THE ABDUCTION OF MAT KAVANAGH,
THE HEDGE SCHOOLMASTER.
FOR ABOUT three years before the period of which I write, the village Findramore, and the parish in which it lay, were without a teacher. Mat's predecessor was a James Garraghty, a lame young man, the son of a widow, whose husband lost his life in attempting to extinguish a fire that broke out in the dwelling-house of Squire Johnston, a neighbouring magistrate. The son was a boy at the time of this disaster, and the Squire, as some compensation for the loss of his father's life in his service, had him educated at his own expense; that is to say, he gave the master who taught in the village orders to educate him gratuitously, on the condition of being horsewhipped out of the parish, if he refused. As soon as he considered himself qualified to teach, he opened a school in the village on his own account, where he taught until his death, which happened in less than a year after the commencement of his little seminary. The children had assembled in his mother's cabin; but as she did not long survive the son, this, which was at best a very miserable residence, soon tottered to the ground. The roof and thatch were burned for firing, the mud gables fell in, and were soon overgrown with grass, nettles, and docks; and nothing remained but about a foot or two of the little clay side-walls, which presented, when associated with the calamitous fate of their inoffensive inmates, rather a touching image of ruin upon a small scale. Garraghty had been attentive to his little pupils, and his instructions were sufficient to give them a relish for education—a circumstance which did not escape the observation of their parents, who duly appreciated it. His death, however, deprived them of this advantage; and as schoolmasters, under the old system, were always at a premium, it so happened, that for three years afterwards, none of that class presented himself to their acceptance. Many a trial had been made, and many a sly offer held out, as a lure to the neighbouring teachers, but they did not take; for although the country was densely inhabited, yet it was remarked that no schoolmaster ever "thruv" in the neighbourhood of Findramore. The place, in fact had got a bad name. Garraghty died, it was thought of poverty, a disease to which the Findramore school masters had been always known to be subject. His predecessor, too, was hanged, along with two others, for burning the house of an "Aagint." Then the Findramore boys were not easily dealt with, having an ugly habit of involving their unlucky teachers in those quarrels which they kept up with the Ballyscanlan boys, a fighting clan that lived at the foot of the mountains above them. These two factions, when they met, whether at fair or market, wake or wedding, could never part without carrying home on each side a dozen or two of bloody coxcombs. For these reasons, the parish of Aughindrum had for a few years been afflicted with an extraordinary dearth of knowledge; the only literary establishment which flourished in it being a parochial institution, which, however excellent in design, yet, like too many establishments of the same nature, it degenerated into a source of knowledge, morals, and education, exceedingly dry and unproductive to every person except the master, who was enabled by his honest industry to make a provision for his family absolutely surprising, when we consider the moderate nature of his ostensible income. It was in fact like a well dried up, to which scarcely any one ever thinks of going for water.
Such a state of things, however, couldn't last long. The youth of Findramore were parched for want of the dew of knowledge; and their parents and grown brethren met one Saturday evening in Barny Brady's sheebeen-house, to take into consideration the best means for procuring a resident schoolmaster for the village and neighbourhood. It was a difficult point, and required great dexterity of management to enable them to devise any effectual remedy for the evil which they felt. There were present at this council, Tim Dolan, the senior of the village, and his three sons, Jem Coogan, Brian Murphy, Paddy Delany, Owen Roe O'Neil, Jack Traynor, and Andy Connell, with five or six others, whom it is not necessary to enumerate.
"Bring us in a quart, Barny;" said Dolan to Brady, whom on this occasion we must designate as the host, "and let it be rale hathen." "
What do ye mane, Tim?" replied the host.
"I mane," continued Dolan, "stuff that was never christened, man alive."
"Thin I'll bring you the same as Father Maguire got last night on his way home, afther anointin' ould Katty Duffy," replied Dolan. "I'm sure, whatever I might be afther givin' to strangers, Tim, I'd be long sorry to give yees any thing but the right sort."
"That's a gay man, Barny," said Traynor; "but off wid you like shot, an' let us get it under our tooth first, an' then we'll tell you more about it.—A big rogue is the same Barny," he added, after Brady had gone to bring in the poteen, "an' never sells a dhrop that's not wan whiskey and five wathers."
"But he couldn't expose it on you, Jack," observed Connell; "you're too ould a hand about the pot for that. Warn't you in the mountains last week?"
"Ay; but the curse of Cromwell upon that thief of a gauger, Simpson—himself and a pack o' redcoats surrounded us when we war beginnin' to double, and the purtiest runnin' that ever you seen was lost; for you see, before you could cross yourself, we had the bottoms knocked clane out of the vessels; so that the villains didn't get a hole in our coats, as they thought they would."
"I tell you," observed O'Neil, "there's a bad pill somewhere about us."
"Ay is there, Owen," replied Traynor; " and what is more, I don't think he's a hundher moils from the place we're sittin' in."
"Faith, may be so, Jack," returned the other.
"I'd never give in to that," said Murphy. "'Tis Barny Brady that would never turn informer—the same thing isn't in him, nor in any of his breed; there's not a man in the parish I'd thrust sooner."
"I'd jist thrust him," replied Traynor, "as far as I could throw a cow by the tail. Arrah, what's the rason that the gauger never looks next or near his place, an' it's well known that he sells poteen widout a license, though he goes past his door wanst a week?"
"What the h— is keeping him, at all?" enquired one of Dolan's sons.
"Look at him," said Traynor, "comin' in out of the garden; how much afeard he is! keepin' the whiskey in a phatie ridge—an' I'd kiss the book that he brought that bottle out in his pocket, instead of diggin' it up out o' the garden."
Whatever Brady's usual habits of christening his poteen might have been, that which he now placed before them was good. He laid the bottle on a little deal table with cross legs, and along with it a small drinking glass fixed in a bit of flat circular wood, as a substitute for the original bottom, which had been broken. They now entered upon the point in question, without further delay.
"Come, Tim," said Coogan, "you're the ouldest man, and must spake first."
"Throth, man," replied Dolan, "beggin' your pardon, I'll dhrink first—shud-urth, your sowl; success, boys—glory to ourselves, and confusion to the Scanlan boys, any way."
"And maybe," observed Connell, "'tis we that didn't lick them well in the last fair—they're not able to meet the Findramore birds, even on their own walk."
"Well, boys," said Delany, "about the masther? Our childer will grow up like bullockeens, widout knowing a hap'orth; and larning, you see, is a burdyen that's asy carried."
"Ay," observed O'Neil, "as Solvesther Maguire, the poet, used to say—
"'Labour for larnin' before you grow ould,
For larnin' is betther nor riches or gould—
Riches an' gould they may vanquish away,
But larnin' alone it will never decay.'"
"Success, Owen! Why, you might put down the pot and warm an air to it," said Murphy.
"Well, boys, are we all safe?" asked Traynor.
"Safe!" said old Dolan. "Arrah, what are you talkin' about? Sure 'tisn't of that same spalpeen of a gauger that we'd be afraid?"
During this observation, young Dolan pressed Traynor's foot under the table, and they both went out for about five minutes.
"Father," said the son, when he and Traynor re-entered the room, you're a wantin' home."
"Who wants me, Larry, a-vick ?" said the father.
The son immediately whispered him for a moment, when the old man instantly rose, got his hat, and, after drinking another bumper of the poteen, departed.
"'Twas hardly worth while," said Delany; "the ould fellow's mettle to the back-bone, an' would never show the garran-bawn, at any rate, even if he knew all about it." "Bad end to the syllable I'd let the same ould cock hears" said the son; "the devil trust any man that didn't switch the primmer for it, though he is my father; but now, boys, that the coast's clear, and all safe—where will we get a schoolmasther? Mat Kavanagh won't budge from the Scanlan boys, even if we war to put our hands undher his feet; and small blame to him, when he heads them—sure, you would not expect him to be a traithur to his own?"
"Faith, the gorsoons is in a bad state," said Murphy, "but, boys, where will we get a man that's up? Why, I know 'tis betther to have any body nor be without one; but we might kill two birds wid one stone—if we could get a masther that would carry articles, an' swear in the boys, from time to time—an' between ourselves, if there's any danger of the hemp, we may as well lay it upon strange shouldhers."
"Ay, bud since Corrigan swung for the Aagint"' replied Delany, "they're a little modest in havin' act or part wid us; but the best plan is to get an advartisment wrote out, an' have it posted on the chapel door."
This hint was debated with much earnestness; but, as they were really anxious to have a master—in the first place, for the simple purpose of educating their children; and in the next, for filling the situation of director and regulator of their illegal Ribbon meetings—they determined on penning an advertisement, according to the suggestion of Delany. After drinking another bottle, and amusing themselves with some further chat, one of the Dolans undertook to draw up the advertisement, which ran as follows :—
"Take Notes,—That any Schoolmasther who understands Spellin' grammatically—Readin' and Writin', in the raal way, accordin' to the Dixonary—Arithmatick, that is to say, the five common rules, namely, simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division—and addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, of Dives's denominations. Also reduction up and down—cross multiplication of coin—the Rule of Three direck—the Rule of Three in verse—the double Rule of Three—Frackshins taught according to the vulgar and decimatin' method; and must be well practised to tache the Findramore boys how to manage the Scuffle.
"N. B. He must be well grounded in that. Practis, discount, and Rebatin'. N. B. Must be well grounded in that also.
"Tret and Tare—Fellowship—Allegation—Barther—Rates per scent—Intherest—Exchange— Prophet in loss—the Square Root—the Kibe Root—Hippothenuse—Arithmatical and Gommetrical Purgation—Compound Intherest—Loggerheadisms—Questions for Exercise, and the Coxendix to Algibbra. He must also know Jommithry accordin' to Grunther's scale—the Castigation of the Klipsticks—Surveying and the use of the Jacob-staff.
"N. B. Would get a good dale of surveyin' to do in the vircinity of Findramore, particularly in Conacre-time. If he knew the use of the globe, it would be an accusation. He must also understand the Three Sets of Book-keeping, by single and double entry, particularly Loftus & Company of Paris, their Account of Cash and Company. And above all things, he must know how to tache the Sarvin' of Mass in Latin, and be able to read Docthor Gallaher's Irish Sarmints, and explain Kolumbkill's and Pastorini's Prophecies.
"N. B. If he understands Cudgel-fencin', it would be an accusation also—but mustn't tache us wid a staff that bends in the middle, bekase it breaks one's head across the guard. Any schoolmasther capacious an' collified to instruct in the above-mintioned branches, would get a good school in the townland of Findramore and its vircinity, be well fed, an' get the hoith o' good livin' among the farmers, an' would be ped—
"N.B. Would get also a good night-school among the vircinity."
Having penned the above advertisement, it was carefully posted early the next morning on the Chapel door, with an expectation on the part of the patrons, that it would not be wholly fruitless. The next week, however, passed without an application—the second also—and the third produced the same result; nor was there the slightest prospect of a schoolmaster being blown by any wind to the lovers of learning at Findramore. In the mean time, the Ballyscanlan boys took care to keep up the ill-natured prejudice which had been circulated concerning the fatality that uniformly attended such schoolmasters as settled there; and when this came to the ears of the Findramore folk, it was once more resolved that the advertisement should be again put up, with a clause containing an explanation on that point. The clause ran as follows :—
"N. B. The two last masthers that was hanged out of Findramore, that is, Micky Corrigan, who was hanged for killing the Aagint, and Jem Garraghty, that died of a declension—Jem died in quensequence of ill health, and Micky was hanged contrary to his own wishes; so that it wasn't either of their faults—as witness our hands this 27th of July.
"Nothin', boys, is asier," said Delany. "There's to be a patthern in Ballymagowan on next Sathurday—an' that's jist half way betune ourselves and the Scanlan boys. Let us musther an' go there, any how. We can keep an eye on Mat widout much trouble, an', when opportunity sarves, nick him at wanst, and off wid him clane."
"But," said Traynor, " what would we do wid him when he'd be here? Wouldn't he cut the first opportunity?"
"How can he, ye omadhawn, if we put a manwill in our pocket, an' sware him? But we'll butther him up when he's among us; or, by me sowks if it goes to that, force him either to settle wid ourselves, or make himself scarce in the counthry entirely."
"Divil a much force it'ill take to keep him, I'm thinkin'," observed Murphy. "He'll have three times a betther school here; and if he was wanst settled, I'll engage he would take to it kindly."
"See here, boys," says Dick Dolan, in a whisper—" if that bloody villain, Brady, isn't afther standin' this quarther of an hour, strivin' to hear what we're about; but it's well we didn't bring up any thing consarnin' the other business; didn't I tell yees the desate was in 'im? Look at his shadow on the wall forninst us."
"Hould yer tongues, boys," said Traynor; "jist keep never mindin', and, by my sowks, I'll make him sup sorrow for that thrick."
"You had betther neither make nor meddle wid him," observed Delany; "jist put him out o' that—but don't raise yer hand to him, or he'll sarve you as he did Jem Flanagan—put ye three or four months in the Stone Jug."
Traynor, however, had gone out while he was speaking, and, in a few minutes dragged in Brady, whom he caught in the very act of eaves-dropping.
"Jist come in, Brady," said Traynor, as he dragged him along—" walk in, man alive; sure, and sich an honest man as you are needn't be afeard of lookin' his friends in the face!—ho!—an' by my own sowl, is it a spy we've got? and, I suppose, would be an informer, too, if he had heard anything to tell!"
"What's the manin' of this, boys?" exclaimed the others, feigning ignorance—"let the honest man go, Traynor. What do ye hawl him that-a-way for, ye gallis pet?" &
quot;Honest!" replied Traynor,—" how very honest he is, the desavin' villain—to be standin' at the windy there, wantin' to overhear the little harmless talk we had."
"Come, Traynor," said Brady, seizing him in his turn by the neck, "take your hands off of me, or, bad fate to me, but I'll lave ye a mark."
Traynor, in his turn, had his hand twisted in Brady's cravat, which he drew tightly about his neck, until the other got nearly black in the face.
"Let me go, you villian!" exclaimed Brady, " or, by this blessed night that's in it, it'ill be worse for you."
"Villian! is id?" replied Traynor, making a blow at him, whilst Brady snatchcd at a pen-knife which one of the others had placed on the table, after picking the tobacco out of his pipe—intending either to stab Traynor, or to cut the knot of the cravat by which he was held. The others, however, interfered, and prevented further mischief.
"Brady," said Traynor, "you'll rue this night, if ever a man did, you tracherous informin' villian. What an honest spy we have among us!—and a short coorse to you!"
"Oh, hould yer tongue, Traynor," replied Brady; "I blieve its best known who is both the spy and the informer. The divil a pint of poteen ever you'll run in this parish, until you clear yourself of bringing the gauger on the Tracey's, bekase they tuck Mick M'Kew in preference to yourself to run it for them." Traynor made another attempt to strike him, but was prevented. The rest now interfered; and, in the course of an hour or so an adjustment took place.
Brady took up the tongs, and swore "by that blessed iron," that he neither heard nor intended to hear anything they said, and this exculpation was followed by a fresh bottle at his own expense. "You omadhawn," said he to Traynor, "I was ony puttin' up a dozen of bottles into the tatch of the house, when you thought I was listenin; and, as a proof of the truth of this, he brought them out and showed them some bottles of poteen, neatly covered up under the thatch.
Before their separation they finally planned the abduction of Kavanagh from the Patron, on the Saturday following, and after drinking another round went home to their respective dwellings.
In this speculation, however, they experienced a fresh disappointment; for, ere Saturday arrived, whether in consequence of secret intimation of their intentlon from Brady or some friend, or in compliance with the offer of a better situation, the fact was, that Mat Kavanagh had removed to another school, distant about eighteen miles from Findramore. But they were not to be outdone; a new plan was laid, and in the course of the next week, a dozen of the most enterprising and intrepid of the "boys," mounted each upon a good horse, went to Mat's new residence for the express purpose of securing him.
Perhaps our readers may scarcely believe, that a love of learning was so strong among the inhabitants of Findramore, as to occasion their taking such remarkable steps for establishing a schoolmaster among them, but the country was densely inhabited, the rising population exceedingly numerous, and the out-cry for a schoolmaster amongst the parents of the children loud and importunate. Besides this, the illegal principles of White-boyism were as deeply rooted in that neighbourhood as in others, and the young men stood in need of some person who might regulate their proceedings, keep their registries, preside at and appoint their meetings, and organize, with sufficient skill and precision, not only the vast numbers who had been already enrolled as members, but who were putting forward their claims, day after day, to be admitted as such. God knows it is no wonder that Ireland should be as she is, and as she long has been, when we consider the fact, that those who conducted the education of her peasantry were the most active instruments in disseminating among the rising generations, such pernicious principles as those which characterize this system, so deeply rooted among the people—men, whose moral characters were, with few exceptions, execrable: and nine-tenths of whom held situations of authority in these diabolical associations, The fact, therefore, was, that a double motive stimulated the inhabitants of Findramore in their efforts to procure a master. The old and middle-aged heads of families were actuated by a simple wish, inseparable from Irishmen, to have their children educated; and the young men, not only by a determination to have a properly qualified person to preside at their nightly orgies, but an inclination to improve themselves in reading, writing, and arithmetic. The circumstance I am now relating is one which actually took place; and any man acquainted with the remote parts of Ireland, may have often seen bloody and obstinate quarrels among the peasantry, in vindicating a priority of claim to the local residence of a schoolmaster among them. I could, within my own experience, relate two or three instances of this nature.
It was one Saturday night in the latter end of the month of May, that a dozen Findramore "boys," as they were called, set out upon this most singular of all literary speculations, resolved, at whatever risk, to secure the person and effect the permanent bodily presence among them of the redoubtable Mat Kavanagh. Each man was mounted on a horse; and one of them brought a spare steed for the accommodation of the schoolmaster. The caparison of this horse was somewhat remarkable. It consisted of a wooden straddle, such as is used by the peasantry for carrying wicker paniers or creels, which are hung upon two wooden pins, that stood up out of its sides. Under it was a straw mat, to prevent the horse's back from being stripped by the straddle. On one side of this hung a large creel, and on the other a strong sack, tied round a stone of sufficient weight to balance the empty creel. The night was warm and clear, the moon and stars all threw their mellow light from a serene, unclouded sky, and the repose of nature in the short nights of this delightftul season, resembled that of a young virgin of sixteen—still, light, and glowing. Their way, for the most part of their journey, lay through a solitary mountain-road; and, as they did not undertake the enterprize without a good stock of poteen, their light-hearted songs and choruses awoke the echoes that slept in the mountain glens as they went along. The adventure, it is true, had as much of frolic as of seriousness in it; and merely as the means of a day's fun for the boys, it was the more eagerly entered into.
It was about mid-night when they left home and, as they did not wish to arrive at the village to which they were bound, until the morning should be rather advanced, the journey was as slowly performed as possible. Every remarkable object on the way was noticed, and its history, if any particular association was connected with it, minutely detailed, whenever it happened to be known. When the sun rose, many beautiful green spots and hawthorn vallies excited, even from these unpolished and illlterate peasants, warm bursts of admiration at their fragrance and beauty. In some places, the dark flowery heath clothed the mountains to the tops, from which the grey mists, lit by a flood of light, and breaking into masses before the morning breeze, began to descend into the valleys beneath them; whilst the voice of the grouse, the bleating of sheep and lambs, the peeweet of the wheeling lapwing, and the song of the lark, threw life and animation over the previous stillness of the country. Sometimes a shallow river would cross the road, winding off into a valley that was overhung, on one side, by rugged precipices clothed with luxuriant heath and wild ash; whilst, on the other, it was skirted by a long sweep of green sward, skimmed by the twittering swallow, over which lay scattered numbers of sheep, cows, brood mares, and colts—many of them rising and stretching themselves ere they resumed their pasture, leaving the spot on which they lay of a deeper green. Occasionally, too, a sly-looking fox might be seen lurking about a solitary lamb, or brushing over the hills with a fat goose upon his back, retreating to his den among the inaccessible rocks, after having plundered some unsuspecting farmer.
As they advanced into the skirts of the cultivated country, they met many other beautiful spots of scenery among the upland, considerable portions of which, particularly in long, sloping valleys that faced the morning sun, were covered with hazle and brush wood, where the unceasing and simple notes of the cuckoo were incessantly plied, mingled with the more mellow and varied notes of the thrush and blackbird. Sometimes, the bright summer waterfall seemed, in the rays of the sun, like a column of light, and the springs that issued from the sides of the more distant and lofty mountains shone with a steady, dazzling brightness, on which the eye could scarcely rest. The morning, indeed, was beautiful, the fields in bloom, and every thing cheerful. As the sun rose in the heavens, nature began gradually to awaken into life and happiness; nor was the natural grandeur of a Sabbath summer morning among these piles of magnificent mountains—nor its heartfelt, but more artificial beauty in the cultivated country, lost, even upon the unphilosophical "boys" of Findramore, so true is it, that the appearance of nature will force enjoyment upon the most uncultivated heart.
When they had arrived within two miles of the little town in which Mat Kavanagh was fixed, they turned off into a deep glen, a little to the left; and, after having seated themselves under a whitethorn which grew on the banks of a rivulet, they began to devise the best immediate measures to be taken.
"Boys," said Tim Dolan, "how will we manage now with this thief of a shoolmasther, at all? Come, Jack Traynor, you that's up to still-house work—escapin' and carryin' away stills from gaugers, the bloody villians!—out wid yer spake, till we hear your opinion."
"Do ye think, boys," said Andy Connell, "that we could flatther him to come by fair mains?"
"Flatther him!" said Traynor; "and, by my sowl, if we fiatther him at all, it must be by the hair o' the head!"
"I'll tell you what it is, boys," continued Connell,—" I'll hould a wager, if you lave him to me, I'll bring him wid his own consint."
"No, nor deuce the that you'll do, nor could do," replied Traynor; "for, along wid every thing else, he thinks he's not jist doated on by the Findramore people, being one of the Ballyscanlan tribe—No, no—let two of us go to his place, and purtind that we have other business in the fair of Clansallagh on Monday next, and ax him in to dhrink, for he'll not refuse that, any how; then, when he's half tipsey, ax him to convoy us this far; we'll then meet you here, an' tell him some palaver or other—sit down again where we are now, and, after making him dead drunk, hoise a big stone in the creel, and Mat in the sack, on the other side, wid his head out, and off wid him; and he will know neither act nor part about it, till we're at Findramore."
Having approved of this project, they pulled out each a substantial complernent of stout wheaten bread, which served, along with the whiskey, for breakfast. The two persons pitched on for decoying Mat were Dolan and Traynor, who accordingly set out, full of glee at the singularity and drollness of their undertaking It is unnecessary to detail the ingenuity with which they went about it—because, in consequence of Kavanagh's love of drink, very little ingenuity was necessary; but one circumstance came to light which gave them much encouragement, and that was a discovery that Mat by no means relished his situation. In the mean time, those who staid behind in the glen felt their patience begin to flag a little, because of the delay made by the others, who had promised, if possible, to have the schoolmaster in the glen before two o'clock. But the fact was, that Mat, who was far less deficient in hospitality than in learning, brought them into his house, and not only treated them to plenty of whiskey, but made the wife prepare a dinner, for which he detained them, swearing, that except they stopped to partake of it, he would not convoy them to the place appointed. Evening was, therefore, tolerably far advanced when they made their appearance at the glen, in a very equivocal state of sobriety—Mat being by far the steadiest of the three, but still considerably the worse for what he had taken. He was now welcomed by a general huzza; and on his expressing surprise at the appearance of so many of his acquaintances, they pointed to their horses, telling him that they were bound for the fair of Clansallagh, for the purpose of selling them. This was the more probable, as, when a fair occurs in Ireland, it is usual for cattle-dealers, particularly horse-jockeys, to effect sales, and 'show' their horses on the evening before. Mat now sat down, and was vigorously plied with strong poteen—songs were sung, stories told, and every device resorted to that was calculated to draw out and heighten his sense of enjoyment; nor were their efforts without success; for, in the course of a short time, Mat was free from all earthly care, being incapable of either speaking or standing.
"Now, boys," said Dolan, "let us do the thing clane an' dacent. Let you, Jem Cogan, Brian Murphy, Paddy Delany, and Andy Connell, go back, and tell the wife and two childher a cock-and-a-bull story about Mat—say that he is coming to Findrarnore for good and all, an' that'ill be truth, you know; and that he ordhered yees to bring her and them after him; and we can come back for the furniture to-morrow.
A word was enough—they immediately set off; and the others, not wishing that Mat's wife should witness the mode of his conveyance, proceeded home, for it was now dusk. The plan succeeded admirably; and in a short time the wife and children, mounted behind the "boys" on the horses, were on their way after them to Findramore. The reader is already aware of the plan they had adopted for translating Mat; but, as it was extremely original, I will explain it somewhat more fully. The moment the schoolmaster was intoxicated to the necessary point, that is to say, totally helpless and insensible, they opened the sack and put him in, heels foremost, tying it in such a way about his neck as might prevent his head from getting into it, thus avoiding the danger of suffocation. The sack, with Mat at full length in it, was then fixed to the pin of the straddle, so that he was in an erect posture during the whole journey. A creel was then hung at the other side, in which was placed a large stone, of sufficient weight to preserve an equilibrium; and, to prevent any accident, a droll fellow sat astride behind the straddle, amusing himself and the rest by breaking jokes upon the novelty of Mat's situation.
"Well, Mat, ma bouchal, how duv ye like your sitivation? I believe, for all your larnin', the Findramore boys have sacked you at last?"
"Ay," exclaimed another, "he is sacked at last, in spite of his Matthew-maticks."
"An' by my sowks," observed Traynor, "he'd be a long time goin' up a Maypowl in the state he's in—his own snail would bate him."
"Yes," said another, "but he desarves credit for travellin' from Clansallagh to Findramore, widout layin' a foot to the ground—
Whoo—hurroo! my darlings—success to the Findramore boys! Hurroo—hurroo—the Findramore boys for ever!"
"Boys, did ever yees hear the song Mat made on Neil Mullen's fight wid Jemmy Connor's gander? Well, here it is, to the tune of 'Brian O'Lynn.'—
They then commenced, in a tone of mock gravity, to lecture him upon his future duties—detailing the advantages of his situation, and the comforts he would enjoy among them—although they might as well have addressed themselves to the stone on the other side. In this manner they got along, amusing themselves at Mat's expense, and highly elated with the success of their undertaking. About two o'clock in the morning they reached the top of the little hill above the village, when, on looking back along the level stretch of road which I have already described, they noticed their companions, with Mat's wife and children, moving briskly after them. A general huzza now took place, which, in a few minutes, was answered by two or three dozen of the young folks, who were assembled in Barny Brady's, waiting their arrival. The scene now became quite animated—cheer after cheer succeeded—jokes, laughter, and rustic wit, pointed by the spirit of Brady's poteen, flew briskly about. When Mat was unsacked, several of them came up, and, shaking him cordially by the hand, welcomed him among them. To the kindness of this reception, however, Mat was wholly insensible, having been for the greater part of the journey in a profound sleep. The boys next slipped the loop of the sack off the straddle-pin; and, carrying Mat into a farmer's house, they deposited him in a settle-bed, where he slept, unconscious of the journey he had performed, until breakfast-time on the next morning. In the mean time, the wife and children were taken care of by Mrs. Connell, who provided them with a bed, and every other comfort which they could require. The next morning, when Mat awoke, his first call was for a drink. (But I should have observed, that Mrs. Kavanagh had been sent for by the good woman in whose house Mat had slept, that they might all breakfast and have a drop together, for they had already succeeded in reconciling her to the change.)
"Wather!" said Mat—quot; a drink of wather, if it's to be had, for love or money, or I'll split wid druth—I'm all in a state of conflagration; and my head—by the sowl of Newton, the invintor of fluxions—but my head is a complete illucidation of the centrifugle motion, so it is. Tundher an' turf! is there no wather to be had? Nancy, I say, for God's sake, quicken yourself wid the hydraulics, or the best mathemathician in Ireland's gone to the abode of Euclid and Pythagorass, that first invented the multiplication table."
On cooling his burning blood with the "hydraulics," he again lay down, with an intention of composing himself for another sleep; but his eye having noticed the novelty of his situation, he once more called Nancy.
"Nancy, avourneen, he enquired, "will you be afther resolving me one single proposition —Where am I at the present spaking? Is it in the Siminary at home, Nancy?"
Nancy, in the mean time, had been desired to answer in the affirmative, hoping that if his mind was made easy on that point, be might refresh himself by another hour or two's sleep, as he appeared to be not at all free from the effects of his previous intoxication.
"Why, Mat, jewel, where else would you be, a lannah, but at home? Sure, isn't here Jack, and Biddy, an' myself, Mat, agra, along wid me. Your head isn't well, but all you want is a good rousin' sleep."
"Very well, Nancy; very well, that's enough—quite satisfacthory—quod erat demonstrandum. May all kinds of bad luck rest upon the Findramore boys, any way! The unlucky vagabonds—I'm the third they've done up. Nancy, off wid ye, like quicksilver for the priest."
"The priest! Why, Mat, jewel, what puts that in your head? Sure, there's nothing wrong wid ye, only the sup o' dhrink you tuck yestherday." "Go, woman ;" said Mat, "did you ever know me to make a wrong calculation. I tell you, I'm non compos mentis from head to heel. Head! by my sowl, Nancy, it'ill soon be a caput mortuum wid me—I'm far gone in a disease they call an opthical delusion—the devil a thing less it is—me bein' in my own place, an' to think I'm lyin' in a settle-bed; that there is a large dresser, covered wid pewter dishes and plates; and, to crown to all, the door on the wrong side of the house. Off wid ye, an' tell his Reverence that I want to be anointed, and to die in pace and charity wid all men:—may the most especial kind of bad luck light down upon you, Findramore, an' all that's in you, both man and baste—you have given me my gruel along wid the rest; but, thank God, you won't hang me, any how! Off, Nancy, for the priest, till I die like a Christhan, in pace and forgiveness wid the world;—all kinds of hard fortune to them! Make haste, woman, if you expect me to die like a Christhan. If they had let me alone till I'd publish to the world my Treatise upon Conic Sections; but to be cut off on my march to fame! Another draught of the hydraulics, Nancy, an' then for the priest; but see, bring Father Connell, the curate, for he understands something about Mathew-maticks; an' never heed Father Roger, for little he knows about them, not even the difference betune a right line and a curve—in the page of histhory, to his everlastin' disgrace, be it recorded."
"Mat," replied Nancy, scarcely preserving her gravity, "keep yourself from talkin', and fall asleep, then you'll be well enough."
"Is there e'er a sup at all in the house?" said Mat; if there is, let me get it; for there's an ould proverb, though it's a most unmathematical axiom as ever was invinted—' try a hair of the same dog that bit you;' give me a glass, Nancy, any how—an' you can go for Father Connell after. Oh, by the sowl of Isaac, that invinted fluxions, what's this for?"
A general burst of laughter followed this demand and ejaculation; and Mat sat up once more in the Settle, and examined the place with keener scrutiny. Nancy herself laughed heartily; and, as she handed him the full glass, entered into an explanation of the circumstances attending his translation.
Mat, at all times rather of a pliant disposition, felt rejoiced on finding that he was still compos mentis; and on hearing what took place, he could not help entering into the humour of the enterprise, at which he laughed as heartily as any of them.
"Mat," said the farmer, and half a dozen of the neighbours, "you're a happy man; there's a hundred of the boys have a school-house half built for you this same blessed shining morning, while you're lying at ase in your bed."
"By the sowl of Newton, that invented fluxions!" replied Mat, "but I'll take revenge for the disgrace you put upon my profission, by stringing up a school-master among you, and I'll hang you all! It's death to stale a four-footed animal; but what do ye desarve for stalin' a Christhan baste, a two-legged school-masther without feathers, eighteen miles, and he not to know it?"
In the course of a short time Mat was dressed, and having found benefit from the "hair of the dog that bit him," he tried another glass, which strung his nerves, or, as he himself expressed it—" they've got the raal mathemathical tinsion agin." What the farmer said, however, about the school-house, had been true. Early that morning all the growing and grown young men of Findramore and its "vircinity" had assembled, selected a suitable spot, and, with merry hearts, were then busily engaged in erecting a school house for their general accommodation.
The manner of building hedge school-houses being rather curious, I will describe it. The usual spot selected for their erection is a ditch on the road-side, in some situation where there will be as little damp as possible. From such a spot an excavation is made equal to the size of the building, so that, when this is scooped out, the back side-wall and the two gables are already formed, the banks being dug quite perpendicularly. The front side-wall, with a window in each side of the door, is then built of clay or green sods laid along in rows; the gables are also topped with sods, and, perhaps, a row or two laid upon the back side-wall, if it should be considered too low. Having got the erection of Mat's house thus far, they procured a scraw-spade, and repaired with a couple dozen of cars to the next bog, from which they cut the light heathy surface in stripes the length of the roof. A scraw-spade is an instrument resembling the letter T, with an iron plate at the lower end, considerably bent, and well adapted for the purpose for which it is intended. Whilst one party cut the scraws, another bound the couples and bauks, and a third cut as many green branches as were sufficient to wattle it. The couples, being bound, were raised— the ribs laid on—then the wattles, and, afterwards, the scraws. Whilst these successive processes went forward, another party had been engaged all the morning cutting rushes; and the scraws were no sooner laid on, than half a dozen thatchers mounted the roof, and long before the evening was closed, a school-house, capable of holding nearly a hundred children, was finished. But among the peasantry no new house is ever put up without a hearth-warming, and a dance. Accordingly, the clay floor was paired—a fiddler procured—Barny Brady and his stock of poteen sent for; the young women of the village and surrounding neighbourhood attended in their best finery; dancing commenced—and it was four o.'clock the next morning when the merry-makers departed, leaving Mat a new home and a hard floor, ready for the reception of his scholars.
Business now commenced. At nine o'clock the next day Mat's furniture was settled in a small cabin, given to him, at a cheap rate, by one of the neighbouring farmers; for, whilst the school-house was being built, two men, with horses and cars, had gone to Clansallagh, accompanied by Nancy, and removed the furniture, such as it was, to their new residence. Nor was Mat, upon the whole, displeased at what had happened; he was now fixed in a flourishing country—fertile and well cultivated; nay, the bright landscape which his school-house commanded was sufficient in itself to reconcile him to his situation. The inhabitants were in comparatively good circumstances; many of them wealthy, respectable farmers, and capable of remunerating him very decently for his literary labours; and what was equally flattering, there was a certainty of his having a numerous and well-attended school, in a neighbourhood with whose inhabitants he was acquainted.
Honest, kind-hearted Paddy!—pity that you should ever feel distress or hunger !—pity that you should be compelled to seek, in a neighbouring land, the hard-earned pittance by which you keep the humble cabin over the head of your chaste wife and naked children! Alas! what noble materials for composing a national character, of which humanity might be justly proud, if raised and cultivated by a Christian education! Pardon me, gentle readers, for this momentary ebullition; I grant I am a little dark now. I assure you, however, the tear of enthusiastic admiration is warm on my eye-lids, when I remember the flitches of bacon, the sacks of potatoes, the bags of meal, the miscawns of butter, and the dishes of eggs—not omitting creat after creat of turf which came in such rapid succession to Mat Kavanagh, during the first week on which he opened his school. Ay, and many a bottle of stout poteen, when
In the course of a month Mat's school was full to the door-posts, for, in fact, he had the parish to himself—many attending from a distance of three, four, and five miles. His merits, however, were believed to be great, and his character for learning stood high, though unjustly so; for a more superficial and, at the same time, a more presuming dunce never existed; but his character alone could secure him a good attendance; he, therefore, belied the unfavourable prejudices against the Findramore folk, which had gone abroad, and was a proof, in his own person, that the reason of the former schoolmasters' miscarriage, lay in the belief of their incapacity, which existed among the people. But Mat was one of those showy, shallow fellows, who did not lack for assurance.
The first step a hedge schoolmaster took, on establishing
himself in a school, was to write out, in his best copperplate hand, a
flaming advertisement, detailing, at full length, the several branches
he professed himself capable of teaching. I have seen many of these—as
who, that is acquainted with Ireland, has not ?—and, beyond all doubt,
if the persons that issued them were acquainted with the various heads
recapitulated, they must have been buried in the most profound obscurity,
as no man but a walking Encyclopaedia—an Admirable Crichton—could claim
an intimacy with them, embracing, as they often did, the whole circle of
human knowledge. 'Tis true, the vanity of the pedagogue had full scope
in these advertisements, as there was none to bring hirn to an account,
except some rival, who could only attack him on those practical subjects
which were common to both. Independently of this, there was a good- natured
collusion between them on those points which were beyond their knowledge,
inasmuch as they were not practical but speculative, and by no means involved
their character or personal interests. The next Sunday, therefore, after
Mat's establishment at Findramore, you might see a circle of the peasantry
assembled at the chapel door, perusing, with suitable reverence and admiration
on their faces, the following advertisement; or, perhaps, Mat himself,
with a learned, consequential air, in the act of explaining it to them.
"Spelling, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, upon altogether new principles, hitherto undiscovered by any excepting himself, and for which he expects a Patent; Book-keeping, by single and double entry—Geometry, Trigonometry, Stereometry, Mensuration, Navigation, Gauging, Surveying, Dialling, Astronomy, Astrology, Fluxions, Geography, ancient and modern—Maps, the Projection of the Spear; Algebra, the Use of the Globes, Natural and Moral Philosophy, Pneumatics, Optics, Dioptics, Catoptrics, Hydraulics, Aerostatics, Geology, Divinity, Mythology, Physics, Metaphysics, Chemistry, Electricity, Galvanism, Mechanics, Antiquities, Agriculture, Ventilation, &c.
"In Classics—Grammar, Cordery, Aesop's Fables, Erasmus' Colloquies, Cornelius Nepos, Phoedrus, Valerius Maximus, Justin, Ovid, Sallust, Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Persius, Terence, Tully's Offices, Cicero, Manouverius Turgidus, Esculapius, Rogerius, Satanus Nigrus, Quinctilian, Livy, Thomas Aquinas, and Cornelius Agrippa.
"Greek Grammar, Greek Testament, Lucian, Homer, Sophocles, Eschylus, Thucydides, Aristophanes, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and the works of Alexander the Great; the manners, habits, customs, and usages of the Grecians; the Greek Digamma resolved, Prosody, Composition, both in prose and verse, in English, Latin, and Greek; together with various other branches of learning—quos enumerare longum est—along with Irish Radically, and a small taste of Hebrew upon the Masoretic text.
The reader will then be pleased to picture to himself such a house as I have already described,—in a line with the hedge; the eave of the back roof within a foot of the ground behind it; a large hole exactly in the middle of the "riggin" as a chimney; immediately under which is an excavation in the floor, formed by a large fire of turf, loosely heaped together. This is surrounded by a circle of urchins, sitting on the bare earth, and exhibiting a series of speckled shins, all radiating towards the fire, like sausages on a Poloni dish. There they are—wedged as close as they can sit; one with half a thigh off his breeches—another with half an arm off his tattered coat—a third without breeches at all, wearing, as a substitute, a piece of his mother's old petticoat pinned about his loins—a fourth, no coat—a fifth with a cap on him, because he has got a scald, from having sat under the juice of fresh hung bacon—a sixth with a black eye—a seventh with two rags about his heels to keep his kibes clean—an eighth crying to get home, because he has a head ache, though it may be as well to hint, that there is a drag-hunt to start from beside his father's in the course of the day. In the ring itself, with his legs stretched in a most lordly manner, sits, upon a deal chair, Mat himself, with his hat on, basking in the enjoyment of unlimited authority. His dress consists of a black coat, considerably in want of repair, transferred to his shoulders through the medium of a clothes-broker in the county town; a white cravat, round a large stuffing, having that part of it which comes in contact with the chin somewhat streaked with brown—a black waistcoat with one or two 'tooth-an'-egg' metal buttons sewed on where the original had fallen off—black corduroy inexpressibles, twice dyed, and sheep's-grey stockings. In his hand is a large, broad ruler, the emblem of his power, the woful instrument of executive justice, and the signal of terror to all within his jurisdictiori. In a corner below is a pile of turf, where, on entering, every boy throws his two sods, with a pitch from under his left arm. He then comes up to the master, catches his forelock with finger and thumb, and bobs down his head, by way of making him a bow, and goes to his seat. Along the walls on the ground is a series of round stones, some of them capped with a straw collar or hassock, on which the boys sit; others have bosses, and many of them hobs—a light but compact kind of boggy substance found in the mountains. On these several of them sit ; the greater number, however, have no seats whatever, but squat themselves down, without compunction, on the hard floor. Hung about, on wooden pegs driven into the walls, are the shapeless yellow "caubeens" of such as can boast the luxury of a hat, or caps made of goat or hare skin, the latter having the ears of the animal rising ludicrously over the temples, or cocked out at the sides, and the scut either before or behind, according to the taste or humour of the wearer. The floor, which is only swept every Saturday, is strewed over with tops of quills, pens, pieces of broken slate, and tattered leaves of "Reading made easy," or fragments of old copies. In one corner is a knot engaged at "Fox-and- geese," or the "Walls of Troy," on their slates; in another, a pair of them are "fighting bottles," which consists in striking the bottoms together, and he whose bottle breaks first of course loses. Behind the master is a third set, playing "Heads and points"—a game of pins. Some are more industriously employed in writing their copies, which they perform seated on the ground, with their paper on a copy-board—a piece of planed deal the size of the copy, an appendage now nearly exploded—their cheek-bones laid within half an inch of the left side of the copy, and the eye set to gulde the motion of the hand across, and to regulate the straightness of the lines and the forms of the letters. Others, again, of the more grown boys, are working their sums with becoming industry. In a dark corner are a pair of urchins thumping each other, their eyes steadily fixed on the master, lest he might happen to glance in that direction. Near the master himself are the larger boys, from twenty-two to fifteen—shaggy-headed slips, with loose-breasted shirts lying open about their bare chests; ragged colts, with white, dry, bristling beards upon them, that never knew a razor; strong stockings on their legs; heavy brogues, with broad nail-paved soles; and breeches open at the knees. Nor is the establishment altogether without females; but these, in hedge schools, were too few in number to form a distinct class. They were for the most part the daughters of wealthy farmers, who considered it necessary to their respectability, that they should not be altogether illiterate; such a circumstance being a considerable draw back, in the opinion of an admirer, from the character of a young woman for whom he was about to propose—a draw back too, which was always weighty in proportion to her wealth or respectability.
Having given our readers an imperfect sketch of the interior of Mat's establishment, we will now proceed, however feebly, to represent him at work—with all the machinery of the system in full operation.
"Come, boys, rehearse....(Buz, buz, buz.)... I'll soon be after calling up the first spelling lesson—(buz, buz, buz)—then the mathematicians—bookkeepers—Latinists, and Grecians, successfully. (Buz buz, buz)...Silence, there below! your pens? Tim Casey, isn't this a purty hour o' the day for you to come in to school at; arrah, and what kept you, Tim? Walk up wid yourseff here, till we have a confabulation together; you see I love to be talking to you."..." Sir, Larry Brannigan; here, he's throwing spits at me out of his pen."...(Buz, buz, buz)..." By my sowl, Larry, there's a rod steeped for you."-- ("Fly away, Jack—fly away, Jill ; come again, Jack—".)... "I had to go to Paddy Nowlan's for tobaccy, Sir, for my father."... (Weeping, with his hand knowingly across his face—one eye laughing at his comrades)... "You lie it wasn't:." "If you call me a liar agin, I'll give you a dig in the mug." "It's not in your jacket." "Isn't it ?" "Behave yourself; ha! there's the masther looking at you—ye'll get it now."..."None at all, Tim ?—and she's not afther sinding an excuse wid you ?—what's that undher your arm . My Gough, Sir."... (Buz, buz, buz) "Silence, boys. And you blackguard Lilliputian, you, what kept you away till this ?"—"One bird pickin'—two men thrashin'—wan bird pickin'—two men thrashin'—one bird pickin'—" " Sir, they're stickin.' pins in me, here." "Who is? Briney." "I don't know, Sir, they're all at it." "Boys, I'll go down to yous."..."I can't carry him, Sir, he'd be too heavy for me: let Larry Toole do it, he's stronger nor me; any way, there he's putting a corker pin in his mouth."...(Buz, buz, buz.)..."Who—hoo—hoo—hoo—I'll never stay away agin, Sir ; indeed I won't, Sir. Oh, Sir, dear, pardon me this wan time—and if ever you cotch me doing the like agin, I'll give you lave to welt the sowl out of me."...(Buz, buz, buz.) "Behave yourself, Barny Byrne." " I'm not touching you." " Yes you are; didn't you make me blot my copy." "Ho, by the livin', I'll pay you goin' home for this."..." Hand me the taws." " Whoo—hoo—hoo—hoo—hoo—hoo—what'ill I do, at all at all! Oh, Sir dear, Sir dear, Sir dear—hoo—hoo—hoo." " Did she send no message good or had, before I lay on?" "Oh, not a word, Sir, only that my father killed a pig yestherday, and he wants you to go up to day at dinner time."...(Buz, buz, buz)...." It's time to get lave, it isn't, it is, it isn't, it is," &c..."You lie, I say, your faction never was able to fight ours, didn't we lick all your dirty breed in Buillagh-battha fair?" "Silence there."... (Buz, huz, buz.) "Will you meet us on Sathurday, and we'll fight it out clane?" "Ha-ha-ha! Tim, but you got a big fright, any how: whist, ma bouchal, sure I was only jokin' you; and sorry I'd be to bate your father's son, Tim. Come over, and sit beside myself at the fire here. Get up, Micky Donoghue, you big burnt-shin'd spalpeen you, and let the dacent boy sit at the fire.." "Hullabaloo hoo—hoo—hoo—to go to give me such a welt, only for sitting at the fire, and me brought turf wid me." "To day, Tim?" "Yes, Sir." "At dinner-time, is id ?" " Yes, Sir." "Faith, the dacent strain was always in the same family."... (Buz, buz, buz, buz.) "Horns, horns, cock horns: oh, you up'd wid them, you lifted your fingers—that's a mark, now—hould your face, till I blacken you."..." Do you call thim two sods, Jack Lannigan? why, 'tis only one long one, broke in the middle; but you must make it up to-morrow, Jack; how is your mother's tooth? did she get it pull'd yet ?" "No, Sir." " Well, tell her to come to me, an' I'll write a charm for it, that'ill cure her... What kept you till now, Paddy Magouran?" "Couldn't come any sooner, Sir." "You couldn't, Sir--and why, Sir, couldn't you come any sooner, Sir?"..." See, Sir, what Andy Nowlan done to my copy."...(Buz, buz, buz.)... "Silence, I'll massacre yees, if yees don't make less noise."... (Buz, buz, buz.) " I was down with Mrs. Kavanagh, Sir." "You were, Paddy—an' Paddy, ma bouchal, aren't you afeard to tell me that you go to see my wife behind my back--eh, Paddy?"..." Masther, Sir, spake to Jem Kenny here; he made my nose bleed." ..."Eh, Paddy, an' so you were wid my wife? (Buz, buz, buz—omnes—ha! ha! ha!)—oh, Paddy—ha! ha! ha !."* [*We give this as a specimen of the morality taught in such schools.] "I was ony bringin' her a layin' hen, Sir, that my mother promised her at mass on Sunday last; an, pon my sowl, that was all, Sir; an' nothin' bad passed betuxt us." "Ah, Paddy, you're a dangerous fellow among the fair sect; I must watch you, Paddy, and your layin.' hens; for when you get among them—ha! ha! ha—you're as full o' mischief as an egg's full o' mate—(omnes—ha, ha, ha, ha!)—Silence, boys—what are you laughin.' at?—ha, ha, ha!—Paddy, can you spell Nebachodnazure for me?" "No Sir.'.' "No, nor a betther scholar, Paddy, could not do that, ma bouchal; but I'll spell it for you. Silence, boys—whisht, all of yees, till I spell Nebachodnazure for Paddy Magouran. Listen; and you yourself Paddy, are one of the letthers:
Then comes the spelling lesson. "Come, boys, stand up to the spelling lesson." "Micky, show me your book, till I look at my word. I'm fifteenth."' "Wait till I see my own."... "Why do you crush for."..." That's my place." "No it's not." "Sir, spake to——I'll tell the masther." "What's the matther there?" "Sir, he won't let me into my place." "I'm before you." " No, you're not." "I say, I am." "You lie, pug-face; ha, I called you pug-face, tell now if you dare."..." Well, boys, down with your pins in the book: who's king?" "I am, Sir." "Who's queen?" "Me, Sir." "Who's prince?." "I am prince, Sir." "Tag rag and bobtail, fall into your places." ..... "I've no pin, Sir." "Well, down with you to the tail——now boys." H
aving gone through the spelling task, it was Mat's custom to give out six hard words, selected according to his own judgrnent—as a final test: but he did not always confine himself to that. sometimes he would put a number of syllables arbitrarily together, forming a most heterogeneous combination of articulate sounds.
"Now, boys, here's a deep word, that'ill try yees : come, Larry, spell, me-mo-man-dran- san-ti-fi-candu-ban-dan-ti-a-li-ty; or, mis-an-thro-po-mor-phi-tani-a-nus-mi-ca-li-a-tion :—that's too hard for you, is id? well, spell phthisic. Ho, that's physic you're spelling. Now, Larry, do you know the difference between physic and phthisic." "No, Sir," "Well, I'll expound it: phthisic, you see, manes—whisht boys, will yees hould yer tongues there—phthisic, Larry, signifies—that is, phthisic—mind, it's not physic I'm expounding, but phthisic: boys will yees stop yer noise there—signifies—but Larry it's so deep a word in larning, that I should draw it out on a slate for you: and now I remimber, man alive, you re not far enough on yet to understand it; but what's physic, Larry?" "Isn't that, Sir, what my father tuck, the day he swell'd after the kolcanen?" "That's the very thing, Larry ; it has what larned men call a medical property, and resembles little ricketty Dan Reilly there—it's back-going. Och! och! I'm the boy that knows things—you see now how I expounded them two hard words for yees, boys—don't yees ?" "Yes Sir," &c.
"So, Larry, you haven't the larnin' for that either; but here's an 'asier one ; spell me Ephabridotas—(Epaphroditas)—you can't ! hut ! man—you're a big dunce entirely, that little shoneen Sharkey there below would sack. God be wid the day when I was the likes of you—it's I that was the bright gorsoon entirely—and so sign was on it, when a great larned traveller—Silence, boys, till I tell yees this, [a dead silence]—from Thrinity College, all the way in Dublin, happened to meet me one day,—seeing the slate and Gough, you see, under my arm, he axes me—'Arrah, Mat,' says he, 'what are you in?' says he. 'Faith, I'm in my breeches, for one thing,' says I, off hand—Silence, childre, and don't laugh so loud; (ha, ha, ha!) So he looks closer at me: 'I see that,' says he, 'but what are you reading?' 'Nothing at all at all,' says I; 'bad manners to the taste, as you may see, if you've your eye sight.' ' I think,' says he, 'you'll be apt to die in your breeches;' and set spurs to a fine saddle mare he rid—faith he did so—thought me so cute—(omnes—ha, ha, ha!) Whisht, boys, whisht: isn't it a terrible thing that I can't tell you a joke, but you split your sides laughing at it—(ha, ha, ha !)—don't laugh so loud, Barney Casey..'.' (Ha, ha, ha!) Barney—"I want to go out, if you plase, Sir." " Go, avick, you'll be a good scholar yet, Barney."
"Well, Larry, you can't spell Ephabridotas ?—thin, here's a short weeshy one, and whoever spells it will get the pins—spell a red rogue wid three letters. You, Micky? Dan? Jack? Natty? Alick? Andy? Pether? Jim ? Tim? Pat? Rody ?—you? you? you? Now, boys, I'll hould ye my little Andy here, that's only beginning the Rational spelling book, bates you all; come here, Andy, alanna: now, boys, if he bates you, you must all bring him a little miscaun of butter between two kale blades, in the mornin.', for himself; here, Andy, avourneen, spell red rogue wid three letthers." Andy—" M, a, t,—Mat." " No, no, avick, that's myself, Andy; tis red rogue, Andy—hem !—F—." "F, o, x,—fox." "That's a man, Andy. Now, boys, mind what you owe Andy in the morning, plaze God, won't yees?" "Yes, Sir.." "Yes, Sir." "Yes, Sir." " I will, Sir." " And I will, Sir." "And so will I, Sir," &c. &c. &c.
I know not whether the Commissioners of Education found the monitorial system of instruction in such of the old hedge schools as maintained an obstinate resistance to the innovations of modern plans. That Bell and Lancaster deserve much credit for applying and extending the principle (I speak without any reference to its merits) I do not hesitate to grant: but it is unquestionably true, that the principle was reduced to practice in Irish hedge schools long before either of these worthy gentlemen were in existence. I do not, indeed, at present remember, whether or not they claim it as a discovery, or simply as an adaptation of a practice which experience, in accidental cases, had found useful, and which they considered capable of more extensive benefit. I remember many instances, however, in which it was applied—and applied, in my opinion, though not as a permanent system, yet more judiciously than it is at present. I think it is a mistake to suppose, that silence, among a number of children in school, is conducive to the improvement either of health or intellect. That the chest and the lungs are benefited by giving full play to the voice, I think will not be disputed; and that a child is capable of more intense study and abstraction in the din of a school-room, than in partial silence, (if I may be permitted the word,) is a fact, which I think any rational observation would establish. Tliere is something cheering and cheerful in the noise of friendly voices about us—it is a restraint taken off the mind, and it will run the lighter for it—it produces more excitement, and puts the intellect in a better frame for study. The obligation to silence, though it may give the master more ease, imposes a new moral duty upon the child, the sense of which must necessarily weaken his application. Let the boy speak aloud, if he pleases—that is, to a certain pitch; let his blood circulate; let the natural secretions take place, and the physical effluvia be thrown off by a free exercise of voice and limbs: but do not keep him dumb and motionless as a statue—his blood and his intellect both in a state of stagnation, and his spirit below zero. Do not send him in quest of knowledge alone, but let him have cheerful companionship on his way; for, depend upon it, that the man who expects too much either in discipline or morals from a boy, is not in my opinion acquainted with human nature. If an urchin titter at his own joke, or that of another—if he give him a jag of a pin under the desk, imagine not that it will do him an injury, whatever Phrenologists may say concerning the organ of destruction. It is an exercise to the mind, and he will return to his business with greater vigour and effect. Children are not men, nor influenced by the same motives—they do not reflect, because their capacity for reflection is imperfect; so is their reason: whereas, on the contrary, their faculties for education (excepting judgrnent, which strengthens my argument) are in greater vigour in youth than in manhood. The general neglect of this distinction is, I am convinced, a stumbling-block in the way of youthful instruction, though it characterizes all our modern systems. We should never forget that they are children; nor should we bind them by a system, whose standard is taken from the maturity of human intellect. We may bend our reason to theirs, but we cannot elevate their capacity to our own. We may produce an external appearance, sufficiently satisfactory to ourselves; but, in the mean time, it is probable that the child may be growing in hypocrisy, and settling down into the habitual practice of a fictitious character.
But another and more serious objection may be urged against the present strictness of scholastic discipline—which is, that it deprives the boy of a sense of free and independent agency. I speak this with limitations, for a master should be a monarch in his school, but by no means a tyrant; and, decidedly, the very worst species of tyranny, is that which stretches the young mind upon the bed of too rigorous a discipline—like the despot who exacted from his subjects so many barrels of perspiration, whenever there came a long and severe frost. Do not familiarize the mind when young to the toleration of slavery, lest it prove afterwards incapable of recognizing and relishing the principle of an honest and manly independance. I have known many children, on whom a rigour of discipline, affecting the mind only, (for corporal punishment is now almost exploded,) impressed a degree of timidity almost bordering on pusillanimity. Away, then, with the specious and long-winded arguments of a false and mistaken philosophy. A child will be a child, and a boy a boy, to the conclusion of the chapter. Bell or Lancaster would not relish the pap or caudle-cup three times a day; neither would an infant on the breast feel comfortable after a gorge of ox beef. Let them, therefore, put a little of the mother's milk of human kindness and consideration into their strait-laced systems.
A hedge school-master was the general scribe of the parish, to whom all who wanted letters or petitions written, uniformly applied; the remuneration usually consisted of a bottle of whiskey.
"An', how long is he gone, ma'am?" "Och, thin, masther, he's from me goin' on fifteen years; an' a comrade of his was spakin.' to Jim Dwyer, an.' says his ridgment's lyin' in the Island of Budanages, somewhere in the back parts of Africa." "An.' is it a letther or petition you'd be afther havin' me to indite for you, ma.'am?" " Och, a letther, Sir—a letther, masther; an.' may the Lord grant you all kinds of luck, good, bad, an' indifferent, both to you an' yours—an' well it's known, by the same token, that it's yourself has the nice hand at the pen entirely, an' can indite a letther or pertition, that the priest o' the parish mightn't be ashamed to own to it." "Why, thin, 'tis I that 'ud scorn to deteriorate upon the superiminance of my own execution at inditin' wid a pen in my hand: but would you feel a delectability in my superscriptionizing the epistolary correspondence, ma'am, that I'm about to adopt ?"—" Eagh? och, what am I sayin' !—Sir—masther--Sir?—the noise of the crathurs, you see, is got into my ears; and, besides, I'm a bit bothered on both sides o' my head, ever since I had that weary weed." "Silence, boys—bad manners to yees, will ye be asy, you Lilliputian Boeotians—by my s——hem,—upon my credit, if I go down to that corner, I'll castigate yees in dozens: I can't spake to this dacent woman, with your insuperable turbulentiality." " Ah, avourneen, masther, but the larnin's a fine thing, any how; an' maybe 'tis yourself that hasn't the tongue in your head, an' can spake the tall, high-flown English: a wurrah, but your tongue hangs well, any how—the Lord incrase it!." " Lanty Cassidy, are you gettin' on wid yer Stereometry? festina, mi discipuli; vocabo Homerum mox atque mox You see, ma'am, I must tache thim to spake an' effectuate a translation of the larned languges sometimes." "Arrah, masther dear, how did you get it all into your head, at all at all?" " Silence, boys,—tace— 'conticuere omnes intentique ora tenebant.' Silence, I say agin." "You could slip over, maybe, to Doran's, masther—do you see? you'd do it betther there, I'll engage: sure an' you'd want a dhrop to steady your hand, any how."
"Now, boys, I am goin' to indite a small taste of literal correspondency over at the public house here; you literati will hear the lessons for me, boys, till after I'm back agin; but mind, boys—absente domino strepuunt servi—meditate on the philosophy of that; and, Mick Mahon, take your slate and put down all the names; and, upon my sow—hem—credit, I will castigate any boy guilty of misty manners on my retrogradation thither; ergo momentote, cave ne titubes mandataque frangas."
"In throth, Sir, I'd be long sarry to trouble you; but he's away fifteen years, and I wouidn't thrust it to another; and the corplar that commands the ridgment would regard your hand-write and your inditin." "Don't, ma'am, plead the smallest taste of apology." "Eagh?." "I'm happy that I can sarve you, ma'am." "Musha long life to you, masther, for that same, any how—but it's yourself that's deep in the larnin' an' the langridges; the Lord incrase yer knowledge—sure, an' we all want his blessin' you know."
This was a specimen of civilization which Ireland oniy could furnish: nothing, indeed, could be more perfectly ludicrous than such a chase; and such scenes were by no means uncommon in hedge schools; for, wherever severe punishment was dreaded—and, in truth, most of the hedge-masters were unfeeling tyrants—the boy, if sufficiently grown to make a good race, usually broke away, and fled home at the top of his speed. The pack then were led on by the master, who usually headed them himself, all in full cry, exhibiting such a scene as should be witnessed, In order to be enjoyed. The neighbours, men, women, and children, ran out to be spectators; the labourers suspended their work to enjoy it, assembling on such eminences as commanded a full view of the pursuit. "Bravo, boys—success, masther; lie into him—where's yer huntin'-horn, Mr. Kavanagh—he'll bate yees, if ye don't take the wind of him. Well done, Callaghan, keep up yer heart, yer sowl, and you'll do it asy—yer gainin' on them, ma bouchal—the masther's down, you gallows clip, an' there's none but the scholars afther ye—he's safe." " Not he; I'll hould a naggin, the poor scholar has him ; don't you see he's close at his heels.." "Done, by my sowl—they'll never come up wid him; listen to their leather crackers, and cord-a-roys, as their knees bang agin one another—hark forrit, boys! hark forrit! huzzaw, you thieves, huzzaw." "Yer beagle is well winded, Mr. Kavanagh, an' gives good tongue." " Well, masther, you had that chase for nothin', I see. "Mr. Kavanagh,'.' another would observe, "I didn't think you war so stiff in the hams, as to let the gorsoon bate you that-a-way—your wind's failin', Sir." ' The schoolmaster was abroad' then, and never was the 'march of intellect' at once so rapid and unsuccessful.
During the summer season, it was the usual practice for the scholars to transfer their paper, slates, and books, to the green which lay immediately behind the school house, where they stretched themselves on the grass, and resumed their business. Mat would bring out his chair, and, placing it on the shady side of the hedge, sit with his pipe in his mouth, the contented lord of his little realm, whilst nearly a hundred and fifty scholars of all sorts and sizes, lay scattered over the grass, basking under the scorching sun in all the luxury of novelty, nakedness, and freedom. The sight was original and characteristic, and such as Mr. Brougham would have been delighted with—"The schoolmaster was abroad again." As soon as one o'clock drew near, Mat would pull out his Ring-dial, hold it against the sun, and declare the hour. "Now boys, to yer dinners, and the rest to play." " Hurroo, darlins', to play—the masther says its dinner-time!— whip—spur-an'-away-grey—Hurroo—whack—hurroo." "Masther, Sir, my father bid me ax you home to yer dinner." "No, he'll come to huz—come wid me if you plase, Sir." "Sir, never heed them; my mother, Sir, has some of what you know—of the flitch I brought to Shoneen on last Aisther, Sir." This was a subject on which the boys gave themselves great liberty, an invitation, even when not accepted, being an indemnity for the day; it was usually followed by a battle between the claimants, and bloody noses were the issue. The master himself, after deciding to go where he was certain of getting the best dinner, generally put an end to the quarrels by a reprimand, and then gave notice to the disappointed claimants of the successive days on which he would attend at their respective houses. "Boys, you all know my maxim; to go, for fear of any jealousies, boys, wherever I get the worst dinner; so tell me now, boys, what yer dacent mothers have all got at home for me?" "My mother killed a fat hen to-day, Sir, an' you'll have a lump of bacon and 'flat dutch' along wid it." "We'll have hang beef and greens, Sir." "We tried the praties this mornin', Sir, an' we'll have new praties, and bread and butter, Sir." "Well, it's all good, boys; but rather than show favour or affection, do you see, I'll go wid Andy, here, and take share of the hen an' bacon; but, boys, for all that, I'm fonder of the other things, you persave; and as I can't go wid you, Mat, tell your respectable mother that I'll be with her to-morrow; and with you, Larry, ma bouchal, the day afther."
If a master were a single man, he usually "went round" with the scholars each night; but there were generally a few comfortable farmers, leading men in the parish, at whose houses he chiefly resided; and the children of these men were treated with the grossest and most barefaced partiality. They were altogether privileged persons, and had liberty to beat and abuse the other children of the school, who were certain of being most unmercifully flogged, if they even dared to prefer a complaint against the favourites. Indeed the instances of atrocious cruelty in hedge schools, were almost incredible, and such as would, in the present enlightened time, draw down the just punishment of the law upon the head of any master who should dare to wreak his bad passions upon the child committed to his care. As to the state of the poor scholar, it exceeded belief; for he was friendless and unprotected But though legal prosecutions in those days were never resorted to, yet, according to the characteristic notions of Irish retributive justice, certain cases occurred, in which a signal, and, at times, a fatal, vengeance was executed on the person of the brutal master. Sometimes the brothers and other relatives of the mutilated child would come in a body to the school, and flog the pedagogue with his own taws, until his back was lapped in blood. Sometimes they would beat him until few symptoms of life remained.
Occasionally he would get a nocturnal notice to quit the parish in a given time, under a penalty which seldom proved a dead letter in case of non-compliance; and not unfrequently did those whom he had, when boys, treated with such barbarity, go back to him, when young men, not so much for education's sake as for the especial purpose of retaliating upon him for his former cruelty. When cases of this nature occurred, he found himself a mere cypher in his school, never daring to practice excessive severity in their presence. Instances have come to our own knowledge, of masters, who, for their mere amusement, would go out to the next hedge, cut a large branch of furze or thorn, and having first carefully arranged the children in a row round the walls of the school, their naked legs stretched out before them, would sweep round the branch, bristling with spikes and prickles, with all their force against their limbs, until, in a few minutes, a circle of blood was visible on the ground where they sat, their legs appearing as if they had been scarified. This the individual did, whenever he happened to be drunk, or in a remarkably good humour; the poor children, however, were obliged to laugh loud, and enjoy it, though the tears were falling down their cheeks, in consequence of the pain he inflicted. To knock down a child with the fist, was considered nothing harsh; nor, if a boy were cut, or prostrated by a blow of a cudgel on the head, did he ever think of representing the master's cruelty to his parents. Kicking on the shin with the point of a brogue or shoe, bound round the edge of the sole with iron nails, until the bone was laid open, was a common punishment; and as for the usual slapping, horsing, and flogging, they were inflicted with a brutality that in every case richly deserved for the tyrant, not only a peculiar whipping by the hand of the common executioner, but a separation from civilized society by transportation for life. It is a fact, however, that in consequence of the general severity practised in hedge schools, excesses of punishment did not often produce retaliation against the master; these were only exceptions—isolated cases that did not affect the general character of the discipline in such schools.
Now, when we consider the total absence of all moral and religious principles in these establishments, and the positive presence of all that was wicked, cruel, and immoral, need we be surprised at the character of Ireland at this enlightened day. But her education and herself' were neglected, and now behold the consequence. I am sorry to perceive the writings of many respectable persons on Irish topics, imbued with a tinge of spurious liberality, that frequently occasions them to depart from truth. To draw the Irish character as it is, as the model of all that is generous, hospitable, and magnanimous, is in some degree fashionable; but although I am as warm an admirer of all that is really excellent and amiable in my countrymen as any man, yet I cannot, nor will I, extenuate their weak and indefensible points. That they possess the elements of a noble and exalted national character, I grant ; nay, that they actually do possess such a character, under limitations, I am ready to maintain: an Irishman, setting aside his religious and political prejudices, is grateful, affectionate, honourable, faithful, generous, and even magnanimous; but, under the stimulus of religious and political feeling, he is treacherous, cruel, and inhuman—will murder, burn, and exterminate, not only without cumpunction, but with a satanic delight, worthy of a savage. Their education, indeed, was truly barbarous; they were trained and habituated to cruelty, revenge, and personal hatred, in their schools. Their knowledge was directed to evil purposes—disloyal principles were industriously insinuated into their minds by their teachers, every one of whom was a leader of some illegal association. The matter placed in their hands was of a most inflammatory and pernicious nature, as regarded politics; and as far as religion and morality were concerned, nothing could be more gross and superstitious than the books which circulated amongst them. Eulogiums on murder, robbery, and theft, were read with delight in the histories of Freney the Robber, and the Irish Rogues and Rapparees; ridicule of the Word of God, and hatred to the Protestant religion, in a book called Ward's Cantos, written in Hudibrastic verse—the downfall of the Protestant Establishment, and the exaltation of the Romish Church, in Columbkill's Prophecy, and latterly in that of Pastorini—a belief in every species of religious imposture, in the Lives of the Saints, of St. Patrick, of St. Columbkill, of St. Teresa, St. Francis Xavier, the Holy Scapular, and several other works, disgraceful to human reason. Political and religious ballads of the vilest doggrel, miraculous legends of holy friars persecuted by Protestants, and of signal vengeance inflicted by their divine power on their persecutors, were in the mouths of the young and old, and, of course, firmly fixed in their credulity. Their weapons of controversy were drawn from the Fifty Reasons, the Doleful Fall of Andrew Sail, the Catholic Christian, the Grounds of the Catholic Doctrine, a Net for the Fishers of Men, and several other publications of the same class. The books of amusement read in these schools, including the first-mentioned in this list, were, the Seven Champions of Christendom, the Seven Wise Masters and Mistresses of Rome, Don Belianis of Greece, the Royal Fairy Tales, the Arabian Nights Entertainments, Valentine and Orson, Gesta Romanorum, Dorastus and Faunia, the history of Reynard the Fox, the Chevalier Faublax; to these I may add, the Battle of Aughrim, Seige of Londonderry, History of the Young Ascanius, a name by which the Pretender was designated, and the Renowned History of the Seige of Troy; the Forty Thieves, Robin Hood's Garland, the Garden of Love and Royal Flower of Fidelity; along with others, the names of which shall not appear on these pages. With this species of education before our eyes, is it at all extraordinary that lreland should be as she is?
"Thady Bradley, will you come up wid your slate, till I examinate you in your figures? Go out, Sir, and blow your nose first, and don't be after making a looking-glass out of the sleeve of your jacket. Now that Thady's out, I'll hould you, boys, that none of yees knows how to expound his name—eh? do yees? But I needn't ax—well, 'tis Thadeus: and, maybe, that's as much as the priest that christened him knew. Boys, you see what it is to have the larnin'—to lade the life of a gintleman, and to be able to talk deeply wid the clargy: now, I could run down any man in arguin', except a priest; and if the bishop was afther consecratin' me, I'd have more larnin.' than the most of them; but you see I'm not consecrated—and—well, 'tis no matther—I only say that the more's the pity. Well, Thady, when did you go into subtraction?" "The day beyond yestherday, Sir; yarrah musha, sure 'twas yerself, Sir, that shet me the first sum."—" Masther, Sir, Thady Bradley stole my cutter—that's my cutter, Thady Bradley." " No, it's not," (in a low voice). "Sir, that's my cutter—an' there's three nicks in id."—" Thady, is that his cutter ?"—" There's your cutter for you—Sir, I found it on the flure, and didn't know who owe'd it." "You know'd very well who owe'd it; didn't Dick Martin see you liftin' it off o' my slate when I was out?" "Well, if Dick Martin saw him, its enough: an.' 'tis Dick that's the tindher-hearted boy, an' would knock you down wid a lump of a stone, if he saw you murdherin' but a fly. "Well, Thady—throth Thady, I fear you'll undherstand subtraction betther nor your tacher: I doubt you'll apply it to 'Practice.' all your life, ma bouchal, and that you'll be apt to find it 'the Rule of False' at last. Well, Thady, from one thousand pounds, no shillings and no pince, how will you subtract one pound? Put it down on your slate—this way,
"Pierce Mahon, come up wid your multiplication. Pierce, multiply four hundred by two—put it down—that's it,
" Paddy Doran, come up to your' Inthrest.' Well, Paddy, what's the intherest of a hundred pound, at five per cent? Boys, some of you let a fox pass there—manners, you thieves you."
"Do you mane, masther, per cent per annum?"
"To be sure I do—how do you state it?"
"I'll say, as a hundher pound is to one year, so is five per cent per annum."
" Hum—why—what's the number of the sum, Paddy?"
"'Tis No. 84, Sir." (The master steals a glance at the Key to Gough.) "I only want to look at it in the Gough, you see, Paddy—an.' how dare you give me such an answer, you big-headed dunce, you—go off an' study it, you rascally Lilliputian—off wid you, and don't let me see your ugly mug till you know it."
"Now, gintlemen, for the Classics; and first for the Latinaarians—Larry Cassidy, come up wid your Asop. Larry, you're a year at Latin, an' I don't think you know Latin for frize, what your own coat is made of, Larry. But, in the first place, Larry, do you know what a man that taches classics is called?" "A schoolmasther, Sir." (Whack, whack, whack.) "Take that for your ignorance, you wooden-headed goose, you—(whack, whack)—and that to the back of it—ha! that'll tache you—to call a man that taches classics a schoolmasther, indeed! 'tis a Profissor of Humanity itself, he is—(whack, whack, whack,)—ha! you ringlader, you; you're as bad as Dick O'Connell, that no masther in the county could get any good of, in regard that he put the whole school together by the ears, wherever he'd be, though the spalpeen wouldn't stand fight himself. Hard fortune to you! to go to put such an affront upon me, an' me a Profissor of Humanity. What's Latin for breeches?" " Fem—fem—femina." " No, it's not, Sir; that's Latin for a woman." " Femora—" "Can you do it?" "Don't strike me, Sir; don't strike me, Sir, an' I will." " I say, can you do it?" "Femorali"—(whack, whack, whack,)—"Ah, Sir! ah, Sir! 'tis fermorall—ah, Sir! 'tis fermorali—ah, Sir !" "This thratement to a Profissor of Humanity—(whack, -whack, whack, whack, kick, kick, kick, thump, thurnp, thump, cuff, cuff, cuff—drives him head over heels to his seat.)—Now, Sir, maybe you'll have Latin for breeches, again, or, by my sowl, if you don't, you must strip, and l'll tache you what a Profissor of Humanity is!
"Dan Shiel, you little starved-looking spalpeen,will you come up to your Illocution?—and a purty figure you cut at it, wid a voice like a penny trumpet, Dan! Well, what speeeh have you got now, Dan, ma bouchal? Is it ' Romans, counthrymin, and lovers?'" "No Shir ; yarrah, didn't I spake that speech before? 'tis wan, masther, that I'm afther Pennen' myself." "No, you didn't, you fairy; ah, Dan, little as you are, you take credit for more than ever you spoke, Dan, agrah; but, faith, the same thrick will come agin you some time or other, avick! Go, and get that speech bitther; I see, by your face, you haven't it: off wid you, and get a patch upon your breeches, your little knees are through them, though 'tisn't by prayin' you've wore them, any how, you little hop-o'-my-thumb you, wid a voice like a rat in a thrap; and yet you'll be practisin' Illocution; off wid you, man-alive! You little spitfire you, if you and your school-fellow, Dick, had been wid the Jews whin they wanted to burn down the standin' corn of the Philistins, the divil a fox they might bother their heads about, for yees both would have carried fire-brands by the hundher for them. Spake the next speech bitther; between you and Dick, you keep the school in perpetual agitation." Sometimes the neighbouring gentry used to cal! into Mat's establishment, moved probably by a curiosity excited by his character, and the general conduct of the school. On one occasion Squire Johnston and an English gentleman paid him rather an unexpected visit. Mat had that morning got a new scholar, the son of a dancing tailor in the neighbourhood; and as it was reported that the son was nearly equal to the father in that accomplishment, Mat insisted on having a specimen of his skill; and he was the more anxious on this point, as it would contribute to the amusement of a travelling schoolmaster, who had paid him rather a hostile visit, which Mat, who dreaded a literary challenge, feared might occasion him some trouble.
"Come up here, you little sartor, till we get a dacent view of you. You're a son of Neal Malone's, aren't you?" "Yes, and of Mary Malone, my mother, too, Sir." "Why thin, that's not bad, any how—what's your name?" "Dick, Sir." "Now, Dick, ma bouchal, isn't it true that you can dance a horn-pipe?" "Yes, Sir." "Here, Larry Brady, take the door off of the hinges, an' lay it down on the flure, till Dick Malone dances the Humours of Glynn: silence, boys, not a word; but jist keep lookin' an." "Who'll sing, Sir? for I can't be after dancin' a step widout the music." "Boys, which of yees 'ill sing for Dick? I say, boys, will none of yees give Dick the harmony? Well, come, Dick, I'll sing for you myself:
To this Mat made no reply, only sang the tune with redoubled loudness and strength, whilst little Dicky pounded the old crazy door with all his skill and alacrity. The "boys." were delighted. "Bravo, Dick, that's a man—welt the flure—cut the buckle—murder the clocks—rise upon suggaun and sink upon gad ; down the flure flat, foot about; keep one foot on the ground, and t'other never off it," saluted him from all parts of the house; and sometimes he would receive a sly hint, in a feigned voice, to call for "Devil stick the Fiddler," alluding to the master. Now a squeaking voice would chime in; by and by another, and so on, until the master's bass had a hundred and forty trebles, all chorusing to the same tune.
Just at this moment the two gentlemen entered; and, reader, you may conceive, but I cannot describe the face which Mat (who sat with his back to the door, and did not see them until they were some time in the house,) exhibited on the occasion. There he sang ore rotundo, throwing forth an astounding tide of voice; whilst little Dick, a thin, pale-faced urchin, with his head, from which the hair stood erect, sunk between his narrow shoulders, was performing prodigious feats of agility.
"What's the matter ? what's the matter?" said the gentlemen. "Good morning, Mr. Kavanagh."
"Make no apology, Mr. Kavanagh; it's very commendable in you to bend yourself by. condescending to amuse your pupils."
"I beg your pardon, Squire, I can take freedoms with you; but perhaps the concomitant jintleman, your friend here, would be plased to take my stool. Indeed I always use a chair; but the back of it, if I may be permitted the use of a small portion of jocularity, was as frail as the fair sect: it went home yesterday to be minded. Do, Sir, condescind to be sated. Upon my reputation, Squire, I am sorry that I have not accommodation for you too, Sir; except one of these hassocks, which, in joint consitheration with the length of your honour's legs, would be, I anticipate, rather low; but you, Sir, will honour me by taking the stool."
By considerable importunity he forced the gentleman to comply with his courtesy; but no sooner had he fixed himself upon the seat, than it overturned, and stretched him, black coat and all, across a wide concavity in the floor, nearly filled up with white ashes produced from mountain turf. In a moment he was completely white on one side, and exhibited a most laughable appearance; his hat, too, was scorched and nearly burned on the turf coals. Squire Johnston laughed heartily, as did the other schoolmaster, whilst the Englishman completely lost his temper; swearing that so uncivilized an establishment was not between the poles.
"I solemnly supplicate upwards of fifty pardons," said Mat; "bad manners to it for a stool! but, your honour, it was my own defect of speculation; bekase, you see, it's minus a leg, a circumstance of which you warn't in a proper capacity to take cognation, as not bein.' personally acquainted with it. I humbly supplicate upwards of fifty pardons."
The Englishman was now nettled, and determined to wreak his ill temper on Mat, by turning him and his establisment into ridicule.
"Isn't this, Mister——I forget your name, Sir."
"Mat Kavanagh, at your sarvice."
"Very well, my learned friend, Mr. Mat Kavanagh, isn't this precisely what is called a hedge school?" "A hedge-school!" replied Mat, highly offended; "My siminary a hedge school! No, Sir; I scorn the cognomen, in toto. This, Sir, is a Classical and Mathematical Siminary, undher the personal superintindance of your humble sarvant."
"Sir," replied the other master, who till then was silent, wishing, perhaps, to sack Mat in presence of the gentlemen, "it is a hedge school; and he is no scholar, but an ignoramus, whom l'd sack in three minutes, that would be ashamed of a hedge school."
"Ay," says Mat," changing his tone, and taking the cue from his friend, whose learning he dreaded, "it's just, for argument's sake, a hedge school; and, what is more, I scorn to be ashamed of it."
"And do you not teach occasionally under the hedge behind the house here?."
"Granted," replied Mat; "and now, where's your vis consequentiae?"
" Yes,'.' subjoined the other, "where's your vis consequentiae?"
The Englishman himself was rather at a loss for the vis consequentiae, and replied, "Why the devil don't you live, and learn, and teach like civilized beings, and not assemble like wild asses—pardon me, my friend, for the simile—at least, like wild colts, in such clusters behind the ditches?"
"A clusther of wild coults!" said Mat; "that shows what you are; no man of classical larnin' would use such a word."
"Permit me, Sir," replied the strange master, "to ax your honour one question—did you receive a classical education? Are you college-bred?"
"Yes," replied the Englishman: "I can reply to both in the affirmative. I'm a Cantabrigian."
"You're a what?" asked Mat.
"I am a Cantabrigian."
"Come, Sir, you must explain yourself, if you plase. I'll take my oath that's neither a classical nor a mathematical tarrn."
The gentleman smiled. "I was educated in the English College of Cambridge."
"Well," says Mat, "and maybe you would be as well off, if you had picked up your larnin' in our own Thrinity; there's good picking in Thrinity."
"You talk with contempt of a hedge school," replied the other master. "Did you never hear, for all so long as you war in Cambridge, of a nate little spot in Greece, called the Groves of Academus?
What was Plato himself but a hedge schoolmaster? and, with humble submission, it casts no slur on an Irish tacher to be compared to him, I think. You forget, also, Sir, that the Dhruids taught under their oaks."
"Ay," added Mat, "and the Tree of Knowledge, too. Faith, an' if that same tree was now in being, if there wouldn't be hedge schoolmasters, there would be plinty of hedge scholars, any how—particularly if the fruit was well tasted."
"I believe, Millbank, you must give in," said Squire Johnston. "I think you have got the worst of it."
"Why," said Mat, "if the jintleman's not afther bein' sacked clane, I'm not here."
"Are you a mathematician," enquired Mat's friend, determined to follow up his victory; "do you know Mensuration?"
"Come, I do know Mensuration," said the Englishman, with confidence.
"And how would you find me the solid contents of a load of thorns?" said the other.
"Ay, or how will you consther and parse me this sintince?" said Mat—
"And let the Cantabrigian then take up mine," said Mat; "and if he can expound it, I'll give him a dozen more to bring home in his pocket, for the Cambridge folk to crack after their dinner, along wid their nuts."
"Can you do the snail?" enquired the stranger.
"Or A and B on opposite sides of a wood without the Key?" said Mat.
"Maybe," said the stranger, who threw off the frize jock, and exhibited a muscular frame of great power, cased in an old black coat—"maybe the jintleman would like to get a small taste of the Scuffle!"
"Not at all," replied the Englishman; "devil the least curiosity I have for it—I assure you I have not. What the deuce do they mean, Johnston? I hope you have influence over them."
"Hand me down that cudgel, Jack Brady, till I show the jintleman the snail and the maypole," said Mat.
"Never mind, my lad; never mind, Mr.——a——Mr. Kevanagh. I give up the contest. I resign you the palm, gentlemen. The hedge school has beaten Camhridge hollow."
"One poser more, before you go, Sir," said Mat- "Can you give me Latin for a game-egg in two words?"
"Eh, a game egg? No; by my honour, I can not—gentlemen, I yield."
"Ay, I thought so," replied Mat; "bring it home to Cam-bridge, anyhow, and let them chew their cuds upon it, you persave; and, by the sowI of Newton, it will puzzle the whole establishment, or my name's not Kavanagh."
"It will, I am convinced," replied the gentleman, eyeing the herculean frame of the strange teacher, and the substantial cudgel in Mat's hand; "it will, undoubtedly. But who is this most miserable, naked lad here, Mr. Kevanagh?"
"Why, Sir," replied Mat, with his broad Milesian face, expanding with a forthcoming joke, "he is, Sir, in a sartin and especial particularity, a namesake of your own."
"How is that, Mr. Kevanagh?"
"My name's not Kevanagh," replied Mat, "but Kavanagh; the Irish A for ever!"
"Well, but how is the lad a name-sake of mine?." said the Englishman.
"Bekase, you see, he's a poor scholar, Sir,.'.' replied Mat; "an' hope your honour will pardon me for the facetiousness—
"There, Mr. Kavanagh, is the price of a suit of clothes for him."
"Michael, will you rise up, Sir, and make the jintleman a bow? he has given you the price of a shoot of clothes, ma bouchal."
Michael came up with a thousand rags dangling about him; and, catching his fore-lock, bobbed down his head after the usual manner, saying—" Musha yarrah, long life to yer honour every day you rise, an' the Lord grant your sowI a short stay in purgathory, wishin' ye, at the same time, a happy death aftherwards!"
The gentlemen could not stand this, but laughed so heartily that the argument was fairly knocked up,
It appeared, however, that Squire Johnston did not visit Mat's school from mere curiosity. "Mr. Kavanagh," said he, "I would be glad to have a little private conversation with you, and will thank you to walk down the road a little with this gentleman and me."
When the gentlemen and Mat had gone ten or fifteen yards from the school door, the Englishman heard himself congratulated in the following phrazes:
"How do you feel afther bein' sacked, gentleman? The masther sacked you! You're a purty scholar! It's not you, Mr. Johnston, it's the other. You'll come to argue again, will you? Where's your head, now? Bah! Come back till we put the soogan about yer neck. Bah! You must go to school to Cam-bridge agin, before you can argue an Irisher! Look at the figure he cuts! Why duv ye put the one foot past the other, when ye walk, for? Bah! Dunce!!"
"Well, boys, never heed yees for that,'.' shouted Mat; "never fear but I'll castigate yees, ye spalpeen villains, as soon as I go back. Sir;' said Mat, "I supplicate upwards of fifty pardons. I assure you, Sir, I'll give them a most inordinate castigation, for their want of respectability."
"What's the Greek for tobaccy?" they continued, or for Larry O'Toole? or bletherum skite? How many beans makes five? What's Latin for poteen and flummery? You a mathemathitician! could you measure a snail's horn? How does your hat stay up and nothing undher it? Will you fight Barny Farrell, wid one hand tied? I'd lick you myself! What's Greek for gosther?" with many other expressions of a similar stamp.
"Sir," said Mat, "lave the justice of this in my hands. By the sowl of Newton, your own counthryman, ould Isaac, I'll flog the marrow out of them."
"You have heard, Mr. Kavanagh," continued Mr. Johnston, as they went along, "of the burning of Moore's stable and horses, the night before last? The fact is, that the magistrates of the county are endeavouring to get at the incendiaries, and would render a service to any person capable, either directly or indirectly, of facilitating that object, or stumbling on a clew to the transaction."
"And how could I do you a sarvice in it, Sir?" enquired Mat.
"Why," replied Mr. Johnston, "from the children. If you could sift them in an indirect way, so as, without suspicion, to ascertain the absence of a brother, or so, on that particular night, I might have it in my power to serve you, Mr. Kavanagh. There will he a large reward offered to- morrow besides."
"Oh, damn the penny of the reward ever I'd finger, even if I knew the whole conflagration," said Mat; but lave the siftin' of the children wid myself, and if I get any thing out of them, you'll hear from me; but your honour must keep a close mouth, or you might have occasion to lend me the money for my own funeral some o' these days. Good morning, jintlemen."
The gentlemen departed.
"May the most ornamental kind of hard fortune pursue you every day you rise, you desavin' villain, that would have me turn Informer, bekase your brother-in-law, rack-rintin' Moore's stable and horses were burnt; but l'd see you and all your breed in the flames o' hell first." Such was Mat's soliloquy as be entered the school on his return.
"Now, boys, I'm afther givin' yees to-day and tomorrow for a holy-day: to-morrow we will have our Gregory; a fine faste, plinty of poteen, and a fiddle; and you will tell your brothers and sisters to come in the evening to the dance. You must bring plinty of bacon, hung beef, and fowls, bread and cabbage—not forgetting the phaties, and six-pence a-head for the crathur, boys, won't yees?"
The next day, of course, was one of festivity: every boy brought, in fact, as much provender as would serve six; but the surplus gave Mat some good dinners for three months to come. This feast was always held upon St. Gregory's day, from which circumstance it had its name. The pupils were at liberty for that day to conduct themselves as they pleased; and the consequence was, that they became generally intoxicated, and were brought home in that state to their parents. If the children of two opposite parties chanced to be at the same school, they usually had a fight, of which the master was compelled to feign ignorance; for if he identified himself with either faction, his residence in the neighbourhood would be short, In other districts, where Protestant schools were in existence, a battle-royal commonly took place between the opposite establishments, in some field lying half-way between them. This has often occurred.
Every one must necessarily be acquainted with the ceremony of barring out. This took place at Easter and Christmas. The master was brought or sent out on some fool's errand, the door shut and barricadoed, and the pedagogue excluded, until a certain term of vacation w as extorted. With this, however, the master never complied until all his efforts at forcing an entrance were found to be ineffectual; because, if he succeeded in getting in, they not only had no claim for a long play-time, but were liable to be corrected. The schoolmaster had also generally the clerkship of the parish; an office, however, which in the country parts of Ireland is without any kind of salary, beyond what results from the patronage of the priest—a matter of serious moment to a teacher, who, should he incur his Reverence's displeasure, would be immediately driven out of the parish. The master, therefore, was always tyrannical and insolent to the people, in proportion as he stood high in the estimation of the priest. He was also the master of ceremonies at all wakes and funerals, and usually sat among a crowd of the village sages, engaged in exhibiting his own learning, and in recounting the number of his religious and literary disputatations.
One day, soon alter the visit of the gentlemen above mentioned, two strange men came into Mat's establishment—rather, as Mat thought, in an unceremonious manner.
"Is your name Matthew Kavanagh?" said one of them.
"That is indeed the name that's upon me, said Mat, with rather an infirm voice, whilst his face got as pale as ashes.
"Well," said the fellow, "we'll jist trouble you to walk with us a bit."
"How far, with submission, are yees goin' to bring me?" said Mat.
"Do you know Johnny Short's hotel ?" [The County gaol.]
"My curse upon you, Findramore," exclaimed Mat, in a paroxysm of anguish, "every day you rise! but your breath's unlucky to a schoolmaster; and it's no lie what was often said, that no schoolmasther ever thruv in you, but something ill came over him."
"Don't curse the town, man alive," said the constable, "but curse your own ignorance and folly; any way, I wouldn't stand in your coat for the wealth of the three kingdoms. You'll undoubtedly swing', unless you turn king's evidence. It's about Moore's business, Misther Kavanagh."
"D—n the that I'd do, even if I knew any thing about it; but, God be praised for it, I can set them all at defiance—that I'm sure of. Jintlemen, innocence is a jewel."
"But Barny Brady, that keeps the sheebeen house —you know him—is of another opinion. You and some of the Findramore boys took a sup in Barny's on a sartin night?"
"Ay, did we, on many a night, and will agin, plase Providence—no harm in takin' a sup, any how—by the same token, that maybe you and yer friend here would have a drop of rale stuff, as a thrate from me?"
"I know a thrick worth two of that," said the man; "I thank ye kindly, Mr. Kavanagh."
One Tuesday morning, about six weeks after this event, the largest crowd ever remembered in that neighbourhood was assembled on Findramore Hill, whereon had been erected a certain wooden machine, yclept—a gallows. A little after the hour of eleven o'clock, two carts were descried winding slowly down a slope in the southern side of the town and church, which I have already mentioned, as terminating the view along the level road north of the hill. As soon as they were observed, a low, suppressed ejaculation of horror ran through the crowd, painfully perceptible to the ear—in the expression of ten thousand murmurs, all blending into one deep groan—and to the eye, by a simultaneous motion that ran through the crowd like an electric shock. The place of execution was surrounded by a strong detachment of military; and the carts that contained the convicts were also strongly guarded.
As the prisoners approached the fatal spot, which was within sight of the place where the outrage had been perpetrated, the shrieks and lamentations of their relations and acquaintances were appalling, indeed. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, and all persons to the most remote degree of kindred and acquaintanceship, were present—all excited by the alternate expression of grief, and low-breathed vows of retaliation; not only relations, but all who were connected with them by the bonds of their desperate and illegal oaths. Every eye, in fact, corruscated with a wild and savage fire, that shot from under brows knit in a spirit that seemed to cry out blood, vengeance—blood, vengeance. The expression was truly awful, and what rendered it more terrific, was the writhing reflection, that numbers and physical force were unavailing against a comparatively small body of armed troops. This condensed the fiery impulse of the moment into an expression of subdued rage, that really shot like livid gleams from their visages.
At length the carts stopped under the gallows; and, after a short interval spent in devotional exercise, three of the culprits ascended the platform, who, after recommending themselves to God, and avowing their innocence, although the clearest possible evidence of guilt had been brought against them, were launched into another life, among the shrieks and groans of the multitude. The other three then ascended, two of whom either declined, or had not strength to address the assembly. The third advanced to the edge of the boards—it was Mat. After two or three efforts to speak, in which he was unsuccessful from bodily weakness, he at length addressed them as follows :—
"My friends and good people—In hopes that you may be all ab!e to demonstrate the last proposition laid down by a dying man, I undertake to address you before I depart to that world where Euclid, De Carts, and many other larned men are gone before me. There is nothing in all philosophy more true, than, that, as the multiplication-table says, "two and two makes four;" but it is equally veracious and worthy of credit, that if you do not abnegate this system that you work the common rules or your proceedings by—if you don't become loyal men, and give up burnin' and murdherin', the solution of it will be found on the gallows. I acknowledge myself to be guilty, for not separatin' myself clane from yees; we have been all guilty, and may God forgive thim that jist now departed wid a lie in their mouth." Here he was interrupted by a volley of execrations and curses, mingled with "stag, informer, traithor to the thrue cause!" which, for some time, compelled him to be silent. "You may curse," continued Mat; "but it's too late now to abscond the truth—the 'sum' of my wickedness and folly is worked out, and you see the 'answer.' God forgive me, many a young crathur I enticed into the Ribbon business, and now it's to ind in Hemp! Obey the law; or, if you don't, you'll find it a lex talionis—the construction of which is, that if a man burns or murdhers, he won't miss hanging; take warning by me—by us all; for, although I take God to witness that I was not at the perpetration of the crime that I'm to be suspinded for, yet I often connived, when I might have superseded the carrying of such intintions into effectuality. I die in peace wid all the world, save an.' except the Findramore peopie, whom, may the maledictionary execration of a dying man follow into eternal infinity! My manuscription of conic sections——" Here an extraordi- nary buz commenced among the crowd, which rose gradually into a shout of wild, astounding exultation. The sheriff followed the eyes of the multitude, and perceived a horseman dashing with breathless fury up towards the scene of execution. He carried and waved a white handkerchief on the end of a rod, and made signals with his hat to stop the execution. He arrived, and brought a full pardon for Mat, and a commutation of sentence to transportation for life, for the other two. What became of Mat I know not; but in Findramore he never dared to appear, as certain death would have been the consequence of his not dying game. With respect to Barny Brady, who kept the sheebeen and was the principle evidence against those who were concerned in this outrage, he was compelled to enact an ex tempore death in less than a month afterwards; having been found dead, with a slip of paper in his mouth, inscribed—"This is the fate of all Informers."