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Mr. Crocodile, with all the air of a bashaw of three tails. “Sir-Captain Pugsley-I beg—”.
" Pray, sir,” said Frederic, advancing and darting a withering glance at the enraged Crocodile, “ who are you, that dare assume so much authority in my father's house?”
“Who am I? I, sir, am the husband of this lady, and the master of this house,” replied Crocodile, triumphantly.
This was a home-thrust! “ Married !” exclaimed Frederic, with evident surprise“ married ! -already married !”
“Yes, sir, married !” fiercely replied Crocodile.
“Then, sir," replied Frederic, with a bitter expression of unfeigned contempt, “to say the least of such conduct, so precipitate a match is highly disrespectful to the memory of my father.
“Captain Pugsley,” said Crocodile, striking the table with his clenched fist, “I will permit no comments on my conduct, or on that of this amiable lady. If you are displeased—”
“ Not at all,” replied Frederic, interrupting him. “I am, I assure you, rather gratified in finding that I have to deal with persons of such unrefined feelings, although I have that to communicate which must prove anything but pleasing to the selfish and sordid souls to whom I find I have to address myself.”
“What do you mean?" demanded Crocodile, rather staggered by this preliminary.
“ My father, before his death, executed a will—”.
“The whole of his property,” continued Frederic,“ with the exception of two hundred pounds per annum to my governess, by whom he was cajoled into a marriage.'
“'Tis false !” screamed the late Mrs. Pugsley.
“'Tis false !” echoed Mr. Crocodile, and then added, with a melancholy sort of presentiment, in the lowest key of despondency, “ It cannot be !—it's impossible!”
Captain Pugsley bowed stiffly, and withdrew, and on the following day sent a respectable solicitor to arrange his affairs with Mr. Crocodile, who, too late, found that he had acted most unwisely, having really married in haste to repent at leisure ; for old Pugsley, upon his arrival in the East Indies, had unexpectedly met his son, and happily become reconciled; finding, to his amazement, upon comparing notes, that Frederic's step-mother had intercepted many of his letters, and endeavoured by every means in her power to misrepresent his conduct. To repair the injury he had done his only child, he instantly made a new will, and revoking the former one he had been persuaded to make in England, had done ample justice to Frederic, by bequeathing him the bulk of his property.
Sweet Mrs. Pugsley turned sour, and Crocodile's tears were for the first time in his life-real and unaffected !
We Irishmen never like to overpraise ourselves. Modesty and diffidence are our acknowledged qualities; we are a retiring people, not prone to the throwing down of gloves and gauntlets ; but, in the name of Erin let me here challenge all the patentees and projectors under heaven to produce such an invention as the PLEDGE!
The PLEDGE-what is the PLEDGE? Reader, I will endeavour to explain it to you. It is an invention for neutralising poison, and converting drunkards into sober, honest, and industrious men ; and, surely if any invention in the world be entitled to the everlasting gratitude and admiration of mankind, it is that which is now unfold. ing its surprising effects in Ireland.
We all know, alas ! how ancient is the invention of wickedness ! but to hit upon the happy means of counteracting a deeply-rooted vice, to administer an antidote which shall overcome the temptations of the ignorant and abandoned, defy the scoffs of the hardened, the sneers of the doubting; to bring peace where discord reigned, and substitute the comforts and decencies of life for the bitterness of despair :-if this be not a great, a happy, and glorious work, deserving to be exalted above all inventions, then indeed might the beautiful Queen of our green isle lay down her harp in despair, and moisten its strings with her tears! But, no, thank Heaven ! she sits erect; her poor sons daily proclaim their joy; they swerve not from their vow , and the point is settled, with a few exceptions, by a nation's gratitude to good FATHER MATHEW.
In order to form some idea of the previous state of Ireland as to excesses in drinking, which,while they degraded the poor, surely disgraced the rich a hundred times more, we have only to dip into such a work as Sir Jonah Barrington's, or listen for a few minutes to relations which are ever in readiness ; such, for instance, as the three squires from the west going up to Dublin, and for a month together drinking seventy-two tumblers of whiskey punch per diem between dinner and bed-time; or Mr. A, who used to sup so regularly that his bill was never known to vary, Supper, .
• Os. 2d. (meaning four biscuits,) Twenty tumblers of punch, 10 0
10 2 Or, Mr. B. never going out to shoot without three pints of whiskey in his pockets, which he always finished, shooting steadily! Or the roaring dinners and jollifications of Mr. C, and his round dozen of guests, all extended in due time upon the floor, except two heroes, D and E; who on one great occasion drank seven bottles of claret more between them, and beginning then to complain of a great “chill in their stomachs” from that thin cold French stuff, finished a bottle of brandy between them, and walked home (somehow or other).
It may be easily imagined what a fine "moral effect ” such pro
ceedings as these must have had upon the servants of such a gentry, their tenants, and such as had the misfortune to be their dependants. Without such examples, indeed, our poor countrymen were sufficiently abandoned to the vice of drinking, and, what was worse, seldom drank without fighting. Hence our degraded peasantry were for ever engaged in broils and murders, it being an inevitable consequence that when a man was beaten in a drunken fray, many others would mingle in the fight; nor did the quarrel always terminate on the spot, but was frequently perpetuated in deadly feuds, as between i Shanivests ” and “Hinavests," « Flinns” and “ Joyces,” “Gows” and “ Poleens," and hundreds, nay thousands of others. And, as quarrels first arose in the shebeen, or whiskeyhouses, so, also, still more dangerous conspiracies were arranged in these very places; and these, too, often artfully suggested by the publicans themselves for the base purpose of drawing crowds of these infatuated ignorant wretches to their houses. For instance, during the insurrection of the Terry-alts in the county of Clare, in the year 1831, the quantity of whiskey sold exceeded all belief! and, are not the records of that year applicable to those of previous centuries? I appeal to the historian, to the traveller, to the annals of the bar, and expostulation of the pulpit; to the confessions of multitudes when in the extremity of mental anguish from the commission of crime, or trembling upon the verge of eternity at the foot of the gallows, or languishing in chains, heart-broken, in our far distant colonies; fearlessly would I appeal to all, and ask whether this description is not strictly true? And, if true, without some great counteracting event, what hope could be entertained for the improvement and regeneration of Ireland ?
And yet at this very period, when every benevolent heart is expanding with joy amidst the mighty change, there are people, and grieved am I to add many—who raise their hands, and turn up their eyes, exclaiming, “ Ah, we see how it is! we shall be all murdered! We are on the eve of another rebellion !” And so we certainly are, or rather in the thick of it; but, thank Heaven ! it is a rebellion against poverty, rags, and poison. All which these people, too long accustomed to have everything their own way, know perfectly well themselves.
But now let us return to Father Mathew. From the 1st January, 1838, this excellent man has laboured with an ardour never surpassed. At first his progress was slow, and his constancy must have been severely tested; for he had not the great body of the Catholic priesthood with him then ; but now he has their zealous co-operation. In fact, the circle was discouragingly small at first; but has extended itself in a manner which, while it gladdens the soul of the philanthropist, confounds all statistical calculation, and electrifies the brewer, the distiller, and the publican. It is known that nearly five hundred whiskey-shops have been abandoned in Cork alone, and hence we may judge of other places; and also, that PIFTEEN HUNDRED THOUSAND members have already taken the pledge,
Having had the gratification of a personal introduction to Father Mathew, upon an occasion when many thousand people eagerly presented themselves to take the pledge, I might here, perhaps, be induced to trespass too much in describing the scene, as this has been so frequently done before. However, as some parts of it may not be so generally known, I may add that the exhortation when the people had thrown themselves down upon their knees was very appropriate and well delivered, depicting the miserable state of the drunkard's life, and contrasting it with the comforts of peace and security.
“ I wish you,” he said, “ to make a fair trial of the change. Think not, however, I have any design to take an undue advantage of this great impulse. All I ask of you is to give to temperance a fair trial; steadily to adhere to it for a portion, at least, of your lives, and to mark what happy changes it will effect, not only in your bodily health, but your worldly comforts. I am not afraid of you if you will give it such a trial; and, after that, if any one of you should regret his choice, or see cause to retract the engagement he is about to make, let him send me back his card and his medal, and I will at once erase his name from the register.”
To all which the kneeling multitude cried out, “We wilL KEEP IT!”
“I rejoice to hear you say so,” said Father Mathew ; “and now let each of you repeat after me as follows.” When, further elevating his voice, he pronounced the words of the pledge, pausing as indicated ("-") for the general response.
But how can I describe the effect of these bursts of a thousand voices, or the variety of emotions depicted on the faces below! Here were, indeed, pictures, veritables tableaux vivants, which the curious in physiognomy might have scrutinised with an interest never, perhaps, more strongly experienced. Men upon whose countenances I saw the marks of shame and sorrow; women in a kind of maudlin dreamy state, who threw up their arms, and clapped their hands over their heads, as if bewailing the last “drops of comfort" they had taken ; and here and there groups of the poorest peasants from the far west, from the recesses of that rocky shore, whose frowning cliffs protect us from the liquid mountains of the restless Atlantic; these men, peculiar in dress, and of uncivilised appearance, and whose matted hair nearly concealed their faces—such figures as these could not but form a singularly interesting portion of the multitude. From my knowledge of these people, of their wild glens and lonely haunts, I should say that probably not one of them in fifty understood a word of English, and yet there was a language evidently speaking within them, as their lips never ceased to move ; and immediately after the ceremony most of them rushed to Father Mathew to touch his person, or be touched by him ; doubtless considering that touch as the perfection of virtue against future temptation. We now come to THE PLEDGE.
FATHER MATHEW.-“I promise ” — (the multitude answer, in various tones, but in one eager breath, " I promise "-" that so long "_" as I continue "-" a member "_" of the teetotal”_"temperance society” — "to abstain ” — “from all "_" intoxicating liquors,”—"except used medicinally ;” – "and by advice”_" and example "_"to discountenance the cause and practice "-" of intemperance in others.”
The reverend gentleman then added, “God bless you, and enable you to keep the pledge you have taken!”
This is a faint outline only of the ceremony as I witnessed it. It is obvious that medals could not be distributed on such an occasion, or the names of eight, ten, thirty, or forty thousand people accurately registered. In Limerick the attempt was made by fourteen gentlemen ; but they were obliged to abandon the task, and a far better plan has been adopted; those who have taken the pledge have now to renew the engagement before their respective parish-priests, who are provided with the requisite cards and medals, on payment of a shilling.
Here again it has been loudly complained of by those righteous people, now all at once appearing horror-struck at the idea of Irishmen becoming sober, that a shilling should be charged for what only costs about fourpence! But when the great expense of the registry -in which business alone two clerks are engaged wholly at Father Mathew's expense ; his journeys, and his well-known acts of charity; the medals of pure silver,—for which he will take no payment, and which he has given on particular occasions ; nay, one of gold, of the value of ten pounds, which he presented to a Catholic bishop: when these are all taken into account, it will surely be obvious to any unprejudiced person that not only is there no profit from this source, but that a handsome private income is entirely devoted by this excellent man to the highest object of his ambition in this world—the regeneration of his countrymen.
The personal labour which Father Mathew encounters is almost incredible. When at home in Cork his work commences at seven in the morning, and, with the exception of short intervals, seldom ceases before twelve at night. During the late inclement winter it is well known how many entire days he was exposed in the open air, and bare-headed from morning till night, and often (as I can testify) in the worst of weather administering the pledge, and yet we have never heard that his constitution has been at all injured, nor does his appearance indicate anything but health and contentment. A powerful argument this in favour of temperance !
No wonder, then, under all these circumstances, that his reputation should increase so rapidly; for the people soon began to argue themselves into a firm belief that the good father must have received preternatural aid, and be gifted by more than human power; and, in proportion as this conviction spread among them, we may be sure that Paddy's ingenuity did not diminish the impression. Some rather singular coincidences, too, did actually occur; several people who bad broken their pledges were seized with sickness or madness — synonymous disorders with many drunkards. Of these some filled with remorse returned by themselves to Cork, while others were carried back by their friends, and, overwhelmed with alarm and shame, were re-admitted and cured, as they expressed it, “ for ever." The very medals were by numbers supposed to pussess a charm in healing, and were believed to effect miracles on being applied to sores, &c.
Imagine, therefore, the journeyings to Cork in 1839. It was then, indeed, that the living tide rolled onwards; the roads were thronged with pilgrims, coaches, carts, and cars and horses were heavily laden with them; and even boat-loads were landed from all parts of the Coast. But, how different the approach to the return !