By William O'Brien
AN IRISH POOR SCHOLAR
But that is by the way. If the Sheafree glens are worth exploring, there was more to be learned of the Irish question from old Tom Duffy, as I found him last Sunday evening, apostrophising his mountains like an antiquated spectral genius of the place, than the British public will learn from three months' debates on the Home Rule Bill. 'Where does he live?' echoed a mountain lad, with Spanish hair and colour, but an Irish laugh. ' He don't live anywhere--only wherever he likes.' He had been at mass, however, and presided over the reading of an American letter; after which he had ' gone away west.' We tracked him to a neighbouring farmhouse where he dined, and proceeded to parts unknown--it was believed with the intention of ' taking a little of the sun ' before settling his arrangements for the night. We discovered at last, under shelter of a Druidical boulder, a dark bundle of rags framing a corpse-like face for which the sun seemed to have shone its last, and the birds and lambkins to be expending their music, and the flower-beds of wild cotton plants and yellow water-lilies their charms in vain. Not so, however. The old fellow had been ill since I saw him last, and a film had come over his sight, and his old bones shrank until there seemed to be a ludicrous excess of clothes to cover them; but he was no sooner on his legs and alive to the situation than his frame swelled, and his stick was brandished, and his eyes flashed out of their graves as it were, while he declaimed Greek and Latin verses with the gusto with which he might open bottles of wine, and demanded to be heard before all the Academies of Europe in defence of his discovery of the Trisection of the Obtuse Angle.
A peasant of peasants, and poorest of the poor, there was yet something in his air and dress which marked him out ...continue reading »
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