There are some griefs so deep and overwhelming, that even the best exertions of friendship and sympathy are unequal to the task of soothing or dispelling them. Such was the grief of Ellen Duncan, who was silently weeping in her lone cottage on the borders of Clare—a county at that time in a frightful state of anarchy and confusion. Owen Duncan, her husband, at the period about which our tale commences, resided in the cabin where he was born and reared, and to which, as well as a few acres of land adjoining, he had succeeded on the death of his father. They had not been long married, and never were husband and wife more attached. About this time outrages began to be perpetrated; and soon increased fearfully in number. Still Owen and Ellen lived happily, and without fear, as they were too poor for the marauders to dream of getting much booty by robbing; and their religion being known to be “the ould religion ov all ov all,” in a warfare that was exclusively one of party, they were more protected than otherwise. Owen never was particularly thrifty; and as his means were small, was generally embarrassed, or rather somewhat pinched in circumstances. Notwithstanding this, however, he was as happy as a king; and according to his unlettered neighbors’ artless praise, “there wasn’t a readier hand, nor an opener heart in the wide world—that’s iv he had id—but he hadn’t an’ more was the pity.” His entire possessions consisted of the ground we have mentioned, most part of which was so rocky as to be entirely useless—a cow, a couple of pigs, and the “the uld cabin,” which consisted of four mud walls, covered with thatch, in which was an opening, “to let in the day-light, an’ to let out the smoke.” In the interior there was no division, or separate apartment, as the one room contained the cooking materials, and all other necessaries, beside their bed, which was placed close to the fire, and, of course, nearly under the opening in the roof. If any one spqke to Owen about the chances of rain coming down to where they slept, his universal answer was, “Shure we’re naither shugar nor salt, anyhow; an’ a dhrop ov or a thrifle ov wind, was niver known to do any body harm—barrin’ it brought the typhus; but God’s good, an’ ordhers all for the best.” Owen had been brought up in this way, and so he could live by his labor, he never thought of needless luxuries; and Ellen, seeing him contented, was so herself.
For some months previous to the time of which we write, Owen’s affairs had been gradually getting worse and worse; and it was with no pleasing anticipations that he looked forward to his approaching rent day. His uneasiness he studiously kept a secret from his wife, and worked away seemingly with as much cheerfulness as ever, hoping for better days, and trusting in Providence! However, when within a week of the time that he expected a call from the agent, he found