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THE STOLEN SHEEP.
AN IRISH SKETCH.
The faults of the lower orders of the Irish are sufficiently well known: perhaps their virtues have not been proportionately observed, or recorded for observation. At all events, it is but justice to them, and it cannot conflict with any established policy, or do any one harm to exhibit them in a favourable light to their British fellow-subjects, as often as strict truth will permit. In this view the following story is written—the following facts, indeed; for we have a newspaper report before us, which shall be very slightly departed from, while we make our copy of it.
The Irish plague, called typhus fever, raged in its terrors. In almost every third cabin there was a corpse daily. In every one, without an exception, there was what had made the corpse—hunger. It need not be added that there was poverty, too. The poor could not bury their dead. From mixed motives of self-protection, terror, and benevolence, those in easier circumstances exerted themselves to administer relief, in different ways. Money was subscribed—(then came England's munificent donation—God prosper her for it!)— wholesome food, or food as wholesome as a badseason permitted, was provided; and men of respectability, bracing their minds to avert the danger that threatened themselves, by boldy facing it, entered the infected house, where death reigned almost alone, and took measures to cleanse and purify the close-cribbed air, and the rough, bare walls. Before proceeding to our story, let us be permitted to mention some general marks of Irish virtue, which, under those circumstances, we personally noticed. In poverty, in abject misery, and at a short and fearful notice, the poor man died like a Christian. He gave vent to none of the poor man's complaints or invectives against the rich man who had neglected him, or who, he might have supposed, had done so, till it was too late. Except for a glance, —and, doubtless, a little inward pang while he glanced—at the starving, and perhaps infected wife, or child, or old parent as helpless as the child,—he blessed God, and died. The appearance of a comforter at his wretched bed-side, even when he knew comfort to be useless, made his heart grateful, and his spasmed lips eloquent in thanks. In cases of indescribable misery—some members of his family lying lifeless before his eyes, or else some dying,—stretched upon damp and unclean straw, on an earthen floor, without cordial for his lips, or potatoes to point out to a crying infant,—often we have heard him whisper to himself, (and to another who heard him!) "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord." Such men need not always make bad neighbours.
In the early progress of the fever, before the more affluent roused themselves to avert its career, let us cross the threshold of an individual peasant. His young wife lies dead ; his second child is dying it her side -. he has just sunk into a corner himself, under the firs stun of disease, long resisted. The only persons of his family whc have escaped contagion, and are likely to escape it, are his old father, who sits weeping feebly upon the hob, and his first born, a boy ol three or four years, who, standing between the old man's knees, cries also for food.
We visit the young peasant's abode some time after. He has not sunk under "the sickness." He is fast regaining hisstrength, even without proper nourishment; he can creep out of doors, and sit in the sun. But, in the expression of his sallow and emaciated face, there is no joy for his escape from the grave, as he sits there alone, silent and brooding. His father, and his surviving child, are still hungry—more hungry, indeed, and more helpless than ever; for the neighbours who had relieved the family with a potato and a mug of sour milk, are now stricken down themselves, and want assistance to a much greater extent than they can give it.
"I wish Mr Evans was in the place," cogitated Michaul Carroll; "a body could spake forn'ent him, and not spake for nothin', for all that he's an Englishman; and I dont like the thoughts o' goin' up to the house to the steward's face—it wouldn't turn kind to a body. May be he'd soon come home to us, the masther himself."
Another fortnight elapsed. Michaul's hope proved vain. Mr Evans was still in London; though a regular resident on his small Irish estate, since it had come into his possession, business unfortunately—and he would have said so himself—now kept him an unusually long time absent. Thus disappointed, Michaul overcame his repugnance to appear before the " hard" steward. He only asked for work, however. There was none to be had. He turned his slow and still feeble feet into the adjacent town. It was market-day, and he took up his place among a crowd of other claimants for agricultural employment, shouldering a spade, as did each of his companions. Many farmers came to the well-known "stannin," and hired men at his right and at his left, but no one addressed Michaul. Once or twice, indeed, touched perhaps by his sidelong looks of beseeching misery, a farmer stopt a moment before him, and glanced over his figure; but his worn and almost shaking limbs giving little promise of present vigour in the working field, worldly prudence soon conquered the hit