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The Midnight Mass, a fiction by William Carleton

Part 2

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_ When Darby approached Reillaghan's house, he was considering the propriety of disclosing to his son the fact of having left his rival with Peggy Gartland. He ultimately determined that it would be proper to do so; for he was shrewd enough to suspect that the wish Frank had expressed of seeing him before he left the country, was but a ruse to purchase his silence touching his appearance in the village. In this, however, he was mistaken.

"God save the house!" exclaimed Darby, on entering--"God save the house, an' all that's in it! God save it to the North!" and he formed the sign of the cross in every direction to which he turned: "God save it to the South! + to the Aiste! + and to the Waiste! + Save it upwards! + and save it downwards! + Save it backwards! + and save it forwards! + Save it right! + and save it left! + Save it by night! + save it by day! + Save it here! + save it there! + Save it this way! + an' save it that way! + Save it atin'! + + + an' save it drinkin'! + + + + + + + + Oxis Doxis Glorioxis--Amin. An' now that I've blessed the place in the name of the nine Patriarchs, how are yez all, man, woman, an' child? An' a merry Christmas to yez, says Darby More!"

Darby, in the usual spirit of Irish hospitality, received a sincere welcome, was placed up near the fire, a plate filled with the best food on the table laid before him, and requested to want nothing for the asking.

"Why, Darby," said Reillaghan, "we expected you long ago: why didn't you come sooner?"

"The Lord's will be done! for ev'ry man has his throubles," replied Darby, stuffing himself in the corner like an Epicure; "an' why should a sinner like me, or the likes of me, be without thim? 'Twas a dhrame I had last night that kep me. They say, indeed, that dhrames go by contriaries, but not always, to my own knowledge."

"An' what was the dhrame about, Darby?" inquired Reillaghan's wife.

"Why, ma'am, about some that I see on this hearth, well, an' in good health; may they long live to be so! Oxis Doxis Glorioxis--Amin!" + + +

"Blessed Virgin! Darby, sure it would be nothin' bad that's to happen? Would it, Darby?"

"Keep yourself aisy on that head. I have widin my own mind the power of makin' it come out for good--I know the prayer for it. Oxis Doxis!" + +

"God be praised for that, Darby; sure it would be a terrible business, all out, if any thing was to happen. Here's Mike that was born on Whissle * Monday, of all days in the year, an' you know, they say that any child born on that day is to die an unnatural death. We named Mike after St. Michael that he might purtect him."

* The people believe the superstition to be as is stated above. Any child born on Whitsunday, or the day after, is supposed to be doomed to die an unnatural death. The consequence is, that the child is named after and dedicated to some particular saint, in the hope that his influence may obviate his evil doom.

"Make yourself aisy, I say; don't I tell you I have the prayer to keep it back--hach! hach!--why, there's a bit stuck in my throath, some way! Wurrah dheelish, what's this! Maybe, you could give me a sup o' dhrink--wather, or anything to moisten the morsel I'm atin? Wurrah, ma'am dear, make haste, it's goin' agin' the breath wid me!"

"Oh, the sorra taste o' wather, Darby," said Owen; "sure this is Christmas-eve, you know: so you see, Darby, for ould acquaintance sake, an' that you may put up an odd prayer now an' thin for us, jist be thryin' this."

Darby honored the gift by immediate acceptance.

"Well, Owen Reillaghan," said he, "you make me take more o' this stuff nor any man I know; and particularly by rason that bein' given, wid a blessin', to the ranns, an' prayers, an' holy charms, I don't think it so good; barrin', indeed, as Father Donnellan towld me, when the wind, by long fastin', gets into my stomach, as was the case today, I'm often throubled, God help me, wid a configuration in the--hugh! ugh--an' thin it's good for me--a little of it."

"This would make a brave powdher-horn, Darby Moore," observed one of Reilla-ghan's sons, "if it wasn't so big. What do you keep in it, Darby?"

"Why, avillish, (* my sweet) nothin' indeed but a sup o' Father Donnellan's holy water, that they say by all accounts it costs him great trouble to make, by rason that he must fast a long time, and pray by the day, afore he gets himself holy enough to consecrate it."

"It smells like whiskey, Darby," said the boy, without any intention, however, of offending him. "It smells very like poteen."

"Hould yer tongue, Risthard," said the elder Reillaghan; "what 'ud make the honest man have whiskey in it? Didn't he tell you what's in it?"

"The gorsoon's right enough," replied Darby. "I got the horn from Barny Dalton a couple o' days agone; 'twas whiskey he had in it, an' it smells of it sure enough, an' will, indeed, for some time longer. Och! och! the heavens be praised, I've made a good dinner! May they never know want that gave it to me! Oxis Doxis Glorioxis--Amin!" + + +

"Darby, thry this again," said Reillaghan, offering him another bumper.

"Troth an' I will, thin, for I find myself a great dale the betther of the one I tuck. Well, here's health an' happiness to us, an' may we all meet in heaven! Risthard, hand me that horn till I be goin' out to the barn, in ordher to do somethin' for my sowl. The holy wather's a good thing to have about one."

"But the dhrame, Darby?" inquired Mrs. Reillaghan. "Won't you tell it to us?"

"Let Mike follow me to the barn," he replied, "an' I'll tell him as much of it as he ought to hear. An' now let all of yez prepare for the Midnight Mass; go there wid proper intuitions, an' not to be coortin' or dhrinkin' by the way. We're all sinners, any way, an' oughtn't to neglect our sowls. Oxis Doxis Glorioxis. Amin!"

He immediately strided with the horn under his arm, towards the barn, where he knelt, and began his orisons in a tone sufficiently loud to be heard in the kitchen. When he was gone, Mrs. Reillaghan, who, with the curiosity natural to her sex, and the superstition peculiar to her station in life, felt anxious to hear Darby's dream, urged Mike to follow him forthwith, that he might prevail on him to detail it at full length.

Darby, who knew not exactly what the dream ought to be, replied to Mike's inquiries vaguely.

"Mike," said he, "until the proper time comes, I can't tell it; but listen; take my advice, an' slip down to Peggy Gartland's by and by. I have strong suspicions, if my dhrame is thrue, that Frank M'Kenna has a design upon her. People may be abroad this night widout bein' noticed, by rason o' the Midnight Mass; Frank has, friends in Kilnaheery, down behind the moors; an' the divil might tempt him to bring her there. Keep your eye an him, or rather an Peggy. If my dhrame's true, he was there this night."

"I thought I gave him enough on her account," said. Mike. "The poor girl hasn't a day's pace in regard of him; but, plase goodness, I'll soon put an end to it, for I'll marry her durin' the Hollydays."

"Go, avick, an' let me finish my Pudheran Partha: I have to get through it before the Midnight Mass comes. Slip down, and find out what he was doin'; and when you come back, let me know."

Mike, perfectly aware of young M'Kenna's character, immediately went towards Lisrum, for so the village where Peggy Gartland lived was called. He felt the danger to be apprehended from the interference of his rival the more acutely, inasmuch as he was not ignorant of the feuds and quarrels which the former had frequently produced between friends and neighbors, by the subtle poison of his falsehoods, which were both wanton and malicious. He therefore advanced at an unusually brisk pace, and had nearly reached the village, when he perceived in the distance a person resembling Frank approaching him at a pace nearly as rapid as his own.

"If it's Frank M'Kenna," thought he, "he must pass me, for this is his straight line home."

It appeared, however, that he had been mistaken; for he whom he had supposed to be the object of his enmity, crossed the field by a different path, and seemed to be utterly ignorant of the person whom he was about to meet--so far, at least, as a quick, free, unembarrassed step could intimate his unacquaintance with him.

The fact, however, was, that Reillaghan, had the person whom he met approached him more nearly, would have found his first suspicions correct. Frank was then on his return from Gartland's, and no sooner perceived Reillaghan, whom he immediately recognized by his great height, than he took another path in order to avoid him. The enmity between these rivals was, deep and implacable; aggravated on the one hand by a sense of unmerited injury, and on the other by personal defeat and the bitterest jealousy. For this reason neither of them wished to meet, particularly Frank M'Kenna, who not only hated, but feared his enemy.

Having succeeded in avoiding Reillaghan, the latter soon reached home; but here he found the door closed, and the family, without a single exception, in the barn, which was now nearly crowded with the youngsters of both sexes from the surrounding villages.

Frank's arrival among them gave a fresh impulse to their mirth and enjoyment. His manners were highly agreeable, and his spirits buoyant almost to levity. Notwithstanding the badness of his character in the opinion of the sober, steady, and respectable inhabitants of the parish, yet he was a favorite with the desolate and thoughtless, and with many who had not an opportunity of seeing him except in his most favorable aspect. Whether he entertained on this occasion any latent design that might have induced him to assume a frankness of manner, and an appearance of good-humor, which he did not feel, it is difficult to determine. Be this as it may, he made himself generally agreeable, saw that every one was comfortable, suggested an improvement in the arrangement of the seats, broke several jests on Bariry and Granua Waile--which, however, were returned with interest--and, in fact, acquitted himself so creditably, that his father whispered with a sigh to his mother--"Alley, achora, wouldn't we be the happy family if that misfortunate boy of ours was to be always the thing he appears to be? God help him! the gommach, if he had sinse, and the fear o' God before him, he'd not be sich a pace o' desate to sthrangers, and such a divil's limb wid ourselves: but he's young, an' may see his evil coorses in time, wid the help o' God."

"Musha, may God grant it!" exclaimed his mother: "a fine slip he is, if his heart 'ud only turn to the right thoughts. One can't help feelin' pride out o' him, when they see him actin' wid any kind o' rason."

The Irish dance, like every other assembly composed of Irishmen and Irishwomen, presents the spectators with those traits which enter into our conception of rollicking fun and broad humor. The very arrangements are laughable; and when joined to the eccentric strains of some blind fiddler like Barny Dhal, to the grotesque and caricaturish faces of the men, and the modest, but evidently arch and laughter-loving countenances of the females, they cannot fail to impress an observing mind with the obvious truth, that a nation of people so thoughtless and easily directed from the serious and useful pursuits of life to such scenes, can seldom be industrious and wealthy, nor, despite their mirth and humor, a happy people.

The barn in which they danced on this occasion was a large one. Around the walls were placed as many seats as could be spared from the neighbors' houses; these were eked out by sacks of corn laid length-wise, logs of round timber, old creels, iron pots with their bottoms turned up, and some of them in their usual position. On these were the youngsters seated, many of the "boys" with their sweethearts on their knees, the arms of the fair ones lovingly around their necks; and, on the contrary many of the young women with their bachelors on their laps, their own necks also gallantly encircled by the arms of their admirers. Up in a corner sat Barny, surrounded by the seniors of the village, sawing the fiddle with indefatigable vigor, and leading the conversation with equal spirit. Indeed, his laugh was the loudest, and his joke the best; whilst, ever and anon, his music became perfectly furious--that is to say, when he rasped the fiddle with a desperate effort "to overtake the dancers," from whom, in the heat of the conversation, he had unwittingly lagged behind.

Dancing in Ireland, like everything else connected with the amusement of the people, is frequently productive of bloodshed. It is not unusual for crack dancers from opposite parishes, or from distant parts of the same parish, to meet and dance against each other for victory. But as the judges in those cases consist of the respective friends or factions of the champions, their mode of decision may readily be conjectured. Many a battle is fought in consequence of such challenges, the result usually being that not he who has the lightest heel, but the hardest head, generally comes off the conqueror.

While the usual variety of Irish dances--the reel, jig, fling, three-part-reel, four-part-reel, rowly-powly, country-dance, cotillion, or cut-along (as the peasantry call it), and minuet, vulgarly minion, and minionet--were going forward in due rotation, our readers may be assured that those who were seated around the walls did not permit the time to pass without improving it. Many an attachment is formed at such amusements, and many a bitter jealousy is excited: the prude and coquette, the fop and rustic Lothario, stand out here as prominently to the eye of him who is acquainted with human nature, as they do in similar assemblies among the great: perhaps more so, as there is less art, and a more limited knowledge of intrigue, to conceal their natural character.

The dance in Ireland usually commences with those who sit next the door, from whence it goes round with the sun. In this manner it circulates two or three times, after which the order is generally departed from, and they dance according as they can. This neglect of the established rule is also a fertile source of discord; for when two persons rise at the same time, if there be not room for both, the right of dancing first is often decided by blows.

At the dance we are describing, however, there was no dissension; every heart appeared to be not only elated with mirth, but also free from resentment and jealousy. The din produced by the thumping of vigorous feet upon the floor, the noise of the fiddle, the chat between Barny and the little sober knot about him, together with the brisk murmur of the general conversation, and the expression of delight which sat on every countenance, had something in them elevating to the spirits.

Barny, who knew their voices, and even the mode of dancing peculiar to almost every one in the barn, had some joke for each. When a young man brings out his sweetheart--which he frequently does in a manner irresistibly ludicrous, sometimes giving a spring from the earth, his caubeen set with a knowing air on one side of his head, advancing at a trot on tiptoe, catching her by the ear, leading her out to her position, which is "to face the fiddler," then ending by a snap of the fingers, and another spring, in which he brings his heel backwards in contact with his ham;--we say, when a young man brings out his sweetheart, and places her facing the fiddler, he asks her what will she dance; to which, if she as no favorite tune, she uniformly replies--"Your will is my pleasure." This usually made Barny groan aloud.

"What ails you, Barny?"

"Oh, thin, murdher alive, how little thruth's in this world! Your will's my pleassure! Baithirshin! but, sowl, if things goes an, it won't be long so!"

"Why, Barny," the young man would exclaim, "is the ravin' fit comin' over you?"

"No, in troth, Jim; but it's thinkin' of home I am. Howandiver, do you go an; but, naboklish! what'll ye have?"

"'Jig Polthouge,' Barny: but on your wrist ma bouchal, or Katty will lave us both ut o' sight in no time. Whoo! success! clear the coorse. Well done, Barny! That's the go."

When the youngsters had danced for some time, the fathers and mothers of the village were called upon "to step out." This was generally the most amusing scene in the dance. No excuse is ever taken on such occasions, for when they refuse, about a dozen young fellows place them, will they will they, upright upon the floor, from whence neither themselves nor their wives are permitted to move until they dance. No sooner do they commence, than, they are mischievously pitted against each other by two sham parties, one encouraging the wife, the other cheering on the good man; whilst the fiddler, falling in with the frolic, plays in his most furious style. The simplicity of character, and, perhaps, the lurking vanity of those who are the butts of the mirth on this occasion, frequently heighten the jest.

"Why, thin, Paddy, is it strivin' to outdo me you are? Faiks, avourneen, you never seen that day, any way," the old woman would exclaim, exerting all her vigor.

"Didn't I? Sowl, I'll sober you before I lave the flure, for all that," her husband would reply.

"An' do you forget," she would rejoin, "that the M'Carthy dhrop is in me; ay, an' it's to the good still."

And the old dame would accompany the boast with a fresh attempt at agility; to which Paddy would respond by "cutting the buckle," and snapping his fingers, whilst fifty voices, amidst roars of laughter, were loud in encouraging each.

"Handle your feet, Kitty, darlin'--the mettle's lavin' him!"

"Off wid the brogues, Paddy, or she'll do you. That's it; kick off the other, an' don't spare the flure."

"A thousand guineas on Katty! M'Carthy agin Gallagher for ever!--whirroo!"

"Blur alive the flure's not benefittin by you, Paddy. Lay on it, man!--That's it!--Bravo!--Whish!--Our side agin Europe!"

"Success, Paddy! Why you could dance the Dusty Miller upon a flure paved wid drawn razures, you're so soople."

"Katty for ever! The blood's in you, Katty; you'll win the day, a ban choir! (* decent woman). More power to you!"

"I'll hould a quart on Paddy. Heel an' toe, Paddy, you sinner!"

"Right an' left, Katty; hould an', his breath's goin'."

"Right an' wrong, Paddy, you spalpeen. The whiskey's an you, man alive: do it decently, an' don't let me lose the wager."

In this manner would they incite some old man, and, perhaps, his older wife, to prolonged exertion, and keep them bobbing and jigging about, amidst roars of laughter, until the worthy couple could dance no longer.

During stated periods of the night, those who took the most prominent part in the dance, got a plate and hat, with which they went round the youngsters, to make collections for the fiddler. Barny reserved his best and most sarcastic jokes for these occasions; for so correct was his ear, that he felt little difficulty in detecting those whose contributions to him were such as he did not relish.

The aptitude of the Irish for enjoying humorous images was well displayed by one or two circumstances which occurred on this night. A few of both sexes, who had come rather late, could get no other seats than the metal pots to which we have alluded. The young women were dressed in white, and their companions, who were also their admirers, exhibited, in proud display, each a bran-new suit, consisting of broadcloth coat, yellow-buff vest, and corduroy small-clothes, with a bunch of broad silk ribbons standing out at each knee. They were the sons and daughters of respectable farmers, but as all distinctions here entirely ceased, they were fain to rest contented with such seats as they could get, which on this occasion consisted of the pots aforesaid. No sooner, however, had they risen to dance than the house was convulsed with laughter, heightened by the sturdy vigor with which, unconscious of their appearance, they continued to dance. That part of the white female dresses which had come in contact with the pots, exhibited a circle like the full moon, and was black as pitch. Nor were their partners more lucky: those who sat on the mouths of the pots had the back part of their dresses streaked with dark circles, equally ludicrous. The mad mirth with which they danced, in spite of their grotesque appearance, was irresistible. This, and other incidents quite as pleasant--such as the case of a wag who purposely sank himself into one of the pots, until it stuck to him through half the dance--increased the laughter, and disposed them to peace and cordiality.

No man took a more active part in these frolics than young Frank M'Kenna. It is true, a keen eye might have noticed under his gayety something of a moody and dissatisfied air. As he moved about from time to time, he whispered something to above a dozen persons, who were well known in the country as his intimate companions, young fellows whose disposition and character were notoriously bad. When he communicated the whisper, a nod of assent was given by his confidants, after which it might be remarked that they moved round to the door with a caution that betrayed a fear of observation, and quietly slunk out of the barn one by one, though Frank himself did not immediately follow them. In about a quarter of an hour afterwards, Rody came in, gave him a signal and sat down. Frank then followed his companions, and after a few minutes Rody also disappeared. This was about ten o'clock, and the dance was proceeding with great gayety and animation.

Frank's dread of openly offending his parents prevented him from assembling his associates in the dwelling-house; the only convenient place of rendezvous, therefore, of which they could avail themselves, was the stable. Here they met, and Frank, after uncorking a bottle of poteen, addressed them to the following effect:

"Boys, there's great excuse for me, in regard of my fight wid Mike Reillaghan; that you'll all allow. Come, boys, your healths! I can tell yez you'll find this good, the divil a doubt of it; be the same token, that I stole it from my father's Christmas dhrink; but no matther for that--I hope we'll never do worse. So, as I was sayin', you must bear me out as well as you can, when I'm brought before the Dilegates to-morrow, for challengin' and strikin' a brother.* But, I think, you'll stand by me, boys?"

* Those connected with illegal combinations are sworn to have no private or personal quarrels, nor to strike nor provoke each other to fight. He and Mike were members of such societies.

"By the tarn-o'-war, Frank, myself will fight to the knees for you."

"Faith, you may depend on us, Frank, or we're not to the fore."

"I know it, boys; and now for a piece of fun for this night. You see--come, Lanty, tare-an'-ounkers, drink, man alive--you see, wid regard to Peggy Gartland--eh? what the hell! is that a cough?"

"One o' the horses, man--go an."

"Rody, did Darby More go into the barn before you came out of it?"

"Darby More? not he. If he did, I'd a seen him surely."

"Why, thin, I'd kiss the book I seen him goin' towards the barn, as I was comin' into the stable. Sowl, he's a made boy, that; an' if I don't mistake, he's in Mike Reillaghan's intherest. You know divil a secret can escape him."

"Hut! the prayin' ould crathur was on his way to the Midnight Mass; he thravels slow, and, of coorse, has to set out early; besides, you know, he has Carols, and bades, and the likes, to sell at the chapel."

"Thrue, for you, Rody; why, I thought he might take it into his head to watch my motions, in regard that, as I said, I think him in Mike's intherest."

"Nonsense, man, what the dickens 'ud bring him into the stable loft? Why, you're beside yourself?"

"Be Gor, I bleeve so, but no matther. Boys, I want yez to stand to me to-night: I'm given to know for a sartinty that Mike and Peggy will be buckled to durin' the Hollydays. Now, I wish to get the girl myself; for if I don't get her, may I be ground to atoms if he will."

"Well, but how will you manage? for she's fond of him."

"Why, I'll tell you that. I was over there this evenin', and I understand that all the family is goin' to the Midnight Mass, barrin' herself. You see, while they are all gone to the 'mallet-office,'* we'll slip down wid a thrifle o' soot on our mugs, and walk down wid her to Kilnaheery, beyant the mountains, to an uncle o' mine; an' affcher that, let any man marry her who chooses to run the risk. Be the contints o' the book, Atty, if you don't dhrink I'll knock your head agin the wall, you gommoch!"

* Mass, humorously so called, from the fact of those who attend it beating their breasts during their devotions.

"Why, thin, by all that's beautiful, it's a good spree; and we'll stick to you like pitch."

"Be the vartue o' my oath, you don't desarve to be in it, or you'd dhrink dacent. Why, here's another bottle, an' maybe there's more where that was. Well, let us finish what we have, or be the five crasses, I'll give up the whole business."

"Why, thin, here's success to us, any way; an' high hangin' to them that 'ud desart you in your skame this blessed an' holy night that's in it!"

This was re-echoed by his friends, who pledged themselves by the most solemn oaths not to abandon him in the perpetration of the outrage which they had concerted. The other bottle was immediately opened, and while it lasted, the details of the plan were explained at full length. This over, they entered the barn one by one as before, except Frank and Rody, who as they were determined to steal another bottle from the father's stock, did not appear among the dancers until this was accomplished.

The re-appearance of these rollicking and reckless young fellows in the dance, was hailed by all present; for their outrageous mirth was in character with the genius of the place. The dance went on with spirit; brag dancers were called upon to exhibit in hornpipes; and for this purpose a table was bought in from Frank's kitchen on which they performed in succession, each dancer applauded by his respective party as the best in the barn.

In the meantime the night had advanced; the hour might be about half-past ten o'clock; all were in the zenith of enjoyment, when old Frank M'Kenna addressed them as follows:--

"Neighbors, the dickens o' one o' me would like to break up the sport--an', in throth, harmless and dacent sport it is; but you all know that this is Christmas night, and that it's our duty to attind the Midnight Mass. Anybody that likes to hear it may go, for it's near time to be home and prepare for it; but the sorra one o' me wants to take any of yez from your sport, if you prefer it; all I say is, that I must lave yez; so God be wid yez till we meet agin!"

This short speech produced a general bustle in the barn; many of the elderly neighbors left it, and several of the young persons also. It was Christmas Eve, and the Midnight Mass had from time immemorial so strong a hold upon their prejudices and affections, that the temptation must indeed have been great which would have prevented them from attending it. When old Frank went out, about one-third of those who were present left the dance along with them; and as the hour for mass was approaching, they lost no time in preparing for it.

The Midnight Mass is, no doubt, a phrase familiar to our Irish readers; but we doubt whether those in the sister kingdoms, who may honor our book with a perusal, would, without a more particular description, clearly understand it.

This ceremony-was performed as a commemoration not only of the night, but of the hour in which Christ was born. To connect it either with edification, or the abuse of religion, would be invidious; so we overlook that, and describe it as it existed within our own memory, remarking, by the way, that though now generally discontinued, it is in some parts of Ireland still observed, or has been till within in a few years ago.

The parish in which the scene of this story is laid was large, consequently the attendance of the people was proportionably great. On Christmas day a Roman Catholic priest has, or is said to have, the privilege of saying three masses, though on every other day in the year he can celebrate but two. Each priest, then, said one at midnight, and two on the following day.

Accordingly, about twenty or thirty years ago, the performance of the Midnight Mass was looked upon as an ordinance highly important and interesting. The preparations for it were general and fervent; so much so, that not a Roman Catholic family slept till they heard it. It is true it only occurred once a year; but had any person who saw it once, been called upon to describe it, he would say that religion could scarcely present a scene so wild and striking.

The night in question was very dark, for the moon had long disappeared, and as the inhabitants of the whole parish were to meet in one spot, it may be supposed that the difficulty was very great, of traversing, in the darkness of midnight, the space between their respective residences, and the place appointed by the priest for the celebration of mass. The difficulty, they contrived to surmount. From about eleven at night till twelve or one o'clock, the parish presented a scene singularly picturesque, and, to a person unacquainted with its causes, altogether mysterious. Over the surface of the surrounding country were scattered myriads of blazing torches, all converging to one point; whilst at a distance, in the central part of the parish, which lay in a valley, might be seen a broad focus of red light, quite stationary, with which one or more of the torches that moved across the fields mingled every moment. These torches were of bog-fir, dried and split for the occasion; all persons were accordingly furnished with them, and by their blaze contrived to make way across the country with comparative ease. This Mass having been especially associated with festivity and enjoyment, was always attended by such excessive numbers, that the ceremony was in most parishes celebrated in the open air, if the weather were at all favorable. Altogether, as we have said, the appearance of the country at this dead hour of the night, was wild and impressive. Being Christmas every heart was up, and every pocket replenished with money, if it could at all be procured. This general elevation of spirits was nowhere more remarkable than in contemplating the thousands of both sexes, old, young, each furnished, as before said, with a blazing flambeau of bog-fir, all streaming down the mountain sides, along the roads, or across the fields, and settling at last into one broad sheet of fire. Many a loud laugh might then be heard ringing the night echo into reverberation; mirthful was the gabble in hard guttural Irish; and now and then a song from some one whose potations had been, rather copious, would rise on the night-breeze, to which a chorus was subjoined by a dozen voices from the neighboring groups.

On passing the shebeen and public-houses, I the din of mingled voices that issued from them was highly amusing, made up, as it was, of songs, loud talk, rioting and laughter, with an occasional sound of weeping from some one who had become penitent in big drink. In the larger public-houses--for in Ireland there usually are one or two of these in the immediate vicinity of each chapel, family parties were assembled, who set in to carouse both before and after mass. Those however, who had any love affair on hands generally selected the shebeen house, as being private, and less calculated to expose them to general observation. As a matter of course, these jovial orgies frequently produced such disastrous consequences, both to human life and female reputation, that the intrigues between the sexes, the quarrels, and violent deaths resulting from them, ultimately occasioned the discontinuance of a ceremony which was only productive of evil. To this day, it is an opinion among the peasantry in many parts of Ireland, that there is something unfortunate connected with all drinking bouts held upon Christmas Eve. Such a prejudice naturally arises from a recollection of the calamities which so frequently befell many individuals while Midnight Masses were in the habit of being generally celebrated, although it is not attributed to their existence.

None of Frank M'Kenna's family attended mass but himself and his wife. His children having been bound by all the rules of courtesy to do the honors of the dance, could not absent themselves from it; nor, indeed, were they disposed to do so. Frank, however, and his "good woman," carried their torches, and joined the crowds which flocked to this scene of fun and devotion.

When they had arrived at the cross-roads beside which the chapel was situated, the first object that presented itself so prominently as to attract observation was Darby More, dressed out in all his paraphernalia of blanket and horn, in addition to which he held in his hand an immense torch, formed into the figure of a cross. He was seated upon a stone, surrounded by a ring of old men and women, to whom he sang and sold a variety of Christmas Carols, many of them rare curiosities in their way, inasmuch as they were his own composition. A littlee beyond them stood Mike Keillaghan and Peggy Gartland, towards both of whom he cast from time to time a glance of latent humor and triumph. He did not simply confine himself to singing his carols, but, during the pauses of the melody, addressed the wondering and attentive crowd as follows:--

"Good Christians--This is the day--howandiver, it's night now, Glory be to God--that the angel Lucifer appeared to Shud'orth, Meeshach, an' To-bed-we-go, in the village of Constantinople, near Jerooslem. The heavens be praised for it, 'twas a blessed an' holy night, an' remains so from that day to this--Oxis doxis glorioxis, Amin! Well, the sarra one of him but appeared to thim at the hour o' midnight, but they were asleep at the time, you see, and didn't persave him go--wid that he pulled out a horn like mine--an', by the same token, it's lucky to wear horns about one from that day to this--an' he put it to his lips, an' tuck a good dacent--I mane, gave a good dacent blast that soon roused them. 'Are yez asleep?' says he, when they awoke: 'why then, bud-an'-age!' says he, 'isn't it a burnin' shame for able stout fellows like yez to be asleep at the hour o' midnight of all hours o' the night. Tare-an'-age!' says he, 'get up wid yez, you dirty spalpeens! There's St. Pathrick in Jerooslem beyant; the Pope's signin' his mittimus to Ireland, to bless it in regard that neither corn, nor barley, nor phaties will grow on the land in consequence of a set of varmints called Black-dugs that ates it up; an' there's not a glass o' whiskey to be had in Ireland for love or money,' says Lucifer. 'Get up wid yez,' says he, 'an' go in an' get his blessin'; sure there's not a Catholic-in the counthry, barrin' Swaddlers, but's in the town by this,' says he: 'ay, an' many of the Protestants themselves, and the Black-mouths, an' Blue-bellies, (* Different denominations of Dissenters) are gone in to get a share of it. And now,' says he, 'bekase you wor so heavy-headed, I ordher it from this out, that the present night is to be obsarved in the Catholic church all over the world, an' must be kept holy; an' no thrue Catholic ever will miss from this pariod an opportunity of bein' awake at midnight,' says he, 'glory be to God!' An' now, good Christians, you have an account o' the blessed Carol I was singin' for yez. They're but hapuns a-piece; an' anybody that has the grace to keep one o' these about them, will never meet wid sudden deaths or accidents, sich as hangin', or drownin', or bein' taken suddenly wid a configuration inwardly. I wanst knew a holy man that had a dhrame--about a friend of his, it was----Will any of yez take one?--

"Thank you, a colleen: my blessin', the bless-in' o' the pilgrim, be an you! God bless you, Mike Reillaghan; an' I'm proud that he put it into your heart to buy one for the rasons you know. An' now that Father Hoolaghan's comin', any of yez that 'ill want them 'ill find me here agin when mass is over--Oxis doxis glorioxis, Amin!"

The priest at this time made his appearance, and those who had been assembled on the cross-roads joined the crowd at the chapel. No sooner was it bruited among them that their pastor had arrived, than the noise, gabble, singing, and laughing were immediately hushed; the shebeen and public-houses were left untenanted; and all flocked to the chapel-green, where mass was to be said, as the crowd was too large to be contained within the small chapel.

Mike Reillaghan and Peggy Gartland were among the last who sought the "green;" as lovers, they probably preferred walking apart, to the inconvenience of being jostled by the multitude. As they sauntered on slowly after the rest, Mike felt himself touched on the shoulder, and on turning round, found Darby More beside him.

"It's painful to my feelin's," observed the mendicant, "to have to say this blessed night that your father's son should act so shabby an' ondacent."

"Saints above! how, Darby?"

"Why, don't you know that only for me--for what I heard, an' what I tould you--you'd not have the purty girl here at your elbow? Wasn't it, as I said, his intintion to come and whip down the colleen to Kilnaheery while the family 'ud be at mass; sure only for this, I say, you bosthoon, an' that I made you bring her to mass, where 'ud the purty colleen be? why half way to Kilnaheery, an' the girl disgraced for ever!"

"Thrue for you, Darby, I grant it: but what do you want me to do?"

"Oh, for that matther, nothin' at all, Mike; only I suppose that when your tailor made the clothes an you, he put no pockets to them?"

"Oh, I see where you are, Darby! well, here's a crown for you; an' when Peggy an' I's made man and wife, you'll get another."

"Mike, achora, I see you are your father's son still; now listen to me: first you needn't fear sudden death while you keep that blessed Carol about you; next get your friends together goin' home, for Frank might jist take the liberty, wid about a score of his 'boys,' to lift her from you even thin. Do the thing, I say--don't thrust him; an' moreover, watch in her father's house tonight wid your friends. Thirdly, make it up wid Frank; there's an oath upon you both, you persave? Make it up wid him, if he axes you: don't have a broken oath upon you; for if you refuse, he'll put you out o' connection, (* That is, out of connection with Ribbonism) an' that 'ud plase him to the back-bone."

Mike felt the truth and shrewdness of this advice, and determined to follow it. Both young men had been members of an illegal society, and in yielding to their passions so far as to assault each other, had been guilty of perjury. The following Christmas-day had been appointed by their parish Delegates to take the quarrel into consideration; and the best means of escaping censure was certainly to express regret for what had occurred, and to terminate the hostility by an amicable adjustment of their disputes.

They had now reached the chapel-green, where the scene that presented itself was so striking and strange, that we will give the reader an imperfect sketch of its appearance. He who stood at midnight upon a little mount which rose behind the chapel, might see between five and six thousand torches, all blazing together, and forming a level mass of red dusky light, burning against the dark horizon. These torches were so close to each other that their light seemed to blend, as if they had constituted one wide surface of flame; and nothing could be more preternatural-looking than the striking and devotional countenances of those who were assembled at their midnight worship, when observed beneath this canopy of fire. The Mass was performed under the open sky, upon a table covered with the sacrificial linen, and other apparatus for the ceremony. The priest stood, robed in white, with two large torches on each side of his book, reciting the prayers in a low, rapid voice, his hands raised, whilst the congregation were hushed and bent forward in the reverential silence of devotion, their faces touched by the strong blaze of the torches into an expression of deep solemnity. The scenery about the place was wild and striking; and the stars, scattered thinly over the heavens, twinkled with a faint religious light, that blended well with the solemnity of this extraordinary worship, and rendered the rugged nature of the abrupt cliffs and precipices, together with the still outline of the stern mountains, sufficiently visible to add to the wildness and singularity of the ceremony. In fact, there was an unearthly character about it; and the spectre-like appearance of the white-robed priest as he

"Muttered his prayer to the midnight air,"

would almost impress a man with the belief that it was a meeting of the dead, and that the priest was repeating, like the Gray Friar, his

"Mass of the days that were gone."

On the ceremony being concluded, the scene, however, was instantly changed: the lights were waved and scattered promiscuously among each other, giving an idea of confusion and hurry that was strongly contrasted with the death-like stillness that prevailed a few minutes before. The gabble and laugh were again heard loud and hearty, and the public and shebeen houses once more became crowded. Many of the young I people made, on these occasions, what is I called "a runaway;" (* Rustic elopement) and other peccadilloes took place, for which the delinquents were "either read out from the altar," or sent; probably to St. Patrick's Purgatory at Lough Derg, to do penance. Those who did not choose to stop in the whiskey-houses now hurried home with all speed, to take some sleep before early Mass, which was to be performed the next morning about daybreak. The same number of lights might therefore be seen streaming in different ways over the parish; the married men holding the torches, and leading their wives; bachelors escorting their sweethearts, and not unfrequently extinguishing their flambeaux, that the dependence of the females upon their care and protection might more lovingly call forth their gallantry.

When Mike Reillaghan considered with due attention the hint which Darby More had given him, touching the necessity of collecting his friends as an escort for Peggy Gartland, he had strong reasons to admit its justness and propriety. After Mass he spoke to about two dozen young fellows who joined him, and under their protection Peggy now returned safely to her father's house. _

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