Charlotte Grace O'Brien.

Charlotte Grace O'Brien; selections from her writings and correspondence online

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and rain all last night. There now, alanna, ye can hould on
to me now all right. Well, Missy" (Paddy would have his
little joke), " shall I tell ye the story of little Red Garters ? "

' Missy stamped and slapped the big hand she held.
" Bother little Red Garters ! Tell me what you saw."

Little Red Garters was a wraith of a story that never
came to anything, and Paddy, throwing himself back
on his stick, his eyes gleaming with fun. " Arrah, then,
Miss, isn't little Red Garters a very purty little story.
Listen now. Once upon a time "

* This beginning was instantly checked by a furious
personal assault from Miss t-Charlot. After some rough
play they stood panting. " I'll pinch you to death,
Paddy, if you go on humbugging along this way ! I'll
just get a great pin and stick it into you. I'll knock the
hat off you." A furious assault after the hat ensued,
Paddy ducking and diving, and balancing himself on his
stick. When they were both out of breath, Paddy
began again. " Hould on ! Missy. Hould on ! I'm
kilt entirely ! Let me get the breath of me. Well, acushla,
we'll keep that little story."


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* " It isn't a story at all, only humbugging, and it's
what Peggy says to me when I want a real story. Now,


' Paddy, throwing himself back on his stick, looked at
her with a quizzical air, his blue eyes, the abiding home
of the delight of life, love, and beauty, ' presently '
brimming over with the joy of battle and innocent fun
as he counted the cost of a little more teasing. Miss
t-Charlot stood with stern determination in her eye, her
now entirely demoralised sunbonnet hanging by one
string over her shoulder, and containing in its recesses
a black chenille net, her tawny yellow hair in a dire-
fully tangled mass, and her grey eyes gleaming from a
very hot, red face. The features were cut in a rude,
non-beautiful, but energetic type, Celtic in the extreme.
A very weather-beaten scarlet ' garibaldi ' (then in
fashion) and brown Holland skirt, did not hide a strong,
sturdy pair of white-stockinged fat legs. She looked
a combatant worthy of his steel as they stood a pair
of duellists measuring their swords. Paddy gave the
first feint " Aych, then, Missy, * Little Red Garters '
is no good. It's truth ye say. I was thinking to tell ye the
story of the three dogs. Did ye ever hear that, alanna ? "

' The enemy hesitated. Then " You may tell that
to me, Paddy, if it is not long. Then you must tell me
what you saw or I'll kill you ! "

* "Arrah, then, be aisy, Missy ! Well, onst upon a time
there was a great Lord and larl, and he with a powerful
big house entirely, and he that fond of hunting. Well
and all, he had the three beautiful hounds to him, and
the funny names he put on them were ' Sh-top,'
' Whisht ' and ' Hould yer Tongue.' Well one fine
mothing and he was going out hunting, and he callin'
the dogs. Now, Missy, are ye mindin' the story or are
ye mindin' the crows ? "


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' " Bother the crows ! Go on."

* " Well, Missy, tell me. Do you mind the names of
thim dogs ? "

' " Of course I do' Stop,' < Whisht,' and ' Hold yer
Tongue,' Paddy."

* Paddy threw himself back on his stick delighted.
" Arrah, then, Missy, that's all I'm wantin' to do myself !
I'll just sh-top, whisht, and hould me tongue the same
as yer honour orders me ; and, with respect to you, may
I have a pull at the pipe ? " He began then pretending
to fumble in his pocket for the pipe. Miss t-Charlot stood
still growling with indignation, to see how she had been
circumvented. Then " Is that all the story, Paddy ? "
He winked at her, but stood silent, holding the pipe in his
hand, whilst her eyes flashed, and she looked around for a
more effective weapon than her little fat fists afforded. Not
seeing any, she began once more " Is that ALL, Paddy ?

* " Ye tould me to whisht, Missy."

* " There isn't any more, then ? "

* Paddy bent his head on one side and gave voice to his
preternatural miaw ! miaw !

' Missy on this shrieked and stamped, and clenched her
two fists in despair. " Paddy O what will I do to him ?
Is that aU, Paddy ? "

' Paddy gave in a little. " That's all, Missy."

* " Very well. Go on now with what you saw."

* " Arrah, then, let me have me pipe. Ye know ye tould
me to hould me tongue."

' Miss t-Charlot bounced away from him in a red hot
fury; then, seeing a big stone on the ground, an idea
crossed her wild little head, and she came back carrying
it in her two hands, and planted herself, with her fat legs
well apart, straight in front of the enemy, who, filled
with curiosity what she would do next, balancing himself
back on his stick, stood prepared for eventualities.


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' Miss t-Charlot, eyeing him " wid the two eyes of her
like as if she'd stick me," as he afterwards told Biddy,
spoke up in a steady, restrained voice :

' " Now, Paddy. Listen here. You tell me what you
saw just straight out and no more nonsense, and if you
don't, I'll just take this stone I have in my hand and
I'll pound my own sore eye till it bleeds again ! There,
then ! Now GO ON."

' " Arrah, then, aragal ! For the life of ye don't do
that, and I'll be as good as good ! " Then in an audible
aside (" Glory be to God ! She's that tirrible divilmint
of a skitherum she'd just do it as soon as she'd say it ! ")
Then stretching out his hands he held her firm. " For
the blessed saints ! and may the flowers of glory crown
ye ! And put away that great ugly stone out of yer
hand and come next and nigh me, and I'll tell ye every
whole thing will come into my head."

* " Honour bright, now, Paddy ? "

' " Honour bright, Missy, and I'll be rale good ! Come
alongside of myself and we'll go along qui't."

' Miss t-Charlot having thus asserted the right of the
strong hand uppermost, and nipped rebellion in the
bud, flung away the stone, and taking the big, rough,
but naturally soft hand in hers, trotted along rubbing it
against her cheek in blissful content of victory.

' So they wandered on in the beautiful morning, Paddy
and Missy, both silent for a while, awaiting the clear
thought that was to follow their long rampage. At
last Paddy began :

* " God's sake, Missy ! but ye're the terror of a girleen
but I'm dead fond of ye all through, and I'm going to
tell ye every whole thing now right out, so keep listening
to me and be qui't."

* " I don't want to talk, Paddy. I'll knock the heads
off the rag weeds. You go on."

17 B

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' Paddy cleared his throat, and, settling down to his
easy slouch of a walk, began his tale.

* " Well, Missy, you know, mindin' the place and the
garden, I does be up very early intirely in the summer,
and 'twould put joy in the heart of ye to see the long
grey streaks coming into the clouds, maybe three o'clock
or maybe four in the morning, and all as still as still, and
the cows lying there on the field without a stir out of
them, and the white dew rising from them. You'd
barely think they was alive they'd be that still."

* " Yes, but, Paddy, how can you see them in the night ? "

* " O yeh, Miss, 'tis light to see everything near all the
night these times, but the colour you would not see it ;
and them yellow ragweeds that does be looking in the
evening light like as if they were all the red goold the
same as your own hair, Missy in the light of the night
they would be next or nigh white. Did ye know,
Miss, those Bohalauns (ragweeds) is the fairies' horses.
The white horses and the grey horses, and the black
horses and the brown horses. Well and all, 'twas like
one of them horses I seen meself with me own two eyes,
and this was how it was. One morning lately I was up
that early, and the light was coming into the sky, and
the long white streaks where the sun was rising, and
sure I saw nothing at all only the long grass lying out there
still and soft with a grey dew on it, and the light comin'
creepin' over it. And it's then ye'd see the thraneens
(that's what we call ould withered grass, Missy, that the
cattle would lave after them) ; well, ye'd see them ugly
thraneens, you wouldn't give the back of your hand
to in the daytime, themselves now Glory be to God !
How beautiful they were ! The purtiest things ye ever
seen, with pur'rls and diamonds and every colour you
would see in the rainbow, all hangin' around and about
them, and the silken nets flying in the air above. Arrah,


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Missy, 'tis God that knows how to make them poor
things grand intirely when it is His holy will and pleasure."
Paddy here took off his hat, crossed himself, and offered
his silent prayer. Miss t-Charlot stood observant but

* After a while Paddy began again.

' " Well, Missy, I was looking at them and watchin'
the sun splendid grand, comin' up between the clouds,
and 'twould plaze you to see Knock Feerna and the
Galtees standing out agin the light and the white fogs
about them, and they looking the twice't as high as
you'd think them in the daytime, and the finest colours
all over them and the sky and the arth. I was taken up
lookin' at it and not thinking, when of a sudden I looked
round, and up over agin the crown of the near hill fore-
ninst me against the sunlight, and what would I see
standin there ? O Missy, you wouldn't believe it from
what I could tell you, but it's God's own trut', and the
quarest thing I seen yet there was like a horse standing
there on the crown of the hill, near enough, and it like
as if it were mortal big, and every hair on its body was
shining like as if the silver light were springin' out of it.
'Tis truth I'm tellin' you, and no lie. Standin' there
in the night and the early mornin' alone, and not a one
with me but myself and the Lord God, the fright came
on me, and the wonder to look at the thing before me
two eyes."

' " But what was it at all, Paddy ? *

* " Well, Missy, sure as I stood there w'atchin' it, and it
shining as if it were made of the light of the sun and
or, Missy, like the way they draws them pictures of the
holy saints and the Blessed Virgin. Then I begins to
think maybe it is nothin' at all but the sun itself shinin,
through and through the wet hairs, and sure that's what
it was when I went anigh to it, and 'twas that and the

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steam comin' out of it made it look so big. You couldn't

think, Missy, the way the light shone out of it and all over

it the legs and body, and all a real wonder it was to see."

' " O ! Paddy, how I do wish I had been with you.

! If they would but let me get up early ! Early !

1 did run out at five o'clock the other day, but that's
no good. I want to be out all night under the stars
but they won't let me."

* " Well now, Missy, thinkin' of it, would not you think
it quare how it was, all over light. It wouldn't be that
wonder if the light would be all round, behind and the
body like dark in the front ; but to see it shinin' as if the
fire were comin' out of it all over^ wouldn't you think
that very strange ? 'Tis no wonder the ould anncient
people would be talking of the fairies, the quare things
one sees now and again."

'Miss t-Charlot took Paddy's hand, and, patting it
over softly, said under her breath : " Do you really
think there are fairies, Paddy ? O ! I wish I could see

' " Faix, then, Missy, myself doesn't rightly know.
'Tis sure the ould people tell the quare tales, but the
country is changed intirely, and all the people going out
of it, same as myself one time, and the old stories they
went with the ould Irish-speaking, and a pity it is that
same ! "

' Miss t-Charlot, all alert at getting Paddy on a new
subject, danced about, made a dive* at the ragweeds,
and returning, commanded.

* " Now you may tell me how you went to America.
I don't remember that."

* " Yourself was but a nursing baby that time, Missy.
'Twas the famine years, and God be with you, Missy,
but ye may thank God all the days of your life ye don't


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reinimber it. It wasn't to say too bad in this county,
alongside of the kingdom of Kerry, but ' bad's the best '
the same time all over Ireland, and myself went off to
Canada, away out of it all. Och, if I could tell yer
honour of all I seen, and the ships I went in, and that
was comin' out after me, and the poor craturs in them
out of the black country in the west and the north, all
dying of the famine fever and the cholera. Did your
honour ever obsarve, Missy, on some of the dures of
the ould cabins the big red letters I. H. S. painted
on them ? "

* Miss t-Charlot stood stock still considering. At last
" I tell you, Paddy, I'm sure I saw them in Clare when
we were going to Kilkee last year. What did they
mean ? "

' " 'Tis the Holy Name of Jesus " (lifting his hat and
crossing himself). "May the Lord God give us grace to
come to Him ! It was the cholera, Missy. 'Twould
be in the house, and no one to dare to go in, barring
them that had a right to take care of the sick. We would
all know when we could see the same letters on the door.
But in the ships we were there and after us the people
flying the country comin' on board with the death in
them, and in the morning you would see them, the
beautiful girl or the fine claver boy, and in the evening
its thrown down to the sea they would be. God's sake,
Missy, we won't be talking of it. It takes the heart out
of me when I think of what I seen them times ! "

' Paddy drew his hand across his eyes and stood for
a moment in prayer. When Missy had secured the hand
again she asked quietly. " But tell me, Paddy, what
happened to your own self ? "

'"Well, Missy, a place they call Grosile they put me
out of the ship like to die (as many a one did, being
lifted from the floor of the steerage before ever he would


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be set down on the firm earth ; they do say there was
six thousand buried off of the ships in that same place).
But, glory be to God ! that gave me the strength to put
it apast me the same time. 'Twas the fever I had, and
bad too. You wouldn't think it to look at me now,
and me falling into flesh ; but ye could nigh put me
through a weddin' ring when they tould me to get out
of the sheds and make room for the more and the more
that was comin'. They did their best in Canada, but
what could ye do when the whole lot of us were next
to nigh dead comin' ashore. Glory be to God ! don't
talk of it, Miss ! "

* He paused, then began again. " I had never a likin'
for that country the same as ould Ireland, and sure
enough, when I was nearly better, I shook me four bones
together, and when I got the price of me passage arned,
I just walked home again, and let thim go to America
that wants to ! Faix and I'd rather ate the pitaties
here than the best of thratement over the say ! And
that's trut', Miss ; and sure enough, when I came home
nothing would serve me but go coortin ! Biddy was the
fine strappin' woman the same time, and herself and
Peggy were above at the Great House, and by the same
token, Peggy was the first Christian soul that ever had
ye in her hands barrin' the nurse."

* Miss t-Charlot began to consider things.

* " Well, but, Paddy, Hanny is a lot older than I am."

* " 'Tis so, Missy (aside, ' the child is that sharp ')
Hanny isn't me raal daughter at all. She's a brother's
daughter of mine, and the father and mother of her died
in the bad years, and 'twas partly that same brought me
home the way she wouldn't be lost intirely. And
Biddy herself was ever and always good to her. Thanks
be to God we did the right thing by her, and a good girl
she was, and a purty one. Aych, Miss t-Charlot, 'tis


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tired discoorsin' ye I am, and the master will be mad
angry to say I would not be in the garden after them
pitaties all the morning. Be the same token, it's himself
I must see about that misfortunate Larry."

4 Miss t-Charlot clung to his hand hard and tight to
keep him, but he freed himself, and sent her off, saying :
" Now, Missy, rin in with ye to Peggy and make her
clane ye, for ye' re all in a poultoon of a mess, and they'd
be fit to bate ye if ye go in at the front."

' Miss t-Charlot ran off the kitchen way. Paddy,
balancing on his stick, watched her, ejaculating to himself
at last " Be the blazes, but the master will be dancing
mad ! I'll get a sh-troke of work done before ever I go
next or nigh him."

* In the bright sunny drawingroom of what the
peasantry around called the " Great House," though
really it was both small and old, partly an old castle or
keep and partly an added more modern square building,
sat Paddy's employers and friends the master and the
mistress. Flowers and sunshine, books and dogs were
there in plenty, but neither money nor smart furniture.
It was, indeed, in ah 1 ways a regular Irish home, crowded
with merry children, none too tidy, but more home-like
than more showy homes. The oft-recurring question
of Paddy was under discussion.

* " Really, Lucy, I think he must go. It's impossible
to make him work. Of course his caring the place at
night is an excuse, but that is only occasionally needed,
yet he does hardly anything. It's a great pity for him,
but what is one to do ? "

* " Oh ! William, the children would just break their
hearts ! See how they are always after him."

* " If one could be sure what the attraction is. What
do they find to talk of constantly ? Is it good to have


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the girls after these rough men ? I have a great mind
to forbid it."

* At this minute a knock came to the door and Peggy
entered old-fashioned, with pretty crossed shawl and
cap tied under her chin, very neat and clean and old
world. She herself, though past middle age, had then
and to the end of her life, the beauty of an exquisite
fitness to her dress and work.

* " What is it, Peggy ? " said her mistress.

' " It's Kiely, ma'am, that's asking to see the master
outside in the hall."

* " It's he, is it ! " said the master. " Well, Lucy, I'll
go and see him, or rather let him come here. Go call
him, Peggy but what's it all about ? "

' " Himself will tell you, your honour. It's the boy
that married Norry is in trouble."

* " Oh ! the unfortunate Larry ! I hope it's nothing
too bad this time. You had best call Paddy in. I must give
him a hearing anyhow, Lucy, not that it's the least use ! "

* Paddy here entered, looking, it must be owned, not
quite so self-possessed as usual. He had left his beloved
stick outside and stood hat in hand, watching as the
master walked up and down the room. He knew well
he was in for a lecture, and was reckoning up his defences.
Had he known himself, or had anyone else known it,
his best defence would have been that he had " wasted "
his morning in teaching one of his master's children
to see and think and feel more successfully than any other
teacher of her childhood.

* " Well, Paddy, what's the matter now ? How
about those potatoes ? Are they blighted ? "

* Paddy passed his hand over his forehead, shifted a bit
feeling vainly for his stick, then bowing a little to the
mistress, answered

' " Yer honour ! In respect to yourself and her lady-

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ship " (another side inclination sweeping her into the
conversation as a protector). " 'twould heart scald
ye to look at them ! The finest crop ye ever seen and the
divil a one of them but the black mark is on it. Glory
be to God ! yer honour, when I was turning of them
up this morning."

' " Paddy ! / was in the garden this morning, but you
were not turning the potatoes. Half-past ten and nothing
done ! How can you expect me to keep you ?"

' Paddy, with a fine flash of indignation " Faix, then,
your honour, ye might think I was up early and down
late if ye knew the trut'. 'Twas that skelping rogue
of a cow ! "

' " Which ? What's that ridiculous name they call the
red young one, Lucy ? "

' " The little red hifer that jumped over the wall ! "
said she, imitating the brogue and the wonderful ellipsis
of consonants.

* Paddy laughed a polite acknowledgement. " Musha
but 'tis her ladyship that knows how to spake ! An'
'twas herself then, and bad scran to her ! She does be
campaigning about the country, and not a fince in the
place but she'll be gouraging over if it takes her in the
head. Meself and Moss " (Maurice) " were bating the
roads for her and the frost of the dew not off the brambles !
But yer honour (saving her ladyship's presence), 'tis of
me own little troubles I would want to spake."

' " Peggy te lls me Larry has been getting into some
more mischief ? What's up now ? "

' " 'Tis this way, yer honour. The luck's agin some of
us and we no worse nor anyone else. Ye knows yerself
all the trouble poor Larry was in this time back, and he
only to look at a horse he fancied. And now he wasn't (as
we would say) out of that kettle but he was into the pot !
He had the money, yer honour knows, for the 1'y'ar, Mr.


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Homely, 'tis little he done for it, but he was kep back
in the place waitin' on us, and 'tis the way he must have
the money all the same. Three pound tin, yer honour,
and it was long we were gatherin' that same. The likes
of us does be long waiting on that much. Well, the
same night after the trial what would me boy be doing
but havin' a little conversation below at the Widdy
McKay's, and be this and be that the money went
from him ! "

* The mistress shook her head sadly. " The old story
the publichouse."

* " 'Tis true for ye, yer ladyship, and the sons of Ireland,
'tis they know it well if they weren't the world's own
fools ! But his honour knows it isn't with the strange
1'y'ar the same as with one in the place ; and what would
we do at all at all to pay the money before he would be
laving the countryside ? and, your ladyship, poor Norry,
the innocent cratur, expectin'. Faith, ma'am we're
hard taken the same time."

* The mistress looked at her husband, but made no
answer. After a few turns up and down the room, he
gave in to the inevitable, and instead of dismissing his
idle servant, came to his assistance.

' " Well, Paddy, I suppose you want me to advance
the money ; but I cannot trust Larry."

* " Och, yer honour ! don't talk of Larry. 'Tis meself
will be bound to yer honour and the mistress. Her
ladyship knows well Biddy's as careful a woman as ever
stept in the brogues, and meself never keeps a ha'port'
but what I'd put in the pipe."

' The door opened at this moment amid the scuffling
of children outside, then Peggy entered with an audible
aside (" make aff wid ye, Miss t-Charlot, and don't
be pinching me, or I'll pin the dish clout to yer tail next
time ye come looking for the sour milk. Yer nothing


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but a calf be aff wid ye and let me spake to the master.")
Once in the room and detached from " the childer."
she knocked solemnly, and then shut the door in their

' " Come in, Peggy," said her mistress. " What is it
now ? "

* " 'Tis a message for Kiely, ma'am, from Biddy, if
I might spake to him ? "

* " What is it ? " said the master. " We are talking of

' " 'Tis so, yer honour, but 'tis the same thing. Kiely,
Biddy says yer to come straight home the same minute,
and to lave tazing the master. And the same is all the
message I got, and it was little Dinny Houligan that came
runnin' up on the bare toes of him, and to say to hurry

* " You had better go home," said the master, " and
see what has happened. Your mistress and I will talk
over what can be done about that money."

' Paddy, turning from one to the other with an in-
clusive bow, straightened himself to give dignity to an
oratorical ending of a difficult quarter of an hour.

* " Yer honour's honour is always a good master, and
a noble lord to me, and her ladyship the same, and that
ye may both reign long over us, and that ye may make
yer bed in heaven. Meself will go and see what the
old woman is wanting me for, and I'm not forgetting
this day to ye or to yer children after ye, and may the
Lord God go with ye all, on every way ye go ! "

' Having thus asserted the noble right of the poor to
bless, Paddy retired as from a Sovereign presence, but
bearing himself with his usual calm dignity of tranquil
self-possession a grand gift of the older peasantry of
Ireland which has not, I fear, passed on to their


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The Cahirmoyle life lasted till 1861, with one long
interruption. In 1854 Smith O'Brien received a pardon
conditional on his remaining out of Great Britain ; his

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Online LibraryCharlotte Grace O'BrienCharlotte Grace O'Brien; selections from her writings and correspondence → online text (page 2 of 16)