Bessy Conway; or, The Irish Girl in America
It was hard to persuade old Dolly that Cassidy's story was true. She could by no means realize it to herself that she was the heiress-apparent to so much wealth. The mention of it, however, in connection with her lost son, brought torrents of tears from her eyes Suddenly a new notion entered her head, and hastily drying up her tears she said, axing her eyes on Paul:
" Well ! wouldn't it be a funny thing if it was true, after all! An' sure enough, I was dreamin' of my father last night -- God rest his soul ! an' he never comes to me but for good luck, -- eh, Paul ! what do you think?"
"Why, then, didn't I tell you, Mrs. Sheehan, ma'am ! that it's as true as the Gospel! The money is there, sure enough, if you can only get it !"
" Oh ! if that's all, there'll be no trouble about it -- we can borrow what'll take us from Ned Finigan, and we'll start tomorrow, please God!"
When told that it was not at all necessary for her to go to Cincinnati, but only to her own priest in New York, the old woman's joy knew no bounds. Still there was grief in her very joy, and a gush of tears would come in the midst of her rejoicing.
" Oh Philip ! Philip !" she sobbed out, "are you doin' for your old mother, an' you in your grave -- ma gra gal you wor!"
"The sorra grave he's in," said Paul in an under tone to Cassidy, "if the creature only knew it!"
In order to direct her thoughts from this fatal remembrance Cassidy asked with great apparent interest:
"But, granny, what are you going to do with all your money, then you get it?"
At this Dolly's old face lightened up like a wintry sunbeam. " What will I do with it! -- oh, then, it's myself knows that well."
"An' what is it?" said Paul by way of humoring her.
"It's none of your business, Paul Brannigan!" with a toss of her old head that was quite comical to see.
"See that now, Mister Cassidy!" said the dwarf pleasantly, " see what it is to have money!—but that's true," and rising he took down his measure from a shelf hard by, "that's true, Mister Cassidy, I want to take your measure for a pair of boots?'
"Well! I declare, Mr. Brannigan!" said Cassidy with some embarrassment, "I'd be willin' to give you the job -- and, indeed I'm not out of the need of it at the present time" -- he looked ruefully down at his feet -- " but then— then -- "
" Bad cess to you, why don't you speak out at onst?" said Paul testily; "why shouldn't I make you the boots?"
"Well! for a very good reason," said the smut-faced artisan, " because the money isn't to spare at home. Though I have good steady work all the year round, somehow we're hardly ever able to make both ends meet. Money is always the scarcest thing with us!"
"Still you can find some for Ned Finigan," said Paul with a caustic smile. " But that's no business of mine. Who said you'd hare to pay for the boots -- hold up your foot here!" One would think he meant to cut off the limb he seized it so roughly. Cassidy submitted very quietly to the operation and when it was completed Paul straightened himself up.
"Now, go home!" said he, "like a decent man, an' if you'll take a friend's advice you'll spend your evenings there. I'd tell you the same if Ned Finigan was to the fore this present
minute -- indeed he's not without knowin' my opinion before now in regard to the business he's in. If you want ever to have anything by you, or to keep your head above water you'll keep away from such places altogether."
"Well, I declare, Mister Brannigan, I don't spend much when I do go, and it isn't often I go, at all."
"That says nothing -- the habit will grow on you before you know where you are. Go an odd time into a tavern taking a cup with this one and a sup with that one, and you'll soon be that you can't stay a whole evenin' quietly at home. But stay at home for a week or so, an' read a book or something that way, an' you'll see you'll not care for goin' anywhere, an' you'll wonder at how much money it'll save you."
"Now that's as true as if the priest said it," chimed in Dolly; "it takes Paul to give a good advice!"
Cassidy put it off with a laugh, but there was a voice within him that bore testimony to the truth of Paul's words, and an be walked home through the darkness and the storm, that inward monitor kept saying: " Is it not true every word he said? -- have you not spent many a dollar in the gin shop in the lapse of years -- ay! as much as would clothe yourself and your family decently and comfortably, if you had it by you now!"
On the following Sunday old Dolly's claim was laid in due form before Father B and the good priest was only too happy to take the necessary steps on her behalf. After some weeks of anxious suspense, during which more than one communication passed between Father P of Cincinnati and Father B of New York, the latter had the satisfaction of obtaining the whole sum left by Philip Sheehan, amounting to three hundred and fifty dollars. It was the end of the week when the auspicious letter reached him, and he sent immediately to ask Mrs. Sheehan and Paul Brannigan to go to his house on Sunday afternoon.
" I suppose his reverence has got another letter," said Paul;
"now wouldn't it be a queer thing all out, Mrs. Sheehan, ma'am ! if all ended in smoke."
But Dolly would not let such a thought near her, and although she had no expectation of immediate success, still she put a little extra starch in her best high.cauled cap, and otherwise prepared herself to make "a dacent appearance" on the important occasion.
"It is the morning of the hallow'd day," and Dolly is off to an early Mass at St. James's, while Paul, intending to go to High Mass, strolls away towards the Park in search of "a mouthful of fresh air," as he said to himself. But Paul had another motive for taking his morning walk in that direction. The Park was then more deserving of the name than it now is, for its miniature charms were highly praised by people who had never seen the lawns, and glades, and groves, and avenues of a Regent's or a Phoenix Park. No rural resort had yet been provided for the good citizens of New York, and as the only place of shade to be had in that part of the city, the City Hall Park was the favorite haunt of all the dwellers "down town" who loved the verdure and the shade The place was then in its palmy days, and had many a pleasant nook
"With seats beneath the shade," which if not exactly "For talking age and whispering lovers made,"
like those immortalized in Goldsmith's verse, were none the less most excellent restingplaces for the sons and daughters of toil when on "the Sabbath, the poor man's day," they could sit and listen to the plash of the fountain and think of things past, present, and future. The Park had been Paul's favorite resort on Sundays ever since he came to New York, and although the leaves, and flowers, and verdure were all gone with the summer, and the fountain's pleasant song was heard no more, yet still might Paul be seen either sitting like a
grotesque statue on one of the benches, or sauntering leisurely along the walks every Sunday morning, unless when the weather was such as to keep the whole city indoors.
On that particular Sunday the skies were clear and bright, and the ground hard frozen, and our queer little friend took up his position on a bench in front of the City Hall, in the avenue leading to Chambers street, then as now one of the busiest thoroughfares in New York City. And what brought Paul there that cold frosty morning '.' surely it was not pleasure, for Paul's garments were not over well suited to the state of the atmosphere, and he must have felt the cold keenly, for he got up every few minutes and took a turn or two backwards and forwards, stamping his feet on the ground, and slapping his hands against his sides after the old approved mode of keeping the blood in circulation. No, no, it was not for pleas sure that Paul was there, but from a purer and higher motive that warmed his heart and tingled on his veins, and lifted him altogether beyond his own comfort or convenience. That motive was charity, the lambent flame whose fount is in heaven. One might have wondered to see the little stunted creature waiting there, as he evidently was, his thin old.fashioned face pinched and his hands red and blue with the cold, but the wonder would soon cease, for Paul had not waited very long when up with a race came a little ragged urchin with a bundle of newspapers under his arm, and him Paul greeted as a familiar acquaintance, if not an old one, telling him, at the same time, that he had been waiting for him.
"By golly, you had a cold sit of it, then," said the boy, with a shiver. "Haven't none of the others come along yet?"
"Not one, not one; did you tell them?"
"Yes, I did; they'll be around, never fear! They wanted dreadful bad to know what you had got to say to them."
"And you didn't tell them, did you'."'
" I guess not !" said the precocious youngster, who rejoiced in the name of Mike Milligan, " 'cause why, I didn't know my
self. Here they come, anyhow. Hurry up, will you?" -- raising his voice -- "here's the man I told you of."
Paul was speedily surrounded by some six or eight lads in the same "fantastic livery bedight," not one of them all having a single garment free from rents or patches. It needed not the bundle of papers carried by each to point them out as members of that noisy community whose cries are amongst the first to wake the echoes of the city after "the rosy dawn appears."
"Here they are now for you," said Mike laughing, " here's the Sunday papers," and then he introduced all the gaping youngsters, some as the Sunday Times, others the Sunday Gerald, and so on.
"Yes, yes," said Paul, "but you have other names than them, haven't you? "
"Well yes, there's Terry Smith, and Pat Boyle, and Sam Hooks, and Limping Jo, and Bumpy Peter'? -- at this last name the boys, except Peter himself, all laughed and looked up slily at Paul, as if to see how he took it. Paul laid his hand kindly on little Peter's head, but appeared to take no other notice of that the astute urchins enjoyed as a capital joke.
"So you're all Irish?" said he.
"No, no !" none of them would give in to that.
"What religion do you belong to?"
The boys shook their heads.
"Are you Catholics or Protestants, I mean?"
Yes, most of them were Catholics, but a few were Protestants, and amongst them were Sam Hooks and Limping Jo.
"Do you ever go to Church, then, any of you?"
"Why, no !" said Mike Milligan, speaking for the others, "folks don't buy papers there, do they?"
"What difference is there, then, between the Catholics and Protestants among you? How do you know one from the other?"
Hearing this the boys all laughed and winked knowingly at
each other, evidently setting down "the old coon" in their own minds as particularly "green!"
"Why, golly! that's plain enough," said Terry Smith, a thinfaced, old-fashioned lad, whose ago might be ten or sixteen, for his size was of the former, his face of the latter age. "The Catholics go in for the bishop and the priests, and the Protestants run dead against them -- they vote one ticket, you see, and we vote the other."
Although this brief colloquy occupied but a few moments, the youngsters began to show signs of impatience, and guessed they couldn't wait any longer in the cold. They must sell their papers.
"I'll not keep you many minutes," said Paul, "for myself hasn't much time to spare more than you. I jist want to ask you a few questions, and then you can go for this time. Peter!" -- to his little brother in deformity -- "Peter ! can you tell me who is God?"
Peter shook his head. The same question being put to the others in turn, some said they did not know, others had heard of God, but they couldn't tell who He was; one guessed He v. as higher than the President and lived a great ways off where nobody ever could see Him. Some of the boys laughed at this and said: An't you ashamed, not to know who God is?"
Sam Hooks had often heard of God, but he guessed it was all makebelieve. Mike Milligan rebuked the young heathen sharply and answered at once:
"I guess I know: God is the Maker of heaven and earth and all things."
"Right," said Paul, "quite right. God is the Creator of the worlds and the Judge of all mankind. He has a heaven of joy and beauty to reward the good, and a fiery hell to punish the wicked. He is a great and mighty God, and it is a dreadful thing to offend Him."
The youngsters listened with gaping wonder, differently affected by the announcement of these awful truths. Some here deeply impressed while others only laughed.
"Guess he won't come it on me!" said Sam Hooks, putting on a very determined face; "I know what he's up to -- I do!"
"Shut up there, Hooks !" cried Terry Smith, "let the man speak, will you!"
"Which of you can tell me how many Gods there are?" said Paul. Some said three, some two, and a very few answered correctly -- of this number again was Paul's first acquaintance, Mike Milligan.
"Good!" said Paul, "there is only one God, but now tell me, if you can, how many persons in God?"
This was a puzzler, and after thinking for some time and making various guesses on the subject, it was left for Mike to solve as before. Mike knew the number of persons in the Blessed Trinity, and the names by which they were distinguished life could also make the sign of the Cross.
Wondering eyes were turned on Mike, and Paul laid his hand kindly on the lad's shoulder. "Why, who taught you this, my little man? You say you never go to Church?"
"Well ! I guess it was Nancy Leary."
"And who is Nancy Leary?"
The boy looked up at Paul with intent to speak, but the tears gushed from his eyes, his head sunk on his breast, and he said nothing. Some of the others hastened to explain. Nancy Leary was an old apple-woman who had found Mike, when two or three years old, sitting on a cellar-door crying for his "mammy," which individual, whether living or dead, never answered to the call. So Nancy Leary adopted Mike, and shared her bit and her sup, and her straw couch with him while she lived, ay! and begged clothes for him, too, which her rough, weather-hardened bands kept in repair; but Nancy died and the child could hardly be torn from the white deal coffin in which public charity encased the poor applewoman's mortal remains; no wonder, the boy added, for Mike never had any friend but old Nancy, and she kept him firstrate comfortable,
"I guess I'd know many things I don't know," sobbed out Mike, "if Nancy hadn't died that time. She knew all about Gods and the Blessed Virgin, and a sight of things that I don't remember now."
"God rest her soul!" ejaculated Paul with simple fervor, recognizing in the poor street-seller a departed sister in the Lord.
The little instruction which had fallen to Mike Milligan's share was unhappily confined to himself. Most of the others were quite willing to learn, however, and appeared much interested in the marvelous things told them of God and the world's redemption, and the sublime destiny of man, as coheir with Christ in the kingdom of His Father.
But Sam Hooks was still skeptical, and made a mockery of the whole thing. Bearing the kingdom mentioned, he broke in with an oath:
"Stop there, old fellow! I guess you've gone about far enough. You don't take us for fools, do you?"
" 'Deed no, Sam ! but I take you for Christians redeemed by the blood of a God, and I'd wish to put you in the way of savin' your souls and growin' up decent, creditable men."
"Bosh! we an't ever going to be much better off than we are now. If you can tell us how to make money and get fine clothes, and good eating and drinking, and have good times an the year round, then I'll call you a blamed smart old chap; but I guess that an't in your way."
"Why so, Sam!"
"Well, it a'nt hard to ten that, anyhow," said Sam, with a knowing glance at Paul's shabby apparel. " Don't any fool know that nobody wears a bad coat or a bad hat if he can anywhere's get a good one, and for the eating and drinking -- gosh!" -- and he laughed in Paul's face -- " you look as though you didn't know what it was ! don't he, now!"
Some of the youngsters laughed at this sally, out most of them rebuked Hooks for his want of reverence. Sam only laughed the more
"Don't mind him, sir," then said Terry Smith, " I guess he'd talk so to his mother -- if he had one -- nobody minds him!"
"I'll make you mind me, anyhow !" said Sam, and suiting the action to the word, he applied his fist to Terry's ear with a force that would have knocked him down had not Paul caught him by the arm. Terry seemed disposed to resent the insult, and the other boys would have taken his part, for Sam was no favorite amongst them, but Paul interposed and with no small difficulty succeeded in restoring peace.
"As for you," said he to Sam, "I think you'd best go your ways."
"I guess that's about the truest word you've said yet, my old coon," Sam answered quickly; "when Mike Milligan or you catch me again listening to confounded old yarns when I ought to be selling my papers, you may send me up on a kite's back in search of that kingdom you spoke of -- you may!"
Away he went and Paul made no effort to detain him. "You don't change your hand, my good fellow," he said to himself, looking after him, " you'll go up in a rope some day -- though not to heaven!"
"Let him go !" said Mike, "it's a small loss!"
"Well! it an't much matter, Mike," said he of the Gerald, very much in earnest; " Sam's a hard case, anyhow. I guess he might run for office any day, if he was only big enough."
"Run for office!" inquired Paul opening his eyes very wide. " Why, what does that mean?"
The boys all laughed. "Ha! ha! old dad, you don't know that—guess you'll never get a nomination, anyhow !"
"Except for scavenger!" suggested Limping Jo; "there an't much pickings in that, you know, and I guess an honest so man might slip in there."
"Lord! Lord!" said Paul to himself, "isn't it the quare country all out! but I suppose we must only take our turn out of it, let it be as it may."
"Well, boys," said he. "It's time I was movin' home for I
have my breakfast to get before Mass time. I'm sorry I can't stop longer with you now, but next Sunday morning, God willing, you'll all meet me here if the weather is good, and try to bring some more with you, an' we'll have a little while to talk. "
They all promised cheerfully. "Well now! let us see, before you go," said Paul, " if you remember what I told you. "
Yes, yes! they remembered: one God, in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
"And the heaven that's to reward the good, and the fiery hell to punish the wicked. You'll keep all that in mind, will you?"
All right, they'd remember that, too, but after a brief consultation amongst themselves they detained Paul to ask another question: "Who is the Blessed Virgin!"
"Lord bless me!" said Paul, oblivious for the moment of the gross darkness that enveloped the minds of his hearers, " Lord bless me ! don't you know that ? Why, sure, the Blessed Virgin is the Mother of Our Lord. I'll tell you all about Him and her next Sunday, please God."
"Well!" said Pat Boyle musingly, "if the Virgin Mary is the Mother of Our Lord, I guess her Son must be real angry with some folks" -- and he looked significantly at Jo -- " I've heard awful bad things said of her -- I have!"
"Never mind, my little fellow," said Paul, " there was everything bad said of Christ himself when He was here on earth, but depend on it, He'll one day settle accounts with them that blaspheme His mother's name. We must leave it all in His hands."
"Yes, I guess it's His own business," said Larry Rooney, " I know what Ed do to any one that called holy mother names -- for all she's dead now. "
"Why, what would you do, my boy!"
"I gues-s-I'd-give them Jessy!" the lad replied speaking through his closed teeth, accompanying his words with an
emphatic shake of his tiny fist which came alarmingly near Jo's proboscis, whether by accident or design. "Well ! the Blessed Virgin is your mother and my mother," said Paul quickly, "and the mother of all mankind -- so you see what it is for any one to disrespect her!"
"Gosh ! what a family she's got !" put in Limping Jo, some what irreverently.
"There! I told you," said Mike exultingly; "Nancy always called her mother, and she said she was real good to her, for all I never could get sight of her when she came along. Many a time I tried hard to keep my eyes open when Nancy was at her prayers at night, to see who she was talking to, but I always fell asleep as soon as she knelt down and began to pray to God and the Blessed Virgin and somebody she called Saint Joseph. Guess I wouldn't mind that name so well, only for Limping Jo' there, 'cause why, we call him Joseph once in awhile."
"Blessed mother!" said Paul, half aloud, "are these the Children of fathers that suffered, and died for the faith?" The tears gushed from his eyes, seeing which, the youngsters were much astonished, and looked up curiously in his face. Paul laid his hand kindly on the head of each, and told them not to mind him, but go home and be good boys.
"God be with you till I see you again!" said he, "and mind what I told you in regard to bringin' some more of the boys next Sunday."
Away scampered the ragged company, all except Mike Milligan, who was detained a moment by Paul.
"You'll not forget the other affair -- eh, Mike?"
"See if I do," Mike answered with a sagacious nod.
"You're sure you know the house?"
"I guess I do!" and he grinned significantly.
"Very well, you may go now."
Mike ran off with a hop, step and a jump, and overtook the others just as they reached the gate. The last Paul saw of
him he was mounted on the shoulders of the Times' representative, which position he had gained with a spring, as the terminus of his race.
Paul stood a moment looking after his promising pupils, and once or twice he shook his head.
"Well, God help us !" said he to himself, " I'm afeard it's a poor chance—howsomever, we can only try. We'll do our best, and leave the rest to God."
He looked up at the clock in the cupola and found to his great surprise that it was already half-past nine.
"By the laws," said he to himself, " I'll have hard work to get my breakfast and be away in time -- who'd think it was so late?"
Hurrying home as fast as he could, he found Dolly fretting and talking to herself at a great rate about the breakfast being spoiled, and people " goin' stravagin' about, when they ought to be in the house to get a comfortable bit an' sup of a Sunday morning It was purty work, so it was!" Dolly said as she placed the meal on the small table before Paul.
The little man laughed and hummed in Irish in a not unmelodious voice:
"O Woman of Three Cows, agragh! don't let your tongue thus rattle! O don't be saucy, don't be proud, altho' you may have cattle!"
This allusion to her good luck restored Dolly's good humor. " Wisha, that I mayn't sin, Paul, but you'd make a body laugh if they were dyin' ! -- hurry with your breakfast like a dacent man as you are, till I get the things cleared away!"
"Oh to be sure!" said Paul, "to be sure, we're like a hen on a hot griddle till we see the priest the day. Sure enough! this money beats the world wide!"
Paul's frugal meal was soon despatched and away he went to St. James's, well pleased to find that Mass was not yet commenced. It so happened that the sermon that day was on the text "Faith without works is dead" and as the Preacher
proceeded to enumerate the works which are most available for salvation, Paul's heart swelled with joy as his ears drank in the glorious promise: "They who instruct the ignorant shall shine as the stars in heaven."
"Well! that's worth a workin' for, anyhow," said he to himself as he paced along on his homeward way. "Isn't it a great thing for the likes of me to think that I can gain that high place in heaven as well as if I was rich or handsome, or well-dressed, or could read Latin like the priest ! Isn't it now? So, Paul Brannigan! keep up your heart, and do what you can to make the name of God known and honored! It isn't much you can do, poor man ! and do your best, but every little helps, you know, and when God didn' t give you the ability to do much, he'll not expect it from you, blessed be His name! But you know well that what you con do, you must do, so now, stir yourself, -- if you want to get the reward, you must do something for it!"
It was late that afternoon when Vespers were over and Father B at liberty to attend to Dolly Sheehan, who, with Paul, sat waiting in the hall of the presbytery.
"Well, do you know, Paul aroon !" said the old woman as a rind at the door-bell made her start, "do you know, I'm gettin' mighty timorous about it!"
"Why, then, about this money. Now see what trouble we're givin' his reverence, an' maybe for nothing at all."
"I tell you, Mrs. Sheehan ! you're nothing else but a fool !" said Paul peevishly -- " I ask your pardon for sayin' it, ma'am! an' I wouldn't say it only it's the truth!"
With all Dolly's habitual respect for Paul she was going to make him a sharp answer when the entrance of the priest gave a turn to her thoughts. Taking them into the back parlor, Father B went to a secretary and took out a letter which he handed to Dolly with a smile.
The old woman's hand trembled so that she could not take
it. "Won't you read it for me, your reverence?" she said in a faint voice; I'm afeard "
"Don't be afraid, then," said Father B -- , after glancing over the letter, "here's a draft for three hundred and fifty dollars! Do you hear?"
"I do, your reverence, I do!" said Dolly, falling back in her chair, as pale as death; the next moment she started up with sudden energy and a kind of hysterical laugh, and snatching the paper from the priest's hand, thrust it into Paul's.
"What are you about, woman?" said the hunchback sharply. "Keep your money when you have it."
"I won't keep it, then, nor I can't keep it. If I'm a fool, as you say I am, I'm not fit to keep it. You'll keep it for me, for I tell you it's yours as much as it's mine."
It was no use trying to reason her out of this notion, and all the priest could get her persuaded to do was to allow Paul to put the money in the bank -- but even that in his own name
It is hard to say which was the happiest on that occasion, Father B, Paul, or old Dolly Sheehan.
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