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Chambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) online

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over the sand-hills one evening to see what the poor backer* was
doing at the place, ' that was good enough for Corney the crab-
catcher without alteration, dacent man ! for twenty years. Why,
thin, Burnt Aigle dear, what are ye slaving and fencing at ?'

' Why, I thought I tould ye, Mrs Radford, whin I taught ye the
tight stitch for a shrimp-net, that I meant to make a garden here ;

* A lame man.


I understand flowers, and the gentry's ready to buy them ; and sure,
when once the flowers are set, they ''11 grow of themselves while I 'in
doing something else. Isn't it a beautiful thing to think of that !
how the Lord helps us to a great deal if we only do a little towards

' How do you make that out?' inquired the net-maker.

Burnt Eagle pulled a seed-pod from a tuft of beautiful sea-pink.
' All that 's wanted of us,' he said, ' is to put such as this in the earth
at first, and doesn't God's goodness do all the rest ?'

' But it would be " time enough," sure, to make the fence whin the
ground was ready,' said his neighbour, reverting to the first part of
her conversation.

' And have all the neighbours' pigs right through it the next morn-
ing?' retorted the old man, laughing; 'no, no, that's not my way,
Mrs Radford.'

' Fair and aisy goes far in a day, Masther Aigle,' said the gossip,
lounging against the fence, and taking her pipe out of her pocket.

' Do you want a coal for your pipe, ma'am ?' inquired Burnt Eagle.

' No, I thank ye kindly ; it 's not out, I see,' she replied, stirring it
up with a bit of stick previous to commencing the smoking with
which she solaced her laziness.

' That 's a bad plan,' observed our friend, who continued his labour
as diligently as if the sun was rising instead of setting.

' What is, Aigle dear ?'

' Keeping the pipe a-light in yer pocket, ma'am ; it might chance
to burn ye, and it's sure to waste the tobacco.'

'Augh !' exclaimed the wife, 'what long heads some people have !
God grant we may never want the bit o' tobacco ! Sure it would be
hard if we did ; we 're bad enough off without that.'

' But if ye did, ye know, ma'am, ye 'd be sorry ye wasted it ;
wouldn't ye ?'

' Och, Aigle dear, the poverty is bad enough whin it comes, not to
be looking out for it.'

' If you expected an inimy to come and burn yer house ' (' Lord
defend us !' ejaculated the woman), 'what would you do?'

'Is it what would I do? bedad, that's a quare question. I'd
pervint him, to be sure.'

'And that's what I want to do with the poverty,' he answered,
sticking his spade firmly into the earth ; and, leaning on it with
folded arms, he rested for a moment on his perfect limb, and looked
earnestly in her face. ' Ye see every one on the sod green though
it is, God bless it is somehow or other born to some sort of poverty.
Now, the thing is to go past it, or undermine it, or get rid of it, or
prevent it.'

' Ah, thin, how ?' said Mrs Radford.

' By forethought, prudence ; never to let a farthing's worth go to
waste, or spend a penny if ye can do with a halfpenny. Time makes


the most of us we ought to make the most of him ; so I '11 go on
with my work, ma'am, if you please ; I can work and talk at the
same time.'

Mrs Radford looked a little affronted ; but she thought better of
it, and repeated her favourite maxim, ' Fair and aisy goes far in a

' So it does ma'am ; nothing like it ; it 's wonderful what a dale
can be got on with by it, keeping on, on, and on, always at some-
thing. When I 'm tired at the baskets, I take a turn at the tubs ;
and when I 'm wearied with them, I tie up the heath and sweet
it is, sure enough ; it makes one envy the bees to smell the heather !
And when I Ve had enough of that, I get on with the garden, or
knock bits of furniture out of the timber the sea drifts up after those
terrible storms.'

' We burn that,' said Mrs Radford.

' There 's plenty of turf and furze to be had for the cutting ; it 's
a sin, where there 's so much furniture wanting, to burn any timber
barring chips,' replied Eagle.

' Bedad, I don't know what ill-luck sea-timber might bring,' said
the woman.

' Augh ! augh ! the worst luck that ever came into a house is idle-
ness, except, maybe, extravagance.'

'Well, thin, Aigle dear!' exclaimed Mrs Radford, 'what's come
to ye to talk of extravagance ? what in the world have poor cray-
thurs like us to be extravagant with ?'

'Yer time,' replied Burnt Eagle, with particular emphasis; 'yer

' Ah, thin, man, sure it 's " time enough " for us to be thinking of
that whin we can get anything for it!

''Make any 'thing of it, ye mean, ma'am: the only work it'll ever
do of itself, if it 's let alone, will be destruction.'

'Well!' exclaimed Mrs Radford indignantly, 'it's a purty pass
we 're come to, if what we do in our own place is to be coined over
by a stranger who has no call to the country. I 'd like to know
who you are, upsetting the ways of the place, and making some-
thing out of nothing like a fairy man ! If my husband did go to
the whisky shop, I '11 pay him off for it myself ; it 's no business of
yours ; and maybe we '11 be as well off in the long-run as them that
are so mean and thoughtful, and turning their hand to every man's
trade, and making gentlemen's houses out of mud cabins, and fine
gardens in the sand-hills ; doing what nobody ever did before ! It
won't have a blessing mark my words ! Ye 're an unfriendly man,
so ye are. After my wearing out my bones, and bringing the
children to see ye, never to notice them, or ask a poor woman to
sit down, or offer her a bit of tobacco, when it's rolls upon rolls
of it ye might have unknownst, without duty, if ye liked, and ye
here on the sea-coast.'


' I have nothing that doesn't pay duty,' replied Burnt Eagle, smil-
ing at her bitterness. ' I don't go to deny that the Excise is hard
upon a man, but I can get my bit of bread without breaking the law,
and I 'd rather have no call to what I don't rightly understand. I
am sure ye 're heartily welcome to anything I have to give. I offered
to make a gate for yer sty, to keep yer pig out of the cabbages, and
I 'm sure '

Again Mrs Radford, who was none of the gentlest, interrupted him.

'We are ould residenters in the place, and don't want any of your
improvements, Misther Burnt Aigle, thank you, sir,' she said, draw-
ing herself up with great dignity, thrusting her pipe into her pocket,
and summoning her stray flock, some of whom had entered Crab
Hall without any ceremony, while others wandered at their 'own
sweet will ' in places of dirt and danger ' I daresay we shall get on
very well without improvement. We're not for setting ourselves
above our neighbours ; we 're not giving up every bit of innocent
divarsion for slavery, and thin having no one to lave for what we
make no chick nor child !'

'Woman!' exclaimed Burnt Eagle fiercely, and he shook his
crutch at the virago, who, astonished at the generally placid man's
change, drew back in terror ; ' go home to yer own piggery, follow
yer own plan, waste the time the Almighty gives to the poorest in
the land, gossip and complain, and make mischief ; what advice and
help I had to give, I gave to ye and to others ever since I came in
the place ; follow yer own way, but lave me to follow mine time
will tell who 's right and who 's wrong.'

'Well, I'm sure !' said Mrs Radford, quailing beneath his bright
and flashing eye, ' to think of that now ! how he turns on us like a
wild baste out of his sand-hole, and we in all frindship ! Well, to
be sure sure there was " time enough " '

'Mammy, mammy!' shouted one of the seven 'hopes' of the
Radford family, 'ye 're smoking behind, ye 're smoking behind !'

'Oh, the marcy of Heaven about me!' she exclaimed, 'Burnt
Aigle's a witch ; it 's he has set fire to me with a wink of his eye,
to make his words good about the coal and the pipe in my pocket.
Oh, thin, to see how I 'm murdered intirely through the likes of him !
I 've carried a live-coal in my pocket many 's the day, and it never
sarved me so before ! Oh, it 's thrue, I 'm afeared, what 's said of
ye, that ye gave the use of one of yer legs to the devil mother of
marcy purtect me ! to the devil for knowledge and luck ; and me
that always denied it to be sarved so. Don't come near me I '11
put it out meself ; oh, to think of the beautiful gownd, bran-new it
was last Christmas was a year ! Am I out now, children dear ? Oh,
it's yer mother's made a show of before the country to plase him !
What would come over the coal to do me such a turn as that now,
and never to think of it afore ! Oh, sorra was in me to come near
yer improvements !'



' Mammy, 1 interrupted the eldest boy, ' don't be hard upon Burnt
Aigle ; there 's the coal that dropt out of the pipe, red hot still see,
here where ye stood and the priest tould ye the danger of it long

' Oh, sure it 's not going to put the holy man's advice ye are on
a level with Burnt Aigle's ! Come, we '11 be off. I meant to take
off my beautiful gownd before I came out, but thought it would
be "time enough." whin I'd go back. And to see what a backer
has brought ye to, Judith Radford.' And away she went fuming
and fretting over the sand-hills, stopping every moment to look
back at the devastation which her own carelessness had occasioned
her solitary dress. Burnt Eagle imagined he was alone, and kept
his eyes fixed upon the foolish woman as she departed, but his
attention was arrested by Mrs Radford's second daughter, who
stole round the lame man, and touched his hard hand with her
little fingers.

'Ye 're not a witch, are ye, daddy?' she said, while looking up
smilingly, but with an expression of awe, in his face.

' No, darlint.'

"Twas the coal done it wasn't it?'

' It was.'

'Well, good-night, Burnt Aigle ; kiss little Ailey there. Mother
will forget it all or have it all out the same thing, you know. I
hav'nt forgot the purty noggin you gave me ; only it hurts mother
to see how you get on with a little, and father blames her, and gets
tipsy ; so just go on yer own way, and don't heed us. Mother wants
that the sun should shine only on one side of the blackberries j but I '11
larn of ye, Daddy Aigle, if ye '11 tache me ; only don't bother the
mother with what she has no heart to, and sets the back of her hand
against.' And after asking for another kiss, the little barefooted
pretty girl whose heart was warm, and who would have been a
credit to any country if she had been well managed darted over
the banks like a fawn, her small lissom figure graceful as a Greek
statue, her matted yellow hair streaming behind her, and her voice
raised to the tune of ' Peggy Bawn.'

'.It's truth she says God's truth, anyway,' said Burnt Eagle, as
he turned to enter his cottage. 'It's truth; they set the back of
their hand and the back of their mind against improvement ; they 'd
be ready to tear my eyes out if I tould them what keeps them back.
Why, their own dislike to improvement, part ; and the carelessness
of their landlords, part ; the want of sufficient employment, a great
part ; and, above all, their being satisfied with what they get, and
not trying to get better. As long as they 're content with salt and
potato, they try for nothing else. Set John Bull down to salt and
potato, and see how he '11 lock , and why shouldn't you get as good,
Paddy agrah ! But no ; you won't ; a little more method, a little
more capital employed amongst you, and plenty of steadiness, would


make you equal to anything the world produced since it was a
world. But no : ye keep on at yer ould ways, and yer ould sayings,
and all things ould, and ye let others that haven't the quarter of
yer brains get the start of ye. Yet where, Paddy, upon the face of
the earth, is a finer man or a brighter head than your own ?' The
old man shut his door, and lit his lamp, which was made of a large
scallop-shell, the wick floating in oil he had extracted from the
blubber of a grampus that othenvise would have decayed unnoticed
on the shore.

I have told all I heard as to Burnt Eagle's first settlement in
what I still call ' my neighbourhood.' I will now tell what I know,
and what occurred some time after. I very well remember being
taken by my mother, who was a sort of domestic doctor to the poor,
to see Judy Radford, who, plunged into the depths of Irish misery,
was mourning the loss of her husband, drowned because of the
practice of the principle that it was 'time enough' to mend the
boat ; ' it had taken the boys often, and why not now ?' But the
boat went down, and the poor, overworked, good-natured father and
his eldest son were lost ! We could hardly get to the door for the
slough and abominations that surrounded it. 'Judy,' said my
mother, ' if this was collected and put at the back of the house, you
need not have come begging to the steward for manure.'

' Och, ma'am, wont it be " time enough " to gather it when we have
the seed potatoes? sure it was always there, and the young ducks
ivould be lost without it'

' Such a heap of impurity must be unhealthy.'

'We has the health finely, thank God! if we had everything else ;'
and then followed a string of petitions, and lamentations and com-
plaints of her neighbours, all uttered with the whine of discontent
which those who deserve poverty indulge in, while those who are
struggling against it seek to conceal, from a spirit of decency, the
extent of their wants. 'Indeed, ma'am,' she continued, 'the ill-luck
is after us : my second boy has, as all the country knows, the best
of characters, and would have got the half acre at the Well corner
if he had gone to his honour in time for it, and that would have
been the help to us sure enough ; but we thought there was " time
enough," and Bill Deasy, who 's put up to all sorts of sharpness by
Burnt Aigle, got the promise.'

' Well, did Ailey get the flax-wheel I told her she could have from
Lucy Green until she was able to buy one ?'

' Oh, ma'am, there it is again ; I kep her at home just that one
day on account of a hurt I got in my thumb, and thought it would
be "time enough" to be throubling yer honour for a plaster if it
got worse which it did, praise be to God ! and never did a hand's
turn with it since ; and whin she went after it, Miss Lucy had lint
it, and was stiffer about it than was needful. My girl tould her
she thought she'd be "time enough," and she hurt her feelings,


saying, "she thought we'd had enough of 'time enough' among
us before." It was very sharp of her ; people can't help their
throubles, though that ould thriving bocher, that's made all he
has out of the gentry, never scruples to tell me that I brought
them on myself.'

' I must say a word for Burnt Eagle,' said my mother ; ' he has
made all he has out of himself, not out of the gentry ; all we did
was to buy what we wanted from him one of his principles being,
never to take a penny he did not earn.'

' And very impudent of him to say that, whin the gentry war so
kind as to offer him money setting himself up to do without help !'
said Mrs Radford, whom we were fain to leave in the midst of her
querulous complainings.

We now proceeded along the cliffs to the backer's dwelling : to
visit him was always a treat to me ; but childhood's ready tears had
been some time previously excited by the detail of his sorrow for
his companion and friend ; for such the poor donkey had been to

The struggle which took place between his habit of making the
best and most of everything, was in this particular instance at war
with the affection he had borne his dead favourite ; he knew her skin
was valuable, and he did not see why he ought not to use it : one of
our friends had called accidentally at the cottage, and found Burnt
Eagle standing beside a deep pit he had excavated in the sand-hill,
intended for the donkey's grave ; he had a knife in his hand, and had
attempted the first incision in its skin.

' It can't be any hurt to a dead animal, sir,' he said, ' and yet I
can't do it ! It seems like taring off my own flesh : the poor baste
had such a knowledge of me. I know the skin would be useful ; and
the times are hard ; but I can't, sir, I can't ; it would be like skinning
a blood relation /' and he threw the knife from him. The finest
sea-pinks of the banks grow on the donkey's grave !

,1 have seen lately in Ireland as well-built and as well-kept cottages
as I ever saw in England : they are not common would to God
they were ! yet I have seen them, and in my own county too, where,
I trust, they will increase. But when I was a very little girl, they
were far less numerous, and Burnt Eagle's was visited as a curiosity ;
the old man was so neat and particular : the windows there were
two looked out, one on his little garden, the other commanded the
vista that opened between the sand-hills ; and when the tide was in,
the cockle-strand presented a sheet of silver water ; the rafters of the
kitchen were hung with kishes and baskets, lobster-pots, bird-cages,
strings of noggins, bunches of skewers, little stools, all his own work-
manship ; and the cabbage and shrimp nets seemed beyond number ;
then brooms were piled in a corner, and the handles of spades and
rude articles of husbandry were ready for use ; there was a grinding-
stone, and some attempt at a lathe ; and the dresser, upon which
64 9


were placed a few articles of earthenware, was white and clean : a
cat, whom Burnt Eagle had not only removed, but, in defiance of an
old Irish superstition, carried over water, was seated on the hearth-
stone, and the old man amused us with many anecdotes of her
sagacity. One beautiful trait in his character was, that he never
spoke ill of any one ; he had his own ideas, his own opinions, his
own rules of right, but he never indulged in gossip or backbiting.
' As to Mrs Radford,' he said, when complimented on the superior
appearance of his own cottage, 'the hand of the Lord has been
heavy on her to point out the folly of her ways, and that ought to
tache her : those who cast the grace of God from them are very
much to be pitied ; for if it 's a grace to the rich, it is surely a grace
to the poor. But the people are greatly improved, madam, even in
my time : the Agricultural Societies do good, and the Loan Societies
do good, and there 's a dale of good done up and down through the
counthry, particularly here, where the landlords God bless them !
stick to the sodj and the cottages are whitewashed, and ye
can walk dry and clane into many of the doors ; and some that
used to turn me into ridicule, come to me for advice ; and I 'm
welcome to high and low ; not looked on, as when I came first,
with suspicion : indeed, there are not many now like poor Mrs
Radford : but Ailey will do well, poor girleen ! she always took to

' You certainly worked wonders, both for yourself and others ; I
think you might do me a great deal of good, Burnt Eagle, by telling
me how you managed,' said my mother.

' Thank you, my lady, for the compliment ; but, indeed, the
principal rule I had was, "NEVER TO THINK THERE WAS TIME

respect for time, madam ; it 's a wonderful thing to say it was before
the world, and yet every day of our lives is both new and ould ould
in its grateness, yet new to thousands ; it 's God's natural riches to
the world ; it never has done with us, till it turns us over to eternity ;
it's the only true tacher of wisdom it's the Interpreter of all things
it's the miracle of life it's flying in God's face to ill-use it, or
abuse it ; it 's too precious to waste, too dear to buy it ; it can make
a poor man rich, and a rich one richer ! Oh, my lady, time is a fine
thing, and I hope little miss will think so too : do, dear, remember
poor Burnt Aigle's words, never to think it " TIME ENOUGH TO DO


' I wish,' said my mother, ' that you had a child to whom to teach
so valuable a precept.' The old man's lips (they were always
colourless) grew whiter, and he grasped the top of his crutch more
firmly ; his eyes were riveted as by a spell ; they looked on nothing,
yet remained fixed ; his mouth twitched as by a sudden bitter pain ;
and by degrees tears swam round his eyelids. I could not help gazing
on him ; and yet, child though I was, I felt that his emotion was


sacred ; that he should be alone ; and though I continued to gaze,
I moved towards the door, awe-struck, stepping back, yet looking

' Stay, stay, miss,' he muttered.

' Sit down ; you are not well/ said my mother.

' Look at that child/ he continued, without heeding her observa-
tion ; ' she is your only one, the only darlint ye have ; pray to the
Lord this night, lady, this very night, on yer bended knees, to strike
her with death by the morning, before she should be to you what
mine has been to me.' He staggered into his bedroom without
saying another word. My mother laid upon the table a parcel
containing some biscuits I had brought him, and we left the cottage,
I clinging closely to her side, and she regretting she had touched a
string which jarred so painfully. I remember I wept bitterly ; I had
been so happy with the pony, which I fancied worth all the horses at
our house ; and the revulsion was so sudden, that my little heart
ached with sorrow ; I wanted to know if Burnt Eagle's daughter had
been ' very naughty/ but my mother had never heard of his daughter

What I have now to tell has little to do with the character of my
story, but is remarkable as one of the romances of real life, which
distance all the efforts of invention, and was well calculated to make
an impression on a youthful mind. The next morning, soon after
breakfast, my cousin came to my mother to inquire if she knew
anything of the destruction of a provincial paper, the half of which
he held in his hand. ' I wanted it/ he said, ' to see the termination
of the trial of that desperate villain Ralph Blundel at the Cork

' I think I wrapt it round the biscuits Maria took to Burnt Eagle/
said mamma, 'but I can tell you the termination of the tragedy.
Blundel is executed by this time ; but the sad part of the story is,
that a young woman, who is supposed to have been his wife, visited
him in prison, accompanied by two children ; he would not speak to
her, and the miserable creature flung herself into the river the same

' And the two children ?'

' They were both girls, one a mere baby ; there was nothing more
said about them.'

Tales of sorrow seldom make a lasting impression even on the
most sensitive, unless they know something of the parties. We
thought little, and talked less of Ralph Blundel ; but we were much
astonished to hear the next morning that Burnt Eagle had set off
without anything in his creels. This was in itself remarkable ; and
it was added, that he appeared almost in a state of distraction, yet
gave his cottage and all things contained therein in charge to his
friend Ailey. Time passed on, and no tidings arrived of the old
man, though we were all anxious about him. Some said one thing,


some another. Mrs Radford hinted, ' the good people had got him
at last,' and began to speculate on the chance of his never returning,
in which case she hoped Ailey would keep Crab Hall. He had
been absent nearly six weeks, but was not forgotten, at all events by
me. I was playing one summer evening at the end of the avenue
with our great dog, when I saw Burnt Eagle jogging along on his
pony. The animal seemed very weary. I ran to him with childish
glee, forgetting our last interview in the joy of the present. I
thought he looked very old and very sad, but I was delighted to see
him notwithstanding. 'Oh, Burnt Eagle !' I exclaimed, ' Gray Fan
staved in Peggy's best milk-pail, and cook wants some new cabbage-
nets ; and I 've got two young magpies, and want a cage ; and
grandmamma wants a netting-pin ; and but what have you got in
your panniers ?' and I stood on tiptoe to peep in ; but instead of
nets or noggins, or cockles, or wooden ware, there was a pretty rosy
child as fast asleep in the sweet hay as if she had been pillowed on

I was just going to say, 'Is that your little girl ?' but I remembered
our last meeting.

'That's little Bell, miss,' he said, and his voice was low and
mournful. ' Now, look in the other, and you will see little Bess,'
and his smile was as sad as any other person's tears would have

I did look, and there was another ! How astonished I was ! I

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 56 of 58)