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TOM REYNOLDS AND THE DEVIL.
BY W, H. MAXWELL, ESQ.,
CONTENTS.-Dctailing certain mercantile travsactious that occurred between Tom
Reynolds and the Gentleinau in Black; how a dissolution of partnership took place between them, and the manner in which the accounts of the firm were wound up by Biddy Braddigan.
The kingdom of Connaught is the fairest quarter of the united realms of her Britannic Majesty, as all candid and intelligent travellers who have explored it unconditionally will admit. The country, as beliered by erudite antiquarians, is the land of Goshen, so favourably wentioned by scriptural writers for its fertility and fine climate. A Kentucky traveller farther describes it as being gloriously disencumbered of forest trees; while wide expanses of grass lands, otherwise tiresome to the eye, are happily relieved by extended surfaces of brown or blooming heather. The population of this favoured corner of the earth are educated, pious, and polite. Milk and honey are occasionally procurable Minerals are in the infancy of discovery; nor are the precious metals, crude or coined, by any means superabundaut. For imports and esports vide the last statistical accounts; and home manufacturers may be generally comprised in Connemara stockings, Welsha wigs, poteeine whiskey, and from the littoral districts sca-weed and shell-fish. The interior of the kingdom of Connemara, if limited in fish supplies, has its peculiar advantages to offer in ample compensation. In holy articles it is rich indeed : it has its stations, its stones, and its wells. Its sacred treasures are its waters; and in fluid wealth Connaught is endowed most munificently.
With one well of peculiar sanctity the business of our story more particularly belongs; and without further preface, we will introduce the reader to that blessed locality called Ball, and also to a gifted clerk, who, at that period, comforted the faithful and dispensed the sacred fluid as required.
The town of Ball is not architecturally regular ; and in general proportions, the principal street is considered inferior to some in the great metropolis. There is nothing particularly striking in the mansions of the resident gentry ; neither are the names of the occupants engraved upon hall door-plates, or, as I have reason to believe, recorded in Burke's Peerage. In its cattle fairs reposeth the glory of Ball. Thither the fashionable of both sexes extensively resort; and for bullocks and beauty--sheep, pigs, and pipers--the sweetest spoleeines* that ever felt the insertion of a flesh fork—and the best potecine that ever, after proper refreshment, saturated a sinner's throat, Ball beats Bannagher all to nothing ; and every one knows what Bannagher beats.
In the year of grace when this story opens, Father Nolan was the worthy Presbyter of Ball, and in his way he was a Boanerges. He bad a sonorous voice; height for a life-guardsman ; and whether dealing
* Spoleeines are cutlets of boiled mutton, fished from a huge pot upon de. inand.
with the carnal weapon-a blackthorn-in which any sinner, let alone a priest, might repose his faith, or engaged in anathematizing delinquents from the altar-in either case, as was generally acknowledged, an uglier customer than the holy man could not have grappled with a malefactor. Indeed, take him all in all, a more impressive functionary could not be found. His boulteeine* was as formidable as his tongue, and God knows—and as many a loose ladt confessed to his sorrow-either tool, tongue, or twig was not an article to be disregarded.
When Father Nolan entered on his pastoral charge, he had, parochially, much to disquiet him. His chapel was without a roof, and his flock in open rebellion. In a ruined abbey, mass was celebrated from one of the mouldering walls, a rude shed being projected for a few feet; and although its straw thatch might partially protect from snow and storm the cranium of the officiating Presbyter, the faithful had nothing but piety to put their trust in. But if mortal reliance may be reposed in rum, will it not be found, as Byron says, in true religion also ? In Ball, the good catholics manipulated sub Jove-for excepting the priest's niecea domestic article always attached to the household of a Roman Catholic rector, and the wives of certain topping farmers, who on a wet day sported cotton umbrellas, all stoutly disregarded skiey influences, and very properly considered that the wetter the day and the longer the sermon the more extensive the rul-out would be of sins scored on the chancery slate of heaven, if the recording angel would only behave like a gentleman, and chalk fairly he should.
Father Nolan was a devout catholic; and as every man-authoritate Jack Falstaff-has a right to buckle his belt as maybe most convenient, why should not a son of holy church have freedom of election ? To lighter weights, as the fancy call it, he left faith and words In works he reposed a christian's reliance. His action, like his oratory, was energetic; for there were other portions of the mortal framework, as he very properly opined, beside the ear, through which wholesome instruction might be insinuated. Father Nolan was none of your personages who halt between opinions; and if a gentle inuendo levelled against those who, had they but a grain of grace, would conscience-stricken have laid the jobation to their hearts—if that should have effect, why then Father Nolan, mollified by contrition, would have mercifully desisted from further personalities. But, like the orchard-owner in the fable, who tried turfs in the first instance, but at last was obliged to resort to stones—if a clerical broad hint would fail to be effective; if broken vows were not salved by the matrimonial unguent, and appeals to the quarter sessions be thus prudently avoided, why then Father Nolan would assert the dignity of mother church, fulminate pains and penalties, and let malefactors know that he, a sub-representative of Saint Peter, was not to be trifled with. Time, as a lenient attorney will sometimes grant it to some gentleman who may have instructed his tailor in the art of book-keeping, would be considerately allowed by the indulgent churchman. But were his gentle dealing disregarded by the malefactor, in half-a-dozen Sundays-and, God knows, six weeks was a fair scope allowed for penitence—why then, and to the horror of elderly ladies, and the surprise of startled juvenals, out would go the candles,
while a ragged urchin jangled a cracked hand-bell; and the unrepenting delinquent, as he well deserved, was religiously placed hors de combat.
Still, was there not balm in Gilead? Were the sinner, as Jack Falstaff says, not altogether past praying for, he was not, of actual necessity, an enfant perdu after all. If Father Nolan had an altar from which to curse, had he not also a well in which to cleanse? Like the fabled spear, the weapon of the church possessed a two-fold power. Did the prick of one extremity prove troublesome, a touch with the opposite end would put everything right again. Sole proprietor, as he was, of blessed water, more efficacious than either Seltzer or Carrara, although unprotected by a patent, his fluid, like detergent shaving soap, would remove every impurity that the flesh is heir to. Did the penitent propitiate the churchman, swallow half-a-pint of the blessed mineral, whether “naked or in company,"* and furthermore, fork out the proper consideration in metallics—then, and directly, the taboo would be relaxed, and the delinquent be duly and truly reported in Heaven's Board of Health as entitled to pratique, and clean as a whistle. Of course, this merciful treatment was only applicable to lighter peccadilloes. But when the case was heinous — when it came into the catalogue of cardinal sins—such as a breach of Lent, or the commission of manslaughter, then, indeed, the criminal had to submit to a smart purgation: his life and dietary must undergo a total alteration; for fish and penitence, as every (ne not heretical will honestly acknowledge, must always go hand in hand together,
Father Nolan, as churchmen went, should, as the world supposed, be happy as any member of the Propaganda. Ilis well never wanted water-its celebrity was established. He had not to puff its purifying qualities, as Moses and Son do their patent paletots. Balm of Gilead could not hold a candle to it. His water, like Jack Falstaff's, was good water. It required neither pure brandy nor virgin gold, t although a sketch of whiskey might be in most cases an improvement, for then it passed over a sinner's thrapple “ soft as satin." An elderly gentlewoman traded in this necessary article on the spot : her jar was ever ready to meet the wishes and wants of the faithful; like the widow's, in scripture, her cruise was inexhaustible. She was indeed a Samaritan ; for during the dog-days, any who would administer alcohol to an operator of the masculine gender, would, or should command his eternal gratitude; and after nine circuits on bare marrowbones over the sacred stones, are not ladies liable to exhaustion? and as everybody knows, their potations in such cases are justly interdicted. No wonder, then, that the proprietrix of the jar prospered as she well deserved. She turned her temporalities to good account, and—better consideration to a pious catholic-came in, without the exercise, for a portion of the prayers of the faithful; for any stout gentlewoman refreshed in transitu with a gollioguet would not only fork out the browns, but had she time and wind, would generously treat the spirit-dealer to a pater-noster.
* Naked or in company is a question occasionally asked at Donnybrook fair by the officiating sylph, who is armed with a bottle of “Costigan's milk of roses," i. e. whiskey, in the vernacular. In vulgar English, it meaneth, Will the customer pic. fer his alcohol in its purity, or diluted with the simple element?
+ Solomon used to impudently assert that these were the ingredients which a a chymical analysis detected in his nostrum, and old women believed it.
I Anglicè-a dram.
A priest's career, like woman's love, is subject to interruption. In popular opinion, Father Nolan's shake-down should have been soft as a bed of roses, but yet he had private causes for disquietude. It is true that although he was only thatched over on the sabbath while celebrating mass, a Welsh wig being perfectly canonical would have set elemental visitations at defiance; and should the O'Flaghertys and O'Tools meet at the caravansery kept by Mick Herron, and then and there come to mortal issue--glory to Allah !-a cart was procurable, and the dead and dying, Montagues and Capulets, could be expeditiously removed to the county infirmary. All visitations, lay or ecclesiastical, he could manfully meet; but in the case of a haunted house- Stop! we must "hold hard,” as hunters say, and not plunge in mediis res without a proper introduction.
In fairy tales the localities are generally uncomfortable. One neighbourhood is inconvenienced by a giant ; another tormented with an ogre ; and should the tenant flit at quarter-day it's a mere toss-up between Scylla and Charybdis. Father Nolan's clerical dignity was not without a drawback-in church and state the axiom holds good," Non sine pulvere, palmam"--and if Father Nolan had succeeded to a holy well, was he not, as a per contra, afflicted with a haunted house? And now, with an authorial latitude, we will digress from a gifted clerk to a sinful layman.
Tom Reynolds commenced his career at manhood in the buccolic line. He was an enfant trouvé, being presented one fine frosty morning as a new year's gift at the door of the parish minister. No scandal could be attached to the reverend recipient of the present, as Doctor Percy had more than touched the extremity of those years apportioned to humanity by the psalmist, he, the Doctor, having passed his eighty-third anniversary-an age utterly removed beyond scan, mag.
In course of time, Mr. Percy went the way of all flesh; and at manhood Tom Reynolds entered regularly upon the business of life, his patron, the rector, having left him fifty pounds. Fortune frowned upon him from the start; and although he manfully struggled against the capricious vixen, it was altogether unavailing. His cattle dealings were unsuccessful--men grow desperate under disappointment--Kentuck and its paddocks were to be let nobody would bid a schultogue* for either, for the land was saddled with a house, and everybody for twenty miles round knew that the house was occupied by the devil. In rebus egenis men will venture much. Tom Reynolds was at the last kick, and he boldly bid for house and land; and as there was no opposition his offer was accepted.
Truth to say, poor Tom was regularly done brown. To pay Peter he had to rob Paul, and as a consequence, he was ground to the very earth by gompeeine;t while dealing for cattle upon time was a slide from the frying-pan into the fire. He made a last and desperate speculation. There was a whisper through the country about a war : in that case markets would rise like a sky-rocket. On the strength of it Tom bought right and left. The bubble burst: national jealousies were accommodated : the most pugnacious parties were wearied out. The
* Schultogue-A farthing.
whole continent was insolvent, and it was supposed that the millennium had at last arrived. A bullock would bring little beyond the price of hide and tallow, while a fat wedder might be had for a decent song, fat and wool included.
The first gale* came round. “Where the devil is it to be had?'' said Tom, speaking disconsolately to himself as he rode homewards through a lonely boreeinet
* From whom but a friend ?" said a voice at his very elbow : and on looking round, a very respectable gentleman, dressed in black, was riding cheek-by.jowl with him. What passed between them is unknown; but afterwards, when hundreds of stout graziers went down like a schoolboy's house of cards, Tom Reynolds rose like a sea-gull in a storm : he could buy in and hold over as he liked ; aye, and stump up a cool £500 on any blessed morning when it was required. And yet, as it was universally remarked, Tom had always a care-worn appearance. The best poteeine that was distilled in Ballyhean could never exhilarate his gloomy spirits; and, to his shame be it told, a worse catholic could not have been found in a day's walk. For years he never was seen at mass, nor since he had taken Kentuck had he ever darkened the door of a confession-box. That he was uncursed was a wonder with the faithful : and all that could be said in his favour--and, God knows, it was nothing, after all, to brag about—was, that he was innocent of meat upon Friday. That would be but a poor boast for a good catholic to depend upon when Saint Peter, at the gate of glory, was doubtful whether he would admit the new customer or warn him off the premises at once..
In the longest-dated bargain a time of reckoning will come round at last; and the most extensive tick will have attached to it a day for payment. Mr. Reynolds, like the acceptor of a bill over due, was not altogether comfortable, when just after night-fall, a very respectablelooking gentleman in black slided into Tom's state apartment, and that, too, without going through the ceremony of knocking at the door. He was evidently a man of business, for he came to the scratch at once. :
“ Norra to ye, Tom! How's your mother?''
* Feaks, I can't exactly tell; but I'm very bad myself with the rheumatics. How is your reverence ?" said Tom, speaking to the ould thief fair and asy.
" Are ye ready for the road ?” says the devil—for there's no use mincing matters, but own the truth at once--the gentleman in black was the devil, and no mistake about it.
"I wish that your holiness,” returned Tom, “would allow me another quarter, until I could sell iny top-wedders at the fair of Ball, and make my poor sowl afterwards."
“ Make your poor sowl!" repeated the old vagabond, with a horselaugh. “Why yer sowl, as you call it, is made already. Come, Tom arourneeine, we must bundle off.”
"Won't your highness have a drop before startin'?” replied Tom, and his teeth chattered in mortal fear.
* Well, I wouldn't matter a nip of something short : a sketch of spirits in a tumbler, with a table-spoonful of red pepper, if you happen to have it convenient.”.