William Carleton, The Lough Derg Pilgrim, in Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry Vol. III [1st edn. 1830; definitive edition 1843-44] (NY: Collier 1881)
[ Source: Gutenberg Project - online; also available at Readonline - online]
IN DESCRIBING the habits, superstitions, and feelings of the Irish people, it would be impossible to overlook a place which occupies so prominent a position in their religious usages as the celebrated Purgatory of St. Patrick, situated in a lake that lies among the bleak and desolate looking mountains of Donegal.
It may also be necessary to state to the reader, that the following sketch, though appearing in this place, was the first production from my pen which ever came before the public. The occasion of its being written was this: I had been asked to breakfast by the late Rev. Caesar Otway, some time I think in the winter of 1829. About that time, or a little before, he had brought out his admirable work called, Sketches in Ireland, descriptive of interesting portions of Donegal, Cork, and Kerry. Among the remarkable localities of Donegal, of course it was natural to suppose, that Lough Derg, or the celebrated Purgatory of St. Patrick, would not be omitted. Neither was it; and nothing can exceed the accuracy and truthful vigor with which he describes its situation and appearance. In the course of conversation, however, I discovered that he had never been present during the season of making the Pilgrimages, and was consequently ignorant of the religious ceremonies which take place in it. In consequence, I gave him a pretty full and accurate account I of them, and of the Station which I myself had made there. After I had concluded, he requested me to put what I had told him upon paper, adding, I will dress it up and have it inserted in the next edition.
I accordingly went home, and on the fourth evening afterwards brought him the Sketch of the Lough Derg Pilgrim as it now appears, with the exception of some offensive passages which are expunged in this edition. Such was my first introduction to literary life.
And here I cannot omit paying my sincere tribute of grateful recollection to a man from whom I have received so many acts of the warmest kindness. To me he was a true friend in every sense of the word. In my early trials his purse and his advice often supported, soothed, and improved me. In a literary point of view I am under the deepest obligations to his excellent judgment and good taste. Indeed were it not for him, I never could have struggled my way through the severe difficulties with which in my early career I was beset.
Green be the turf above thee,
Friend of my early days;
None knew thee but to love thee,
Or named thee but to praise.
But to my theme, which will be better understood, as will my description of the wild rites performed on the shores of its most celebrated island, by the following extracts, taken from this able and most vivid describer of Irish scenery:
The road from the village of Petigo leading towards Lough Derg, runs along a river tumbling over rocks; and then after proceeding for a time over a boggy valley, you ascend into a dreary and mountainous tract, extremely ugly in itself, but from which you have a fine view indeed of the greatest part of the lower lake of Lough Erne, with its many elevated islands, and all its hilly shores, green, wooded, and cultivated, with the interspersed houses of its gentry, and the comfortable cottages of its yeomanry — the finest yeomanry in Ireland — men living in comparative comfort, and having in their figures and bearing that elevation of character which a sense of loyalty and independence confers. I had at length, after traveling about three miles, arrived where the road was discontinued, and by the direction of my guide, ascended a mountain-path that brought me through a wretched village, and led to the top of a hill. Here my boy left me, and went to look for the man who was to ferry us to Purgatory, and on the ridge where I stood I had leisure to look around. To the south-west lay Lough Erne, with all its isles and cultivated shores; to the north-west lay Lough Derg, and truly never did I mark such a contrast. Lough Derg under my feet — the lake, the shores, the mountains, the accompaniments of all sorts presented the very landscape of desolation; its waters expanding in their highland solitude, amidst a wide waste of moors, without one green spot to refresh the eye, without a house or tree — all mournful in the brown hue of its far-stretching bogs, and the gray uniformity of its rocks; the surrounding mountains even partook of the sombre character of the place; their forms without grandeur, their ranges continuous and without elevation. The lake itself was certainly as fine as rocky shores and numerous islands could make it: but it was encompassed with such dreariness; it was deformed so much by its purgatorial island; the associations connected with it were of such a degrading character, that really the whole prospect before me struck my mind with a sense of painfulness, and I said to myself, I am already in Purgatory. A person who has never seen the picture that was now under my eye, who had read of a place consecrated by the devotion of ages, towards which the tide of human superstition had flowed for twelve centuries, might imagine that St. Patricks Purgatory, secluded in its sacred island, would have all the venerable and gothic accompaniments of olden time; and its ivied towers and belfried steeples, its carved windows, and cloistered arches, its long dark aisles and fretted vaults would have risen out of the water, rivalling Iona or Lindisfarn; but nothing of the sort was to be seen. The island, about half a mile from the shore, presented nothing but a collection of hideous slated houses and cabins, which gave you an idea that they were rather erected for the purpose of tollhouses or police-stations than any thing else.
I was certainly in an interesting position. I looked southerly towards Lough Erne, with the Protestant city of Enniskillen rising amidst its waters, like the island queen of all the loyalty, and industry, and reasonable worship that have made her sons the admiration of past and present time; and before me, to the north, Lough Derg, with its far-famed isle, reposing there as the monstrous birth of a dreary and degraded superstition, the enemy of mental cultivation, and destined to keep the human understanding in the same dark unproductive state as the moorland waste that lay outstretched around. I was soon joined by my guide and by two men carrying oars, with whom I descended from the ridge on which I was perched, towards the shores of the lake, where there was a sort of boat, or rather toll-house, at which the pilgrims paid a certain sum before they were permitted to embark for the island. In a few minutes we were afloat; and while sitting in the boat I had time to observe my ferrymen: one was a stupid countryman, who did not speak; the other was an old man with a Woollen night-cap under his hat, a brown snuff-colored coat, a nose begrimed with snuff, a small gray eye enveloped amidst wrinkles that spread towards his temples in the form of birds claws, and gave to his countenance a sort of leering cunning that was extremely disagreeable. I found he was the clerk of the island chapel; that he was a sort of master of the ceremonies in purgatory, and guardian and keeper of it when the station time was over and priests and pilgrims had deserted it. I could plainly perceive that he had smoked me out as a Protestant, that he was on his guard against me as a spy, and that his determination was to get as much and to give as little information as he could; in fact, he seemed to have the desire to obtain the small sum he expected from me with as little exposure of his cause, and as little explanation of the practices of his craft as possible. The man informed me that the station time was over about a month, and he confirmed my guides remark that the Popes jubilee had much diminished the resort of pilgrims during the present season. He informed me also that the whole district around the lough, together with all its islands, belonged to Colonel L ———, a relation of the Duke of Wellington; and that this gentleman, as landlord, had leased the ferry of the island to certain persons who had contracted to pay him £260 a year; and to make up this sum, and obtain a suitable income for themselves, the ferrymen charged each pilgrim five pence. Therefore, supposing that the contractors make cent, per cent, by their contract, which it may be supposed they do, the number of pilgrims to this island may be estimated at 13,000; and, as my little guide afterwards told me (although the cunning old clerk took care to avoid it), that each pilgrim paid the priest from 1s. 8d. to 2s. 6d., therefore we may suppose that the profit to the prior of Lough Derg and his priests was no small sum.
In a short time I arrived at the island, and as stepping out of the boat I planted my foot on the rocks of this scene of human absurdity, I felt ashamed for human nature, and looked on myself as one of the millions of fools that have, century after century, degraded their understandings by coming hither. The island I found to be of an oval shape.
The buildings on it consisted of a slated house for the priests, two chapels, and a long range of cabins on the rocky surface of the island, which may contain about half an acre; there were also certain round walls about two feet high, enclosing broken stone and wooden crosses; these were called saints beds, and around these circles, on the sharp and stony rocks, the pilgrims go on their naked knees. Altogether I may briefly sum up my view of this place, and say that it was filthy, dreary, and altogether detestable — it was a positive waste of time to visit it, and I hope I shall never behold it again. 
The following is extracted from Bishop Henry Joness account, published in 1647:
The island called St. Patricks Purgatory is altogether rocky, and rather level; within the compass of the island, in the water towards the north-east, about two yards from the shore, stand certain rocks, the least of which, and next the shore, is the one St. Patrick knelt on for the third part of the night in prayer, he did another third in his cell, which is called his bed, and another third in the cave or purgatory; in this stone there is a cleft or print, said to be made by St. Patricks knees; the other stone is much greater and further off in the lake, and covered with water, called Lachavanny: this is esteemed of singular virtue; standing thereon healeth pilgrims feet, bleeding as they are with cuts and bruises got in going barefoot round the blessed beds.
The entrance into the island is narrow and rocky; these rocks they report to be the guts of a great serpent metamorphosed into stones. When Mr. Copinger, a gentleman drawn thither by the fame of the place, visited it, there was a church covered with shingles dedicated to St. Patrick, and it was thus furnished: at the east end was a high altar covered with linen, over which did hang the image of our Lady with our Saviour in her arms; on the right did hang the picture of the three kings offering their presents to our Saviour; and on the left the picture of our Saviour on the cross; near the altar, and on the south side, did stand on the ground an old worm-eaten image of St. Patrick; and behind the altar was another of the same fabric, but still older in appearance, called. St Arioge; and on the right hand another image called St. Volusianus.
Between the church and the cave there is a small rising ground, and on a heap of stones lay a little stone cross, part broken, part standing; and. in the east of the church was another cross made of twigs interwoven: this is known by the name of St. Patricks altar, on which lie three pieces of a bell, which they say St. Patrick used to carry in, his hand. Here also was laid a certain knotty bone of some bigness, hollow in the midst like the nave of a wheel, and out of which issue, as it were, natural spokes: this was: shown as a great rarity, being part of a great, serpents tail — one of those monsters the blessed Patrick expelled out of Ireland.
Towards the narrowest part of the island were six circles — some call them saints beds, or beds of penance. Pilgrims are continually praying and kneeling about these beds; and they are compassed around with sharp stones and difficult passages for the accommodation of such as go barefooted.
In the farthest part northward of the island, are certain beds of stone cast together; as memorials for some that are elsewhere; buried; but who trust to the prayers and merits of those who daily resort to this Purgatory. Lastly, in this island are several Irish cabins covered with thatch, and another for shriving or confession; and there are: separate places assigned for those who come from the four provinces of Ireland.
In all, the pilgrims remain on the island nine days; they eat but once in the twenty-four hours, of oatmeal and water. They have liberty to refresh themselves with the water of the lake, which, as Roth says, is of such virtue, that though thou shouldst fill thyself with it, yet will it not offend; but is as if it flowed from some mineral.
The pilgrims at night lodge or lie on straw, without pillow or pallet, rolling themselves in their mantles, and wrapping their heads in their breeches; only on some one of the eight nights they must lie on one of the saints beds, whichever they like.
I WAS, at the time of performing this station, in the middle of my nineteenth year — of quick perception — warm imagination — a mind peculiarly romantic — a morbid turn for devotion, and a candidate for the priesthood, having been made slightly acquainted with Latin, and more slightly still with Greek.
At this period, however, all my faculties merged like friendly streams into the large current of my devotion. Of religion I was completely ignorant, although I had sustained a very conspicuous part in the devotions of the family, and signalized myself frequently; by taking the lead in a rosary. I had often out-prayed and out-fasted an old circulating pilgrim, who occasionally visited our family; a feat on which few would have ventured; and I even arrived to such a pitch of perfection at praying, that with the assistance of young and powerful lungs, I was fully able to distance him at any English prayer in which we joined. But in Latin, I must allow, that owing to my imperfect knowledge of its pronunciation, and to some twitches of conscience I felt on adventuring to imitate, him by overleaping this impediment, he was able to throw me back a considerable distance in his turn; so that when we both started for a De Profundis, I was always sure to come in second. Owing to all this I was considered a young man of promise, being, moreover, as my master often told my father, a youth of prodigious parts and great cuteness. Indeed, on this subject my masters veracity could not be questioned; because when I first commenced Latin, I was often heard repeating the prescribed tasks in my sleep. Many of his relations had already, even upon the strength of my prospective priesthood, begun to claim relationship with our family, and before I was nineteen, I found myself godfather to a dozen godsons and as many god-daughters; every one of whom I had with unusual condescension taken under my patronage; and most of the boys were named after myself. Finding that I was thus responsible for so much, in the opinion of my friends, and having the aforesaid character of piety to sustain, I found it indispensable to make the pilgrimage. Not that I considered myself a sinner, or by any means bound to go from that motive, for although the opinion of my friends, as to my talents and sanctity, was exceedingly high, yet, I assure you, it cut but a very indifferent figure, when compared with my own on both these subjects.
I very well remember that the first sly attempt I ever made at a miracle was in reference to Lough Derg; I tried it by way of preparation for my pilgrimage. I heard that there had been a boat lost there, about the year 1796, and that a certain priest who was in her as a passenger, had walked very calmly across the lake to the island, after the boat and the rest of the passengers in her had all gone to the bottom. Now, I had, from my childhood, a particular prejudice against sailing in a boat, although Dick Darcy, a satirical and heathenish old bachelor, who never went to Mass, used often to tell me, with a grin which I was never able rightly to understand, that I might have no prejudice against sailing, because, Dick would say, take my word for it, youll never die by drowning. At all events, I thought to myself, that should any such untoward accident occur to me, it would be no unpleasant circumstance to imitate the priest; but that it would be infinitely more agreeable to make the first experiment in a marl-pit, on my fathers farm, than on the lake. Accordingly, after three days fasting, and praying for the power of not sinking in the water, I slipped very quietly down to the pit, and after reconnoitering the premises, to be sure there was no looker-on, I approached the brink. At this moment my heart beat high with emotion, my soul was wrapt up to a most enthusiastic pitch of faith, and my whole spirit absorbed in feelings, where hope — doubt — gleams of uncertainty — visions of future eminence — twitches of fear — reflections on my expertness in swimming — on the success of the water-walking priest afore-mentioned — and on the depth of the pond — had all insisted on an equal share of attention. At the edge of the pit grew large water-lilies, with their leaves spread over the surface; it is singular to reflect upon what slight and ridiculous circumstances the mind will seize, when wound up in this manner to a pitch of superstitious absurdity. I am really ashamed, even whilst writing this, of the confidence I put for a moment in a treacherous water-lily, as its leaf lay spread so smoothly and broadly over the surface of the pond, as if to lure my foot to the experiment. However, after having stimulated myself by a fresh pater and ave, I advanced, my eyes turned up enthusiastically to heaven — my hands resolutely clenched — my teeth locked together — my nerves set — and my whole soul strong in confidence — I advanced, I say, and lest I might give myself time to cool from this divine glow, I made a tremendous stride, planting my right foot exactly in the middle of the treacherous water-lily leaf, and the next moment was up to the neck in water. Here was devotion cooled. Happily I was able to bottom the pool, or could swim very well, if necessary; so I had not much difficulty in getting out. As soon as I found myself on the bank, I waited not to make reflections, but with a rueful face set off at full speed for my fathers house, which was not far distant; the water all the while whizzing out of nay clothes, by the rapidity of the motion, as it does from a water-spaniel after having been in that element. It is singular to think what a strong authority vanity has over the principles and passions in the weakest and strongest moments of both; I never was remarkable, at that open, ingenuous period of my life, for secrecy; yet did I now take especial care not to invest either this attempt at the miraculous, or its concomitant failure, with anything like narration. It was, however, an act of devotion that had a vile effect on my lungs, for it gave me a cough that was intolerable; and I never felt the infirmities of humanity more than in this ludicrous attempt to get beyond them; in which, by the way, I was nearer being successful than I had intended, though in a different sense. This happened a month before I started for Lough Derg.
It was about six oclock of a delightful morning in the pleasant month of July, when I set out upon my pilgrimage, with a single change of linen in my pocket, and a pair of discarded shoes upon my bare feet; for, in compliance with the general rule, I wore no stockings. The sun looked down upon all nature with great good humor; everything smiled around me; and as I passed for a few miles across an upland country which stretched down from a chain of dark rugged mountains that lay westward, I could not help feeling, although the feeling was indeed checked — that the scene was exhilarating. The rough upland was in several places diversified with green spots of cultivated land, with some wood, consisting of an old venerable plantation of mountain pine, that hung on the convex sweep of a large knoll away to my right, — with a broad sheet of lake that curled to the fresh arrowy breeze of morning, on which a variety of water-fowl were flapping their wings or skimming along, leaving a troubled track on the peaceful waters behind them; there were also deep intersections of precipitous or sloping glens, graced with hazel, holly, and every description of copse-wood. On other occasions I have drunk deeply of pleasure, when in the midst of this scenery, bearing about me the young, free, and bounding spirit, its first edge of enjoyment unblunted by the collision of base minds and stony hearts, against which experience jostles us in maturer life.
The dew hung shining upon the leaves, and fell in pattering showers from the trees, as a bird, alarmed at my approach, would spring from the branch and leave it vibrating in the air behind her; the early challenge of the cock grouse, and the quick-go-quick of the quail, were cheerfully uttered on all sides. The rapid martins twittered with peculiar glee, or, in the light caprice of their mirth, placed themselves for a moment upon the edge of a scaur, or earthly precipice, in which their nests were built, and then shot up again to mingle with the careering and joyful flock that cut the air in every direction. Where is the heart which could not enjoy such a morning scene? Under any other circumstances it would have enchanted me; but here, in fact, that intensity of spirit which is necessary to the due contemplation of beautiful prospects, was transferred to a gloomier object. I was under the influence of a feeling quite new to me. It was not pleasure, nor was it pain, but a chilliness of soul which proceeded from the gloomy and severe task that I had undertaken — a task which, when I considered the danger and the advantages annexed to its performance, was sufficient to abstract me from every other object. It was really the first exercise of that jealous spirit of mistaken devotion which keeps the soul in perpetual sickness, and invests the innocent enjoyments of life with a character of sin and severity. It was this gloomy feeling that could alone have strangled in their birth those sensations which the wisdom of God has given as a security in some degree against sin, by opening to the heart of man sources of pleasure, for which the soul is not compelled to barter away her innocence, as in those of a grosser nature. I may be wrong in analyzing the sensation, but for the first time in my life I felt anxious and unhappy; yet, according to my own opinions, I should have been otherwise. I was startled at what I experienced, and began to consider it as a secret intimation that I had chosen a wrong time for my journey. I even felt as if it would not prosper — as if some accident or misfortune would befall me ere my return. The boat might sink, as in 1796: this was quite alarming. The miraculous experiment on the pond here occurred to me with full force, and came before my imagination in a new point of view. The drenching I got had a deep and fearful meaning. It was ominous — it was prophetic, — and sent by a merciful Providence to deter me from attending the pilgrimage at this peculiar time — perhaps on this particular day: to-morrow the spell might be broken, the danger past, and the difference of a single day could be nothing. Just at this moment an unlucky hare, starting from an adjoining thicket, scudded across my path, as if to fill up the measure of these ominous predictions. I paused, and my foot was on the very turn to the rightabout, when instantly a thought struck me which produced a reaction in my imagination. Might not all this be the temptation of the devil, suggested to prevent me from performing this blessed work? not the hare itself be some———? In short, the counter-current carried me with it. I had commenced my journey, and every one knows that when a man commences a journey it is unlucky to turn back. On I went, but still with a subdued and melancholy tone of feeling. If I met a cheerful countryman, his mirth found no kindred spirit in me: on the contrary, my taciturnity seemed to infect him; for, after several ineffectual attempts at conversation, he gradually became silent, or hummed a tune to himself, and, on parting, bade me a short, doubtful kind of good day, looking over his shoulder, as he departed, with a face of scrutiny and surprise.
After getting five or six miles across the country, I came out on one of these by-roads which run independently of all advantages of locality, up hill and down dale, from one little obscure village to another. These roads are generally paved with round broad stones, laid curiously together in longitudinal rows like the buttons on a schoolboys jacket; Owing to the infrequency of travellers on them, they are quite overgrown with grass, except in one stripe along the middle, which is kept naked by the hoofs of horses and the tread of foot passengers. There is some tradition connected with these roads, or the manner of their formation, which I do not remember.
At last I came out upon the main road; and you will be pleased to imagine to yourself the figure of a tall, gaunt, gawkish young man, dressed in a good suit of black cloth, with shirt and cravat like snow, striding solemnly along, without shoe or stocking; for about this time I was twelve miles from home, and blisters had already risen upon my feet, in consequence of the dew having got into my shoes, which at the best were enough to cut up any man; I had therefore to strip and carry my shoes — one in my pocket, and another stuffed in my hat; being thus with great reluctance compelled to travel barefoot: yet I soon turned even this to account, when I reflected that it would enhance the merit of my pilgrimage, and that every fresh blister would bring down a fresh blessing. Tis true I was nettled to the soul, on perceiving the face of a laborer on the way-side, or of a traveller who met me, gradually expanding into a broad sarcastic grin, as such an unaccountable figure passed him. But these I soon began to suspect were Protestant grins; for none but heretics would presume by any means to give me a sneer. The Catholics taking me for a priest, were sure to doff their hats to me; or if they wore none, as is not unfrequent when at labor, they would catch their forelocks with their finger and thumb, and bob down their heads in the act of veneration. This attention of my brethren more than compensated for the mirth of all other sects; in fact, their mistaking me for a priest began to give me a good opinion of myself, and perfectly reconciled me to the fatiguing severity of the journey.
I have had occasion to remark, while upon this pilgrimage, or rather long afterwards, — for I was but little versed then in the science of reflection — that it is impossible to calculate upon the capabilities of either body or mind, until they are drawn out by some occasion of peculiar interest, in which those of either or both are thrown upon their own energies and resources. In my opinion, the great secret or the directing principle of all enterprise rests in the motive of action; for, whenever a suitable interest can be given to the principles of human conduct, the person bound by, and feeling that interest will not only perform as much as could possibly be expected from his natural powers, but he will recruit his energies by drawing in all the adventitious aid which the various relations of that interest, as they extend to other objects, are capable of affording him. It was amazing, for instance, to observe the vigor and perseverance with which feeble, sickly old creatures, performed the necessary austerities of this dreadful pilgrimage; — creatures, who if put to the same fatigue, on any other business, would at once sink under it; but the motive supplied energy, and the infirmities of nature borrowed new strength from the deep and ardent devotion of the spirit.
The first that I suspected of being fellow pilgrims were two women whom I overtook upon the way. They were dressed in gray cloaks, striped red and blue petticoats; drugget, or linseywoolsey gowns, that came within about three inches of their ankles. Each had a small white bag slung at her back, which contained the scanty provisions for the journey, and the oaten cakes, crisp and hard-baked, for the pilgrimage to the lake. The hoods of their cloaks fell down their backs, and each dame had a spotted cotton kerchief pinned around her dowd cap at the chin, whilst the remainder of it fell down the shoulders, over the cloaks. Each had also a staff in her hand, which she held in a manner peculiar to a travelling woman — that is, with her hand round the upper end of it, her right thumb extended across its head, and her arm, from the elbow down, parallel with the horizon. The form of each, owing to the want of that spinal strength and vigor which characterize the erect gait of man, was bent a little forward, and this, joined to the idea produced by the nature of their journey, gave to them something of an ardent and devoted character, such as the mind and eye would seek for in a pilgrim, I saw them at some distance before me, and knew by the staves and white bags behind them that they were bound for Lough Derg. I accordingly stretched out a little that I might overtake them; for in consequence of the absorbing nature of my own reflections, my journey had only been a solitary one, and I felt that society would relieve me. I was not a little surprised, however, on finding that as soon as I topped one height of the road, I was sure to find my two old ladies a competent distance before me in the hollow (most of the northern roads are of this nature), and that when I got to the bottom, I was as sure to perceive their heads topping the next hill, and then gradually sinking out of my sight. I was surprised at this, and perhaps a little nettled, that a fresh active young fellow should not have sufficient mettle readily to overtake two women. I did stretch out, therefore, with some vigor, yet it was not till after a chase of two miles or so that I found myself abreast of them. As soon as they noticed me they dropped a curtesy each, addressing me at the same time as a clergyman, and I returned their salutation with all due gravity. Upon my inquiring how far they had travelled that day, it appeared that they had actually performed a journey seven miles longer than mine: We neednt ax your Reverence if youre for the Islan? said one of them. I am, I replied, not caring to undeceive her as to my Reverentiality.
The truth was, in the midst of all my sanctity I felt proud of the old womans mistake as to my priesthood, and really had not so much ready virtue about me, on the occasion, as was sufficient to undeceive her. I was even thankful to her for the inquiry, and thought, on a closer inspection, I perceived an uncommon portion of good sense and intelligence in her face. My very excellent, worthy woman, said I, how is it that you are able to travel at such a rate, when one would suppose you should be fatigued by this time, after so long a journey?
Musha? said she, but your Reverence ought to know that. — I felt puzzled at this: How should I know it? said I.
Im sure, she continued, you couldnt expect a poor ould crathur o sixty to travel at this rate, at all at all; except for raisons, your Reverence — looking towards me quite confidently and knowingly. This was still more oracular, and I felt very odd under it; my character for devotion was at stake, and I feared that the old lady was drawing me into a kind of vicious circle. Your Reverence knows, that for the likes o me, that can hardly move to the market of a Saturday, Lord help me! an home agin, for to travel at this rate, would be impossible, any how, except, she added, for what Im carryin, sir, blessed be God for it! — peering at me again with more knowing and triumphant look.
Why thats true, said I, thoughtfully; and then, assuming a bit of the sacerdotal privilege, and suddenly raising my voice, though I was as innocent as the child unborn of her meaning, — thats true; but now as you appear to be a sensible, pious woman, I hope you-understand the nature of what you are carrying — and in a proper manner, too, for you know thats the chief point.
Why, Father dear, I do my best, avourneen; an I ought of a sartinty to know it, bekase blessed Friar Hagan spent three days instructin Mat and myself in it; an more betoken, that Mat sent him a sack o phaties, an a bag of oats for his trouble, not forgettin the goose he got from myself, the Micklemas afther. — Arrah how long is that ago, Katty a-haygur? said she, addressing her companion.
Ten years, said Katty. Oh! its more, Im thinkin; its ten years since poor Dick, God rest his sowl, died, and this was full two years afore that: but no matther, agra, Ill let your Reverence hear the prayer, at any rate. She here repeated a beautiful Irish prayer to the Blessed Virgin, of which that beginning with Hail, holy Queen! in the Roman Catholic prayer-books is a translation, or perhaps the original. While she was repeating the prayer, I observed her hand in her bosom, apparently extricating something, which, on being brought out, proved to be a scapular; she held it up, that I might see it: Your Reverence, said she, this is the ninth journey of the kind I made: but you dont wonder now, I bleeve, how stoutly Im able to stump it.
You really do stump it stoutly, as you say, I replied.
Ay, said she, an not a wan o me buts as weak as a cat, at home scarce can put a hand to any thing; but then, your Reverence, my eldest daughter, Ellish, jist minds the house, an lots the ould mother mind the prayers, as Im not able to do a hands turn, worth namin.
But you appear to be stout and healthy, I observed, if a person may judge by your looks.
Glory be to them that giv it to me then! that I am at the present time, padre dheelish. But dont you know Im always so durin this journey; Ive a wicket heart-burn that torments the very life out o me, all the year round till this; and what ud your Reverence think, but its sure to lave me, clear and clane, and a fortnight or so afore I come here; I never wanst feels a bit iv it, while I rouse and prepare myself for the Island, nor for a month after I come here agen, Glory be to God. She then turned to her companion, and commenced, in a voice half audible — Musha! Katty a-haygur, did ye iver lay your two livin eyes on so young a priest? a sweet and holy crathur he is, no doubt, and has goodness in his face, may the Lord bless him!
Musha! said she, surely your Reverence cant be long afther bein ordained, Im thinkin?
Well, thats very strange, said I, evading her, so you tell me your heartburn leaves you, and that you get stout every year about the time of your pilgrimage?
An troth an I do! — hut! what am I sayin? Indeed, sir, may be thats more than I can say, either, your Reverence: but for sartinit is —
Do you mean that you do, or that you do not? I inquired.
Indeed, your Reverence, you jist hot it — the Lord bless you, and spare you to the parents that reared ye; an proud people may they be at having the likes of im, Katty avourneen — turning abruptly to Katty, that she might disarm my interogatories on this tender subject with a better grace — proud people, as I said afore, the Lord may spare him to them!
We here topped a little hill, and saw the spire of a steeple, and the skirts of a country town, which a passenger told us was about three miles distant.
My feet by this time were absolutely in griskins, nor was I by any means prepared for a most unexpected proposal, which the spokeswoman, after some private conversation with the other, undertook to make. I could not imagine what the purport of the dialogue was; but I easily saw, that I myself was the subject of it, for I could perceive them glance at me occasionally, as if they felt a degree of hesitation in laying down the matter for my approval; at length she opened it with great adroitness: — Musha, an to be sure he will, Katty dear an darlin — and mightnt you know he would — the refusin to do it isnt in his face, as any body that has eyes to see may know — you ashamed! — and what for would ye be ashamed? — asthore, its imself thats not proud, or he wouldnt tramp it, barefooted, along wud two ould crathurs like huz; him that has no sin to answer for — but Ill spake to im myself, and yell see its he that wont refuse it. Why thin, your Reverence, Katty an I war thinkin, that as theres only three of us, an the towns afore us, where well rest a while, plaise God — for by that time the shower thats away over there will be comin down; — that as theres but three of us, would it be any harm if we sed a bit of a Rosary, and your Reverence to join us?
This was, indeed, a most unexpected attack; but it was evident that I was set down by this curious woman as a paragon of piety; though indeed her object was rather to smooth the way in my mind, for what she intended should be a very excellent opinion of her own godliness.
I looked about me, and as far as my eye could reach, the road appeared solitary. I did, tis true, debate the matter with myself, pro and con, for I felt the absurdity of my situation, and of this abrupt proposal, more than I was willing to suppose I did. Still, thought I, it is a serious thing to refuse praying with this poor woman, because she is poor — God is no respecter of person — this too is a Rosary to the Blessed Virgin; besides, nothing can be too humbling for a person when once engaged in this holy station — So, pride, I trample you under my feet! said I to myself, at a moment when the appearance of a respectable person on the road would have routed all my humility. I complied, however, with a very condescending grace, and to it we went. The old women pulled out their beads, and I got my hat, which had one of my shoes in it, under my arm. They requested that I would open the Rosary, which I did: and thus we kept tossing the ball of prayer from one to another along the way, whilst I was bending and sinking on the hard gravel in perfect agony. But we had not gone far, when the shower, which we did not suppose would have fallen until we should reach the town, began to descend with greater bounty than we were at all prepared for, or than I was, at least; for I had no outside coat: but indeed the morning was so beautiful, that rain was scarcely to be apprehended. With respect to the old lady, she appeared to be better acquainted with the necessary preparations for such a journey than I had been: for as soon as the shower became heavy (and it fell very heavily), she whipped off her cloak, and before I could say a syllable to the contrary, had it pinned about me. She then drew out of a large four-cornered pocket of red cloth, that hung at her side, a hares-skin cap, which in a twinkling was on her own cranium. But what was most singular, considering the heat of the weather, was the appearance of an excellent frieze jacket, such as porters and draymen usually wear, with two outside pockets on the sides, into one of which she drove her arm up to the elbow, and in the other hand carried her staff like a man — I thought she wore the cap, too, a little to the one side on her head. Indeed, a more ludicrous appearance could scarcely be conceived than she now exhibited. I, on the other hand, cut an original figure, being six feet high, with a short gray cloak pinned tightly about me, my black cassimere small-clothes peeping below it — my long, yellow, polar legs, unencumbered with calves, quite naked — a good hat over the cloak — but no shoes on my feet, marching thus gravely upon my pilgrimage, with two such figures!
In this singular costume did we advance the rain all the time falling in torrents. The town, however, was not far distant, and we arrived at a little thatched house, where dry lodgin; was offered above the door, both to man and baste; and never did an unfortunate group stand more in need of dry lodging, for we were wet to the skin. On entering the town, we met a carriage, in which were a gentleman and two ladies: I chanced to be walking a little before the woman, but could perceive, by casting a glance into the carriage, that they were in convulsions with laughter; to which I have strong misgivings of having contributed in no ordinary degree. But I felt more indignant at the wit, forsooth, of the well-fed serving-man behind the coach, who should also have his joke upon us; for as we passed, he turned to my companion, whom he addressed as a male personage — And why, you old villain, do you drive your cub to the island pinioned in such a manner, — give him the use of his arms, you sinner! — thus intimating that I was a booby son of hers in leading-strings. The old lady looked at him with a very peculiar expression of countenance; I thought she smiled, but never did a smile appear to me so pregnant with bitterness and cursing scorn.
Ay, said she, there goes the well-fed heretic, that neither fasts nor prays — his God is his belly — they have the fat of the land for the present, your Reverence, but wait a bit. In the mane time, we had betther get in here a little, till this shower passes — you see the suns beginnin to brighten behind the rain, so it cant last long: and a bit of breakfast will do none of us any harm.
We then entered the house aforesaid, which presented a miserable prospect for refreshment; but as I was in some measure identified with my fellow-travelers, I could not with a good grace give them up. I had not at the time the least experience of the world, was incapable of that discrimination which guides some people, as it were by instinct, in choosing their society, and had altogether but a poor notion of the more refined decorum of life. When we got in, the equivocal lady began to exercise some portion of authority.
Come, said she, heres a clargyman, and you had betther lose no time in gettin his Reverence his breakfast; then, said, the civil creature to the mistress, in the same kind of half audible tone —
Avourneen, if you have anything comfortable, get it for him; he is generous, an will pay you well for it; a blessed crathur he is too, as ever brought good luck under your roof; Lord love you, if ye hard him discoursin uz along the road, as if he was one of ourselves, so mild and sweet! Im sure Ill always have a good opinion of myself for puttin on the jacket this bout, at any rate, as I was able to spare his Reverence the cloak, a-haygur! the mild crathur!
While my fellow traveller was thus talking, I had time to observe that the woman of the house was a cleanly-looking creature, with something of a sickly appearance. An old gray-headed man sat in something between a chair and a stool, formed of one solid piece of ash, supported by three legs sloping outwards; the seat of it was quite smooth by long use, and a circular row of rungs, capped by a piece of semicircular wood, shaped to receive the reclining body of whoever might occupy it, rose from the seat in presumptuous imitation of an arm-chair. There were two other chairs besides this, but the remainder of the seats were all stools. The room was square, with a bed in each of the corners adjoining the fire, covered with blue drugget quilts, stoutly quilted; there was another room in which the travellers slept. Opposite me on the wall was the appropriate picture of St. Patrick himself, with his crosier in hand, driving all kinds of venomous reptiles out of the kingdom. The Hermit of Killarney was on his right, and the Yarmouth Tragedy, or the dolorious history of Jemmy and Nancy, two unfortunate lovers, on his left. Such is the rigorous economy of a pilgrimage, and such is the circumstances of the greater part of those who undertake it, that it is to houses of this description the generality of them resort. These dry lodging houses may not improperly be called Pilgrims Inns, a great number of them being opened only during the continuance of the three months in which the stations are performed.
Breakfast was now got ready, but it was evident that my two companions had not been taken into account; for there was an equipage only for one. I inquired from my speaking partner if she and her fellow-traveller would not breakfast. The only reply I received was a sorrowful shake of the head, and Och, no, plaise your Reverence, no! in quite an exhausted cadence.
On hearing this, the kind landlady gave them a look of uncommon pity, exclaiming at the same time, as if in communication with her own feelings, Musha, God pity them, the poor crathurs; an they surely cant but be both wake an ungry afther sich a journey, this blessed an broilinday — och! och! if I had it or could afford it, an they shouldnt want, any way — arrah, wont ye thry and ate a bit of something? addressing herself to them.
Ooh, then, no, alanna, but Id just thank ye for a dhrink of cowld wather, if ye plase; an that may be the strengthenin of us a bit.
I saw at once that their own little stock of provisions, if they really had any, was too scanty to allow the simple creatures the indulgence of a regular meal; still I thought they might, if they felt so very weak, have taken even the slightest refreshment from their bags. However, I was bound in honor, and also in charity, to give them their breakfast, which I ordered accordingly for them both, it being, I considered, only fair that as we had prayed together we should eat together. Whilst we were at breakfast, the landlady, with a piece of foresight for which I afterwards thanked her, warmed a pot of water, in which my feet were bathed; she then took out a large three-cornered pincushion with tassels, which hung at her side, a darning needle, and having threaded it, she drew a white woollen thread several times along a piece of soap, pressing it down with her thumb until it was quite soapy; this she drew very tenderly through the blisters which were risen on my feet, cutting it at both ends, and leaving a part of it in the blister. It is decidedly the best remedy that ever was tried, for I can declare that during the remainder of my pilgrimage, not one of these blisters gave me the least pain.
When breakfast was over, and these kind attentions performed, we set out once more; and from this place, I remarked, as we advanced, that an odd traveller would fall in upon the way: so that before we had gone many miles farther, the fatigue of the journey was much lessened by the society of the pilgrims. These were now collected into little groups, of from three to a dozen, each, with the exception of myself and one or two others of a decenter cast, having the staff and bag. The chat and anecdotes were, upon the whole, very amusing; but although there was a great variety of feature, character, and costume among so many, as must always be the case where people of different lives, habits, and pursuits, are brought together; still I could perceive that there was a shade of strange ruminating abstraction apparent on all. I could observe the cheerful narrator relapse into a temporary gloom, or a fit of desultory reflection, as some train of thought would suddenly rise in his mind. I could sometimes perceive a shade of pain; perhaps of anguish, darken the countenance of another, as if a bitter recollection was awakened; yet this often changed, by an unexpected transition, to a gleam of joy and satisfaction, as if a quick sense or hope of relief flashed across his heart.
When we came near Petigo, the field for observation was much enlarged. The road was then literally alive with pilgrims, and reminded me, as far as numbers were concerned, of the multitudes that flocked to market on a fair-day. Petigo is a snug little town, three or four miles from the lake, where the pilgrims all sleep on the night before the commencement of their stations. When we were about five or six miles from it, the road presented a singular variety of grouping. There were men and women of all ages, from the sprouting devotee of twelve, to the hoary, tottering pilgrim of eighty, creeping along, bent over his staff, to perform this soul-saving work, and die.
Such is the reverence in which this celebrated place is held, that as we drew near it, I remarked the conversation to become slack; every face put on an appearance of solemnity and thoughtfulness, and no man was inclined to relish the conversation of his neighbor or to speak himself. The very women were silent. Even the lassitude of the journey was unfelt, and the unfledged pilgrim, as he looked up in his fathers or mothers face, would catch the serious and severe expression he saw there, and trot silently on, forgetting that he was fatigued.
For my part, I felt the spirit of the scene strongly, yet, perhaps, not with such an exclusive interest as others. I had not only awe, terror, enthusiasm, pride, and devotion to manage, but suffered heavy annoyance from the inroad of a villanous curiosity which should thrust itself among the statelier feelings of the occasion, and set all attempts to restrain it at defiance. It was a sad bar to my devotions, which, but for its intrusion, I might have conducted with more meritorious. steadiness. How, for instance, was it possible for me to register the transgressions of my whole life, heading them under the seven deadly sins, with such a prospect before me as the beautiful waters and shores of Lough Erne?
Despite of all the solemnity about me, my unmanageable eye would turn from the very blackest of the seven deadly offences, and the stoutest of the four cardinal virtues, to the beetling, abrupt, and precipitous rocks which hung over the lake as if ready to tumble into its waters. I broke away, too, from several acts of contrition to conjecture whether the dark, shadowy inequalities which terminated the horizon, and penetrated, methought, into the very skies far beyond the lake, were mountains or clouds: a dark problem, which to this day I have not been able to solve. Nay, I was taken twice, despite of the most virtuous efforts to the contrary, from a Salve Regina, to watch a little skiff, which shone with its snowy sail spread before the radiant evening sun, and glided over the waters, like an angel sent on some happy-message. In fact, I found my heart on the point of corruption, by indulging in what I had set down in my vocabulary as the lust of the eye, and had some faint surmise that I was plunging into obduracy. I accordingly made a private mark with the nail of my thumb, on the act of contrition in my prayer-book, and another on the Salve Regina, that I might remember to confess for these devilish wanderings. But what all my personal piety could not effect, a lucky turn in the road accomplished, by bringing me from the view of the lake; and thus ended my temptations and my defeats on these points.
When we got into Petigo, we found the lodging-houses considerably crowded. I contrived, however, to establish myself as well as another, and in consequence of my black, dress and the garrulous industry of my epicene companion, who stuck close to me all along, was treated with more than common respect. And here I was deeply impressed with the remarkable contour of many visages, which I had now a better opportunity of examining than while on the road. There seemed every description of guilt, and every degree of religious feeling, mingled together in the same mass, and all more or less subdued by the same principle of abrupt and gloomy abstraction.
There was a little man dressed in a turned black coat, and drab cassimere small-clothes, who struck me as a remarkable figure; his back was long, his legs and thighs short and he walked on the edge of his feet. He had a pale, sorrowful face, with bags hung under his eyes, drooping eyelids, no beard, no brows, and no chin; for in the place of the two latter, there was a slight frown where the brows ought to have been, and a curve in the place of the chin, merely perceptible from the bottom of his underlip to his throat. He wore his own hair, which was a light bay, so that you could scarcely distinguish it from a wig. I was given to understand that he was a religious tailor under three blessed orders.
There was another round-shouldered man, with black, twinkling eyes, plump face, rosy cheeks, and nose twisted at the top. In his character, humor appeared to be the predominant principle. He was evidently an original, and, I am sure, had the knack of turning the ludicrous side of every object towards him. His eye would roll about from one person to another while fingering his beads, with an expression of humor something like delight beaming from his fixed, steady countenance; and when anything that would have been particularly worthy of a joke met his glance, I could perceive a tremulous twinkle of the eye intimating his inward enjoyment. I think still this jocular abstinence was to him the severest part of the pilgrimage. I asked him was he ever at the Island before; he peered into my face with a look that infected me with risibility, without knowing why, shrugged up his shoulders, looked into the fire, and said No, with a dry emphatic cough after it — as much as to say, you may apply my answer to the future as well as to the past. Religion, I thought, was giving him up, or sent him here as a last resource. He spoke to nobody.
A little behind the humorist sat a very tall, thin, important-looking personage, dressed in a shabby black coat; there was a cast of severity and self-sufficiency in his face, which at once indicated him to be a man of office and authority, little accustomed to have his own will disputed. I was not wrong in my conjecture; he was a classical schoolmaster, and was pompously occupied, when I first saw him, reading through his spectacles, with his head raised aloft, the seven Penitential Psalms in Latin, out of the Key of Paradise, to a circle of women and children, along with two or three men in frieze coats, who listened with profound attention.
A little to the right of Syntax, were a man and woman — the man engaged in teaching the woman a Latin charm against the colic, to which it seems she was subject. Although they all, for the most part, who were in the large room about us, prayed aloud, yet by fastening the attention on any particular person, you could hear what he said. I therefore heard, the words of this charm, and as my memory is not bad, I still remember them; they ran thus:
Petrus sedebat super lapidem marmoream juxta cedem Jerusalem et dolebat, Jesus veniebat et rogabat Petre, quid doles? Doleo vento ventre. Surge, Petre, et sanus esto. Et quicunque haec verba non scripta sed memoriter tradita recitat nunquam dolebit vento ventre.
These are the words literally, but I need not say, that had the poor woman sat there since, she would not have got them impressed on her memory.
There were also other countenances in which a man might almost read the histories of their owners. Methought I could perceive the lurking, unsubdued spirit of the battered rake, in the leer of his roving eye, while he performed, in the teeth of his flesh, blood, and principles, the delusive vow to which the shrinking spirit, at the approach of death, on the bed of sickness, clung, as to its salvation; for it was evident that superstition had only exacted from libertinism what fear and ignorance had promised her.
I could note the selfish, griping miser, betraying his own soul, and holding a false promise to his heart, as with lank jaw, keen eye, and brow knit with anxiety for the safety of his absent wealth, he joined some group, sager if possible to defraud them even of the benefit of their prayers, and attempting to practise that knavery upon heaven which had been so successful upon earth.
I could see the man of years, I thought, withering away under the disconsolation of an ill-spent life, old without peace, and gray without wisdom, flattering himself that he is religious because he prays, and making a merit of offering to God that which Satan had rejected; thinking, too, that he has withdrawn from sin, because the ability of committing it has left him, and taking credit for subduing his propensities, although they have only died in his nature.
I could mark, too, I fancied, the stiff, set features of the pharisee, affecting to instruct others, that he might show his own superiority, and descanting on the merits of works, that his hearers might know he performed them himself.
I could also observe the sly, demure over-doings of the hypocrite, and mark the deceitful lines of grave meditation running along that part of his countenance where in others the front of honesty lies open and expanded. I could trace him when he got beyond his depth, where the want of sincerity in religion betrayed his ignorance of its forms. I could note the scowling, sharp-visaged bigot, wrapt up in the nice observance of trifles, correcting others, if the object of their supplications embraced anything within a whole hemisphere of heresy, and not so much happy because he thought himself the way of salvation, as because he thought others out of it — a consideration which sent pleasure tingling to his fingers ends.
But notwithstanding all this, I noticed, through the gloom of the place, many who were actuated by genuine, unaffected piety, from whom charity and kindness beamed forth through all the disadvantages around them. Such people, for the most part, prayed in silence and alone. Whenever I saw a man or woman anxious to turn away their faces, and separate themselves from the flocks of gregarious babblers, I seldom failed to witness the outpouring of a contrite spirit. I have certainly seen, in several instances, the tear of heartfelt repentance bedew the sinners cheek. I observed one peculiarly interesting female who struck me very much. In personal beauty she was very lovely — her form perfectly symmetrical, and she evidently belonged to rather a better order of society. Her dress was plain, though her garments were by no means common. She could scarcely be twenty, and yet her face told a tale of sorrow, of deep, wasting, desolating sorrow. As the prayers, hymns, and religious conversations which wont on, were peculiar to the place, time, and occasion — it being near the hour of rest: — she probably did not feel that reluctance in going to pray in presence of so many which she otherwise would have felt. She kept her eye on a certain female who had a remote dusky corner to pray in, and the moment she retired from it, this young creature went up and there knelt down. But what a contrast to the calm, unconscious, and insipid mummery which went on at the moment through the whole room! Her prayer was short, and she had neither book nor beads; but the heavings of her bosom, and her suppressed sobs, sufficiently proclaimed her sincerity. Her petition, indeed, seemed to go to heaven from a broken heart. When it was finished, she remained a few moments on her knees, and dried her eyes with her handkerchief. As she rose up, I could mark the modest, timid glance, and the slight blush as she presented herself again amongst the company, where all were strangers. I thought she appeared, though in the midst of such a number, to be woefully and pitiably alone.
As for my own companion, she absolutely made the grand tour of all the praying knots on the promises, having taken a very tolerable bout with each. There were two qualities in which she shone preeminent — voice and distinctness; for she gave by far the loudest and most monotonous chant. Her visage also was remarkable, for her complexion resembled the dark, dingy red of a winter apple. She had a pair of very piercing black eyes, with which, while kneeling with her body thrown back upon her heels as if they were a cushion, she scrutinized, at her ease, every one in the room, rocking herself gently from side to side. The poor creature paid a marked attention to the interesting young woman I have just mentioned. At last, they dropped off one by one to bed, that they might be up early the next morning for the Lough, with the exception of some half-dozen, more long-winded than the rest whose voices I could hear at their sixth rosary, in the rapid elevated tone peculiar to Catholic devotion, until I fell asleep.
The next morning, when I awoke, I joined with all haste the aggregate crowd that proceeded in masses towards the lake — or Purgatory — which lies amongst the hills that extend to the north-east of Petigo. While ascending the bleak, hideous mountain range, whose ridge commands a full view of this celebrated scene of superstition, the manner and appearance of the pilgrims were deeply interesting. Such groupings as pressed forward around me would have made line studies either for him who wished to deplore or to ridicule the degradations and absurdities of human nature; indeed there was an intense interest in the scene. I look back at this moment with awe towards the tremulous and high-strained vibrations of my mind, as it responded to the excitement. Reader, have you ever approached the Eternal City? have you ever, from the dreary solitudes of the Campagna, seen the dome of St. Peters for the first time? and have the monuments of the greatest men and the mightiest deeds that ever the earth witnessed — have the names of the Caesars, and the Catos, and the Scipios, excited a curiosity amounting to a sensation almost too intense to be borne? I think I can venture to measure the expansion of your mind, as it enlarged itself before the crowding visions of the past, as the dim grandeur of ages rose up and developed itself from amidst the shadows of time; and entranced amidst the magic of your own associations, you desired to stop — you were almost content to go no farther — your own Rome, you were in the midst of — Rome free — Rome triumphant — Rome classical. And perhaps it is well you awoke in good time from your shadowy dream, to escape from the unvaried desolation and the wasting malaria that brooded all around. Reader, I can fancy that such might have been your sensations when the domes and the spires of the worlds capital first met your vision; and I can assure you, that while ascending the ridge that was to give me a view of Patricks Purgatory, my sensations were as impressively, as powerfully excited. For I desire you to recollect, that the welfare of your immortal soul was not connected with your imaginings, your magnificent visions did not penetrate into the souls doom. You were not submitted to the agency, of a transcendental power. You were, in a word, a poet, but not a fanatic. What comparison, then, could there be between the exercise of your free, manly, cultivated understanding, and my feelings on this occasion, with my thick-coming visions of immortality, that almost lifted me from the mountain-path I was ascending, and brought me, as it were, into contact with the invisible world? I repeat it, then, that such were my feelings, when all the faculties which exist in the mind were aroused and concentrated upon one object. In such a case, the pilgrim stands, as it were, between life and death; and as it was superstition that placed him there, she certainly conjures up to his heated fancy those dark, fleeting, and indistinct images which are adjusted to that gloom which she has already cast over his mind. Although there could not be less than two hundred people, young and old, boys and girls, men and women, the hale and the sickly, the blind and the lame, all climbing to gain the top with as little delay as possible, yet was there scarcely a sound, certainly not a word, to be heard among them. For my part, I plainly heard the palpitations of my heart, both loud and quick. Had I been told that the veil of eternity was about to be raised before me at that moment, I could scarcely have felt more intensely. Several females were obliged to rest for some time, in order to gain both physical and moral strength — one fainted; and several old men were obliged to sit down. All were praying, every crucifix was out, every bead in requisition; and nothing broke a silence so solemn but a low, monotonous murmur of deep devotion.
As soon as we ascended the hill, the whole scene was instantly before us: a large lake, surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains, bleak, uncomfortable, and desolate. In the lake itself, about half a mile from the edge next us, was to be seen the Island, with two or three slated houses on it, naked and un-plastered, as desolate-looking almost as the mountains. A little range of exceeding low hovels, which a dwarf could scarcely enter without stooping, appeared to the left; and the eye could rest on nothing more, except a living mass of human beings crawling slowly about. The first thing the pilgrim does when he gets a sight of the lake, is to prostrate himself, kiss the earth, and then on his knees offer up three Paters and Aves, and a Creed for the favor of being permitted to see this blessed place. When this is over, he descends to the lake, and after paying tenpence to the ferry-man, is rowed over to the Purgatory.
When the whole view was presented to me, I stood for some time to contemplate it; I cannot better illustrate the reaction which, took place in my mind, than by saying that it resembles that awkward inversion which a mans proper body experiences when, on going to pull something from which he expects a marvellous assistance, it comes with him at a touch, and the natural consequence is, that he finds his head down and his heels up. That which dashed the whole scene from the dark elevation in which the romance of devotion had placed it was the appearance of slated houses, and of the smoke that curled from the hovels and the priors residence. This at once brought me back to humanity: and the idea of roasting meat, boiling pots, and dressing dinners, dispossessed every fine and fearful image which had floated through my imagination for the last twelve hours. In fact, allowing for the difference of situation, it nearly resembled Johns Well, or Jamess Fair, when beheld at a distance, turning the slated houses into inns, and the hovels into tents. A certain idea, slight, untraceable, and involuntary, went over my brain on that occasion, which, though it did not then cost me a single effort of reflection, I think was revived and developed at a future period of my life, and became, perhaps to a certain extent, the means of opening a wider range of thought to my mind, and of giving a new tone to my existence. Still, however, nothing except my idea of its external appearance disappointed, me; I accordingly ascended with the rest, and in a short time found myself among the living mass upon the island.
The first thing I did was to hand over my three cakes of oaten bread which I had got made in Petigo, tied up in a handkerchief, as well as my hat and second shirt, to the care of the owner of one of the, huts: having first, by the way, undergone a second prostration on touching the island, and greeted it with fifteen holy kisses, and another string of prayers. I then, according to the regulations, should commence the stations, lacerated as my feet were after so long a journey; so that I had not a moment to rest. Think, therefore, what I must have suffered, on surrounding a large chapel, in the direction of from east to west, over a pavement of stone spikes, every one of them making its way along my nerves and muscles to my unfortunate brain. I was absolutely stupid and dizzy with the pain, the praying, the jostling, the elbowing, the scrambling and the uncomfortable penitential murmurs of the whole crowd. I knew not what I was about, but went through the forms in the same mechanical spirit which pervaded all present. As for that solemn, humble, and heartfelt sense of Gods presence, which Christian prayer demands, its existence in the mind would not only be a moral but a physical impossibility in Lough Derg. I verily think that if mortification of the body, without conversion of the life or heart — if penance and not repentance could save the soul, no wretch who performed a pilgrimage here could with a good grace be damned. Out of hell the place is matchless, and if there be a purgatory in the other world, it may very well be said there is a fair rehearsal of it in the county of Donegal in Ireland.
When I commenced my station, I started from what is called the Beds, and God help St. Patrick if he lay upon them: they are sharp stones placed circularly in the earth, with the spike ends of them up, one circle within another; and the manner in which the pilgrim gets as far as the innermost, resembles precisely that in which school-boys enter the Walls of Troy upon their slates. I moved away from these upon the sharp stones with which the whole island is surfaced, keeping the chapel, or Prison, as it is called, upon my right; then turning, I came round again with a circumbendibus, to the spot from which I set out. During this circuit, as well as I can remember, I repeated fifty-five paters and aves, and five creeds, or five decades; and be it known, that the fifty prayers were offered up to the Virgin Mary, and the odd five to God! I then commenced getting round the eternal beds, during which I repeated, I think, fifteen paters and aves more; and as the beds decreased in circumference, the prayers decreased in length, until a short circuit and three paters and aves finished the last and innermost of these blessed couches. I really forgot how many times each day the prison and these beds are to be surrounded, and how many hundred prayers are to be repeated during the circuit, though each circuit is in fact making the grand tour of the island; but I never shall forget that I was the best part of a July day at it, when the soles of my feet were flayed, and the stones hot enough to broil a beefsteak! When the first days station was over, it is necessary to say that a little rest would have been agreeable? But no, this would not suit the policy of the place; here it may be truly said that there is no rest for the wicked. The only luxury allowed me was the privilege of feasting upon one of my cakes (having not tasted food that blessed day until then); upon one of my cakes, I say, and a copious supply of the water of the lake, which, to render the repast more agreeable, was made lukewarm! This was to keep my spirits up after the delicate days labor I had gone through, and to cheer me against the pleasant prospect of a hard nights praying without sleep, which lay in the back ground! But when I saw everyone at this refreshing meal with a good, thick, substantial bannock, and then looked at the immateriality of my own, I could not help reverting to the woman who made them for me, with a degree of vivacity not altogether in unison with the charity of a Christian. The knavish creature defrauded me of one-half of the oatmeal, although I had purchased it myself in Petigo for the occasion; being determined that as I was only to get two meals in the three days, they should be such as a person could fast upon. Never was there a man more bitterly disappointed; for they were not thicker than crown-pieces, and I searched for them in my mouth to no purpose — the only thing like substance I could feel there was the warm water. At last, night came; but here to describe the horrors of what I suffered I hold myself utterly inadequate. I was wedged in a shake-down bed with seven others, one of whom was a Scotch Papist — another a man with a shrunk leg, who wore a crutch — all afflicted with that disease which northern men that feed on oatmeal are liable to; and then the swarms that fell upon my poor young skin, and probed, and stung, and fed on me! it was pressure and persecution almost insupportable, and yet such was my fatigue that sleep even here began to weigh down my eyelids.
I was just on the point of enjoying a little rest, when a man ringing a large hand-bell, came round crying out in a low, supernatural growl, which could be heard double the distance of the loudest shout — Waken up, waken up, and come to the prison! The words were no sooner out of his mouth, than there was a sudden start, and a general scramble in the dark for our respective garments. When we got dressed, we proceeded to the waters of the lake, in which we washed our face and hands, repeating prayers during the ablution. This to me was the most impressive and agreeable part of the whole station. The night, while we were in bed, or rather in torture, had become quite stormy, and the waves of the lake beat against the shore with the violence of an agitated sea. There was just sufficient moon to make the darkness visible, and to show the black clouds drifting with rapid confusion, in broken masses, over our heads. This, joined to the tossing of the billows against the shore — the dark silent groups that came, like shadows, stooping for a moment over the surface of the waters, and retreating again in a manner which the severity of the night rendered necessarily quick, raising thereby in the mind the idea of gliding spirits — then the preconceived desolation of the surrounding scenery — the indistinct shadowy chain of dreary mountains which, faintly relieved by the lurid sky, hemmed in the lake — the silence of the forms, contrasted with the tumult of the elements about us — the loneliness of the place — its isolation and remoteness from the habitations of men — all this put together, joined to the feeling of deep devotion in which I was wrapped, had really a sublime effect upon me. Upon the generality of those who were there, blind to the natural beauty and effect of the hour and the place, and viewing it only through the medium of superstitious awe, it was indeed calculated to produce the notion of something not belonging to the circumstance and reality of human life.
From this scene we passed to one, which, though not characterized by its dark, awful beauty, was scarcely inferior to it in effect. It was called the Prison, and it is necessary to observe here, that every pilgrim must pass twenty-four hours in this place, kneeling, without food or sleep, although one meal of bread and warm water, and whatever sleep he could get in Petigo with seven in a bed, were his allowance of food and sleep during the twenty-four hours previous. I must here beg the good readers attention for a moment, with, reference to our penance in the Prison. Let us consider how the nature of this pilgrimage: it must be performed on foot, no matter what the distance of residence (allowing for voyages) — the condition of life — the age or the sex of the pilgrim may be. Individuals from France, from America, England, and Scotland, visit it — as voluntary devotees, or to perform an act of penance for some great crime, or perhaps to atone for a bad life in general. It is performed, too, in the dead heat of summer, when labor is slack, and the lower orders have sufficient leisure to undertake it; and, I may add, when travelling on foot is most fatiguing; they arrive, therefore, without a single exception, blown and jaded almost to death. The first thing they do, notwithstanding this, is to commence the fresh rigors of the station, which occupies them several hours. This consists in what I have already described, viz., the pleasant promenade upon the stony spikes around the prison and the beds; that over, they take their first and only meal for the day; after which, as in my own case just related, they must huddle themselves in clusters, on what is barefacedly called a bed, but which is nothing more nor less than a beggarmans shakedown, where the smell, the heat, the filth, and above all, the vermin, are intolerable to the very farthest stretch of the superlative degree. As soon as their eyes begin to close here, they are roused by the bell-man, and summoned at the hour of twelve — first washing themselves as aforesaid, in the lake, and then adjourning to the prison which I am about to describe. There is not on earth, with the exception of pagan rites, — and it is melancholy to be compelled to compare any institution of the Christian religion with a Juggernaut, — there is not on earth, I say, a regulation of a religious nature, more barbarous and inhuman than this. It has destroyed thousands since its establishment — has left children without parents, and parents childless. It has made wives widows, and torn from the disconsolate husband the mother of his children; and is itself the monster which St. Patrick is said to have destroyed in the place — a monster, which is a complete and significant allegory of this great and destructive superstition. But what is even worse than death, by stretching the powers of human sufferance until the mind cracks under them, it is said sometimes to return these pitiable creatures maniacs — exulting in the laugh of madness, or sunk for ever in the incurable apathy of religious melancholy. I mention this now, to exhibit the purpose for which these calamities are turned to account, and the dishonesty which is exercised over these poor, unsuspecting people, in consequence of their occurrence. The pilgrims, being thus aroused at midnight are sent to prison; and what think you is the impression under which they enter it? one indeed, which, when we consider their bodily weakness and mental excitement, must do its work with success. It is this: that as soon as they enter the prison a supernatural tendency to sleep will come over them, which, they say, is peculiar to the place; that this is an emblem of the influence of sin over the soul, and a type of their future fate; that if they resist this they will be saved; but if they yield to it, they will not only be damned in the next world, but will go mad, or incur some immediate and dreadful calamity in this. Is it any wonder that a weak mind and exhausted body, wrought upon by these bugbears, should induce upon by itself, by its own terrors, the malady of derangement? We know that nothing acts so strongly and so fatally upon reason, as an imagination diseased by religious terrors: and I regret to say, that I had upon that night an opportunity of witnessing a fatal instance of it.
After having washed ourselves in the dark waters of the lake, we entered this famous prison, which is only a naked, unplastered chapel, with an altar against one of the sides and two galleries. On entering this place, a scene presented itself altogether unparalleled on the earth, and in every point of view capable to sustain the feelings raised in the mind by the midnight scenery of the lake as seen during the ablutions. The prison was full, but not crowded; for had it been crowded, we would have been happy. It was, however, just sufficiently filled to give every individual the pleasure of sustaining himself, without having it in his power to recline for a moment in an attitude of rest, or to change that most insupportable of all bodily suffering, uniformity of position. There we knelt upon a hard ground floor, and commenced praying; and again I must advert to the policy which prevails in this island. During the period of imprisonment, there are no prescribed prayers nor ceremonies whatever to be performed, and this is the more strange, as every other stage of the station has its proper devotions. But these are suspended here, lest the attention of the prisoners might be fixed on any particular object, and the supernatural character of drowsiness imputed to the place be thus doubted — they are, therefore, turned in without anything to excite them to attention or to resist the propensity to sleep occasioned by their fatigue and want of rest Having thus nothing to do, nothing to sustain, nothing to stimulate them, it is very natural that they should, even if unexhausted by previous lassitude, be inclined to sleep; but everything that can weigh them down is laid upon them in this heavy and oppressive superstition, that the strong delusion may be kept up.
On entering the prison, I was struck with the dim religious twilight of the place. Two candles gleamed faintly from the altar, and there was something I thought of a deadly light about them, as they burned feebly and stilly against the darkness which hung over the other part of the building. Two priests, facing the congregation, stood upon the altar in silence, with pale spectral visages, their eyes catching an unearthly glare from the sepulchral light of the slender tapers. But that which was strangest of all, and, as I said before, without a parallel in this world, was the impression and effect produced by the deep, drowsy, hollow, hoarse, guttural, ceaseless, and monotonous hum, which proceeded from about four hundred individuals, half asleep and at prayer; for their cadences were blended and slurred into each other, as they repeated, in an awe-struck and earnest undertone, the prayers in which they were engaged. It was certainly the strangest sound I ever heard, and resembled a thousand subterraneous groans, uttered in a kind of low, deep, unvaried chant. Nothing could produce a sense of gloomy alarm in a weak superstitious mind equal to this; and it derived much of its wild and singular character, as well as of its lethargic influence, from its continuity; for it still — still rung lowly and supernaturally on my ear. Perhaps the deep, wavy prolongation of the bass of a large cathedral bell, or that low, continuous sound, which is distinct from its higher and louder intonations, would give a faint notion of it, yet only a faint one; for the body of hoarse monotony here was immense. Indeed, such a noise had something so powerfully lulling, that human nature, even excited by the terrible suggestions of superstitious fear, was scarcely able to withstand it.
Now the poor pilgrims forget, that this strong disposition to sleep arises from the weariness produced by their long journeys — by the exhausting penance of the station, performed without giving them time to rest — by the other still more natural consequence of not giving them time to sleep — by the drowsy darkness of the chapel — and by the heaviness caught from the low peculiar murmur of the pilgrims, which would of itself overcome the lightest spirit. I was here but a very short time when I began to doze, and just as my chin was sinking placidly on my breast, and the words of an Ave Maria dying upon my lips, I felt the charm all at once broken by a well-meant rap upon the occiput, conferred through the instrumentality of a little angry-looking squat urchin of sixty years, and a remarkably good black-thorn cudgel, with which he was engaged in thwacking the heads of such sinners, as, not having the dread of insanity and the regulations of the place before their eyes, were inclined to sleep. I declare the knock I received told to such a purpose on my head, that nothing occurred during the pilgrimage that vexed me so much.
After all, I really slept the better half of the night; yet so indescribably powerful was the apprehension of derangement, that my hypocritical tongue wagged aloud at the prayers, during these furtive naps. Nay, I not only slept but dreamed. I experienced also that singular state of being, in which, while the senses are accessible to the influence of surrounding objects, the process of thought is suspended, the man seems to enjoy an inverted existence, in which the soul sleeps, and the body remains awake and susceptible of external impressions. I once thought I was washing myself in the lake, and that the dashing noise of its waters rang in my ears: I also fancied myself at home in conversation with my friends; yet, in neither case, did I altogether forget where I was. Still in struggling to bring my mind back, so paramount was the dread of awaking deranged should I fall asleep, that these occasional visions — associating themselves with this terror — and this again broken in upon by the hoarse murmurs about me, throwing their dark shades on every object that passed my imagination, the force of reason being too vague at the moment; these occasional visions I say, and this jumbling together of broken images and disjointed thoughts, had such an effect upon me, that I imagined several times that the awful penalty was exacted, and that my reason was gone for ever. I frequently started, and on seeing two dim lights upon the altar, and on hearing the ceaseless and eternal murmurs going on — going on — around me, without being immediately able to ascribe them to their proper cause, I set myself down as a lost man; for on that terror I was provokingly clear during the whole night. I more than once gave an involuntary groan or shriek, on finding myself in this singular state; so did many others, and these groans and shrieks were wildly and fearfully contrasted with the never-ending hum, which, like the ceaseless noise of a distant waterfall, went on during the night. The perspiration occasioned by this inconceivable distress, by the heat of the place, and by the unchangeableness of my position, flowed profusely from every core. About two oclock in the morning an unhappy young man, either in a state of lethargic indifference, or under the influence of these sudden paroxysms, threw himself, or fell from one of the galleries, and was so shattered by the fall that he died next day at twelve oclock, — and, what was not much to the credit of the clergymen on the island — without the benefit of the clergy; for I saw a priest with his stole and box of chrism finishing off his extreme unction when he was quite dead. This is frequently done in the Church of Rome, under a hope that life may not be utterly extinct, and that consequently the final separation of the soul and body may not have taken place.
In this prison, during the night, several persons go about with rods and staves, rapping those on the head whom they see heavy; snuff-boxes also go around very freely, elbows are jogged, chins chucked, and ears twitched, for the purpose of keeping each other awake. The rods and staves are frequently changed from hand to hand, and I thought it would be a lucky job if I could get one for a little, to enable me to change my position. I accordingly asked a man who had been a long time banging in this manner, if he would allow me to take his place for some time, and he was civil enough to do so. I therefore set out on my travels through the prison, rapping about me at a great rate, and with remarkable effect; for, whatever was the cause of it, I perceived that not a soul seemed the least inclined to doze after a visit from me; on the contrary, I observed several to scratch their heads, giving me at the same time significant looks of very sincere thankfulness.
But what I am convinced was the most meritorious act of my whole pilgrimage, as it was certainly the most zealously performed, was a remembrance I gave the squat fellow, who visited me in the early part of the night. He was engaged, tooth and nail, with another man, at a De Profundis, and although not asleep at the time, yet on the principle that prevention is better than cure, I thought it more prudent to let him have his rap before the occasion for it might come on: he accordingly got full payment, at compound interest, for the villanous knock he had lent me before.
This employment stirred my blood a little, and I got much lighter. I could now pay some attention to the scene about me, and the first object that engaged it was a fellow with a hare-lip, who had completely taken the lead at prayer. The organs of speech seemed to have been transferred from his mouth to his nose, and, although Irish was his vernacular language, either some fool or knave had taught him to say his prayers in English: and you may take this as an observation founded on fact, that the language which a Roman Catholic of the lower class does not understand, is the one in which it is disposed to pray. As for him he had lots of English prayers, though he was totally ignorant of that language. The twang from the nose, the loud and rapid tone in which he spoke, and the malaproprian happiness with which he travestied every prayer he uttered, would have compelled any man to smile. The priests laughed outright before the whole congregation, particularly one of them, whom I well knew; the other turned his face towards the altar, and leaning over a silver pix, in which, according to their own tenets, the Redeemer of the world must have been at that moment, as it contained the consecrated wafers, gave full vent to his risibility. Now it is remarkable that no one present attached the slightest impropriety to this — I for one did not; although it certainly occurred to me with full force at a subsequent period.
When morning came, the blessed light of the sun broke the leaden charm of the prison, and infused into us a wonderful portion of fresh vigor. This day being the second from our arrival, we had our second station to perform, and consequently all the sharp spikes to re-traverse. We were not permitted at all to taste food during these twenty-four hours, so that our weakness was really very great. I beg leave, however, to return my special acknowledgments for the truly hospitable allowance of wine with which I, in common with every other pilgrim, was treated. This wine is made by filling a large pot with the lake water, and making it lukewarm. It is then handed round in jugs and wooden noggins — to their credit be it recorded — in the greatest possible abundance. On this alone I breakfasted, dined, and supped, during the second or prison day of my pilgrimage.
At twelve oclock that night we left prison, and made room for another squadron, who gave us their kennels. Such a luxury was sleep to me, however, that I felt not the slightest inconvenience from the vermin, though I certainly made a point to avoid the Scotchman and the cripple. On the following day I confessed; and never was an unfortunate soul so grievously afflicted with a bad memory as I was on that occasion — the whole thing altogether, but particularly the prison scene, had knocked me up, I could not therefore remember a tithe of my sins; and the priest, poor man, had really so much to do, and was in such a hurry, that he had me clean absolved before I had got half through the preface, or knew what I was about. I then went with a fresh batch to receive the sacrament, which I did from the hands of the good-natured gentleman who enjoyed so richly the praying talents of the hare-lipped devotee in the prison.
I cannot avoid mentioning here a practice peculiar to Roman Catholics, which consists in an exchange of one or more prayers, by a stipulation between two persons: I offer up a pater and ave for you, and you again for me. It is called swapping or exchanging prayers. After I had received the sacrament, I observed a thin, sallow little man, with a pair of beads, as long as himself, moving from knot to knot, but never remaining long in the same place. At last he glided up to me, and in a whisper asked me if I knew him. I answered in the negative. Oh, then, a lanna, ye war never here before? Never. Oh, I see that, acushla, you would a known me if you had: well then, did ye never hear of Sol Donnel, the pilgrim?
I never did, I replied, but are we not all pilgrims while here?
To be sure, aroon, but Im a pilgrim every place else, you see, as well as here, my darlin sweet young man.
Then youre a pilgrim by profession?
Thats it, asthore machree; everybody that comes here the second time, sure, knows Sol Donnel, the blessed pilgrim.
In that case it was impossible for me to know you, as I was never here before.
Acushla, I know that, but a good beginnin are ye makin of it — an at your time of life too; but, avick, it must prosper wid ye, comin here I mane.
I hope it may. Well yer parents isnt both livin its likely?
Aye! but yell jist not forget that same, ye see; I blieve I sed so — your father dead, I suppose?
No, my mother.
Your mother; well, avick, I didnt say that for a sartinty; but still, you see, avourneen, maybe somebody could a tould ye it was the mother, forhaps, afther all.
Did you know them? I asked.
You see, a lanna, I cant say that, without first hearin their names.
My name is B———.
An a dacent bearable name it is, darlin. Is yer father of them da-cent people, the B———s of Newtownlimavady, ahagur!
Not that I know of.
Oh, well, well, it makes no maxim between you an me, at all, at all; but the Lord mark you to grace, any how; its a dacent name sure enough, only if yer mother was livin, its herself ud be the proud woman, an well she might, to see such a clane, promisin son steppin home to her from Lough Derg.
Indeed Im obliged to you, said I; I protest Im obliged to you, for your good opinion of me.
Its nothin but what ye desarve, avick! an more nor that — yer the makins of a clargy Im guessin?
I am, said I, surely designed for that.
Oh, I knew it, I knew it, its in your face; youve the sogarth in yer very face; an well will ye become the robes when ye get them on ye: sure, an to tell you the truth (in a whisper, stretching up his mouth to my ear), I feel my heart warm towardst you, somehow.
I declare I feel much the same towards you, I returned, for the fellow in spite of me was gaining upon my good opinion; you are a decent, civil soul.
An for that raison, and for your dacent mothers sake (sobies-coat inpassy, amin) , Ill jist here offer up the gray profungus  for the release of her sowl out o the burning flames of pur-gathur.
I really could not help shuddering at this. He then repeated a psalm for that purpose, the 130th in our Bible, but the 129th in theirs. When it was finished, with all due gesticulation, that is to say, having thumped his breast with great violence, kissed the ground, and crossed himself repeatedly, he says to me, like a man confident that he had paved his way to my good graces, Now, avick, as we did do so much, youre the very darlin young man that I wont lave, widout the best, maybe, thats to come yet, ye see; bekase Ill swap a prayer wid you, this blessed minute.
Im very glad you mentioned it, said I.
But you dont know, maybe, darlin, that Im undher five ordhers.
Dear me! is it possible youre under so many?
Undher five ordhers, acushla! — Well, I replied, I am ready.
Undher five ordhers — but Ill lave it to yourself; only when its over, maybe, yell hear somethin from me thatll make you thankful you ever gave me silver any way.
By this time I saw his drift: but he really had managed his point so dexterously — not forgetting the De profundis — that I gave him tenpence in silver: he pocketed it with great alacrity, and was at the prayer in a twinkling, which he did offer up in prime,style — five paters, five aves, and a creed, whilst I set the same number to his credit. When we had finished, he made me kneel down to receive his blessing, which he gave in great form:
Now, said he, in a low, important tone, Im goin to show you a thing thatll make you bless the born day you ever seen my face; and its this — did ye ever hear of the blessed Thirty Days Prayer? 
I cant say I did.
Well, avick, in good time still; but theres a blessed book, if you can get it, that has a prayer in it, named the Thirty Days Prayer, an if ye jist repate that same, every day for thirty days fastin, theres no request yell ax from heaven, good, bad, or indifferent, but yell get. And now do you begrudge givinme what I got?
Not a bit, said I, and Ill certainly look for the book.
No, no, the darlin fine young man, soliloquizing aloud — Well and well did I know you wouldnt, nor another along wid it — sensible and learned as ye are, to know the blessed worth of what ye got for it; not makin, at the same time, any comparishment at all at all atween it and the dirty thrash of riches of this earth, that every wan has their heart fixed upon — exceptin them that the Lord gives the larnin an the edication to, to know betther.
Oh, flattery! flattery! and a touch of hypocrisy on my part! Between ye, did ye make another lodgment on my purse, which was instantly lightened by an additional bank token, value tenpence, handed over to this sugar-tongued old knave. When he Pocketed this, he shook me cordially by the band, bidding me not to forgit the Thirty Days Prayer, at any rate.
He then glided off with his small, sallow face, stuck between his little shrugged shoulders, fingering his beads, and praying audibly with great apparent fervor, whilst his little keen eye was reconnoitering for another pigeon. In the course of a few minutes, I saw him lead a large, soft, warm-looking, countryman, over to a remote corner, and enter into an earnest conversation with him, which, I could perceive, ended by their both kneeling down, I suppose, to swap a prayer; and I have no doubt but he lightened the honest countrymans purse, as well as mine.
On the third day I was determined, if possible, to leave it early; so I performed my third and last station round the chapel and the beds, reduced to such a state of weakness and hunger, that the coats of my stomach must have been rubbing against each other; my feet were quite shapeless. I therefore made the shortest circuit and the longest strides possible, until I finished it.
I witnessed this day, immediately before my departure from this gloomy and truly purgatorial settlement, a scene of some interest. A priest was standing before the door of the dwelling-house, giving tickets to such as were about to confess, this being a necessary point. When he had despatched them all, I saw an old man and his son approach him, the man seemingly sixty, the boy about fourteen. They had a look of peculiar decency, but were thin and emaciated, even beyond what the rigor of their penance here could produce. The youth tottered with weakness, and the old man supported him with much difficulty. It is right to mention here, that this pilgrimage was performed in a season when sickness and famine prevailed fearfully in this kingdom. They advanced up to the priest to pay their money on receiving the tickets; he extended his palm from habit, but did not speak. The old man had some silver in his hand; and as he was about to give it to the priest, I saw the child look up beseechingly in his fathers face, whilst an additional paleness came over his own, and his eyes filled with tears. The father saw and felt the appeal of the child, and hesitated; the priests arm was still extended, his hand open:
Would you, sir, said the old man, addressing the priest, be good enough to hear a word from me?
For what? replied the priest, in a sharp tone.
Why, sir, answered the old man, I am very much distressed.
Ay — it is the common story! Come, pay the money; dont you see Ive no time to lose?
I wont detain you a minute, sir, said the man; this child —
You want to keep the money, then? thats your object; down with it on the instant, and begone.
The old man dropped it into the priests hand, in a kind of start, produced by the stern tone of voice in which he was addressed. When the priest got the money he seemed in a better humor, not wishing, I could see, to send the man away with a bad impression of him.
Well, now whats that you were going to say to me?
Why, sir, resumed the old man, that I have not a penny in my possession behind what I have just now put into your hand — not the price of a morsel for this child or myself, although we have forty miles to travel!
Well, and how am I to remedy that? What brought you here, if you had not what would bear your expenses?
I had, sir, on setting out; but my little boy was five days sick in Petigo, and that took away with it what we had to carry us home.
And you expect me, in short, to furnish you with money to do that? Do you think, my good man, there are not paupers in my own parish, that have a better right to assistance than you have!
I do not doubt it, sir, said he, I do not doubt it; and as for myself I could crawl home upon anything; but what is this child to do? he is already sinking with hunger and —
The poor mans utterance here failed him as he cast his eyes on the poor, pale boy. When he had recovered himself a little, he proceeded: —
He is all that it has pleased God to leave to his afflicted mother and me, out of seven of them. His other brother and sister and him were all we had living for some years; they are seven weeks dead yesterday, of the fever; and when he was given over, sir, his mother and I vowed, that if God would spare him to us, either she or I would bring him to the Island, as soon as he would be able for the journey. He was but weakly settin out, and we had no notion that the station was so tryin as it is: it has nearly overcome my child, and how he will be able to walk forty miles in this weak, sickly state, God only knows?
Oh! sir, said the boy, my poor father is worse off and weaker than I am, and he is sick too, sir; I am only weak, but not sick; but my poor fathers both weak and sick, said he, his tears streaming from him, as he pressed his fathers arm to his breast — my poor father is both weak and. sick, ay, and hungry too, said he.
Take this, said the priest, it is as much as I can afford to give you, putting a silver fivepenny-piece into his hand; theres a great deal of poor in my own parish.
Alas I thought, you are not a father. Indeed, sir, said the poor man, I thought you would have allowed me to keep the silver I gave you, as how can we travel two-and-forty miles on this?
I tell you, my good man, said the priest, resuming a sterner tone, I have done as much for you as I can afford: and if every one gives you as much, you wont be ill off.
The tears stood in the old mans eyes, as he fixed them hopelessly upon his boy whilst the child looked ravenously at the money, trifling as it was, and seemed to think of nothing except getting the worth of it of food. As they left the priest, Oh, come, come father, said the little fellow, come and let us get something to eat.
Easy, dear, till I draw my breath a little, for, John I am weak; but the Lord is strong, and will bring us home, if we put our trust in him; for if hes not more merciful to his poor creatures, than some that acts in his name here, John, we would have a bad chance. They here sat down on the ledge of a rock, a few yards from the chapel, and I still remained bound to the spot by the interest I felt in what I had just witnessed.
What do you want, sir, said the priest to me; did you get your ticket?
I did, sir, I replied; but I hope you will permit me to become an advocate for that poor man and his son, as I think their case is one in which life and death are probably concerned!
Really, my good young man, you may spare your advocacy, Im not to be duped with such tales as youve heard.
By the tale, sir, if tale you call it, I returned, which the father told, I think, any man might be guided in his charity; but really I think the most pitiful story was to be read in their faces.
Do you think so? Well, if thats your opinion, Im sure you have a fair opportunity of being charitable; as for me, I have no more time to lose with either you or them, said he, going into a comfortable house, whilst I could have fairly seen him up to the neck in the blessed element about us. I here stepped over, and instantly desired the old man to hand me the fivepence, telling him at the same time that there was something better in prospect, as a proof of which I gave him half-a-crown. I then returned to the priest, and laid his fivepence down on the table before him; for I had the generosity, the fire, and the candor of youth about me, unrepressed by the hardening experience of life.
Whats this, sir? said he.
Your money, sir, I replied. it is such a very trifle, that it would be of no service to them, and they will be enabled to go home without it; the old man returns it.
That is as much as to say, he replied, sarcastically, that you will patronize them yourself; I wish you joy of it. Was it to witness the distresses of others that you came to the island, let me ask?
Perhaps I came from a worse motive, I returned.
I havent the least doubt of it, said he; but move off — one word of insolence more, said he, stretching to a cutting whip, for the use of which he was deservedly famous. I will cut you up, sirrah, while Im able to stand over you.
Upon my word, said I, extending my feet one after another, you have cut me up pretty well already, I think; but, I added, with coolness, is that, sir, the weapon of a Christian?
Is it the weapon of a Christian, sir? whatever weapon it is, you will soon feel the weight of it, said he, brandishing it over my head.
My good father, said I, do you remember, since nothing else will restrain you, that the laws of the country will not recognize such horsewhip Christianity?
The laws of the country. Oh, God help it for a country! Yes! yes! excellent. Here Michael — I say, come here — drive out this follow. Ill be calm; Ill not, put myself in a passion — out with him! this fellow.
On turning round to contemplate the person spoken to, we recognized each other as slight acquaintances.
Bless me, said he, whats the matter? Why, he added, addressing me, whats this?
How? do you know him, Michael?
Tut, I do — isnt he for the mission?
Oh — ho! — is that it? well, Im glad I know so much; good-bye to you, for the present; never fear but Ill keep my eye upon you.
So saying, we separated. Michael followed me out. This is an awkward business, said he, you had better make submission, and ask his pardon; for you know he can injure your prospects, and will do so, if you dont submit; he is not of the most forgiving cast — but thats between ourselves.
What oclock is it? said I. Near three.
Well, good-bye, and God bless you; if he had a spark of humanity in him, I would beg his pardon at once, if I thought I had offended him; but as to making submission to such a man, as you call it — why — this is a very sultry day, my friend.
I returned directly to the old man and his son; and, let purity or motive go as it may, truth to tell, they were no losers by the priests conduct; as I certainly slipped them a few additional shillings, out of sheer contempt for him. On tasting a little refreshment in one of the cabins, the son fainted — but on the whole they were enabled to accomplish their journey home; and the fathers blessing was surely a sufficient antidote against the Priests resentment.
I was now ready to depart; and on my way to the boat, found my two old female companions watching, lest I should pass, and they might miss my company on the way. It was now past three oclock, and we determined to travel as far as we could that night, as the accommodations were vile in Petigo; and the spokeswoman mentioned a house of entertainment, about twelve miles forward, where, she said, we would find better treatment. When we got on terra firma, the first man I saw was the monosyllabic humorist, sitting on a hillock resting himself — his eyes fixed on the earth, and he evidently in a brown study on what he had gone through. He was drawing in his breath gradually, his cheeks expanding all the while, until they reached the utmost point of distention, when he would all at once let it go with a kind of easy puff, ending in a groan, as he surveyed his naked feet, which were now quite square, and, like my own, out of all shape. I asked him how he liked the station; he gave me one of the old looks, shrugged his shoulders, but said nothing — it was, however, a shrug condemnatory. I then asked him would he ever make another pilgrimage? He answered me by another shrug, a grave look, dryly raising his eye-brows, and a second appeal to his feet, all of which I easily translated into strong negatives. We refreshed ourselves in Petigo.
When we were on the way home, I observed that, although the singular and fatal accident which befell the young man in the prison excited very little interest at the time of its occurrence, yet no sooner had they who witnessed it got clear of the island, than it was given with every possible ornament; so that it would be as easy to recognize the plain fact, when decked out by their elucidations, as it would be to understand the sense of an original author, after it has come through the hands of half a hundred commentators. But human nature is a darker enigma than any you could find, in the Ladys Magazine. Who would suppose, for instance, that it was the same motive which set their tongues wagging now, that had chained their spirits by the strong force of the marvellous and the terrible, while they were in prison! Yet this was the fact; but their influence hung while there, like the tyrants sword, over each individual head; and until the danger of falling asleep in the Prison was past, they could feel no interest for anything beyond themselves. In both cases, however, they were governed by the force of the marvellous and the terrible.
When we had finished our journey for the day, I was glad to find a tolerable bed; and never did man enjoy such a luxury of sweet sleep as I did that night. My old companion, too, evinced an attention to me seldom experienced in an accidental traveller. She made them get down water and bathe my feet, and asked me at what hour I would set out in the morning, telling me that she would see my clothes brushed, and everything done herself — so minute was the honest creature in her little attentions. I told her I would certainly take a nap in the morning, as I had slept so little for the last three nights, and was besides so fatigued. Musha to be sure, and why not, agra! afther the hard bout you had in that blessed Island! betoken that youre tinder and too soft rared to bear it like them that the work hardens; sleep! — to be sure youll sleep your fill — you want it, in coorse; and now go to bed, and youll appear quite another man in the mornin, plaise God!
I did not awake the next morning till ten oclock, when I found the sun shining full into the room. I accordingly dressed myself partially, and I say partially — for I was rather surprised to find an unexpected chasm in my wardrobe; neither my hat, coat, nor waistcoat being forthcoming. But I immediately made myself easy, by supposing that my kind companion had brought them to be brushed. Yet I relapsed into something more than surprise when I saw my fellow-travelers redoubtable jacket lying on the seat of a chair, and her hares-skin cap on the top of it. My misgivings now were anything but weak; nor was I at all improved, either in my religion or philosophy, when, on calling up the landlady I heard that my two companions had set out that morning at four oclock. I then inquired about my clothes, but all to no purpose; the poor landlady knew nothing about them: which, in fact, was the case; but she told me that the old one brushed them before she went away, saying that they were ready for me to put on whenever I wanted them. Well, said I, she has made another man of me. The landlady desired me to try if I had my purse; and I found that the kind creature had certainly spared my purse, but showed no mercy at all to what it contained, which was one pound in paper, and a few shillings in silver, the latter, however, she left me. I had now no alternative but to don the jacket and the hares-skin cap, which when I had done, with as bad a grace and as mortified a visage as ever man dressed himself with, I found I had not the slightest encouragement to throw my eye over the uniform gravity of my appearance, as I used to do in the black, for, alas! that which I was proudest of, viz. the clerical cut which it bestowed upon me was fairly gone — I had now more the appearance of a poacher than a priest.
In this trim did I return to my friends — a goose stripped of my feathers; a dupe beknaved and beplundered — having been almost starved to death in the island, and nearly cudgelled by one of the priests. As soon as I crossed the threshold at home, the whole family were on their knees to receive my blessing, there being a peculiar virtue in the Lough Derg blessing. The next thing I did, after giving them an account of the manner in which I was plundered and stripped, was to make a due distribution of the pebbles  of the lake, to contain which my sisters had, previous to my journey, wrought me a little silk bag. This I brought home, stuffed as full as my purse was empty; for the epicene old villain left it to me in all its plenitude — disdaining to touch it. When I went to mass the following Sunday, I was surrounded by crowds, among whom I distributed my blessing, with an air of seriousness not at all lessened by the loss of my clothes and the emptying of my purse. On telling that part of my story to the priest, he laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks. He was a small, pleasant little man, who was seldom known to laugh at anybodys joke but his own. Now, the said merriment of the Reverend Father I felt as contributing to make me look exceedingly ridiculous and sheepish.
So, says he, you have fallen foul of Nell MCollum, the most notorious shuler in the province! a gipsy, a fortuneteller, and a tinkers widow; but rest contented, you are not the first she has gulled — but beware the next time. — There is no danger of that, said I, with peculiar emphasis.
1* Fire at Lough Derg. — On the 15th Aug 1842, the station at this celebrated place was brought to a conclusion; but in the course of the night it was discovered that some of the houses were on fire, and four dwellings which, we believe, were recently erected, were altogether consumed. The people of the neighboring country directed their efforts chiefly to the preservation of the priors house, which adjoined those in flames, and by pouring a continued supply of water against its windows, succeeded in saving it. The night being calm, and the wind in a favorable direction, the injury sustained was less than must have existed under different circumstances. The houses burnt were occupied as lodgings for pilgrims when on station.
2. Requiescat in pace.
3. De profundis.
4. There is such a prayer, and I have often seen it in Catholic Prayer-books.
An uncommon virtue in curing all kinds of complaints is ascribed to these pebbles, small bags of which are brought home by the pilgrims, and distributed to their respective relations and friends.