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Lavengro by George Henry Borrow

It was discovered that he understood Irish


his ways and manners!--I confess

I do not like them, and that they give me no little uneasiness--I know that he kept very strange company when he was in Ireland; people of evil report, of whom terrible things were said--horse-witches and the like. I questioned him once or twice upon the matter, and even threatened him, but it was of no use; he put on a look as if he did not understand me, a regular Irish look, just such a one as those rascals assume when they wish to appear all innocence and simplicity, and they full of malice and deceit all the time. I don't like them; they are no friends to old England, or its old king, God bless him! They are not good subjects, and never were; always in league with foreign enemies. When I was in the Coldstream, long before the Revolution, I used to hear enough about the Irish brigades kept by the French kings, to be a thorn in the side of the English whenever opportunity served. Old Sergeant Meredith once told me that in the time of the Pretender there were always, in London alone, a dozen of fellows connected with these brigades, with the view of seducing the king's soldiers from their allegiance, and persuading them to desert to France to join the honest Irish, as they were called. One of these traitors once accosted him and proposed the matter to him, offering handfuls of gold if he could induce any of his comrades to go over. Meredith appeared to consent, but secretly gave information to his colonel; the fellow was seized, and certain traitorous papers found upon
him; he was hanged before Newgate, and died exulting in his treason. His name was Michael Nowlan. That ever son of mine should have been intimate with the Papist Irish, and have learnt their language!'

'But he thinks of other things now,' said my mother.

'Other languages, you mean,' said my father. 'It is strange that he has conceived such a zest for the study of languages; no sooner did he come home than he persuaded me to send him to that old priest to learn French and Italian, and, if I remember right, you abetted him; but, as I said before, it is in the nature of women invariably to take the part of the second-born. Well, there is no harm in learning French and Italian, perhaps much good in his case, as they may drive the other tongue out of his head. Irish! why, he might go to the university but for that; but how would he look when, on being examined with respect to his attainments, it was discovered that he understood Irish? How did you learn it? they would ask him; how did you become acquainted with the language of Papists and rebels? The boy would be sent away in disgrace.'

'Be under no apprehension, I have no doubt that he has long since forgotten it.'

'I am glad to hear it,' said my father; 'for, between ourselves, I love the poor child; ay, quite as well as my first-born. I trust they will do well, and that God will be their shield and guide; I have no doubt He will, for I have read something in the Bible to that effect. What is that text about the young ravens being fed?'

'I know a better than that,' said my mother; 'one of David's own words, "I have been young and now am grown old, yet never have I seen the righteous man forsaken, or his seed begging their bread."'


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