Volume One


1


From Mr. Abel O'Hara to Mr. Barnes O'Hara.

My Dear Barnes,

WHILE following, in furtherance of our Boyne Water, the steps of the immortal Sarsfield during his route to Lacken na Choppel, some circumstances distinct from the business of my pilgrimage came under my notice, which I have since put together in the manuscript herewith sent as my humble contribution to our second series of Tales. But, before it encounters your severe eye, please to make yourself acquainted with the manner in which the facts happened to be conveyed to me.

     Upon the first evening of my peregrinations among the Llieuve Illeum hills, I directed my steps, guided by a little peasant boy, to the house of a small farmer, where, I had been told, rest, refreshment, and a bed for the night, would readily be afforded to me; as to an inn, or common public house, no such thing should be calculated upon at the place and time that were to end my daily wanderings among the crowd of black mountains I had the courage to explore. In some few instances, indeed, a "sod" of turf, standing upright in the thatch of a cabin, was interpreted by my bare-legged guide to denote (and he spat out to clear his passage in case I was generous enough to take his hint) "that a bottle wid something inside iv id was behint the noggin on the dhresser"—the turf being figuratively meant "as a token among the hill boys to larn 'em where to find a good dhrop that 'ud warm the sowl in a body;" but these mysterious places of refreshment had altogether such a chilly, wretched appearance, as the mountain dew to be obtained within them, taken ever so liberally, could, I concluded, scarcely dispel.

     About half-past six, in August, after walking many miles along the steep side of a barren ridge, we came in sight of the dwelling of Mr. Daniel Nowlan. My guide, pointing it out to me, said with evident satisfaction, that he could now return home; and when I paid a shining halœcrown into his little horny hand, the urchin, after many acknowledgments and many prayers for my happy extrication from the bleak mazes around Keeper-hill, bounded off like a deer, rejoicing in the probability of being yet able to gain his "mammy's cabin dour," before the shades of night should heighten the real perils of his path, and the supernatural influence of the scenery by which it was on every side overhung.

     I then descended the hill, at the bottom of which the farmer's house was situated. It seemed a cumfortablc dwelling: its back turned to the hill; its face into a yard planted in front with fir, elm, and ash, amongst which the ornamental berries of the mountain ash also occasionally peeped out. I found "the woman of the house" seated in the middle of the kitchen floor, employed in spinning worsted. Her salutation at my entrance was mute and, I then thought, very cold for an Irish farmer's wife. I enquired for Mr. Nowlan: coolly enough still, she informed me he was not at home. I said, I had been recommended to him as an intelligent person who would direct me on my way: she enquired by whom; I named my passing friend of the morning, but she did not know him. I then asked if she could procure me a guide to some place where I might sleep for the night:—this was impossible; all her men were in the meadow at some distance; and, besides, it would be too far to travel at such an hour, in such a country; and I was welcome to whatever accommodation her house at present afforded.

     While she spoke, I could not help thinking that her hospitality was rather unwillingly granted; but she had scarcely finished, when a stifled groan sounded from an inner room, and the old woman started up with such woebegone energy of manner, and with such a deep cloud of sorrow on her brow, as quickly informed me that some all-engrossing misfortune was at her heart, and had abstracted her feelings from the ordinary show of attention and kindness to a stranger. In another second she entered the inner apartment, taking no further notice of me, and I was left alone in the kitchen.

     The groan I had heard was succeeded by others, all announcing the struggles of a man in bodily agony. I listened to them for some time. The door through which the old woman had disappeared soon re-opened, and I was approached by a young girl, whose eyes were red with weeping, and whose soft voice, as she spoke to me, was low and quivering. She bade me welcome, however, with a faint smile, invited me to sit, and regretted that, on "account of there being sickness and sorrow in the house," my stay might not be as pleasant as all in the house would wish to make it. Not venturing to enquire into the privacy of her grief, I apologized, in my turn, for the inconvenience my visit might occasion, by my ignorance of the extent of the journey I had undertaken, which left me, on this evening, only halœway on my road, when I thought to have been at the end of it; and I hinted, that if a guide could be obtained, I was most anxious to relieve the embarrassment which, under the circumstances, my presence must naturally cause.

     Calmly, and, without polish, politely, the young girl gave me to understand, that any little trouble I might occasion was too much a matter of course to be thought of; that her father and mother, and not only they, but the poor people of the meanest cabin in the glen, regarded it as one of the duties of their situation to bid every stranger welcome; that every stranger had a right to walk into every house in her country, and ask his night's rest and refreshment; and again, she could only regret that my comforts might not, at present, be such as it was her father's and mother's wish to afford. I know not how it was, Barnes, but I felt the mild unaffected manners of this young woman inspire me with a respect and esteem that brilliant affectation, or the show of ostentatious politeness, would, perhaps, have failed to excite. I felt, too, that she was sincere; that I was indeed welcome; that I was at home; that, notwithstanding the family affliction, any further apology would be ungracious, and any further offer to seek another roof, something like an offence: in a word, I sat down, as I had been invited to do; and in two minutes conversed with Peggy Nowlan like an old friend.

     The door of the sick chamber again opened, and Mrs. Nowlan re-appeared, somewhat more composed than when she had left me, and, apparently, more awake to the duties of hospitality. "He's quieter now, ma graw baun,"* she said to Peggy, "an' maybe there is God's mercy for us yet." Peggy's eyes streamed afresh, and we were all silent. But the old woman soon asked me if I would take any thing before my meal was ready: when I mentioned a draught of milk, she quickly presented it; and she and her daughter then went about their household occupations, assisted by a serving-wench, as intently as if I had not been present.

     A sister of Peggy shortly after made her appearance; younger, but not quite so pretty as my first acquaintance; dressed with somewhat more care and style, however: for instance, she had a frill about her neck, whereas Peggy had only a plain silk handkerchief folded modestly across her bosom; and she wore white stockings too, while Peggy's whiter ankles glanced above the substantial shoes that served her for tramping to milk the cows every evening. Both young women showed nearly the same quiet and mild propriety of manner and speech, that pleased, and, indeed, surprised me; yet Peggy was still my favourite. I saw her moving about the kitchen with a light though active step, which, as she approached the chamber of the invalid, ever grew lighter. Among other things, I saw her put down a small kettle-full of potatoes; and when they were boiled, she spread a clean cloth on a clean white table, and, along with the staple Irish food, cold meat, milk, eggs, and butter, were offered for my repast. By this time the mother had again visited the sick person in the inner room; and now, out of a recollected sense of consideration to me, as I thought, the door remained open, so that the old woman might at once seem in some degree present during my meal, and sit on the sufferer's bed, holding his hand, and whispering comfort. I caught a glimpse of the hand she held, and it appeared that of a young man wasted with suffering; but it was also fairer and more delicate than the hand of a young person engaged in even occasional bodily exertion could be; and how any other description of person happened to claim the domestic solicitude of this humble family surprised me. I not only asked no questions, however, but, after my first involuntary glance, when Peggy's eye, full of tears, met mine, I forbore further scrutiny. The young girl sat down with me, and pressed me to eat; but I saw the struggle between politeness to her guest, and her watchful glances towards the sick bed. I could only taste the food, and Peggy understood me. The mother came out to the table, leaving her younger daughter in the inner chamber, and I tried to speak a few words of comfort to both: they heard me with little appearance of lively hope, and still avoided any direct allusions to their misfortune; yet I perceived they were thankful for the kindness of my manner.

     My repast was over, my table cleared, and again I was alone with Peggy. She now employed herself in making whey, and in preparing supper for the workmen who were expected from the fields. I followed her with a pleased eye, and saw that, so far as her domestic griefs permitted, she was not free from that little vanity which, when not too far insisted upon, in the fair sex, is not only excusable, but I think graceful. She sent me back, now and then, a smile, sobered by sadness, and that never could have been unregulated by modesty; and I certainly felt towards her all the kindliness that virtue and discretion, not without a considerable share of beauty, are apt to engender in the breast of a poor fellow, not yet wholly deserted (notwithstanding the green glasses) by the warmth of youth; and this, I can assure you, Barnes,—this can be felt apart from any selfish association of ideas. Occasionally she sat down with me, and I found her conversation as engaging as that of many young females I have met: it had not, indeed, the graces of the boarding-school: nor its emptiness and affectation either.

     Towards the dusk of the evening, the old man of the house came home; and, after a visit to the sick chamber, he seemed rejoiced to find a stranger under his roof. He talked to me of O'Connel, and of the wars to be expected in Ireland in the year 25, 'according to the prophecy.' I regarded him as a man of great simplicity of heart and manner, and of good natural strong sense, but with his ideas bounded by the Slieve-Bloom mountains. And I was not a little surprised to find, from his discourse, that the local particulars of the expected struggle in 1825, which I thought had applied exclusively to my part of the country, were claimed with equal precision for certain spots among these isolated hills:—for instance, that the boy with the two thumbs, who, I had heard it confidently stated, lived at Knock-Killen-all, near Inismore, and who was to hold the horses of the Duke of York and four of his generals, during the battle, also lived somewhere in the vicinity of Keeper Mountain.

     In discussing these momentous affairs, I perceived that while he gave a half-credit to the truth of 'the prophecy,' the old man hoped from the bottom of his heart it might never come to pass: for himself, he said, he only wanted 'rest an' pace from his neighbours, far and near, in the Black North, and in England itself; and even if the Duke of York did come over to Ireland, head all the Orangemen, and un-head all the poor Catholics, he laid such misfottunes as a judgment ftom God upon the latter, on account of the doings of some of them, lately, in his country, and the next to it again—doings which could not but be punished here or hereafter. I observed that he talked garrulously; and Peggy told me in a whisper, while her eyes rested watchfully upon his, that the poor man was glad to have a stranger to speak to, as a kind of charm against grief; for, when not so engaged, his old spirit failed and flagged, thinking of his heavy trials.

     While she was yet whispering me, in a very confidential manner, a young and handsome man stept to the threshold of the kitchen door, but started ere he entered among us, and, glancing from Peggy to me, seemed surprised, at least, if not offended; while she, endeavouring to assume an easy smile of best welcome, blushed in spite of herself, and sat upright and demurely in her chair.

     "Won't you come in and discourse the strange gentleman has just walked this way through the hills, Davy," Peggy then said, addressing the young man, whose brow speedily cleared up, as he no longer hesitated to join us; and after he had greeted the man of the house, and bowed, not very clumsily, at me, I caught, with the tail of my eye, certain mute communings between him and Peggy, that explained, I thought, why he should have wondered to see us whispering cheek by jowl together.

     "And how is poor father John, this evening?" enquired the new-comer, after all this was over; but he had scarce pronounced the words, in a very low tone, when old Mr. Nowlan shifted himself on his seat, and, still with a sly glance, I saw Peggy raise her finger to her lip, and look and nod towards me.

     Now the workmen came in from the fields, and the scene changed into one of general bustle. About twenty of them sat round a large table, half covered with a heap of smoking potatoes, flanked by ample noggins of milk; and it was surprising to witness the dispatch with which they demolished a pile that might serve three city families, even Irish ones, for a week. Their silence too, considering the spirits in which Irish peasants ever sit down to the humblest meal, was nearly as remarkable as their industry; if, indeed, I did not recollect that "sickness and sorrow were in the house," and that their nearness to the sick chamber evidently curbed their usual chat and glee.

     Only a few words spoken by them, almost in a whisper, reached me; and even these, although in allusion to some person whose vagaries diverted the men, were gravely uttered. Some of them wondered what could have come over "rakin' Peery Conolly," and why he did not accompany them home to supper; for, big an omadhaun as he was, all his life long, not to talk of his behaviour in a field, at a day's work, "no one 'ud wish him in bed with an empty belly." At this, Peggy, in evident interest, commenced enquiries about the individual in question; but the men answered that, barring he got into the sulks, for the last "hoising" and flogging they gave him, in regard of his "slobbering" work, the day long, and his fits and starts that would let nobody else work clean,—(and it was not a likely thing that Peery Conolly would be the man to sulk at such a turn, either,)—why, barring this, or that he staid in a corner of the field to dance "cover-the-buckle" for his own private amusement, or had gone after Cauth Flannigan, that was gone after the cows, or something or other of the kind, any how,—barring all those casualties, no one could conjecture why he was not then eating his good supper.

     But, while they spoke, a young peasant, rather low in stature, clumsily made about the body, light in     the limbs, and his clothes hanging off and on, in folds and shreds, came towards the open door of the kitchen, at a hop-step-and-jump, and, holding his head down, as he flourished a short stick round it, there continued a few seconds shuffling his feet, in a cautious modification of the step most esteemed as an accompaniment to the "jig polthoge:"—and, from the smiles, nods, and whispers of the workmen, I could not doubt that I beheld the eccentric person of whom they were speaking. As, in some admiration, I watched his movements, Peery Conolly suddenly raised his head, fixed his eyes on mine, started back into an attitude, gave his stick another flourish, and then darted on me with an appearance of hostile intent that made me rise from my seat; but a whisper from Peggy—"Don't mind him, Sir—'tis only the poor boy's humour—he's as harmless as the infant,"—reassured me; and, as she spoke, Peery changed his symptoms of headlong attack into a caper round me and the chair by which I stood, still flourishing his cudgel, as in a very low and cautious key he sung,


    My name it is Conolly the rake,
        I don't care a sthraw for any man;
    I dhrinks good whishkey an ale,
        An' I'd bate out the brains iv a Connought-man—
                                                                        WHEW!"

     "Be asy, there, wid your behavour, Peery," said one of the men; and instantly he fixed his eyes on the speaker, as he had done on me, and darted towards him with the same death-promising but harmless motions of his shillelagh.

     "Quiet, Peery, quiet," said Peggy, "and remember who's in the next room."

     "Oh, yeah, yes, Miss Peggy, a cuishla; yis, yis; we'd mind id whin you spake the word, if we never minded id afore." Tho' it was evident, indeed, that nothing but a recollection of his proximity to the sick chamber had previously subdued his capers and his song into the caution I have mentioned; "and," Peery continued—"sure it's the dance—the dance, a-vourneen, that puts it into our head, at-all-at-all;"—and, so saying, he jumped towards the supper-table, deposited himself on a form between two men who had been sitting closely together, chucked his stick under his left arm, and jirking his head from side to side, and tapping the floor with his feet, commenced a serious attack on the diminished pile of potatoes and noggins of skimmed- milk.

     "And where did the dance send you, of late, Peery?" inquired one of his neighbours, winking around; as, his head and feet still in motion, he ravenously persevered in his meal.

     "Up the hills, an' over the hills, an' down the hills," replied Peery, "widout the moon, and wid the moon; an' to Limerick's oun town, the last fair mornin', an' home to the Foil Dhuiv,* afore the next mornin', where there wasn't as much starlight as 'ud make me know one foot from anodher, while I done the step. You know the Foil-Dhuiv, Miss Peggy-baun?"

     I was surprised to see the young woman smile and turn pale at this random question, while she remained perfectly silent.

     "An' Father John knows it, too," Peery continued: "how is id wid him, this evenin'?"

     "Hould your whisht, you scatther-brain o' the divil," said Mrs. Nowlan.

     "Yis, Peery, do," pursued a workman, "an' jist tell us who put the dance on you first?"

     "Who bud the saint that had id on himself? him, an' th' auld rip iv an aunt I have—who else put id on me?"

     "An' for what, or for why, Peery?"

     "For what, or for why? To keep me from the work, to be sure, an' sometimes from the mass idself, an' to send me here an' there, over-an hether, an' to make me love an' like the dhrop o' liquor, an' to make a May-boy o' me, an' a rakin' fellow,—a tatther'n, tear'n fellow—hurroo!—


    My name it is Conolly the rake,
        I don't care a sthraw for any man;
    I dhrinks good whishkey an ale,
        An' I'd bate out the brains iv a Connought-man—

     And up he bounced and jumped off through the kitchen-door, flourishing his stick, as usual.

     When he had disappeared, I gathered from Peggy's answers to my questions, that some youthful troubles, aided by a "draught," received at the hands of an old female relative, who meant it should serve him, had turned Peery's brain, and produced, occasionally, the singular conduct I had just witnessed; that his misfortunes alone made him an object of interest to the family, though he scarce ever did any work otherwise to claim their assistance; but that a great service, of a peculiar kind, (and here the young girl sighed deeply, as she glanced at the door of the inner room) which he had lately rendered to them all, gave poor Peery a right, for life, to their kindness and protection. She added, that when he was once brought to a country physician, for an opinion on his case, the sage practitioner declared him to be afflicted with St. Vitus's dance; that Peery, getting this notion very vaguely into his head, never since gave it up, but was anxious to attribute to "the dance," as he called it, all his vagaries, all his inability or disinclination to work, and all his visits to the ale-house;—while some thought that his real fits of aberration were not so frequent as he wished to have inferred; that there was, occasionally, as much cunning as folly in his extravagance; that, if he liked, he might now and then work, and be as wise a man as his neighbours; that, more than once, he had been known to possess the power of showing an extraordinary change of character; and, indeed, Peggy herself had witnessed, on a late occasion, just such a change.

     The workmen now rose from their table, knelt down, one by one, to their prayers, and quietly retired to the out-house appointed for their repose. Soon after, Peggy's handsome male visitor bade us good night; Peggy seeing him to the door, and, indeed, a few steps beyond it, where there was only an instant's pause, yet one long enough for any little civility the fair reader may please to imagine; when she returned, looking as simple as an infant, her father shook me by the hand, and went to seek his bed, praying his good God, that, after all, there might be no truth in the prophecy; and then the younger girl joined Peggy and me, from the invalid's chamber, to arrange about my disposition for the night.

     After a few words of consultation, they informed me that, although there was a spare bed in the sick-room, they could not think of putting me to sleep there, as, besides the inconvenience I should find from the presence of the "sick gentleman"—(this phrase struck me as singular)— they would have to pass in and out, during the night; but they hoped still to make me comfortable; and the two girls forthwith proceeded to make up a couch for me on the huge kitchen table: where, when they for a time retired to allow me to avail myself of it, I found a good feather-bed, clean white sheets, a patch-work quilt, and, as they had promised, every thing indeed comfortable.

     As soon as I had been afforded time enough to fall asleep, they returned, accompanied by their mother, and stealthily sat down by the kitchen fire. Although I could not close my eyes, I thought it most delicate to permit them to think I was sunk in repose; and taking tbis fact forgranted, the good woman and her daughters,—one or other of them occasionally stealing into the inner room,—conversed in earnest whispers for some time. Their whole theme related to the illness and probable fate of the young man, about whom all were so deeply interested; and, without my feeling any satisfaction at being thus an involuntary listener, some allusions to his past life also escaped them, that, joined with the previous mystery under which their sorrow seemed to have been indulged, much interested me. My interest was not diminished, when I became aware that he was indeed (as from some former inquiries I had suspected) a clergyman, and the only son and brother of the family; that he had been once their hope and pride; afterwards their shame and affliction; once good and innocent; afterwards, through scenes of retributive misery and trial, a misguided sinner; and now, in complicated suffering, bodily and mental, in humiliation and penitence, their only hope, once again.

     All I heard did not serve to give me, however, any thing like a clear notion of the real history of the young clergyman; and the mother and her second daughter retired, about midnight, to repose, leaving my feelings, I will not say merely my curiosity, in a more anxious state than they were before I lay down. Owing to this rather excited mood, as well, perhaps, as to the novelty of my situation, I still lay awake, while Peggy, all along my favourite, remained up to tend the couch of her sick brother. When, afterwards, I fell into a light slumber, I could, during its breaks, see her moving noiselessly about, in the dying glimmer of the turf-blaze, stealing, on tip-toe, into the sick chamber, or warming a draught for the sufferer's parched lips; or, at times, sitting upon a low stool, before the embers, her elbow on her raised knee, and her cheek rested on her hand, as she gazed at the flickering fire, and sighed profoundly. Ay, woman, thought I, from the highest to the lowest rank, you are, to man, the "ministering angel," indeed; his consoler in misery, the soother of his sick pillow; and, without you, joy were indeed joyless, and misfortune not to he borne. All very trite and common-place sentiment, you will say, Barnes, as I lay on my kitchen table, between my nice white sheets, and pretty Peggy Nowlan so near to me, in the dead of the night; but I couldn't help it: and no other sentiments prevailed. As the morning peeped into the windows of my rather unusual bedchamber, Peggy was still upon her watch: I gave signs of preparations to rise; she withdrew in silence; I dressed myself; she returned, and her mild "good morrow" sounded on my ear. As I braced on my back the Bramah portfolio you were good enough to send me from London, she hoped I did not intend to go away without my breakfast; when I expressed my intention of starting immediately, she went, with a face of concern, to comnunicate my purpose to her father; and the old man quickly returned by her side, to join his hospitable requests to those of his daughter. But neither could prevail; and then he shook my hand, and wished me safe and happy to my journey's end; and I, too, took Peggy's little hand in mine, and after a few words, expressive, I believe, of my esteem and respect for her conduct, manners, and person, set out, with something like a wayward and smothered sigh, accompanied by a man to direct me "a bit" on my mountain path.

     But fortune willed that Peggy and I should not so soon part. Ere, with my guide, I had mastered the top of the first steep and weary ascent on our road, black clouds gathered over our heads, lightning quivered, thunder crashed and bellowed above and around us, and a torrent of rain rushed down, that, in a trice, drenched us to the skin. To proceed four or five miles further during such a storm, or, even supposing it should pass off, in such a trim, was a madness against which my guide warmly remonstrated, and to which I had almost equal objection; so, at his instance, we once more turned our faces to Mr. Nowlan's house, and, the road being now a steep descent, and therefore most favourable to our speed, retraced our steps in a good race.

     All the family stood at the threshold to receive me; exclamations of condolence came from every tongue; and, almost by main force, the old woman, her daughters, and the robust maid-servant, forced me off to a bedehamber, where I was commanded to doff every tack upon me, and cover myself up in a neat little bed, until every tack should be well dried. In vain I remonstrated: Mrs. Nowlan and her handmaid whisked off my coat and vest, even while I spoke; the latter, squatting herself on her haunches, then attacked my shoes and stockings; Peggy appropriated my cravat; and I began to entertain some real alarm as to the eventual result of their proceedings, when away they went in a body, each laden with a spoil, and all renewing their commands that I should instantly peel off my Russia-ducks and my inner garment, drop them at the bedside, and then retiring between the sheets, call out to have them removed.

     I did even as I was bid; and when properly disposed to give the appointed signal, Cauth Flannigan, the maid of all-work, speedily attended to it, re-entering with something on her arm, from which her eye occasionally wandered to my half-seen face, in a struggle, as I thought, and I believe I was not wrong in my reading, between most provoking merriment, and a decent composure of countenance; The misthess sent this shirt, Sir—only it isn't a shirt, entirely, bud one belongin' to the misthess, becase it's the washin week, an' the sickness in the place, an' all, an' the misthess couldn't make off a betther at a pinch "—and, laying it on the edge of the bed, Cauth strove to hide her giggle and her blushes by stooping to take up the last of my drenched garments. When she had again retired with them, I examined the nicely-folded article she had left with me, and, truly, it was not "a shirt entirely"—but what shall I call it, Barnes?—a female shirt, haply; the personal property, as Cauth would have it, of Mrs. Nowlan; yet, from the earnestness with which that zealous Abigail strove to impress the fact upon me, as also from the hasty erasure of an initial, near its upper edge, I had my own doubts, while I put it on, concerning the identity of its owner.

     And so, while the storm vented its fury among the black hills, thus I lay, safe and comfortable, in (I am sure it was, from the visions of bonnets, &c. I caught at every side) the sleeping chamber of the young ladies of the mansion. In a short time Peggy returned with my breakfast; three eggs, just laid, home-made bread, sweet butter, tea not to be much faulted, and cream, such as you have never seen since you went to live in Gray's Inn, "any how;" the sugar was my only dread, for it looked as brown as gingerbread, and as coarse as a handful of pebbles. But Peggy's smile, when she put down my provisions, was sweeter than any sugar; and as soon as she a second time disappeared, I can assure you I managed to make a good breakfast.

     My clothes were restored, as dry as chips; my Bramah was again buckled across my shoulders, and again I put on a resolute face of departure; but the storm was more resolute than I: the sky frowned back my challenge; the old man and woman and his daughters told me that, although the thunder might soon cease, there would not be a dry half-hour that day among the mountains; and, in fact, I remained where I was; not really regretting, perhaps, though I persuaded myself I did, the stern necessity that interposed to prevent a manful and conscientious fulfilment of my duties.

     I sat down at the kitchen hearth with the young women, and, while they employed their needles, we conversed freely together. I have before given you to understand that they were neither uninformed nor unintelligent; and now I got new proofs of the fact. Both had been pupils at the convent of Thurles; but, perhaps, the younger, Anty, from having remained there longer than her sister, and returned home later, had acquired, or retained more of the ideas and accomplishments usually taught in an Irish nunnery; or, perhaps, Peggy, after coming back to the duties of her life and situation, and continuing for six or seven years chiefly occupied by them, had forgotten part of her former proficiency in books and graces. Good sense and useful information they possessed in common; I should not, indeed, insist that their tastes were equally cultivated: they knew little of poetry; less of plays; they had never been but once to see a play; then it was their fate to see Othello performed in a village barn; and the hearty indignation they jointly expressed, as we talked the matter over, towards the man who acted Iago, (not towards the character, merely,) gave me a lively, and almost envious idea of the incipiency of their theatrical criticism, and the simplicity and goodness of their hearts.

     I described good acting, and a great theatre to them, and they listened with evident interest. I hinted at novels; they knew nothing of that branch of literature; and, indeed, the vehement manner of their disavowal rather caused me (for certain reasons) to draw in my horns, and pass to another topic. Moore's songs they could play, if they had an instrument; and Peggy knew most of the figures of country dances, and Anty whispered something about quadrilles. I opened my Bramah, and showed them some bad sketches of fine scenery; they were loud in their applause; I read some other sketches from my note book, and they thought me "l'huitieme merveille du monde:" and, to crown all, I pulled out a New Monthly, before we finished our sitting; as we were about to part, for some time, handed it to them to peruse; and after dinner, when we again put our heads together, the young women expressed, and, I am sure, really felt much thanks for my trifling attentions.

     Meantime they had been in and out of their brother's chamber, or alternately engaged in some household duty. I asked as seldom as possible how the brother went on; yet now they spoke of him to me with less restraint; called him by the appellation that before they would have dropt in my presence, namely, "Father John;" and answered all my enquiries by an assurance that he was much better. In fact I saw that, merely by acting a kind, and, at the same time, a considerate part, I had induced the solitary young girls to think well of me; while my manifold accomplishments added (none of your horse-laughs, Barnes,) some interest and respect to their esteem.

     However it happened, I was not this night "laid out," corpse-like, on the kitchen table; and when, next morning, I again began to gird myself for travel, Peggy and Anty heard their father, with evident pleasure, predict that, for many days the mist and rain which had succeeded to the storm, would not clear away. But why should I garrulously lengthen out this introduction to a true tale? Let me hasten to inform you that, after a week's residence in the house, the poor girls told me the story of their brother's misfortune, together with certain occurrences of Peggy's own life, that were involved in his;—that, after a visit from his bishop, the invalid grew so much better, as to allow of my appearance at his bed-side, for which his sisters had prepared and given him an anxiety; that I was then afforded an opportunity of studying his character, and, at last, of receiving from his own lips, explanations of his feelings and motives during his trials, which otherwise I could not have been able to supply; and, lastly, that out of the whole information thus collected, the following tale is compiled.

     For the immediate conclusion of it, after the period of my first journey among the Slieve-bloom hills, I am indebted chiefly to you, Barnes, I thank you; for when you sent me over your commands to go back all the ways to Lacken-na-chapel, and assure myself of one certain point (and only one) upon which I had left you doubtful, it was but natural that I should pay a second visit to the kind and hospitable Nowlans; and again, it was but natural for me to enquire into what had happened during the nine months I had been away from them.

    

"A. O'H."







 










* My white or fair darling.










 










* Black-valley.