'Music hath Charms'

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXI (2) start of chapter

One evening the Bishop, who was on this occasion accompanied by one of his few priests—Father O'Neill; it need scarcely be added, a countryman of his own—drew up at a house of rather moderate dimensions, whose master was a marked specimen of the species Surly. Negotiations were entered into for a dinner, which the liberal host was willing to give on certain conditions, somewhat exorbitant in their nature; but there was to be no further accommodation. 'You cannot stop the night, nohow,' said the agreeable owner of the mansion; and his look of dogged dislike was quite as emphatic as his words. After dinner, Dr. England sat on a chair in the piazza, and read his 'office;' while Father O'Neill, having no desire to enjoy the company of his unwilling entertainer, sauntered towards the carriage, a little distance off, where the boy was feeding the horses; and taking his flute from his portmanteau, he sat on a log, and commenced his favourite air, 'The last Rose of Summer,' into which he seemed to breathe the very soul of tenderness. From one exquisite melody to another the player wandered, while the negro boy grinned with delight, and the horses enjoyed their food with a keener relish. That

Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast

was here exemplified. As the sweet notes stole on the soft night air of the South, and reached the inhospitable mansion, a head was eagerly thrust forth, and the projecting ears thereof appeared eagerly to drink in the flood of melody. Another lovely air, one of those which bring involuntary tears to the eyes, and fill the heart with balm, was played with lingering sweetness, when a voice, husky with emotion, was heard uttering these words—'Strangers! don't go!—do stay all night!—don't go; we'll fix you somehow.' It was the voice of the charmed host! That evening the two guests enjoyed the snuggest seats at the hearth, Father O'Neill playing for the family till a late hour. Next morning the master of the house would not accept of the least compensation. 'No, no, Bishop! no, no, Mr. O'Neill! not a cent! You're heartily welcome to it. Come as often as you please, and stay as long as you can. We'll be always glad to see you; but,' specially addressing Father O'Neill, 'be sure and don't forget the flute!'

There were occasions when not even Orpheus himself could have made out a dinner or a bed, had he been, like Bishop England, on the mission in the Southern States. Orpheus would have had to sleep where he could, and carry his dinner with him, as the Bishop very often did. The Bishop was not unfrequently obliged to be his own groom and servant, to look after the comfort of his horse, and see to the cooking of his simple meal. Tying the horse to a stake or a tree, he would brush him down and supply him with corn, and then commence preparations for his own refreshment. One night in the woods, the Bishop and Father O'Neill had taken their frugal supper, read their 'office,' and lain down by the fire to sleep; but they had not been long asleep when they awoke in fright: a few moments more, and the forest would have been on fire, and perhaps the two missionaries 'roasted like chestnuts,' as Father O'Neill afterwards said. The parasite ivy had caught the flame, and it was rapidly encircling a gigantic tree in an embrace of fire. By the most extraordinary exertions, such as fear could alone inspire, the ivy was torn down, the fire extinguished, the forest saved, and the great missionary longer preserved to the American Church.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America