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already raised; others, in which the nipping frost that is borne on the November blast has embrowned the stalks and withered the leaves upon their stem. The stroke of the flail and the clack of the water-mill are in his ear --the meadow land is green and fresh with its aftergrass —and the haggart, or hay yard, is stacked into a labyrinth with hay and corn. He is satisfied with the appearance of things about him—he thinks he has no business asking himself whether any of these good things are destined for his use, or for that of a foreign mechanic-he never stops to anticipate in fancy, while he puts the spade for the first time into his own little half acre, and discloses the fair produce of his labour, how many calls from tithe-proctor, assessed tax-gatherer, landlord, priest; etc., may yet diminish his little store: he sees the potatoes ; they are his and his pig's by right, and he and his pig are merry fellows while they last, and while they can procuro a turfen fire, or the smoke of a fire, to warm the little cabin about them.
Or, if this last comfort is denied him, he can take his stick, and his “God save all here”, along with him, and make the best of his way into the spacious kitchen of the neighbouring “strong farmer”, “middle-man”, “small gentleman", or “half-sir”, when the festival evening abovementioned has arrived. Here he can take his place among the revellers, and pay for his warm seat in the chimney corner by a joke, a laugh, a tale, a gibe, a magic sleight, a form of conjuration proper to the time-in short, by adding his subscription of merriment to the general fun of the meeting.
Just such a quiet, contented, droll fellow, formed one of a most frolic November-Eve party at the house of a respectable farmer in the west of Munster, upon whose hospitality chance threw the collector of these stories on the 31st of last October. The earthen floor had been swept as clean as a new pin; the two elderly rulers of the mansion were placed side by side in two vene
rable, high backed, carved wooden chairs, near a blazing tarf fire; their daughter, a bright-haired Munster lass (and Munster is as remarkable for fair faces, in Ireland, as Lancashire in the neighbouring country), all alive with spirit and jocund health (that dearest dower of beauty), placed opposite, contending with and far overmatching the wits of two rustic beaus, the one the assistant of the village apothecary, the other (the more favoured of the two), a wild, noisy, rude, red-faced savage, son to the agent at the “great house”, as the mother gave me to understand in a whisper. The schoolmaster, the seneschal, half a dozen neighbours, and a few shy-looking, rosy-cheeked girls, looking forward with most unchristian anxiety and credulity to the cabalistic ceremonies of the evening, and anxiously longing for the retirement of the scrupulous old couple, whose presence alone prevented their being immediately put in train, in defiance of Father Maney and his penances, filled up the remainder of the scene immediately around the fire—while Paddy, the gorsoon, and the two maid-servants, sat whispering together in respectful distance, seated in shade upon the settle-bed, at the upper end of the apartment.
Previous to the commencement of the evening sports the jolly-looking fellow in the corner before mentioned, throwing himself back on his sugan chair, stretching out his unstockinged, polished, and marbly legs, variegated by the cherishing influence of many a warm fireside, snapped his fingers, and made glad the heart of his ancient host, by leading out the famous old chorus :
“I love ten pence, jolly, jolly ten pence;
I spent a penny of it,
I lent a penny of it,
I love eight pence, jolly, jolly eight pence;
I spent a penny of it,
I lent a penny of it,
I love six pence", etc., etc. and so forth, to
“I love two pence, jolly, jolly two pence;
I spent a penny of it,
I lent a penny of it,
I took NOTHING home to my wife!" The chorus having died away in a most musical discord, a clear space was made in the midst, and a fat faced little urchin, clambering up on the back of one of the high chairs, lowered from the roof a sort of apparatus made of two laths crossed, and suspended from one of the bacon hooks above by a whip-cord, fastened from the centre. A large bag of apples was now brought forward from the corner of the room, and two of the sleekest and largest affixed to the extremities of one of the cross-sticks, while the other was furnished with two short bits of candles, lighted. When the balance was fairly adjusted, and the whole machine lowered to the level of the mouths of the guests, it was sent twirling round with a touch of the finger; the fun being now, to see who would fix his or her teeth in the immense apple while in rapid motion, and avoid taking, instead, the unwelcome inch of lighted candle, which appeared to be whisking round in pursuit.
E’then, bad mannners to you, Norry Foley", said the merry fellow with the legs before mentioned, addressing himself to a modest, blue-eyed, simpering maiden, who advanced in her turn to the “nap-apple”, with a sly coquet
tish management of lip and eye, "only mark what a weeny dawny little mouth she makes at it, because the gintlemin is looking at her now, all o' one I hadn't seen her myself many's the time make no more than the one offer at a whiteeye that would make two of that apple”.
And, as if to demonstrate the facility of the undertaking, he advanced in his turn with an easy, careless, swaggering confidence in his own prowess, and a certain ominous work. ing of his immense jaws, which struck awe into the hearts of the junior spectators. The orifice which was displayed when he expanded them, banished the faintest glimmering of hope; and when they closed, with a hollow sound, upon the devoted fruit, a general groan announced that the sports and chances of “snap-apple” for that evening were at an end.
Next followed the floating apple, of still greater dimensions than the former, placed in a tub of clear water, and destined to become the property of him who should, fairly between his teeth, and without help from hands or the side of the vessel, lift it out of the fluid. This created most uproarious mirth for some time, until the man with the legs, in bis own quiet, silent way, stalked among the disputants like the genius of fate, and picking it off the surface as if it had been a walnut, retired to his corner, followed by the wondering and envious glances of the gaping juniors.
While these things were transacted above, another group about the fire were occupied more interestingly, though not so merrily, in melting the lead through the handle of a key placed over a porringer of water, and conjecturing from the fantastical shapes which the metal assumed, their own future destiny; in burning the beans* (in which process, much to the dissatisfaction of the young hostess and her noisy sweetheart, the village apothecary's lad was observed to burn quietly by her side, while the former bounced away
* Such is the demand for those articles “coming on" November Eve, that rural speculators sow bean gardens for the purpose of profiting by the occasion.
with a "pop!” like a shot), and other innocent and permitted arts of the Ephesian letter. These little minor tricks, however, were but child's play to the great girls, who were on thorns until the field should be left clear to themselves -when they might put in practice the darker and more daring ceremonies proper to the time—the drying of the shift sleeve on the three-legged stool, and watching in the silence of the midnight for the shadowy resemblance of the future spouse, who was to turn it before the fire ; the sow. ing of hemp or rape seed; the adjuration with a sage-leaf, and all the gloomy and forbidden mysteries of the night, into which we shall not at present penetrate; these ceremonies not being peculiar or strictly national, and having already found admirable historians in the authors of “ Halloween”, and of “The Boyne Water”.
After the company had wearied their spirits and memories in search of new matter of amusement, and exhausted all the accustomed festivities of the evening, the loudness of their merriment began to die away, and a drowsiness crept upon their laughter and conversation. As the noisier revellers grew comparatively silent, the voices of two or three old gossips who sat inside the hearth in the chimneycorner, imbibing the grateful warmth, and seeming to breathe as freely and contentedly amid the volumes of smoke which enveloped them as if it had been pure aroma—their knees gathered up to their chins, and the tails of their cotton or stuff gowns drawn up over their heads, suffering the glazed blue or green petticoat to dazzle the eyes of the admiring spectators—the voices, as we have said, of these old crones became more audible as the noisy mirth around them began to decrease, and at length attracted the attention of the other guests.
“What is it ye're doing there?” exclaimed the old master of the house, looking towards the corner with an expression of face in which much real curiosity and some assumed ridicule were blended.