The next morning was that on which the Quarter Sessions of Castle Cumber commenced; and of course it was necessary for Darby O’Drive, who was always full of business on such occasions, to see M’Clutchy, in order to receive instructions touching his duties on various proceedings connected with the estate. He had reached the crossroads that ran about half-way between Constitution Cottage and Castle Cumber, when! he met, just where the road turned to M’Clutchy’s, a woman named Poll Doolin, accompanied, as she mostly was, by her son—a poor, harmless, idiot, named Raymond; both of whom were well known throughout the whole parish. Poll was a thin, sallow woman, with piercing dark eyes, and a very; gipsy-like countenance. Her dress was always black, and very much worn; in fact, everything about her was black—black stockings, black bonnet, black hair, and black kerchief. Poll’s occupation was indeed a singular one, and not very creditable to the morals of the day. Her means of living were derived from the employment of child-cadger to the Foundling Hospital of Dublin. In other words, she lived by conveying illegitimate children from the places of their birth to the establishment just mentioned, which has been very properly termed a bounty for national immorality. Whenever a birth of this kind occurred, Poll was immediately sent for—received her little charge with a name—whether true or false mattered not—pinned to its dress—then her traveling expenses; after which she delivered it at the hospital, got a receipt for its delivery, and returned to claim her demand, which was paid only on her producing it. In the mean time, the unfortunate infant had to encounter all the comforts of the establishment, until it was drafted out to a charter school, in which hot-bed of pollution it received that exquisitely moral education that enabled it to be sent out into society admirably qualified to sustain the high character of Protestantism.
“Morrow, Poll,” said Darby; “what’s the youngest news wid you? And Raymond, my boy, how goes it wid you?”
“I don’t care for you,” replied the fool; “you drove away Widow Branagan’s cow, an’ left the childre to the black wather. Bad luck to you!”
Darby started; for there is a superstition among the Irish, that the curse of an “innocent” is one of the most unlucky that can be uttered.
“Don’t curse me,” replied Darby; “sure, Raymond, I did only my duty.”
“Then who made you do your duty?” asked the other.
“Why, Val the Vul—hem—Mr. M’Clutchy, to be sure.”
“Bad luck to him then!”
His mother, who had been walking a little before him, turned, and, rushing towards him, put her hand hastily towards his mouth, with the obvious intention of suppressing the imprecation; but too late; it had escaped, and be the consequence what it might, Val had got the exciting cause of it.
“My poor unfortunate boy,” said she, “you oughtn’t to curse anybody; stop this minute, and say God bless him.”