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BY THE O'HARA FAMILY.
CHAPTER I. In the village of Howth there is a little ruin of four walls, encompassing a churchyard. Like almost all similar places in Ireland, and we may add in England, this humble receptacle for the dead is allowed to be overrun with foul grass and weeds, and encumbered with rubbish -evidences of neglect on the part of the living towards the memory of deceased friends, which tells nothing for a theory of abiding affections in human nature, and which, to the eyes of any one who has noticed cemeteries in other countries, is particularly disagreeable. Notwithstanding its unsightly state, the little churchyard of which we speak was, however, when we last saw it, an impressive spot. You turned into it, out of the small bustle of the village, through an open door-way, or rather breach in one of its walls, and were alone in a moment with the silent but eloquent ashes of the “ rude forefathers” of the living creatures so near you. If the wind blew fair for the purpose, the noise of the sea also reached you, sounding melancholy upon your ear, and hoarsely whispering a sympathetic tale of effort, and swell, and force, incessantly dashed into non-existence. The antiquity of the crumbling walls of the ruin assisted these impressions; and from the topmost branches of a tall and flourishing ash-tree in one of its corners, came now and then the still-accordant cawing of two rooks who had nested there.
It was a bleak September evening in the memorable year 1798, that a young person, advancing from the sea-coast through the streets of Howth, approached in the twilight this little burying-place. As he walked along at a quick pace, his glances to either side and behind him implied that kind of watchfulness of others which arises from a wish that others should not watch us. It would not have been surprising, however, if curious eyes turned to observe him, for his appearance was in itself unusual among the humble community of the village, while the circumstance of his coming alone, and a stranger, at such an hour of the evening, into such a neighbourhood, might have caused additional remark. He was a young man of about three-and
Sept. 1838.-Vol. XX111.—NO. LXXXIX.
twenty, tall, well made, free and loose in his movements, with a handsome sunburnt face, dark restless eyes, and black hair. His dress was sailor-like—a short blue jacket, red waistcoat, white trousers, and low-crowned hat; and yet, from its trim cut, costly quality, and foppish arrangement, as well as from the expression of his features and bearing, the costume seemed to be a holiday affectation of the wearer, assumed, perhaps, to make him a fitting figure for the stern of his pleasure-boat during occasional excursions over the beautiful bay of Dublin. Still glancing around him, he darted into the ruin ; and now his eyes became differently occupied, for they turned here and there as if expecting to meet another person. He found himself alone however, and a shade of disappointment crossed his fine brow. He snatched out his watch, looked at it, nodded his head as if in a spirit of less impatience, and then, with a quick, hot sigh, suddenly reclined his person, in a half-sitting position, upon a low, moss-covered head-stone, and seemed endeavouring to make up his mind to wait a little, as quietly as he could.
After a few minutes, the character of his place of rendezvous gradually impressed itself upon his mind—though, indeed, habits had not for many years prepared him for a fit of moralising. He started up, and, as if to occupy himself against reflection, peered closely through the twilight at the rude or quaint inscriptions upon the humble monuments at hand. Deciphering many without profit to himself, and not even with passing attention, he suddenly stood still before a particular one. He found it unskilfully carved in a rough slab inserted into the wall of the ruin, and it seemed to him the handywork of a village amateur in the use of the chisel and mallet, rather than that of the least expert regular practitioner. At first he had glanced over it lightly, and read it imperfectly, now he stepped closer to it, rubbed it with weeds, that their moisture might more plainly bring out the letters, and perused it again attentively, word for word, until his heart-albeit long unaccustomed to such sensations -half owned an admiring and a subdued feeling. A time of simple and happy boyhood of the springing up of intellect, afterwards checked-of a gentle mother's voice, praising him or reprehending him—became present to his thoughts; and then recollections of a wildly-spent youth-of pure mental pleasures foregone and scoffed at —and of that mother's consequent regrets and pining, with a cold fear that they had shortened her life,-all this was called up by what he read. But we have intimated that his first feeling was admiration of the little elegiac inscription. It was so, indeed. In his boyish days, to which allusion has been made, he had heard a good deal of what was and what was not to be considered as approaching to perfection in epitaphs; and, with a recollection of these gleamings of early knowledge, he now thought that in the mouldering wall of this village cemetery he had discovered one which the most polished poets of, at least, his own language had scarcely equalled. To enable others to judge of his criticism, we will give the lines in question ; adding, that we see no reason why they should not be open to perusal at the present moment, in the spot where our young friend found them out ; they certainly were there a few years ago.
“ TO THE MEMORY OF ANN FLINN.
Erects this stone to dust he held most dear;
Sept. 18th, 1766.
Aged nearly 25 years." “Very beautiful !” soliloquised the holiday sailor ; “very beautiful, if not in the art and science of the verses, certainly in the sentiments. I get before me at once the affection of that father for that daughter ; her affection for him; and the pure flow of the blended stream of both. I almost get before me their ways of life, in some little village solitude hereabouts; ways of elegant pursuit, though held on in poverty, or, at least, privation ; I almost see the growing up, under his hand, of the girl's mind and heart, until she became a companion to him—a solace for worldly disappointments -perhaps for her mother's untimely death ; and so she was his earthly all, until death took her too. There is a sacred strain of love through those lines; they do not breathe of the passion of human affection, and yet they are exquisitely human. The lorn survivor respects and venerates as much as he loves. Nay, there is not only admitted equality with his daughterfriend, but, in the certainty of the elevation of her spirit to a higher sphere, there is a kind of admitted superiority. He does not erect the little stone-carved doubtless by his own hands—to the immortal soul that is now beatified beyond his regrets; he offers it but to his child's • dust'-(and even that dust is most dear l')—his tears fall upon the rough slab; and such is his holy, christian consciousness of her place and worth in heaven, that he deems, father as he is, an apology necessary for them. He asks her to indulge them as mortality's relief; and what can be more touching than the argument, here, to his sainted child
“And, till I share thy joys, forgive my grief.'” Thus ran the young man's thoughts. And now, is it not singular that he who could make this soliloquy was not at present by any means a good man
in ? That at least his conduct had lately and for some time been what is deservedly called immoral ? Such is the fact, however. It may appear more extraordinary, when we become better acquainted with him, that he could even go on to meditate, almost like a philosopher, upon his temporary position in the little churchyard. Perhaps, indeed, since his boyish days, a pause of intellectual abstraction, such as he now experienced, amid the whirl of mere animal predominance, had not happened to him. But awakened feeling often fires, in a heart not radically bad, although a very erring one, a previously dormant train of moralising ; and so, touched by the pathos of the village epitaph, our young roué first ruminated as a sentimentalist, and eventually as a sage.
Not that either the one
mental estrangement or the other had any influence for good, as will be seen, upon his immediate future ; but do not people like him, upon the very threshold of doing almost the worst things they can do, sometimes, for a few moments, feel very amiably, and think very philosophically?
We shall follow his second soliloquy, (or more properly reverie,) as we have followed his first; and our object in this, is to hint the neglected order of mind, as well as of heart, with which we are concerned.
After having perused, for the last time, the letters on the slab in the wall, he detected himself unconsciously crushing and crumpling between his fingers the weeds which he had plucked to rub over it. He raised his hand mechanically towards his eyes, extended his palm, and gazed upon the relics of the bruised weed. Some crumbs of black clay adhered to it, and these he now went on grinding into finer particles, while something like the following was his sermon from the text they supplied.
Ay, indeed; if one had only the time for it, it might do one's heart no harm to be alone, now and then, just in such a place, and at such an hour; trampling, though not irreverently, earth and dust that once were as proud as we are, but at present as humble as what we yet shall be. Ay, it is good to pick up, here, a little scrap of clay, and think what portion of some loquacious fool, some waxen beauty, or some Solon, only a few years ago, it formed—it was ! To think that once it lived, this mean, stupid dust—had senses and apprehensions-lived, perhaps, in the orator's arching brow, or in his tongue of honied modulation; nay, throbbed and thrilled as a part of a very heart-pulse--in and of itself a very act of being !"
He was interrupted by a stealthy step sounding among the rubbish near him ; he turned, and his glances flashed with earnestness and vivacity, as they encountered the figure of a man, only a few years older than himself, close at his side. The new-comer met him with smiles. He was fashionably though modestly attired, and, like his friend, well limbed and well looking, though the character of the comeliness of each was very different; and his air and manner seemed quiet, particularly in contrast with the dash and impetuusity of the other.
« Welcome, James,” said the first visiter of the churchyard, grasping his hand ; " this is an odd kind of place I have appointed to meet you in this evening—is it not ?"
“ Why, I thought so when I got your letter, William," still smiled his friend.
“ I saw it, by chance, a short time ago, and it came into my head as convenient for our present purpose, on account of its nearness to you, in the old man's house yonder, and also because it seemed a secluded nook where we could talk freely, and without impertinent lookers-on. Well! I have not ventured into town all day, but kept rowing about the bay, to give you time to work for me. little behind your time."
“ I had been here sooner, but that your good wife and the old baronet
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