William Carleton.

The Emigrants Of Ahadarra The Works of William Carleton, Volume Two online

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Produced by David Widger


By William Carleton

CHAPTER I. - A strong Farmer's Establishment and Family.

It was one summer morning, about nine o'clock, when a little man, in
the garb and trim of a mendicant, accompanied by a slender but rather
handsome looking girl about sixteen, or it may be a year more, were upon
their way to the house of a man, who, from his position in life, might
be considered a wealthy agriculturist, and only a step or two beneath
the condition of a gentleman farmer, although much more plain and rustic
in his manners. The house and place had about them that characteristic
appearance of abundance and slovenly neglect which is, unfortunately,
almost peculiar to our country. The house was a long slated one, and
stood upon a little eminence, about three or four hundred yards from the
highway. It was approached by a broad and ragged boreen or mock avenue,
as it might be called, that was in very good keeping with the premises
to which it led. As you entered it from the road, you had to pass
through an iron gate, which it was a task to open, and which, when
opened, it was another task to shut. In consequence of this difficulty,
foot passengers had made themselves a way upon each side of it, through
which they went to and came from the house; and in this they were
sanctioned by the example of the family themselves, who, so long as
these side paths were passable, manifested as much reluctance to open or
close the gate as any one else.

The month was May; and nothing could be more delightful and exhilarating
than the breeze which played over the green fields that were now radiant
with the light which was flooded down upon them from the cloudless sun.
Around them, in every field, were the tokens of that pleasant labor
from which the hopes of ample and abundant harvests always spring. Here,
fixed in the ground, stood the spades of a boon* of laborers, who, as
was evident from that circumstance, were then at breakfast; in another
place might be seen the plough and a portion of the tackle lying beside
it, being expressive of the same fact. Around them, on every side, in
hedges, ditches, green fields, and meadows, the birds seemed
animated into joyous activity or incessant battle, by the business of
nest-building or love. Whilst all around, from earth and air, streamed
the ceaseless voice of universal melody and song.

* A considerable number of men working together.

On reaching the gate, Peety Dhu and his pretty daughter turned up
towards the house we have alluded to - which was the residence of a man
named Burke. On reaching it they were observed by a couple of large
dogs, who, partaking of the hospitable but neglected habits of the
family, first approached and looked at them for a moment, then wagged
their tails by way of welcome, and immediately scampered off into the
kitchen to forage for themselves.

Burke's house and farmyard, though strongly indicative of wealth and
abundance in the owner, were, notwithstanding, evidently the property
of a man whose mind was far back in a knowledge of agriculture, and the
industrial pursuits that depend upon it. His haggard was slovenly in the
extreme, and his farmyard exceedingly offensive to most of the senses;
everything lay about in a careless and neglected manner; - wheelbarrows
without their trundles - sacks for days under the rain that fell from
the eaves of the houses - other implements embedded in mud - car-houses
tumbling down - the pump without a handle - the garden-gate open, and the
pigs hard at work destroying the vegetables, and rooting up the garden
in all directions. In fact, the very animals about the house were
conscious of the character of the people, and acted accordingly. If one
of the dogs, for instance, was hunted at the pigs, he ran in an apparent
fury towards that which happened to be nearest him, which merely lifted
its head and listened for a time - the dog, with loud and boisterous
barking, seizing its ear, led it along for three or four yards in that
position, after which, upon the pig demurring to proceed any further,
he very quietly dropped it and trotted in again, leaving the destructive
animal to resume its depredations.

The house inside bore the same character. Winter and summer the
hall-door, which had long lost the knocker, lay hospitably open. The
parlor had a very equivocal appearance; for the furniture, though
originally good and of excellent materials, was stained and dinged and
hacked in a manner that denoted but little sense of care or cleanliness.
Many of the chairs, although not worn by age, wanted legs or backs,
evidently from ill-usage alone - the grate was without fire-irons - a
mahogany bookcase that stood in a recess to the right of the fireplace,
with glass doors and green silk blinds, had the glass all broken and
the silk stained almost out of its original color; whilst inside of
it, instead of books, lay a heterogeneous collection of garden seeds
in brown paper - an almanac of twenty years' standing, a dry ink-bottle,
some broken delf, and a large collection of blue-moulded shoes and
boots, together with an old blister of French flies, the lease of their
farm, and a great number of their receipts for rent. To crown all, the
clock in the other recess stood cobwebbed about the top, deprived of the
minute hand, and seeming to intimate by its silence that it had given
note of time's progress to this idle and negligent family to no purpose.

On the drawing-room stairs there lay what had once been a carpet, but
so inseparable had been their connection that the stairs were now worn
through it, and it required a sharp eye to distinguish such fragments
of it as remained from the color of the dirty boards it covered and the
dust that lay on both.

On entering the kitchen, Peety and his little girl found thirteen or
fourteen, in family laborers and servants of both sexes, seated at a
long deal table, each with a large wooden noggin of buttermilk and a
spoon of suitable dimensions, digging as if for a wager into one or
other of two immense wooden bowls of stirabout, so thick and firm in
consistency that, as the phrase goes, a man might dance on it. This,
however, was not the only picture of such enjoyment that the kitchen
afforded. Over beside the dresser was turned upon one side the huge pot
in which the morning meal had been made, and at the bottom of which,
inside of course, a spirit of rivalry equally vigorous and animated, but
by no means so harmonious, was kept up by two dogs and a couple of pigs,
which were squabbling and whining and snarling among each other, whilst
they tugged away at the scrapings, or residuum, that was left behind
after the stirabout had been emptied out of it. The whole kitchen, in
fact, had a strong and healthy smell of food - the dresser, a huge one,
was covered with an immense quantity of pewter, wood, and delf; and it
was only necessary to cast one's eye towards the chimney to perceive, by
the weighty masses of black hung beef and the huge sides and flitches
of deep yellow bacon which lined it, that plenty and abundance, even to
overflowing, predominated in the family.

The "chimney-brace" projected far out over the fire-place towards the
floor, and under it on each side stretched two long hobs or chimney
corner seats, on which nearly a dozen persons could sit of a winter
evening. Mrs. Burke, a smart, good-looking little woman, though somewhat
advanced in years, kept passing in a kind of perpetual motion from
one part of the house to the other, with a large bunch of bright
keys jingling at one side, and a huge house-wife pocket, with a round
pin-cushion dangling beside it, at the other. Jemmy Burke himself,
a placid though solemn-faced man, was sitting on the hob in question
complacently smoking his pipe, whilst over the glowing remnants of an
immense turf fire hung a singing kettle, and beside it on three crushed
coals was the teapot, "waitin'," as the servants were in the habit of
expressing it, "for the masther and misthress's breakfast."

Peety, who was well known and a great favorite on his rounds, received a
warm and hospitable welcome from Jemmy Burke, who made him and the girl
sit upon the hob, and immediately ordered them breakfast.

"Here, Nancy Devlin, get Peety and the girsha their skinfuls of
stirabout an' milk. Sit over to the fire, alanna, an' warm yourself."

"Warm, inagh!" replied Peety; "why, sure it's not a fire sich a blessed
mornin' as this she'd want - an' a blessed mornin' it is, glory be to

"Troth, an' you're right, sure enough, Peety," replied the good-natured
farmer; "a blessed saison it is for gettin' down the crops. Go over
there, now, you an' the girsha, to that other table, an' - whish! - kick
them pigs an' dogs out o' the house, an' be d - d to them! One can't hear
their ears for them - you an' the girsha, an' let us see what you can
do. Nancy, achora, jist dash a gawliogue o' sweet milk into their
noggins - they're not like us that's well fed every day - . it's but
seldom they get the likes, the creatures - so dash in a brave gawliogue
o' the sweet milk for them. Take your time, Peety, - aisy, alanna, 'till
you get what I'm sayin; it'll nourish an put strinth in you."

"Ah, Misther Burke," replied Peety, in a tone of gratitude peculiar to
his class, "you're the ould* man still - ever an' always the large heart
an' lavish hand - an' so sign's on it - full an' plinty upon an' about
you - an' may it ever be so wid you an' yours, a chierna, I pray. An how
is the misthress, sir?"

* That is to say, the same man still.

"Throth, she's very well, Peety - has no raison to complain, thank God!"

"Thank God, indeed! and betther may she be, is my worst wish to her - an'
Masther Hycy, sir? - but I needn't ax how he is. Isn't the whole country
ringin' wid his praises; - the blessin' o' God an you, acushla" - this
was to Nancy Devlin, on handing them the new milk - "draw over, darlin',
nearer to the table - there now" - this to his daughter, whom he settled
affectionately to her food. "Ay, indeed," he proceeded, "sure there's
only the one word of it over the whole Barony we're sittin' in - that
there's neither fetch nor fellow for him through the whole parish. Some
people, indeed, say that Bryan M'Mahon comes near him; but only some,
for it's given up to Masther Hycy all to pieces."

"Faix, an' I for one, although I'm his father - amn't I, Rosha?" he
added, good-humoredly addressing his wife, who had just come into the
kitchen from above stairs.

"Throth," said the wife, who never replied with good humor unless when
addressed as Mrs. Burke, "you're ill off for something to speak about.
How are you, Peety? an' how is your little girl?"

"In good health, ma'am, thank God an' you; an' very well employed at the
present time, thanks to you still!"

To this Mrs. Burke made no reply; for it may be necessary to state
here, that although she was not actually penurious or altogether without
hospitality, and something that might occasionally be termed charity,
still it is due to honest Jemmy to inform the reader in the outset,
that, as Peety Dhu said, "the large heart and the lavish hand"
were especially his own. Mrs. Burke was considered to have been
handsome - indeed, a kind of rustic beauty in her day - and, like many of
that class, she had not been without a due share of vanity, or perhaps
we might say coquetry, if we were to speak the truth. Her teeth were
good, and she had a very pretty dimple in one of her cheeks when she
smiled, two circumstances which contributed strongly to sustain her good
humor, and an unaccountable tendency to laughter, when the poverty
of the jest was out of all proportion to the mirth that followed it.
Notwithstanding this apparently light and agreeable spirit, she was both
vulgar and arrogant, and labored under the weak and ridiculous ambition
of being considered a woman of high pretensions, who had been most
unfortunately thrown away, if not altogether lost, upon a husband whom
she considered as every way unworthy of her. Her father had risen into
the possession of some unexpected property when it was too late to
bestow upon her a suitable education, and the consequence was that, in
addition to natural vanity, on the score of beauty, she was a good
deal troubled with purse-pride, which, with a foolish susceptibility of
flattery, was a leading feature in her disposition. In addition to this,
she was an inveterate and incurable slattern, though a gay and lively
one; and we need scarcely say that whatever she did in the shape
of benevolence or charity, in most instances owed its origin to the
influences of the weaknesses she was known to possess.

Breakfast, at length, was over, and the laborers, with an odd hiccup
here and there among them, from sheer repletion, got their hats and
began to proceed towards the farm.

"Now, boys," said Jemmy, after dropping a spittle into his pipe,
pressing it down with his little finger, and putting it into his
waistcoat pocket, "see an' get them praties down as soon as you can, an'
don't work as if you intended to keep your Christmas there; an' Paddy
the Bounce, I'll thank you to keep your jokes an' your stories to
yourself, an' not to be idlin' the rest till afther your work's done.
Throth it was an unlucky day I had anything to do wid you, you divartin'
vagabone - ha! ha! ha! When I hired him in the Micklemas fair," proceeded
Jemmy, without addressing himself to any particular individual, "he
killed me wid laughin' to such a degree, that I couldn't refuse the
mehony whatsomever wages he axed; an' now he has the men, insteed o'
mindin' their work, dancin' through the field, an' likely to split at
the fun he tells them, ha! ha! ha! Be off, now, boys. Pettier Murphy,
you randletree, let,the girl alone. That's it Peggy, lay on him; ha!
devil's cure to you! take what you've got any way - you desarve it."

These latter observations were occasioned by a romping match that took
place between a young laborer and a good-looking girl who was employed
to drop potatoes for the men.

At length those who were engaged in the labor of the field departed in
a cheerful group, and in a few minutes the noise of a horse's feet,
evidently proceeding at a rapid trot, was heard coming up the boreen or
avenue towards the house.

"Ay," exclaimed Burke, with a sigh, "there comes Hycy at a trot, an' the
wondher is it's not a gallop. That's the way he'll get through life, I
fear; an' if God doesn't change him he's more likely to gallop himself
to the Staff an' Bag (* Beggary.) than to anything else I know. I can't
nor I won't stand his extravagance - but it's his mother's fault, an'
she'll see what it'll come to in the long run."

He had scarcely concluded when his son entered the kitchen, alternately
singing and whistling the Foxhunter's jig in a manner that betokened
exuberant if not boisterous spirits. He was dressed in top boots,
a green riding-coat, yellow waistcoat, and drab cassimere small
clothes - quite in jockey trim, in fact.

Hycy rather resembled his father in the lineaments of his face, and was,
consequently, considered handsome. He was about the middle size, and
remarkably well proportioned. In fact, it would be exceedingly difficult
to find a young fellow of manlier bearing or more striking personal
attractions. His features were regular, and his complexion fresh and
youthful looking, and altogether there was in his countenance and whole
appearance a cheerful, easy, generous, unreflecting dash of character
that not only made him a favorite on first acquaintance, but won
confidence by an openness of manner that completely disarmed suspicion.
It might have been observed, however, that his laugh, like his mother's,
never, or at least seldom, came directly from the heart, and that there
was a hard expression about his otherwise well-formed mouth, such as
rarely indicated generosity of feeling, or any acquaintance with the
kinder impulses of our nature. He was his mother's pet and favorite, and
her principal wish was that he should be looked upon and addressed as
a gentleman, and for that purpose she encouraged him to associate with
those only whose rank and position in life rendered any assumption of
equality on his part equally arrogant and obtrusive. In his own family
his bearing towards his parents was, in point of fact, the reverse
of what it ought to have been. He not only treated his father with
something bordering on contempt, but joined his mother in all that
ignorant pride which kept her perpetually bewailing the fate by which
she was doomed to become his wife. Nor did she herself come off better
at his hands. Whilst he flattered her vanity, and turned her foibles
to his own advantage, under the guise of a very dutiful affection, his
deportment towards her was marked by an ironical respect, which was the
more indefensible and unmanly because she could not see through it. The
poor woman had taken up the opinion, that difficult and unintelligible
language was one test of a gentleman; and her son by the use of such
language, let no opportunity pass of confirming her in this opinion, and
establishing his own claims to the character.

"Where did you ride to this mornin' Misther Hycy?"

"Down to take a look at Tom Burton's mare, Crazy Jane, ma'am: -

"'Away, my boys, to horse away,
The Chase admits of no delay - '"

"Tom Burton!" re-echoed the father with a groan; "an so you're in Tom
Burton's hands! A swindlin', horse-dalin' scoundrel that would chate St.
Pether. Hycy, my man, if you go to look for wool to Tom you'll come home

"'Our vicar still preaches that Peter and Poule
Laid a swinging long curse on the bonny brown bowl,
That there's wrath and despair - "

Thank you, father - much obliged; you entertain a good opinion of me."

"Do I, faith? Don't be too sure of that."

"I've bought her at any rate," said Hycy - "thirty-five's the figure; but
she's a dead bargain at fifty."

"Bought her!" exclaimed the father; "an' how, in God's name, do you
expect to pay for her?"

"By an order on a very excellent, worthy man and
gentleman-farmer - ycleped James Burke, Esquire - who has the honor
of being father to that ornament of the barony, Hycy Burke, the
accomplished. My worthy sire will fork out."

"If I do, that I may - "

"Silence, poor creature!" said his wife, clapping her hand upon his
mouth - "make no rash or vulgar oaths. Surely, Misther Burke - "

"How often did I bid you not to misther me? Holy scrapers, am I to be
misthered and pesthered this way, an' my name plane Jemmy Burke!"

"You see, Hycy, the vulgarian will come out," said his mother. "I say,
Misther Burke, are you to see your son worse mounted at the Herringstown
Hunt than any other gentleman among them? Have you no pride?

"No, thank God! barin' that I'm an honest man an' no gentleman; an', as
for Hycy, Rosha - "

"Mrs. Burke, father, if you please," interposed Hycy; "remember who your
wife is at all events."

"Faith, Hycy, she'll come better off if I forget that same; but I tell
you that instead of bein' the laughin'-stock of the same Hunt, it's
betune the stilts of a plough you ought to be, or out in the fields
keepin' the men to their business."

"I paid three guineas earnest money, at all events," said the son; "but
'it matters not,' as the preacher says -

"'When I was at home I was merry and frisky,
My dad kept a pig and my mother sold whiskey' -

Beg pardon, mother, no allusion - my word and honor none - to you I mean -

"'My uncle was rich, but would never be aisy
Till I was enlisted by Corporal Casey.'

Fine times in the army, Mr. Burke, with every prospect of a speedy
promotion. Mother, my stomach craves its matutinal supply - I'm in
excellent condition for breakfast."

"It's ready. Jemmy, you'll - Misther Burke, I mane - you'll pay for
Misther Hycy's mare."

"If I do - you'll live to see it, that's all. Give the boy his

"Thank you, worthy father - much obliged for your generosity -

"'Oh, love is the soul of a nate Irishman
He loves all that's lovely, loves all that he can,
With his sprig of - '

Ah, Peety Dhu, how are you, my worthy peripatetic? Why, this daughter
of yours is getting quite a Hebe on our hands. Mrs. Burke,
breakfast - breakfast, madam, as you love Hycy, the accomplished." So
saying, Hycy the accomplished proceeded to the parlor we have described,
followed by his maternal relative, as he often called his mother.

"Well, upon my word and honor, mother," said the aforesaid Hycy, who
knew and played upon his mother's weak points, "it is a sad thing to see
such a woman as you are, married to a man who has neither the spirit nor
feelings of a gentleman - my word and honor it is."

"I feel that, Hycy, but there's no help for spilt milk; we must only
make the best of a bad bargain. Are you coming to your breakfast," she
shouted, calling to honest Jemmy, who still sat on the hob ruminating
with a kind of placid vexation over his son's extravagance - "your tay's
filled out!"

"There let it," he replied, "I'll have none of your plash to-day; I tuck
my skinful of good stiff stirabout that's worth a shipload of it. Drink
it yourselves - I'm no gintleman."

"Arrah, when did you find that out, Misther Burke?" she shouted back

"To his friends and acquaintances it is anything but a recent disco
very," added Hycy; and each complimented the observation of the other
with a hearty laugh, during which the object of it went out to the
fields to join the men.

"I'm afraid it's no go, mother," proceeded the son, when breakfast was
finished - "he won't stand it. Ah, if both my parents were of the
same geometrical proportion, there would be little difficulty in this
business; but upon my honor and reputation, my dear mother, I think
between you and me that my father's a gross abstraction - a most
substantial and ponderous apparition."

"An' didn't I know that an' say that too all along?" replied his mother,
catching as much of the high English from him as she could manage:
"however, lave the enumeration of the mare to me. It'll go hard or I'll
get it out of him."

"It is done," he replied; "your stratagetic powers are great, my dear
mother, consequently it is left in your hands."

Hycy, whilst in the kitchen, cast his eye several times upon the
handsome young daughter of Peety Dhu, a circumstance to which we owe the
instance of benevolent patronage now about to be recorded.

"Mother," he proceeds, "I think it would be a charity to rescue that
interesting little girl of Peety Dhu's from a life of mendicancy."

"From a what?" she asked, staring at him.

"Why," he replied, now really anxious to make himself understood - "from
the disgraceful line of life he's bringin' her up to. You should take
her in and provide for her."

"When I do, Hycy," replied his mother, bridling, "it won't be a beggar's
daughter nor a niece of Philip Hogan's - sorrow bit."

"As for her being a niece of Hogan's, you know it is by his mother's
side; but wouldn't it be a feather in her cap to get under the
protection of a highly respectable woman, though? The patronage of a
person like you, Mrs. Burke, would be the making of her - my word and
honor it would."

"Hem! - ahem! - do you think so, Hycy?"

"Tut, mother - that indeed! - can there be a doubt about it?"

"Well then, in that case, I think she may stay - that is, if the father
will consent to it."

"Thank you, mother, for that example of protection and benevolence. I
feel that all my virtues certainly proceed from your side of the house
and are derived from yourself - there can be no doubt of that."

"Indeed I think so myself, Hycy, for where else would you get them? You
have the M'Swiggin nose; an' it can't be from any one else you take your
high notions. All you show of the gentleman, Hycy, it's not hard to name
them you have it from, I believe."

"Spoken like a Sybil. Mother, within the whole range of my female
acquaintances I don't know a woman that has in her so much of the
gentleman as yourself - my word and honor, mother."

"Behave, Hycy - behave now," she replied, simpering; "however truth's
truth, at any rate."

We need scarcely say that the poor mendicant was delighted at the notion
of having his daughter placed in the family of so warm and independent a
man as Jemmy Burke. Yet the poor little fellow did not separate from the
girl without a strong manifestation of the affection he bore her. She
was his only child - the humble but solitary flower that blossomed for
him upon the desert of life.

"I lave her wid you," he said, addressing Mrs. Burke with tears in his

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