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All-Hallow Eve; or, The Test of Futurity. online

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Produced by Don Kostuch

[Transcriber's notes]
This text is derived from THE CATHOLIC WORLD,

It is the collection of serialized chapters for the convenience
of the reader who wishes to read the whole work.
[End Transcriber's notes]

From The Lamp.




I could have wished that the incidents which I am about to describe in
the following tale had taken place in some locality with a less
Celtic, and to English tongues a more pronounceable, name than
_Boher-na-Milthiogue._ I had at first commenced the tale with the word
itself, thus: "Boher-na-Milthiogue, though in a wild and remote part
of Ireland," etc. But I was afraid that, should an English reader take
up and open the book, he would at the very first word slap it together
again between the palms of his hands, saying, "Oh, that is quite
enough for me!" Now, as my English readers have done me vastly good
service on former occasions, I should be sorry to frighten them at the
outset of this new tale; and I have therefore endeavored to lead them
quietly into it. With my Irish friends no such circumlocution would
have been necessary. Perhaps, if I dissever and explain the word, it
may enable even my English readers in some degree to approach a
successful attempt at its pronunciation. I am aware, however, of the
difficulty they experience in this respect, and that their attempts at
some of our easiest names of Irish places are really
laughable - laughable, at least, to our Celtic familiarity with the
correct sound.

_Boher_ is the Irish for "bridge," and _milthiogue_ for a "midge;"
Boher-na-Milthiogue, "the midge's bridge."

There now, if my English friends cannot yet pronounce the word
properly, which I still doubt, they can at least understand what it
means. It were idle, I fear to hope, that they can see any _beauty_ in
it; and yet that it is beautiful there can be no Celtic doubt

Perhaps it might have been well to have written thus far in the shape
of a preface; but as nobody nowadays reads prefaces, the matter would
have been as bad as ever. I shall therefore continue now as I had
intended to have commenced at first.

Boher-na-Milthiogue, though in a wild and remote part of Ireland, is
not without a certain degree of natural and romantic beauty, suiting
well the features of the scene in which it lies.

Towering above a fertile and well-cultivated plain frown and smile the
brother and sister mountains of Slieve-dhu and Slieve-bawn, the solid
masonry of whose massive and perpendicular precipices was built by no
human architect. The ponderous and scowling rocks of Slieve-dhu, the
brother, are dark and indistinct; while, separated from it by a narrow
and abrupt ravine, those of Slieve-bawn, the sister, are of a whitish
spotted gray, contrasting cheerfully with those of her gloomy brother.

There is generally a story in Ireland about mountains or rivers or old
ruins which present any peculiarity of shape or feature. Now it is an
undoubted fact, which any tourist can satisfy himself of, that
although from sixty to a hundred yards asunder, there are huge bumps
upon the side of Slieve-bawn, corresponding to which in every respect
as to size and shape are cavities precisely opposite them in the side
of Slieve-dhu. The story in this case is, that although formerly the
mountains were, like a loving brother and sister, clasped in each
other's arms, they quarrelled one dark night (I believe about the
cause of thunder), when Slieve-dhu in a passion struck his sister a
blow in the face, and staggered her back to where she now stands, too
far for the possibility of reconciliation; and that she, knowing the
superiority of her personal appearance, stands her ground, as a proud
contrast to her savage and unfeeling relative.

Deep straight gullies, worn by the winter floods, mark the sides of
both mountains into compartments, the proportion and regularity of
which might almost be a matter of surprise, looking like huge stripes
down the white dress of Slieve-bawn, while down that of Slieve-dhu
they might be compared to black and purple plaid.

"Far to the north," in the bosom of the minor hills, lies a glittering
lake - glittering when the sun shines; dark, sombre, and almost
imperceptible when the clouds prevail.

The origin of the beautiful name in which the spot itself rejoices I
believe to be this; but why do I say "believe?" It is a self-evident
and well-known fact.

Along the base of Slieve-bawn there runs a narrow _roadeen_, turning
almost at right angles through the ravine already mentioned, and
leading to the flat and populous portion of the country on the other
side of the mountains, and cutting the journey, for any person
requiring to go there, into the sixteenth of the distance by the main
road. In this instance the proverb would not be fulfilled, that "the
longest way round was the shortest way home." Across one of the
winter-torrent beds which runs down the mountain side, almost at the
entrance of the ravine, is a rough-built rustic bridge, at a
considerable elevation from the road below. To those approaching it
from the lower level, it forms a conspicuous and exceedingly
picturesque object, looking not unlike a sort of castellated defence
to the mouth of the narrow pass between the mountains.

This bridge, toward sunset upon a summer's evening, presents a very
curious and (except in that spot) an unusual sight. Whether it arises
from any peculiarity of the herbage in the vicinity, or the fissures
in the mountains, or the crevices in the bridge itself, as calculated
to engender them, it would be hard to say; but it would be impossible
for any arithmetician to compute at the roughest guess the millions,
the billions of small midges which dance in the sunbeams immediately
above and around the bridge, but in no other spot for miles within
view. The singularity of their movements, and the peculiarity of their
distribution in the air, cannot fail to attract the observation of the
most careless beholder. In separate and distinct batches of some
hundreds of millions each, they rise in almost solid masses until they
are lost sight of, as they attain the level of the heathered brow of
the mountain behind them, becoming visible again as they descend into
the bright sunshine that lies upon the white rocks of Slieve-bawn. In
no instance can you perceive individual or scattered midges; each
batch is connected and distinct in itself, sometimes oval, sometimes
almost square, but most frequently in a perfectly round ball. No two
of these batches rise or fall at the same moment. I was fortunate
enough to see them myself upon more than one occasion in high
perfection. They reminded me of large balls thrown up and caught
successively by some distinguished acrobat. During the
performance, a tiny little sharp whir of music fills the atmosphere,
which would almost set you to sleep as you sit on the battlement of
the bridge watching and wondering.

By what law of creation, or what instinct of nature, or, if by
neither, by what union of sympathy the movements of these milthiogues
are governed - for I am certain there are millions of them at the same
work in the same spot this fine summer's evening - would be a curious
and proper study for an entomologist; but I have no time here to do
more than describe the facts, were I even competent to enter into the
inquiry. Fancy say fifty millions of midges in a round ball, so
arranged that, under no suddenness or intricacy of movement, any one
touches another. There is no saying amongst them, "Keep out of my way,
and don't be _pushin'_ me," as Larry Doolan says.

So far, the thing in itself appears miraculous; but when we come to
consider that their motions, upward to a certain point, and downward
to another, are simultaneous, that the slightest turn of their wings
is collectively instantaneous, rendering them at one moment like a
black target, and another turn rendering them almost invisible, all
their movements being as if guided by a single will - we are not only
lost in wonder, but we are perfectly unable to account for or
comprehend it. I have often been surprised, and so, no doubt, may many
of my readers have been, at the regularity of the evolutions of a
flock of stares in the air, where every twist and turn of a few
thousand pairs of wings seemed as if moved by some connecting wire;
but even this fact, surprising as it is, sinks into insignificance
when compared with the movements of these milthiogues.

But putting all these inquiries and considerations aside, the simple
facts recorded have been the origin of the name with which this tale


Winifred Cavana was an only daughter, indeed an only child. Her
father, old Ned Cavana of Rathcash, had been always a thrifty and
industrious man. During the many years he had been able to attend to
business - and he was an experienced farmer - he had realized a sum of
money, which, in his rank of life and by his less prosperous
neighbors, would be called "unbounded wealth," but which, divested of
that envious exaggeration, was really a comfortable independence for
his declining years, and would one of those days be a handsome
inheritance for his handsome daughter. Not that Ned Cavana intended to
huxter the whole of it up, so that she should not enjoy any of it
until its possession might serve to lighten her grief for his
death - no; should Winny marry some "likely boy," of whom her father
could in every respect approve, she should have six hundred pounds,
R.M.D.; and at his death by which time Ned hoped some of his
grandchildren would make the residue more necessary - she should have
all that he was able to demise, which was no paltry matter. In the
meantime they would live happily and comfortable, not niggardly.

With this view - a distant one, he still hoped - before him, and knowing
that he had already sown a good crop, and reaped a sufficient harvest
to live liberally, die peacefully, and be _berrid dacently_, he had
set a great portion of his land upon a lease during his own life, at
the termination of which it was to revert to his son-in-law, of whose
existence, long before that time, he could have no doubt, and for
whose name a blank had been left in his will, to be filled up in due
time before he died, or, failing that event - not his death, but a
son-in-law - it was left solely to his daughter Winifred.

Winny Cavana was, beyond doubt or question, a very handsome girl - and
she knew it. She knew, too, that she was "a catch;" the only one
in that side of the country; and no person wondered at the many
admirers she could boast of, though it was a thing she was never known
to do; nor did she wonder at it herself. Without her six hundred
pounds, Winny could have had scores of "bachelors;" and it was not
very surprising if she was hard to be pleased. Indeed, had Winny
Cavana been penniless, it is possible she would have had a greater
number of open admirers, for her reputed wealth kept many a faint
heart at a distance. It was not to be wondered at either, if a wealthy
country beauty had the name of a coquette, whether she deserved it or
not; nor was it to be expected that she could give unmixed
satisfaction to each of her admirers; and we all know what
censoriousness unsuccessful admiration is likely to cause in a
disappointed heart.

Amongst all those who were said to have entered for the prize of
Winny's heart, Thomas Murdock was the favorite - not with herself, but
the neighbors. At all events he was the "likely boy" whom Winny's
father had in his eye as a husband for his daughter; and in writing
his will, he had lifted his pen from the paper at the blank already
mentioned, and written the name Thomas Murdock in the air, so that, in
case matters turned out as he wished and anticipated, it would fit in
to a nicety.

The townlands of Rathcash and Rathcashmore, upon which the Cavanas and
Murdocks lived, was rather a thickly populated district, and they had
some well-to-do neighbors, beside many who were not quite so
well-to-do, but were yet decent and respectable. There were the Boyds,
the Beattys, and the Brennans, with the Cahils, the Cartys, and the
Clearys beyond them; the Doyles, the Dempseys, and the Dolans not far
off; with the Mulveys, the Mooneys, and the Morans quite close. The
people seemed to live in alphabetical batches in that district, as if
for the convenience of the county cess-collector and his book. Many
others lived still further off, but not so far (in Ireland) as not to
be called neighbors.

Kate Mulvey, one of the nearest neighbors, was a great friend and
companion of Winny's. If Kate had six hundred pounds she could easily
have rivalled Winny's good looks, but she had not six hundred pence;
and notwithstanding her magnificent eyes, her white teeth, and her
glossy brown hair, she could not look within miles as high into the
clouds as Winny could. Still Kate had her admirers, some of whom even
Winny's fondest glance, with all her money, could not betray into
treachery. But it so happened that the person at whom she had thrown
her cap had not (as yet, at least) picked it up.


It was toward the end of October, 1826. There had been an early
spring, and the crops had been got in favorably, and in good time.
There had been "a wet and a windy May;" a warm, bright summer had
succeeded it; and the harvest had been now all gathered in, except the
potatoes, which were in rapid progress of being dug and pitted. It was
a great day for Ireland, let the advocates for "breadstuffs" say what
they will, before the blight and yellow meal had either of them become
familiar with the poor. There were the Cork reds and the cups, the
benefits and the Brown's fancies, for half nothing in every direction,
beside many other sorts of potatoes, bulging up the surface of the
ridges - there were no drills in those days; _mehils_ in almost every
field, with their coats off at the digging-in.

"Bill, don't lane on that boy on the ridge wid you; he's not much more
nor a _gossoon_; give him a start of you."

"_Gossoon aniow_; be gorra, he's as smart a chap on the face of a
ridge as the best of us, Tom."

"Ay; but don't take it out of him too soon, Bill."

"Work away, boys," said the _gossoon_ in question; "I'll engage I'll
shoulder my loy at the end of the ridge as soon as some of ye that's

"It was wan word for the _gossoon_, as he calls him, an' two for
himself, Bill," chimed in the man on the next ridge. "Don't hurry Tom
Nolan; his feet's sore afther all he danced with Nelly Gaffeny last

Here there was a loud and general laugh at poor Tom Nolan's expense,
and the _pickers_ - women and girls, with handkerchiefs tied over their
heads looked up with one accord, annoyed that they were too far off to
hear the joke. It was well for one of them that they had not heard it,
for Nelly Gaffeny was amongst them.

"It's many a day, Pat, since you seen the likes of them turned out of
a ridge."

"They bate the world."

"They bang Banagher; and Banagher, they say - "

"Whist, Larry; don't be dhrawing that chap down at all."

"I seen but wan betther the year," said Tim Meaney.

"I say you didn't, nor the sorra take the betther, nor so good."

"Arra, didn't I? I say I did though."

"Where, _avic ma cree?_"

"Beyant at Tony Kilroy's."

"Ay, ay; Tony always had a pet acre on the side of the hill toward the
sun. He has the best bit of land in the parish."

"You may say that, Micky, with your own purty mouth. I led his
_mehil_, come this hollintide will be three years; an' there wasn't a
man of forty of us but turned out eight stone of cup off every ten
yards a a' four-split ridge. Devil a the like of them I ever seen
afore or since."

"Lumpers you mane, Andy; wasn't I there?"

"Is it you, Darby? no, nor the sorra take the foot; we all know where
you were that same year."

"Down in the lower part of Cavan, Phil. In throth, it wasn't cup
potatoes was throublin' him that time; but cups and saucers. He dhrank
a power of tay that harvest, boys."

Here there was another loud laugh, and the women with the
handkerchiefs upon their heads looked up again.

"Well, I brought her home dacent, boys; an' what can ye say to her?"

"Be gor, nothing, Darby avic, but that she's an iligant purty crathur,
and a credit to them that owns her, an' them that reared her."

"The sorra word of lie in that," echoed every man in the _mehil_.

Thus the merry chat and laugh went on in every potato-field. The
women, finding that they had too much to do to enable them to keep
close to the men, and that they were losing the fun, of course got up
a chat for themselves, and took good care to have some loud and hearty
laughs, which made the men in their turn look up, and lean upon their

Everything about Rathcash and Rathcashmore was prosperous and happy,
and the farmers were cheerful and open-hearted.

"That's grand weather, glory be to God, Ned, for the time of year,"
said Mick Murdock to his neighbor Cavana, who was leaning, with his
arms folded, on a field-gate near the mearing of their two farms. The
farms lay alongside of each other - one in the town-land of Rathcash,
and the other in Rathcashmore.

"Couldn't be bet, Mick. I'm upward of forty years stannin' in this
spot, an' I never seen the batin' of it."

"Be gorra, you have a right to be tired, Ned; that's a long stannin'."

"The sorra tired, Mick a _wochal_. You know very well what I mane, an'
you needn't be so sharp. I'd never be tired of the same spot."

"Them's a good score of calves, Ned; God bless you an' them!" said
Mick, making up for his sharpness.

"An' you too, Mick. They are a fine lot of calves, an' all reared
since Candlemas."

"There's no denying, Ned, but you med the most of that bit of land of

"'Tis about the same as your own, Mick; an' I think you med as good a
fist of yours."

"Well, maybe so, indeed; but I doubt it is going into worse hands than
what yours will, Ned."

"Why that, Mick?"

"Ah, that Tom of mine is a wild extravagant hero. He doesn't know much
about the value of money, and never paid any attention to farming
business, only what he was obliged to pick up from being with me. He
thinks he'll be rich enough when I'm in my clay, without much work.
An' so he will, Ned, so far as that goes; but it's only of
book-larnin' an' horse-racin' an' coorsin' he's thinkin', by way of
being a sort of gentleman one of those days; but he'll find to his
cost, in the lather end, that there's more wantin' to grow good crops
than 'The Farmer's Calendar of Operations.'"

"He's young, Mick, an' no doubt he'll mend. I hope you don't
discourage him."

"Not at all, Ned. The book-larnin 's all well enough, as far as it
goes, if he'd put the practice along with it, an' be studdy."

"So he will, Mick. His wild-oats will soon be all sown, an' then
you'll see what a chap he'll be."

"Faix, I'd rather see him sowing a crop of yallow Aberdeens, Ned, next
June; an' maybe it's what it's at the Curragh of Kildare he'll be, as
I can hear. My advice to him is to get married to some dacent nice
girl, that id take the wildness out of him, and lay himself down to
business. You know, Ned, he'll have every penny and stick I have in
the world; and the lease of my houlding in Rathcashmore is as good as
an estate at the rent I pay. If he'd give up his meandherin', and take
a dacent liking to them that's fit for him, I'd set him up all at
wanst, an' not be keeping him out of it until I was dead an' berrid."

The above was not a bad feeler, nor was it badly put by old Mick
Murdock to his neighbor. "Them that's fit for him" could hardly be
mistaken; yet there was a certain degree of disparagement of his own
son calculated to conceal his object. It elicited nothing, however,
but a long thoughtful silence upon old Ned Cavana's part, which Mick
was not slow to interpret, and did not wish to interrupt. At last Ned
stood up from the gate, and smoothing down the sleeves of his coat, as
if he supposed they had contracted some dust, he observed, "I'm
afear'd, Mick, you're puttin' the cart before the horse; come until I
show you a few ridges of red apples I'm diggin' out to-day. You'd
think I actially got them carted in, an' threune them upon the ridges:
the like of them I never seen."

And the two old men walked down the lane together.

But Mick Murdock's feeler was not forgotten by either of them. Mick
was as well pleased - perhaps better - that no further discussion took
place upon the subject at the time. He knew Ned Cavana was not a man
to commit himself to a hasty opinion upon any matter, much less upon
one of such importance as was so plainly suggested by his

Ned Cavana, too, brooded over the conversation in silence, determined
to throw out a feeler of his own to his daughter.

Ned had himself more than once contemplated the possibility as well as
the prudence of a match between Tom Murdock and his daughter. The
union, not of themselves alone, but of the two farms, would almost
make a gentleman of the person holding them. Both farms were held upon
unusually long leases, and at less than one-third of their value. If
joined, there could be no doubt but, with the careful and industrious
management of an experienced man, they would turn in a clear income of
between five and six hundred a year; quite sufficient in that part of
the world to entitle a person of even tolerably good education
to look up to the grand-jury list and a "justice of the pace."

The only question with Ned Cavana was, Did Tom Murdock possess the
attributes required for success in all or any of the above respects?
Ned, although he had taken his part with his father, feared _not_. Ay,
there was another question, Was Winny inclined for him? He feared not

The other old man had not forgotten the feeler he had thrown out
either, nor the thoughtful silence with which it had been received;
for Mick Murdock could not believe that a man of Ned Cavana's
penetration had misunderstood him. Indeed, he was inclined to think
that the same matter might have originated in Ned's own mind, from
some words he had once or twice dropped about poor Winny's prospects
when he was gone, and the suspense it would be to him if she were not
settled in life before that day; "snaffled perhaps by some
good-for-nothing, extravagant fortune-hunter, with a handsome face,
when she had no one to look after her."

There was but one word in the above which Mick thought could be justly
applied to Tom; "extravagant" he undoubtedly was, but he was neither
handsome - at least not handsome enough to be called so as a matter of
course - nor was he good-for-nothing. He was a well-educated sharp
fellow, if he would only lay himself down to business. He was not a
fortune-hunter, for he did not require it; but idleness and
extravagance might make him one in the end. Yet old Mick was by no
means certain that the propriety of a match between these only and
rich children had not suggested itself to his neighbor Ned as well as
to himself. He hoped that if Tom had a "dacent hankerrin' afther" any
one, it was for Winny Cavana; but, like her father, he doubted if the
girl herself was inclined for him. He knew that she was proud and
self-willed. He was determined, however, to follow the matter up, and
throw out another feeler upon the subject to his son.


It was now the 25th of October, just six days from All-Hallow Eve.
Mick would ask a few of the neighbors to burn nuts and eat apples, and
then, perhaps, he might find out how the wind blew.

"Tom," said he to his son, "I believe this is a good year for nuts."

"Well, father, I met a couple of chaps ere yesterday with their
pockets full of fine brown shellers, coming from Clonard Wood."

"I dare say they are not all gone yet, Tom; an' I wish you would set
them to get us a few pockets full, and we would ask a few of the
neighbors here to burn them on All-Hallow Eve."

"That's easy done, father; I can get three or four quarts by to-morrow
night. Those two very chaps would be glad to earn a few pence for
them; they wanted me to buy what they had; and if I knew your

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Online LibraryRobert CurtisAll-Hallow Eve; or, The Test of Futurity. → online text (page 1 of 20)