William Carleton, “The Death of a Devotee”, in Tales of Ireland (Dublin: William Curry Jun. & Co. 1834)

[ Source: “The Death of a Devotee”, in Tales of Ireland (Dublin: William Curry Jun. & Co. 1834), pp.1-40; available at Google Books online; accessed 31.10.2011.]

I will long remember the 14th of January, in the year 18-. On that day I had dined with the priest of our parish, who was, at the period spoken of, an old man, in an infirm state of health. Indeed, he considered this warning in its proper light, and held himself prepared for that great tribunal, before which, sooner or later, we must all appear. Father Moyle was a proof that we ought to carry our charity into every variety of human condition; and that it is possible for a man, under the most difficult circumstances, to raise himself above their disadvantages. He had been educated, and resided for some time, abroad, where he encountered many vicissitudes, strongly and painfully contrasted. These trials, {1} imposed on him, when his heart, as he himself expressed it, had been strongly beset, he did not endure to the end. More he never intimated; but, from the emotion he usually betrayed, whenever he alluded to this-mysterious topic, I thought it was evident that some secret grief - perhaps the remembrance of some bitter fall, lay coiled round his heart. He was a venerable looking man, much bent with his years - being then 76; his face had been good, and was still interesting, from the expression of habitual sorrow which settled upon it; his hair was as white as snow. Altogether his case was a peculiar one. He certainly appeared to have been gifted with a good understanding, joined to much simplicity of character. That he entertained Scriptural views of religion, there is no doubt; and it would seem as if he had been coerced into them by the chastening hand of affliction, or goaded into truth by the inward lashings of remorse. He had tried to build his peace and his security upon sand - had addressed himself to the miserable fragments of guilty mortality; - but the connexion of every thing human with so corrupt and diseased a thing as his own heart, rose up in painful reality before him, and he felt that this unholy affinity - this community of sin and frailty between himself and his mediators, only rendered an application to human intercession {2} or dead works, unprofitable. He was, however, a man, even in his old age, of many weaknesses, and capable of being much influenced, in consequence of his easiness of disposition, by the force of erroneous opinions long wrought into his duties and habits. Whether the abstraction produced by that seriousness which is inseparable from remembered guilt or sorrow, might not have rendered him less capable of going out of himself, and entering into the spiritual circumstances of others, I cannot determine; certain it is that he was engrossed altogether by himself - that his views of truth, though correct, were not urged upon others so strongly as they might have been, and that he discharged the duties of his sacred calling, like a man who felt that the greatness of his own danger prevented him from assisting others. There is some allowance, however, to be made for his years, and the natural decay which time and affliction bring upon the mind as well as the constitution; but another and juster motive may appear by and bye.
  On the 14th of January, 18-, as I have said, I dined with him and his curate. After dinner, we amused ourselves by discussing several common topics of conversation, and sometimes by dipping into the classics, until it was after nine o’clock. A little before that time the wind, accompanied {3} by heavy rain, began to blow with unusual force. “You are storm-staid,” said he to me, “for this night; so I will go to bed, and leave Father John and you to settle that passage between you; it has become a severe night, but you are under a friendly roof, and your family know that you are safe.” He then retired to his chamber, which was a small closet off the room where we sat, and Father John and I, after remaining up until past eleven o’clock, withdrew to our respective apartments for the night. In the course of an hour, however, or upwards, we were awakened by the violence of the storm, which had increased with great fury.
 The priest’s house was situated in a hollow, somewhat resembling an old excavation, scooped out of the south side of a hill. It had probably been a limestone quarry, the banks of which, in order to prevent waste, had been levelled in. A young grove intermingled with some fine old elms, grew on the hill immediately above the house, and a good garden, was laid out on the slope before the door. As a residence, it was tastefully situated, and commanded two or three graceful sweeps of a sunlit river, on whose bank stood a picturesque ruin. A well wooded demesne, a cultivated country, and a range of abrupt mountains, through a cleft in which a road trailed up, whose white track was {4} visible in the darkness of the mountain soil, closed the prospect. Indeed, from the remarkable site of the house, one would be apt to suppose that it was well sheltered from wind and storm; the reverse, however, was the fact; for, whenever the wind came from the north-west, it divided itself, as it were, behind the hill, which was long and ridgy, and rushed round with great violence until it met again in the cavity in which the priest’s house was built, where the confluence of the opposing tides formed a whirlwind far more destructive than the direct blast. Between one and two o’clock the strength of the storm, though startling, had nothing in it to excite particular alarm. Every moment, however, it became more violent: abrupt and rapid gusts, that poured down from each side of the hill, swept round the house, straining its rafters and collar beams until they cracked. It soon became terrible; - lights were got, and, although there was scarcely a crevice in the house, through which a breath of air on an ordinary night could come, yet, so great was the strength of the wind, that arrowy blasts shot in every direction through the rooms, with such force as to extinguish the lights when brought within their range. Still it increased, and the thunder-groans of the tempest were tremendous. The night hitherto had not been very dark; indeed, {5} no windy night is so; but we now perceived the darkness to increase most rapidly, until it was utter and palpable. The straining of the house and rafters was excessive - every light body was carried about like chaff - many of the trees were crashed to pieces, and huge branches reft from their parent trunks, were borne away like straws, wherever the fury of the elements carried them.
 Some time before this, Father Moyle made his appearance - he was pale and trembling, and seemed apprehensive of much danger - for he said it was his opinion that the house could not stand much longer under this strong grappling of the tempest.
 “I fear,” said he, “that either the roof or the walls will be blown in, and, in that case, there would certainly be danger; - John,” he continued, addressing the curate, “get me my stole and some holy water; in that storm we may hear the voice of an angry God, and our duty now is supplication and prayer.”
 When he got the holy water and stole, he put on the latter, and began to read certain prayers in the Latin tongue, set apart for allaying storms; - while uttering these, he frequently cut the sign of the cross in the air, threw holy water first against the point from which he conceived the wind blew, then in every direction, and finally on every person, {6} animal, and fixture in the house. We, in the mean time, could only lend our inward assent to the prayers he repeated. When near the conclusion of the ceremony, he paused, then leaned over the table for a few minutes, with his hands on his face; - he seemed as if recollecting himself, for he instantly knelt down, and prayed aloud in much agitation. One of the prayers he selected on this occasion is called the ”Litany of Jesus,” and it is almost impossible to conceive the woe begone, the utter lowliness of spirit, with which he repeated the words subjoined to the various epithets which are given to our Redeemer. “Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us,” proceeded from his lips, as if he felt in this awful hour, when the wrath of God was heard, as it were, in the terrors of the storm, that the serene and merciful character of the Lamb without stain, was indeed touchingly beautiful, and full of hope to the sinner.
 The night was now pitchy dark, though, for a few minutes before this, fearful lulls were noticed, which excited fresh alarm. We could now look out through the windows, and the dark confused air, in connection with the aspect of the sky, was really appalling; - at the verge of the horizon the heavens were of a lurid copper colour, appearing as if they glowed with a fiery hotness: this was motionless, {7} whilst the massive clouds, from which the lightening shot in every direction, sped rapidly in dark irregular piles, seemingly to one point of the sky. The moon became visible by glimpses, and flew through the heavens in the direction from which the tempest came, with the speed of the wind.
 Hurricanes are of rare occurrence in Ireland, or when they do visit us, it is always found that they are local. I do not now remember over what extent of country this one may have swept, but I know it put forth such dreadful power, that it seemed as if the very elements went forth to battle. During all this time Father Moyle sat, for he was weak and agitated, and I thought evinced symptoms of terror; in this, however, I was mistaken, for it was a far different sensation from fear of the storm which affected him.
 “I think, Sir,” said I, “it cannot last, long now; and, as the house has not already sustained any damage, I trust it will weather it out.”
 “Such a hurricane as this,” he replied, “I have never known in these kingdoms; - but I once remember such a storm; and would to heaven that I could wipe out the recollections attending it from my memory: however,” he continued, in much distress as if to himself, “it may not be - it may not be - they will be remembered.” {8}

 The mind is, indeed, a mystery, and it is strange how emotions may be awakened by many circumstances apparently unconnected with them. That night appeared to be to him a dreadful memento, and, as far as I could judge from subsequent circumstances, the thunder of the tempest could not stifle the still small voice of conscience.
 The goodness of God has ordained that all violent convulsions of nature shall be but of short duration. The storm gradually subsided; - the servants ventured out to examine the state of the house and offices, and we, after their return, went again to bed.
 It seemed, however, that this night was destined to be one of toil to the clergymen. We were scarcely down, when a violent knocking at the door indicated some sudden claim upon their spiritual aid. This was the case; - a frail house in the neighbourhood had fallen in, and crushed one of the inmates almost to death; he was, they said, quite speechless, and they feared that if great haste were not made, he would depart ere the priest’s arrival. The curate accordingly dressed himself, and accompanied the messengers to the scene of death. In the mean time Father Moyle had gone to rest; but the others were scarcely gone half an hour, when a second knocking gave intimation of another sick call. {9}
 “Open the door,” said a voice - “for the sake of the Blessed Mother, will you open the door fast?”  “What’s the matther?” said one of the servants, who was still up.
 “Death’s the matther,” said the man, entering quite out of breath. “John Lynch is dyin’ - and may the Holy Mother of God have mercy upon me, but you could hear him skreechin’, clear an’ clane, above the wind and tundher an’ all: Oh! Mike, Mike, his voice is still ringin’ in my ears, so sharp, wild, an’ unnatural, bekase you see it has the sound of death in it . ‘The priest! - the priest!’ he shouts - ‘the priest - bring me Father Moyle - bring me Father Moyle - no man but him will do me; - then forgettin’ that for a minute, he goes on - ‘May for me - pray for me - will none of yees pray for my guilty sowl? - Ye careless pack, wont yees offer up one prayer for me; - but, bring me the priest first - yees needn’t pray till he comes - it would be no use - bring me the priest, for the sake of the Livin’ Mother!’ May I never commit another sin, but his voice would chill the marrow in your bones, or make your teeth cranch, it’s so wild an’ unnatural.”
 “He must wait till mornin’,” said the servant, “ or Father John’s gone out on another sick call, {10} and Father Moyle’s past attendin’ any, as you know yourself, for the last three years; any how, he wouldn’t be able to venthur out such an unmerciful night as this.”
 “Must wait, is it?” said the man, “who can stop death will you tell us? - why, man, the dead rattle was in his throath when I left him; so say no more, but waken up Father Moyle in a jiffey, or he’ll never overtake him livin’.”
 This the servant peremptorily refused to do, whilst the other as peremptorily insisted on his compliance; at length, after much bickering, which was near ending in blows, the servant brought him into the priest’s bed-room.
 “Here,” said he, “spake to him yourself; for me, I would see you up to the neck in Loughmacall, before I’d axe him to go out sich a terrible night entirely as this is; it’s as much, man, as his life’s worth.”
 “Father Moyle,” said the man, going over to him, “are you asleep, your reverence? humbly axin’ pardon for disturbin’ you at this hour of the night.”
 “What’s the matter?” said the priest.
 “Death, your reverence,” said the man: “John, poor fellow, is departin’; - I left the dead rattle in his throath; - so, time’s short, Sir.”
 “God help him, for I am totally incapable {11} of going to him,” said the priest, “I’m too weak, my friend, and worn, to venture out on any night, much less so dreadful a one as this.”
 “I’m sorry to hear it, your reverence,” replied the messenger, “but, for all that, you must strive to come, whether or not.”
 “I hope he wont die,” said Father Moyle, “till morning, or till Father John returns.”
 “Can the man wait for mornin’?” said the other, “will death wait for any man? - will God wait, that’s more greater again nor death?”
 “Well,” said the priest, “we must commit him to the mercy of his Redeemer; for, if my presence were to save him, I am unable to go, from bodily weakness.”
 “Rise up, Sir,” said the countryman, in a commanding tone: - ”without you I’ll not go - once for all I say it; so you must come, whether you are sick or not, if I should carry you on my back - an’ well able I am to do that same. Sure I’d put the hair of my head or the hands on my body undher your feet to sarve you; but a day’s pace or quietness I’d never see, if he died without you; so you must come, yer reverence.”
 “Don’t be musting his reverence, you had better,” said the servant who was present, “for fraid I’d make it worse for you, nabour.”
 “Wont I?” shouted the man, in an angry voice; {12} “I tell you his bitter curse - the curse of God, of his holy Mother, an’ of all the saints, is upon me, if I come back widout Father Moyle, for he’ll have no priest but him.”
 “My friend,” said the priest, “I tell you once for all it is impossible - I am unable.”
 “By that holy book on your chair,” said the man, in a state bordering on despair and phrenzy, “if you don’t get up an’ come off along wid me, I’ll drag you head foremost out of that bed you’re lyin’ on; if he’s to be damned, that’s no reason that / should be so too, wid so many bitter curses upon my head, if I’d not bring you, an’ me undhertuck it - promised before God an’ his blessed Mother, not to come back widout you.”
 “Who is the sick person?” inquired the priest.
 “’Tis my brother, John Lynch, that has ett my bit an’ sup, an’ slep undher the one roof for many a long night wid me an’ mine.”
 The only reply to this was a cry from Father Moyle, such as I have seldom heard from human lips. The servant was dreadfully alarmed, and instantly called upon me, saying that he believed Father Moyle was dying. As I slept in a closet, divided from that of the priest, only by a thin partition, of course I was apprised of what had taken place, and, in a few minutes, was dressed and in the room. Never did I perceive so awful {13} and mysterious an appearance as he presented when I entered: his arms were lifted up convulsively, as if in supplication or astonishment - his face was death-like, but somewhat distorted out of its natural lineaments - his brows were uplifted wildly like those of a man in affright, and the pupils of his eyes were almost turned inwards, as if the fearful vision which he contemplated was actually in his own brain. He was speechless, and I, as well as the servant, feared that death was upon him.
 “What, Sir, is the matter with you?” I inquired; but he made no reply.
 “This, you ruffian,” said I to the countryman, “is your work, and most certainly, if he is dying, you will answer for it.”
 I then shook him a little, and he drew his breath heavily. “My dear Sir,” said I, “will you tell me what’s the matter?”
 He recovered somewhat; - ”Will I tell you?” said he, repeating my words more fully. He looked at me, however, vacantly, and did not appear to be collected. I then repeated the question, and he started as if he had been pierced with an arrow, Alas!” said he, “you know not what you ask!”
 The state of the dying man now rushed upon him. “Help me up,” said he quickly, “help me {14} up - and oh! let not one moment be lost, for this man’s case is terrible.”
 “You cannot venture out,” said I, “such a night - the wind is still tempestuous, and the rain is falling in torrents.” - ,
 “Get my horse,” said he to the servant, not heeding me; “saddle my horse instantly,” and in a moment he was up, and in the act of dressing himself. “Not even the certainty of my own death as the consequence,” he continued, “would prevent me - yes,” said he, “I am able - see how strong I am!” and he extended his trembling arms to their full length, whilst the drops of agony hung about his temples.
 His conduct during that night was altogether mysterious, and I had not sufficient decision or energy to guide him - I was absorbed in astonishment .
 “Are you ready?” said he to me, “for you must accompany us.”
 “I will in a moment,” said I; “but the consequence I fear will be fatal to yourself.”
 “No,” said he, taking my hand, “I know that’ your apprehension for me proceeds from kindness and affection: I will not feel the tempest - not that tempest;” and, as he pronounced the word that, he pointed outwards, then touched his breast significantly, intimating {15} that the storm was within; and, as he did it, he shrunk and shivered, as if he was endeavouring to throw back some oppressive thought that clung to him. At length tears came to his relief, and they fell from his eyes copiously.
 “It is altogether a mystery,” thought I, “ and resembles nothing I have ever seen or heard.”
 He then, with our assistance, wrapped two or three great coats about him, and tied a large cotton kerchief over his hat and under his chin, and the horse being now ready, we set out, the stranger and I accompanying him.
 As we went along, the appearance of the sky was awfully tempestuous: broad streaks of angry red, such as we had noticed before, appeared here and there in the firmament; others of different shades, ribbed like the sea sand, were also visible; these stormy sweeps were motionless, and not only were deeply tinged with the hue of fire, but seemed to burn like a red furnace. Beneath these were the cloud drifts passing furiously above us - all ebon black, except those about the moon, that had their edges rimmed with pale silver, which only stood out against the dark mass it surrounded in more ghastly relief. The desolation of the country, as we passed along was calculated to heighten the natural appearance of the heavens. Voices of men and women were heard screaming on the blast, as they struggled along the roofs {16} of their houses, placing beams, boards, stones, and even mud, upon the remaining thatch, to prevent it from being altogether carried away; lights, too, were seen flitting in lanthorns, or such substitutes as they could invent for them, to enable them to take a more accurate survey of the ravages of the storm. On arriving at the bridge below the priest’s house, I could perceive that the rapid flood, on whose dusky surface the struggling moonbeams played with snatches of dead light, that glinted darkly and uncertainly on its troubled eddies, nearly filled the span of the arch, and the road itself was strewed with branches of trees, and with thatch that had been carried away from the adjoining houses. Below the bridge was a holme, over which the waters swept with a tumultuous roar that might be heard at the distance of miles, if the night were calm; and to the right rose the gloomy outline of Slieuguillen, fixed in awful stillness amidst the confusion which prevailed in the dark air beneath and around it.
 At length we came to a cluster of houses, mostly built of mud, about a mile or better from the priest’s, where our guide caught the bridle, and led the horse to the door of the house in which the dying man lay. His name, as we have said, was Lynch. For a considerable time he had been abroad, and lived in the capacity of a servant with {17} Father Moyle, who held an ecclesiastical appointment in France, for upwards of fourteen years. Lynch had been a devotee, or voteen, and, for some time previous to his death, was remarkable for the exemplary regularity with which he attended his church duties. He fasted, prayed, and mortified himself with the most rigorous severity, and was known as “Lynch, the voteen,” in consequence of his austere practices. His personal disposition, however, was never amiable, and what he mistook for holiness, instead of smoothing down the asperities of his natural temper, or diffusing about him that serenity which is inseparable from true religion, only rendered him more dark, peevish, and repulsive. He had returned to Ireland with Father Moyle, and lived in the same parish ever since; but it was only within the last few years of his life that he became a voteen. Before that period, he was a reckless and hardened man. silent, fierce, and malignant; and, though not without an ordinary share of intelligence, totally illiterate.
 Father Moyle had been anxious to ascertain the state of his religious feelings, before entering into conversation with him; accordingly, when the man came out to the door on our arrival, the priest desired him to be silent, and not to let any person within apprize the sick man of our presence. {18} We accordingly entered without noise, and stood for some minutes to hear the expressions and ravings uttered by this singular man. His principal cry was, “the priest,” alternated with a querulous and impatient entreaty to be prayed for by those about him - for he himself did not attempt to utter a single prayer.
 “Biddy,” he exclaimed, “is the priest never to come? - is he never to come? - and must I face God without him? Oh, merciful Mother of God, what am I to do, if I die without bein’ anointed or absolved?”
 “Whisht, John, a hagur,” said the woman, who was his wife; “sure you needn’t feel so much afeard - you weren’t that bad a man, any how. Didn’t you attend your duties,’ an’ sure there wasn’t a man in the parish said more prayers, or fasted as much; besides, avourneen machree, sure you have the Coard of blessed St. Francis, an’ what’s before every thing else, the blessed an’ holy Scapular of the Mother of God herself upon your body - sure you needn’t be so much afeard; God will be merciful to you for their sakes - besides, is your prayers an’ fastins to go for nothing?”
 “I know all that,” said he, “lave my sight, an’ don’t be tellin’ me what I know - lave my sight;” and he darted a fierce look at her, whilst his eyes kindled with living fire, like those of a serpent. {19}
 This painful comparison was really suggested to me at the moment; for it required an effort of close attention to disentangle the sharp, dry sounds of his voice from the husky death-rattle emitted from the lower part of his throat, resembling in some degree the noise of the rattle-snake when irritated.
 “Why am I afeard, then?” said he, “will you tell me that - now that death has got into me? - yet it’s thrue what you say, though I can’t feel it; but if Father’ Moyle would come, he could comfort me. Merciful Virgin, I can’t die; - is he comin’? - is he comin’? Oh, that one day of my life had never passed - it lies black and heavy on my heart, for all confessed it! Will yees pray for me? - do ye. hear? - but ye don’t, nor ye don’t care what becomes of my sowl, ye pack - oh, pray for me! Biddy, will you lay down that jug, I’m not dry? Down on your knees - pray - throw yourselves on the ground - your sowls are not stained like mine; - a dhrink, a dhrink, a dhrink! - I’m burnin,’ sowl. an’ body, I’m burnin’; - ye must take me out of this bed, and, put me in some cool place, for oh, I’m burnin’!”
 “John, dear, keep yourself asy,’ said his wife, “sure the priest will be here in less than no time, avourneen; it’s the sickness that disturbs you.”
 “No, it’s not the sickness - I would give the {20} world wide that it was only that. Is Father Moyle comin’? - but I suppose none of ye went for him yet; ye want to have me die like a dog; - sprinkle the holy wather on me, an’ hould up this scapular till I kiss it in honour of the blessed Virgin. Is there no priest? - is there no sign of Father Moyle yet? - he knows all. But, merciful Virgin, wouldn’t I be now a happy man, if I had never seen either him or France! An’ he’s not comin’? - oh! oh!
 As he uttered the latter part of the sentence, Father Moyle, who stood beside me, grasped my arm tightly, as if to support himself, and gave a groan that echoed back that of the dying man with fearful truth. The man’s voice was every moment getting more husky, and even when he didn’t speak, the tough rattle rose and fell with his breath, in a manner that intimated the near approach of dissolution.
 On entering, we found two or three half-lit turf slumbering on the hearth, which gave the house a cold and desolate look, and a chair placed at the bed, which was protected at the foot and sides by straw mats made to perform the office of curtains. On the dresser was a glimmering rush candle, stuck in the cleft of a wooden candle-stick, by the light of which I could perceive a bottle of whiskey, and {21} an egg-cup beside it by way of a glass.. Above the bed, between the thatch and rafters, were two or three branches of withered palm, now covered with soot and dust; in a little blind window beyond the bed, stood an earthen jug, containing holy water, in which was a small branch of heath, as a Spargess, with which they sprinkled it, from time to time, not only upon the sick man, but over the whole bed, the four corners of the house, the door, windows, and chimney, lest the evil one, or any of his spirits, should lurk within, for the purpose of seizing upon the parted soul. A wooden crucifix was also placed at the foot of the bed, inside the mat, from which it was. expected that the dying sinner was to be able to draw comfort. Along with the large scapular which invested him, he had bound round his body many folds of hard whip-cord, knotted in several places, to render the wearing of it more efficacious and penitential: this was called the order of St. Francis, and every one knows that the Scapular is the order of the Blessed Virgin. Around his neck, there was also a small four-cornered bit of black cloth, like a flat pin-cushion, which contained several written charms against sudden death, and the dangers of fire and water; it also enclosed a leaf from the missal, containing what was called a “golden prayer,” said to prevent any person having {22} it about him in the hour of death from being damned, and finally, a blessed candle, in the light of which it was his expectation to die. In a bit of broken tea cup beside him lay a little black paste, made of the ashes of the candles used at Mass, mixed up with holy water to the consistence of paste, and with this he formed, or rather caused to be formed, every quarter of an hour, the sign of the cross upon his breast. With respect to his personal appearance, he had been a man of great muscular power, with large bones, broad shoulders, and black bushy eye-brows, that met sternly across his forehead. Indeed, as he lay stretched before me, I was much struck with the herculean fragment of him which remorse and sickness had left behind. When the candle was brought near him, I could see his appearance more distinctly, and truly it was wild and repulsive. His face was ghastly and so much emaciated, that the bones and sinews had only a thin membrane of yellow skin over them; his black hair was matted, and shot up through the holes of his tattered night-cap, and down about his neck and jaws, in hard pointed locks, that stirred wheri he moved, as if they were instinct with separate life. His nose was thin and worn away - his gaunt cheeks deeply indented on each side, and his eyes had that sharp and gleaming look, which sometimes characterizes the agonies {23} of death. But his voice! O! his voice I Its intonations were hot and fiery - they breathed of torture. No wonder that it rang so powerfully in the ears of the messenger, for never in my life did such sounds fall upon my ear. There was something in them so sharp, pervading, and deadly, or as the man forcibly expressed it, so unnatural, that they seemed like nothing pertaining to humanity. I cannot define the sensation which I felt, but I shuddered with a species of cold terror to which my nature had never been subjected before. Desperate was the grappling - the clinging, where nothing was to be clung to, of a soul which every moment was losing the last consolations of immortal hope - receding as they were amidst the withering anticipations of a futurity for which it was not prepared, but from the tremendous grasp of which it had no refuge. The tones of that voice were rife with utter despair, and his hollow shriekings seemed to be echoed back to mortal ears from the confines of eternal misery in another life. His spirit was parched up, and struggled with appalling strength between the black retrospect of unpardoned crime, and the terrible reality of present and future misery. It was, indeed, a scene never to be forgotten. On our first entering the house, he was lying on his back; but after the expiration of a few minutes, he turned nearly, {24} but not altogether, on his side, and I had an opportunity of surveying him more closely. His face, as I said, was pale; it now seemed cadaverous; but, notwithstanding this, I could percfeive shades of pain that scorched both soul and body flitting rapidly and darkly over his countenance; convulsive moisture hung in froth about his temples, and a dark ring, formed by its oozey wreck, was visible about his mouth and the root of his hair; his eyes were fierce and bloodshot; but in addition to this, his black brows painfully knit, and the deadly paleness of the face, shifting into expressions of varied misery, were indeed such only as could be found in a mortal divided on the gulf of eternity, between the inward scourgings of despair and the searching agonies of disease.

“In that dread moment, how the frantic soul
Raved round the walls of her clay tenement,
Ran to each avenue, and shrieked for help; -
But shrieked in vain!”

There was only a rush-light in the hand of the man who stood over him, and its faint rays seemed to throw all their light upon his haggard and collapsed features, giving them, if possible, a more ghastly expression than they really had.
  The priest now went forward to the bed-side. “John!” said he: “Ha,” exclaimed the other, {25} “that’s his voice!” and he actually sat up in the bed, whilst a gleam of gloomy delight played over his haggard features, like the light of an angry sun sinking amid the clouds of an evening storm. “Ha, ha!” he shrieked with singular exultation, “you’re come, thank God; - now you must save me; now you must keep your promise - it mustn’t rest upon my head, for you said it.”
 “You had better all retire,” said Father Moyle to us, “until I strive to compose this man’s mind.”
 We accordingly withdrew into the next house, which being what the peasantry call “under the roof with the other, was only divided from that in which the sick man lay, by a gable of mud. He could not have been less than two hours with him, during which period I occasionally went out to observe if the ceremonies usual on such occasions were performed. I could hear their voices in loud and earnest conversation, particularly that of the dying man, whose sharp tones, even at that distance, I felt to be loaded with anguish and pain. At length, Father Moyle, alarmed by a sudden paroxysm which seized Lynch, summoned us in.
 It appeared that the spiritual hopes of the sick man could not be directed to the right source, and Father Moyle felt his own state as a sinner too {26} strongly, to lull him into a false security. The fact was, that the hour of conversion appeared to have gone by, for he was not able to change his views of salvation from the opinions that had long determined him to wrong objects. He could not give up, even at the remonstrances of a priest, his scapulars, his cords, his absolutions, and extreme unctions. He knew his Redeemer, if he knew him at all, only as constituting one among a crowd of intercessors, and he wanted absolution from the hand of a brother sinner, as his final remedy. It may be asked how a man like him, who had hitherto placed so much confidence in these dead rites, could not maintain better hopes in the hour of death? To this I reply, that the man’s heart had never undergone a Christian change; he cried peace where there was no peace: but now he wan in the throes of death, and conscience came out to vindicate its own rights. The countenance of a just God shone sternly over his bed of death - the delusions of self-deception melted away - and he stood before God in all the naked deformity of his corrupt nature. But his case was also a peculiar one; for it was quite evident, from certain of his expressions, that remorse for some great crime, stung him to the soul.
 “Heaven and earth, is there no mercy?” he exclaimed, {27} “what brought you to me, if you couldn’t give me comfort? - you had no business here; I thought you would take more pains with me - for you know you’re bound to do it - you know that;” and he glared angrily at the priest.
 The latter, however, seemed to have been kindled into the pure glow of that Gospel truth which he attempted in vain to place within the dying man’s grasp. The scene was touching. He raised himself over him with calm solemnity, that derived much of its venerable beauty from the contrast presented between Christian hope and the raving distraction of a sinner writhing under the conviction of unpardoned guilt, whose death-bed was surrounded by nothing but darkness and misery. It was truly affecting, indeed, to contemplate the reverend form of the priest standing over the bed of death, his snowy locks giving to his careworn features an expression of solemn grace, such as became the messenger of mercy. I think he is yet in my eye, as the dim light fell upon his meek countenance, raising his eyes and his arms to heaven, in attestation at once of the truth of his message, and of the trembling anxiety with which he delivered it. Long, and earnest, and heartrending was the struggle between guilt and mercy - between the long-cherished, the delusive hopes of the perishing sinner, and the simple command {28} to surrender up the idols .of the heart - to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and live. The only reply to all this was a continual cry for absolution.
 “Absolve me - for the sake of the Blessed Mother, absolve me, I say!” shrieked Lynch, as he stretched out his fleshless arms, with the most intense supplication, to the priest . “Let me get absolution, an’ die.”
 “I too am a sinner,” replied the priest; “think not to draw consolation from me. I cannot, nor will I, mock the awful power of God by the unmeaning form of a rite, particularly when the heart is dead to a living faith.”
 “Anoint me, then,” said the other - “anoint me; surely you won’t let me die like a heretic or a dog, without the benefit of that, at laste?”
 “I am myself,” replied the priest, “on the brink of the grave, and I cannot trifle either with your salvation or my own. I could not meet my Redeemer, if I turned away your heart from Him, in this awful hour. Tell me that you renounce every thing, except Him Alone, and I will then speak peace to your soul.”
 “Sure I do believe on my Redeemer,” replied the man - “didn’t I always believe on him? I only want absolution.”
 “Hear me, you deluded man,” said the priest: {29} “as I shall stand before the throne of judgment, and as God liveth, there is none but God who can give you absolution.”
 A murmur of surprise and disapprobation at this strange doctrine burst from all present: the priest looked round, but he was firm.
 “Heaven and earth, cannot you do it?” asked the other, distractedly.
 “No!” replied the priest, solemnly; “to forgive sins is the province of God alone, as well as to give grace for repentance and faith.”
 “God of heaven!” cried the other, in a kind of impotent fury, “why didn’t you tell me this before?”
 The priest gasped for breath, and only answered with a groan that shook his whole frame.
 “Is there no hope?” asked Lynch.
 “Repent,” said the priest - “repent from the bottom of your heart, and believe that Christ died for you, and rest assured, that if your sins were ten thousand times greater than they are, they can be made whiter than snow. Can you, therefore, believe that Christ died for you?”
 “I can, I can,” said the other: “didn’t I always believe it?”
 A gleam of delight passed over the priest’s features, and he turned up his eyes gratefully to heaven. He proceeded - “Can you believe that {30} nothing else but repentance and that faith which I have described, are able to save you?”
 “I can, I can,” said the man; “will you absolve me now?”
 “Do you renounce all trust in this, and in this?” said Father Moyle,’ taking up the Cord of St. Francis and the Scapular, both of which the other had pressed to his bosom. The man clutched them more closely, and was silent. “Answer me,” said Father Moyle, “ere it be too late.”
 “Here,” said the man, “I can give up the Coard of St. Francis; but - but - is it to give up the Ordher of the Mother of God? No, no, I couldn’t give up that; I darn’t make her my enemy.”
 “Do you feel that a form of absolution, or the application of extreme unction, from me, cannot pardon your sins?”
 “Sure I know they can” replied the other. The priest clasped his hands despairingly, and looked up to heaven for strength to sustain him under this heavy trial; and the tears streamed down his cheeks. Like a faithful champion, however, he was determined not to surrender the soul of this miserable man without another struggle. He knelt again, and prayed aloud in a strain of the most fervent and exalted piety, whilst his glowing words, which he requested the other to repeat {31} after him, though couched in beautiful simplicity, (he had been the most eloquent man of his day,) breathed forth the holy energy of intense faith. With tears, with supplications, and with deep groaniugs,r did he direct the hopeless man to the fountain of love, pardon, and repentance. With sincere affection and tenderness did he endeavour to lead him to God; strongly did he struggle, and urge, and entreat, pleading only in the name of one mediator between God and man. He prayed, however, alone; the heart of the dying man was not in the prayer - the aspirations of his spirit rose not to the throne of grace: on the contrary, he manifested symptoms of impatience and irritability; he hugged and kissed his cords and his scapular, like a man given over to some strong ’delusion; and, from time to time, clipped his thumb into the holy water, or black paste, and then formed the sign of the cross upon his forehead, lips, and breast.
 When the prayer was over, the priest spoke to him again with redoubled earnestness, and with still streaming eyes, pressed, entreated, and commanded him to cast away all but Christ, who, he told him, would not give his glory to another. Vain was every exertion to accomplish this - fruitless every struggle. His hopes, his habits, his opinions, his experience, had all been twined round {32} his idols, and these idols were grown into his innermost heart; how could he cast them out now, without tearing up the heart in which they were rooted? To witness such-a death-bed - to contemplate him striving to hope against hope - was worth a thousand homilies. But, in fact, he had no hope; and it was this pervading conviction - so strongly at variance with his creed and opinions - this fatal error of mistaken trust, and the inward torture of actual despair, that constituted his misery.
 When the prayer was over, he commanded them to raise and support him in a sitting posture. He now breathed short, trembled, or rather shivered unusually, every two or three minutes, and cried at intervals for absolution and the unction. I remarked, that as he sat, thus supported, in the miserable bed, his eyes, which were fixed keenly on the priest, shone with a yellow but intense glare, whether in supplication or anger I could not say; but, wherever the latter moved, the sick man’s eyes followed him with a rivetted gaze which he seemed incapable of changing. Such a look was really enough to make a man’s flesh creep.
 “Will you not absolve me?” he inquired.
 “I cannot absolve myself,” said the priest; “none can absolve you but God, to whom I implore {33} you, John, to raise your head in sincere repentance.”
 “Do you remember then?” said Lynch.
 “I do, I do,” replied the other; “but this hour is not that - the hand of God is fastened on us; death and judgment are both present.”
 Lynch again shivered terribly.
 “You will not?” he shouted out hollowly and hoarsely, whilst his eyes darted at him, and the dead-creak was quite loud over his words: “then,” said he, “may my eternal misery rest upon your head, where it ought to rest!” and he fell back faintly in the bed.
 Father Moyle staggered, but I caught and supported him.
 “Father of all mercies,” he exclaimed, “support me under this great trial!” and, as he uttered the words, he wiped the big drops of anguish off his face. He was not, however, to be daunted. Again he grappled with him, wrestled, fought, disputed every inch, under the banner of the Cross, but with no success - the man would give up nothing: he did not refuse to go to Christ, but he brought the enemies of his God along with him.
 Matters now took a most singular and unexpected turn. Those who were present had, for some time before this last scene, considered the {34} conduct of the priest unjustifiable, for they knew not his views, nor the responsibility of his duties; they now attacked him in the language of anger and exasperation, and he endeavoured meekly and calmly, to give them a correct view of that which, as a minister of Christ, he ought to do. But this was doctrine which they understood not. That a priest should be incapable of forgiving sins, they considered rank heresy, and they told him so. Like the poor creature on the bed, they expected that he could save him if he would, and they were determined to compel him to do so. Their language became high, and their visages fierce - so much so, that I myself began to feel apprehensions as to the result of this strange business: at all events, I saw clearly that they would effect their object.
 “Father Moyle,” said the man who had come for him, brother to Lynch, “it’s no use in spakin’ any more about it: this door is now bolted,” - he bolted it as he spoke, - “and out of this house you will not go, if you don’t give that dyin’ man the rites of the church. One word for all, I’ve said it.”
 The priest, who knew their determined character and prejudices on this subject, saw the difficulties of his situation; but he trembled at the thought of making this awful compromise between {35} conscience and humanity. They were knit to their purpose.
 “Come,” said the brother, “bring up the little table to the bed: it’s a folly to talk - I’ll not see my brother die in this state, and a priest in the house with him. Bring the table quick,” said he to the woman, in a voice of passion - “what are you about? - and put the candle on it.”
 “My friend,” said the priest, and he trembled excessively, “I’m an infirm old man, and very incapable of bearing any kind of a severe shock . do not, therefore, for the sake of God, compel me to do what my conscience condemns. I have endeavoured to lead him to Christ, as a sinner, like myself, wanting mercy and pardon; but I cannot administer a dead service which would only involve myself in deep guilt, without benefitting him.”
 “That’s all fine,” replied the other; “but walk up, your Reverence: not a word now - it must be done;” and he forcibly led the trembling old man up to the table.
 “Let the priest alone, Larry,” said the woman alarmed at seeing him under his grasp.
 “Keep off of me,” said he, “or I’ll knock you down. Come, Sir, we’ll all go in to the little room; and now fall to your duty.” {36}
 The timid old man turned his eyes to heaven and fell over against the corner of the bed, senseless and convulsive. The woman gave a scream of terror, and ran to his assistance, and I aided her in raising him. The sick man, who did not speak during this scene, watched the proceedings with the eye of a lynx; but the death-rattle became louder and more harsh, in proportion as his interest in what was going forward increased.
 We placed Father Moyle on a chair, and were endeavouring to recover him, when a loud knocking was heard at the door, and immediately after, the curate’s voice, desiring to be admitted. It appeared that the servant told him, on his returning from the sick call, that he feared something must have happened Father Moyle - an alarm whieh the severity of the night, his illness, and his long absence, sufficiently justified. The curate felt the same apprehension, and, on hearing whither he had gone, followed him.
 “In the name of heaven,” said he, on seeing the situation of Father Moyle, “what does this mean?”
 “Never you heed that,” said Lynch’s brother, “it won’t signify - give this man the rites of the church, while he has life and sense in him, and we’ll take care of Father Moyle. Come,” said he, {37} “we’ll bring him, chair and all, into the next house, an’ in a short time he’ll be well enough.”
 This the curate refused to do, until he saw that Father Moyle, who now opened his eyes and drew his breath, was likely to recover. In the mean time, he was removed to the other house, whither we all accompanied him, leaving the curate and the dying man together. When the last rites of the church were administered, we returned, and, reader, he who clung to his idols, his scapulars, and his unctions, lay before us, calm and composed, apparently prepared to meet that Redeemer on whom he refused to ground his sole hopes of salvation! The wooden crucifix was either in his hands or next his heart, according as the caprice of the moment dictated.
 “Denis,” said he to his brother, “I have one commandment to lay on you before I die - will you do it?”
 “You know, John, “replied the other, “if ’tis what I’m able to do, I’ll do it, God willin’; any thing, John avourneen, that could give you ase or pace where you’re goin’.”
 “Well,” said the other,“’tis this - I lay it upon you to make three stations to Loughderg, for myself - three, remimber, in my name: an’ you don’t know but may be ’tis yer garden {39} angel I’d be for this, when my soul’s relased out of Purgathory. Will you promise, before God, to fulfil this?”
 “I promise before God that I will,” said the brother, “if I’m spared: or, if I don’t live to do it myself, that I’ll lay it upon some one else to finish it.”
 “Well, God be praised!” said the sick man: “if you will light this bit of blessed candle, that I may have the light of it shinin’ upon me, I will now die happy.”
 This was complied with; and in less than twenty minutes after these words, he expired.
 When Father Moyle saw that the miserable man was gone, a dark shade of intense misery settled upon his countenance; he had been standing over him whilst in the throes of dissolution, and truly he appeared to feel pang for pang; but when the last convulsion quivered away into the stillness of utter death, he dropped down on the chair as if seized with another fit; the upper part of his face was cold, but his throat and lips were so dry and parched, that he gasped for breath. It was not without a strong trial of Christian fortitude that he was able to contemplate the death and life of the unrepentant being who had gone to judgment, and between whom and himself there had been evidently a mysterious community of {39} knowledge which it is out of our power to reveal. His natural feelings were strong and acute, but the consolations of religion, notwithstanding his sufferings, calmed and supported him under them. When he had regained a little strength, and was sufficiently composed, we prepared to go.
 Ere we left the house, I went over and took a last glimpse of the corpse. It was an unpleasant object to view: his black bushy brows, bent into a scowl by the last agonies, contrasted disagreea. bly with his pallid face, and gave his countenance an expression of “grim repose,” exactly in keeping with his character, and the delusive security in which he died.


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