Volume Two


12


IN THE KIND of place to which they hastened, we are induced to anticipate their probable arrival, by raising the curtain of our last act upon other individuals of our history, about whom, we respectfully hope, our kind readers are, conjointly with them and us, much interested.

     The scene is, indeed, a police-office, to be found on a certain quay of that city of quays, Dublin. Upon the bench, or rather behind the counter, is seated, or rather stands, a learned, amiable, but somewhat deaf old gentleman, whose early profession of barrister was not so all-engrossing as to hinder him, about the meridian of life, from accepting the at least certain and most useful appointment of police magistrate. By his side are his clerk, and occasionally one or two confidential officers. Before him a crowd of watchmen, "constables of the watch," and the jumbled and curious street-sweepings of the last night, all awaiting either to make charges or to meet them as they can; but immediately at the side of the counter, fronting the worthy magistrate, we recognize two acquaintances, Peery Conolly and Molly Houlihan, and by their sides, Anty Nowlan, sitting in a very weak state upon a chair kindly provided for her, and Peggy Nowlan, standing over her and holding her hand.

     At the moment when we look in, Peery and Molly are, with great energy, alternately addressing the bench.

     "Yes, your reverance," says Peery.

     "Whisht, Peery, he's no reverance; he axes pardon, my lard; he's a gawk from the counthry; yes, my lard."

     "Yes, to what?" demanded the magistrate, who, by holding his hand scoop-wise to his ear, required no interpreter to hear the loud tones in which he was addressed: "yes, to what, good people? pray listen a moment."

     "Oh, by all manes, your honour," assented Peery.

     "Spake your mind out, my lard," added Molly, both in a patronizing tone.

     "Thank you. I wish, then, to see if I comprehend you. You were at last conveying the young woman to your lodgings, you say, and—"

     "Yes, plase your lardship," taking up Molly's version of the title, "an' that's what riz the whole o' the last scrimmage on us," interrupted Peery.

     "The what?"

     "He's only a simple-tongued gorçoon, just cum up, my lard; he manes the 'ruction, like."

     "And what does the 'ruction mean?"

     "Lard save us, sure every christhen-sowl on Ireland's ground knows that—the fight, my lard."

     "Yes—that's it;—yes, your honour," pleaded Peery; "Molly was jist for gittin' 'em down the steps o' the cellar, when, up comes Misther Sodger again wid his faction,—'An' now, you baste,' says he to myself, 'I'll have your Irish life, so I will.'—'Will you?' says I—an' I up to him wid the sprong to the end o' the stick."

     "What do you call the sprong?"

     "Hould your whisht, I tell you, Peery, an' let me discoorse his lardship;— jist on the turn o' the stairs, my lard—"

     "No, Molly, you're wrong all over; you war on the flure, when it happened—"

     Musha, Peery, no—; see, my lard—"

     "I hear a great many strange words, but I can see nothing: stand back; and you, my good girl—the elder girl, I mean—pray relate this last part of the case, as briefly as possible."

     "I will tell you, Sir, if I am able."

     "Take time; do not distress yourself."

     "Thank'ee, Sir. Before we got to this good woman's place, we saw Peery Conolly running towards us, and the soldier and his friends following him. Hurrying down the cellar, she and me, with my little sister between us, I heard angry words above, where Peery stood to bear the brunt, and a noise of such things as that," pointing to Peery's bayonet, which, mounted upon his cudgel, he stoutly shouldered—"I knew they were pressing him too hard; I screamed and ran up; other good people came by, and the soldier and his faction ran away."

     "Every word of id, jist as id turned out," said the hero of the tale.

     "As pat as A. B. C." assented Molly, slapping one palm upon the other.

     "Silence!" cried the magistrate, who, though deaf, was inconvenienced by the smack:—" did you then remain in her lodging?"

     "May all good be multiplied ten-fold to her and hers, Sir!—I did; at first, to tell the truth, in doubts of her, the place was so poor and mean; but she undeceived me well, by the comfort she afforded to my sister and me."

     "An' Peery, over head, in the sthreet, wid the bagnet on his shouldher, your lardship," added Molly.

     "Your business here, then, is to prosecute the persons who have insulted you?"

     "No, Sir; we forgive them, and hope they may be forgiven."

     "No, my lard," said Peery; "the 'meeroch' 'ill come on 'em soon enough, widout our helpin' id; may be we'd do a thing to 'em wid our sticks," throwing himself into position, gently flourishing the cudgel, and smiling confidently on the magistrate—"when thrashin' 'ud be good for 'em; but that's no raison we'd turn informers; they shan't have that to throw in our teeth, when we get home to Tipperary." And Peery drew up, full of indignation that it should be supposed he would put his greatest foe into the fangs of the law.

     "It has been mentioned to me that you came to Dublin to seek your father—perhaps you wish this office to assist you?"

     "Oh, Sir! "—Peggy could get no farther.

     "Avoch, no, Sir; too late for that," said Peery.

     "Then what do you all want?"

     "I ask your pardon, Sir," resumed Peggy, trying to check her tears;—"I'll try to tell you about it. This poor faithful boy went at my request to seek my father at the place where we knew he slept, and came back with word that a few moments before he had gone away in a carriage with another person, we didn't know where; home, we think and hope; and so, Sir, as I lost all my money on the road, and my sister lost all her's in that wicked house—and as we are quite strangers in Dublin, we came here—indeed this charitable woman brought us here—to ask—oh, Anty, Anty!"—interrupting herself, and overcome by a sense of her forlorn situation, she fell on her sister's neck.

     "Arrah, look at 'em," blubbered Peery, "an' your lardship sees how it is wid the cratures; that's the up an' down iv id; they have nothin' more to do in Dublin town; an we want to send 'em home again, safe an' sound. The little Molly an' I had was at their sarvice, only they wouldn't hear of that; and there's a great gintleman, a friend o' my own, in the town, or nigh-hand to it, that 'ud give them or me a help, only myself doesn't know where to face to look for him, now that we 're onct asundher; so here we up and we come to beg a bit for 'em; an' if your reverance ud jist bid the dhriver give 'em a lift on the sate, for nothing but out iv love or pity, like—"

     "Do, my lard, an' may you have a long life, a good death, an' a favourable judgment!" interrupted Molly, while tears ran down her harsh man's face.

     "'Tis a sad story enough; yet there are so many impositions—in fact, if the young women can get any one to give them a character——"

     "Och, I'll go bail for 'em," cried Molly.

     "And who are you, pray?"

     "I'm a basket, my lard," dropping a curtsey.

     "A basket!"

     "Yes, my lard; to a Misthess Taffey."

     "She manes that she stops wid a Misthess Taffey, your lardship, a snug woman, in Pill-lane; and Molly is a gossip o' my own; an' I'll go bail for her, and for them too, along wid her."

     "And who are you, too?"

     "Peery Conolly, my lard," judiciously interrupted Molly, as Peery's stick, bayonet and all, began to describe some flourishes round his head, and his nether limbs to shuffle; both movements ominous of the usual rhyming answer, in his usual way—"Peery Conolly, a dacent father's and mother's child, though I say it."

     "Deserted from Captain Rock, I presume."

     "No, in throth, then, your honour," replied Peery, at once changing into a dry, simple subtlety of voice, face and manner;—"I'll never deny there was a thrifle o' that same goin' on in the place; but myself never loved nor liked their night-walkin', from a boy up; and sure they war for swarin' me; an' when I wouldn't, an' for fear they'd be angry, faith I cums away from them all to where's there's pace an' quietness; so there's the holy and blessed thruth, your honour, since your honour put us on sayin' id."

     "Well, we shall not question your loyalty, though we may take that freedom with your simpliciiy; and, on reflection, your respectable bail will do. Here," to an officer, "hold this money, and see the poor girls safe out of town."

     "Glory to you!" screamed Molly.

     "Long may you reign!" chimed Peery; "an' come now, a-vourneens; we'll have you safe back, any how—Murther!—an interruption," as he glanced to the door, "murther in Irish! stand out o' the way, there! hurroo!"

     With one of his hop-step-and-jumps, Peery hurled himself through the people between him and the door, and instantly re-entered, prancing and capering round Daniel Nowlan, and making the peaceful office ring to his egotistical song, which the officers in vain tried to quell.

     "Do you know who brought you a bit of the road in the shay, this morning, Peggy, a corra-ma- chree?" asked the old man, smiling through his tears, after long embraces had been interchanged between him and his daughters.

     She was about to answer, when another bound and another cry from Peery, and the question of—"What brings any thievin' sodger here?" again diverted her attention to the door; and, looking up, John Nowlan appeared leaning against the jamb, pale, trembling, and, his eyes fixed on his sisters, gasping with smothered emotion. At first they did not know him; and there was a pause, during which Peery added, "Where's the sprong?" and approached the supposed intruder. "Softly, man, softly," whispered John, beckoning him; "come here, let me hold you; I can hardly stand; I am their brother, John Nowlan."

     "Och, mille murthers! here, lane your best on me, poor boy! poor priest John!"

     "They will not know me—do you think they will?"

     Peggy had been slowly advancing, her eyes distended and fixed on him; her face set; he breathed hard; his surprise and agony were declared in broken and wheezing sounds that "stuck i' the throat:" she came nearer; he extended his arms; she fell in them with a joyful scream.

     "That's your brother John, Anty," resumed old Daniel, as Anty looked and wondered.

     "That man, Sir! oh, it must be true, for Peggy clings close to him, and you know him too, Sir; but, dear father, you do not know the great relief this gives me; another time you shall. Now must not I, also, embrace my poor brother?"

     The father led her to his arms. Another yell burst from Peery: "Where's the sprong now, in arnest?" he cried out. In wonder, terror, and, from different reasons, common abhorrence, the two sisters clung to their brother, as the miserable Frank passed to the counter, his face haggard, his eyes staring, and his step uneven.

     John Nowlan, with permission of the magistrate, removed his father and sisters to a private room, by which precaution they were saved from witnessing the horrors that ensued.

     The officer, in whose custody Frank had entered, was about to lay his charges before the magistrate, when the appearance of a third party interrupted him; namely, Mr. Long, and his civil authorities, with Maggy Nowlan's mother, Mrs. Carey, and her son Phil. When Mr. Long beheld his nephew, horror seemed to fix him to the spot; nor did the poor wretch himself remain unmoved. Peery Conolly had sidled towards him, and addressed him in a confidential whisper.

     "Why thin, tunder-an'-turf! what sort iv an ownshuck was you, at-all-at-all, to walk in here, of all places in the world wide? I didn't let out the laste word about you; an' if you have as much gumption in your head as a suckin' calf, you'll bid good-b'ye to 'em all round, or not wait for that same, but run for your life—The Lord o' Heaven save us!"—suddenly interrupting himself, and stepping back, terrified at the expression of face with which his advice was received.

     The culprit first fixed his eyes on those of the speaker with a deep, steady despair: his manacled hands slightly moved under his watch-coat; and then his eye contracted; every muscle of his face and body winced, and he drew in and bit his under lip, as if from a sudden sensitiveness of acute pain. The next moment, his features again relaxed; his eye began to grow fixed and glassy; he swayed from side to side, and would have fallen, but for the support of those near him.

     As all looked on aghast, something dropped at his feet. The officer stooped, and took it up. It was a large clasp-knife, smeared with blood; and blood also trickled to the floor, as his person bent forward. Disguising his motions, beneath the loose watch-coat, he had, while staring into Peery Conolly's face, stabbed himself to the core of the heart.

     After a moment, he raised his drooping head, and glared vacantly around, until his dulled eye rested on his trembling uncle: "All I could do for you, Sir," he gasped out, smiling hideously, "was this—it saves me from the hangman's hands."

     He again fell forward. He was borne out; but, before he reached a neighbouring hospital, was a corpse.

     When the confusion occasioned by this sudden catastrophe had some-what subsided, Mr. Long, though shaken in his very soul, was obliged to proceed in his charges against Mrs. Carey and her son. The young murderer shivered with despair under the anticipation of his fate; but his mother showed no emotion. Her clothes torn, and her hair dishevelled, she stood, with folded arms, upright and passive as a statue; and her large and once beautiful black eye, full of the hyena character, that for many years had belonged to it, was fixed, unwinkingly, now on her accusers, now on the magistrate. She did not frown, but her calm, savage glare was appalling.

     "Wretched woman," said the magistrate, "do you not tremble?"

     "Find that out by your larnin'," folding her arms harder; "or, here"— suddenly catching the hand of a near officer, and pressing his fingers upon her pulse; "does yours bate fuller or evener?" And when the man turned away in disgust, he related that the throb was steady and regular as that of innocence at rest.

     Mr. Long, his sad and stern task over, sought the room whither John Nowlan had conveyed the old man and his sisters. David Shearman was now added to their circle. All left Dublin together.

         "Dear Barnes,
     "It was about a month after this day that, in my wanderings among the black Tipperary hills, I became acquainted with the Nowlans, and learned their history. John Nowlan was then suffering under the relapse of a fever, which, accompanied by racking pains in his bones, had seized him the day he crossed his father's threshold. When, about nine months after, I paid the family another visit, I found him restored to health, and, in a degree, to his peace of mind; once more engaged in studious pursuits, and once more habited in black. His misfortunes and experience had thrown a quiet sadness over him: and the humility of sin acknowledged and repented, stamped every feature of his face, and characterized his every look, tone, and motion. He told me he entertained hopes that he would soon he able to soothe his recollections of early crime and sorrow by the discharge of the duties of that sacred profession, to which, under the direction of Mr. Kennedy and his bishop, he was again permitted to look forward.

     "Before I left Daniel Nowlan's truly hospitable roof, on this, my second visit, I had the pleasure of being bridesman to David Shearman, upon the auspicious night of his marriage with my gentle favourite, Peggy. She was married by Mr. Kennedy: Friar Shanaghan, after an excellent day's 'quest,' handing round the bridecake for his secular brother; and Mr. Long, at his own anxious request, gave her away. It was as merry a night as ever I passed. What with good cheer, dancing, and unlimited mirth on every hand, I was in such riotous spirits, that I whispered at Anty's ear my hope of a speedy opportunity of dancing at her wedding, also. The little rogue told me, archly enough, 'it was a great shame, so it was, to be putting such quare things into a child's head;' but, when, by some pleasant reasoning, I had led her to believe the contrary, she engaged me at once to look out for her; adding, 'that if I didn't bring her one that was too little, or one that was too big, or one that was too old, or one that was too ugly, I would not find her very hard to be pleased.' We proceeded in much question and answer, as to the precise kind of man she might really prefer, and I found her, as yet, undetermined. She did, indeed, with more of archness than I suspected her for, give myself some hard knocks, by way of jocular hints: in fact, Barnes, I will talk with you upon this subject, as I consider you a person of more experience in such matters than I am.

"A. O'H."