THE SEVEN SHANTIES.
"Jemmy, come here—come quick, will ye," said a poor, dirty, good-natured looking fellow, to a man as ragged and poor as himself—"step faster, will ye, and help me to raise this wagon."
They lifted up the overturned light carriage and dragged out of the mud—first, a trunk and carpet bag, then a gun case, and lastly the owner of all this, a middle aged man, apparently, who had been stunned by the fall, although in so soft a spot.
He recovered his senses, however, as soon as the men raised him from the ground, and the next thing was to know what to do with him. One of the men, Jemmy Brady, scratched his head and said, "If I had ever a room but the one in which the wife and childer are, I would take the gentleman there any how, but the noise would be too great for him I'm thinking."
"Och! but he'll never mind the childer, God bless them," said the other. "I dare say his honour has plenty of them—the likes of these jontlemen are always fond of young childer."
"You are very much mistaken, my friend," said the stranger, "I do not like children. Is there no cabin or hut about here where I could rest for an hour or two, and change my clothes? I see that the wheel is off the carriage, so I cannot proceed to the tavern."
"Yes, sure," said Larry, "plenty of them, barring Jemmy Brady's and mine. Jemmy has seven childer and I have five,—too much noise for your honour, I'm thinking, and the mud is almost as thick on the floor of my shanty as it is here, your honour—but if you'll step a bit this way, I'll take you to Sally M'Curdy's."
The gentleman asked if this Sally M'Curdy had any children. Larry said that she had not—that she was a lone woman. "She's left with one grand-daughter," said he, "Norah—you'll may be have heard of little Norie, yer honour, for she is very smart at her latters, and can read and write too, and she's very quiet and very mindful of her grandmother."
Both Jemmy and Larry had the instinctive feeling, that this widow's shanty bade fairer for comfort than any other in the range, and they were hastening forward to show the way and to prepare her for the guest, when he discovered that he had sprained his ancle, and could not move.
"What now is to be done," said he, impatiently, "I cannot lift my foot from the ground, and the pain is becoming intolerable."
"Och, hub-bub-boo," said Larry, "what is better to be done than to carry your honour on our hands, crossed this fashion. I've carried a bigger man nor you in this way, in play even." So he called lazy Jemmy to him, who scratched his head and sighed, to think of the heavy weight they were to carry. He crossed hands with Larry, the stranger seated himself, and in this awkward, singular way, with much vexation of spirit, he was taken to Sally M'Curdy's shanty.
"Here is a good ould gentleman what's lame," said Larry, as they lifted him up a few steps into the neat little room—"he's broke his foot any how, Mistress M'Curdy, and shall I run for a doctor, your honour, to set the leg?"
"My leg is not broken, my honest friend. If this good lady gives me leave to rest here all night, all that I shall require is, to have the boot cut off and my ancle bathed—it is only a sprain."
"And is it I that will cut that good boot, your honour, I that am a shoemaker by trade, if the white boys at home would have let me earn a penny at it. Sure I know where the stitches are, and can't I cut the thread?" So down Larry knelt, and with speed and skill, giving the stranger as little pain as possible, he cut through the seam, and took the boot from the swelled foot. Meantime Mrs. M'Curdy was not idle, she called her little grand-daughter, and immediately began to prepare supper, as the gentle clatter of cups in the next room indicated.
The stranger, whose name was Price, begged Jemmy to take his horse and dearborn to the next inn, and tell the landlord of his accident, and to say where he was to be found. He knew there was nothing better to be done than to put his foot in a tub of warm, salt water, and to remain as quiet as possible. Larry, whose good nature was a strong recommendation, promised to assist him in undressing, so that in half an hour after changing his clothes and keeping his foot in the tepid water, he felt so much easier that he was glad to hear that tea was ready. He was very willing to have the little tea table drawn close to his chair, and partake of the nice supper which his kind hostess had prepared for him.
"Don't wait—don't stand up, my good lady," said he, "have you no young person to assist you; pray sit down and pour out tea for me."
Mrs. M'Curdy quietly seated herself and made tea, while Larry answered the question about the young person, by pulling in the little shy Norah.
"Oh, Norah, dear," said Mrs. M'Curdy, "you should not be coming in, child, and the gentleman in such pain—may be children trouble you, sir."
"I am not over fond of children, that's certain," said Mr. Price, "but I should not imagine this nice little girl, who seems so unwilling to intrude, could be noisy or troublesome. Let her go, Larry—I believe that's your name—let her hand go."
Off darted the little girl, much to Mr. Price's gratification; and much to Larry's joy. After getting the gentleman snugly to bed, he received a dollar for his evening's services, with a request to call in the morning and assist him to rise.
But the morning found Mr. Price, although able to rise, in so much pain that there was no hope of proceeding on his journey; he, therefore, after securing Larry's services during those intervals allotted to the labourers at the forge, quietly settled it in his mind that here he must remain until the ankle recovered its strength. Mrs. M'Curdy was gentle, neat and attentive; anticipating his wants, and only wishing that more was to be done. But Mr. Price was neither troublesome nor ungracious, and before the dinner hour approached she wondered how so good-natured a gentleman could dislike children.
"To be sure," said she, finishing her thoughts aloud, "Larry's little ones are very noisy, and not over clean, and poor Jemmy's are still worse than noisy; for they are rude and mischievous. But Norah is not like other children, sir, and she knows a world of stories, your honour, if it is stories out of books would amuse you. Sure will you try and coax the little creature in to sit by you a bit, till I come back from the grocer; and if she tires you, just let her go when Larry comes in."
"Well, send her in," said Mr. Price, "and let me hear her little stories. I will promise to get rid of her when she becomes troublesome."
"Then your honour will want to keep her for ever at your side, for Norah is never troublesome. She is an orphan, your honour, and that, as your honour knows, is a child without father or mother; although in Philadelphia they have found out, it is said, that an orphan means a child with one parent. But little Norah's mother died broken-hearted because her husband left her and married another woman. She had too much feeling for her little girl to prosecute him; so she bore it all and died. Since that time her husband is dead; but I keep it all to myself, not letting his hard-hearted family know of little Norah. Indeed, I have kept purposely from knowing where they now are; for out of pride, like, they would take her away from me, and put her to some grand boarding-school; for, from what I could learn from him, they are rich."
The grandmother brought in the blushing little girl, almost by force, to the gentleman's arm-chair; but on his stroking her hair, and speaking tenderly, she, by degrees, began to look up and cast side glances at him; and, finally, on his asking her to hand him a glass of water, she shook back her curly locks, and, with the movement, threw off part of her fright.
"Well, you are no longer afraid of me, Norah; you have a little chair there, I see; bring it here, and sit by me till your grandmother comes back. How old are you?"
"I am nine years old; but I can remember my mother quite well, for I was five years old when she died. I have not cried about her for a great while, but I feel as if I could cry now."
"No, don't cry, Norah, don't," said Mr. Price, as the poor little creature burst into a passionate flood of tears—"don't cry, my dear;" and lifting the child up, he drew her to him, while she sobbed on his bosom. "What makes you cry now?"
"Why, Jemmy Brady came in the room last evening, when grandmother was getting your supper ready, and he said something to me which made me think of my mother, and I have been all the morning thinking of her, and of all that she said and did."
"Well, what did this Jemmy Brady say to you that has troubled you so much?" But Norah would not tell. She said it was no matter now, she should not cry again; for she was sure he was good-natured.
It was a new thing for Mr. Price to be soothing a crying child—he kept referring to it himself—but Norah advanced in his good graces, and by the time Mrs. M'Curdy returned, he was laughing aloud at some of her childish remarks. Norah too, was very much pleased with Mr. Price; her bright blue eye seemed to watch every motion of his, and at length he really felt a want, a restlessness whenever the child was called out of the room.
A week still found Mr. Price sitting in the widow M'Curdy's arm chair, and little Norah at his side. A sprained ankle, every one knows, requires time and quiet and an outstretched limb, but above all, a tranquil mind. He had time, for he was rich; and where on earth, thought he, could I be so quiet as in this neat little room. Friction was now necessary, and who could rub his leg so tenderly as the dear little girl; then her prattle was delightful. He had never been much among children; he once had a son, but an indulgent mother ruined him. His child from boy to manhood had been a constant source of disquiet and misery to him, and he had three years before this period, followed him to the grave. He thought that no child could ever again interest him, in fact he had steeled his heart against children, and but for this accident, and the good chance of meeting with Mrs. M'Curdy, the warm and pleasant feelings which the innocence and beauty of childhood always create, had been unknown to him for ever.
Nothing could be cleaner and neater than the old lady; all her ways were tidy. She never ran her forefinger in a tumbler or tea cup, nor washed the tea things in a wash basin, nor dried them on the same towel with which the hands were dried, as many of the poor do. All this Mr. Price saw, and what made his room particularly comfortable was, that there were shutters to his window. His room was facing the road, which Mrs. M'Curdy very much regretted, as the children of the other shanties were for ever in view of the house, keeping up an eternal squalling and noise of some kind or other, frequently amounting to screams and yells. When things arrived at this height, the mothers of the different children would rush out, and by dint of pulling, tugging, beating and scolding, succeed in dragging the delinquent away from "the sick gentleman."
"Can't ye be after seeing that your noise disturbs the lame gentleman, ye sinners you," said Mrs. Brady one fine spring morning, as she was separating her two eldest boys from a fighting frolic—"come away, will ye, and get me the chips, or ye'll no get your breakfast, let alone your father's and the baby's."
One eye was directed to Mr. Price's window, while this was screamed out by the woman, a poor, dirty, broken down looking creature; who, although not more than five and thirty, looked at least fifty. She had never had the "luck" to see Mr. Price, a thing she ardently longed for, as every one else at some odd time or other, had taken a peep at him. Larry was loud in his praise, and lazy Jemmy, as he was called by one and all of the women, and by his own wife too, had also testified to the liberality of the lame gentleman.
"Why are not these children made to work," said he to Mrs. M'Curdy, as he turned from the window in disgust. "Those two boys could be employed in the factories, I should think; they must be at least eight and ten years of age."
"Yes, they are old enough to work," said Mrs. M'Curdy, "but it is only in the paper-mills that such young children are wanted; and those who have even worked in a paper-mill know that nothing tires such young children so much as picking and pulling about old rags. If they could be employed at some other thing half the day, I think both the employer and the children could be greatly benefited by it."
"Well, why can they not? Why can't they be made to work in a garden all the morning, and at some quiet work in the afternoon? Here you have a population of several thousand persons, and according to your own account throughout the summer you have no fruit nor vegetables, scarcely a potato. You live then on bread and meat. Are not those men who have an eye to the interests of the community aware, that a diet of this kind creates thirst, and they must know that a thirsty man will not always drink water. How do you get along with such a poor diet as bread and meat?"
"Oh, it is far different with us; when your honor is able to leave the room I will show you my little garden, our little garden I should say; for here is Norah, who is sitting on your lap, so helpless like just now, she assists me greatly in the garden. She fetches and carries, helps sow the seeds, and more than helps weed; indeed last summer I had so much sowing to do that there was but little time to weed. And the dear child picked every bean and pea herself, and from a very little patch she got as much as a quart of strawberries every day; and did I not get eighteen pence for every quart, without stirring away from the door to sell them? And how much, dear, did you get from your little row of raspberries?" Norah said it was thirteen shillings. "Well, we made clear money, besides helping ourselves to as much as we wanted for our own eating, just fourteen dollars; it paid our rent and two dollars over; so it was no more than right that Norah, the little dear, should get the two dollars to herself; the very frock and shoes she has on, can show it."
Mr. Price kissed the little girl, whose sparkling eye showed how deeply she was interested in her grandmother's story—he asked if all the shanties had gardens attached to them, and whether the children assisted their parents in working them.
"Oh, no, poor things," said the old lady, "they would work, even lazy Jemmy's children would work if they were encouraged. But see how it is, your honour. When I came here nine years ago, Norah was just two months' old—this shanty was knocked up quickly for me; and it had never a floor even till the winter came. There were then no other shanties near, and as I had paid for the building of the house and for the fence around the garden, I by degrees, got very comfortable. Before I built the chimney, sashed the window, and made the floor, it was bad enough; but I had not enough money at the time, and it was only by working early and late, and my poor dear daughter helped too, that I got all these things done, and proud enough I was to show people how much a lone woman could do. There's many a woman here, your honour, in these shanties, that could do very well if their husbands would let them, but a poor woman has no chance at all. Here is Biddy Brady, my next neighbour, she has seven children, from ten years down to that little wee thing yonder, that has just now been taken out for the first time—there it is, Norah dear, and she's called it Norah after my grandchild, sir, because Norah has been kind like in her ways to poor Biddy, who is to be sure, a little bit of a scold, and always in a hubbub of some kind or other. My landlord leased me this piece of ground for ten years; but well he may, for I have made this house quite comfortable, you see. There are three rooms, small enough to be sure, but if I have to leave it, and oh, how loath I shall be to go from it, he will get thirty-six dollars for it instead of twelve—only think of that. He is a good man, and I dare say when I ask him to renew my lease, for the sake of the good I have done to his property, he will rent the place to me for thirty dollars."
"Well, well," said Mr. Price, who had been musing during this long speech, "don't think about your rent for the next year, or the year after,—don't cry, Norah, your grandmother shall have no rent to pay for five years, if you will always be as good a girl as you are now. Who taught you to read, Norah?—come kiss me, my child, and don't sob so; you are on my lap, and your crying jars my lame foot."
"Oh, grandmother," said the little girl, "tell the gentleman why we don't want to go away from this pleasant house,"—and she pointed to a small enclosure on a rising hill a little way from the road.
"It is a burial ground, your honour," said Mrs. M'Curdy in a low subdued tone, "and under that old hemlock tree poor Norah's mother lies buried."
Mr. Price, whose sympathies had been long pent up; in fact, who had been soured towards all the world; for his disappointment both in his marriage and in his only child, had been severely felt; now suffered himself to be deeply interested in the fate of this innocent family, he pressed the child closer to his bosom, and resolved that he would immediately place her and her grandmother above want. But this sudden thawing of his feelings produced a kindlier interest towards others; he saw a mass of suffering in this little community which he thought could be alleviated without much trouble or expense, and his quick apprehension soon pointed out the way. He put Norah down from his lap, asked for his portfolio, and in a few moments a letter was written and despatched to a gentleman in the neighbourhood.
"Now my good Mrs. M'Curdy, bring your work in this room, and tell me all about your neighbours—tell me exactly how things are; I do not ask out of idle curiosity, but I have a plan in my mind which I think will be of service to them. I have an eye to you, too; I have become interested in you and your little girl, and I should like to leave you in a better neighbourhood. Only don't call me your honour, but Mr. Price; I hate your honour."
"Well, sir, here is my work, and I can't do better than just to say a little more about myself. You see my pride, for I had a good bringing up, would not let me live along so lazily and so miserably as the poor people around me; besides, times in one respect, were better eight years ago than they are now, at least for poor women I mean. The ladies' societies had not then found us out, and widow women and young girls got plenty of sewing to do, and for a decent price too. I could then earn from three to four shillings a day, and there never was a time, until a month before—Norah, dear, put chips under the pot, will you love, and then set the milk pans in the sun, and be sure and put on your bonnet—I never like to speak of my poor daughter before the tender hearted little thing; for although she was but little more than five years old when her mother died, yet she recollects her perfectly, and all her nice orderly ways, and how she taught her to read and sew and pray. She says the same prayers yet, sir, and indeed no better can be taught her. But as I was saying when I sent Norah out, there never was a time until a month before my daughter died, that she did not, weakly and drooping as she was, earn two shillings a day. Had she lived till now, she would have found an alteration."
"Why, what has happened to deprive you of work? your town has increased in numbers greatly since that time."
"I'll tell you, sir. Then, when ladies of large families had more linen to make up than they or their maids could do, they gave a poor woman a chance; there were then three ladies in this very town, that gave me every year, a set of shirts to make; and my daughter made pincushions, and thread cases, and night caps, and darned silk stockings for gentlemen, and made linen gloves, all so neatly and prettily, that the price she got for them purchased all our little comforts; but as soon as the societies found us out, as I said before, the ladies of the town themselves undertook to make all these things."
"But if that was a saving to their families, my good friend, it was all perfectly right."
"Oh, it was not for their families that they met together to sew; sometimes it was for a Dorcas society, sometimes for a Sunday school, sometimes for an Infants' school, sometimes to get a church out of debt, or to buy an organ; and oftentimes to educate young men for the ministry. For all the purposes I have mentioned, excepting that of educating young men, I found some excuse, but I own I did inwardly fret and find fault, with the kind-hearted women who belong to these societies, when they neglected their own families, and let us poor women who were willing to work, starve, while they did the things by which we formerly earned our bread."
"Why do not the young men work for themselves, or why are there not societies of young men for these purposes; surely men can labour, and at more trades too than women can—mechanics I mean, and rich young men, they can contribute in money."
"Yes, sir, that is what I said when these ladies came to me and begged me to sew one day for this purpose; for seeing me a little better off than my poor neighbours, they thought I was quite too well off. God forgive me for my uncharitableness, but I looked at smart little Norah, and was thinking how much at that moment she wanted a good warm cloak for winter, so with all the willingness in the world, my love for the child got the better of my wish to oblige the ladies."
"In some parts of Connecticut, the young men destined for the church, work for themselves."
"Yes, sir, I hear they do, and why should not they as well as artists and lawyers and doctors. Those who are poor find ways and means to educate themselves; they go in gentlemen's houses and teach children, or they teach school, or write; in short, a man has ways and means enough if he chooses."
"This is all very true, Mrs. M'Curdy; I taught school myself, and besides that I laboured in a garden for two years for my food and lodging. With the profits of my school I bought books, and got myself instructed in book-keeping and French; I had besides, two hundred dollars in hand, to pay my board when I went as merchant's clerk. In five years I was sent out as supercargo, and from that hour I began to make money. But I think you would not complain if these ladies were to raise a fund for the education of females, not to preach, but to teach."
"Yes, indeed, that is what I have often thought would be more creditable to them, and there is not a poor body who would not join in it. I have often thought how happy I should be, if at my death, I could leave Norah at the head of a good school; instead of knowing, as I do, that she must be put out to service, nay, bound out, as a common kitchen girl, if I should die before she grows up."
"You need not fear that, my good friend, I shall take care of that; but let us leave that subject for the present. I have heard your grievances, and you do not complain without cause. As to the women working for missionaries, unless it be for missionaries who go out to teach reading and writing, and the English or French language, I think they will soon feel a little ashamed of it; and men will be ashamed to be under such an obligation to women. We will try and get up societies among the young men, and then women will direct their charities to their own sex."
"I wish they would do this, but I am afraid it will be a long time before men will give their time and money to such purposes. Why, I hear they buy things at the ladies' fairs very reluctantly, and there are very few who give money to their societies willingly. I know that the two young men I wash for, Mr. Green and Mr. Wilber, often make fun of these ladies, and say they only do it to show themselves, and to be talked about. Men are very ill-natured in these matters. For my part, I think that ladies should teach at Sunday schools, if they are so benevolently disposed, and in Infant schools, and in Dorcas societies; which Dorcas societies should be for the relief of poor, sick women, but men should give the funds, and poor women should do the work and be paid for it. This I think is the proper way; as it is, these societies create a great deal of distress, by sewing themselves. And as to Sunday schools, the excellent persons who first set them going, did not intend them for the children of rich parents. I am not the one however, to put this matter in its proper light; the evil of the thing will soon be seen, and then there will be a cure. But I am talking quite astray; you wanted to hear about my neighbours, and I have gone off to other matters."
"I am glad of it, if I have the means of doing your poor neighbours a little good, I should know where the grievance lies; this will enable me to apply a remedy. I shall bear it in mind; at present we will speak of the poor people immediately around you. You are on the edge of the common, who is your next neighbour? It is Jemmy Brady, is it not?"
"Yes, poor Jemmy lives there, and a better tempered fellow never lived; but ill luck pursues him in every thing he does, and I cannot think that any thing can improve his condition. He has lived in that poor shanty these seven years, and has never yet been able to put a floor to it, let alone a chimney. To be sure, they have a stove in winter, and in summer they set their pot over stones, yet it is a poor way of living. The two eldest boys that you saw fighting this morning, did work a little in the paper mill, but the confinement made them sick, at least one of them became sick, and the other had to come home to help his mother nurse him, for her other children were too young to bring her a pail of water even."
"Do you ever go into their cabin?"
"Do I? yes, sure. I go in every now and then, particularly when she's confined. If her neighbours did not go in to make her a little gruel, and look after the children, they must perish; and the Catholic women, we are all Catholics here, sir, are very good to one another. ''Tis the poor man alone that hears the poor man,' you know, sir; but I am thankful that Biddy Brady is the worst off; that is, I am thankful that there are no more so very badly off; if there were, I do not know what we should do."
"Does not Jemmy like to work? he is a strong, healthy looking man."
"Why, he likes to work, and he does not like to work; he was bred up to do just nothing at all; but he can write a good hand, and is a good weaver enough, but no one wants a clerk looking so ragged and dirty as Jemmy; and no one weaves now in a small way. If he had a loom by himself he could earn a little; that is, if he could have other employment with it; for Jemmy, unlike Irishmen in general, cannot bear to keep all day at one thing."
Mr. Price set down this man's name, and the ages of his children, desiring Mrs. M'Curdy to proceed to the next shanty.
"Next to Jemmy Brady, lives lame David, a poor drunken creature; he has an aged mother, two sisters, a wife and one child. He is a blacksmith, and could get good wages throughout the year if he would only keep sober. His son bids fair to be a decent honest man; but the child, now only fourteen, works beyonds his strength, and his poor mother was telling me the other day that he had dreadful night sweats, and is losing his appetite. I wish you could see this boy, sir, I am sure you would think he is overworked."
"Don't his employers take notice of it?"
"Why, yes, they tell him not to work so hard; but men have not time to attend to such things; if they were to notice the ailings of all their work people they could never get on—no, when poor people get sick they must go home and trust to their family for help. Patrick Conolly is an ill-favoured looking lad; he is red-haired, freckled and bandy-legged; yet for all that he is a very interesting child, at least to his mother, grandmother and aunts, to say nothing of myself. I wish the lad could be sent to school, he has been so decently brought up, that I am sure he would make a good school master to the poor Catholic children."
"Well, Mrs. M'Curdy, your wish shall be gratified; Patrick Conolly shall be sent to a good school for one year; nay, don't stop to thank me, it will cost me nothing. How do the women, his aunts and mother, maintain themselves?"
"They wash for the men at the forge and the quarry; and they pick blackberries in the season, and they go out to day's work to clean house and so on, and the old woman patches and mends and knits. They are as industrious as possible, but they barely make out to keep life and body together; for money is scarce and women are plenty. If the man only was sober it would do very well, but he is so notorious a drunkard that he can get no work during the few days he is sober."
"And thus the peace and well doing of a whole family are destroyed by the beastliness of one man. Who lives next to lame David?"
"Ah! then comes Larry M'Gilpin—there's an honest creature spoiled, sir, by too much willingness to help others. He is always too late at the forge or the quarry, or the mill, for he is never steady at one place, because he has to help one neighbour look for his run-a-way pig, or to put up a fence, or to run for a doctor, or something or other. Every body calls upon Larry M'Gilpin, but no one does a thing for him. I never heard of any one doing him a good turn but yourself, sir, and it was but small service he did for you. I try to be of use to him as far as I can, and Norah teaches his little girl to read, which you know is something; but his wages, somehow or other, amounts to very little the year out. How they contrive to live I cannot tell; for they have five children, all living in one room, and on the bare ground too. To be sure, he has a chimney in it, and in winter they can keep themselves warm when they have wood to burn; but they do certainly live on less means than any family I know. I do not wonder she has the name of dirty Rachel; for how can a poor creature keep a husband and five children clean, when she has not money to buy soap even. But they are a quiet, well behaved set, and disturb no one. Larry keeps the children around him, and by his eternal good humour and pleasant ways he has contrived to make us all like him; so one throws him this thing and the other that; and your little bounties have come in a very good time. He only wishes, he says, that such gentlemen as you would sprain their ankle every day."
"Is his wife lazy?—does she take in work, or go out to work?"
"I can't say that she is lazy—only spiritless like. You know a woman with five children, the oldest only eight years old, cannot be expected to do much more than take care of them; and yet Rachel would be willing to make a coarse shirt now and then, if the price was not next to nothing. But next to Larry M'Gilpin, lives the woman of women! Here, just let me lift up this sash, sir, for one minute—now listen—do you hear any thing?"
"Yes, I hear some one singing; do I not?"
"You do; that is Bonny Betty, as the ladies call her. She is a very large, bony woman, full six feet high, and well looking too. She works from morning till night, and has contrived to maintain herself and six children without the help of a human being, and not one child to do a turn for her, in the way of earning money, I mean. Her husband died a drunkard; she buried him three years ago, and from that hour she seemed to alter her very nature. Before that, she used to go about the country to beg, carrying all the children with her; and, when far away from home, would sleep in outhouses and barns. With the little money she gathered in this way, she bought wood and other necessaries for the winter, mending up the rags she had begged, and preparing for a traipse in the summer, may be with an additional child on her arm. As soon as Christie Kelley died, she bought a broom, the first ever seen in her house, swept the two rooms of her shanty clean,—pulled out an old leather glove from her huge pocket, and counted out fifty dollars in notes and silver. 'Now, Mrs. M'Curdy,' said she, 'you're a sensible woman; sit down by me and tell me how I had best lay out all this money. I kept it unknown to poor Christie, and a little more too—how else could he have been buried so decently?' In a little time, sir, with her prudence in laying out this money, her cabin got to look as well as mine, barring that six ailing children will make a litter and some noise."
"How does she maintain herself, if work is so scarce, and what is the matter with her children?"
"How does she maintain herself? why, in the strangest way you ever heard of. She does every thing and any thing. In the morning she finds out which of the children are likeliest to be the sickest through the day; these she carries with her, for she is a powerful, strong woman; and into a house she goes, seats the children in an obscure corner, and falls to work—nothing comes amiss. If it is washing day, she is up to her elbows in the suds before the lady of the house is up, and nothing but a constable will force her out till she has done two women's work, has eaten three hearty meals, and fed the ailing children with such little scraps as their feeble health requires. She then gathers up the children, and, with a basket added to her load, off she goes to feed those at home with the savoury scraps in her basket. When she forces her way into a house she takes no money, contenting herself with receiving broken meat for her pay, and if there is more than enough for the family, she takes it in to Biddy Brady, or to one poor body or other. But this vagrant disposition is fast leaving her, for she is so useful and so cheerful that there are very few families that can do without her. She scents a dinner or a tea party at a great distance, and she gets there in the nick of time to be of service. She makes yeast, soap, candles, bread,—whitewashes, takes out grease and stains, paints rooms, mends broken windows and china,—cuts better cold slaw, as the Dutch call it, finer and quicker than any one,—makes sourcrout, pickles and preserves,—knows how to put up shad and smoke herrings; in short, in her ramblings she watched the different ways of doing things, and now she sets up for herself. You cannot think what a really useful woman Bonny Betty is; it is a pity that the children are so sickly."
"Has she a doctor?—does she ever consult a doctor?"
"A doctor! why they are all more or less deformed. Ben, the eldest, has a great wen over his left eye which has nearly destroyed his sight; Kate, the next, has a broken back, and is lame; Jemmy is one sore from head to foot, and has been in that way for four years; Bob is a thin, sickly boy, that has fainty turns, and is beginning to lose his hearing; Susy is deaf and dumb; and little Christie, only four years old, has the dropsy."
"Good heavens! and this woman is cheerful, and maintains them all with the labour of her own hands?"
"Yes, and is laying up money. She has nearly a hundred dollars in the Savings Fund; her children are well clothed for poor people's children, and well fed; she has two pigs in the pen; and she and I are the only persons in the neighbourhood that keep a cow. She has a fresh cow in the fall and I in the spring; so we both do well by them. I wish she had a better shanty."
"Well, I shall make acquaintance with Bonny Betty; who comes next?"
"Sammy Oram is the sixth; he is a shoemaker, a poor, do-little kind of man, with five boys; he is a widower. Three of his boys work at times in the cotton factory and at times in the paper mill; but Sammy talks of going to Philadelphia, and so get rid of them all at once; for he calls his boys orphans, and he thinks as they were all born there, (for he only came here about five years ago,) he can get them in the Girard College. I wish he may, I am sure. Next to him lives an old man with one leg. He was once a good gardener, they say, but it is many years since he had to quit the trade owing to a white swelling which finally caused him to lose his leg. He lives alone, and maintains himself by making mats and brooms and such things; he is a very honest, sober man, and would make a good overseer, or some such thing, if any body knew his worth; but he is shy and melancholy like for an Irishman, and we often think he suffers in winter for comforts; but he never complains, and if people never complain, you know, why no one will thrust kindness on them."
"But there is Bonny Betty, with six helpless children—you see that she can get along."
"Yes, sir,—but Betty is a woman, and somehow they have a higher spirit than a man. Why, a man would have broken down if he had been left with six such children as she has, or if he had not sunk, he would have run away and left them to Providence. You have no idea, sir, how long a poor woman will bear up against every evil and misfortune if she has children dependent upon her."
"You have now told me the little history of the Seven Shanties, but has no one a garden but yourself. I should think that the man you mentioned last—what's his name?—the man with one leg—he ought to have a garden."
"Daniel M'Leary,—yes, he might do a little in that way, but for two reasons; one is that he cannot dig, for his back is weak,—and a better reason still is, that there's never a shanty but mine that has a bit of land to it. Daniel M'Leary has not even enough for a pig pen if he had wherewithal to feed a pig. He has done, however, all that man could do; he has planted a grape vine behind his shanty, and last summer, being the third year of its bearing, he sold from it five dollars' worth of grapes. He gave me some cuttings; I planted them against the back of my shanty which faces the south, and last summer two of them had a few bunches on them, but the children pulled them off before they were ripe. I don't think, however, it was the neighbours' children."
The next day Mr. Price was able to get out of the little room and enjoy the fresh air of the open commons. He saw, what Mrs. M'Curdy said, that the shanties had no ground attached to them. In front was the road, and behind a precipitous bank, scarcely a foot-path behind that of Bonny Betty. Yet these poor people paid from ten to twelve dollars a year for a piece of ground not more than twenty feet square. Mrs. M'Curdy was on the edge of a common, and her plot took in a strip of land about twenty by a hundred feet; this was the admiration and envy of the neighbours, who all imagined that if they only had "the luck to get such a bit garding spot" they would thrive as well as Mrs. M'Curdy.
At noon a gentleman called on Mr. Price; he was the owner of some of the land thereabout, and likewise of the little strip on which all the shanties, excepting Mrs. M'Curdy's, stood. He came by consequence of the letter which Mr. Price had written to him the day before, and being a sensible and considerate man, he was soon convinced by this gentleman's arguments that some change in the circumstances of these poor people, his tenants, would be beneficial to him as well as to them. He finally agreed to lease to Mr. Price a piece of land not more than a few rods' distance from the shanties; it was to be about one hundred and sixty feet square. It was leased for twelve years.
As money can command any thing, in two weeks two hundred loads of manure were spread over this spot and ploughed in, and a good rough board fence enclosed the whole, with a wide gate in the centre of each side. Near the upper gate, under a large hemlock, a comfortable shanty was built, well floored, with two rooms, and a chimney between. On the lower side was another, only larger, having four small rooms; this was shaded by a fine silver pine. This shanty guarded the south gate. The fence and gates, all the posts being made of cedar, cost Mr. Price one hundred and fifty dollars, the manure and ploughing were one hundred more, the two shanties cost three hundred and fifty dollars. Furniture for the two shanties, grape vines, currant bushes, strawberry plants, garden seeds, two carts, six wheelbarrows, and other garden tools, with a shed to keep them in, cost four hundred dollars more. Here was an expenditure of the round sum of ten hundred dollars. The interest of this at six per cent. amounted only to sixty dollars, and he was only charged one hundred and forty dollars for the rent of the land, so that the interest of the money was but two hundred dollars a year. What was this to a man worth twelve thousand a year?
Mr. Price, quick in planning and executing, soon arranged every thing to his mind, and what was extraordinary, to the liking of every one. In ten days he installed Daniel M'Leary in the north shanty, giving him the key of the north, east and west gates; in the south shanty, he placed Bonny Betty and her six helpless children; and a day it was to see, for both he and Mrs. M'Curdy, as well as dear little Norah, kept the thing a profound secret. The first intimation Bonny Betty had of the good luck, was in the morning of the day of her removal; Mrs. M'Curdy called in by accident, as it were, and observed that she should not be surprised if Mr. Price were to call in and see about the wen on Benny's forehead; "so Betty, my friend, suppose you red up the children a little; here is Susan quite able, I am sure, to lend a hand, deaf and dumb though the poor little thing is. See how handy she goes to work."
"If you thought he'd be coming Sally, why I'd leave my work, and put on their Sunday clothes; but poor little Jemmy is very feverish to-day, and Christie's legs are more swelled than common; are you sure he'll be coming this way?"
"No, I am not sure, but at any rate red up the children, for who knows what may happen; you're an honest industrious woman, and you may well be called Bonny Betty; I think ye'll eat your dinner in a better house than this ere you die; good folks are not always neglected."
Well, Bonny Betty left her work, and in an hour the poor little creatures were dressed in their best; and at ten o'clock, Mrs. M'Curdy and Norah, with all the women of the other shanties, as well as those children that were at home, proceeded to her house, and asked her to take a walk and look at the gentleman's improvements. On being urged by Mrs. M'Curdy, whom she very much respected, and seeing the eager looks of the children, she sat out with them. All was wonderment and pleasure when they got to the shanty, for the pots were boiling, and the meat was roasting, loaves of bread, and plates of butter, and gingerbread, and small cakes, were all paraded on a clean new table; in short, a house-warming was prepared for some one.
"Oh! if all this was for me and my poor children," thought Bonny Betty, "how happy I should be; but then there's the other poor bodies, I'm thinking, wishing the same thing, and sure, have not they as good a right as me?"
"Now Betty, did not I tell you, that you'd eat your dinner in a better house than your old ricketty forlorn one? You are in your own house now, Bonny Betty! for the good kind man, God bless him, has bid me tell you, that by giving him the same rent that you pay for that old one, you may live in this nice comfortable house."
There was a general cry of joy; and Bonny Betty fell on her knees, and bade them all kneel down with her, and pray that she might continue to deserve this great good. Every thing was of the plainest materials, wooden presses, wooden bedsteads; in short, though all was new, yet there was nothing better than poor people generally buy; but what went most to Betty's heart, were the neat comfortable beds for her children, and the nice kitchen furniture, and the shed for the cow.
After they had dined, and assisted in washing up the plates and pots, the neighbours after again wishing her joy departed, and left her "alone in her glory," and no creature could be happier nor more thankful. It cannot be doubted that she prayed most fervently, and that she slept soundly on her clean straw bed that night.
In the morning, Mr. Price sent for Jemmy Brady, Larry M'Gilpin, David Conolly, Sammy Oram, and Daniel M'Leary. Through respect of age, he addressed the latter first; he asked him if he liked his new quarters. The poor Irishman said, he was only too comfortable. "Well then," said Mr. Price, "I hope you will lend a hand in what I propose doing; you need not speak; the time of these men is precious; I know you will assist me, and I trust as I leave you overseer, or agent, or give it any name you please, over that square of land yonder, you will follow my directions strictly. They are these: In the first place, you are to open and shut three of the gates, keeping the keys yourself; and only opening them for carts and wagons, which are to go in and out, whenever the tenants desire it. You are to set down in a book, how many tools each man takes out every day, and note down such as are not brought to you when the day is ended. All the tools are to be mended at my expense for one year. You are to give every man or boy as much seed as is required; and as you are, I am told, a good gardener, you will be able to decide on the quantity to be given. This is all I can recollect to ask of you just now; excepting furthermore, to set down the names of such men and children as are regular at their work; and to ask each person to let you know how much money he makes from day to day, all of which you must commit to writing. I do not wish to know this to raise the rent on the tenants of that piece of ground, but to know to whom I am to give the premium in the fall. I shall be here in November, to look at your book. You will find paper and pens and ink in abundance in a box, which I shall send you next week. Find out the men's ages, and let the oldest have the first choice of twenty-five feet. Good morning my friends—no thanks—let me see whom I am to thank in November next. Here M'Leary, here are twenty-five dollars; give five to the wife of each man, keep five for yourself, and give a dollar a piece to Sammy Oram's boys. I hope you'll give no trouble to Mr. M'Leary, and that people will come far and near to see your garden—Good morning."
This thing being settled, Mr. Price now turned his attention to his new friend Mrs. M'Curdy; he asked her how she would like to have one of David Conolly's sisters to live with her? "You have given me so good a character of her," said he, "Nelly, I think you call her, that I should like her to live an easier and a happier life. She is younger than yourself, and is more able to do the rough work of the house, and I can make it a desirable thing, for I will allow her good wages. My little Norah must not labour any more; I want her to grow tall and fair, and she must go to school likewise."
Poor Sally did not like this part of the arrangement, which Mr. Price seeing, he observed, that if she disliked to part with the little girl, he would make another arrangement; but at any rate he should consult her feelings in whatever he proposed. He intended to give her pleasure and not pain. Reformers and patrons were too apt, he knew, to order things to suit their own views, without regard to the feelings of those whom they wish to benefit. At any rate one thing he was sure would give her pleasure, and this was the adding a small house to the shanty she lived in.
The house was soon begun—it was to be a neat two-storied brick house—and while it was building he persuaded Mrs. M'Curdy to live with him, leaving Nelly Conolly in the shanty to take care of the furniture, cow, pigs and garden. They all set out together in a week from that time, every heart blessing Mr. Price, and lamenting the absence of the old lady and Norah, whose neatness and kindness of disposition had wrought such a change in their prospects.
Sammy Oram was found to be the oldest man of the four candidates; but as Bonny Betty had testified a desire to hire one of the lots, he very gallantly resigned his rights of seniority to her; of course she chose the one parallel with her own shanty; she therefore, had one of the centre strips. Sammy Oram took the lot adjoining; at which Larry M'Gilpin gave a knowing wink to Jemmy Brady. Jemmy took the one next to him, being the corner lot. Between Bonny Betty and the next lot was a cart road of ten feet; Larry had the one adjoining the road, David Conolly the next, and his son Patrick, with Sammy Oram's two oldest boys took the corner lot—making in all six different tenants.
Mr. Price's interest in this little community did not stop here; he persuaded Bonny Betty to let her son Ben go to the hospital, and have the wen on his forehead examined, promising that he would himself pay all the necessary expenses; such as suitable clothes, travelling charges and extra nursing. The boy was so eager and the neighbours so clamourous in their entreaties, that poor Betty gave a reluctant assent. Ben went, and in one month he returned perfectly cured—the wen taken out, and his eye-sight very much improved. Kate was sent to town next, and by means of Casey's dormant balance, and Mrs. M'Curdy's kind treatment, the injured spine, although not entirely restored to its healthy state, was prevented from further distortion. She remained under medical care, and it was owing to this humane and judicious treatment that she was relieved of her lameness, a lameness caused by general debility. A few bottles of Swaim's panacea, entirely removed the scrofulous complaint of Jenny. Bob was found to be nearly devoured by worms; the doctor of the village, when called in, soon removed his complaint, and his hearing improved as his stomach recovered its tone. But poor little Christie was beyond cure; he died in the fall to the very great grief of poor Betty, who was passionately attached to her children. The little deaf and dumb girl was sent to the asylum in Hartford, and there she received an education, which fitted her as a teacher to others of her own class. The lifting up of one kind hand did all this for poor Bonny Betty; five good little creatures, helpless and forlorn, an incumbrance to their mother, and a tax on all around them, were thus made useful members of society; whereas, in the course of time, they must necessarily have gone to the almshouse.
But to return to our friends in the shanties. Early, full an hour before sunrise, on the fifteenth of April, all the gardeners were at work under old Daniel M'Leary's superintendence; for his very youth seemed renewed, so much was he raised in his own estimation. Instead of being a cumberer of the earth, as in his fits of despondency he used to call himself, he was now a second Napoleon ruling over the destiny of others—their well doing was entrusted to his care, and many were his mental promises to be just—if he could keep them. At the sound of his shrill whistle the little band left off work, in time to eat their breakfast, and be ready to go to their several employments when the bells rung. At twelve all ate their dinner, and for half an hour were again in their garden plot where they wrought—and pleasant it was to work in the open air under such a glorious sky, with more satisfaction than they ever did in their lives; for the proceeds of their labour was their own.
Their supper was ready when their working hours were over, and once more they went up to their garden, and it was difficult for Daniel to persuade them to leave off at the allotted time. Instead of lounging about before a dram shop, which was their custom in the evening, and often becoming noisy if not riotous, they went quietly to bed and slept soundly. Even Pat Conolly, the overworked boy declared, that although he went very tired to his rest, it was a far different sort of fatigue from that which he nightly felt before.
By the first of June, the whole lot was one beautiful green, bright spot. The land, naturally good, had been so well manured, and carefully laboured, that the seeds could not help coming up freely. But if the truth must be told, Bonny Betty and the three boys' gardens, were more forward than the rest; at least they had a more smiling gay look. And no wonder, for in the first place, women and children will put a few flower seeds in the garden; in the second place, the boys and Betty had the double advantage of working in the afternoons, as Bonny Betty having a little shop, scarcely ever went out to work by the day, and the children only worked half a day in the mills; and lastly Daniel M'Leary lent a hand "to beautify the women and childers' bit garding."
Every one in the neighbourhood had an eye on this project, and every one predicted that the woman and boys might persevere, but that Sammy Oram would give out first, Davy Conolly next, Lazy Jemmy next, and, lastly, Larry M'Gilpin. Sammy Oram was very near verifying this prediction in consequence of his taking it into his head to offer himself as a helpmate to Bonny Betty; but the reader shall hear the progress and end of the affair in a letter received by Mr. Price from Daniel M'Leary.
"Your honour asks how we are getting on—O beautifully, your honour, and all work with good heart, with a pleasant thought of your praise in the fall. I am glad your honour mistakes about Lazy Jemmy—Lazy Jemmy no longer, for he's here before any one, and brings his little boy with him, and because there's never a spade small enough for so young a boy, he's bought him one, your honour. I'm thinking Jemmy will hold out, and his little girrel, I'm tould, is crying to come with the daddy to help too; and why should she not? for here's Bonny Betty's little Jenny, now quite cured, God bless your honour for ever and ever, she weeds and helps her mother at every chance. So I bid Jemmy bring the little girrel with him.
"Larry laughs and works, and runs over to one garden to help the boys a bit, though they bid him keep off, and then he digs among the potatoes for Bonny Betty; but he's broke off that, your honour, for as soon as she found it out she went to his garding and dug just as many rows as he did. I'm thinking it will be hard to tell which of the men's gardings will get the premium, for they're jealous like, and they all put in the same things and work in the same way as near as possible, but they scorn the flowers, your honour.
"David Conolly still drinks, but for very shame's sake he works morning and evening, and he would get behind hand only that that fine boy, his son, just steps over now and then and keeps the garding up to the others. His wife tould me t'other day that for certain David does not drink so much, and she's certain he will leave off in time, for now on Sundays he takes up a book or lies in bed after chapel hours, and this she thinks is a good sign. Pat, the boy, is another crater, your honour; his master at the factory is well pleased with the change in him, and agrees to his only coming half a day, since he's all the better for it, and his mother says for the last week he has not had any of those bad night sweats, and he does not talk in his sleep—so the change of work has done him good.
Sammy Oram is none the worse for working out of doors, and he's better tempered too, your honour, for we none of us took much to Sammy, he was so soured like, owing to his sitting all day cobbling shoes and fretting. He thought at one time of making orphans of his boys and getting them all off his hands in the Girard College, for the kind gentlemen there made it out at one time that all childer that had only one parent was orphans, but our priest, father M'Guire, tould him that so many orphans came with their daddies, that the overseers, or whatever their names may be, found that, large as the college was, it would not hold all the orphans that the daddies brought. Father M'Guire said that the truth ought to be tould, that very few mothers took their orphans; they preferred to educate them themselves.
"When Sammy, your honour, found there was no chance to get his little boys off his hands as orphans, he then thought to fall in love with Bonny Betty, for she's now well off in the world, thanks to your honour. So one day last week he stept over the row of currant bushes, nimbly like, and says, 'Mistress Kelly,' says he, 'you and I have wrought side by side since the 15th of April, and it's now June. I'm thinking we could work on this way to the end of our lives, and I'll be a good fader to your children, and keep you from such hard work as this, for it's a shame to see a fine woman like yourself, Mistress Kelly, working like a man any how.' Well, what does Bonny Betty do but one thing, and Sammy Oram might be sure she'd tell; indeed we were all in the garding at the time, and saw them speak together, and we saw her lift him, easy like, with one hand, by the waistband behind, over the currant bushes, and set him gently down on the other side, and then Betty she laughed out loud, scornful like. Sammy Oram, after that, had no heart to work next to Bonny Betty. 'And I knew what he comed next to me for at the time,' said she, 'but I said I'll fit him when he's ready to spake—he a fader to my childer—he's not a fader to his own. There's Lizzy Conolly, she's a good enough body for him, and he'll find her a better mammy to his childer than I would be.' Sammy's a man, your honour, that soon tires of a wife. I remember once he tould me when his first wife had been a long time ailen, that he wished he could get her back to Ireland to her fader, he did not see why he was obliged to take care of another man's child. But Sammy's an honest man, your honour, and he'll may be do well yet. I think the hint of Lizzy Conolly not a bad one, and she's fond of little childer. We are all wishing to see your honour, not forgetting our respects to Mrs. M'Curdy and sweet little Nory. I remain your honour's humble and obedient servant,
On the fourth of July the four gates were thrown open, and all the village, rich and poor, went in, for the first time, to see what the idle hours of six persons had accomplished. The praises that the men and boys received, to say nothing of Bonny Betty, who was there in all her pride with her children, quite compensated them for any little extra fatigue they had undergone. The boys and girls were neatly dressed, and the poor women, the wives of the gardeners, began to take rank among the better order of labourers, for their husbands were beginning to attract notice. It was constantly—"Well, Jemmy Brady, how does your garden come on? are you almost tired yet?" "Tired! Is it I that am tired, sir, when I and the wife and children had a dish of potatoes of my own raising larger nor any you ever seed in our foolish little market? Sure you have not seen Bonny Betty's stall, as they call it—only just go over to-morrow, being Monday, ye'll see a sight—early York cabbage—ye see I've learned the names of things since I belonged to your garding—and there's real marrowfat peas, and big white ingans, as big as a tay saucer, and ye'll may be hardly see the end of the beets and carrots, they're so long, and then there's the early turnip just fit to melt in your mouth; sure we had a mess of them with our pork and potatoes this blessed day, and how could a poor man like me, with seven childer, all babies nearly, get the like of turnips and white ingans, unless I made them grow myself, barring I might send to York for them, but poor people can't do that."
Every one of the shanty people took a pride in having vegetables on the table every Sunday, and in a little time Bonny Betty did nothing, literally, but sell vegetables; and most scrupulous was she in keeping the different interests separate. Each man and boy had his basket, and every morning they were filled and carried to Betty's shed, erected for the purpose. No market woman was ever prouder, and none certainly so happy, if we make allowance for the increased illness of her youngest child. But even this she did not see, for so great a change had taken place in the circumstances and health of all the rest, that she went on, hoping that in God's good time little Christie would get well too.
The trial day came—the first of November. It was on Saturday, and the six candidates took a holiday, for they could now afford it. Jemmy Brady and Larry M'Gilpin, at one time the worst off, and the most dirty and ragged of them all, were now clean and decently dressed; they were each the richer too, in having another child added to their number, but they were very much set up about, as Larry had the felicity of calling his new daughter Sally M'Curdy—and never even when in a hurry did he shorten the name—and Jemmy only wished that his boy had been twins, that they might both have been called Oliver Price.
Mr. Price, Mrs. M'Curdy and Norah arrived the day before; a wagon followed them loaded with presents, and at ten o'clock on the day of trial the three went together to the shanty of Bonny Betty. The gate was thrown open, and after they had all walked over the grounds and had seen the neat order in which each garden was prepared for the winter, they went to Daniel M'Leary's shanty to look at his accounts.
"I'm thinking," said good natured Larry, "that the boys will get the premium any how, and if neither Bonny Betty nor myself is to get it, why the master, God bless his honour, could not do better than let the children have it"—so he stood back, and in this happy frame of mind waited the award of his industry.
Mr. Price, assisted by several gentlemen of the village, examined each man's account as rendered in by himself every day, all fairly written out by Jemmy Brady. The result was wonderful; these poor families had not only a large mess of vegetables of the best kind for their tables every Sunday, and from twelve to fifteen bushels of potatoes for their winter use, but they had cleared—first, the boys in the corner lot—twenty-one dollars each, making sixty-three dollars. This was after paying Bonny Betty a per centage for selling the different vegetables for them, and Betty was not extortionate; this yielded the boys about four dollars a month, which with the money they earned at their different employments enabled them to buy themselves two good suits of clothes, pay their parents for their board, and put a few dollars in the savings fund. But I ought to go on with the other gardens.
Next to the three boys came David Conolly—he looked so much better in health that Mr. Price did not recollect him—he produced his account; he had cleared fifty dollars. "Well done, David," said Mr. Price, "who could have believed this?—what! fifty dollars, and such good looks! I must shake hands with you—and your wife, which is she? let me wish her joy too."
Poor Mrs. Conolly stepped forward with her handkerchief to her eyes, and shook hands with Mr. Price, but her heart was too full to speak, though Bonny Betty punched her in the side several times and whispered to her to hold up a bit.
David Conolly, so long despised as a drunken vagabond, had undergone something of a change in his feelings too. He knew that, but for the assistance of his good son, his garden would have been overrun with weeds; and that, so often was he drunk, in the early part of the summer, when every thing required so much care and attention, that if Patrick had not turned in and helped, he would not have held up his head this day. All this came full to his mind; and he was not slow in giving his son this praise. Perhaps this was the most gratifying thing to Mr. Price that had occurred. Here, by the little he had done, was a poor creature restored to a moral sensibility, which had become almost extinct in his bosom. Here, through his means, was a husband and a father restored to the respect of his wife and child. "I am satisfied," said Mr. Price, inwardly, "and I humbly thank thee, oh, my God, for being the means of saving this poor creature."
Next came Larry, hitching and twisting himself into all manner of shapes—he had sixty dollars—for by good luck, as he said, his cauliflowers was bigger nor David's; and a man had given a great price for them, to take to York; and he had planted squashes in among his potatoes, so that they took up no more room; and his little datters had helped him weed; "and so, your honour," said he, "you see that David's not behind me, any how, seeing he has no little datters to weed for him."
"Plase your honour," said Bonny Betty, whose turn came next, "just pass me by and let Jemmy Brady bring up; I'll be better ready, being the last."
"Why, I thought that Sammy Oram had the next lot to you," said Mr. Price, "has Jemmy changed?"
"Yes, Sir," said Jemmy, walking proudly up, with a decent smart dress on; and, in his nervous anxiety to show himself to Mr. Price, he had his hat on his head. His wife, however, twitched it off, and told him not to forget where he was. "But he's scared, like, your honour," said Biddy, dressed up as smart as her husband; "and I've brought you my little boy; he's a new comer, your honour, and if your honour would not be affronted, we intend to call him Oliver Price."
Mr. Price patted the chubby little thing on the cheek, and thanked the mother for the compliment, saying, that when his little namesake was old enough, he should be sent to school. Jemmy, with hat now in hand, brought his account—alas, poor Jemmy, his account showed only forty dollars—but eight children! "No, don't feel ashamed," said Mr. Price. "I have heard that you were often obliged to remain at home to nurse your wife—but what's the matter, Bonny Betty, why do you look so amazed?"
"Why, sure, your honour, Jemmy's fine clothes have crazed him. I kept the money, and sure, Jemmy, there's more; sure you had sixty dollars."
"Yes, you gave me sixty," said honest Jemmy, "but can't I write and read, and isn't all these bills made out by myself? and did I not set down all the time I worked? and sure I am that forty dollars is all I earned any how. There's the twenty dollars, and they're none of mine; but to be shared wid my two little boys—shame on me for spaking of my own first, and Bonny Betty's little Ben, to say nothing of Petey and Ody Oram, them two good little fellows. When I could not work, your honour, they all fell to, and my little garding looked none the worse, I can tell you."
Sammy Oram came next—he could not bear to work next to Betty, so good natured Jemmy changed with him; and Sammy, after that, plucked up heart a little, offered himself to Lizzy Conolly, got married, and really improved wonderfully, for Lizzy was cheerful, and his children became very fond of her. He had forty dollars likewise.
"And now, your honour, here's my earnings, your honour," said Bonny Betty, stepping forward with five healthy children at her side—poor little Christie having died about two weeks before. "Here is my money," and she opened a little box, counting out one hundred and ten dollars, all in silver.
"I'm thankful" said Larry, "that she'll get the premium, any how." "No, I've not earned all this money by my garden," said honest Betty, "but by selling for the rest—I had that chance over ye all. If I could rightly tell how much I made by selling for you, you'd find I may be would be a great deal behind you all."
"I see, my friends," said Mr. Price, "that it is difficult to tell which has made the most. I shall not give the premium to any one in particular. You have all done well. David Conolly is, certainly, most to be praised, because he has broken himself of an accursed vice."—"I'll never drink a drop, your honour, from this hour," said David—"The boys," continued Mr. Price—"but I dare not trust myself to speak of them—the gentlemen present will take care that they shall always have the best wages and the best places in their gift; they deserve it well; and, as I thought they would behave exactly as they have done, I have brought them each something suited to their present wants. As to you, Bonny Betty—seeing that you are a woman, by rights I ought to distinguish you beyond the others. You shall have your shanty and lot rent free; the rest shall pay into the hands of Daniel M'Leary ten dollars each, for the next year. I shall charge them nothing now. The gardens will be better, as the raspberries and strawberries will be ready for sale; and the year after, the asparagus will be large enough to cut. I shall then build a small market-house, and place Mr. M'Leary at the head of it. Make way there, Larry, and let the packages from the wagon be brought in."
Mr. Price gave every one a parcel, containing a number of things necessary to the coming winter; such as blankets, coarse cloth for the children, stockings, and stuff for cloaks and coats—besides sewing cotton, pins, tape, needles, scissors; and for the boys plenty of paper, pencils, books and carpenter's tools—the men could hardly stagger home under their pleasant loads; and the women went trotting along by their side, laughing and talking loud in the joy of their hearts. Mr. Price did not stay for their thanks, which, after the Irish fashion, they were pouring out feelingly and rapidly. All he heard, as he jumped in the dearborn, with the gentleman who owned the land, was the end of Jemmy Brady's outpouring—"God bless him; if his son had lived, he'd, may be, in time have been as good a man as himself." Mr. Price was very much affected; stopped with the intention of speaking to the man, but feeling unable, he rode away.
"Norah, dear," said he, in the evening of this busy day,—"Norah, you have done being afraid of me, have you not? You may remember how unwilling you were to come near me when I first saw you."
"Yes," said the little girl, "I was afraid of you then, but it was not long. It was only something that Jemmy Brady said to me in the kitchen that made me not like you at first; but I love you dearly now," said she, as she jumped on his lap and threw her arms around his neck.
"I wanted you then to tell me what Jemmy said to make you fear me, but you would not. You will tell me now, will you not?" and he pressed the little creature fondly to his bosom.
"Why, Jemmy said you were the image of my father; and that if he chose, he could make my dear grandmother very unhappy; but that he would not tell—he liked me too well to let any one separate me from him. So I was afraid, and yet I did not know why you would take me from my dear grandmother; for that was what I thought Jemmy meant."
Mr. Price sent her to call Jemmy. When questioned, he said he firmly believed that Mr. Price's son was Norah's father; that he lived in the neighbourhood, very near to Sally M'Curdy; that the young man, who called himself White, fell in love with Ellinora M'Curdy, who was a beautiful girl, but too virtuous to listen to any one excepting in the way of marriage—that he finally did marry her, but under the name of White. After a few months, he came to America, where he married again, and this was the last they ever heard of him. Jemmy Brady went on to observe that he came to this country about a year after Mrs. M'Curdy, and heard from them that Mr. White had married again, and that they had made up their minds never to molest him, fearing that the little girl would be taken from them. He had seen the likeness between Mr. Price and the young man who called himself White, and he said aloud—but not in the hearing of Mrs. M'Curdy—that the likeness was very strong; but he did not think, at the time, the little girl minded it.
On further inquiry, and on recollecting what his son had said in his last moments, owning that he had left a wife, and, he believed, a child, in Ireland, Mr. Price had no doubt that little Norah was his grandchild. A book, with a few lines in the title page, which Mrs. M'Curdy had preserved, recognized as his own, given to his son before he sailed, more fully proved it; but he could hardly be said to love the child more after this disclosure. He immediately acknowledged her; and glad was he that his unhappy son had left no children by this second marriage. Of course, Mrs. M'Curdy returned no more to the shanty. She lived with Mr. Price, and had but one regret—that her poor daughter had not lived to share their happiness. Both she and Norah went yearly to visit the grave under the old hemlock tree.
Here was an unlooked-for reward for his kindness to a hapless family; but as every man who does good is not to expect a grandchild to start up in his walk, he must look to other sources for compensation. Mr. Price had these likewise; for the shanty people never relapsed into idleness and dirt; but continued to improve in their circumstances. At the end of ten years, (and they passed quickly away,) every man was able to buy the lot of ground on which he had so long wrought. The owner sold them at a moderate price; but he more than made up for this small advance by the greater prices obtained for the rest of the land which he owned in the neighbourhood.
In consequence of the success of this scheme other landholders adopted the same wise policy, and the benefit to their property was immense. The love of horticulture opened the way to better habits and tastes among the poor of the district; and there was none so humble that had not a garden spot of their own. The ladies' societies fled from them for ever; and the poor women blessed the day of their departure, for now they could earn an honest living by their needle.
During the ten years of which we speak, other changes had taken place, greatly beneficial to the village. A pier had been built by a company from New York, and steamboats now plied there daily. In compliment to Mr. Price they intended to call the first one that was built for the place, "Oliver Price," but that gentleman declined the honour for the present; he said, if they had no objection, he would give them a more suitable name—"The Seven Shanties"—and that if they ever built another, of which there was no doubt, he wished it might be called the "Bonny Betty."
They did build another, and another; and at this moment there are no less than five for the trade and pleasure of that place alone.—The Seven Shanties—The Bonny Betty—The Little Norah—The Henry Barclay, and the ⸻.