THE BLACK PROPHET:
A TALE OF IRISH FAMINE.
By William Carleton
CHAPTER I. — Glendhu, or the Black Glen; Scene of Domestic Affection.
Some twenty and odd years ago there stood a little cabin at the foot of a round hill, that very much resembled a cupola in shape, and which, from its position and height, commanded a prospect of singular beauty. This hill was one of a range that ran from north to southwest; but in consequence of its standing, as it were, somewhat out of the ranks, its whole appearance and character as a distinct feature of the country were invested with considerable interest to a scientific eye, especially to that of a geologist. An intersection or abrupt glen divided it from those which constituted the range or group alluded to; through this, as a pass in the country, and the only one for miles, wound a road into an open district on the western side, which road, about half a mile after its entering the glen, was met by a rapid torrent that came down from the gloomy mountains that rose to the left. The foot of this hill, which on the southern side was green and fertile to the top, stretched off and was lost in the rich land that formed the great and magnificent valley it helped to bound, and to which the chasm we have described was but an entrance; the one bearing to the other, in size and position, much the same relation that a small bye-lane in a country town bears to the great leading street which constitutes its principal feature.
Noon had long passed, and the dim sun of a wet autumnal day was sloping down towards the west through clouds and gloom, when a young girl of about twenty-one or twenty-two years of age came out of the cabin we have mentioned, and running up to the top of a little miniature hill or knob that rose beside it, looked round in every direction, as if anxious to catch a glimpse of some one whom she expected. It appeared, however, that she watched in vain; for after having examined the country in every direction with an eye in which might be read a combined expression of eagerness, anger and disappointment, she once more returned to the cabin with a slow and meditating step. This she continued to do from time to time for about an hour and a half, when at length a female appeared approaching, whom she at once recognized.
The situation of this hovel, for such, in fact, it must be termed, was not only strikingly desolate, but connected also with wild and supernatural terrors. From the position of the glen itself, a little within which it stood, it enjoyed only a very limited portion of the sun's cheering beams. As the glen was deep and precipitous, so was the morning light excluded from it by the northeastern hills, as was that of evening by those which rose between it and the west. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a spot marked by a character of such utter solitude and gloom. Naturally barren, it bore not a single shrub on which a bird could sit or a beast browse, and little, of course, was to be seen in it but the bare gigantic projections of rock which shot out of its steep sides in wild and uncouth shapes, or the grey, rugged expanses of which it was principally composed. Indeed, we feel it difficult to say whether the gloom of winter or the summer's heat fell upon it with an air of lonelier desolation. It mattered not what change of season came, the place presented no appearance of man or his works. Neither bird or beast was seen or heard, except rarely, within its dreary bosom, the only sounds it knew being the monotonous murmurs of the mountain torrent, or the wild echoes of the thunder storms that pealed among the hills about it. Silence and solitude were the characteristics which predominated in it and it would not be easy to say whether they were felt more during the gloom of November or the glare of June.
In the mouth of this glen, not far from the cabin we have described, two murders had been committed about twenty years before the period of our narrative, within the lapse of a month. The one was that of a carman, and the other of a man named Sullivan, who also had been robbed, as it was supposed the carman had been, for the bodies of both had been made way with and were never found. This was evident—in the one case by the horse and cart of the carman remaining by the grey stone in question, on which the traces of blood were long visible; and in the other by the circumstance of Sullivan's hat and part of his coat having been found near the cabin in question on the following day, in a field through which his path home lay, and in which was a pool of blood, where his foot-marks were deeply imprinted, as if in a struggle for life and death. For this latter murder a man named Dalton had been taken up, under circumstances of great suspicion, he having been the last person seen in the man's company. Both had been drinking together in the market, a quarrel had originated between them about money matters, blows had been exchanged, and Dalton was heard to threaten him in very strong language. Nor was this all. He had been observed following or rather dogging him on his way home, and although the same road certainly led to the residence of both, yet when his words and manner were taken into consideration, added to the more positive proof that the footmarks left on the place of struggle exactly corresponded with his shoes, there could be little doubt that he was privy to Sullivan's murder and disappearance, as well probably as to his robbery. At all events the glen was said to be haunted by Sullivan's spirit, which was in the habit, according to report, of appearing near the place of murder, from whence he was seen to enter this chasm—a circumstance which, when taken in connection with its dark and lonely aspect, was calculated to impress upon the place the I reputation of being accursed, as the scene of crime and supernatural appearances. We remember having played in it when young, and the feeling we experienced was one of awe and terror, to which might be added, on contemplating the "dread repose" and solitude around us, an impression that we were removed hundreds of miles from the busy ongoings and noisy tumults of life, to which, as if seeking protection, we generally hastened with a strong sense of relief, after having tremblingly gratified our boyish curiosity.
The young girl in question gave the female she had been expecting any thing but a cordial or dutiful reception. In personal appearance there was not a point of resemblance between them, although the tout ensemble of each was singularly striking and remarkable. The girl's locks were black as the raven's wing: her figure was tall and slender, but elastic and full of symmetry. The ivory itself was not more white nor glossy than her skin; her teeth were—bright and beautiful, and her mouth a perfect rosebud. It is unnecessary to say that her eyes we're black and brilliant, for such ever belong to her complexion and temperament; but it in necessary to add, that they were piercing and unsettled, and you felt that they looked into you rather than at you or upon you. In fact, her features were all perfect, yet it often happened that their general expression was productive of no agreeable feeling on the beholder. Sometimes her smile was sweet as that of an angel, but let a single impulse or whim be checked, and her face assumed a character of malignity that made her beauty appear like that which we dream of in an evil spirit.
The other woman, who stood to her in the relation of step-mother, was above the middle size. Her hair was sandy, or approaching to a pale red; her features were coarse, but regular; and her whole figure that of a well-made and powerful woman. In her countenance might be read a peculiar blending of sternness and benignity, each evidently softened down by an expression of melancholy—perhaps of suffering—as if some secret care lay brooding at her heart. The inside of the hovel itself had every mark of poverty and destitution about it. Two or three stools, a pot or two, one miserable standing bed, and a smaller one gathered up under a rug in the corner, were almost all that met the eye on entering it; and simple as these meagre portions of furniture were, they bore no marks of cleanliness or care. On the contrary, everything appeared to be neglected, squalid and filthy—such, precisely, as led one to see at a glance that the inmates of this miserable hut were contented with their wretched state of life, and had no notion whatsoever that any moral or domestic duty existed, by which they might be taught useful notions of personal comfort and self-respect.
"So," said the young woman, addressing her step-mother, as she entered, "you're come back at last, an' a purty time you tuck to stay away!"
"Well," replied the other, calmly, "I'm here now at any rate; but I see you're in one of your tantrums, Sally, my lady. What's wrong, I say? In the mean time don't look as if you'd ait us widout salt."
"An' a bitter morsel you'd be," replied the younger, with a flashing glance—"divil a more so. Here am I, sittin', or running out an' in, these two hours, when I ought to be at the dance in Kilnahushogue, before I go to Barny Gormly's wake; for I promised to be at both. Why didn't you come home in time?"
"Bekaise, achora, it wasn't agreeable to me to do so. I'm beginnin' to got ould an' stiff, an' its time for me to take care of myself."
"Stiffer may you be, then, soon, an' oulder may you never be, an' that's the best I wish you!"
"Aren't you afeard to talk to me in that way?" said the elder of the two.
"No—not a bit. You won't flake me now as you used to do. I am able an' willin' to give blow for blow at last, thank goodness; an' will, too, if ever you thry that thrick."
The old woman gazed at her angrily, and appeared for a moment to meditate an assault. After a pause, however, during which the brief but vehement expression of rising fury passed from her countenance, and her face assumed an expression more of compassion than of anger, she simply said, in a calm tone of voice—
"I don't know that I ought to blame you so much for your temper, Sarah. The darkness of your father's sowl is upon yours; his wicked spirit is in you, an' may Heaven above grant that you'll never carry about with you, through this unhappy life, the black an' heavy burden that weighs down his heart! If God hasn't said it, you have his coorse, or something nearly as bad, before you. Oh! go to the wake as soon as you like, an' to the dance, too. Find some one that'll take you off of my hands; that'll put a house over your head—give you a bit to ait, an' a rag to put on you; an' may God pity him that's doomed to get you! If the woeful state of the country, an' the hunger an' sickness that's abroad, an' that's comin' harder an' faster on us every day, can't tame you or keep you down, I dunna what will. I'm sure the black an' terrible summer we've had ought to make you think of how we'll get over all that's before us! God pity you, I say again, an' whatever poor man is to be cursed wid you!"
"Keep your pity for them that wants it," replied the other, "an' that's not me. As for God's pity, it isn't yours to give, and even if it was, you stand in need of it yourself more than I do. You're beginning to praich to us now that you're not able to bait us; but for your praichments an' your baitins, may the divil pay you for all alike!—as he will—an' that's my prayer."
A momentary gush of the step-mother's habitual passion overcame her; she darted at her step-daughter, who sprung to her limbs, and flew at her in return. The conflict at first was brief, for the powerful strength of the elder female soon told. Sarah, however, quickly disengaged herself, and seizing an old knife which lay on a shell that served as a dresser, she made a stab at the very heart of her step-mother, panting as she did it with an exulting vehemence of vengeance that resembled the growlings which a savage beast makes when springing on its prey.
"Ha!" she exclaimed, "you have it now—you have it! Call on God's pity now, for you'll soon want it. Ha! ha!"
The knife, however, owing to the thick layers of cloth with which the dress of the other was patched, as well as to the weakness of the thin and worn blade, did not penetrate her clothes, nor render her any injury whatsoever. The contest was again resumed. Sarah, perceiving that she had missed her aim, once more put herself into a posture to renew the deadly attempt; and the consequence was, that a struggle now took place between them which might almost be termed one for life and death. It was indeed a frightful and unnatural struggle. The old woman, whose object was, if possible, to disarm her antagonist, found all her strength—and it was great—scarcely a match for the murderous ferocity which was now awakened in her. The grapple between them consequently became furious; and such was the terrible impress of diabolical malignity which passion stamped upon the features of this young tigress, that her step-mother's heart, for a moment quailed on beholding it, especially when associated with the surprising activity and strength which she put forth., Her dark and finely-pencilled eye-brows were fiercely knit, as it were, into one dark line; her lips were drawn back, displaying her beautiful teeth, that were now ground together into what resembled the lock of death: her face was pale with over-wrought with resentment, and her deep-set eyes glowed with a wild and flashing fire that was fearful, while her lips were encircled with the white foam of revengeful and deadly determination; and what added most to the terrible expression on her whole face was the exulting smile of cruelty which shed its baleful light over it, resolving the whole contest, as it were, and its object—the murder of her step-mother—into the fierce play of some beautiful vampire that was ravening for the blood of its awakened victim.
After a struggle of some two or three minutes, the strength and coolness of the step-mother at length prevailed, she wrested the knife out of Sarah's hands and, almost at the same moment, stumbled and fell. The other, however, was far from relaxing her hold. On the contrary, she clung to her fiercely, shouting out—
"I won't give you up yet—I love you too well for that—no, no, it's fond of you I'm gettin'. I'll hug you, mother, dear; ay will I, and kiss you too, an' lave my mark behind me!" and, as she spoke, her step-mother felt her face coming in savage proximity to her own.
"If you don't keep away, Sarah," said the other, "I'll stab you. What do you mane, you bloody devil? It is going to tear my flesh with your teeth you are? Hould off! or, as heaven's above us, I'll stab you with the knife."
"You can't," shouted the other; "the knife's bent, or you'd be done for before this. I'll taste your blood for all that!" and, as the words were uttered, the step-mother gave a sudden scream, making at the same time a violent effort to disentangle herself, which she did.
Sarah started to her feet, and flying towards the door, exclaimed with shouts of wild triumphant laughter—
"Ha, ha, ha! do you feel anything? I was near havin' the best part of one of your ears—ha, ha, ha!—but unfortunately I missed it; an' now look to yourself. Your day is gone, an' mine is come. I've tasted-your blood, an' I like it—ha, ha, ha!—an' if as you say it's kind father for me to be fond o' blood, I say you had better take care of yourself. And I tell you more: we'll take care of your fair-haired beauty for you—my father and myself will—an' I'm told to act against her, an' I will too; an' you'll see what we'll bring your pet, Gra Gal Sullivan, to yet! There's news for you!"
She then went down to the river which flowed past, in whose yellow and turbid waters—for it was now swollen with rain—she washed the blood from her hands and face with an apparently light heart. Having meditated for some time, she fell a laughing at the fierce conflict that had just taken place, exclaiming to herself—
"Ha, ha, ha! Well now if I had killed her—got the ould knife into her heart—I might lave the counthry. If I had killed her now, throth it 'ud be a good joke, an' all in a fit of passion, bekase she didn't come home in time to let me meet him. Well, I'll go back an' spake soft to her, for, afther all, she'll give me a hard life of it."
She returned; and, having entered the hut, perceived that the ear and cheek of her step-mother were still bleeding.
"I'm sorry for what I did," she said, with the utmost frankness and good nature. "Forgive me, mother; you know I'm a hasty devil—for a devil's limb I am, no doubt of it. Forgive me, I say—do now—here, I'll get something to stop the blood."
She sprang at the moment, with the agility of a wild cat, upon an old chest that stood in the corner of the hut, exhibiting as she did it, a leg and foot of surpassing symmetry and beauty. By stretching herself up to her full length, she succeeded in pulling down several old cobwebs that had been for years in the corner of the wall; and in the act of doing so, disturbed some metallic substance, which fell first upon the chest, from which it tumbled off to the ground, where it made two or three narrowing circles, and then lay at rest.
"Murdher alive, mother!" she exclaimed, "what is this? Hallo! a tobaccy-box—a fine round tobaccy-box of iron, bedad—an what's this on it!—let me see; two letthers. Wait till I rub the rust off; or stay, the rust shows them as well. Let me see—P. an' what's the other? ay, an' M. P. M.—arra, what can that be for? Well, devil may care! let it lie on the shelf there. Here now—none of your cross looks, I say—put these cobwebs to your face, an' they'll stop the bleedin'. Ha, ha, ha!—well—ha, ha, ha!—but you are a sight to fall in love wid this minute!" she exclaimed, laughing heartily at the blood-stained visage of the other. "You won't spake, I see. Divil may care then, if you don't you'll do the other thing—let it alone: but, at any rate, there's the cobwebs for you, if you like to put them on; an' so bannatht latht, an' let that be a warnin' to you not to raise your hand to me again.
'A sailor courted a farmer's daughter That lived contageous to the isle of Man,'" &c.
She then directed her steps to the dance in Kilnahushogue, where one would actually suppose, if mirth, laughter, and extraordinary buoyancy of spirits could be depended on, that she was gifted, in addition to her remarkable beauty, with the innocent and delightful disposition of an angel.
The step-mother having dressed the wound as well as she could, sat down by the fire and began to ruminate on the violent contest which had just taken place, and in which she had borne such an unfortunate part. This was the first open and determined act of personal resistance which she had ever, until that moment, experienced at her step-daughter's hands; but now she feared that, if they were to live, as heretofore, under the same roof, their life would be one of perpetual strife—perhaps of ultimate bloodshed—and that these domestic brawls might unhappily terminate in the death of either. She felt that her own temper was none of the best, and knew that so long as she was incapable of restraining it, or maintaining her coolness under the provocations to which the violent passions of Sarah would necessarily expose her, so long must such conflicts as that which had just occurred take place between them. She began now to fear Sarah, with whose remorseless disposition she was too well acquainted, and came to the natural conclusion, that a residence under the same roof was by no means compatible with her own safety.
"She has been a curse to me!" she went on, unconsciously speaking aloud; "for when she wasn't able to bate me herself, her father did it for her. The divil is said to be fond of his own; an' so does he dote on her, bekase she's his image in everything that's bad. A hard life I'll lead between them from this out, espeshially now that she's got the upper hand of me. Yet what else can I expect or desarve? This load that is on my conscience is worse. Night and day I'm sufferin' in the sight of God, an' actin' as if I wasn't to be brought in judgment afore him. What am I to do? I wish I was in my grave! But then, agin', how am I to face death?—and that same's not the worst; for afther death comes judgment! May the Lord prepare me for it, and guide and direct me how to act! One thing, I know, must be done—either she or I will lave this house; for live undher the same roof wid her I will not."
She then rose up, looked out of the door a moment, and, resuming her seat, went on with her soliloquy—
"No; he said it was likely he wouldn't be home to-night. Wanst he gets upon his ould prophecies, he doesn't care how long he stays away; an' why he can take the delight he does in prophesyin' and foretellin' good or evil, accordin' as it sarves his purpose, I'm sure I don't know—espeshially when he only laughs in his sleeve at the people for believin' him; but what's that about poor Gra Gal Sullivan? She threatened her, and spoke of her father, too, as bein' in it. Ah, ah! I must watch him there; an' you, too, my lady divil—for it 'ill go hard wid me if either of you injure a hair of her head. No, no, plaise God!—none of your evil doins or unlucks prophecies for her, so long, any way, as I can presarve her from them. How black the evenin' is gatherin', but God knows that it's the awful saison all out for the harvest—it is that—it is that!"
Having given utterance to these sentiments, she took up the tobacco-box which Sarah had, in such an accidental manner, tumbled out of the wall, and surveying it for some moments, laid it hastily on the chest, and, clasping her hands exclaimed—
"Saviour of life! it's the same! Oh, merciful God, it's thrue! it's thrue!—the very same I seen wid him that evenin': I know it by the broken hinge and the two letthers. The Lord forgive me my sins!—for I see now that do what we may, or hide it as we like, God is above all! Saviour of life, how will this end? an' what will I do?—or how am I to act? But any way, I must hide this, and put it out of his reach."
She accordingly went out, and having ascertained that no person saw her, thrust the box up under the thatch of the roof, in such a way that it was impossible to suspect, by any apparent disturbance of the roof, that it was there; after which, she sat down with sensations of dread that were new to her, and that mingled themselves as strongly with her affections as it was possible for a woman of a naturally firm and undaunted character to feel them.
CHAPTER II. — The Black Prophet Prophesies.
At a somewhat more advanced period of the same evening, two men were on their way from the market-town of Ballynafail, towards a fertile portion of the country, named Aughamuran, which lay in a southern direction from it. One of them was a farmer, of middling, or rather of struggling, circumstances, as was evident from the traces of wear and tear that were visible upon a dress that had once been comfortable and decent, although now it bore the marks of careful, though rather extensive repair. He was a thin placid looking man, with something, however, of a careworn expression in his features, unless when he smiled, and then his face beamed with a look of kindness and goodwill that could not readily be forgotten. The other was a strongly-built man, above the middle size, whose complexion and features were such as no one could look on with indifference, so strongly were they indicative of a twofold character, or, we should rather say, calculated to make a twofold impression. At one moment you might consider him handsome, and at another his countenance filled you with an impression of repugnance, if not of absolute aversion; so stern and inhuman were the characteristics which you read in it. His hair, beard, and eye-brows were an ebon black, as were his eyes; his features were hard and massive; his nose, which was somewhat hooked, but too much pointed, seemed as if, while in a plastic state, it had been sloped by a trowel towards one side of his face, a circumstance which, while taken in connection with his black whiskers that ran to a point near his mouth, and piercing eyes, that were too deeply and narrowly set, gave him, aided by his heavy eyebrows, an expression at once of great cruelty and extraordinary cunning. This man, while travelling in the same direction with the other, had suffered himself to be overtaken by him: in such a manner, however, that their coming in contact could not be attributed to any particular design on his part.
"Why, then, Donnel Dhu," said the farmer, "sure it's a sight for sore eyes to see you in this side of the country; an' now that I do see you, how are you?"
"Jist the ould six-an'-eight-pence, Jerry; an' how is the Sullivan blood in you, man alive? good an' ould blood it is, in troth; how is the family?"
"Why we can't—hut, what was I goin' to say?" replied his companion; "we can't—complain—ershi—mishi!—why, then, God help us, it's we that can complain, Donnel, if there was any use in it; but, mavrone, there isn't; so all I can say is, that we're jist mixed middlin', like the praties in a harvest, or hardly that same, indeed, since this woful change that has come on us."
"Ay, ay," replied the other; "but if that change has come on you, you know it didn't come without warnin' to the counthry; there's a man livin' that foretould as much—that seen it comin'—ay, ever since the pope was made prisoner, for that was what brought Bonaparte's fate—that's now the cause of the downfall of everything upon him."
"An' it was the hard fate for us, as well as for himself," replied Sullivan, "little he thought, or little he cared, for what he made us suffer, an' for what he's makin' us suffer still, by the come-down that the prices have got."
"Well, but he's sufferin' himself more than any of us," replied Donnel; "however, that was prophesied too; it's read of in the ould Chronicles. 'An eagle will be sick,' says St. Columbkill, 'but the bed of the sick eagle is not a tree, but a rock; an' there, he must suffer till the curse of the Father* is removed from him; an' then he'll get well, an' fly over the world.'"
* This is—the Pope, in consequence of Bonaparte having imprisoned him.
"Is that in the prophecy, Donnel?"
"It's St. Columbian's words I'm spakin'."
"Throth, at any rate," replied Sullivan, "I didn't care we had back the war prices again; aither that, or that the dear rents were let down to meet the poor prices we have now. This woeful saison, along wid the low prices and the high rents, houlds out a black and terrible look for the counthry, God help us!"
"Ay," returned the Black Prophet, for it was he, "if you only knew it."
"Why, was that, too, prophesied?" inquired Sullivan.
"Was it? No; but ax yourself is it. Isn't the Almighty in his wrath, this moment proclaimin' it through the heavens and the airth? Look about you, and say what is it you see that does not foretel famine—famine—famine! Doesn't the dark wet day, an' the rain, rain, rain, foretel it? Doesn't the rotten' crops, the unhealthy air, an' the green damp foretel it? Doesn't the sky without a sun, the heavy clouds, an' the angry fire of the West, foretel it? Isn't the airth a page of prophecy, an' the sky a page of prophecy, where every man may read of famine, pestilence, an' death? The airth is softened for the grave, an' in the black clouds of heaven you may see the death-hearses movin' slowly along—funeral afther funeral—funeral afther funeral—an' nothing to folly them but lamentation an' wo, by the widow an' orphan—the fatherless, the motherless, an' the childless—wo an' lamentation—lamentation an' wo."
Donnel Dhu, like every prophecy man of his kind—a character in Ireland, by the way, that has nearly, if not altogether, disappeared—was provided with a set of prophetic declamations suited to particular occasions and circumstances, and these he recited in a voice of high and monotonous recitative, that caused them to fall with a very impressive effect upon the minds and feeling of his audience. In addition to this, the very nature of his subject rendered a figurative style and suitable language necessary, a circumstance which, aided by a natural flow of words, and a felicitious illustration of imagery—for which, indeed, all prophecy-men were remarkable—had something peculiarly fascinating and persuasive to the class of persons he was in the habit of addressing. The gifts of these men, besides, were exercised with such singular delight, that the constant repetition of their oracular exhibitions by degrees created an involuntary impression on themselves, that ultimately rose to a kind of wild and turbid enthusiasm, partaking at once of imposture and fanaticism. Many of them were, therefore, nearly as much the dupes of the delusions that proceeded from their own heated imaginations as the ignorant people who looked upon them as oracles; for we know that nothing at all events so much generates imposture as credulity.
"Indeed, Donnel," replied Sullivan, "what you say is unfortunately too thrue. Everything we can look upon appears to have the mark of God's displeasure on it; but if we have death and sickness now, what'll become of us this time twelve months, when we'll feel this failure most?"
"I have said it," replied the prophet; "an' if my tongue doesn't tell truth, the tongue that never tells a lie will."
"And what tongue is that?" asked his companion.
"The tongue of the death-bell will tell it day afther day to every parish in the land. However, we know that death's before us, an' the grave, afther all, is our only consolation."
"God help us," exclaimed Sullivan, "if we hadn't betther and brighter consolation than the grave. Only for the hopes in our Divine Redeemer an' his mercy, it's little consolation the grave could give us. But indeed, Donnel, as you say, everything about us is enough to sink the heart within one—an' no hope at all of a change for the betther. However, God is good, and, if it's His will that we should suffer, it's our duty to submit to it."
The prophet looked around him with a gloomy aspect, and, truth to say, the appearance of everything on which the eye could rest, was such as gave unquestionable indications of wide-spread calamity to the country.
The evening, which was now far advanced, had impressed on it a character of such dark and hopeless desolation as weighed down the heart with a feeling of cold and chilling gloom that was communicated by the dreary aspect of every thing around. The sky was obscured by a heavy canopy of low, dull clouds that had about them none of the grandeur of storm, but lay overhead charged with those wintry deluges which we feel to be so unnatural and alarming in autumn, whose bounty and beauty they equally disfigure and destroy. The whole summer had been sunless and wet—one, in fact, of ceaseless rain which fell, day after day, week after week, and month after month, until the sorrowful consciousness had arrived that any change for the better must now come too late, and that nothing was certain but the terrible union of famine, disease, and death which was to follow. The season, owing to the causes specified, was necessarily late, and such of the crops as were, ripe had a sickly and unthriving look, that told of comparative failure, while most of the fields which, in our autumns, would have been ripe and yellow, were now covered with a thin, backward crop, so unnaturally green that all hope of maturity was out of the question. Low meadows were in a state of inundation, and on alluvial soils the ravages of the floods Were visible in layers of mud and gravel that were deposited over many of the prostrate corn fields. The peat turf lay in oozy and neglected heaps, for there had not been sun enough to dry it sufficiently for use, so that the poor had want of fuel, and cold to feel, as well as want of food itself. Indeed, the appearance of the country, in consequence of this wetness in the firing, was singularly dreary and depressing. Owing to the difficulty with which it burned, or rather wasted away, without light or heat, the eye, in addition to the sombre hue which the absence of the sun cast over all things, was forced to dwell upon the long black masses of smoke which trailed slowly over the whole country, or hung, during the thick sweltering calms, in broad columns that gave to the face of nature an aspect strikingly dark and disastrous, when associated, as it was, with the destitution and suffering of the great body of the people. The general appearance of the crops was indeed deplorable. In some parts the grain was beaten down by the rain; in airier situations it lay cut but unsaved, and scattered over the fields, awaiting an occasional glance of feeble sunshine; and in other and richer soils, whole fields, deplorably lodged, were green with the destructive exuberance of a second growth. The season, though wet, was warm; and it is unnecessary to say that the luxuriance of all weeds and unprofitable production was rank and strong, while an unhealthy fermentation pervaded every thing that was destined for food. A brooding stillness, too, lay over all nature; cheerfulness had disappeared, even the groves and hedges were silent, for the very birds had ceased to sing, and the earth seemed as if it mourned for the approaching calamity, as well as for that which had been already felt. The whole country, in fact, was weltering and surging with the wet formed by the incessant overflow of rivers, while the falling cataracts, joined to a low monotonous hiss, or what the Scotch term sugh, poured their faint but dismal murmurs on the gloomy silence which otherwise prevailed around.
Such was the aspect of the evening in question: but as the men advanced, a new element of desolation soon became visible. The sun, ere he sank among the dark western clouds, shot out over this dim and miserable prospect a light so angry, yet so ghastly, that it gave to the whole earth a wild, alarming, and spectral hue, like that seen in some feverish dream. In this appearance there was great terror and sublimity, for as it fell on the black shifting clouds, the effect was made still more awful by the accidental resemblance which they bore to coffins, hearses, and funeral processions, as observed by the prophecy-man, all of which seemed to have been lit up against the deepening shades of evening by some gigantic death-light that superadded its fearful omens to the gloomy scenes on which it fell.
The sun, as he then appeared, might not inaptly be compared to some great prophet, who, clothed with the majesty and terror of I an angry God, was commissioned to launch! his denunciations against the iniquities of nations, and to reveal to them, as they lay under the shadow of his wrath, the terrible calamities with which he was about to visit their transgressions.
The two men now walked on in silence for some time, Donnel Dhu having not deemed it necessary to make any reply to the pious and becoming sentiments uttered by Sullivan.
At length the latter spoke.
"Barrin' what we all know, Donnel, an' that's the saison an' the sufferin' that's in it, is there no news stirrin' at all? Is it thrue that ould Dick o' the Grange is drawin' near to his last account?"
"Not so bad as that; but he's still complainin'. It's one day up and another day down wid' him—an' of coorse his laise of life can't be long now."
"Well, well," responded Sullivan, "it's not for us to pass judgment on our fellow-creatures; but by all accounts he'll have a hard reckonin'."
"That's his own affair, you know," said Donnel Dhu; "but his son, master Richard, or 'Young Dick,' as they call him, will be an improvement upon the ould stock."
"As to that, some says ay, an' some says no; but I believe myself, that he has, like his father, both good and bad in him; for the ould man, if the maggot bit him, or that if he took the notion, would do one a good turn; an' if he took a likin' to you, he'd go any lin'th to sarve you; but, then, you were never sure of him—nor he didn't himself know this minute what he'd do the next."
"That's thrue enough," replied Donnel Dhu; "but lavin' him to shift for himself, I'm of opinion that you an' I are likely to get wet jackets before we're much oulder. Ha! Did you see that lightnin'? God presarve us! it was terrible—an'—ay, there it is—the thundher! God be about us, thundher at this hour is very fearful. I would give a thrifle to be in my own little cabin, an' indeed I'm afeard that I won't be worth the washin' when I get there, if I can go back sich a night as it's goin' to be."
"The last few years, Donnel, has brought a grievous change,upon me and mine," replied Sullivan. "The time was, an' it's not long since, when I could give you a comfortable welcome as well as a willin' one; however, thank God, it isn't come to sich a hard pass wid me yet that I haven't a roof an' a bit to ait to offer you; an' so to sich as it is you're heartily welcome. Home! oh, you mustn't talk of home this night. Blood, you know, is thicker than wather, an' if it was only on your wife Nolly's account, you should be welcome. Second an' third cousins by the mother's side we are, an' that's purty strong. Oh, no, don't talk of goin' home this night."
"Well," replied the other, "I'm thankful to you, Jerry, an' indeed as the night's comin' on so hard and stormy, I'll accept your kind offer; a mouthful of any thing will do me, an' a dry sate at your hearth till mornin'."
"Unfortunately, as I said," replied Sullivan, "it's but poor an' humble treatment I can give you; but if it was betther you should be jist as welcome to it, an' what more can I say?"
"What more can you say, indeed! I know your good heart, Jerry, as who doesn't? Dear me, how it's poorin' over there towards the south—ha, there it is again, that thundher! Well, thank goodness, we haven't far to go, at any rate, an' the shower hasn't come round this far yet. In the mean time let us step out an' thry to escape it if we can."
"Let us cross the fields, then," said Sullivan, "an' get up home by the Slang, an' then behind our garden: to be sure, the ground is in a sad plash, but then it will save a long twist round the road, an' as you say, we may escape the rain yet."
Both accordingly struck off the highway, and took a short path across the fields, while at every step the water spurted up out of the spongy soil, so that they were soon wet nearly to their knees, so thoroughly saturated was the ground with the rain which had incessantly fallen. After toiling thro' plashy fields, they at length went up, as Sullivan had said, by an old unfrequented footpath, that ran behind his garden, the back of which consisted of a thick elder hedge, through which scarcely the heaviest rain could penetrate. At one end of this garden, through a small angle, forming a cul de sac, or point, where the hedge was joined by one of white thorn, ran the little obsolete pathway alluded to, and as another angle brought them at once upon the spot we are describing, it would so happen that if any one had been found there when they appeared, it would be impossible to leave it if they wished to do so, without directly meeting them, there being no other mode of egress from it except by the footpath in question.
In that sheltered nook, then, our travellers found a young man about two or three and twenty, holding the unresisting hand of a very beautiful and bashful-looking girl, not more than nineteen, between his. From their position, and the earnestness with which the young peasant addressed her, there could be but little doubt as to the subject matter of their conversation. If a bolt from the thunder which had been rolling a little back among the mountains, and which was still faintly heard in the distance, had fallen at the feet of the young persons in question, it could not have filled them with more alarm than the appearance of Sullivan and the prophet. The girl, who became pale and red by turns, hung her head, then covered her face with her hands; and after a short and ineffectual struggle, burst into tears, exclaiming—
"Oh, my God, it is my father!"
The youth, for he seemed scarcely to have reached maturity, after a hesitating glance at Sullivan, seemed at once to have determined the course of conduct he should pursue. His eye assumed a bold and resolute look—he held himself more erect—and, turning towards the girl, without removing his gaze from her father, he said in a loud and manly tone—
"Dear Mave, it is foolish to be frightened. What have you done that ought to make you aither ashamed or afeared? If there's blame anywhere, it's mine, not yours, and I'll bear it."
Sullivan, on discovering this stolen interview—for such it was—felt precisely as a man would feel, who found himself unexpectedly within the dart of a rattlesnake, with but one chance of safety in his favor and a thousand against him. His whole frame literally shook with the deadly depth of his resentment; and in a voice which fully betrayed its vehemence, he replied—
"Blame! ay, shame an' blame—sin an' sorrow there is an' ought to rest upon her for this unnatural and cursed meetin'! Blame! surely, an' as I stand here to witness her shame, I tell her that there would not be a just God in Heaven, if she's not yet punished for holdin' this guilty discoorse with the son of the man that has her uncle's blood—my brother's blood—on his hand of murdher—"
"It's false," replied the young fellow, with kindling eye; "it's false, from your teeth to your marrow. I know my father's heart an' his thought—an' I say that whoever charges him with the murder of your brother, is a liar—a false and damnable li—"
He checked himself ere he closed the sentence.
"Jerry Sullivan," said he, in an altered voice, "I ax your pardon for the words—-it's but natural you should feel as you do; but if it was any other man than yourself that brought the charge of blood against my father, I would thramp upon him where he stands."
"An' maybe murdher him, as my poor brother was murdhered. Dalton, I see the love of blood in your eye," replied Sullivan, bitterly.
"Why," replied the other, "you have no proof that the man was murdered at all. His body was never found; and no one can say what became of him. For all that any one knows to the contrary, he may be alive still."
"Begone, sirra," said Sullivan, in a burst of impetuous resentment which he could not restrain, "if I ever know you to open your lips to that daughter of mine—if the mane crature can be my daughter—I'll make it be the blackest deed but one that ever a Dalton did; and as for you—go in at wonst—I'll make you hear me by and by."
Dalton looked at him once more with a kindling but a smiling eye.
"Speak what you like," said he—"I'll curb myself. Only, if you wish your daughter to go in, you had better leave the way and let her pass."
Mave—for such was her name—with trembling limbs, burning blushes and palpitating heart, then passed from the shady angle where they stood; but ere she did, one quick and lightning glance was bestowed upon her lover, which, brief though it was, he felt as a sufficient consolation for the enmity of her father.
The prophet had not yet spoken; nor indeed had time been given him to do so, had he been inclined. He looked on, however, with' surprise, which soon assumed the appearance, as well as the reality, of some malignant satisfaction which he could not conceal.
He eyed Dalton with a grin of peculiar bitterness.
"Well," said he, "it's the general opinion that if any one knows or can tell what the future may bring about, I can; an', if my knowledge doesn't desave me, Dalton, I think, while you're before me, that I'm lookin' at a man that was never born to be drowned at any rate. I prophecy that, die when you may, you'll live to see your own funeral."
"If you're wise," replied the young man, "you'll not provoke me now Jerry Sullivan may say what he wishes—he's safe, an he knows why; but I warn you, Donnel Dhu, to take no liberty with me; I'll not bear it.
"Troth, I don't blame Jerry Sullivan," rejoined the prophet. "Of coorse no man would wish to have a son-in-law hanged. It's in the prophecy that you'll go to the surgeons yet."
"Did you foresee in your prophecies this mornin' that you'd get yourself well drubbed before night?" asked Dalton, bristling up.
"No," said the other; "my prophecy seen no one able to do it."
"You and your prophecy are liars, then," retorted the other: "an' in the doom you're kind enough to give me, don't be too sure but you meant yourself. There's more of murdher an' the gallows in your face than there is in mine. That's all I'll say, Donnel. Anything else you'll get from me will be a blow; so take care of yourself."
"Let him alone, Donnel," said Sullivan; "it's not safe to meddle with one of his name. You don't know what harm he may do you."
"I'm not afeard of him," said the prophet, with a sneer; "he'll find himself a little mistaken, if he tries his hand. It won't be for me you'll hang, my lad."
The words were scarcely uttered when a terrific blow on the eye, struck with the rapidity of lightning, shot him to the earth, where he lay for about half a minute, apparently insensible. He then got up, and after shaking his head, as if to rid himself of a sense of confusion and stupor, looked at Dalton for some time.
"Well," said he, "it's all over now—but the truth is, the fault was my own. I provoked him too much, an' without any occasion. I'm sorry you struck me, Condy, for I was only jokin' all the time. I never had ill-will against you; an' in spite of what has happened, I haven't now."
A feeling of generous regret, almost amounting to remorse, instantly touched Dalton's heart; he seized the hand of Donnel, and expressed his sorrow for the blow he had given him.
"My God," he exclaimed, "why did I strike you? But sure no one could for a minute suppose that you weren't in earnest."
"Well, well," said the other, "let it be a warnin' to both of us; to me, in the first place, never to carry a joke too far; and to you, never to allow your passion to get the betther of you, afaird that you might give a blow in anger that you'd have cause to repent of all the days of your life. My eye and cheek is in a frightful state; but no matther, Condy, I forgive you, especially in the hope that you'll mark my advice."
Dalton once more asked his pardon, and expressed his unqualified sorrow at what had occurred; after which he again shook hands with Dalton and departed.
Sullivan felt surprised at this rencontre, especially at the nature of its singular termination; he seemed, however, to fall into a meditative and gloomy mood, and observed when Dalton had gone—
"If I ever had any doubt, Donnel, that my poor brother owed his death to a Dalton, I haven't it now."
"I don't blame you much for sayin' so," replied Donnel. "I'm sorry myself for what has happened, and especially as you were present. I'm afeard, indeed', that a man's life would be but little in that boy's hands under a fit of passion. I provoked him too much, though."
"I think so," said Sullivan. "Indeed, to tell you the truth, I had as little notion that you wore jokin' as he had."
"That's my drame out last night, at all events," said Donnel.
"How is that?" asked Sullivan, as they approached the door.
"Why," said he, "I dreamed that I was lookin' for a hammer at your house, an' I thought that you hadn't one to give me; but your daughter Mave came to me, and said, 'here's a hammer for you, Donnel, an' take care of it, for it belongs to Condy Dalton.' I thought I took it, an' the first thing I found myself doin' was drivin' a nail in what appeared to be my own coffin. The same dhrame would alarm me but that I know that dhrames goes by contrairies, as I've reason to think this will."
"No man understands these things better than yourself, Donnel," said Sullivan; "but, for my part, I think there's a dangerous kick in the boy that jist left us; and I'm much mistaken or the world will hear of it an' know it yet."
"Well, well," said Donnel Dhu, in a very Christian-like spirit, "I fear you're right, Jerry; but still let us hope for the best."
And as he spoke, they entered the house.
CHAPTER III. — A Family on the Decline—Omens.
Jerry Sullivan's house and place had about them all the marks and tokens of gradual decline. The thatch on the roof had begun to get black, and in some places was sinking into rotten ridges; the yard was untidy and dirty; the walls and hedges were broken and dismantled; and the gates were lying about, or swinging upon single hinges. The whole air of the premises was uncomfortable to the spectator, who could not avoid feeling that there existed in the owner either wilful neglect or unsuccessful struggle. The chimneys, from which the thatch had sank down, stood up with the incrustations of lime that had been trowelled round their bases, projecting uselessly out from them; some of the quoins had fallen from the gable; the plaster came off the walls in several places, and the whitewash was sadly discolored.
Inside, the aspect of everything was fully as bad, if not worse. Tables and chairs, and the general furniture of the house, had all that character of actual cleanliness and apparent want of care which poverty superinduces upon the most strenuous efforts of industry. The floor was beginning to break up into holes; tables and chairs were crazy; the dresser, though clean, had a cold, hungry, unfurnished look; and, what was unquestionably the worst symptom of all, the inside of the chimney brace, where formerly the sides and flitches of deep, fat bacon, grey with salt, were arrayed in goodly rows, now presented nothing but the bare and dust-covered hooks, from which they had depended in happier times. About a dozen of herrings hung at one side of a worn salt-box, and at the other a string of onions that was nearly Stripped, both constituting the principal kitchen, varied, perhaps, with a little buttermilk,—which Sullivan's family were then able to afford themselves with their potatoes.
We cannot close our description here, however; for sorry we are to say, that the severe traces of poverty were as visible upon the inmates themselves as upon the house and its furniture. Sullivan's family consisted of his eldest daughter, aged nineteen, two growing boys, the eldest about sixteen, and several younger children besides. These last were actually ragged—all of them were scantily and poorly clothed; and if any additional proof were wanting that poverty, in one of its most trying shapes, had come among them, it was to be found in their pale, emaciated features, and in that languid look of care and depression, which any diminution in the natural quantity of food for any length of time uniformly impresses upon the countenance. In fact, the whole group had a sickly and wo-worn appearance, as was evident from the unnatural dejection of the young, who, instead of exhibiting the cheerfulness and animation of youth, now moped about without gayety, sat brooding in corners, or struggled for a warm place nearest to the dull and cheerless fire.
"The day was, Donnel," said Sullivan, whilst he pointed, with a sigh, to the unfurnished chimney, "when we could give you—as I said awhile agone—a betther welcome—in one sense—I mane betther tratement—than we can give you now; but you know the times that is in it, an' you know the down-come we have got, an' that the whole country has got—so you must only take the will for the deed now—to such as we have you're heartily welcome. Get us some dinner, Bridget," he added, turning to his wife; "but, first and foremost, bring that girl into the room here till she hears what I have to say to her; and, Donnel, as you wor a witness to the disgraceful sight we seen a while agone, come in an' hear, too, what I'm goin' to say to her. I'll have no black thraisin in my own family against my own blood, an' against the blood of my loving brother, that was so traicherously shed by that boy's father."
The persons he addressed immediately passed into the cold, damp room as he spoke—Mave, the cause of all this anxiety, evidently in such a state of excitement as was pitiable. Her mother, who, as well as every other member of the family, had been ignorant of this extraordinary attachment, seemed perfectly bewildered by the language of her husband, at whom, as at her daughter, she looked with a face on which might be read equal amazement and alarm.
Mave Sullivan was a young creature, shaped with extraordinary symmetry, and possessed of great natural grace. Her stature was tall, and all her motions breathed; unstudied ease and harmony. In color, her long, abundant hair was beautifully fair—precisely of that delightful shade which generally accompanies a pale but exquisitely clear and almost transparent complexion. Her face was oblong, and her features so replete with an expression of innocence and youth, as left on the beholder a conviction that she breathed of utter guilelessness and angelic purity itself. This was principally felt in the bewitching charm of her smile, which was irresistible, and might turn the heart of a demon into love. All her motions were light and elastic, and her whole figure, though not completely developed, was sufficiently rounded by the fulness of health and youth to give promise of a rich and luxurious maturity. On this occasion she became deadly pale, but as she was one of those whose beauty only assumes a new phase of attraction at every change, her paleness now made her appear, if possible, an object of greater interest.
"In God's name, Jerry," asked her mother, looking from father to daughter in a state of much distress, "what is wrong, or what has happened to put you in such a condition? I see by the anger in your eye an' the whiteness of your cheeks, barrin' the little red spot in the middle, that something out o' the way all out has happened to vex you."
"You may well say so, Bridget," he replied; "but when I tell you that I came upon that undutiful daughter of ours coortin' wid the son of the man that murdhered her uncle—my only brother—you won't be surprised at the state you see me in—coortin' wid a fellow that Dan M'Gowan here knows will be hanged yet, for he's jist afther tellin' him so."
"You're ravin', Jerry," exclaimed his wife, who appeared to feel the matter as incredible; "you don't mane to tell me that she'd spake to, or know, or make any freedoms whatsomever wid young Condy Dalton, the son of her uncle's murdherer? Hut, no, Jerry, don't say that, at all events—any disgrace but that—death, the grave—or—or anything—but sich an unnatural curse as that would be."
"I found them together behind the garden not many minutes ago," replied Sullivan. "Donnel here seen them as well as I did—deny it she can't; an' now let her say what brought her there to meet him, or rather what brought him all the way to meet her? Answer me that, you disgrace to the name—answer me at wanst!"
The poor girl trembled and became so weak as to be scarcely able to stand: in fact, she durst not raise her eye to meet that of either parent, but stood condemned and incapable of utterance.
The night had now nearly set in, and one of her little sisters entered with a rush candle in her hand, the light of which, as it fell dimly and feebly on the group, gave to the proceedings a wild and impressive appearance. The prophecy-man, with his dark, stern look, peculiar nose, and black raven hair that fell thickly over his shoulders, contrasted strongly with the fair, artless countenance and beautiful figure of the girl who stood beside him, whilst over opposite them were Sullivan himself and his wife, their faces pale with sorrow, anxiety, and indignation.
"Give me the candle," proceeded her father; "hand it to me, child, and leave the room; then," he proceeded, holding it up to a great-coat of frieze which hung against the wall—"there's his coat—there's my lovin' brother's coat; look upon it now, an' ax yourself what do you desarve for meeting against our will an' consint the son of him that has the murdher of the man that owned it on his hands an' on his heart? What do you desarve, I say?"
The girl spoke not, but the black prophet, struck by the words and the unexpected appearance of the murdered man's coat, started; in a moment, however, he composed himself, and calmly turned his eyes upon Sullivan, who proceeded to address his daughter.
"You have nothing to say, then? You're guilty, an' of coorse you have no excuse to make; however, I'll soon put an end to all this. Bring me a prayerbook. If your book oath can bind you down against ever——"
He could proceed no further. On uttering the last words, his daughter tottered, and would have fallen to the ground, had not Donnel Dhu caught her in his arms. She had, in fact, become almost insensible from excess of shame and over excitement, and, as Donnel carried her towards a bed that was in the corner of the room, her head lay over against his face.
It is unnecessary to say that Sullivan's indignation was immediately lost in alarm. On bringing the candle near her, the first thing they observed were streaks of blood upon Donnel Dhu's face, that gave to it, in connection with the mark of the blow he had received, a frightful and hideous expression.
"What is this?" exclaimed her mother, seizing the candle and holding it to the beautiful features of her trembling daughter, which were now also dabbled with blood. "In God's name, what ails my child? O Mave, Mave, my darlin', what's come over you? Blessed mother of marcy, what blood is this? Achora, machree, Mave, spake to! me—to the mother that 'ud go distracted, an' that will, too, if anything's wrong wid you. It was cruel in you, Jerry, to spake to; her so harsh as you did, an' to take her to task before a sthranger in such a cuttin' manner. Saiver of Airth, Mave, darlin', won't you spake to me, to your own mother?"'
"Maybe I did spake to her too severely," said the father, now relenting, "an' if I did, may God forgive me; for sure you know, Bridget, I wouldn't injure a hair of my darlin's head. But this blood! this blood! oh, where did it come from?"
Her weakness, however, proved of but short duration, and their apprehension was soon calmed. Mave looked around her rather wildly, and no sooner had her eyes rested on Donnel Dhu than she shrieked aloud, and turning her face away from him, with something akin to fear and horror, she flung herself into her mother's arms, exclaiming, as she hid her face in her bosom: "Oh save me from that man; don't let! him near me; don't let him touch me. I can't tell why, but I'm deadly afraid of him. What blood is that upon his face? Father, stand between us!"
"Foolish girl!" exclaimed her father, "you don't know what you're sayin'. Of coorse, Donnel, you'll not heed her words for, indeed, she hasn't come to herself yet. But, in God's name, where did this blood come from that's upon you and her?"
"You can't suppose, Jerry," said Donnel, "that the poor girl's words would make me take any notice of them. She has been too much frightened, and won't know, maybe in a few minutes, that she spoke them at all."
"That's thrue," said her mother; "but with regard to the blood——"
She was about to proceed, when Mave rose up, and requested to be taken out of the room.
"Bring me to the kitchen," said she, "I'm afraid; and see this blood, mother."
Precisely as she spoke, a few drops of blood fell from her nose, which, of course, accounted for its appearance on Donnel's face, and probably for her terror also at his repulsive aspect.
"What makes you afeard of poor Donnel, asthore?" asked her mother—"a man that wouldn't injure a hair of your head, nor of one belongin' to you, an' never did."
"Why, when my father," she returned, "spoke about the coat there, an' just as Donnel started, I looked at it, an' seen it movin', I don't know why, but I got afeard of him."
Sullivan held up the candle mechanically, as she spoke, towards the coat, upon which they all naturally gazed; but, whether from its dim flickering light, or the force of imagination, cannot be determined, one thing was certain, the coat appeared actually to move again, as if disturbed by some invisible hand. Again, also, the prophet involuntary started, but only for a single moment.
"Tut," said he, "it's merely the unsteady light of the candle; show it here."
He seized the rushlight from Sullivan, and approaching the coat, held it so close to it, that had there been the slightest possible motion, it could not have escaped their observation.
"Now," he added, "you see whether it moves or not; but, indeed, the poor girl is so frightened by the great scowldin' she got, that I don't wondher at the way she's in."
Mrs. Sullivan kept still gazing at the coat, in a state of terror almost equal to that of her daughter.
"Well," said she, "I've often heard it said that one is sometimes to disbelieve their own eyes; an' only that I known the thing couldn't happen, I would swear on the althar that I seen it movin'."
"I thought so myself, too," observed Sullivan, who also seemed to have been a good deal perplexed and awed by the impression; "but of coorse I agree wid Donnel, that it was the unsteady light of the rush that made us think so; howaniver, it doesn't matther now; move or no move, it won't bring him that owned it back to us, so God rest him!—and now, Bridget, thry an' get us some-thin' to ait."
"Before the girl leaves the room," said the prophecy man, "let me spake what I think an' what I know. I've lost many a weary day an' night in studyin' the further, an' in lookin' into what's to come. I must spake, then, what I think an' what I know, regardin' her. I must; for when the feelin' is on me, I can't keep the prophecy back."
"Oh! let me go, mother," exclaimed the alarmed girl; "let me go; I can't bear to look at him."
"One minute, acushla, till you hear what he has to say to you," and she held her back, with a kind of authoritative violence, as Mave attempted to leave the room.
"Don't be alarmed my purty creature," spoke the prophet; "don't be alarmed at what I'm goin' to say to you, an' about you, for you needn't. I see great good fortune before you. I see a grand an' handsome husband at your side, and a fine house to live in. I see stairs, an' carpets, an' horses, an' hounds, an' yourself, with jewels in your white little ears, an' silks, an' satins on your purty figure. That's a wakin' dhrame I had, an' you may all mark my words, if it doesn't come out thrue; it's on the leaf, an' the leaf was open to me. Grandeur an' wealth is before her, for her beauty an' her! goodness will bring it all about, an' so I read it."
"An' what about the husband himself?" asked the mother, whose affections caused! her to feel a strong interest in anything that might concern the future interest of her daughter; "can you tell us nothing about his appearance, that we might give a guess at him?"
"No," replied M'Gowan, for such was the prophet's name, "not to you; to none but herself can I give the marks an' tokens that will enable her to know the man that is to be her husband when she sees him; and to herself, in the mornin', I will, before I go that is if she'll allow me—for what is written in the dark book ought to be read and expounded. Her beauty an' her goodness will do it all!"
The man's words were uttered m a voice so replete with those soft and insinuating tones that so powerfully operate upon the female heart; they breathed, too such an earnest spirit of good will, joined to an evident admiration of the beauty and goodness he alluded to, that the innocent girl, not-withstanding her previous aversion, felt something like gratification at what he said, not on account ol the prospects held out to her, but because of the singular charm and affectionate spirit which breathed in his voice; or, might it not have been that delicate influence of successful flattery which so gently pervades the heart of woman, and soothes that vanity which unconsciously lurks in the very purest and most innocent of the sex? So far from being flattered by his predictions, she experienced a strong sensation of disappointment, because she knew where her affections at that moment rested, and felt persuaded that if she were destined to enjoy the grandeur shadowed out for her, it never could be with him whom she then loved. Notwithstanding all this, she felt her repugnance against the prophet strongly counterbalanced by the strange influence he began to exercise over her; and with this impression she and they passed to the kitchen, where in a few minutes she was engaged in preparing food for him, with a degree of good feeling that surprised herself.
There is scarcely anything so painful to hearts naturally generous, like those of the Sullivans, as the contest between the shame and exposure of the conscious poverty on the one hand, and the anxiety to indulge in a hospitable spirit on the other. Nobody unacquainted with Ireland could properly understand the distress of mind which this conflict almost uniformly produces. On the present occasion it was deeply felt by this respectable but declining family, and Mave, the ingenuous and kind-hearted girl, felt much of her unaccountable horror of this man removed by its painful exercise. Still her aversion was not wholly overcome, although much diminished; for, ever as she looked at his swollen and disfigured face, and thought of the mysterious motions of the murdered man's coat, she could not avoid turning away her eyes, and wishing that she had not seen him that evening. The scanty meal was at length over; a meal on which many a young eye dwelt with those yearning looks that take their character from the hungry and wolfish spirit which marks the existence of a "hard year," as it is called in our unfortunate country, and which, to a benevolent heart, forms such a sorrowful subject for contemplation. Poor Bridget Sullivan did all in her power to prevent this evident longing from being observed by M'Gowan, by looking significantly, shaking' her head, and knitting her brows, at the children; and when these failed she had recourse to threatening attitudes, and all kinds of violent gestures: and on these proving also unsuccessful, she was absolutely forced to speak aloud—
"Come, childhre, start out now, an' play yourselves; be off, I say, an' don't stand ready to jump down the daicent man's throat wid every bit he aits."
She then drove them abroad somewhere, but as the rain fell heavily the poor creatures were again forced to return, and resume their pitiable watch until the two men had finished their scanty repast.
Seated around the dull and uncomfortable fire, the whole family now forgot the hunger and care for a time, in the wild legends with which M'Gowan entertained them, until the hour of rest.
"We haven't the best bed in the world," observed Sullivan, "nor the best bed-clothes aither, but, as I said before, I wish, for all our sakes, they were betther. You must take your chance with these two slips o' boys to-night as well as you can. If you wish to tumble in now you may; or, may be you'd join us in our prayers. We sthrive, God! help us, to say a Rosary every night; for, afther all, there's nothin' like puttin' oneself! undher the holy protection of the Almighty, blessed be His name! Indeed, this sickness that's goin' is so rife and dangerous that it's good to sthrive to be prepared, as it is indeed, whatever comes, whether hunger or plenty, sickness or health; an' may God keep us prepared always!"
M'Gowan seemed for a moment at a loss, but almost immediately said in reply—
"You are right, Jerry, but as for me, I say whatever prayers I do say, always by myself; for I can then get my mind fixed upon them betther. I'll just turn into bed, then, for troth I feel a little stiff and tired; so you must only let me have my own way to-night. To-morrow night I'll pray double." He then withdrew to his appointed place of rest, where, after having partially undressed himself, he lay down, and for some time could hear no other sound than the solemn voices of this struggling and afflicted little fold, as they united in offering up their pious and simple act of worship to that Great Being, in whose providential care they felt such humble and confiding trust.
When their devotions were concluded, they quietly, and in a spirit at once of resignation and melancholy, repaired to their respective sleeping places, with the exception of old Sullivan himself, who, after some hesitation, took down the great coat already so markedly alluded to—and exclaiming, partly to those within hearing—
"I don't know—but still there can't be any harm in it; sure it's betther that it should be doin' some good than hangin' up there idle, against the wall, such a night as this. Here, Dan, for the first time since I put it up wid my own hands, except to shake the dust off of it, I'm goin' to turn this big coat to some use. There," he added, spreading it over them; "let it help to keep you warm to-night—for God knows, you want it, you an' them poor gorsoons. Your coverin' is but light, an' you may hear the downpowrin' of rain that's in it; an' the wind, too, is risin' fast, every minute—gettin' so strong, indeed, that I doubt it 'ill be a storm before it stops; an' Dan, if it 'udn't be too much, may be you'd not object to offer up one pather an' avy for the poor sowl of him that owned it, an' that was brought to his account so suddenly and so terribly. There," he added, fixing it upon them; "it helps to keep you warm at any rate; an' it's surely betther to have it so employed than hangin' idle, as I said, against the wall."
M'Gowan immediately sat up in the bed, and putting down his hands, removed the coat.
"We don't want it at all," he replied; "take it away, Jerry—do, for heaven's sake. The night's not at all so cowld as you think, an' we'll keep one another warm enough wid-out it, never fear."
"Troth you do want it," said Sullivan; "for fareer gair, it's the light coverin' that's over you an' them, poor boys. Heighho, Dan, see what innocence is—poor things, they're sound already—an' may God pity them an' provide for them, or enable me to do it!" And as he looked down upon the sleeping lads, the tears came so abundantly to his eyes, that he was forced to wipe them away. "Keep the coat, Dan," he added; "you do want it."
"No," replied the other. "The truth is, I couldn't sleep under it. I'm very timersome, an' a little thing frightens me."
"Oh," said Sullivan, "I didn't think of that: in troth, if you're timersome, it's more than the world b'lieves of you. Well, well—I'll hang it up again; so good night, an' a sound sleep to you, an' to every man that has a free conscience in the sight of God!"
No response was given to this prayer, and his words were followed by a deep and solemn silence, that was only broken occasionally by the heavy pattering of the descending rain, and the fitful gusts of the blast, as they rushed against the house, and sung wildly among the few trees by which it and the garden were enclosed.
Every one knows that a night of wind and storm, if not rising actually to a tempest or hurricane, is precisely that on which sleep is with its deepest influence upon men. Sullivan's family, on that which we are describing, were a proof of this; at least until about the hour of three o'clock, when they were startled by a cry for help, so loud and frightful, that in a moment he and the boys huddled on their dress, and hurried to the bed in which the prophet lay. In a minute or two they got a candle lit; and truly the appearance of the man was calculated to drive fear and alarm into their hearts. They found him sitting in the bed, with his eyes so wild and staring that they seemed straining out of their sockets. His hair was erect, and his mouth half open, and drawn back; while the perspiration poured from him in torrents. His hands were spread, and held up, with their palms outwards, as if in the act of pushing something back that seemed to approach him. "Help," he shouted, "he is comin' on me—he will have me powerless in a minute. He is gaspin' now, as he—Stay back, stay back—here—here, help; it's the murdhered man—he's upon me. Oh!—Oh, God! he's comin' nearer and nearer. Help me—save me!"
Sullivan on holding the candle to his face, perceived that he was still asleep; and suspecting the nature of his dream, he awoke him at once. On seeing a portion of the family about him, he started again, and looked for a moment so completely aghast that he resembled horror personified.
"Who—what—what are you? Oh," he exclaimed, recovering, and striving to compose himself, "ha—Good God! what a frightful drame I had. I thought I was murdherin' a man; murdherin' the"—he paused, and stared wildly about him.
"Murdherin' who?" asked Jerry.
"Murdherin'! eh—ha—why, who talks about murdherin'?"
"Compose yourself," added Sullivan; "you did; but you're frightened. You say you thought you were murdherin' some one; who was it?"
"Yes, yesr" he replied; "it was myself. I thought the murdhered man was—I mean, that the man was murdherin' myself." And he looked with a terrible shudder of fear towards the great coat.
"Hut," said Sullivan, "it was only a drame; compose yourself; why should you be alarmed?—your hand is free of it. So, as I said, compose yourself; put your trust in God, an' recommend yourself to his care."
"It was a terrible drame," said the other, once more shuddering; "but then it was a drame. Good God; yes! However, I ax pardon for disturbin' you all, an' breaking in upon your sleep. Go to bed now; I'm well enough; only jist set that bit of candle by the bed-side for awhile, till I recover, for I did get a fearful fright."
He then laid himself down once more, and having wiped the perspiration from his forehead, which was now cadaverous, he bade them good night, and again endeavored to compose himself to rest. In this he eventually succeeded, the candle burning itself out; and in about three-quarters of an hour the whole family were once more wrapped in sound and uninterrupted repose.
The next morning the Sullivan family rose to witness another weary and dismal day of incessant rain, and to partake of a breakfast of thin stirabout, made and served up with that woful ingenuity, which necessity, the mother of invention in periods of scarcity, as well as in matters of a different character, had made known to the benevolent hearted wife of Jerry Sullivan. That is to say, the victuals were made so unsubstantially thin, that in order to impose, if possible, on the appetite, it was deemed necessary to deceive the eye by turning the plates and dishes round and round several times, while the viands were hot, so as by spreading them over a larger surface, to give the appearance of a greater quantity. It is, heaven knows, a melancholy cheat, but one with which the periodical famines of our unhappy country have made our people too well acquainted. Previous, however, to breakfast, the prophet had a private interview with Mave, or the Gra Gal, as she was generally termed to denote her beauty and extraordinary power of conciliating affection; Gra Gal signifying the fair love, or to give the more comprehensive meaning which it implied, the fair-haired beauty whom all love, or who wins all love. This interview lasted, at least, a quarter of an hour, or it might be twenty minutes, but as the object of it did not then transpire, we can only explain the appearances which followed it, so far at least, as the parties themselves were concerned. The Gra Gal, as we shall occasionally call her, seemed pleased, if not absolutely gratified, by the conversation that passed between them. Her eye was elated, and she moved about like one who appeared to have been relieved from some reflection that had embarrassed and depressed her; still it might have been observed that this sense of relief had nothing in it directly affecting the person of the prophet himself, on whom her eyes fell from time to time with a glance that changed its whole expression of satisfaction to one of pain and dislike. On his part there also appeared a calm sedate feeling of satisfaction, under which, however, an eye better acquainted with human nature might easily detect a triumph. He looked, to those who could properly understand him, precisely as an able diplomatist would who had succeeded in gaining a point.
When breakfast was over, and previous to his departure, he brought Jerry Sullivan and his wife out to the barn, and in a tone and manner of much mystery, assuming at the same time that figurative and inflated style so peculiar to him, and also to his rival the Senachie, he thus addressed them—
"Listen," said he, "listen, Jerry Sullivan, and Bridget, his wife; a child was born, and a page was written—the moon saw it, and the stars saw it; but the sun did not, for he is dark to fate an' sees nothing but the face of nature. Do you understand that, Jerry Sullivan, an' you Bridget, his wife?"
"Well, troth we can't say we do yet, at all events," they replied; "but how could we, ye know, if it's regardin' prophecy you're spakin'."
"Undherstand it!" he replied, contemptuously, "you undherstand it!—no nor Father Philemy Corcoran himself couldn't undherstand it, barrin' he fasted and prayed, and refrained from liquor, for that's the way to get the ray o' knowledge; at laist it's, the way I got it first—however, let that pass. As I was sayin' a child was born and a page was written—and an angel from heaven was sent to Nebbychodanazor, the prophet, who was commanded to write. What will I write? says Nebbychodanazor, the prophet. Write down the fate of a faymale child, by name Mave Sullivan, daughter to Jerry Sullivan and his wife Bridget, of Aughnmurrin. Amin, says the prophet; fate is fate, what's before is not behind, neither is what's behind before, and every thing will come to pass that's to happen. Amin, agin, says the prophet, an' what am I to write? Grandeur an' wealth—up stairs and down stairs—silks-an' satins—an inside car—bracelets, earrings, and Spanish boots, made of Morroccy leather, tanned at Cordovan. Amin, agin, says Nebbychodanazor, the prophet; this is not that, neither is that the other, but every is everything—naither can something be nothing, nor nothing something, to the end of time; and time itself is but cousin jarmin to eternity—as is recorded in the great book of fate, fortune and fatality. Write again, says the angel. What am I to write? At the name of Mabel Sullivan place along wid all the rest, two great paragons of a woman's life, Marriage and Prosperity—write marriage happy, and prosperity numerous—and so the child's born, an' the page written—beauty and goodness, a happy father, and a proud mother—both made wealthy through her means."
"And so," he proceeded, dropping the recitative, and resuming his natural voice—
"Be kind and indulgent to your daughter, for she'll yet live to make all your fortunes. Take care of her and yourself till I sees yez again."
And without adding another word he departed.
CHAPTER IV. — A Dance, and Double Discovery.
The dance to which Sarah M'Gowan went after the conflict with her step-mother, was but a miserable specimen of what a dance usually is in Ireland. On that occasion, there were but comparatively few assembled; and these few, as may be guessed, consisted chiefly of those gay and frolicsome spirits whom no pressure of distress, nor anything short of sickness or death, could sober down into seriousness. The meeting, in fact, exhibited a painful union of mirth and melancholy. The season brought with it none of that relief to the peasantry which usually makes autumn so welcome. On the contrary, the failure of the potato crop, especially in its quality, as well as that in the grain generally, was not only the cause of hunger and distress, but also of the sickness which prevailed. The poor were forced, as they too often are, to dig their potatoes before they were fit for food; and the consequences were disastrous to themselves in every sense. Sickness soon began to appear; but then it was supposed that as soon as the new grain came in, relief would follow. In this expectation, however, they were, alas! most wofully disappointed. The wetness of the summer and autumn had soured and fermented the grain so lamentably, that the use of it transformed the sickness occasioned by the unripe and bad potatoes into a terrible and desolating epidemic. At the period we are treating of, this awful scourge had just set in, and was beginning to carry death and misery in all their horrors throughout the country. It was no wonder, then, that, at the dance we are describing, there was an almost complete absence of that cheerful and light-hearted enjoyment which is, or at least which was, to be found at such meetings. It was, besides, owing to the severity of the evening, but thinly attended. Such a family had two or three members of it sick; another had buried a fine young woman; a third, an only son; a fourth, had lost the father, and the fifth, the mother of a large family. In fact, the conversation on this occasion was rather a catalogue of calamity and death, than that hearty ebullition of animal spirits which throws its laughing and festive spirits into such assemblies. Two there were, however, who, despite of the gloom which darkened both the dance and the day, contrived to sustain our national reputation for gayety and mirth. One of these was our friend, Sarah, or, as she was better known, Sally M'Gowan, and the other a young fellow named Charley Hanlon, who acted as a kind of gardener and steward to Dick o' the Grange. This young fellow possessed great cheerfulness, and such an everlasting fund of mirth and jocularity, as made him the life and soul of every dance, wake, and merry-meeting in the parish. He was quite a Lothario in his sphere—a lady-killer—and so general an admirer of the sex, that he invariably made I love to every pretty girl he met, or could lure into conversation. The usual consequences followed. Nobody was such a favorite with the sex in general, who were ready to tear each other's caps about him, as they sometimes actually did; and indeed this is not at all to be wondered at. The fellow was one of the most open, hardy liars that ever lived. Of shame he had heard; but of what it meant, no earthly eloquence could give him the slightest perception; and we need scarcely add, that his assurance was boundless, as were his powers of flattery. It is unnecessary to say, then, that a man so admirably calculated to succeed with the sex, was properly appreciated by them, and that his falsehood, flattery, and assurance were virtues which enshrined the vagabond in their hearts. In short, he had got the character of being a rake; and he was necessarily obliged to suffer the agreeable penalty of their admiration and favor in consequence. The fellow besides, was by no means ill-looking, nor ill-made, but just had enough of that kind of face and figure which no one can readily either find fault with or praise.
This gallant and Sally M'Gowan, were in fact, the life of the meeting; and Sally, besides, had the reputation of being a great favorite with him—a circumstance which considerably diminished her popularity with her own sex. She herself felt towards him that kind of wild, indomitable affection, which is as vehement as it is unregulated in such minds as hers. For instance, she made no secret of her attachment to him, but on the contrary, gloried in it, even to her father, who, on this subject, could exercise no restraint whatsoever over her. It is not our intention to entertain our readers with the history of the occurrences which took place at the dance, as they are, in fact, not worth recording. Hanlon, at its close, prepared to see Sally home, as is usual.
"You may come with me near home," she replied; "but I'm not goin' home to-night."
"Why, where the dickens are you goin' then?" he asked.
"To Barny Gorrnly's wake; there 'ill be lots of fun there, too," she replied. "But come—you can come wid me as far as the turn-up to the house; for I won't go in, nor go home neither, till afther the berril, tomorrow."
"Do you know," said he, rather gravely, "the Grey Stone that's at the mouth of the Black Glen?"
"I ought," said she; "sure that's where the carman was found murdhered."
"The same," added Hanlon. "Well, I must go that far to-night," said he.
"And that's jist where I turn off to the Gormly's."
"So far, then, we'll be together," he replied.
"But why that far only, Charley—eh?"
"That's what you could never guess," said he, "and very few else aither; but go I must, an' go I will. At all events, I'll be company for you in passin' it. Are you never afeard at night, as you go near it?"
"Divil a taste," she replied; "what 'ud I be afeard of? my father laughs at sich things; although," she added, musing, "I think he's sometimes timorous for all that. But I know he's often out at all hours, and he says he doesn't care about ghosts—I know I don't."
The conversation now flagged a little, and Hanlon, who had been all the preceding part of the evening full of mirth and levity, could scarcely force himself to reply to her observations, or sustain any part in the dialogue.
"Why, what the sorra's comin' over you?" she asked, as they began to enter into the shadow of the hill at whose foot her father's cabin stood, and which here, for about two hundred yards, fell across the road. "It is gettin' afeard you are?"
"No," he replied; "but I was given to undherstand last night, that if I'd come this night to the Grey Stone, I'd find out a saicret that I'd give a great deal to know."
"Very well," she replied, we'll see that; an' now, raise your spirits. Here we're in the moonlight, thank goodness, such as it is. Dear me, thin, but it's an awful night, and the wind's risin'; and listen to the flood, how it roars in the glen below, like a thousand bulls!"
"It is," he replied; "but hould your tongue now for a little, and as you're here stop wid me for a while, although I don't see how I'm likely to come by much knowledge in sich a place as this."
They now approached the Grey Stone, and as they did the moon came out a little from her dark shrine of clouds, but merely with that dim and feeble light which was calculated to add ghastliness and horror to the wildness and desolation of the place.
Sally could now observe that her companion was exceedingly pale and agitated, his voice, as he spoke, became disturbed and infirm; and as he laid his hand upon the Grey Stone he immediately withdrew it, and taking off his hat he blessed himself, and muttered a short prayer with an earnestness and solemnity for which she could not account. Having concluded it, both stood in silence for a short time, he awaiting the promised information—for which on this occasion he appeared likely to wait in vain;—and she without any particular purpose beyond her natural curiosity to watch and know the event.
The place at that moment was, indeed, a lonely one, and it was by no means surprising that, apart from the occurrence of two murders, one on, and the other near, the spot where they stood, the neighboring peasantry should feel great reluctance in passing it at night. The light of the moon was just sufficient to expose the natural wildness of the adjacent scenery. The glen itself lay in the shadow of the hill, and seemed to the eye so dark that nothing but the huge outlines of the projecting crags, whose shapes appeared in the indistinctness like gigantic spectres, could been seen; while all around, and where the pale light of! the moon fell, nothing was visible but the muddy gleams of the yellow flood as it rushed, with its hoarse and incessant roar, through a flat country on whose features the storm and the hour had impressed a character of gloom, and the most dismal desolation. Nay, the still appearance of the Grey Stone, or rock, at which they stood, had, when contrasted with the moving elements about them, and associated with the murder committed at its very foot, a solemn appearance that was of itself calculated to fill the mind with awe and terror. Hanlon felt this, as, indeed, his whole manner indicated.
"Well," said his companion, alluding to the short prayer he had just concluded, "I didn't expect to see you at your prayers like a voteen this night at any rate. Is it fear that makes you so pious upon our hands? Troth, I doubt there's a white feather,—a cowardly dhrop—in you, still an' all."
"If you can be one minute serious, Sally, do, I beg of you. I am very much disturbed, I acknowledge, an' so would you, mabe, if you knew as much as I do."
"You're the color of death," she replied putting her fingers upon his cheek; "—an, my God! is it paspiration I feel such a night as this? I declare to goodness it is. Give me the white pocket-handkerchy that you say Peggy Murray gave you. Where is it?" she proceeded, taking it out of his pocket. "Ah, ay, I have it; stoop a little; take care of your hat; here now," and while speaking she wiped the cold perspiration from his forehead. "Is this the one she made you a present of, an' put the letthers on?"
"It is," he replied, "the very same—but she didn't make me a present of it, she only hemmed it for me."
"That's a lie of you," she replied, fiercely; "she bought it for you out of her own pocket. I know that much. She tould Kate Duffy so herself, and boasted of it: but wait."
"Well," replied Hanlon, anxious to keep down the gust of jealousy which he saw rising, "and if she did, how could I prevent her?"
"What letthers did she put on it?"
"P. and an M.," he replied, "the two first letthers of my name."
"That's another lie," she exclaimed; "they're not the two first letthers of your name, but of her own; there's no M in Hanlon. At any rate, unless you give the same handkerchy to me, I'll make it be a black business to her."
"Keep it, keep it, wid all my heart," he replied, glad to get rid of a topic which at that moment came on him so powerfully and unseasonably. "Do what you like wid it."
"You say so willingly, now—do you?"
"To be sure I do; an' you may tell the whole world that I said so, if you like."
"P. M.—oh, ay, that's for Peggy Murray—maybe the letthers I saw on the ould tobaccy-box I found in the hole of the wall to-day were for Peggy Murray. Ha! ha! ha! Oh, may be I won't have a brag over her!"
"What letthers?" asked Hanlon eagerly; "a tobaccy-box, did you say?"
"Ay did I—a tobaccy-box. I found it in a hole in the wall in our house to-day; it tumbled out while I was gettin' some cobwebs to stop a bleedin'."
"Was it a good one?" asked Hanlon, with apparent carelessness, "could one use it?"
"Hardly; but no, it's all rusty, an' has but one hinge."
"But one hinge!" repeated the other, who was almost breathless with anxiety; "an' the letthers—what's this you say they wor?"
"The very same that's on your handkerchy," she replied—"a P. an' an M."
"Great God!" he exclaimed, "is this possible! Heavens! What is that? Did you hear anything?"
"What ails you?" she enquired. "Why do you look so frightened?"
"Did you hear nothing?" he again asked.
"Ha! ha!—hear!" she replied, laughing—"hear; I thought I heard something like a groan; but sure 'tis only the wind. Lord! what a night! Listen how the wind an' storm growls an' tyrannizes and rages down in the glen there, an' about the hills. Faith there'll be many a house stripped this night. Why, what ails you? Afther all, you're but a hen-hearted divil, I doubt; sorra thing else."
Hanlon made her no reply, but took his hat off, and once more offered up a short prayer, apparently in deep and most extraordinary excitement.