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barely enough for my elder; hence, as my share resembled what is scientifically called an evanescent quantity, I was directed to apply to that noble refuge of unprovided genius -the bar! To the bar, with a heavy heart and aching head, I devoted year after year, and was about to become a tolerable proficient in the black letter, when an epistle from Ireland reached me in Furnival's Inn, and altered my prospects materially. This despatch was from an old Catholic aunt whom I had in that country, and whose house I had been sent to, when a child, on the speculation that this visit to my venerable relative, who, to her other good qualities, added that of being a resolute spinster, might determine her, as she was both rich and capricious, to make me her inheritor. The letter urged my immediate presence in the dying chamber of the Lady Cresswell; and, as no time was to be lost, I contrived to reach in two days the lonely and desolate mansion on Watergrasshill, in the vicinity of Cork. As I entered the apartment, by the scanty light of the lamp that glimmered dimly, I recognised, with some difficulty, the emaciated form of my gaunt and withered kinswoman, over whose features, originally thin and wan, the pallid hue of approaching death cast additional ghastliness. By the bedside stood the rueful and unearthly form of Father Prout; and, while the sort of chiaroscuro in which his figure appeared, half shrouded, half revealed, served to impress me with a proper awe for his solemn functions, the scene itself, and the probable consequences to me of this last interview with my aunt, affected me exceedingly. I involuntarily knelt; and while I felt my hands grasped by the long, cold, and bony fingers of the dying, my whole frame thrilled; and her words, the last she spoke in this world, fell on my ears with all the effect of a potent witchery, never to be forgotten! “Frank," said the Lady Cresswell, “my lands and perishable riches I have bequeathed to you, though you
hold not the creed of which this is a minister, and I die a worthless but steadfast votary: only promise me and this holy man that, in memory of one to whom your welfare is dear, you will keep the fast of Lent while you live; and, as I cannot control your inward belief, be at least in this respect a Roman Catholic: I ask no more.” How cou.d I have refused so simple an injunction ? and what junior member of the bar would not hold a good rental by so easy a tenure ? In brief, I was pledged in that solemn hour to Father Prout, and to my kind and simple-hearted aunt, whose grave is in Rathcooney, and whose soul is in heaven.
During my short stay at Watergrasshill, (a wild and romantic district, of which every brake and feil, every bog and quagmire, is well known to Crofton Croker--for it is the very Arcadia of his fictions), I formed an intimacy with this Father Andrew Prout, the pastor of the upland, and a man celebrated in the south of Ireland. He was one of that race of priests now unfortunately extinct, or very nearly so, like the old breed of wolf-dogs, in the island: I allude to those of his order who were educated abroad, before the French revolution, and had imbibed, from associating with the polished and high-born clergy of the old Gallican church, a loftier range of thought, and a superior delicacy of sentiment. Hence, in his evidence before the House of Lords, “ the glorious Dan” has not concealed the grudge he feels towards those clergymen, educated on the continent, wbo, baving witnessed the doings of the sansculottes in France, have no fancy to a rehearsal of the same in Ireland. Of this class was Prout, P.P. of Watergrasshill; but his real value was very faintly appreciated by his rude flock : he was not understood by his contemporaries ; his thoughts were not their thoughts, neither could he commune with kindred souls on that wild mountain. Of his genealogy nothing was ever known with certainty ; but in this he resembled Melchizedek : like Eugene Aram, he had excited the most intense interest in the highest quarters, still did he studiously court retirement. He was thought by some to be deep in alchemy, like Friar Bacon; but the gaugers never even suspected him of distilling “potheen.” He was known to have brought from France a spirit of the most chivalrous gallantry; still, like Fénélon retired from the court of Louis XIV., he shunned the attractions of the sex, for the sake of his pastoral charge: but in the rigour of his abstinence, and the frugality of his diet, he resembled no one, and none kept Lent so strictly.
Of his gallantry one anecdote will be sufficient. Tho fashionable Mrs. Pepper, with two female companions,
travelling through the county of Cork, stopped for Divine service at the chapel of Watergrasshill (which is on the high road on the Dublin line), and entered its rude gate while Prout was addressing his congregation. His quick eye soon detected his fair visitants standing behind the motley crowd, by whom they were totally unnoticed, so intent were all on the discourse; when, interrupting the thread of his homily, to procure suitable accommodation for the strangers,
Boys !” cried the old man, “why don't ye give three chairs for the ladies ?" “ Three cheers for the ladies !” reechoed at once the parish-clerk. It was what might be termed a clerical, but certainly a very natural, error; and so acceptable a proposal was suitably responded to by the frieze-coated multitude, whose triple shout shook the very cobwebs on the roof of the chapel !-after which slight in. cident, service was quietly resumed.
He was extremely fond of angling; a recreation which, while it ministered to his necessary relaxation from the toils of the mission, enabled him to observe cheaply the fish diet imperative on fast days. For this, he had established his residence at the mountain-source of a considerable brook, which, after winding through the parish, joins the Blackwater at Fermoy; and on its banks would he be found, armed with his rod, and wrapt in his strange cassock, fit to personate the river-god or presiding genius of the stream.
His modest parlour would not ill become the hut of one of the fishermen of Galilee. A huge net in festoons curtained his casement; a salmon-spear, sundry rods, and tishing-tackle, hung round the walls and over his bookcase, which latter object was to him the perennial spring of refined enjoyment. Still he would sigh for the vast libraries of France, and her well-appointed scientific halls, where he had spent his youth, in converse with the first literary characters and most learned divines; and once he directed my attention to what appeared to be a row of folio volumes at the bottom of his collection, but which I found on trial to be so many large stone-flags, with parchment backs, bearing the appropriate title of CORNELII A LAPIDE Opera que extant omnia ; by which semblance of that old Jesuits commentaries he consoled himself for the absence of the original.
His classic acquirements were considerable, as will appear by his essay on Lent; and while they made him a most instructive companion, his unobtrusive merit left the most favourable impression. The general character of a churchman is singularly improved by the tributary accomplishments of the scholar, and literature is like a pure grain of Araby's incense in the golden censer of religion. His taste for the fine arts was more genuine than might be conjectured from the scanty specimens that adorned his apartment, though perfectly in keeping with his favourite sport; for there hung over the mantlepiece a print of Raphael's cartoon the “ Miraculous Draught, here,“ Tobith rescued by an Angel from the Fish ;" and there, "St. Anthony preaching to the Fishes.”
With this learned Theban I held long and serious converse on the nature of the antiquated observance I had pledged myself to keep up; and oft have we discussed the matter at his frugal table, aiding our conferences with a plate of water-cresses and a red herring. I have taken copious notes of Father Prout's leading topics; and while I can vouch them as his genuine arguments, I will not be answerable for the style; which may possibly be my own, and probably, like the subject, exceedingly jejune.
I publish them in pure self-defence. I have been so often called on to explain my peculiarities relative to Lent, that I must resort to the press for a riddance of my persecutors. The spring, which exhilarates all nature, is to me but the herald of tribulation ; for it is accompanied in the Lent season with a recurrence of a host of annoyances consequent on the tenure by which I hold my aunt's property. I have at last resolved to state my case openly; and I trust that, taking up arms against a sea of troubles, I may by exposing end them. No blessing comes unalloyed here below: there is ever a cankerworm in the rose ; a dactyl is sure to be mixed up with a spondee in the poetry of life; and, as Homer sings, there stand two urns, or crocks, beside the throne of Jove, from which he doles out alternate good and bad gifts to men, but mostly both together.
I grant, that to repine at one's share of the common allotment would indicate bad taste, and afford evidence of ill. humour: but still a passing insight into my case will prove
it one of peculiar hardship. As regularly as dinner is announced, so surely do I know that my hour is come to be stared at as a disciple of Pythagoras, or scrutinised as a follower of the Venetian Cornaro. I am a lion” at “feeding-time.” To tempt me from my allegiance by the proffer of a turkey's wing, to eulogise the sirloin, or dwell on the haut goût of the haunch, are among my friends' (?) practical sources of merriment. To reason with them at such unpropitious moments, and against such fearful odds, would be a hopeless experiment; and I have learned from Horace and from Father Prout, that there are certain mollia tempora, fandi, which should always be attended to: in such cases I chew the cud of my resentment, and eke out my repast on salt-fish in silence. None will be disposed to question my claim to the merit of fortitude. In vain have I been summoned by the prettiest lisp to partake of the most tempting delicacies. I have declined each lady-hostess's hospitable offer, as if, to speak in classic parlance, Canidia tractavit dapes; or, to use the vernacular phraseology of Moore, as if
“The trail of the serpent was over them all.” Hence, at the club I am looked on as a sort of rara avis , or, to speak more appropriately, as an odd fish. Some have spread a report that I have a large share in the Hungerford Market; others, that I am a Saint Simonian. A fellow of the Zoological Society has ascertained, forsooth, from certain maxillary appearances, that I am decidedly of the class of Ouopajos, with a mixture of the herbivorous. When the truth is known, as it will be on the publication of this paper, it will be seen that I am no phenomenon whatever.
My witty cousin, Harriet R., will no longer consider me a fit subject for the exercise of her ingenuity, nor present me a copy of Gray's poems, with the page turned down at “An Elegy on a Čat drowned in a tub of Gold Fishes.” She will perhaps, when asked to sing, select some other aria besides that eternal barcarolle,
“O pescator dell' onda,
Colla bella tua barza!" and if I happen to approach the loo-table, she will not think