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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 81, 1 April 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
AN UNPLEASANT ADVENTURE. I was travelling in the winter of 1867 in one of the most beautiful and mountainous districts of Ireland, when I accidentally encountered some members of the famous Fenian Brotherhood about whom we have heard so much. My tour was on foot, and one afternoon, when the daylight was fast departing, I found myself in the midst of a series of ranges of hills of more dr less magnitude,
and saw that my path lay directly over Hi cm ; if I hoped to reach the village for which I was hound before night set in. Slowly and wearily I plodded onwards, finding out, as each step seemed more difficult, that the way I had chosen was a very toilsome one, and the sun sank behind the range of hills in front of mo just as I readied the bottom of the first valley. A violent snow-storm increased the darkness, and in a few minutes I could hai’dly see a j'ard before me. Slowly and laboriously I toiled up one range after another, not being able in the darkness and snow to choose the easiest paths, till, after several hours of tedious climbing, I was completely exhausted. Just as I rounded the base of one range I saw a light, apparently from a cottage some distance before me higher up the mountain, and I joyfully made for it. Tho rude shelter of an Irish hovel would bo a blissful exchange for the fury of the tempest bn such a night. It was not the only cottage on the side of the mountain : there were several others, but scattered at a distance from each other, so that I could not then perceive them. They were, like the hovels of most of the native Irish, of a miserably poor kind, seldom having more than two apartments —the kitchen and the “ room,” as it is called ; often only one. The walls were built of mud, the old rotten and mossgrown thatch, sinking in here and there, let in both rain and wind ; the windows were mere holes in the wall, stuffed with straw or closed by a wooden board at night. The fire in such cottages—of peat, orturf as it is called —burns on the floor, and the smoke finds exit by a hole in the thatch, or by the door. The pig occupies the best place by the fire. “And who’d have a better right to it, yer honour 1 sure, an’ isn’t it him that pays the rint 1” says the tenant. The manure-heap, or at least a green stinking pool, stands just before the door ; and a fierce, snarling, dirty cur keeps angry watch over the family possessions. Such a hovel was that which 1 now entered. There was no one within but an elderly woman, dressed in miserable rags ; a tolerably good peat fire was burning on the hearth, and a pot full of Indian meal stirabout was set thereon, and being assiduously tended by her. “ A wild night, ma’am,” said I, as I entered. “ Will you be good enough to allow me to rest in your cottage till morning, fori am fairly exhausted crossing the mountains, and the snow-storm is so severe 1 can get no farther? I will pay you well for my night’s lodging.” Troth will I, yer honor,” she replied. “An’ it’s not pay ye need be talkin’ of, for I wouldn’t see a dog outside my door sich a night as this an’ not take the craythur in, let alone a Christian. Where was it ye came from ? ’Deed an’ ye had a wild read across the mountains the night.” And as she spoke I drew near her fire, and warmed my well-nigh frozen limbs. “ Whisht, here’s a stool for yer honor,” she said, wiping one as well as it might be done with her apron. “Ye don’t belong to this country ?” “No, ma’am,” I replied. “I live near Dublin, but I come from England. ” “ From England did ye V she said quickly. Then went on after a short pause, “ What will I do wid ye when the boys come in ? they 7 mightn’t be plased to ' find ye here. ” ’ “Why should they not 2” I said. “I shall bo glad to make friends with them.” “Oh, it’s not our own boys,” she re- ! plied, “ they’re quiet enough ; but there’s a power of the neighbor boys was to be in here the night for a meetin’ like, an’ they’ll be afther havin’ a dthrap to ; warm them maybe, an’ betimes they be . hasty like.” “ What kind of a meeting is it to be 1” I said. “ Well, your honor, it’s a sort of a meetin’ the boys are goin’ to have : that’s . all I know . and there’ll be speechifying, . an’ the like ; an’ Mick, that’s the head o’ \ them, he’s oncomraon wicked when he’s „ got a dthrap o’ dthrink, an’ swears he’ll put his knife through the first Sassenach s he can find, an’ Barney he’s as bad, an’ ( you’re like a dacent gentleman, an’ 1 wouldn’t like to see no harm come of it, ' an’ in my house, too, that’s a quate widdy ( this fifteen years come Candlemas.” Here -was a pleasant prospect for me. , The civil old woman’s evident anxiety ! made me excessively nervous. I was aware that the use of the knife was be- , coming too common in this particular ’ county', and of the bitter feelings enter- ' tained against the Sassenach, whether recently come from England or of a family settled in Ireland ; and I knew how onti rageous was the violence sometimes manifested by the Celtic peasant under the influence of drink. But 1 hardly knew what to do, for if I faced the storm again I was certain to perish on the mountain | from cold and fatigue. While I was medi- : tating somewhat ruefully over my position, the old woman, who had been looking anxiously out at the door, suddenly exclaimed — “Troth thin, .an’ here they are acomin’. Rin intill the room an’ lie down till they be gone. Jimmy an’ Pat sleeps in tho far bed, an’ me an’' Biddy in the near one ; she’s away since Christmas, an’ I’ll be for sittin’ up. Jist lie down on my bed an’ rest, an’ I’ll keep the door shut betwixt.” On the whole, this seemed the best thing to do, so I did as the old woman bid me. The two beds were very poor, though far superior to what may ordinarily be found in Irish cottages, being placed on bedsteads furnished with coarse blue curtains along the outer side, whereas a straw pallet thrown on the ground is the usual sleeping-place. The bedsteads were placed end to end, and completely filled the room, the uncurtained head of the one she bid me lie down on being close against the wooden partition between the two apartments, and the open chinks in the partition a!low r ed me a full view of what passed in the kitchen. Coarse as was the couch, it could not be otherwise than agreeable to my weary frame, but I had hardly thrown myself down on it -when the house door opened, and six or seven young men tramped in, stamping their feet to shake off the snow. “ Good-evenin’ till ye, Judy. Sux’e an’ hei’c’s a night if iver there was one ; it’s mighty little dthx'iilin’ we’ll be afther havin’ the night, barrin’ we do it here in the kitchen.” The speaker was a ferocious-looking, short, thick-set man, powerfully built, and with a hang-dog expression of countenance ; his black brows, shaggy unkempt hair, and badly-shaven face adding to the wildness of his aspect ; he seemed to be regarded as the leader. ‘ ‘ That’ll be a small parade ground for ye, Mick, though most o’ the boys is away the night,” said a more youthful speaker, with a less repulsive countenance. “ We’ll jist niver mind paradin’ and dthnllin’ the night, but take a dthrap more to warm us, and dthx’ink success to ould Ireland an’ dthrownin’ to ivexy Sassenach in her.” Thrue. for ye, Barney,” said the first speaker, “ an’ I’ll jist read a letter for the boys from Anxeriky, from Paddy Phelan ; an’ sure an’ he’s a captain now in the army of the great Irish republic, an’ he says we’re to keep up heart and wox’k all thegither, for that we’ll surely have the boys across from Anxeriky afore Patrick’s Day, an’ thin won’t we see the Sassenachs flyin’ 1” The letter was produced, as was also an ample supply of the potteen, or mountain dew ; but at this stage of the proceedings fatigue got the better of me, and I fell into a sound sleep. I hardly know how long I may have slept, certainly more than a couple of hours, when I was awakened by loud and angry voices in the kitchen ; and looking through the crevices in the wooden partition, I could see the man addressed as
Mick and a younger member of the party facing each other on the floor with angry gestures and violent language. “ Is it you, ye spalpeen, that dar’ say a xvord agin’ me !” ci'ied Mick. “By jabers, but if ye don’t jist do every hap’orth I bid ye, I’ll make sich a scarecrow of ye that yer own dog ’ll bark at ye.” “I dar’ ye, so I do,” shouted the younger defiantly. “ Jist [let me see ye lay a sign of yer finger on me, an’ ye’ll see what I’ll do.” Mick seemed provoked beyond expression at this, and he advanced rapidly and struck his opponent a violent blow on the side of the head. The young man staggered a little, but instantly recovering himself, planted a far straighter and better-delivered blow right in Mick’s face. It was Mick’s turn to stagger now, and one or two of the “boys” shouted, “ Well done, Tom, give it to him again.” This expression of their opinion roused Mick still more; his face grew purple with passion, and calling out to his comrades, would they see their leader beaten and not stand by him ? he was immediately joined by Barney and one of the others, while the three remaining members of the party as quickly sided with Tom, and the scrimmage became general. Mick and Tom had laid hold of each other, and were apparently fighting rather by a kind of wrestling and struggling than by blows, when Tom again managed to throw his antagonist against the jamb wall which, in Irish cottages, generally forms a screen between the outer door and the hearth. Livid with rage, Mick seized a clasp-knife which lay open on a stool beside him, having been apparently used for cutting tobacco, and struck Tom two rapid blows with it, xvounding him first under the ear and then in the Txeart. The poor young man instantly staggered back and expired without a groan. [to be continued.]
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 81, 1 April 1880
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