Volume One


2


AM0NGST the recesses of the Llieuve-Ieullum Hills, there is, even now, little idea of taking or letting land by the acre; a certain rent is paid for a large tract that forms, perhaps, the superficies of three or four hills and valleys, with all their barren varieties of crag and waste, and that is generally averaged at so much the square mile, good measurement being further allowed in the miles. Nor does the tenant often think of tilling the modicum of wilderness that thus comes into his hands. Of the most promising, or least unpromising part of it, he selects as many acres as will provide his family with potatoes, bread, and the etceteras of ordinary food, and the great remainder he stocks with sheep and black cattle, left free to roam where they will, whose sale produces the chief means of paying head-rent, and, if possible, of making money. And of such a farm was Daniel Nowlan the proprietor, when, at about thirty years of age, he ventured on the great step of providing himself with a helpmate.

    His choice seemed to the neighbours a singular one. The lady, when she submitted to Daniel's yoke, was, or every one thought she was, a "black protestan" and, moreover, allied, as she had pride in boasting, to one of the least popular protestant families in Tipperary, of which the head was a county magistrate, and two of the younger sons chiefs of police. But Daniel held his peace, and only smiled when this discrepancy in his matrimonial choice was, by some over-curious gossip, pointed out to his view: and perhaps he had his own good reasons for taking the matter so philosophically; for about three or four months after the "hauling home," and just when Mrs. Nowlan began to be what the old women of Ireland sometimes call "obsarvable," she rode on a pillion, behind her goodman, one sunny Sunday morning into the chapel-yard, to last mass, and ever after was a scrupulous attendant upon the form of worship preferred by her husband.

    Still, however, her religious notions, or to use, perhaps, a better term, feelings, occasionally showed an odd jumble. She had been brought up decidedly biassed to one religion, chiefly because hating the other; and not much burdened, even after her conversion, with a knowledge of the distinctions between both, Mrs. Nowlan was, sometimes, indifferently and unconsciously a child of either. For instance; while giving out, during Lent, at the head of her domestics and children, the form of prayer called "the rosary," with which that season of abstinence and piety is, in almost all Irish Catholic families, every evening hallowed, Mrs. Nowlan more than once mixed up, in a concluding aspiration, the first of a Roman Catholic prayer and the last of a Protestant one: upon a certain Sunday, while her mind remained much shaded and embarrassed with the previous Saturday-night's calculations of firkins of butter for the next exportation, having trudged forth, alone, to mass, she was seen turning, we cannot say deliberately, into the church, where she remained during the whole service: she has often put into her pocket the Book of Common Prayer, instead of "A Poesy of Prayers, or the Key of Paradise;" proceeded with it to mass, and read it flippantly by her husband's elbow: nay when polemics ran high at her own fire- side, between Daniel Nowlan and "Masther Tony Ferret," a consistent cousin of hers, and of the great family to whom she was allied, and when, after previously siding her husband against her heretic relative, the poor protestants at last came in for too rough a handling, Mrs. Nowlan has been known to lose, with the loss of temper, a recollection of her altered creed; and, almost as inveterately as she had done before she was "obsarvable," talk of the abomination of worshipping saints, praying for the dead, and such other superstitions of the Romish church.

    In a different way, her change from the protestant spinster into the papist matron, produced some further incongruities. While to catholicism she owed all the pride of being a married woman, a mother, and an independent person, protestantism conferred upon her other honours not to be forgotten, such as the pride of civil rank, and superior caste; for many obscure, vulgar-named, and vulgarly descended protestant families, in Ireland, (who, in England, or Scotland, could not find an ancestor, or one of their own name elevated out of the lower classes of honest handicraft or tradesfolk,) used to consider themselves, merely as protestants, a race of beings as much above Irish papists, as white men above black: and such recollections of her descent often haunted Mrs. Nowlan with great tendency to think herself more of an aristocrat than her husband, or even than her children. They also gave an aristocratic air, much out of keeping with the style in which the Roman Catholic religion is professed and practised in Ireland, to her individual catholicity; this feature of her character it is hard to illustrate; but, for example, she never prayed aloud at the head of her family for the "repose of the souls of the faithful departed," without getting in all the deceased of the great people from whom she sprang; their descriptions, distinctions, and titles, mentioned at full length; and in behalf of the deceased bachelor cousin, in whose house, as an humble dependant, she had passed her days up to the period of her marriage, her form of petition was uniformly thus—" an' I offer up a pattherin'-avy, Oh Lord, for the sowl of my poor dear George Wilkins, of Rose Lodge, Esquire, now and for ever, amin."

    These little anomalies in thinking and acting on the part of his spouse, could scarce fail occasionally to embitter the domestic hearth of even so simple-hearted and peaceable a man as Daniel Nowlan: yet, in truth, they but seldom had such an effect; or, if they had, the good woman possessed agreeabilities, and talents also, that soon caused her imperfections to be forgotten, and left a balance in favour of connubial happiness. She loved her husband; when she brought him children, she loved them too; she was glad to see the greater number of his friends and relatives; although her manners were not as warm as those of the people with whom she had cast her lot, they were sincere, and influenced by a good, if not a teeming heart; and then her housewifery was undeniable; except that the very thrifty part of it, acquired under a pinching system of beggarly pretension to which her present neighbours and even her husband were strangers, now and then caused a gentle murmur at home, and a sarcastic whisper out of doors.

    And four children Mrs. Nowlan presented to her husband as peacemakers in the little misconceptions that happened between them; two boys and two girls; Phelim and John, and Peggy and Anty. Their house, a good, roomy, substantial one, although, to Mr. Nowlan's shame, it was only thatched, stood in a glen, the farthest removed of any which they tenanted, ftom the black and barren mazes of the Llieuve-Ieullum Hills; it was, indeed, but a few miles distant from the banks of the lordly Shannon, and might be considered as one of the passes or mediums between the more open and cultivated country and the almost desert region that lay beyond it. Although scarcely elevated above that class of most useful men called small farmers, Daniel Nowlan, assisted by the industry and money-making knacks of his helpmate, grew apace into comfort, consideration, and, for him, wealth. He had started in the beginning of the war-prices, when substantial provisions of every kind were in ample demand on the quays of all the exporting towns in Ireland; when his wife's firkins and pigs, and his own cows, bullocks, and sheep, could not be shipped fast enough in the service of the country; and ere many years of this patriotic traffic had elapsed, Daniel cared neither for the landlord nor the tithe-proctor, and was often seen, upon a market-day, paying a sly visit to a certain bank in Limerick, of which he took every prudent occasion to observe that "he had hard said it was as safe as the bank of Ireland itself."

    Things went thus prosperously on, until, when the elder boy gained his fourteenth year, it was whispered among the neighbours that no farmer's son in the district had such prospects as young Phelim, provided the land could be left whole and entire to him, and not divided with his sisters or his brother John. And of this there seemed almost a certainty; for while people knew that the Limerick bank husbanded fortunes for the two girls, Daniel Nowlan had an important bachelor brother who was godfather to his second son, had given certain characteristic symptoms of a liking for the boy, and most probably would take him home one of those days, keep him in his house, "and make a man of him" Some few close critics now and then hinted, indeed, that no such hasty conclusions ought to be drawn from the symptoms alluded to, or from the general character of Mr. Aby Nowlan; or, supposing John to have been transported to his house, it did not follow, they said, that he would be much the better of the change; for, although "Masther Aby" (speaking of a man of fifty) had never had a wife, he was not without the usual accompaniments to one; and then his house was a wasteful house, and money went out of it, "a power of money," no one knew how or where; and, in fact, the hints on this subject were so many, that we feel it our duty to bring more fully before the reader the character and condition of Mr. Aby Nowlan.

    He was the first Roman Catholic "gentleman farmer" of the district, inheriting, almost undividedly, the profit rents of many farms taken from time to time by his father, at very low terms and on very long leases, tilled and cultivated with skill and industry, and at last brought to such perfection, as on his death-bed to leave the premature old man the willing of almost a real estate of about one thousand a year. And, by the will he made, old Nowlan seemed perfectly to understand the importance of his acquisitions: for, in imitation of the proprietors of real estates around him, he would have, in his eldest son, a representative also; while three other sons, Daniel among the number, were left but scantily portioned; Murrough, the second, being apprenticed to a sadler in Limerick, and, when out of his time, turned off to shift for himself upon three hundred pounds and a blessing; Davy, the third, similarly disposed of "in the grocery line;" and Daniel, the youngest, favoured, at the same rent under which the old man himself held it, with a lease of part of the ground on which we now see him living and thriving, and which, indeed, was the beginning of his prosperity.

    In fact, a gentleman, "a real gentleman," old Nowlan would leave behind him in the person of "Masther Aby;" and it was not by independence alone, but by education and accomplishments too, he sought to confer this character. For himself, who had the making of the estate, with his own two hands, late and early, through fair weather and foul, "the larnin' "would have been no use to him, and might have proved an injury; but the son who was to get all ready made to his hand, and live the life of any gentleman upon it, why it well became him to put something besides his mark to a lease or a receipt, and to be able to read any book that might come in the way, and to keep his accounts in "pin-writin'," rather than on "a tally," and to have a word in his cheek before the best in the land; nay, to understand the soggarth's Latin itself, and not "to have it thrun away upon him, like a cow or a horse."

    But old Nowlan's endeavours, in this second view, were not as successful as his previous industry; he found it easier to make a thousand a year for his son, than to make that son a scholar or a gentleman. In vain did he send him to the best schools in Limerick; "Masther Aby" either learned nothing in them, or did not stay in them long enough to learn any thing. Sometimes he was turned home, like an incurable out of an hospital; sometimes he came home of his own accord, and, without speaking a word, or showing the least change in a face always, from youth to old age, unchangeable, sat down to dinner in his father's parlour; and, more than once, when the old fellow thought that by dint of a good horsewhip, he had succeeded in prevailing upon him to return to his "schoolin'," that is, when after a sound flogging he had shut the door in his face, "the young masther" has been discovered, months after, quietly passing his days under the roof of some distant tenant; eating, drinking, and sleeping; whenever it was possible, riding a horse; and scarcely ever opening his heavy-lipped mouth to a creature around him.

    In wrath and stern resolve, old Nowlan fell upon a plan, suggested by an action he had seen performed by the blockhead himself. At about twelve years of age, Aby was well skilled in dogs of all degree, and there was a certain pointer of his kennel which took an objection to breakfast on "stirabout,"just at the very time, when, in consequence of the animal's real or supposed state of body, stirabout was deemed, by good judges, its best diet. So soon as, after repeated efforts, Aby saw that the dog would not share the breakfast of its brother-and-sister dogs, he was observed silently to unchain it, lead it out into the middle of the yard, secure it to a large stone, place before it a platter of the objectionable food, stand by until a reasonable time was afforded for dog or man to form a decided opinion, and then flog it with a steady hand, again adjust the platter, again stand inactive, again flog, flog, and so continue, until some kinder-hearted person beguiled him from his employment, or until his father, at last recognising the matter, came out with another horsewhip in his hand, not for the dog, but for the dog's master.

    And on this hint, old Nowlan acted in resolute prosecution of his plan to make his eldest son a scholar. Mounting a good horse, he rode, not to the ablest, but to the severest pedagogue in Limerick, and proposed an unusual pension for Aby's board and education, on the following provisoes; that, first, Aby should get neither breakfast nor dinner until he had previously breakfasted "dacently" on his morning and afternoon tasks, or else upon three distinct whippings, morning and evening; second, that, to prevent elopement during the day, he should be chained by the neck and leg to a block of wood sufficiently large and heavy to hinder him from running, or even walking fast; and, thirdly, that to guard against the like accident at night, all his clothes, except his shirt, should be taken from him, as he lay down in bed, and not restored until the chain and log were in waiting for re-adjustment at the hour of getting up: "an' if the bouchal won't ate his stirabout now," said old Nowlan, when the bargain was ended, and Aby regularly installed in his log and fetters, "why, he may just folly his own likins."—And, notwithstanding the boasted wisdom of the arrangement, and the unremitting watchfulness and attentions of the pedagogue, "the bouchal" did contrive to "folly his own likins:" for, upon a winter's morning, about eight o'clock, and about a fortnight after his father had left him in the school, a vision of "the young masther," habited solely in a daggle-tailed shirt, appeared walking up to the house, just as the old farmer was on his way to a fair at Nenagh; so they met in the little avenue, and Aby's first salute from his affectionate parent was a lash across his shoulders, at which, wincing somewhat, he turned down the avenue again, and showed symptoms of a retreat to a tenant's house; but the father spurring his horse, intercepted, and by words and continued lashes, exhorted him into the Limerick road, kept him in it for miles, always foiling his efforts to double to the right or left, until, as Limerick came in view, Aby, roused to a dogged despair, rushed through a gap, down a descent to the Shannon, gained the river's edge before his father could baffle his sudden movement, plunged headlong in, and, as he had ever been too lazy to learn to swim, would most certainly have been drowned, but that a fisherman's cot paddled to his assistance, picked him up, and returned him to the arms of his now afflicted and remorseful parent.

    This was his last trial. From this day out, Aby never saw the loathsome interior of a school; though, to the hour of his death, his dreams often surrounded him with its villanous circumstantiality. Old Nowlan, in addition to his caution of his former pertinacity, consoled his heart with various reflections; such as, when he was cross—" hard to make a silk purse out iv a sow's ear;—hard to dhraw blood from a turnip; man proposes, God disposes:" or, when he recollected that Aby could indeed write a tolerably fair hand, and read a book without much coughing and hemming, and, fair time being allowed, and no hurry—work out a sum upon a slate to the effect of—"what would six sacks of wheat come to—at the sack?" and find out London and Dublin upon any map he was used to, with other considerable things;—why, when the old man took this to mind, he would comfort himself with—" half a loaf is betther nor no bread;—take an inch if you can't get an ell;—too much of one thing is good for nothing;" &c. &c.

    The stupid harmlessness of Aby's character had further influence on the natural feelings of the parent: "avoch, poor boy, there wasn't a bit of bad in him; an' the heart was in the right place, any how;—an' he was no sich omadhaun, neither; smooth wather runs deep: he could see as far into a mill-stone as another: he knew more nor a cow did of a bad shillin'; lave him to himself; jist let well enough alone; you'll never see him atin' pavin'-stones for praties;"—and in time, this negative admiration amounted to real love; even of the dolt's clumsy person, set features, and staring eyes, the father became fond; nor was Aby's taciturnity any check on their fire-side communions; for, just as one can talk for hours to a dog, in imaginary reply to its set gaze, or the wagging of its tail, old Nowlan easily managed long conferences with his eldest son.

    In a word, "Masther Aby" was a mere animal of a very inoffensive, and perhaps amiable class; not a fool, that gives no idea of him; an animal is the word. An animal with an animal's wants, and with no mental stimulus to strive for any thing beyond their gratification; and with an animal's passions, of course. For example; he was but eighteen when one of his father's—(dairy- maids we were about to say, but that it involves a usual contradiction,)—one of his father's dairy-women, then, went to the priest to make a certain acknowledgement in which he was concerned; within the next year old Nowlan became the grandsire of two more children, by different mothers; soon after his death, "the new masther," at five-and-twenty, had installed in his kitchen, as servants, those three women, while a finer lady played sultana over them all, and the sultan's visits were known to be extended to the dwellings of more than one other pretty woman, girl or wife, on his farms; in the lapse of years, the whole set, with their whole brood, were to be found ejected out of his house or their father's houses, and established, rent free, and more than that, in separate cottages, all around, while a new and yotinger set, still with a temporary "Mrs. Nowlan," supplied their places, only, in turn, to share their destiny; and this system, until about fifty, when we have most to do with him, "Masther Aby," as all the country-people of his own age, or older, still called him, formally kept up; and, on account of the wear and tear, resulting from it, this was the system that gave cause for some of the doubts expressed by the neighbours as to John Nowlan's chance of being much the better of an adoption into the graces of his uncle.

    Other domestic courses added to such doubts. Aby Nowlan had, in common with his father, an ambition to be thought a gentleman; but he manifested it in a tamer and more slavish way than his father would have done. To wear, like "Square Adams," (meaning Squire Adams) of "Mount- Nelson,"—(or some such ridiculous name conferred on a bit of barren ground once called Killavochery, or Ballybrockhlehin, or Coollavoorlich, and still surrounded by similar ones)—to wear like him, who was the county magistrate, before mentioned, a very blue shining coat with very bright buttons, a canary-coloured waistcoat, top-boots, and fawn-coloured small-cloaths; to ride, like him, a good hunter to every hunt, and like him, and, especially, to him, and his nine sons, and score friends, to give great meat dinners, and "lashins" of claret, port and sherry, and all in the timid hope of being recognized as the boon-companion, and no more, of a man of less actual wealth, and of no more actual rank than himself; this was the weak, mean and superfluous way in which stupid Aby Nowlan tried to become a gentleman. And, to his heart's content, the "quality" allowed him to make the experiment; day after day, night after night, "Square" Adams, and his ranting and roaring, cursing and swearing sons and cousins, friends and followers,—(himself as great a roarer and blasphemer as any amongst them) would honour "the bachelor's house" with their noise, voracity, guzzling and drunkenness; while "Mrs. Nowlan" had a numerous circle to tea above stairs, the masther gloated, with staring eyes, and with scarce a word in his cheek, on all this glory, in the parlour; so that his candle thus lighted at both ends blazed away famously.