He's right," exclaimed old Phil Morris, striking his stick against the ground. "Security is the only thing. But if every man was of my mind he'd have security or know for what."
"Hold your tongue, you old sinner," said Father Hannigan, who had often combated Phil Morris's views, as to how the land question could be brought to a speedy settlement.
"I have my old pike yet — an' maybe I'd want id yet!" he exclaimed, with a look of defiance at the priest. "An' the man that'd come to turn me out on the road, as I see others turned out on the road, I'd give him the length uv id, as sure as God made Moses."
"And swing for it," said Father Hannigan.
"Ay, an' swing for it," shouted the old Croppy; for it was a musket bullet that shattered Phil Morris's knee in '98. "Ay, an' swing for it."
"And be damned," added the priest. "Don't you know 'tis murder — wilful murder?"
"I don't know that," he replied. "But the prayers of the congregation would carry the man's sowl to heaven, that'd do a manly act, an' put a tyrant out uv the country, and keep other tyrants from following his example. 'Tis self-defence," he added, striking his stick against the ground; 'tis justice."
"'Tis bad work," said Father Hannigan. "And take my word, luck or grace will never come of it."
"I agree with you," Hugh Kearney observed, who had joined them during the latter part of the discussion.
"You do!" exclaimed old Phil, turning upon him with a scowl. "An' who the divil cares what you or the likes of you agree with? You're well off as you are, and little trouble id gives you to see the people hunted like dogs."
"You're wrong there, Phil," replied Hugh. "I'd like to see that old pike of yours taken from the thatch for a manly fight like that you fought in '98. But that's a different thing."
"Well, I know that," returned Phil Morris, letting his chin drop upon his chest, and seeming to brood over the subject for a minute or two. "But five years ago," he added, "I could count three-an-twenty houses, big an' little, between the cross uv Liscorrig an' Shanbally-bridge; an' to-day you couldn't light your pipe along that whole piece uv a road, barrin' at wan house — and that's my own. An' why am I left there? Because they knew I'd do id," he muttered through his clenched teeth, as if he were speaking to himself.
"Let him alone," said the priest. "There's no use in talking to him."
"There's raison in what he says," says old Larry Clancy, in his slow, emphatic way. "I say," he added, looking at the priest, "there's raison in what he says."
"Don't be talking foolish," returned Father Hannigan, who saw that the eyes of three or four small farmers were fixed inquiringly on his face. "Good never came of it."
"Do you hear him?" exclaimed old Phil Morris, turning to Hugh Kearney.
"Well, to a great extent," said Hugh, after a short silence — for he saw they all expected he would speak — "to a great extent I agree with Father Hannigan. But there is no use in denying that the dread of assassination is the only protection the people have against extermination in this part of Ireland."
"I say 'tis justice in the eye uv God," exclaimed old Phil Morris, "to punish the bloody tyrants — the robbers and murdherers that rob the people uv their little spots, an' turn 'em out to perish. 'Tis justice to punish the bloody robbers!" And as old Phil struck his stick against the ground and looked around, there was a murmur of applause from the bystanders, who by this time were pretty numerous.
"The man that believes he is robbed or persecuted," said the priest, "cannot be an impartial judge. If every one was to take the law in his own hands, there would be nothing but violence and bloodshed."
"Well, what do you say to giving the exterminators a fair trial before judge and jury?"
"What judge and jury?"
"'Tisn't the judge an' jury in the coort-house," returned Phil Morris, "because they're all for the tyrants, an' some uv 'em tyrants themselves; but a fair jury uv the people, an' a fair judge."
"I know what you mean," said Father Hannigan. "But if the judge and jury in the court-house be all for the tyrant, don't you think your judge and jury would be as much for the victim?"
"No; they'd never condemn a man that didn't desarve id," replied Phil.
"Ignorant men," rejoined the priest, "blinded by passion — perhaps smarting under wrong themselves, or dreading that their own turn might come next couldn't be a fair judge and jury, Phil, even if what you speak of were lawful or just in the sight of God. So hold your tongue."
"Ay, that's the way always. 'Howld your tongue' settles id.
"There is Mr. Lloyd," continued Father Hannigan, as that gentleman returned to his seat; "and if he put out a tenant would you shoot him?"
"The divil a hair uv his head would be touched," replied Phil. "He gives good lases at a fair rent; and the man that does that won't turn out a tenant unless he desarves to be turned out. Answer me this wan question. Did you ever know uv a good landlord to be shot, or a good agent? Answer me that."
"Well, no," replied the priest. "I never did."
"There it is," observed Larry Clancy, as if that settled the question, and Father Hannigan had thrown up the sponge.
"Well, now, Mr. Lowe," said Father Hannigan, "what's your opinion of this matter?"
"I am almost entirely ignorant of it," he replied. "But I confess I came over to Ireland under the impression that the people were lawless and revengeful, particularly in your county."
"You only saw the dark side of the picture," returned Father Hannigan. "We are not so black as we are painted."
"I believe that. And a remark made by an Irish judge, with whom I had the honour of dining a few weeks ago, made a great impression on me, I confess."
"What did he say?"
"He had sentenced several men to be hanged a short time before, and a gentleman present made some severe remarks, while discussing the subject of agrarian outrages, when Judge said: 'I never met an instance of a landlord being killed, who did not deserve — I won't say to be hanged, as I am a judge — but I do say, a case of the kind never came before me that the landlord did not deserve to be damned!'"
Old Phil Morris looked with astonishment at the speaker.
"Put id there," he exclaimed, reaching his horny hand across the table. "If you were the divil you're an honest man."
"I don't despair of old Ireland yet," said the priest. "The people are good if they only get fair play."
"Ireland will never do any good till we have trade and manufactures of our own," observed Phil Lahy. And a certain thickness of utterance indicated that Phil had forgotten his resolution respecting the cordial long ago.
"Our rulers crushed our trade and manufactures," said Father Hannigan.
"Yes," returned Phil Lahy, "but the people are too much given to farming. A beggarly sky farmer that's stuck in the mud from mornin' to night, an' don't know beef from mutton — no, nor the taste of an egg; for if he dare look at a hen's tail, his wife would fling the dish-cloth at him. An' that poor crawler, with his bead bald from the rain droppin' on it from the eave from standin' outside his honour's window, waitin' till his honour condescended to talk to him — that beggar would despise the tradesman an' look down on him. Tom Hogan comes in to me this mornin' to know was there any news in the paper. 'There is,' says I. 'I'll read one uv the best articles ever you heard for you,' says I. 'Look at the markets,' says Tom Hogan. Ha! ha! ha!" And Phil Lahy laughed quite sardonically. "'Look at the markets.' Ha! ha! ha!"
"There's some truth in what you say," said Father Hannigan.
"Ay," continued Phil, "an' the big farmer will make doctors an' attorneys of his sons, instead of setting 'em up in business."
"I'm going to bind my youngest son to his uncle," said Mr. Kearney.
"For a wonder," returned Phil Lahy, tasting his punch; and, not considering it up to the mark, adding another glass of whiskey.
"That's what I call a double entendre, Phil," said Father Hannigan.
"I fear you are forgetting your promise," Hugh observed.
"What promise?" Phil asked.
"Not to drink anything stronger than cordial."
Phil Lahy stared at the speaker for half a minute; and then stared at the double entendre for half a minute more.
In fact, Phil Lahy felt himself in a dilemma. Making a sudden dive, however, at the ginger cordial decanter, he filled his glass and carefully added the glass of cordial to the two glasses of whiskey in his tumbler.
"Will that please you?" he asked, turning to Hugh, as if that didn't satisfy him nothing could.
Hugh rubbed his hand over his face, and did his best to keep from laughing.
"Would you doubt Phil for getting out of a promise?" observed Father Hannigan. "He'd drive a coach-and-six through any promise that ever was made — as old Dan used to say of an Act of Parliament."
"Old Dan said many a good thing," rejoined Phil Lahy, not choosing to notice the reference to the "promise." "But the best thing ever he said," he continued, casting about for something that would turn the conversation away from promises and cordial altogether — "the best thing ever he said was: 'England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity" exclaimed Phil Lahy, as the happy apothegm suddenly flashed into his mind at the very moment that he was about taking refuge in a severe fit of sneezing. "An' you'll see Ireland yet — "Here Phil stopped short, as if he had lost the thread of his discourse; but after a good pull at the tumbler, he seemed to find it again, and added — "when a redcoat will be as great a curiosity as a white blackbird. There's a storm brewin'," he continued, with a portentous scowl. "Columbkill's words is comin' to pass. An' the day will come when we can drive the invader out of Ireland — wud square-bottles, as Mat the Thrasher said the other day."
"But I don't like to hear you running down the farmers," observed Father Hannigan.
"I don't run down the farmers — except when they deserve id."
"Manufactures are good," continued Father Hannigan; "and we'll have enough of them when our fine harbours are crowded with the shipping of America — and of the whole world. But for all that I'd be sorry to see the homes of the peasantry disappearing from our hills and our plains, and the people crowded into factories."
"You're right," exclaimed Phil Lahy, almost with a shout.
"'Princes or lords may flourish or may fade.'
Mat Donovan has a new song that touches upon that."
"Come, Mat, give us the new song," said Father Hannigan.
"I'm afeard I haven't id be heart right yet, sir," replied Mat.
"Oh, we'll excuse you; we'll excuse all mistakes," rejoined the priest. "Come, Mr. Hanly," he called out to Lory — who with a dozen others was battering the floor to the tune of " O'Connell's Trip to Parliament" — "We're going to get a song. Give the poor pipers and fiddlers a rest. Come, Mat, up with it!"
There was a general movement towards the table, and all waited anxiously for Mat the Thrasher's new song, of which many of the company had heard.
Mat Donovan leant back in his chair, and with a huge hand resting on the table, and clutching one of the gilt buttons on the front of the blue body-coat with the other, he turned his eyes to the collar-beams, and sang in a fine mellow voice:
THE PEASANT-FARMER'S SONG — FOR THE TIME TO COME.
I've a pound for to lend, and a pound for to spend —
And céad mile fáilte my word for a friend;
No mortal I envy, no master I own —
Nor lord in his castle, nor king on his throne.
Come, fill up your glasses, the first cup we'll drain
To the comrades we lost on the red battle plain!
Oh, we'll cherish their fame, boys, who died long ago —
And what's that to any man whether or no?
The spinning-wheels stop, and my girls grow pale,
While their mother is telling some sorrowful tale,
Of old cabins levelled, and coffinless graves,
And ships swallowed up in the salt ocean waves.
But, girls, that's over — for each of you now
I'll have twenty-five pounds and a three-year-old cow;
And we'll have lán na mhála* at your weddings I trow —
And what's that to any man whether or no?
Come here, bhean na tighe+ sit beside me a while,
And the pride of your heart let me read in your smile.
Would you give your old home for the lordliest hall?
Ha! — you glance at my rifle that hangs on the wall.
And your two gallant boys on parade-day are seen
In the ranks of the brave 'neath the banner of green;
Oh! I've taught them to guard it 'gainst traitor and foe —
And what's that to any man whether or no?
But the youngest of all is the "white-headed boy"++ —
The pulse of your heart, and our pride and our joy:
From the dance and the hurling he'll steal off to pray,
And will wander alone by the river all day.
He's as good as the priest at his Latin I hear,
And to college, please God, we'll send him next year.
Oh, he'll offer the Mass for our souls when we go —
And what's that to any man whether or no?
Your hands, then, old neighbours! one more glass we'll drain;
And céad mile fáilte again and again!
May discord and treason keep far from our shore,
And freedom and peace light our homes evermore.
He's the king of good fellows, the poor, honest man;
So we'll live and be merry as long as we can,
And we'll cling to old Ireland through weal and through woe —
And what's that to any man whether or no?
* "Lan na mhala " — pronounced lawn-na-waula.—-"Full of a bag," — i.e., abundance.
+ "Bhean na tighe,"—" pronounced van-a-thee. — "The woman of the house."
++ "The white-headed boy," — the favourite.
There was a shout of applause at the conclusion of Mat Donovan's song; and some of the women were seen to wipe the tears from their cheeks with their aprons. Bessy Morris raised her eyes to his; and as she laid her hand upon his arm while turning away her head to reply to a question of Hugh Kearney's, Mat Donovan pressed his hand over his eyes, and caught his breath, as if he had been shot through the body.
Bessy Morris resumed her coquettish ways as she went on talking to Hugh Kearney, who was evidently captivated by her. If he had proposed for her on the spot, with or without his father's consent, and if it were arranged that they were to be married that day week, or any day before Ash-Wednesday, it would not have surprised Mat Donovan in the least. But while she talked and laughed with Hugh Kearney, her hand remained resting on the sleeve of the blue body-coat. Perhaps this little incident did not mean much. Mat Donovan never for a moment thought it meant anything. But he kept his arm quite still, and would not have frightened away that little hand for a trifle.
"That's a right good song, Mat," said Father Hannigan.
"The chorus," observed Phil Lahy, who seemed in a mood for contradiction, "is as ould as the hills."
"So much the better," replied the priest. "Are we going to get a song from anyone else?"
"Billy Heffernan has another new wan," said a voice from the crowd.
"Don't mind id!" exclaimed Phil Lahy, contemptuously, "'Tis a 'come-all-ye.'" By which Phil meant that Billy Heffernan's new song belonged to that class of ballads which invariably commence:
"come all ye tender Christians, I hope you will draw near,"
'Tis a come-all-ye," repeated Phil Lahy. "Don't bother us wud id."
The twang of the fiddles, followed by the sound of drone and chanter, however, showed that the dancers were becoming impatient, and had urged the musicians to strike up; and Lory Hanly was immediately on his legs again with his partner, to finish the "bout" which Father Hannigan had cut short so unceremoniously.
Hugh Kearney was about asking Bessy Morris to dance again, when Nelly Donovan came up to him.
"Come into the parlour, sir," said she. "'Tis cleared up, an' Mr. Flaherty is afther consentin' to play a few sets for the ladies."
To the great satisfaction of many of the boys, and not a few of the girls, the priest and the "ladies and gentlemen," with about a dozen of the more genteel among the guests, withdrew to the dwelling-house. Mr. Lowe offered his arm to Miss Lloyd, and Miss Isabella evidently expected that Hugh Kearney would conduct her through the yard. But Hugh kept possession of the piquant Bessy, and Father Hannigan gallantly offered his arm to Miss Isabella, who, in spite of her good humour, looked a little vexed. Lory Hanly refused point-blank to accompany them, declaring that he considered the barn "better value"; in which opinion Mr. Robert Lloyd entirely concurred, and pronounced Lory a lad of spirit. And here we have to record a very curious fact. No sooner was the priest's back turned than fully half-a-score of seats round the barn might have been dispensed with; for by some strange chance quite a number of the prettiest girls found themselves sitting on their partners' knees — an arrangement, however, which not a single "matron's glance" attempted to "reprove." And now the fun began in right earnest. But not a single dancer, during that memorable night, so distinguished and covered himself with glory, as Lory Hanly, who tired down all his partners, even Nelly Donovan, who was never before known to throw up the sponge. And Barney Brodherick, too, called down thunders of applause by dancing a "single bout" upon the big table. In the midst of the cheers that greeted Barney's performance, Nelly Donovan pushed her way through the crowd to Billy Heffernan, and asked breathlessly:
"Billy, have you your flute?"
"Why so?" returned Billy, in by no means a cheerful manner.
"Because they want you to play the 'Frolic,'" replied Nelly, excitedly.
"Who wants me to play id?" Billy asked, rubbing his nose.
"Father Hannigan, and all uv 'em. Have you the flute?"
"Well, I have the flute," said Billy. "But I don't know what to say about playin' the 'Frolic' while Mr. Flaherty is there. Maybe 'tis turned out I'd be like the pipers." Billy Heffernan evidently stood in awe of the great Flaherty.
"Come away," exclaimed Nelly. "'Tis he wants to hear id. Man alive! if you heard the way Father Hannigan praised you to the skies. He said you wor a born janius. Come, before they're up for the next set."
"Are they dancin'?" Billy asked, scratching his head, as if he sought for an excuse to put off the ordeal as long as possible.
"They are, they are," Nelly exclaimed, impatiently. "The strange gentleman an' Miss Lloyd is afther dancin' that new dance they call the polka. An' faith, 'tis no great things uv a dance. 'Tis all bulla-bulla-baw-sheen. Myse'f don't know how they can stand id —
Tal-tal, tal-tal, tal-tal, tal-tal-la!
all the same, round an' round." And Nelly sang a somewhat monotonous dancing-tune which was then known in those parts as "the polka."
"By my word," continued Nelly Donovan, contemptuously, "they'd soon get tired uv id — on'y for the ketchin'."
Billy Heffernan screwed his flute together, and sounded low D.
"Maybe id wants a dhrink," said Nelly, with whom the old flute was evidently an old acquaintance.
"No, 'tis all right," Billy replied. "I iled id yestherday. But sure there's no hurry; an' if I was flusthered I'd make a show uv myse'f. Sit down awhile an' tell me who's wudin, an' how they're goin' on."
"Wisha, sure you know the whole uv 'em as well as myse'f," Nelly replied, as she sat down. "Miss Isabella is a darlin', an' she's so pleasant. I must be tellin' Miss Mary to-morrow what an eye she has afther Mr. Hugh. I'd hould my life she'd rather have him than the young landlord, or whatever he is. But bad cess to me, Billy, but Bessy Morris has em all light about her. I think she must have a four-laved shamrock or somethin'. She bates the world. An' 'tisn't because she's so handsome. There's Alice Ryan, an' she's be odds a purtier girl — an' faith she don't want to be reminded uv that same, either. If you see the bitther look she gave Tom Daniel, just because he asked her was id long since they had a letther from her brother. An' signs on, the divil a much any wan cares about her, in spite uv all her beauty. An' look at 'em all ready, you'd think, to put their hands undher Bessy's feet."
"Wisha, begor, Nelly," returned Billy Heffernan, "you wouldn't let id go wud any uv 'em yourse'f."
"Arrah, now, Billy, what sign uv a fool do you see on me? Don't think you can come Jack Hannan over me that way. The man that'll buy me for a fool, will be a long way out of his money."
I'm on'y tellin' the honest thruth," replied Billy, solemnly. "I said id to myse'f when you were dancin' wud Tom Daniel a while ago."
She looked at him with pleased surprise, but said nothing.
"What way is Phil Lahy goin' on?" he asked. "Is he stickin' to the cordial?"
The question seemed to cast a gloom over Nelly Donovan's face, but rousing herself, she replied laughing:
"Well, yes; he's stickin' to the cordial, but I'm afraid be puts in a drop uv the hardware sometimes by mistake."
"He's all right," Billy remarked, " 'till he comes to the holy wather."
"Faith, then, he is afther comin' to id," she replied. "Just as I was comin' out he was tellin' Father Hannigan the ould story, how he never went to bed wudout sprinklin' himse'f wud the holy wather."
"He must be looked afther," said Billy Heffernan. "I promised Norah I'd have an eye to him. But he has so many turns and twists in him 'tis hard to manage him. 'Tis 'cuter and 'cuter he gets the more he has taken. No matther what you'd say, he'd have an argument agin you."
"Well, here, come away," said Nelly, taking him by the arm and pulling him to the door. He walked voluntarily across the yard, but came to a stand outside the parlour door, and Nelly was obliged again to have recourse to force to get him in.