Page images

"what the railways do to-day, he used frequently to ride through County Cork to Mitchelstown, visiting relatives who lived there. The coach was at that time driven by a local celebrity called Tom Duggau, who was of a most loquacious habit and would relieve the tedinm of the long journey with many a racy story. On one occasion, however, Tom's spirits lacked their usual brightness, and the man himself looked so 111 that my father asked him if anything was the matter.

"Well, yer honor,'' said Tom. "'twas this way. i wasn't feelin' very well in meself these few days past, an' herself sez to me, 'Why don't ye be afther gettin' a box of them pills of Andherson's whin ye be in the town?' So i wint to Mlsther Murphy's down be.vaut, an' 'Have ye e'er a pill of Andherson'sY' sez L'' Anderson, it may be explained was a popular patent-medicine manufacturer at that time. "'Yes.' sez he. •Will ye give me wan?' sez i, but begorra he wud not. 'Ye must buy the box,' he sez, 'and take two of thim tonight. They'll do ye a wurrld of good,' sez he. So i took the box, bad scran to thlm, and away 1 wint to the offls. But shure. thinks i, if two will do me good, maybe twinty-two will do me more good,—there was twinty-two in the box, the gossoon in the shop tould me—and 'sorra the use to wait till tonight,' i sez, so with that i swallowed thim all."

"Did you swallow the whole lot, Tom?"

"No, begor! i chewed thlm," said Tom. "an' a quare taste they had intolrely. Dick Phelan was on the coach that same evening, an' faith, we wint along grand till we came about a mile aisht of Mitchelstown an' thin 'twas meself was feelin' mortial bad. 'Dick,' sez i, ''tis dyin' i am, will ye dhrive the coach home for me?' i sez. So Dick tuk the relus and him tellin' me i was kilt intolrely, i lay down in the gripe


of the ditch, yer honor, an' sure 'twas meself thought i was dead before morning."

"How long were you in the ditch, Tom? asked my father.

"All night, yer honor," said Tom, "shure i could not shtir wid the way i was in. That Andherson is an ould rogue. 'Tls prosecuted he ought to be, an' he sellin' pills to pizen a mau!"

Such, or maybe to such effect, for l dare not quote verbatim, was Tom's summing-up.

This happened many years ago, but very recently a farmer went into a

certain chemist's shop in C! , and

asked for a box of well-known pills. When the purchase, neatly wrapped in paper, was handed to him, he paralyzed the assistant by tearing off the wrappings and emptying the contents of the box down his throat, so quickly that no one in the shop had time to stop him. in answer to their horrified remonstrances he grinned, paid his bill and walked out. Nothing has since been heard of him nor has the trembling assistant yet been summoned to give evidence at the inquest. .;

But even in ireland he was an exception. Not so, however, the old lady, a family connection of my own, whose love of economy was her ruling passion in life. She had been taught the principle of "waste not, want not," in her youth, and the precept led her to a strict rule of always finishing up remnants, whether it was a scrap of cotton which was saved for a patchwork quilt, or a slice of toast standing neglected in the rack after breakfast. Her peculiarity led her into strange byways, not the least of them being her habit of finishing all medicines that came into the house, without reference to any complaint for which they might have been ordered. No matter how great or how small the amount left in the bottle, she resolutely finished it, and as she lived to celebrate her ninetieth birthday, the power of the drug cannot be so great as some people would have us believe. The dear old lady throve on her selfadministered pills and potions. Modern lecturers on hygiene would have found her a sore puzzle, for her thirst for medicine was only equalled by her abhorrence of fresh air. She was never really happy till all windows and doors were tightly shut and curtained, and at night her bedroom was sealed as hermetically as her ingenuity could seal it. Thick curtains were drawn before the carefully closed, bolted, and shuttered windows; the trap-door in the chimney was pulled down and stunted with paper (there was no fire in the room needless to say): her bed, an old four-poster, was draped with the heaviest of hangings, which were carefully pinned together after she had got in; and finally the keyhole in the door was stuffed with paper to exclude draughts. She ought to have died a hundred deaths in her early youth, but as she probably never heard of carbonic acid gas she lived to a ripe old age. in defiance of all known laws of ventilation and hygiene.

The color of a medicine, as we all know, works wonders, and when Tim Delnney died the village did not wonder (for "wasn't it a green bottle the Docthor was afther glvin' himVi whereas Mary Reagan's recovery was solely due, as was well known, to the efficacy of the red mixture she swallowed so hopefully.

The trinmph of mind over matter is well exemplified among these simple people, as the following example, worthy of the attention of the Christian Scientist, will show. An old woman was removed, very ill indeed, to the Women and Children's Hospital. After she had been well washed (she had never been in a bath before in hei life) she was put to bed. and a thermometer slipped under her arm. Wheu

the nurse, from whom i have the story, took it away to read it, the patleut looked at her with grateful eyes. "Thank ye. miss," said she, "that done me a world of good."

For the truth of this story 1 cannot vouch, though it is well within the bounds of probability. A certain old woman was ordered by her doctor to the sea-side for a week. Living inland, and having never seen anything bigger than a trout-stream of microscopic dimensions, she enlisted the services of a friend to sustain her on her pilgrimage. Dublin Bay having been recommended as convenient and inexpensive, in due time two timorous travellers alighted at Kingsbridge. Bewildered by the noise aud bustle, and too frightened to ask their way, they set out on foot and in course of time found themselves on one of the bridges overlooking that most odoriferous of rivers, the Liffey, which, to their unaccustomed eyes, seemed so enormous that they at once decided it must be the "say." The pungent, sickly aroma of undeflned ingredients assailed their nostrils, aud the patieut in an ecstasy of delight leaned over the parapet of the bridge, inhaling deep breaths aud filling her lungs with this new substitute for ozone. At last she turned, gazed at her companion, aud said solemnly. "Mary, i feel better already!"

When the electric tramway was laid through the streets aud the cars first began to run, it was no uncommon thing to see an old woman petrified with astonishment standing on the curb, with eyes and mouth wide open, gazing at the fearful contrivance. Then as the portent whizzed past and disappeared in the distance her limbs would relax, her eyes resume their normal position, and crossing herself with a fervent "Glory be to God!" she would resume her occupation. On one occasion i was greatly amused at the evideut terror of a huge burly farmer fresh from the country who was being piloted through the town by a friend. Arriving at the Column, the startingpoint of the tram-cars, City began to persuade Country to take a ride. Waiting for my own vehicle i overheard the argument, and finally had the joy of seeing the two clamber up after me to the top of mine when it arrived. Country was seating himself with great care when the spring seat slipped, making him jump some inches and instantly l>olt for the stairs. His friend captured him just in the nick of time; the simple device for keeping the seats dry in wet weather was explained and he finally settled down again, gripping the back of the seat in front of him with both hands, and looking as though he expected a mine to explode under him at any moment. Then with the usual whirr we started, and poor Country would have been off again had he not been held down by his friend who had taken the precaution of sitting outside him on the seat, which just held two. Presently with fearful courage the farmer looked over the side, craned his neck forward, and then nearly twisted himself into a knot as he endeavored to examine the back of the car. When neither horses to draw it nor engines to push it were visible, he became so abjectly miserable that his friend looked at him. "Why," asked he,, "and is it afraid you are?" "Afraid?'' said the farmer: "begorra <•i ahm that!"

When no explosions or accidents occurred, we gradually took courage, and the convenience of the penny rides soon appealed to all sections of the community; indeed in no other town have 1 been so much impressed by the fact that the public vehicles are literally servants of the public. We refuse to be dictated to; no white posts, registered stopping-places, are allowed on our lines; we get in where we will and out where we will; we occasionally in

duce obliging conductors to stop the tram while we jump out and post a letter, or beg him to wait for a friend who's "just coming,' having dashed into a shop on a hurried errand. With it all we manage to keep good time, to meet the trains we are scheduled to meet. and to arrive at the Column at the prescribed hour. How it is done only Heaven and the irish temperament can tell. Occasionally, of course, conductors, being after all only mortal, consider it necessary to hurry the leisurely pedestrian who clambers slowly and majestically into the car. but this we always resent. To have the bell clattered angrily racks our nerves, offends the ear, and insults our rei>oseful dignity. As a rule we swallow our wrath, but one evening an old dame's feelings proved too much for her. She hailed the car too late; we had passed, and by the time we pulled up she was several yards down the road. She was becomingly arrayed, i remember, in a spotlessly white mob-cap and a blue check apron that covered her multitudinous petticoat to the very hem. She had a big basket on her arm and came trundling after the car in very aggrieved fashion. Perhaps the conductor was in a hurry, perhaps he thought her pace unnecessarily slow, at any rate he clanged the bell vociferously. Jerking her basket on to the foot-board and catching the brass rail in one hand, she stood on the road, and treated him to a flood of eloquence, while he tried vainly to make her either enter the car or release her hold. The driver was growing impatient, and the other occupants were so openly amused that the conductor lost his temper. "Will ye get on or will ye not?" he thundered. "Get on? What else would i be doin', if ye'd only give me time?" Then she did condescend to "get on." and finally seated herself with n genial smile that embraced the entire company. "My." she remarked, "what a hurry we're in! Shure, we have the day before us [it was six in the evening], and that young man rarnpagin' and clatterin' as if ould Nick was after him." I regret to say no one had the courage to continue the conversation, and so much valuable information on the ways and habits of "conducthors" was lost for ever.

It Is in the tram-car that one often overhears delicious morsels of gossip, for we discuss our family affairs without the slightest particle of reserve. The following dialogue is reproduced so nearly as possible as it took place.

"'Tis a fine day, Mrs. McCarthy."

"'Tls indeed a fine day, thank God. And how's yourself to-day, ma'am?"

"Well, its only middlln' I am, but did ye hear that I've had James sick with me?"

"No then. I didn't. But what's the matther with him, the creathure?"

"Well, he had an oppression on his chist [chest] an' he was gettin' that thin you'd think he'd been eating carogues [black-beetles] like the cats, so I sint for Dr. O'Connor and he sez 'tis consumption like he have. He sez to give him milk and cod-liver oil and have him be out in the air, but we're fair ruined with the expinse of it, an' him not earnin'."

"Glory be, but 'tis a hard world, an' as for expinse [here the speaker raised her eyes and her hands heavenwards and assumed a tragic pose that would not have disgraced a Siddons] shure 'tis I know what expinse is. Ye know Mary, don't ye?"

"Shure, of course, I do; who wouldn't know her?"

"Well, she had a quare kind of pain like, in her inside, and she was complainin' and gettin' thin like, an' seemed to be out of herself intlrely, an' though I done all I could, she didn't get no better. An' thin wan night she was tuk mortal bad, and we sent Johnny running for Docthor O'Connor, an' he came an' 'Mrs. Tangney,' says

he, ' 'tis the index that ails your daughter.' An' thin he tould me how as only an operation cud do her any good. 'Sind her over to the Hospital to me," sez he, 'for a week, an' I'll sind her back to ye as well as iver she was.' So lie this and be that, we tuk a cab and carted her over to the Hospital, and she was there tin days no less."

"An' is she well agin, now?" enquired Mrs. McCarthy. A little jealousy was mingled with her sympathy, for the glory of an operation had never come in her way and she felt that Mrs. Tangney had marked a point.

"Faith, thin, she is," answered her friend, fully conscious of her superior position, "but what it cost me 'twould scare you to hear. Pounds an' pounds I paid for her. money to the docthor here, an' medicine there, an' nourishment to feed a regiment of dhragoons. chickens, an' milk an' God knows what beside, but." she added, triumphantly preparing to leave the car, "if I hadn't paid it, shure I wouldn't have her to the good, now"; and then she made a dramatic exit, leaving Mrs. McCarthy with humility and envy stamped on every curve of her ample form.

It must be confessed that we dearly love an illness; we revel In lurid details, minute descriptions, unspeakable incidents, and tragic climaxes. And above all we love local color; no pigments are too gaudy for our palettes, and we splash on crimsons and yellows, flaring greens and dazzling blues, with an artistic sense that scorns strict adherence to actual fact. To get an effect, that is our aim and object, and as most Irish people are born storytellers, we generally succeed. It did not interfere in the least with the flow of Mrs. Tangney's discourse that Dr. O'Connor, the sonl of kindly good-nature, had performed the operation free of charge, and had even used his influence to get the patient into a free bed in the hospital. If Mrs. McCarthy dared to put on airs about a mere cold, it was Mrs. Tangney's bounden duty to meet her on equal, or if possible superior terms. However, it must in truth be added that our intent is rarely to deceive; we are merely carried away by our artistic and dramatic instinct. Who so important in the street as Mrs. Mulvaney, whose husband is suffering from some remote disease with a name so awe-inspiring that the bravest among us dares not attempt it? And whose kitchen the rendezvous of neighbors, but hers? She is suddenly the centre of attraction; ghoul-like individuals come flitting to and fro, asking intimate questions, discussing the very latest development, and then with weary sighs and doleful waggings of heads volunteer the cheerful statement that "hlmself's mortal bad." Thenceforward they speak of the invalid in the past tense, and in a tone so sacred that Mrs. Mulvaney somehow feels slightly aggrieved when "himself" gets better after all. She has been cheated of something, she thinks vaguely; and so she has,—of the excitement and hysterical interest of a wake. That a wake bas often been the means of spreading a bad epidemic is only too certain, but to deprive the people of it is to snatch a dinner from a hungry lion, so knitted into their lives has it become, so entirely a part of their thoughts, even of their very being, that to bury the dead unwaked is to commit a sacrilege beyond the power of description. in spite of all the vigilance of the authorities, time and again the body of a man or woman who has died of some highly infectious disease has been waked in n tiny kitchen, in which through all the long hours of a breathless night a mass of steaming humanity is packed, breathing the fetid poison-laden air. and going forth at dawn to spread infection like wildfire through village or town. Nowadays this is rarely possible: twenty years

ago it was a common occurrence.

Needless to say a hurt or a wound must always be inspected by sympathizers. The excuses, apologies, shifts. which one has to conjure up at a moment's notice to escape ocular demonstration of the spoken word, are a liberal education in themselves, for the escape must be made with a good grace, the excuse must be valid, and no trumped-up thing through which any infant could see. The point is one on which we are very touchy, and yet it would be hard to believe that any one could wish to escape so inestimable a privilege. When, however, one day an old flsh-wlfe boarded my tram-car and proceeded on rather original lines, the case was different. As usual she foregathered with a friend who sat near the door. They both exuded in very truth a most ancient and fish-llke smell. Each wore a ragged shawl crossed over her ample front and tied in a knot behind; each affected a style of coiffure whose success depended solely on the half-hearted efforts of two hair-pins, and the main scheme of which necessitated the straying of several grizzled locks down a broad and shapeless back: eaeb wore what had once been a blue serge skirt turned up and tied round, what in courtesy we will call, her waist: each had a drab petticoat, about which the less said the better, and each put a finishing touch to her costume with boots which might have proved an easy fit for the irish Olant. it was rather a hot day. in a mad moment i had gone inside the car. being too lazy to ascend the steps to the top. There was not a breath of air save that which entered the door, and it. alas, paused on its way aud gathered up unconsidered items of essences ere it reached me. To fly. meant to pass the lions in my path: how to get past those boots.—that was the problem. Ere i had solved it the voice of one. with a brogue of exquisite richness

« PreviousContinue »