“Nogher,” replied Connor, “I’m not without hope that—but this—this is folly. You know I have a right to be thankful to God and the goodness of government for sparin’ my life. Now, farewell—it is forever, Nogher, an’ it is a tryin’ word to-day; but you know that every one goin’ to America must say it; so, think that I’m goin’ there, an’ it won’t signify.”
“Ah, Connor, I wish I could,” replied Nogher; “but, to tell the truth, what breaks my heart is, to think of the way you are goin’ from us. Farewell, then, Connor darlin; an’ may the blessin’ of God, an’ His holy mother, an’ of all the saints be upon you now an’ foriver. Amin!”
His tears flowed fast, and he sobbed aloud, whilst uttering the last words; he then threw his arms about Connor’s neck, and, having kissed him, he again wrung his hand, and passed out of the cell in an agony of grief.
Such is the anomalous nature of that peculiar temperament, which, in Ireland, combines within it the extremes of generosity and crime. Here was a man who had been literally affectionate and harmless during his whole past life, yet, who was now actually plotting the murder of a person who had never,—except remotely, by his treachery to Connor, whom he loved—rendered him an injury, or given him any cause of offence. And what can show us the degraded state of moral feeling among a people whose natural impulses are as quick to virtue as to vice, and the reckless estimate which the peasantry form of human life, more clearly than the fact, that Connor, the noble—minded, heroic, and pious peasant, could admire the honest attachment of hia old friend, without dwelling upon the dark point in his character, and mingle his tears with a man who was deliberately about to join in, or encompass, the assassination of a fellow-creature!
Even against persons of his own creed the Irishman thinks that revenge is a duty which he owes to himself;—but against those of a different faith it is not only a duty but a virtue—and any man who acts out of this feeling, either as a juror, a witness, or an elector—for the principle is the same—must expect to meet such retribution as was suggested by a heart like Nogher M’Cormick’s, which was otherwise affectionate and honest. In the secret code of perverted honor by which Irishmen are guided, he is undoubtedly the most heroic and manly, and the most worthy also of imitation, who indulges in, and executes his vengeance for injuries whether real or supposed, with the most determined and unshrinking spirit; but the man who is capable of braving death, by quoting his own innocence as an argument against the justice of law, even when notoriously guilty, is looked upon by the people, not as an innocent man—for his accomplices and friends know he is not—but as one who is a hero in his rank of life; and it is unfortunately a kind of ambition among too many of our ill-thinking but generous countrymen, to propose such men as the best models for imitation, not only in their lives, but in that hardened hypocrisy which defies and triumphs over the ordeal of death itself.