Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet: Ch. 33

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"I wish to Heaven they would just have stayed at home, and ranted on the other side of the water; they had their own way there, and no Mammonite middle-class to keep them down; and yet they never did an atom of good. Their eloquence is all bombast, and what's more, Crossthwaite, though there are some fine fellows among them, nine-tenths are liars—liars in grain, and you know it—"

Crossthwaite turned angrily to me. "Why, you are getting as reactionary as old Mackaye himself!"

"I am not—and he is not. I am ready to die on a barricade to-morrow, if it comes to that. I haven't six months' lease of life—I am going into consumption; and a bullet is as easy a death as spitting up my lungs piecemeal. But I despise these Irish, because I can't trust them—they can't trust each other—they can't trust themselves. You know as well as I that you can't get common justice done in Ireland, because you can depend upon no man's oath. You know as well as I, that in Parliament or out, nine out of ten of them will stick at no lie, even if it has been exposed and refuted fifty times over, provided it serves the purpose of the moment; and I often think that, after all, Mackaye's right, and what's the matter with Ireland is just that and nothing else—that from the nobleman in his castle to the beggar on his dunghill, they are a nation of liars, John Crossthwaite!"

"Sandy's a prejudiced old Scotchman."

"Sandy's a wiser man than you or I, and you know it."

"Oh, I don't deny that; but he's getting old, and I think he has been failing in his mind of late."

"I'm afraid he's failing in his health; he has never been the same man since they hooted him down in John Street. But he hasn't altered in his opinions one jot; and I'll tell you what—I believe he's right. I'll die in this matter like a man, because it's the cause of liberty; but I've fearful misgivings about it, just because Irishmen are at the head of it."

"Of course they are—they have the deepest wrongs; and that makes them most earnest in the cause of right. The sympathy of suffering, as they say themselves, has bound them to the English working man against the same oppressors."

"Then let them fight those oppressors at home, and we'll do the same: that's the true way to show sympathy. Charity begins at home. They are always crying 'Ireland for the Irish'; why can't they leave England for the English?"

"You're envious of O'Connor's power!"

"Say that again, John Crossthwaite, and we part for ever!" And I threw off his arm indignantly.

"No—but—don't let's quarrel, my dear old fellow—now, that perhaps, perhaps we may never meet again—but I can't bear to hear the Irish abused. They're noble, enthusiastic, generous fellows. If we English had half as warm hearts, we shouldn't be as we are now; and O'Connor's a glorious man, I tell you. Just think of him, the descendant of the ancient kings, throwing away his rank, his name, all he had in the world, for the cause of the suffering millions!"

"That's a most aristocratic speech, John," said I, smiling, in spite of my gloom. "So you keep a leader because he's descended from ancient kings, do you? I should prefer him just because he was not—just because he was a working man, and come of workmen's blood. We shall see whether he's stanch after all. To my mind, little Cuffy's worth a great deal more, as far as earnestness goes."

"Oh! Cuffy's a low-bred, uneducated fellow."

"Aristocrat again, John!" said I, as we went up-stairs to Kelly's room. And
Crossthwaite did not answer.