William Carleton.

Traits and stories of the Irish peasantry (Volume 3) online

. (page 1 of 30)
Online LibraryWilliam CarletonTraits and stories of the Irish peasantry (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


3 1822016136723




UN VERSIT OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO




3 1822016136723



Central University Library

University of California, San Diego
Note: This item is subject to recall after two weeks.

Date Due



MAY 09 1993



Jfil



Cl 39 1 1/911



UCSDLib.



TRAITS AND STORIES OF

THE IRISH PEASANTRY



IN FOUR VOLUMES
VOL. Ill



F
TRAITS AND STORIES OF

THE IRISH PEASANTRY



BY

WILLIAM CARL




EDITED BY

DONOGHUE



LONDON
J. M. DENT AND CO.

NEW YORK ! MACMILLAN AND CO.
MDCCCXCVI



TRAITS AND STORIES OF

THE IRISH PEASANTRY



BY

WILLIAM CARLETON




EDITED BY

D. J. O'DONOGHUE



LONDON
J. M. DENT AND CO.

NEW YORK : MACMILLAN AND CO.
MDCCCXCVI



Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson 6 Co.
At the Ballantyne Press



CONTENTS

PA.OE

PREFACE TO SECOND SERIES vii

THE DONAGH ; OR, THE HORSE STEALERS . 1

PHIL PURCEL, THE PIG-DRIVER .... 34

THE LIANHAN SHEE 61

THE GEOGRAPHY OF AN IRISH OATH . . 92

THE POOR SCHOLAR 179

WILDGOOSE LODGE . , 308



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



HOUSE AT SANDFORD, DUBLIN, IN WHICH

CARLETON DIED Frontispiece

(Etched by H. Crick-more.)

PAGE
"YOU SEE THIS LITTLE BOTTLE DRINK IT " . . 70

(By Phiz.)

"I AM WHAT YOU MADE ME" . . . .83

(By Phiz.)



PREFACE

TO THE SECOND SERIES



WITH respect to the contents of this Second Series, the
Author has only to observe that the volumes contain-
ing the First Series had an excellent sale, considering that they
were of Irish manufacture. They are now getting into a third
edition ; and much of their success may probably be ascribed to
the fact of their never having been puffed ; for no man excites
more notice than he who runs counter to the fashion.

It was therefore the brisk sale of the First Series, joined to
a vacancy in the Author's purse, which he felt rather anxious
to have filled up, that induced him to bring out the present
work. He hopes it may succeed as well as the others ; but
that it may succeed better is a wish due to the worthy and
liberal publisher who brings it out.

The Author was pressed by many of his friends to dedicate
this book to some great man ; but as he had only a month's
notice to look about him, he found himself rather at a loss for
time to discover any one worthy of that character except the
Castle porter. 1 The public is the only great man at present
whose patronage is worth anything to a writer.

To the Reviewers, Periodicals, and the Press in general, the
Author begs to return his warmest and most grateful acknow-
ledgments for their favourable notices of his first effort. It was
impossible to bestow greater praise on any book of the kind than
it received at their hands, yet he hopes they will praise this still
more highly. God be with the present times ! They are not
like those in which an Author was almost compelled to dedicate
his book to some Lord, whose name accompanied it as a kind
of safe conduct to oblivion. The world, however, is a huge
paradox. One would think, for instance, that works of fiction

1 That imposing functionary at Dublin Castle. ED.



viii PREFACE TO THE SECOND SERIES

should have flourished in the dedicating age, yet such was not
the fact. Fiction was wasted on the patron to such excess in
the beginning of the book that the Author had little left for
the work itself. It is the avoiding of this error that has raised
imaginative writing to such perfection in the present day.

This Preface, like every other human work, except the
improvement of Ireland, must come to a close. It was
written on compulsion ; it was to have been serious ; it was
to have given a touching dissertation upon Irish character ; it
was to have been elaborate, philosophical, and what not all
within the compass of four pages ! In vain has the Author
tried condensation in vain also has he attempted epigram-
matic pathos, in order to save space. The epigrams were
sorrowful enough, he admits ; but as the pity they were calcu-
lated to excite was more likely to be bestowed on himself
than on his country, he thought it more patriotic to decline
being felt for in that light so long as his country was a
greater object of compassion than himself.

The Author ought perhaps to mention here that when this
work was nearly ready for publication, a calamitous fire re-
duced the printer's establishment to ashes. The " Traits and
Stories " unhappily shared the same fate ; the first edition
went off brilliantly in the course of one night. Had the
book appeared as it was then printed, it would have rivalled
anything coming from the first houses of London. It was again
put through the press in a hurry, and under circumstances
highly disadvantageous, and yet its typographical execution is
certainly creditable to the country.

In adverting to this subject it may be prudent to state that
the last scene between Denis O'Shaughnessy and Susan is
not now such as it was originally. The first contained pathos
to deluge a whole boarding-school ; but alas ! the first pathos
was burned in the conflagration, and unhappily the Author is
not in the habit of being twice pathetic on the same subject.

Reader ! farewell for a while. A long preface is like a
long grace : if the dinner be good, it is doubly tedious ; and
if it be bad, it adds to our disappointment by sharpening the
appetite for what is not to be had. Now fall to, and may
you relish what is before you.

W. CARLETON.
DUBLIN, 1833.



TRAITS AND STORIES OF

THE IRISH PEASANTRY

THE DONAGH

OR, THE HORSE STEALERS

ARNMORE, one of those small villages that are to be

V / found in the outskirts of many parishes in Ireland, whose

distinct boundaries are lost in the contiguous mountain- wastes,
was situated at the foot of a deep gorge, or pass, overhung
by two bleak hills, from the naked sides of which the storm
swept over it without discomposing the peaceful little nook
of cabins that stood below. About a furlong farther down
were two or three farm-houses, inhabited by a family named
Cassidy, men of simple, inoffensive manners, and considerable
wealth. They were, however, acute and wise in their genera-
tion ; intelligent cattle-dealers, on whom it would have been
a matter of some difficulty to impose an unsound horse, or a
cow older than was intimated by her horn-rings, even when
conscientiously dressed up for sale by the ingenious aid of
the file or burning-iron. Between their houses and the hamlet
rose a conical pile of rocks, loosely heaped together, from
which the place took its name of Carnmore.

About three years before the time of this story there came
two men with their families to reside in the upper village,
and the house which they chose as a residence was one at
some distance from those which composed the little group
we have just been describing. They said their name was
Meehan, although the general report went that this was not



2 THE DONAGH ; OR,

true ; that the name was an assumed one, and that some dark
mystery, which none could penetrate, shrouded their history
and character. They were certainly remarkable men. The
elder, named Anthony, was a dark, black-browed person, stern
in his manner, and atrociously cruel in his disposition. His
form was herculean, his bones strong and hard as iron, and
his sinews stood out in undeniable evidence of a life hitherto
spent in severe toil and exertion, to bear which he appeared
to an amazing degree capable. His brother Denis was a
small man, less savage and daring in his character, and con-
sequently more vacillating and cautious than Anthony ; for
the points in which he resembled him were superinduced
upon his natural disposition by the close connection that
subsisted between them, and by the identity of their former
pursuits in life, which, beyond doubt, had been such as could
not bear investigation.

The old proverb of " birds of a feather flock together " is
certainly a true one, and in this case it was once more verified.
Before the arrival of these men in the village there had been
five or six bad characters in the neighbourhood, whose delin-
quencies were pretty well known. With these persons the
strangers, by that sympathy which assimilates with congenial
good or evil, soon became acquainted ; and although their inti-
macy was as secret and cautious as possible, still it had been
observed, and was known ; for they had frequently been seen
skulking together at daybreak or in the dusk of evening.

It is unnecessary to say that Meehan and his brother did
not mingle much in the society of Carnmore. In fact, the
villagers and they mutually avoided each other. A mere
return of the common phrases of salutation was generally the
most that passed between them : they never entered into
that familiarity which leads to mutual intercourse, and justi-
fies one neighbour in freely entering the cabin of another, to
spend a winter's night or a summer's evening in amusing
conversation. Few had ever been in the house of the
Meehans since it became theirs. Nor were the means of their
subsistence known. They led an idle life, had no scarcity of
food, were decently clothed, and never wanted money cir-
cumstances which occasioned no small degree of conjecture
in Carnmore and its vicinity.



THE HORSE STEALERS 3

Some said they lived by theft; others, that they were
coiners ; and there were many who imagined, from the
diabolical countenance of the elder brother, that he had sold
himself to the devil, who, they affirmed, set his mark upon
him, and was his paymaster. Upon this hypothesis several
were ready to prove that he had neither breath nor shadow :
they had seen him, they said, standing under a hedge-row
of elder that unholy tree which furnished wood for the
cross, and on which Judas hanged himself yet, although it
was noonday in the month of July, his person threw out no
shadow. Worthy souls ! because the man stood in the
shade at the time. But with these simple explanations
Superstition had nothing to do, although we are bound, in
justice to the reverend old lady, to affirm that she was kept
exceedingly busy in Carnmore. If a man had a sick cow, she
was elf-shot ; if his child became consumptive, it had been
overlooked, or received a blast from the fairies ; if the
hooping-cough was rife, all the afflicted children were put
three times under an ass; or when they happened to have
the " mumps," were led before sunrise to a south-running
stream, with a halter hanging about their necks, under an
obligation of silence during the ceremony. In short, there
could not possibly be a more superstitious spot than that
which these men of mystery had selected for their residence.
Another circumstance which caused the people to look upon
them with additional dread was their neglect of mass on
Sundays and holidays, though they avowed themselves
Roman Catholics. They did not, it is true, join in the
dances, drinking-matches, football, and other sports with
which the Carnmore folk celebrated the Lord's Day ; but
they scrupled not, on the other hand, to mend their garden-
ditch or mould a row of cabbages on the Sabbath a circum-
stance for which two or three of the Carnmore boys were,
one Sunday evening when tipsy, well-nigh chastising them.
Their usual manner, however, of spending that day was by
sauntering lazily about the fields, or stretching themselves
supinely on the sunny side of the hedges, their arms folded
into their bosoms, and their hats lying over their faces to
keep off the sun.

In the meantime, loss of property was becoming quite



4 THE DONAGH ; OR,

common in the neighbourhood. Sheep were stolen from the
farmers, and cows and horses from the more extensive graziers
in the parish. The complaints against the authors of these
depredations were loud and incessant. Watches were set,
combinations for mutual security formed, and subscriptions to
a considerable amount entered into, with a hope of being
able, by the temptation of a large reward, to work upon the
weakness or cupidity of some accomplice to betray the gang
of villains who infested the neighbourhood. All, however,
was in vain : every week brought some new act of plunder
to light, perpetrated upon such unsuspecting persons as had
hitherto escaped the notice of the robbers ; but no trace
could be discovered of the perpetrators. Although theft had
from time to time been committed upon a small scale before
the arrival of the Meehans in the village, yet it was undeni-
able that since that period the instances not only multiplied,
but became of a more daring and extensive description.
They arose in a gradual scale from the hen-roost to the
stable ; and with such ability were they planned and executed,
that the people, who in every instance identified Meehan and
his brother with them, began to believe and hint that, in con-
sequence of their compact with the devil, they had power to
render themselves invisible. Common fame, who can best
treat such subjects, took up this, and never laid it aside until,
by narrating several exploits which Meehan the elder was
said to have performed in other parts of the kingdom, she
wound it up by roundly informing the Carnmorians that
having been once taken prisoner for murder, he was caught
by the leg when half through a hedge, but that being most
wickedly determined to save his neck, he left the leg with
the officer who took him, shouting out that it was a new
species of leg-bail ; and yet he moved away with surprising
speed upon two of as good legs as any man in his Majesty's
dominions might wish to walk off upon from the insinuating
advances of a bailiff or a constable !

The family of the Meehans consisted of their wives, and
three children, two boys and a girl the former were the off-
spring of the younger brother, and the latter of Anthony.
It has been observed, with truth and justice, that there is no
man, how hardened and diabolical soever in his natural



THE HORSE STEALERS 5

temper, who does not exhibit to some particular object a
peculiar species of affection. Such a man was Anthony
Meehan. That sullen hatred which he bore to human
society, and that inherent depravity of heart which left the
trail of vice and crime upon his footsteps, were flung off his
character when he addressed his daughter Anne. To him
her voice was like music. To her he was not the reckless
villain, treacherous and cruel, which the helpless and unsus-
pecting found him, but a parent kind and indulgent as ever
pressed an only and beloved daughter to his bosom. Anne
was handsome : had she been born and educated in an
elevated rank in society, she would have been softened by
the polish and luxury of life into perfect beauty; she was,
however, utterly without education. As Anne experienced
from her father no unnatural cruelty, no harshness, nor even
indifference, she consequently loved him in return ; for she
knew that tenderness from such a man was a proof of parental
love rarely to be found in life. Perhaps she loved not her
father the less on perceiving that he was proscribed by the
world a circumstance which might also have enhanced in
his eyes the affection she bore him. When Meehan came
to Carnmore she was sixteen ; and as that was three years
before the incident occurred on which we have founded
this narrative, the reader may now suppose her to be about
nineteen ; an interesting country girl as to person, but with
a mind completely neglected, yet remarkable for an un-
common stock of good-nature and credulity.

About the hour of eleven o'clock one winter's night in the
beginning of December, Meehan and his brother sat moodily
at their hearth. The fire was of peat which had recently
been put down, and from between the turf the ruddy blaze
was shooting out in those little tongues and gusts of sober
light which throw around the rural hearth one of those
charms which make up the felicity of domestic life. The
night was stormy, and the wind moaned and howled along
the dark hills beneath which the cottage stood. Every
object in the house was shrouded in a mellow shade, which
afforded to the eye no clear outline, except around the hearth
alone, where the light brightened into a golden hue, giving
the idea of calmness and peace. Anthony Meehan sat on



6 THE DONAGH ; OR,

one side of it, and his daughter opposite him, knitting. Before
the fire sat Denis, drawing shapes in the ashes for his own
amusement.

" Bless me," said he, " how sthrange it is ! "

" What is ? " inquired Anthony, in his deep and grating
tones.

" Why, thin, it is sthrange ! " continued the other, who,
despite of the severity of his brother, was remarkably super-
stitious "a coffin I made in the ashes three times runnin' !
Isn't it very quare, Anne ?" he added, addressing the niece.

" Sthrange enough, of a sartinty," she replied, being un-
willing to express before her father the alarm which the
incident, slight as it was, created in her mind ; for she, like
the uncle, was subject to such ridiculous influences. " How
did it happen, uncle ? "

" Why, thin, no way in life, Anne ; only, as I was thryin'
to make a shoe, it turned out a coffin on my hands. I thin
smoothed the ashes, and began agin, an' sorra bit of it but
was a coffin still. Well, says I, I'll give you another chance
here goes once more ; an', as sure as a gun's iron, it was
a coffin the third time ! Heaven be about us, it's odd
enough ! "

"It would be little matther you were nailed down in a
coffin," replied Anthony fiercely; "the world would have
little loss. What a pitiful, cowardly rascal you are afraid
o' your own shadow afther the sun goes down, except I'm at
your elbow ! Can't you dhrive all them palavers out o' your
head ? Didn't the sargint tell us, an' prove to us, the time
we broke the guard-house, an' took Frinch lave o' the ridg-
ment for good, that the whole o' that, an' more along wid it,
is all priestcraft?"

" I remimber he did, sure enough. I dunna where the
same sargint is now, Tony ? About no good, anyway, I'll
be bail. Howsomever, in regard o' that, why doesn't your-
self give up fastin' from the mate of a Friday ? "

" Do you want me to sthretch you on the hearth ? " replied
the savage, whilst his eyes kindled into fury, and his grim
visage darkened into a Satanic expression. " I'll tache you
to be puttin' me through my catechiz about atin' mate. I
may manage that as I plase ; it comes at first cost, anyhow ;



THE HORSE STEALERS 7

but no cross-questions to me about it, if you regard your
health ! "

"I must say for you," replied Denis reproachfully, "that
you're a good warrant to put the health astray upon us of an
odd start : we're not come to this time o' day widout carryin'
somethin' to remimber you by. For my own part, Tony, I
don't like such tokens ; an' moreover, I wish you had resaved
a thrifle o' larnin', espishily in the writin' line ; for whenever
we have any difference you're so ready to prove your opinion
by settin' your mark upon me, that I'd rather, fifty times
over, you could write it with pen an' ink."

" My father will give that up, uncle," said the niece. " It's
bad for anybody to be fightin', but worst of all for brothers,
that ought to live in peace and kindness. Won't you,
father ? "

" Maybe I will, dear, some o' these days, on your account,
Anne ; but you must get this creature of an uncle of yours
to let me alone, an' not be aggravatin' me with his folly. As
for your mother, she's worse ; her tongue's sharp enough to
skin a flint, and a batin' a day has little effect on her."

Anne sighed, for she knew how low an irreligious life, and
the infamous society with which, as her father's wife, her
mother was compelled to mingle, had degraded her.

"Well, but, father, you don't set her a good example
yourself," said Anne; "and if she scoulds and drinks now,
you know she was a different woman when you got her. You
allow this yourself; and the crathur, the dhrunkest time she
is, doesn't she cry bittherly, remimberin' what she has been.
Instead of one batin' a day, father, thry no batin' a day, an'
maybe it'll turn out betther than thumpin' an' smashin' her,
as you do."

" Why, thin, there's thruth an' sinse in what the girl says,
Tony," observed Denis.

"Come," replied Anthony, "whatever she may say, I'll
suffer none of your interference. Go an' get us the black
bottle from the place ; it'll soon be time to move. I hope
they won't stay too long."

Denis obeyed this command with great readiness, for
whisky in some degree blunted the fierce passions of his
brother, and deadened his cruelty, or, rather, diverted it



8 THE DONAGH; OR

from minor objects to those which occurred in the lawless
perpetration of his villainy.

The bottle was got ; and in the meantime the fire blazed
up brightly. The storm without, however, did not abate,
nor did Meehan and his brother wish that it should. As the
elder of them took the glass from the hands of the other, an
air of savage pleasure blazed in his eyes, on reflecting that
the tempest of the night was favourable to the execution of
the villainous deed on which they were bent.

" More power to you ! " said Anthony, impiously personi-
fying the storm. " Sure, that's one proof that God doesn't
throuble His head about what we do, or we would not get
such a murtherin' fine night as is in it, anyhow. That's it !
blow an' tundher away, an' keep yourself an' us as black as
hell, sooner than we should fail in what we intind ! Anne,
your health, acushla ! Yours, Dinny ! If you keep your
tongue off o' me, I'll neither make nor meddle in regard o*
the batin' o' you."

" I hope you'll stick to that, anyhow," replied Denis.
" For my part, I'm sick and sore o' you every day in the
year. Many another man would put salt wather between
himself and yourself, sooner nor become a batin'-stone for
you, as I have been. Few would bear it when they could
mend themselves."

" What's that you say ? " replied Anthony, suddenly laying
down his glass, catching his brother by the collar, and
looking him, with a murderous scowl, in the face. " Is it
thrachery you hint at ? eh ? sarpent, is it thrachery you
mane ? " and as he spoke he compressed Denis's neck be-
tween his powerful hands until the other was black in the
face.

Anne flew to her uncle's assistance, and with much diffi-
culty succeeded in rescuing him from the deadly gripe of
her father, who exclaimed, as he loosed his hold, " You
may thank the girl, or you'd not spake, nor dare to spake,
about crossin' the salt wather or lavin' me in a desateful
way agin. If I ever suspect that a thought of thrachery
comes into your heart, I'll do for you ; and you may carry
your story to the world I'll send you to."

" Father, dear, why are you so suspicious of my uncle ? "



THE HORSE STEALERS 9

said Anne. " Sure, he's a long time livin' with you, an' goin'
step for step in all the danger you meet with. If he had
a mind to turn out a Judas agin you, he might a done it
long agone ; not to mintion the throuble it would bring on
his own head, seein' he's as deep in everything as you are."

" If that's all that's throubling you," replied Denis,
trembling, "you may make yourself asy on the head of it.
But well I know 'tisn't that that's on your mind ; 'tis your
own conscience ; but, sure, it's not fair nor rasonable for you
to vent your evil thoughts on me ! "

" Well, he won't," said Anne ; " he'll quit it ; his mind's
throubled, an', dear knows, it's no wondher it should.
Och, I'd give the world wide that his conscience was
lightened of the load that's upon it ! My mother's lame-
ness is nothin' ; but the child, poor thing ! An' it was
only widin three days of her lyin'-in. Och, it was a cruel
sthroke, father ! An' when I seen its little innocent face,
dead, an' me widout a brother, I thought my heart would
break, thinkin' upon who did it ! " The tears fell in showers
from her eyes, as she added, " Father, I don't want to vex
you, but I wish you to feel sorry for that at laste. Oh, if
you'd bring the priest, an' give up sich coorses, father dear,
how happy we'd be, an' how happy yourself ud be ! "

Conscience for a moment started from her sleep, and
uttered a cry of guilt in his spirit ; his face became ghastly,
and his eyes full of horror ; his lips quivered ; and he was
about to upbraid his daughter with more harshness than
usual, when a low whistle, resembling that of a curlew, was
heard at a chink of the door. In a moment he gulped down
another glass of spirits, and was on his feet : " Go, Denis,
an' get the arms," said he, "while I let them in."

On opening the door, three men entered, having their
greatcoats muffled about them, and their hats slouched.
One of them, named Kenny, was a short villain, but of a



Online LibraryWilliam CarletonTraits and stories of the Irish peasantry (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 30)