THEY did not stir out for days, having no business, and totally uninterested about the attraction of
their novel situation in a large city. John further felt unwilling to go out, lest be should meet Mr.
Kennedy. From morning to night they sat, then, by each other's side; almost as silent, too,
as they were inactive; for not a word was spoken of the past or the future; not a word about Letty's uncle, or about
John's family, or the vows he had broken, or the common ruin of both. They even thought very
little; they were afraid to think. But, of the two, Letty thought most. As John had anticipated, she
looked with no horror on his entering into the marriage state, in the face of obligations her
conscience did not represent as binding; and Letty hoped her uncle might yet half forgive her
elopement, and that John, aided by his friendship and interest, might get on in the world. She
took it as granted, that, with his priest's vows, he had changed his religion; the selecting a
Protestant clergyman to marry them, confirmed her; he had talents of, she believed, the first
order; some learning too; a manner and address calculated to fascinate; her uncle certainly liked
him; her brother Frank admired him; and, on the whole, poor Letty's heart began to lighten with
hope; and, upon the first afternoon John left her alone, she wrote two letters, one to Mr. Long,
another to Frank, confessing her marriage, praying pardon and mercy, and throwing herself and
her husband on their indulgence.
John went out in a different frame of mind. For him there was no hope. He had not given up his
religious creed. He was still a Roman Catholic: nay, according to the ordinance of his church, and
his own continued belief, still a Roman Catholic priest, living in a monstrous state of sin, against
all laws and authority. Letty might suppose they were married; he knew they were not married;
he knew they never could be: and though he indulged her illusion, partly in furtherance of his
plan to sacrifice every thing to her happiness—his own thoughts, feelings, despair, the truth, as
well as himself—still he distinctly felt, that while, in his own person, he stood a renegade, a
giver of dreadful scandal, a blasphemer, an outcast, and a marked sheep, she led with him a life
of partaken sin, and was, in fact, no more than his mistress. Do what he might, be could not
prevent that. Immolate himself as he might, he believed he dared never call her his wife; and his
blood curdled at the thought. It was the most horrible thought of all, because it involved her; because, even while he gave himself up to ruin for her sake, she really derived no advantage from the sacrifice: he could not pray to God to bless her as a married woman.
But, upon this day, he walked into the streets with an additional cause of despair. A voice had
called him forth to think in solitude—a voice he durst not resist—the awful one of the future.
It fell on John's heart like the mutter of approaching desolation. He heard it coming on, as the
spell-bound in a hideous dream await, wordless, and shivering, the progress of some chimera
monster, whose grasp is to crush and destroy. He knew not the world, no more than the world
knew him; and where to face, or how to turn himself for the support—ay, the common
support—of the unconscious partner of his crime, John had no more notion than a sprawling
infant in the streets might have how to escape the cart-wheel that rolled on to grind over his little
helpless carcass. Yet there she was by his side; a young, gentle, delicate creature, reared in
luxury and elegance; unacquainted with even the name of want: and as he turned, in miserable
smiles, to walk out and think of her and for her this day, he found, after settling his hotel bill, that
of the unusually ample purse supplied by his poor family for his voyage to Spain, only a few
pounds were left. Willing he was to exert himself; but how? His nerves strained to be set to
work; but at what?
He wandered in the direction whither he had been led upon the first morning of his arrival in
Dublin, and once more entered the Phoenix Park. Seeking one of its wild little solitudes, he sat
down, determined to think. Deep as was his despair, no extravagance was now in his mood or his
actions. He did not, as before, cast himself on the ground, nor groan, nor shed a tear. The wretch,
when his death sentence is pronounced, may shrink, or faint away; yet he can afterwards walk
firmly to the gallows, and ascend it without much visible emotion; and thus was John Nowlan at
present sobered, by familiarity with the fate, which, at its first view, made him frantic.
Calmly, therefore, he sat down to reflect and plan. The impulse to throw himself upon his knees
and pray, more than once occurred, but he checked it. From him, he believed, prayer would not only be blasphemous, but useless. Before he durst breathe one aspiration to heaven, his present connexion with Letty must be dissolved and that was impossible.
It also occurred to him to write home for assistance to his mother, or to his sister Peggy; but a
second thought decided against this step too. He had separated himself from them as well as from
God. He could no longer be any thing to them, nor they to him. He must struggle through his
fate, without a friend on earth or in heaven. "Ay," he added, "I have made my bed, and must lie
Centring his thoughts, then, on what he might possibly do by himself, he got before him, with more method than a few weeks previously he could have done, his present situation, his chance of future employment, and the best steps to be taken in setting himself to work. Pounds, shillings, and pence, were included in his calculations; he even took out a pencil and a piece of paper, emptied his purse into his hand, and summed up how long, according to a certain system of economy, he had a chance of not starving, before he should
succeed in obtaining a situation.
After hours of patient and minute arrangement, he arose, determined on a little train of action. Alarmed by the extravagance of the hotel bill, he first resolved to seek some more humble place of residence. As he slowly walked homeward, through an outlet called Phibsborough, notices of "Furnished Lodgings" caught his eye, posted on the windows of some small, but neat and cleanly-looking houses. He entered more than one; even here the terms seemed too high for his means. At last he inspected a single room, accommodated with a turn-up bed, which, in the day-time, was contrived to look like a sofa; and though he disliked the persons who showed it, and the room itself, neat and tidy as it was, still the rent came within his views, and John engaged the lodgings, provided his lady should like them.
Proceeding still homeward, he debated how he should dispose of his watch, as he had determined
to add whatever it would produce to his little stock-purse; indeed, it was already included in his
calculations. Knowing little of the trade of pawnbrokers, he thought his best way would be to
offer the article at a watchmaker's, and he was looking out for a shop of this description, when a
placard of "Money lent," attracted his notice. The announcement puzzled him in the first instance; he was really simple enough to debate the question of its being a benevolent offer to assist the needy: at all events he entered the house, handed his watch at the counter, and received for it about a third of what he had calculated. But then be understood this was only a loan; and trying to feel contented, he hurried to Dawson-street, most anxious about breaking to Letty, in the best manner, his proposed change to Phibsborough; uneasy, on her account, at his long absence, and, in the midst of all his blacker feelings, experiencing the tenderest yearning of the heart, once more to see before him, and to clasp in his arms, the poor devoted one who sat so solitary in her chamber, dependent on him alone for society and happiness.
Letty met him at the door of her apartment, with outstretched arms, and a happier face and freer
manner than she had lately shown; her mind was lightened by writing her letters to her uncle and
brother, and, as we have seen, hope fluttered in her heart. She had made her toilet, too, with more
than usual care; John saw her dressed in one of the gowns he had purchased for her; altogether,
while she looked perhaps more beautiful than ever, his feelings for her took a peculiar turn of
fondness and devotion; and he folded her to his breast in murmurs of melancholy delight.
As evening approached, he studied to shape, in the most delicate way, the announcement of a
change of abode; but the words stuck in his throat: he knew the lodgings he had selected were too
bumble for Letty's former rank, tastes, and comforts; and he durst not explain why she was not to
be introduced to better lodgings; he durst not speak to her of pecuniary matters yet.
But Letty saved all his feelings on this subject. She had reflected as much as he during the day,
and started her own plans, and taken her own resolutions.
"Dearest John," she said, as they sat side by side before dinner, "perfect confidence should exist
between all married persons, and especially between us, on account of our peculiar situation. You
know I have no property in my own right, or at my own immediate disposal, and I know you are
similarly circumstanced; and until our friends think of forgiving and assisting us, of which I do
not despair, whatever little funds we possess between us should be known to both, and all placed
in your hands: so, dear John," as she hid her face on his neck, "keep this little purse for me; it is
the amount of a half-year's pocket-money allowed by my generous uncle, and I brought it out
upon that evening—the evening we met—to apply it to some particular purposes;—now we
may surely use it ourselves."
He put up the purse without an observation.—"And I have been thinking, too, how very expensive this place is; you must, every way, have already spent much money, dear John; and the sooner we leave it for a humbler abode—a very humble one—(you know, though lately accustomed to luxury, my early life, at my father's, was thrifty and humble enough)—why,John, the sooner that step is taken, the better. We can await, anywhere, answers to my letters."
The same evening they occupied the single apartment at Phibsborough. When Letty first entered
it, John did not see her strange glance around; he only saw the smile she assumed as he turned to
consult her features, and heard the cheering tone in which she compelled herself to admire the
little thriftily-contrived room, and say it even went beyond her expectations, and was a state-room compared with that assigned to herself and three of her sisters at Mount Nelson.
But, notwithstanding Letty's manner and expressions, John continued to dislike, on her account,
and indeed on his own, the room, and the house, and the people of the house, and every thing
connected with it and them. His dislike of the very first day increased each day he remained; and
yet be could not exactly tell why. It was not a very wretched house, and they were not ill-conducted or disreputable people; on the contrary, their abode and themselves bespoke independence, even comfort; and yet he had an indefinable notion that it was all mean, pinching economy, miserly comfort, unwarranted neatness and propriety; cold, heartless, worthless independence. It more overpowered him with ideas and apprehensions of poverty, than could a scene and group of squalid misery; and he feared the same impression would be made on Letty.
Although very small, containing, indeed, but four rooms altogether, every inch of this house had
been made the most of; nay, over-occupied, over-attended to, over-done, in fact. From his
window John looked into a little yard, around which were various wooden sheds, clumsily
constructed in his evening leisure hours, by the old man of the establishment, assisted by as old a
helper, a kind of jack-of-all-trades in the neighbourhood, and composed of all the scraps of
boards and staves both could pick up, here and there, without paying for them. There was a little
shed for coals, another for turf, another for ashes, another for odds and ends; another for "case of
necessity;" and in the middle of the yard rose an impoverished grass plat, from which a sickly
laburnum tree vainly strove to draw moisture for its scanty boughs and leaves. Below stairs, in
the parlour, was the bed of the old couple; a daughter and a niece slept in the kitchen; and next to
John's room, was another chamber "to be let." Each apartment was barely furnished, (and yet
furnished) with articles selected, from time to time, wherever they could be found cheapest, of
the oldest known fashion, and all out of suit with one another; yet all shining and polished from
incessant care, into a presumptuous appearance of respectability. An oil-cloth, composed of three
different scraps, of different patterns, spread over the little hall, or passage, from the street-door;
a shame-faced attempt at a hall lamp, suspended by the old man's peculiar contrivance, dangled
so low as to oblige one, at the risk of one or two shillings for a new green glass, to stoop under it,
or walk round it; and the little narrow stairs boasted a strip of carpet, half as narrow as itself,
patched up, like the oil-cloth, darned over and over, like the heels of all the old fellow's stockings, and yet absolutely looking smart from endless brushing and dusting every day, and shaking and beating once a week.
The carpet of John's own room was an extraordinary patch-work of diamond bits of cloth,
showing every colour in the rainbow, and each no bigger than the corner of a card. His sofa-bed
was covered, during the day, with stamped calico of a venerable pattern, half washed out; his one
window had a curtain of a different pattern, and his five chairs, covers still diversified. His one
table was of old mahogany, dark even to blackness, and shining as a mirror; his chest of drawers
was of oak, more ancient still, and also glittering so as to put him out of patience; his corner
cupboard pretended to be Chinese; six high-coloured, miserable prints hung in black frames, and
at the most regular distances round the room, of which three sides were papered, and one
wainscot; but the old people had ventured on one modern article, in the shape of a long narrow
chimney-glass, set in a frame of about an inch deep, and presenting to the eye about as faithful a
reflection of the human face, as might a river or a lake with the wind blowing high upon it; nay, a
row of flower-pots were placed inside the window, in a curious frame-work; as if to show a
wanton exultation in the midst of this scene of beggarly contrivance, flowers had actually been
prostituted in its service, and Nature's rarest perfumes deemed well employed in scenting its
shreds and patches, and its crazy "fragments of an earlier world."
"Poor flowers!" sighed Letty, after she had given them one first and only look; "poor flowers!
what brought ye here?"
The old man, who had some petty situation of thirty or forty pounds a year in some public office,
was upwards of seventy-five years, tall, shrivelled, stooped in the neck, ill-set on his limbs, and
with a peculiar drag of one leg, which, from certain reasons, and taken with other things, rendered him very disagreeable to John. He was obliged to be up every morning at seven, in order to reach his office, or place of occupation, by eight; and he might be heard creeping about the lower part of the house, making the parlour and kitchen fires, to save his daughter and niece so much trouble; cooking his own solitary breakfast, his fat wife lying in bed; and then cautiously shutting the hall-door after him, as, rubbing his hands, he tried to bustle off in a brisk, youthful pace, to his important day's work. His voice could never be heard in the house: if ever a man of a house lived under petticoat law, it was he. The coarse, masculine, guttural tones of his spouse often rose indeed to some pitch; but his, never. In other respects, too, he showed utter pusillanimity of spirit. He would never appear to John, in answer to a summons for arranging any misunderstanding (and several there soon arose) between him or poor Letty, and the daughter or
niece: his wife always represented him; and he would run to hide behind a door, or into the yard, if he heard John's foot on the stairs, during these domestic commotions; nay, even when all was at peace, his habitual poverty of nerve urged him to shun a single rencontre with his lodger; or, perhaps, he still dreaded to be called to account for any thing his wife or daughter had said; and whenever he was caught by John in the passage, or the yard, his fidgets, as he lisped and mumbled, and continually tapped his chest with one hand, ever complaining of his asthma, called up sentiments of irresistible disgust.
His sole attempts at manhood we have indicated, in describing the way he used to step out to his
day's labour every morning. But rarer proofs of this still farcical and contemptible humour came
under John's eye. As he and his ancient fellow-labourer before described (a contrast to him, by
the way, being square-built, erect in his body, cross in his temper, and loud and independent in
his tones,) used to fumble about in the yard of an evening, chopping or sawing sticks and rotten
boards, and mending the little sheds with them, or for ever watering the roots of the sad
laburnum tree, there was a would-be briskness in his every motion, (he knew his wife was always looking at him out of the parlour window,) an energy in the way he grasped his saw, adze, or hammer, or his watering pot, and jerked them from hand to hand or upon a bench, when he had done with them; all of which plainly bespoke his ambition not to pass for "so very old a man, neither;" certainly to give the idea that he was a miracle for his age.
Every Sunday he appeared caparisoned for church in a complete shining suit of black, taken out
of a press, and in a hat, also shining, extracted from one of his wife's early bandboxes; the clothes
and the hat some ten years in his, or rather in her possession, and thus displayed once a-week
during that period, yet both looking as if sent home the Saturday night before; and, indeed,
considering that they had encountered scarce three months of careful wear altogether, namely,
the wear of about two hours every seventh day for ten years, it was not after all so surprising they
should look so new. Sometimes his wife allowed him to invite to a Sunday dinner five or six old
men like himself, all clad in shining black too; and when John saw them come crawling towards
the house, or, joined with their host, crawling and stalking about the yard, he felt an odd
sensation of disgust, such as he thought might be aroused by the sight of so many old shining
black-beetles; the insects that, of all that crept, were his antipathy and loathing.
His wife has been called fat; she was so, to excess; so much so, that she waddled under her own
fardel—herself; but she was strong and sturdy too; and her waddle did not lessen the length and
stamp of her stride, when, upon occasions that required a show of authority, she came out to
scold, or, as her niece called it, to "ballyrag," in the kitchen, at her handmaidens, or in the hall, at
her poor lodgers up stairs. Then the little house shook from top to bottom under her heavy and
indignant step, as well as with the echoes of her coarse man's voice, half smothered amid the fat
of her throat, and the sputterings of her great pursy lips. And poor Letty also shook, from top to
toe, on these occasions, and flew for shelter to John's arms.
When not called upon thus to enforce law in any refractory branch of her garrison, Mrs. Grimes
spent the day in a vast indolent armchair, reading pathetic novels of the last age, or casting up her
accounts, to re-assure herself, over and over again, of the pounds, shillings, and pence, laid up
during the last month or week, and how half a farthing might be split for six months to come.
Every day, by twelve o'clock, she was dressed "like any lady," (still according to her niece,) to
receive her cronies, or strike with importance the tax-collectors or landlord's agent, none of
whom had ever to call a second time; and that was her constant boast; but even there, shut up in
her parlour, the old female despot was fully as much dreaded as if her voice and her stride
sounded every moment through the house,—or as much as if she had lain there screwed down
in her coffin, and that, at the least turn of a hand, herself or her ghost might come out to roar for a
Her daughter and niece (the latter an orphan) supplied the place of a servant maid, in lieu of the
eating, drinking, and sleeping, such as it was, that came to their lot. They were of a size, and that
size very little; of an age, and that more than thirty; but from their stunted growth, hard, liny
shape, and non-descript expression of features, might pass for ten years younger, or ten years
older, as the spectator fancied. They gave no idea of flesh and blood. They never looked as if
they were warm, or soft to the touch. One would as soon think of flirting with them, as with the
old wooden effigies to be found in the niches of old cathedrals. They imparted no notion, much
less sensation of sex. But they were as active as bees, and as strong as little horses; and as
despotic and cruel, if they dared, and whenever they dared, as the old tyrant herself. From the
moment they arose in the morning, thump, thump, thump, went their little heels, through the
passage, to the kitchen, up stairs and down stairs, or into the parlour, to see after the fires the old
man had lighted; to make up the beds; to prepare breakfast; to put every thing to rights; to sweep,
to brush, to shake carpets, to clean shoes, knives, and forks; to rub, scrub, polish, and beautify,
for ever and ever; the daughter always leading the niece; and the whole of this gone through in a
sturdy, important, vain-glorious manner; accompanied by slapping of doors, every two minutes,
and (ever since Letty had refused to go down to the parlour to join an evening party,) by loud,
rude talking, and boisterous laughing, just to show that they did not care a farthing for the kind of
conceited poor lodgers they had got in the house.
The housekeeping of the establishment was peculiarly loathsome to John. The baker had never
sent in a loaf, bun, roll, biscuit, or muffin, since the day, now some fifteen years ago, when Mrs.
Grimes came to reside in the neighbourhood: and even the home-made bread was of the coarsest
possible quality, and often used a fortnight after it had been baked. Each day, the dairy-man left
one halfpenny worth of milk at the door. They made their own precious mould candles, or burnt
such nefarious oil in the kitchen lamp, or, upon a gala night, in the passage, as poisoned and
fumigated the whole house. The morning tea leaves were preserved and boiled for evening. No
eggs, no fresh butter ever appeared. The fires, after having been once made up in the morning,
were slaked with a compost of coal-dust and yellow clay, which, shaped into balls, also formed
stuffing between the bars. Upon a Saturday evening, the old man sneaked out to drive hard
bargains for some of the odds and ends left in the butcher's stall after the day's sale; and these,
conveyed home by stealth, furnished, by means of salting and hanging up in a cool place,
savoury dinners for the week. Upon a washing-day, starch was made out of potatoes, to save a
No charity was in the house, nor in a heart in the house. In the faces of all professed beggars the
street door was slammed without a word, but with a scowl calculated to wither up the wretched
suitor; and with respect to such as strove to hide the profession under barrel-organs, flutes, flageolets, hurdy-gurdies, or the big-drum and pandean pipes, their tune was, indeed, listened to, but never requited.
Yet the family was a pious family. Mr. and Mrs. Grimes sallied out to church every Sunday, and
sat at the parlour window every Sunday evening, (while their daughter and niece went, in turn, to
have a rest, as they said,) a huge old Bible open before them, and visible to all passers by, that
the neighbours might remark—"There's a fine old couple." John, however, thought it odd, that
after all this, his cold mutton or his cold beef used to come up to him, out of the safe, (a pretty
"safe," truly) rather diminished since he had last the pleasure of seeing it; and one Sunday
evening, after listening for half an hour to the daughter's shrill voice, reading the Bible before
supper, when, on particular business, he somewhat suddenly entered the parlour, he was still
more surprised to find the good family seated round the ham, (a rare temptation, no doubt, in
their system of housekeeping) which that day had formed part of his dinner.
But nothing irked him half so much as the ostentatious triumph over starvation, the provoking
assumption of comfort, nay, elegance, as it were, and the audacious independence which resulted
from the whole economy. He felt it, as before hinted, to be the most irritating specimen of
poverty. Old Grimes's glossy Sunday coat, perpetually the same, was worse than the clouted
gaberdine of a roving beggar. Every burnished thing around him seemed to shine with a beggarly
polish. The whole house and its inhabitants had an air of looking better than they really were, or
ought to be; and the meanness, the sturdiness, the avarice, the hard-heartedness, that produced
this polish and this air, he considered as loathsome as the noise, the thumping about, the loud
talking, and the endless fagging of the two little skinny Helots was brazen and vexatious.
We should not, indeed, have so long dwelt on this domestic sketch, did we not wish to give some
clear idea of the causes, that, during many weeks, while he and Letty awaited an answer from the
country, served to keep up, in John's mind, a continued though petty ferment. And still no answer
came; and at last his poor companion began to droop, and, like him, despair: although she did not
dream how long his feelings had anticipated her.
Almost their last pound had been changed, when a large and bulky letter was finally delivered by
the postman, directed to John. He tore open the envelope, and found two notes for himself, and
one for Letty. He waited to hear hers: it was from her brother, as follows:—
"MY DEAREST SISTER,
"I write in the greatest hurry, by stealth, and against the vehement commands of our dear uncle.
He is indignant, and, I fear, not to be moved;—yet do not quite despair: whatever a brother can
do, I will do. You know how close he holds me in money matters, and lately he has even tightened his hand, lest (as I suppose) I should bestow his allowances where he knows my heart inclines me: so that,
dear Letty, I can only inclose a poor ten pounds, until better times, which I hope are not far off,
though I fear they are. God bless you. Your immediate family are still more outrageous. Heaven
melt and convert them all, prays your affectionate brother,
As Letty remained stupified over this note, John began to read his epistles aloud, in a deep,
"DEAR, DEAR, JOHN,
"What can I say? what comfort can I offer? Oh, nothing; none. Oh, did you see us, it would
move your heart;—but that is moved, I am sure, by this time, at least; if, indeed, it was ever
hard or wicked, which I, for one, will not believe. My husband—the husband you have given
me, dear John, tells me where to address this; and you will find a line from another friend—or
one that was a friend, your best friend—along with it. Oh, listen to him, John, dear brother,
listen to him; listen to us all. Humiliation, time, penance, and a good life, may yet go near to
make up for the past, if you would only turn your heart to think of it: but if you do not, oh see
what is to happen! Read his letter, and see! God help you, John; and God help me, your loving
sister, and the poor old couple, and their grey hairs. I don't know what to think! Oh God, pity, in
particular, the poor young lady, who, whatever way you turn, must be the victim!
"John, Dearest John, I have thought of your situation in every view; and, with other things,
remembered you would want what your poor Peggy has not to give, and strove to procure it
elsewhere, from father and mother, and from another person, now nearer to me than either, but
all in vain; And oh, dear, poor brother! what are you to do? or what am I to do, who cannot assist
you? Once more, on my knees, I pray of a merciful Heaven to have mercy on you.
"Oh, John, I thought Frank, at least, could send you help, and I asked him again and again; but
from what he says, I believe he has very little in his power, indeed. And I'll say nothing, John,
about the kind of husband he is to me; not a word: for not a word to give you fresh pain would I
say for worlds. You had your own reasons for the part you took; and no matter now, until we
meet again, and can speak of them. But John, John, will that meeting ever come? No one but
yourself is able to answer. And again I cry out to you, in tears and misery, listen to us all, and,
above all, to him who writes along with me. I have told you nothing of our father and mother: I dare not tell you any thing; but God look down on them and you, is the prayer of
Your miserable sister,
Before he had read aloud a dozen lines of this epistle, John saw he must not continue to
communicate its contents to Letty. Accordingly he told her, with a gloomy smile, it contained
nothing but silly lamentations ftom his sister, which, while they were natural, would only serve
to give her unnecessary pain; and therefore he prayed Letty to excuse his silence. Then he
finished the reading, to himself, with a brow of studied ease, a frozen eye, and a nerve braced to
desperate firmness; and, without pausing, took up the accompanying letter, to which Peggy had
alluded, and which his heart readily instructed him to anticipate. We transcribe it also:
"Wretched man! It was, then, you indeed, whom I saw in Dublin; although I could no more trust
my eyes to the appearance you made, than I could trust my ears to the monstrous story of your
scandal and sin, which awaited my return to this place. It is said here, it is believed here, that
your fall was not from the temptation of the moment, but rather the accomplishment of a plan,
long studied, and, with deep deceit, carried into effect at your leisure. Even your bishop thinks
this of you; but can it be possible? was that letter you wrote me, and was your story to your poor
father and mother, (God pity them!) about going to Spain, all a deception? a contrivance to raise
means for your horrid purpose? John Nowlan, I strive to believe, to hope, it was not. I pray
morning and night, that you may not ultimately prove such an unparalleled sinner:—I recollect
your youth, your character,—or what, perhaps, in my blindness, I supposed to be your character;
I recollect our communings together; I recollect the laying bare your heart to me in the
confessional, and those recollections give me the hope.
"But, listen to me, John Nowlan. Only in one way can you confirm my hope; only in one way
can you prevent certainty of the worst kind against yourself; and oh, miserable young man, only
in one way can you ward off the dreadful curse that is collecting to burst over your head.—If
you have fallen but through impulse, arise, and stand erect through reflection. Turn your back
upon your sin, and your face to God and to your church—accuse yourself—humble
yourself—repent—cry aloud for pardon and mercy, even after punishment—cry aloud for
sackcloth upon your body, and ashes upon your head—ask to moisten the bitter bread of years
to come, with your more bitter tears—and thus alone can you hinder even me from regarding
you as a pre-determined sinner—thus alone can you hinder all Christian people from shuddering
at your name—thus alone can you stay the final anathema of your insulted church and the
etemal wrath of your insulted God.
"Already, of course, you are a suspended priest; and your bishop awaits but your answer to this
letter, ere he commands me to pronounce your name as accursed among your own people, from
the altar of your own chapel, and by the lips of your own priest and relation, and oldest friend. I
say to you, John Nowlan, tremble!—But a few days stand between you and your earthly curse,
and your long woe.
This letter, too, John read to himself, without betraying to Letty's observation an iota of the
confirmed despair which it fastened on his heart. He even smiled, again, as he put it up; and,
turning to her, strove to talk cheeringly of the future. He could exert himself, and gain some little
independence, he said, notwithstanding the anger of all their friends; or until they should grow
more forgiving until his own stifled and cramped heart should burst into shivers, he should
have said, for that was what he felt.
He sat down by Letty's side, and seeing her still stupified, or else wrapped in reflection,
continued to speak empty words of comfort. Tomorrow, John said, he would go out, and think of
looking after some reputable employment. He was a good classical scholar, and he had heard that
in Dublin a handsome income was to be derived from but limited tuition. Letty suddenly started,
looked full at him, again cast her eyes on the ground, and seemed really engaged with her
The day, the evening, the night, wore away, and he did not stir from her side. They prepared to
retire to their humble bed, and Letty fell on her knees, and, with swimming eyes, asked him to
join her in prayer. He laughed, slightly, and said he was so cold he would pray in bed. She
continued long kneeling; then, still in unrestrained but silent tears, her head lay for hours on his
breast, both awake, though neither spoke. At last John heard her breathe more quietly; after a
further pause assured himself she was fast asleep; then he gently removed her head from his
breast, wet with her poor tears; and then, and not till then, the passion—the loaded shell of
passion—that had so long remained fuzing in his breast,—exploded in the silence of the night.
He sat up, flung aside the covering from his burning body, and, in an instinctive effort to hide his
eurntion from the unconscious creature at his side, desperately grasped the ticken in his spasmed
"Ay," he thought, "let them do their worst!—let them brand me—curse me—outlaw me here,
and bar the gate of mercy against me hereafter!—I am prepared for it—I expected it—body
and soul were freely staked before they spoke—yet let them have a care!—Their vengeance
upon me is nothing—shall be borne—but if, through ruin to me, ruin shall fall upon this
sleeping innocence, now at my side—if, by their curse and ban, my exertions in her behalf
shall be cramped, so as that she must be a common victim—by the Heaven that I have outraged,
and that casts me off, they may rue it sorely!"
Had John been called on to define the kind of vengeance he threatened, he could have given no
answer; yet this burst of excitement somewhat relieved him; it was a partial escape of the pent-up
volcano. No gentler relief would, indeed, come. He reverted to Peggy's letter, to its simple and
touching tone, to her deep affliction at home;—to the whole picture of home, such as he had
made it—yet not a tear flowed. Her half allusion to "the husband he had given her," and her
mysterious hints as to the life they led together, supplied more matter to his boiling mood, than
could her sorrow and her sisterly affection. He flamed impatiently at the thought of his having
been too precipitate in forcing Peggy to marry Mr. Frank—in giving him a command and right
over her. His whole soul rose as he allowed himself to doubt the truth of Maggy's information.
And then the depth and ambiguity of Frank's character began further to oppress and irritate him;
be brought to mind how lamely did Frank's letter of that day hold the promise of friendship given
to him upon the accursed evening, when the young gentleman first turned his eyes to his present
ruin; the letter did not in fact, mention his name; and again, John, getting before him a supposed
case, muttered to himself vague threats of revenge.
As the morning broke on his sleepless eye, his former mood of composed despair again closed
round him; and again he was able, by an anomalous operation of mind that is one of the wonders
of our nature, to form deliberate calculations for the coming day. When the hour for rising approached,
he shut his eyes that Letty might think him asleep.
They breakfasted without speaking much to each other; and when John proposed to go out in
search of an engagement, Letty quietly bade him farewell. He returned about four o'clock, and
did not find her at home. He enquired when she had gone out, and the little kiln-dried niece
sullenly answered, a few minutes after himself. Dreadful apprehensions crowded upon his mind;
but in about an hour, a knock came to the door, and Letty, modestly dressed, pale, fatigued, and
yet with a tearful smile, fell on his neck.
"Oh, love, love, have you succeeded?" she asked.
"Not yet, but I have hopes still, Letty. I called at every public academy I could enquire out; they
were all supplied with efficient teachers: they told me, however, to advertise for private tuitions,
and, no doubt, I should have employment. And now, Letty, where have you been? and why give
me the shock of not finding you at home? Oh, it was dreadful."
"I did wrong there, indeed; I should have contrived to be home before you:—where have I been,
you ask? Where, John, but trying, like you, to procure the means of honourable
subsistence?—and, oh, dearest John! thank God, I return more successful!"
"How? where? what do you mean?"
"I'll tell you all:—long ago, thinking of the worst, I purchased a few little materials unknown to
you, and whenever you left me alone for an hour, sat down to make drawings, from recollection,
of some of my former studies; and—now hear me out—when you spoke of tuition yesterday, it
occurred to me, for the first time, that I might teach drawing as well as sell my little works; and
so, John, when you went out, I hid my drawings under my shawl, and went out too;
and"—smiling—"while you were calling at the academies, I was calling at the boarding-
schools; but they all refused me, intimating that an introduction would be necessary; and I was
turning down the steps of the last, sad enough, when—when a good lady, who"— her voice
broke—"who just then stepped out of her carriage at the next door, saw my tears, I believe, and
stopped me, and addressed me very kindly and politely, and returned into the carriage with me,
and was good enough to look at my poor drawings and praise them, and offer to—to purchase
them"—Letty here blushed scarlet as she wept;—" and she did purchase them, John; and,
besides, she has daughters, and I am to teach them! and this, dear love, was what kept me out so
long." Again she fell on his neck.
"Did the lady ask any questions about your situation?" enquired John.
"She did, and I freely answered—for I believe I was surprised into some energy; I answered,
that I had made a marriage, which, on account of a difference of religion, displeased my
husband's friends and mine."
"Did you say I was a priest, Letty?"
"No, that was not necessary; particularly as you are not a priest now; I only mentioned, in answer
to the lady's questions, that I was a Protestant, and that you had been a Roman Catholic, and it
seems our good patroness is a Roman Catholic too, and perhaps on that account more disposed to
assist me for your sake."
"'Tis likely," observed John; "but thanks, at all events, my own dear Letty, for this heroic proof
of your love; I need not say why I think it heroic—I will only say I am grateful."
He pressed her, still in despairing tenderness, to his heart, and endeavoured to show that he
shared with her a happy evening. Letty, romantic and enthusiastic as she was, felt proud of
herself; her sparkling eyes, brilliant smiles, and cheering and playful conversation, told that she
triumphed in the idea of having made a successful sacrifice and effort for the chosen of her heart;
and the vivacity of youth lacquered the future with delusive promise.
At first, indeed, all seemed promising. Letty not only succeeded in pleasing her first pupils, but,
through them, got many others; and further, her friends interested themselves about John, and
procured him also private tuitions, of which the produce, added to Letty's earnings, enabled them
to live above fear of want. This turn of good fortune happened two months after their arrival in Dublin, and continued four months longer. Then, however, a change as terrible as it was unaccountable occurred. One by one their friends grew cold and distant; one by one their pupils were withdrawn from them; until, at last, while neither could guess a solution of the mystery, that at once struck them with wonder and consternation, Letty had not a tuition left, and John had but one.
While they wondered, and drooped, and trembled, want closed round them more formidably than
ever. The receipts from one pupil did not meet a third of even their humble daily expenditure;
and first, they were left without a pound; and next—after both had repeatedly gone out, each
unknown to the other, to dispose of different articles of dress—without any means of existence.
Then it was, while weeks of lodging-money became due, that they trembled at the sound of their
tyrant landlady's voice; then it was, as their poor attire and sad brows bespoke, too plainly, the
state of their purse, that the rude flaunts of the hard-grained little daughter and niece sank into
their souls; then it was that, by tacit consent, they often went out at dinner-hour, pleading an
engagement to the sneering attendant, to wander by the lonesome banks of the adjacent canals,
Letty weeping away her heart, and John stifling the despair of his, until he felt as if it would
shiver his breast in atoms; then it was that they feared to face home—alas, it was not
home!—to encounter the malignant consciousness of their poverty, that they' thought they'
could read in the eyes of the creature who should open the door to their timid knock. Then it was
that they felt the realities of the world, and, John believed, the first pouring out of their curse.
To his single tuition they could only cling, in dismal hopes of its producing others. Meantime,
poor Letty, long ignorant of the first enfeebling symptoms, that, to an older eye, would have
proclaimed her situation, at last knew she was to be a mother. John suspected the fact—and only
suspected it—and in the silence of one dreary and bitter night, asked her if it were so.—"Your
child stirs with life, under my bosom!" she answered, in showering tears, and yet in a tender
The event differently affected them. Letty trembled at the thought of not having a shilling to
provide for her time of trial, or to purchase for her baby the commonest things necessary to
shelter it from the winds of heaven. It was now the beginning of a very cold April, and she had
not a warm shawl or cloak to shelter herself. In fact,—miserable as is the fact—the only
covering she had left was the old gown she wore every day. John heard, in fullness of horror that
equalled only his despair, the announcement of his being about to be a father. That wretched
infant, when born, would but prove the record of its father's guilt. Now, he could not even die
and be forgotten; his child would live after him, and leave, perhaps, another child, and that
another still, so that the memory of the blasphemer must be perpetuated, in his race, upon earth.
His abject state of poverty, and the sufferings in store for Letty, gave him, indeed, dreadful anguish;
but this, above all others, was the prepossession that brooded over his soul.
In the eighth month of Letty's pregnancy, instead of John's single tuition leading to others, he
received a cold note from his young pupil's father, dispensing with his attendance even upon that
one. He snatched up his hat, and ran to the gentleman's house, at last determined to demand a
solving of this withering mystery. The person on whom he called was not at home, or was denied
to him; but, as he turned away from the door, an individual came out, and an eye met his, that at
once seemed to supply an explanation. It was an old class-fellow in the Bishop's school at
Limerick, ordained long before him, and, as he now recollected, since officiating as a coadjutor
in a Dublin parish. They exchanged one deep look; and the young priest turned away, while John
rushed through the streets in an opposite direction.
Arrived at home, wild and breathless, he could no longer doubt the secret of his ruin. His and
Letty's friends had all been Roman Catholics; the story of the runaway priest had reached Dublin;
had become whispered about; this brother clergyman, his own early friend and neighbour, had
doubtless recognized his name,—which John had never thought of disguising,—or perhaps
seen his person; and the excommunicated and hardened sinner had consequently been shaken out
of Christian society.
Trembling with mingled rage, despair, and terror, still he would ask an explanation; and he wrote
and despatched to the gentleman he could not meet at home, a peremptory note, which was thus
"Mr. —— acquaints the Rev. John Nowlan, that he cannot, with satisfaction or propriety, entrust the education of his son to a Roman Catholic clergyman who keeps a mistress."
"Curses!" screamed John, starting up, after he had read this billet,— Letty, terribly alarmed,
enquired what was the matter—"Ruin! destruction!" he answered, stamping on the note; "come!
we are hunted out of this—out of this city, as we shall be hunted through this world! come!"
"Whither?" she asked.
"Anywhere, Letty! anywhere out of the streets of Dublin—I durst not again show myself in
them; the common rabble would shower curses on my head! Come, get up, and dare not to pray!"
Mrs. Grimes's daughter here opened the door without ceremony, and to John's furious "What do
you want?" answered, that her mother would be much obliged, if, instead of stamping and
roaring, to bring down the house, he would let her have her three weeks' lodging.
The note that had released him from his last tuition enclosed about the amount of the demand
now made; he flung it to the little creature, and shut the door in her face. After an instant's pause,
he again rose up, and desiring Letty to meet him at a certain point on the Circular Road, left her
to follow. Hastily putting on her shabby little bonnet, and wrapping round her the relic of an old thin shawl,
she soon obeyed him. He was not at the place appointed. She waited for him, shaking with horrid
fears. At last he ran up to her, without a hat, and without the surtout that had served to cover the
broken under-coat he lately wore beneath it.
"I have it!" he cried, as he held out his clasped hand, in which were the few shillings he had just
obtained. "You shall see what it is, Letty; you shall not starve on the road from Dublin; but come
now any road from Dublin! in any other distant place let us hide our heads; I can change my
name, you know, and all will be well: come; when you grow tired I will carry you, awhile, in my