"I came by the old green path," said he, "but intend to turn down the glen into the common road."
"O, don't go that way," said she; "if you do, you'll have to pass the haunted house, ay, and maybe, might meet the Shan-dhinne-dhuv."
"What is that," said he.
"O, Lord save us, sir," said she, "did you never hear of the Shan-dhinne-dhuv? A spirit, sir, that appears about the haunted house in the shape of a black ould man, and they say that nobody lives long afther seein' him three times."
"Yes; but did he ever take any person's life?"
"They say so, sir."
"When? How long ago?"
"Indeed, I can't tell that, sir; but sure every one says it."
"Well, what every one says must be true," he replied, smiling. "I, however, am not afraid of him, as I never go unarmed; and if I happen to meet him, trust me I will know what mettle he's made of before we part, or whether he belongs to this world or the other."
He then went down the glen, by the bottom of which the road went; and at a lonely place in a dark angle of it this far-famed spirit was said to appear.
This vain, but simple girl, the pride of her honest parents and all her simple relations and friends, took up her pitcher and proceeded with an elated heart by the pathway house. We say her heart was elated at the notion of having engaged the affections of a handsome, young, and elegant gentleman, but at the same time she felt a secret sense of error, if not of guilt, in having given him a clandestine meeting, and kept an appointment which she knew her parents and brothers would have heard with indignation and shame. She was confident, however, in her own strength, and resolved in her mind that Woodward's attachment for her never should terminate either in her disgrace or "ruin." There were, however, many foolish and pernicious ballads sung about that period at the hearths of the peasantry, in which some lord or squire of high degree was represented to have fallen in love with some beautiful girl of humble life, whom he married in spite of his proud relations, and after having made her a lady of rank, and dressed her in silks and satins, gold rings and jewels, brought her home to his castle, where they lived in grandeur and happiness for the remainder of their lives. The simple-minded girl began to imagine that some such agreeable destiny might be reserved for herself; and thus endeavored, by the deceitful sophistry of a credulous heart, and proud of her beauty, to palliate her conduct amidst the accusations of her own conscience, which told her she was acting wrong.
She had now got about half way home, when she saw an individual approach her at a rapid pace; and as the moon had just risen, his figure was distinctly before her, and she immediately felt a strong impression of terror and alarm. The individual in question was young, tall, and muscular; his person had in it every symptom of extraordinary activity and vigor. His features, however, were not at all such as could be termed handsome; so far from that, they were rude and stern, but not without a wild and disagreeable dignity. His eyes were at all times fierce and fiery, and gave unequivocal indications of a fierce and fiery spirit. He wore a pair of rude pantaloons that fitted closely to his finely made limbs, a short jacket or Wyliecoat that also fitted closely to his body, over which he wore the usual cloak of that day, which was bound about his middle with a belt and buckle, in which was stuck a middogue, or, as it ought to be written, meadoige, and pronounced maddogay. He wore a kind of cap or barrad, which, as well as his cloak, could, by being turned inside out, instantly change his whole appearance, and mislead his pursuers—for he was the outlaw. Such was the startling individual who now approached her, and at whose fierce aspect she trembled—not less from her knowledge of the natural violence of his character than from a consciousness of her interview with Woodward.
"Well, Granua (Grace)," said he, quickly and with some vehemence, "where have you been?"
"At the well," she replied; "have you eyes in your head? Don't you see my pitcher?"
"I do; but what kept you there so long? and why is your voice tremblin', as if you wor afeard, or did something wrong? Why is your face pale, too?—it's not often so."
"The Lord save us, Shawn," replied Grace, attempting to treat those pointed interrogatories with a jocular spirit, "how can you expect me to answer such a catechize as you're puttin' to me at wanst."
"Answer me, in the mane time," he replied; "I'll have no doubling, Granua."
"Has anything vexed you, Shawn?"
"Chorp an diaoul! tell me why you staid so long at the well"—and as he spoke his eyes flashed with resentment and suspicion.
"I didn't stay long at it."
"I say you did. What kept you?"
"Why, bekaise I didn't hurry myself, but took my time. I was often longer."
"You were spakin' to some one at the well."
"Ah, thin, Shawn, who would I be spakin' to?"
"Maybe I know—I believe I do—but I want now to know whether you're a liar, as I suspect you to be, or whether you are honest enough to tell the truth."
"Do you suspect me, then?"
"I do suspect you; or rather I don't—bekaise I know the truth. Answer me—who were you spakin' with?"
"Troth," said she, "I was lookin' at your sweetheart in the well," meaning her own shadow, "and was only asking her how she did."
"You danced with Harry-na-Suil Balor last night?"
"I did; because the gentleman axed me—and why would I refuse him?"
"You whispered in a corner with him?"
"I did not," she replied; "how could I when the room was so throng?"
"Ay, betther in a throng room than a thin one; ay, and you promised to meet him at the well to-night; and you kept your word."
A woman's courage and determination to persist in falsehood are never so decided and deliberate as when she feels that the suspicion expressed against her is true. She then gets into heroics and attempts to turn the tables upon her opponent, especially when she knows, as Miss Davoren did on this occasion, that he has nothing but suspicion to support him. She knew that her lover had been at the bonfire, and that his friends must have seen her dance with Woodward; and this she did not attempt to deny, because she could not; but as for their tryst at the well, she felt satisfied, from her knowledge of his jealous and violent character, that if he had been aware of it, it would not have been by seeking the fact through the medium of his threats and her fears that he would have proceeded. Had he seen Woodward, for instance, and herself holding a secret meeting in such a place and at such an hour, she concluded justly that the middogue or dagger, for the use of which he had been already so celebrated, would have been brought into requisition against either one or both.
"I'll talk no more to you," she replied, with a flushed face; "for even if I tould you the truth, you wouldn't believe me. I did meet him, then; are you satisfied now?"
This admission was an able stroke of policy on her part, as the reader will soon perceive.
"O," he exclaimed, with a bitter, or, rather, a furious expression of face, "dar manim, if you had, you wouldn't dare to confess as much. But listen to me; if I ever hear or know, to my own satisfaction, that you meet him, or keep his company, or put yourself in his power, I'll send six inches of this "—and he pulled out the glittering weapon—"into your heart and his; so now be warned and avoid him, and don't bring down my vengeance on you both."
"I don't see what right you have to bring me over the coals about any one. My father was forcin' me to marry you; but I now tell you to your teeth, that I never had the slightest intention of it. No! I wouldn't take the wealth of the barony, and be the wife of sich a savage murdherer. No man wid blood upon his hands and upon his sowl, as you have—a public robber, a murdherer, an outlaw—will ever be my husband. What right have you to tell me who I'm to spake to, or who I'm not to spake to?"
"Ah," he replied, "that wasn't your language to me not long ago."
"But you were a different boy then from what you are now. If you had kept your name free from disgrace and blood, I might have loved you; but I cannot love a man with such crimes to answer for as you have."
"You accuse me of shedding blood," he replied; "that is false. I have never shed blood nor taken life; but, on the contrary, did all in my power to prevent those who have placed me at their head from doin' so. Yet, when they did it in my absence, and against my orders, the blame and guilt is charged upon me because I am their leader. As for anything else I have done, I do not look upon it as a crime; let it rest upon the oppression that drove me and others to the wild lives we lead. We are forced to live now the best way we can, and that you know; but as to this gentleman, you mustn't spake to him at any rate," he proceeded; "why should you? What 'ud make a man so high in life, and so far above you as he is, strive to become acquainted with you, unless to bring about your ruin to gratify his own bad passions? Think of it, and bring it home to your heart. You have too many examples before your eyes, young as you are, of silly girls that allow themselves to be made fools of, and desaved and ruined by such scoundrels as this. Look at that unfortunate girl in the mountains there—Nannie Morrissey; look at her father hanged only for takin' God's just revenge, as he had a right to do, on the villain that brought destruction upon her and his innocent family, and black shame upon their name that never had a spot upon it before. After these words you may now act as you like; but remember that you have got Shawn-na-Middogue's warning, and you ought to know what that is."
He then started off in the same direction which Woodward had taken, and Grace, having looked after him with considerable indignation on her own part and considerable apprehension on behalf of Woodward, took up her pitcher and proceeded home.
She now felt herself much disturbed, and experienced that state of mind which is often occasioned by the enunciation of that which is known to be truth, but which, at the same time, is productive of pain to the conscience, especially when that conscience begins to abandon the field and fly from its duty.
Woodward, as he had intended, preferred the open and common road home, although it was much longer, rather than return by the old green lane, which was rugged and uneven, and full of deep ruts, dangerous inequalities, and stumps of old trees, all of which rendered it not only a disagreeable, but a dangerous, path by night. Having got out upon the highway, which here, and until he reached near home, was, indeed, solemn-looking and lonely, not a habitation except the haunted house being visible for upwards of two miles, he proceeded on his way, thinking of his interview with Grace Davoren. The country on each side of him was nearly a desert; a gray ruin, some of whose standing and isolated fragments assumed, to the excited imagination of the terrified peasants as they passed it by night, the appearance of supernatural beings, stood to the left, in the centre of an antiquated church-yard, in which there had not been a corpse buried for nearly half a century—a circumstance which always invests a graveyard with a more fearful character. As Woodward gazed at these still and lonely relics of the dead, upon which the faint rays of the moon gleamed with a spectral and melancholy light, he could not help feeling that the sight itself, and the associations connected with it, were calculated to fill weak minds with strong feelings of supernatural terror. His, however, was not a mind accessible to any such impressions; but at the same time he could make allowance for them among those who had seldom any other notions to guide them on such subjects than those of superstition and ignorance.
The haunted house, which was not yet in sight, he did not remember, nor was he acquainted with its history, with the exception of Grace's slight allusion to it. At length he came to a part of the road which was overhung, or rather altogether covered with long beech trees, whose huge arms met and intertwined with each other across it, filling the arch they made with a solemn darkness even in the noon of day. At night, however, the obscurity was black and palpable; and such upon this occasion was its awful solemnity and stillness, and the sense of insecurity occasioned by the almost supernatural gloom about him, that Woodward could not avoid the idea that it afforded no bad conception of the entrance to the world of darkness and of spirits. He had not proceeded far, however, under this dismal canopy, when an incident occurred which tested his courage severely. As he went along he imagined that he heard the sound of human footsteps near him. This, to be sure, gave him at first no trouble on the score of anything supernatural. The country, however, was, as we have already intimated, very much infested with outlaws and robbers, and although Woodward was well armed, as he had truly said, and was no coward besides, yet it was upon this view of the matter that he experienced anything like apprehension. He accordingly paused, in order to ascertain whether the footsteps he heard might not have been the echo of his own. When his steps ceased, so also did the others; and when he advanced again so did they. He coughed aloud, but there was no echo; he shouted out "Is there any one there?" but still there was a dead stillness. At length he said again, "Whoever you may be, and especially if your designs be evil and unlawful, you had better beware; I am well armed, and both able and determined to defend myself; if money is your object, pass on, for I have none about me."
Again there was the silence, as there was the darkness of the grave. He now resumed his former pace, and the noise of footsteps, evidently and distinctly different from his own, were once more heard near him. Those that accompanied him fell upon his ear with a light, but strange and chilling sound, that filled him with surprise, and something like awe. In fact, he had never heard anything similar to it before. It was very strange, he thought, for the sounds, though light, were yet as distinct and well-defined as his own. He still held a pistol in each hand, and as he had no means of unravelling this mystery so long as he was inwrapped in such Cimmerian gloom, he resolved to accelerate his pace and get into the light of the moon as soon as he could. He accordingly did so; but the footsteps, although they fell not now so quickly as his own, still seemed to maintain the same distance from him as before. This certainly puzzled him; and he was attempting, if possible, to solve this new difficulty, when he found himself emerging from the darkness, and in a few moments standing in the light of the moon. He immediately looked about him, but except the usual inanimate objects of nature, he could see nothing. Whatever it is, thought he, or, rather, whoever it is, he has thought proper to remain undiscovered in the darkness. I shall now bid him good-night, and proceed on my way home. He accordingly moved on once more, when, to his utter astonishment, he heard the footsteps again, precisely within the same distance of him as before.
"Tut," said he, "I now perceive what the matter with me is. This is a mere hallucination, occasioned by a disordered state of the nerves; and as he spoke he returned his pistols into his breast pockets, where he usually wore them, and once more resumed his journey. There was, however, something in the sound of the footsteps—something so hollow—so cold, as it were, and so unearthly, that he could not throw off the unaccountable impression which it made upon him, infidel and sceptic as he was upon all supernatural intimations and appearances. At length, he proceeded, or rather they proceeded, onward until he arrived within sight of what he supposed to be the haunted house. He paused a few moments, and was not now so insensible to its lonely and dismal aspect. It was a two-storied house, and nothing could surpass the spectral appearance of the moon's light as it fell with its pale and death-like lustre upon the windows. He stood contemplating it for some time, when, all at once, he perceived, walking about ten yards in advance of him, the shape of a man dressed in black from top to toe. It was not within the scope of human fortitude to avoid being startled by such a sudden and incomprehensible apparition. Woodward was startled; but he soon recovered himself, and after the first shock felt rather satisfied that he had some visible object with which he could make the experiment he projected, viz., to ascertain the nature, whether mortal or otherwise, of the being before him. With this purpose in view, he walked very quickly after him, and as the other did not seem to quicken his pace into a corresponding speed, he took it for granted that he would soon overtake him. In this, however, he was, much to his astonishment, mistaken. His own walk was quick and rapid, whilst that of this incomprehensible figure was slow and solemn, and yet he could not lessen the distance between them a single inch.
"Stop, sir," said Woodward, "whoever or whatever you are—stop, I wish to speak with you; be you mortal or spiritual, I fear you not—only stop."
The being before him, however, walked on at the same slow and solemn pace, but still persisted in maintaining his distance. Woodward was resolute, fearless—a sceptic, an infidel, a materialist—but here was a walking proposition in his presence which he could not solve, and which, up to that point, at least, had set all his theories at defiance. His blood rose—he became annoyed at the strange silence of the being before him, but more still at the mysterious and tardy pace with which it seemed to precede and escape him.
"I will follow it until morning," he said to himself, "or else I shall develop this startling enigma."
At this moment his mysterious fellow-traveller, after having advanced as if there had not been such an individual as Woodward in existence, now stood; he was directly opposite the haunted house, and turning round, faced the tantalized and bewildered mortal. The latter looked on him; his countenance was the countenance of the dead—of the sheeted dead, stretched out in the bloodless pallor which lies upon the face of vanished life—of existence that is no more, at least in flesh and blood. Woodward approached him—for the thing had stood, as we have said, and permitted, him to come within a few yards from him. His eyes were cold and glassy, and apparently without speculation, like those of a dead man open; yet, notwithstanding this, Woodward felt that they looked at him, if not into him.
"Speak," said he, "speak; who or what are you?"
He received no reply; but in a few seconds the apparition, if it were such, put his hand into his bosom, and, pulling out a dagger, which gleamed with a faint and visionary light, he directed it as if to his (Woodward's) heart. Three times he did this, in an attitude more of warning than of anger, when, at length, he turned and approached the haunted house, at the door of which he disappeared.
Woodward, as the reader must have perceived, was a strong-minded, fearless man, and examined the awful features of this inscrutable being closely.
"This, then," thought he, "is the Shan-dhinne-dhuv, or the Black Spectre; but, be it what it may, I am strongly of opinion that it was present at the bonfire last night, and as I am well armed, I will unquestionably pursue it into the house. Nay, what is more, I suspect that it is in some way or I other connected with the outlaw Shawn-na-Middogue, who it was, they say, made that amazing leap over the aforesaid bonfire in my own presence."
On that very account, however, he reflected that such an intrusion might be attended with more danger than that to be apprehended from a ghost. He consequently paused for some time before he could decide on following up such a perilous resolution. While he thus stood deliberating upon the prudence of this daring exploit, he heard a variety of noises, and knockings, and rollings, as if of empty barrels, and rattling of chains, all going on inside, whilst the house itself appeared to be dark and still, without smoke from the chimneys, or light in the windows, or any other symptom of being inhabited, unless by those who were producing the wild and extraordinary noises he then heard.
"If I do not see this out," said he, "my account of it will go to add another page to the great volume of superstition. I am armed, not a whit afraid, and I will see it out, if human enterprise can effect it."
He immediately entered the door, which he found, somewhat to his surprise, was only laid to, and, after listening for a few moments, resolved to examine the premises closely. In deference to the reader, whose nerves may not be so strong as those of Henry Woodward, and who consequently may entertain a very decided objection to enter a haunted house, especially one in such a lonely and remote situation, we will only say that he remained in it for at least an hour and a half; at the expiration of which time he left it, walked home in a silent and meditative mood, spoke little to his family, who were a good deal surprised at his abstracted manner, and, after sipping a tumbler of punch with his step-father, went rather gloomily to bed.
The next morning at breakfast he looked a good deal paler than they had yet seen him, and for some time his contribution to the family dialogue was rather scanty.
"Harry," said his mother, "what is the matter with you? You are silent, and look pale. Are you unwell?"
"No, ma'am," he replied, "I cannot say that I am. But, by the way, have you not a haunted house in the neighborhood, and is there not an apparition called the Black Man, or the Black Spectre, seen occasionally about the premises?"
"So it is said," replied Lindsay, "but none of this family has ever seen it, although I believe it has undoubtedly been seen by many persons in the neighborhood."
"What is supposed to have been the cause of its appearance?" asked Harry.
"Faith, Harry," replied his brother, "I fear there is nobody here can give you that information. To speak for myself, I never heard its appearance accounted for at all. Perhaps Barney Casey knows. Do you, father?"
"Not I," replied his father; "but as you say, Charley, we had better try Barney. Call him up."
"Perhaps," said Mrs. Lindsay, sharply and disdainfully, "it was the Black Spectre who produced the shower of blood last night?"
"Faith, it's not unlikely," replied her husband, "if he be, as the people think, connected with the devil."
In a couple of minutes Barney entered to know what was wanted.
"Barney," said his master, "can you inform us who or what the Shan-dhinne-dhuv is, or why he appears in this neighborhood? Damn the fellow; he has that house of mine on my hands this many a long year, for I cannot get it set. I've had priests and parsons to lay him, and for some time we thought the country was free of him; but it was all to no purpose; he was still sure to return, and no earthly habitation should serve him but that unlucky house of mine. It is very odd that he never began to appear until after my second marriage."
"Sir," replied Barney, "I heard something about it; but I'm not clear on it. To tell you the truth, there's two or three accounts of him; but anyhow, sir, you're in luck for the right one; for if livin' man can give it to you, Bandy Brack, the peddler, is the man. He's now at his breakfast in the kitchen; but I'll have him up."
"Not in the parlor," said his mistress; "a strolling knave like him. Who ordered him his breakfast in the kitchen without my knowledge?" she asked. "The moment I can find out the person that dared to do so, that moment they shall leave my family. Must I keep an open house for every strolling vagabond in the country?"
"If you choose to turn me out," replied her husband, "you may try your hand at it. It was I ordered the poor man his breakfast; and, what is more, I desire you instantly to hold your peace."
As he spoke, she saw that one of his determined looks settled upon his countenance—a pretty certain symptom that she had better be guided by his advice.
"Come, Barney," said he, "throw up that window and send the poor man here, until he tells us what he knows about this affair."
The window was accordingly thrown open, and in a few minutes Bandy Brack made his appearance outside, and, on being interrogated on the subject in question, took off his hat, and was about to commence his narrative, when Lindsay said,
"Put on your hat, Bandy; the sun's too hot to be uncovered."
"That's more of it," said his wife; "a fine way to make yourself respected, Lindsay."
"I love to be respected," he replied sternly, "and to deserve respect: but I have no desire to incur the hatred of the poor by oppression and want of charity, like some of my female acquaintances."
"Plase your honor," said Bandy, "all that I know about the Shan-dhinne-dhuv, or the Black Spectre, as the larned call him, won't require many words to tell you. It's not generally known what I'm goin' to say now. The haunted house, as your honor, maybe, remimbers, was an inn—a carman's inn chiefly—and one night, it seems, there came a stranger to stop in it. He was dressed in black, and when he thought it time to go to bed he called the landlord, Antony McMurt, and placed in his hands a big purse o' goold to keep for him till he should start at daybreak, as he intended, the next morning. Antony—
"Ay," said Lindsay, interrupting him, "that accounts for the nature of the villain's death. I remember him well, Bandy, although I was only a boy at the time; go on—he was always a dishonest scoundrel it was said—proceed."
"Well it seems, Antony, sir, mistook him for a Protestant parson; and as he had a hankerin' afther the goold, he opened a gusset in the man's throat that same night, when the unsuspectin' traveller was sound in that sleep that he never woke from in this world. When the deed was done Antony stripped him of his clothes, and in doing so discovered a silver crucifix upon his breast, and a bravery (breviary) under his head, by which he found that he had murdhered a priest of his own religion in mistake. They say he stabbed him in the jigler vein wid a middoge. At all events, the body disappeared, and there never was any inquiry made about it—a good proof that the unfortunate man was a stranger. Well and good, your honor—in the coorse of a short time, it seems, the murdhered priest began to appear to him, and haunted him almost every night, until the unfortunate Antony began to get out of his rason, and, it is said, that when he appeared to him he always pointed the middoge at him, just as if he wished to put it into his heart. Antony then, widout tellin' his own saicret, began to tell everybody that he was doomed to die a bloody death; in short, he became unsettled—got fairly beside himself, and afther mopin' about for some months in ordher to avoid the bloody death the priest threatened him wid, he went and hanged himself in the very room where he killed the unfortunate priest before."
"I remember when he hanged himself, very well," observed Lindsay, "but d—n the syllable of the robbery and murder of the priest or any body else ever I heard of till the present moment, although there was an inquest held over himself. The man got low-spirited and depressed, because his business failed him, or, rather, because he didn't attend to it; and in one of these moods hanged himself; but by all accounts, Bandy, if he hadn't done the deed for himself the hangman would have done it for him. He was said, I think, to have been connected with some of the outlaws, and to have been a bad boy altogether. I think it is now near fifty years ago since he hanged himself."
"'Tis said, sir, that this account comes from one of his own relations; but there's another account, sir, of the Shan-dhinne-dhuv that I don't believe a word of."
"Another—what is that, Bandy?"
"O, bedad, sir," replied Bandy, "it's more than I could venture to tell you here."
"Come, come—out with it."
Mrs. Lindsay went over with an inflamed face, and having ordered him to go about his business, slapped down the window with great violence, giving poor Bandy a look of wrath and intimidation that sealed his lips upon the subject of the other tradition he alluded to. He was, consequently, glad to escape from the threatening storm which he saw brewing in her countenance, and, consequently, made a very hasty retreat. Barney, who met him in the yard returning to fetch his pack from the kitchen, noticed his perturbation, and asked him what was the matter.
"May the Lord protect me from that woman's eye!" replied the pedler, "if you'd 'a' seen the look she gave me when she thought I was goin' to tell them the true story of the Shan-dhinne-dhuv."
"And why should she put a sword in her eye against you for that, Bandy?" asked the other.
Bandy looked cautiously about him, and said in a whisper:
"Because it's connected with her family, and follows it."
He then proceeded to the kitchen, and having secured his pack, he made as rapid a disappearance as possible from about the premises.
CHAPTER VII. A Council of Two
—Visit to Beech Grove.—The Herbalist
Woodward now amused himself by walking and riding about the country and viewing its scenery, most of which he had forgotten during his long absence from home. It was not at all singular in that dark state of popular superstition and ignorance, that the shower of blood should, somehow or another, be associated with him and his detested mother. Of course, the association was vague, and the people knew not how to apply it to their circumstances. As they believed, however, that Mrs. Lindsay possessed the power of overlooking cattle, which was considered an evil gift, and in some mysterious manner connected with the evil spirit, and as they remembered—for superstition, like guilt, always possesses a good memory—that even in his young days, when little more than a child, her son Harry was remarkable for having eyes of a different color, from which circumstance he was even then called Harry na Suil Gloir, they naturally inferred that his appearance in the country boded nothing good; that, of course, he had the Evil Eye, as every one whose eyes differed, as his did, had; and that the thunder and lightning, the rain which drowned the bonfires, but, above all, the blood-shower, were indications that the mother and son were to be feared and avoided as much as possible, especially the latter. Others denied that the devil had anything to do with the shower of blood, or the storm which extinguished the fires, and stoutly maintained that it was God himself who had sent them to warn the country against having any intercourse that could possibly be avoided, with them. Then there was the Black Spectre that was said to follow her family; and did not every one know that when it appeared three times to any person, it was a certain proof that that person's coffin might be purchased? We all know how rapidly such opinions and colloquies spread, and we need scarcely say that in the course of a fortnight after the night of the bonfires all these matters had been discussed over half the barony. Some, in fact, were for loading him with the heavy burden of his mother's unpopularity; but others, more generous, were for waiting until the people had an opportunity of seeing how he might turn out—whether he would follow in his mother's footsteps, or be guided by the benevolent principles of his step-father and the rest of the family. Owing to these circumstances, need we say, that there was an unusual interest, almost an excitement, felt about him, which nothing could repress. His brother Charles was as well-beloved and as popular as his father, but, then, he excited no particular interest, because he was not suspected to possess the Evil Eye, nor to have any particular connection with the devil.
In this case matters stood, when one day Woodward, having dressed himself with particular care, ordered his horse, saying that he would ride over to Beech Grove and pay a visit to the Goodwins. There were none in the room at the time but Charles and his mother. The former started, and seemed uneasy at this intelligence; and his mother, having considered for a time, said: "Charles, I wish to speak to Harry." Charles took the hint, and left the mother and son to the following dialogue:—
"Harry," said she, "you spoke very warmly of that cunning serpent who defrauded you of your inheritance, and all of us out of our right. May I ask for what purpose you wish to cultivate an intimacy with such a scheming and dishonest crew as that?"
"Faith, mother, to tell you the truth, you don't detest them, nor feel the loss of the property more than I do; but the truth is, that the game I wish to play with them will be a winning one, if I can induce them to hold the cards. I wish to get the property, and as I feel that that can't be done without marrying their milk-and-curd of a daughter, why, it is my intention to marry her accordingly."
"Then you don't marry a wife to be happy with her?"
"In one sense not I—in another I do; I shall make myself happy with her property."
"Indeed, Harry, to tell you the truth, there is very little happiness in married life, and they are only fools that expect it. You see how I am treated by Lindsay and my own children."
"Well, but you provoke them—why disturb yourself with them? Why not pass through life as quietly as you can? Imitate Lindsay."
"What! make a sot of myself—become a fool, as he is?"
"Then, why did you marry him?"
"Because I was the fool then, but I have suffered for it. Why, he manages this property as if it wasn't mine—as if I didn't bring it to him. Think of a man who is silly enough to forgive a tenant his gale of rent, provided he makes a poor mouth, and says he is not able to pay it."
"But I see no harm in that either; if the man is not able to pay, how can he? What does Lindsay do but make a virtue of necessity. He cannot skin a flint, can he?"
"That's an ugly comparison," she replied, "and I can't conceive why you make it to me. I am afraid, Harry, you have suffered yourself to be prejudiced against the only friend—the only true friend, you have in the house. I can tell you, that although they keep fair faces to you, you are not liked here."
"Very well; if I find that to be true, they will lose more than they'll gain by it."
"They have been striving to secure your influence against me. I know it by your language."
"In the devil's name, how can you know it by my language, mother?"
"You talked about skinning a flint; now, you had that from them with reference to me. It was only the other day that an ill-tongued house-maid of mine, after I had paid her her wages, and 'stopped' for the articles she injured on me, turned round, and called me a skinflint; they have made it a common nickname on me. I'd have torn her eyes out only for Lindsay, who had the assurance to tell me that if he had not interfered I'd have had the worst of it—that I'd come off second best, and such slang; yes, and then added afterwards, that he was sorry he interfered. That's the kind of a husband he is, and that's the life I lead. Now, this property is mine, and I can leave it to any one I please; he hasn't even a life interest in it."
"O," exclaimed the son, in surprise, "is that the case?"
"It is," she replied, "and yet you see how I am treated."
"I was not aware of that, my dear mother," responded worthy Harry. "That alters the case entirely. Why, Lindsay, in these circumstances, ought to put his hands under your feet; so ought they all I think. Well, my dear mother, of one thing I can assure you, no matter how they may treat you, calculate firmly upon my support and protection; make yourself sure of that. But, now, about Miss Milk-and-curds—what do you think of my project?"
"I have been frequently turning it over in my mind, Harry, since the morning you praised her so violently, and I think, as you cannot get the property without the girl, you must only take her with it. The notion of its going into the hands of strangers would drive me mad."
"Well, then, we understand each other; I have your sanction for the courtship."
"You have; but I tell you again, I loathe her as I do poison. I never can forgive her the art with which she wheedled that jotter-headed old sinner, your uncle, out of twelve hundred a year. Unless it returns to the family, may my bitter malediction fall upon her and it."
"Well, never mind, my dear mother, leave her to me—I shall have the girl and the property—but by hook or crook, the property. I shall ride over there, now, and it will not be my fault, if I don't tip both her and them the saccharine."
"By the way, though, Harry, now that I think of it, I'm afraid you'll have opposition."
"Opposition! How is that?"
"It is said there is a distant relation of theirs, a gentleman named O'Connor, a Ferdora O'Connor, I think, who, it is supposed, is likely to be successful there; but, by the way, are you aware that they are Catholics?"
"As to that, my dear mother, I don't care a fig for her religion; my religion is her property, or rather will be so when I get it. The other matter, however, is a thing I must look to—I mean the rivalry; but on that, too, we shall put our heads together, and try what can be done. I am not very timid; and the proverb says, you know, a faint heart never won a fair lady."
Our readers may perceive, from the spirit of the above conversation, that the son was worthy of the mother, and the mother of the son. The latter, however, had, at least, some command over his temper, and a great deal of dexterity and penetration besides; whilst the mother, though violent, was clumsy in her resentments, and transparent in her motives. Short as Woodward's residence in the family was, he saw at a glance that the abuse she heaped upon her husband and children was nothing more nor less than deliberate falsehood. This, however, to him was a matter of perfect indifference. He was no great advocate of truth himself, whenever he found that his interests or his passions could be more effectually promoted by falsehood; although he did not disdain even truth whenever it equally served his purpose. In such a case it gave him a reputation for candor under which he could, with more safety, avail himself of his disingenuity and prevarication. He knew, as we said, that his mother's description of the family contained not one atom of truth; and yet he was too dastardly and cunning to defend them against her calumny. The great basis of his character, in fact, was a selfishness, which kept him perpetually indifferent to anything that was good or generous in itself, or outside the circle of his own interests, beyond which he never passed. Now, nothing, on the other hand, could be more adversative to this, than the conduct, temper, and principles of his brother and sister. Charles was an amiable, manly, and generous young fellow, who, with both spirit and independence, was, as a natural consequence, loved and respected by all who knew him; and as for his sweet and affectionate sister, Maria, there was not living a girl more capable of winning attachment, nor more worthy of it when attained; and severely, indeed, was the patience of this admirable brother and sister tried, by the diabolical temper of their violent and savage mother. As for Harry, he had come to the resolution, now that he understood the position of the property, to cultivate his mother's disposition upon such a principle of conduct as would not compromise him with either party. As to their feuds he was perfectly indifferent to them; but now his great object was, to study how to promote his own interests in his own way.
Having reached Beech Grove, he found that unassuming family at home, as they usually were; for, indeed, all their principal enjoyments lay within the quiet range of domestic life. Old Goodwin himself saw him through the parlor window as he approached, and, with ready and sincere kindness, met him in the hall.
"I am very glad to see you, Mr. Woodward," said he. "Allow me to conduct you to the drawing-room, where you will meet Mrs. Goodwin, Alice, and a particular friend of ours. I cannot myself stop long with you, because I am engaged on particular business; but you will not miss an old fellow like me when you have better company. I hope my old friends are all well. Step in, sir. Here is Mr. Woodward, ladies; Mr. Woodward, this gentleman is a friend of ours, Mr. Ferdora O'Connor; Ferdora, this is Mr. Woodward; and now I must leave you to entertain each other; but I shall return, Mr. Woodward, before you go, unless you are in a great harry. Bridget, see that luncheon is ready; but you must lay it in the front parlor, because I have these tenants about me in the dining-room, as it is so much larger."
"I have already given orders for that," replied his wife. He then hurried out and left them, evidently much gratified by Woodward's visit. O'Connor and the latter having scanned each other by a glance or two, bowed with that extreme air of politeness which is only another name for a want of cordiality. O'Connor was rather a plain-looking young fellow, as to his person and general appearance; but his Milesian face was handsome, and his eye clear and candid, with a dash of determination and fire in it. Very different, indeed, was it from the eye that was scrutinizing him at that moment, with such keenness and penetration. There are such things as antipathies; otherwise why should those two individuals entertain, almost in a moment's time, such a secret and unaccountable disrelish towards each other? Woodward did not love Alice, so that the feeling could not proceed from jealousy; and we will so far throw aside mystery as to say here, that neither did O'Connor; and, we may add still further, that poor, innocent, unassuming Alice was attached to neither of them.
"I hope your brother is well, sir," said O'Connor, anxious to break the ice, and try the stuff Woodward was made of. "I have not seen him for some time."
"O! then, you are acquaintances?" said Woodward.
"We are more, sir," replied O'Connor, "we are friends."
"I hope you are all well," interrupted kind-hearted Mrs. Goodwin.
"Quite well, my dear madam," he replied. Then turning to O'Connor: "To be a friend to my brother, sir," he said, "next to finding you a friend and favorite in this family, is the warmest recommendation to me. My long absence from home prevented me from knowing his value until now; but now that! I do know him, I say it, perhaps, with too much of the partiality of a brother, I think that any man may feel proud of his friendship; and I say so with the less hesitation, because I am sure he would select no man for his friend who was not worthy of it;" and he bowed courteously as he spoke.
"Faith, sir," replied O'Connor, "you have hit it; I for one am proud of it; but, upon my conscience, he wouldn't be his father's son if he wasn't what he is."
Alice was sewing some embroidery, and seemed to take no notice, if one could judge by her downcast locks, of what they said. At length she said, with a smile:
"As you, Ferdora, have inquired for your favorite, I don't see why I should not inquire after mine; how is your sister, Mr. Woodward?"
"Indeed, she's the picture of health, Miss Goodwin; but I will not"—he added, with a smile to balance her own—"I will not be answerable for the health of her heart."
Alice gave a low laugh, that had the slightest tincture of malice in it, and glanced at O'Connor, who began to tap his boot with his riding whip.
"She is a good girl as ever lived," said Mrs. Goodwin, "and I hope will never have a heartache that may harm her."
"Heaven knows, madam," replied Woodward, "it is time only that will tell that. Love is a strange and sometimes rather a painful malady."
"Of course you speak from your own experience, Mr. Woodward," replied Alice.
"Then you have had the complaint, sir," said O'Connor, laughing. "I wonder is it like small-pox or measles?"
"How is that, sir?" said Woodward, smiling.
"Why, that if you've had it once you'll never have it a second time."
"Yes, but if I should be ill of it now?" and he glanced at Alice, who blushed.
"Why, in that case," replied O'Connor, "it's in bed you ought to be; no man with an epidemic on him should be permitted to go abroad among his majesty's liege subjects."
"Yes, Ferdora," said Alice, "but I don't think Mr. Woodward's complaint is catching."
"God forbid that the gentleman should die of it, though," replied Ferdora, "for that would be a serious loss to the ladies."
"You exaggerate that calamity, sir," replied Woodward, with the slightest imaginable sneer, "and forget that if I die you survive me."
"Well, certainly, there is consolation in that," said O'Connor, "especially for the ladies, as I said; isn't there, Alley?"
"Certainly," replied Alice; "in making love, Ferdora, you have the prowess of ten men."
"Do you speak from experience, now, Miss Goodwin?" asked Woodward, rather dryly.
"O! no," replied Alice, "I have only his own word for it."
"Only his own word. Miss Goodwin! Do you imply by that, that his own word requires corroboration?"
Alice blushed again, and felt confused.
"I assure you, Mr. Woodward," said O'Connor, "that when my word requires corroboration, I always corroborate it myself."
"But, according to Miss Goodwin's account of it, sir, that's not likely to add much to its authenticity."
"Well, Mr. Woodward," said O'Connor, with the greatest suavity of manner, "I'll tell you my method under such circumstances; whenever I meet a gentleman that doubts my word, I always make him eat his onion.
"There's nothing new or wonderful in that," replied the other; "it has been my own practice during life."
"What? to eat your own words!" exclaimed O'Connor, purposely mistaking him; "very windy feeding, faith. Upon my honor and conscience, in that case, your complaint must be nothing else but the colic, and not love at all. Try peppermint wather, Mr. Woodward."
Alice saw at once, but could not account for the fact, that the worthy gentlemen were cutting at each other, and the timid girl became insensibly alarmed at the unaccountable sharpness of their brief encounter. She looked with an anxious countenance, first at one, and then at the other, but scarcely knew what to say. Woodward, however, who was better acquainted with the usages of society, and the deference due to the presence of women, than the brusque, but somewhat fiery Milesian, now said, with a smile and a bow to that gentleman:
"Sir, I submit; I am vanquished. If you are as successful in love as you are in banter, I should not wish to enter the list against you.
"Faith, sir," replied O'Connor, with a poor-humored laugh, "if your sword is as sharp as your wit, you'd be an ugly customer to meet in a quarrel."
O'Connor, who had been there for some time, now rose to take his leave, at which Alice felt rather satisfied. Indeed, she could not avoid observing that, whatever the cause of it might be, there seemed to exist some secret feeling of dislike between them, which occasioned her no inconsiderable apprehension. O'Connor she knew was kind-hearted and generous, but, at the same time, as quick as gunpowder in taking and resenting an insult. On the other hand, she certainly felt much regret at being subjected to the presence of Woodward, against whom she entertained, as the reader knows, a strong feeling that amounted absolutely to aversion. She could not, however, think of treating him with anything bordering on disrespect, especially in her own house, and she, consequently, was about to say something merely calculated to pass the time. In this, however, she was anticipated by Woodward, who, as he had his suspicions of O'Connor, resolved to sound her on the subject.
"That seems an agreeable young fellow," said he; "somewhat free and easy in his deportment."
"Take care, Mr. Woodward," said her mother, "say nothing harsh against Ferdora, if you wish to keep on good terms with Alley. He's the white-headed boy with her."
"I am not surprised at that, madam," he replied, "possessed as he is of such a rare and fortunate quality."
"Pray, what is that, Mr. Woodward?" asked Alice, timidly.
"Why, the faculty of making love with the power of ten men," he replied.
"You must be a very serious man," she replied.
"Serious, Miss Goodwin! Why do you think so?"
"I hope you are not in the habit of receiving a jest as a matter of fact."
"Not," he replied, "if I could satisfy myself that there was no fact in the jest; but, indeed, in this world, Miss Goodwin, it is very difficult to distinguish jest from earnest."
"I am a bad reasoner, Mr. Woodward," she replied.
"But, perhaps, Miss Goodwin, Mr. O'Connor would say that you make up in feeling what you want in logic."
"I hope, sir," replied Alice, with some spirit—for she felt hurt at his last observation—"that I will never feel on any subject until I have reason as well as inclination to support me."
"Ah," said he, "I fear that if you once possess the inclination you will soon supply the reason. But, by the way, talking of your friend and favorite, Mr. O'Connor, I must say I like him very much, and I am, not surprised that you do."
"I do, indeed," she replied; "I know of nobody I like better than honest, frank, and generous Ferdora."
"Well, Miss Goodwin, I assure you he shall be a favorite of mine for your sake."
"Indeed, Mr. Woodward, if you knew him, he would become one for his own."
"Have you known him long, may I ask, Miss Goodwin?"
"O dear, yes," said Mrs. Goodwin, who now, finding this a fair opening in the conversation, resolved to have her share of it—"O dear! yes; Alley and he know each other ever since her childhood; he's some three or four years older than she is, to be sure, but that makes little difference."
"And, I suppose, Mrs. Goodwin, their intimacy—perhaps I may say attachment—has the sanction of their respective families?"
"God bless you, sir, to be sure it has—are they not distantly related?"
"That, indeed, is a very usual proceeding among families," observed Woodward; "the boy and girl are thrown together, and desired to look upon each other as destined to become husband and wife; they accordingly do so, fall in love, are married, and soon find themselves—miserable; in fact, these matches seldom turn out well."
"But there is no risk of that here," replied Alice.
"I sincerely hope not, Miss Goodwin. In your case, unless the husband was a fool, or a madman, or a villain, there must be happiness. Of course you will be happy with him; need I say," and here he sighed, "that he at least ought to be so with you?"
"Upon my word, Mr. Woodward," replied Alice, smiling, "you are a much cleverer man than I presume your own modesty ever permitted you to suspect."
"I don't understand you," he replied, with a look of embarrassment.
"Why," she proceeded, "here have you, in a few minutes, made up a match between two persons who never were intended to be married at all; you have got the sanction of two families to a union which neither of them even for a moment contemplated. Dear me, sir, may not a lady and gentleman become acquainted without necessarily falling in love?"
"Ah, but, in your case, my dear Miss Goodwin, it would be difficult—impossible I should say—to remain indifferent, if the gentleman had either taste or sentiment; however, I assure you I am sincerely glad to find that I have been mistaken."
"God bless me, Mr. Woodward," said Mrs. Goodwin, "did you think they were sweethearts?"
"Upon my honor, madam, I did—and I was very sorry for it."
"Mr. Woodward," replied Alice, "don't mistake me; I am inaccessible to flattery."
"I am delighted to hear it," said he, "because I know that for that reason you are not and will not be insensible to truth."
"Unless when it borrows the garb of flattery, and thus causes itself to be suspected."
"In that case," said Woodward, "nothing but good sense, Miss Goodwin, can draw the distinction between them—and now I know that you are possessed of that."
"I hope so, sir," she replied, "and that I will ever continue to observe that distinction. Mamma, I want more thread," she said: "where can I get it?"
"Up stairs, dear, in my work-box."
She then bowed slightly to Woodward and went up to find her thread, but in fact from a wish to put an end to a conversation that she felt to be exceedingly disagreeable. At this moment old Goodwin came in.
"You will excuse me, I trust, Mr. Woodward," said he, "I was down in the dining-room receiving rents for———." He paused, for, on reflection, he felt that this was a disagreeable topic to allude to; the fact being that he acted as his daughter's agent, and I had been on that and the preceding day receiving her rents. "Martha," said he, "what! about luncheon? You'll take luncheon with us, Mr. Woodward?"
Woodward bowed, and Mrs. Goodwin was about to leave the room, when he said:
"Perhaps, Mrs. Goodwin, you'd be good enough to remain for a few minutes." Mrs. Goodwin sat down, and he proceeded: "I trust that my arrival home will, under Providence, be the means of reconciling and reuniting two families who never should have been at variance. Not but that I admit, my dear friends,—if you will allow me to call you so,—that the melancholy event of my poor uncle's death, and the unexpected disposition of so large a property, were calculated to try the patience of worldly-minded people—and who is not so in a more or less I degree?"
"I don't think any of your family is," replied Goodwin, bluntly, "with one exception."
"O! yes, my mother," replied Woodward, "and I grant it; at least she was so, and acted upon worldly principles; but I think you will admit, at least as Christians you must, that the hour of change and regret may come to every human heart when its errors, and its selfishness, if you will, have been clearly and mildly pointed out. I do not attribute the change that has happily taken place in my dear mother to myself, but to a higher power; although I must admit, as I do with all humility, that I wrought earnestly, in season and out of season, since my return, to bring it about; and, thank heaven, I have succeeded. I come this day as a messenger of peace, to state that she is willing that the families should be reconciled, and a happier and more lasting union effected between them."
"I am delighted to hear it, Mr. Woodward," said Goodwin, much moved; "God knows I am. Blessed be the peace-maker, and you are he; an easy conscience and a light heart must be your reward."
"They must," added his wife, wiping her eyes; "they must and they will."
"Alas!" proceeded Woodward, "how far from Gospel purity is every human motive when it comes to be tried by the Word! I will not conceal from you the state of my heart, nor deny that in accomplishing this thing it was influenced by a certain selfish feeling on my part; in one sense a disinterested selfishness I admit, but in another a selfishness that involves my own happiness. However, I will say no more on that subject at present. It would scarcely be delicate until the reconciliation is fully accomplished; then, indeed, perhaps I may endeavor, with fear and trembling, to make myself understood. Only until then, I beg of you to think well of me, and permit me to consider myself as not unworthy of a humble place in your affections."
Old Goodwin shook him warmly by the hand, and his wife once more had recourse to her pocket-handkerchief. "God bless you, Mr. Woodward!" he exclaimed, "God bless you, I now see your worth, and know it; you already have our good-will and affections, and, what is more, we feel that you deserve them."
"I wish, my dear sir," said the other, "that Miss Goodwin understood me as well as you and her respected mother."
"She does, Mr. Woodward," replied her father; "she does, and she will too."
"I tremble, however," said Woodward, with a deep sigh; "but I will leave my fate in your hands, or, I should rather say in the hands of Heaven."
Lunch was then announced, and they went down to the front parlor, where it was laid out. On entering the room Woodward was a good deal disappointed to find that Miss Goodwin was not there.
"Will not Miss Goodwin join us?" he asked.
"Certainly," said her father; "Martha, where is she?"
"You know, my dear, she seldom lunches," replied her mother.
"Well, but she will now," said Goodwin; "it is not every day we have Mr. Woodward; let her be sent for. John, find out Miss Goodwin, and say we wish her to join us at luncheon."
John in a few moments returned to say that she had a slight headache, and could not have the pleasure of coming down.
"O, I am very sorry to hear she is unwell," said Woodward, with an appearance of disappointment and chagrin, which he did not wish to conceal; or, to speak the truth, which, in a great measure, he assumed.
After lunch his horse was ordered, and he set out on his way to Rathfillan, meditating upon his visit, and the rather indifferent reception he had got from Alice.
Miss Goodwin, though timid and nervous, was, nevertheless, in many things, a girl of spirit, and possessed a great deal of natural wit and penetration. On that day Woodward exerted himself to the utmost, with a hope of making a favorable impression upon her. He calculated a good deal upon her isolated position and necessary ignorance of life and the world, and in doing so, he calculated, as thousands of self-sufficient libertines, in their estimate of women, have done both before and since. He did not know that there is an intuitive spirit in the female heart which often enables it to discover the true character of the opposite sex; and to discriminate between the real and the assumed with almost infallible accuracy. But, independently of this, there was in Woodward's manner a hardness of outline, and in his conversation an unconscious absence of all reality and truth, together with a cold, studied formality, dry, sharp, and presumptuous, that required no extraordinary penetration to discover; for the worst of it was, that he made himself disagreeably felt, and excited those powers of scrutiny and analysis that are so peculiar to the generality of the other sex. In fact, he sought his way home in anything but an agreeable mood. He thought to have met Alice an ignorant country girl, whom he might play upon; but he found himself completely mistaken, because, fortunately for herself, he had taken her upon one of her strong points. As it was, however, whilst he could not help admiring the pertinence of her replies, neither could he help experiencing something of a bitter feeling against her, because she indulged in them at his own expense; whilst against O'Connor, who bantered him with such spirit and success, and absolutely turned him into ridicule in her presence, he almost entertained a personal resentment. His only hope now was in her parents, who seemed as anxious to entertain his proposals with favor as Alice was to reject them with disdain. As for Alice herself, her opinion of him is a matter with which the reader is already acquainted.
Our hero was about half way home when he overtook a thin, lank old man, who was a rather important character in the eyes of the ignorant people at the period of which we write. He was tall, and so bare of flesh, that when asleep he might pass for the skeleton of a corpse. His eyes were red, cunning, and sinister-looking; his lips thin, and from under the upper one projected a single tooth, long and yellow as saffron. His face was of unusual length, and his parchment cheeks formed two inward curves, occasioned by the want of his back teeth. His breeches were open at the knees; his polar legs were without stockings; but his old brogues were foddered, as it is called, with a wisp of straw, to keep his feet warm. His arms were long, even in proportion to his body, and his bony fingers resembled claws rather than anything! else we can now remember. They (the claws): were black as ebony, and resembled in length and sharpness those of a cat when she is stretching herself after rising from the! hearth. He wore an old barrad of the day, the greasy top of which fell down upon the collar of his old cloak, and over his shoulder was a bag which, from its appearance, must have contained something not very weighty, as he walked on without seeming to travel as a man who carried a burden. He had a huge staff in his right hand, the left having a hold of his bag. Woodward at first mistook him for a mendicant, but upon looking at him more closely, he perceived nothing of that watchful and whining cant for alms which marks the character of the professional beggar. The old skeleton walked on, apparently indifferent and independent, and never once put himself into the usual posture of entreaty. This, and the originality of his appearance, excited Woodward's curiosity, and he resolved to speak to him.
"Well, my good old man, what may you be carrying in the bag?"
The man looked at him respectfully, and raising his hand and staff, touched his barrad, and replied:
"A few yarribs, your honor."
"Yarribs? What the deuce is that?"
"Why, the yarribs that grow, sir—to cure the people when they are sick."
"O, you mean herbs."
"I do, sir, and I gather them too for the potecars."
"O, then you are what they call a herbalist."
"I believe I am, sir, if you put that word against (to) a man that gethers yarribs."
"Yes, that's what I mean. You sell them to the apothecaries, I suppose?"
"I do a little, sir, but I use the most of them myself. Sorra much the potecars knows about the use o' them; they kill more than they cure wid 'em, and calls them that understands what they're good for rogues and quacks. May the Lord forgive them this day! Amin, acheernah! (Amen, O Lord!)"
"And do you administer these herbs to the sick?"
"I do, sir, to the sick of all kinds—man and baste. There's nothing like them, sir, bekaise it was to cure diseases of all kinds that the Lord, blessed be His name! amin, acheernah! planted them in the earth for the use of his cratures. Why, sir, will you listen to me now, and mark my words? There never was a complaint that follied either man or baste, brute or bird, but a yarrib grows that 'ud cure it if it was known. When the head's hot wid faver, and the heart low wid care, the yarrib is to be found that will cool the head and rise the heart."
"Don't you think, now," said Woodward, imagining that he would catch him, "that a glass of wine, or, what is better still, a good glass of punch, would raise the heart better than all the herbs in the universe?"
"Lord bless me!" he exclaimed, as if in soliloquy; "the ignorance of the rich and wealthy, and of great people altogether, is unknown! Wine and punch! And what, will you tell me, does wine and punch come from? Doesn't the wine come from the grapes that grow in forrin parts—sich as we have in our hot-houses—and doesn't the whiskey that you make your punch of grow from the honest barley in our own fields? So much for your knowledge of yarribs."
"Why, there you are right, my old friend. I forgot that."
"You forgot it? Tell the truth at once, and say you didn't know it. But may be you did forget it, for troth he'd be a poor crature that didn't know whiskey was made from barley."
He here turned his red satirical eye upon Woodward, with a glance that was strongly indicative of contempt for his general information.
"Well," he proceeded, "the power of yarribs is wondherful,—if it was known to many as it is to me."
"Why, from long practice, I suppose, you must be skilful in the properties ol herbs?"
"Well, indeed, you needn't only suppose it, but you may be sartin of it. Have you a good appetite?"
"A particularly good one, I assure you."
"Now, wouldn't you think it strange that I could give you a dose that 'ud keep you on half a male a day for the next three months."
"God forbid," replied Woodward, who, among his other good qualities, was an enormous trencherman,—"God forbid that ever such a dose should go down my throat."
"Would you think, now," he proceeded, with a sinister grin that sent his yellow tusk half an inch out of his mouth, "that if a man was jealous of his wife, or a wife of her husband, I couldn't give either o' them a dose that 'ud cure them?"
"Faith, I dare say you could," replied Woodward; "a dose that would free them from care of all sorts, as well as jealousy."
"I don't mane that," said the skeleton; "ha, ha! you're a funny gentleman, and maybe I—but no—I don't mane that; but widout injurin' a hair in either o' their heads."
"I am not married," said the other, "but I expect to be soon, and when I am I will pay you well for the knowledge of that herb—for my wife, I mean. Where do you live?"
"In Rathfillan, sir. I'm a well-known man there, and for many a long mile about it."
"You must be very useful to the country people hereabouts?"
"Ay," he exclaimed, "you mane to the poor, I suppose, and you're right; but maybe I'm of sarvice to the rich, too. Many a face I save from—I could save from shame, I mane—if I liked, and could get well ped for it, too. Some young, extravagant people that have rich ould fathers do be spakin' to me, too; but thin, you know, I have a sowl to be saved, and am a religious man, I hope, and do my duty as sich, and that every one that has a sowl to be saved, may! Amin, acheernah!
"I am glad to find that your sense of duty preserves you against such strong temptations."
"Then, there's another set of men—these outlaws that do be robbin' rich people's houses, and they, too, try to tempt me."
"Why should they tempt you?"
"Bekaise the people, now knowin' that they're abroad, keep watch-dogs, bloodhounds, and sich useful animals, that give the alarm at night, and the robbers wishin', you see, to get them out of the way, do be temptin' me about wishin' me to pison them."
"Of course you resist them?"
"Well, I hope I do; but sometimes it's hard to get over them, especially when they plant a skean or a middogue to one's navel, and swear great oaths that they'll make a scabbard for it of my poor ould bulg (belly)—I say, when the thieves do the business that way, it requires a grate dale of the grace o' God to deny them. But what's any Chr'sthen 'idout the grace o' God? May we all have it! Amin, acheernah!"
"Well, when I marry, as I will soon, I'll call upon you; I dare say my wife will get jealous, for I love the ladies, if that's a fault."
Another grin was his first reply to this, after which he said:
"Well, sir, if she does, come to me."
"Where in Rathfillan do you live?"
"O, anybody will tell you; inquire for ould Sol Donnel, the yarrib man, and you'll soon find me out."
"But 'suppose I shouldn't wish it to be known that I called on you?"
"Eh?" said the old villain, giving him another significant grin that once more projected the fang; "well, maybe you wouldn't. If you want my sarvices then, come to the cottage that's built agin the church-yard wall, on the north side; and if you don't wish to be seen, why you can come about midnight, when every one's asleep."
"What's this you say your name is?"
"What do you mean by Sol?"
He turned up his red eyes in astonishment, and exclaimed:
"Well, now, to think that, a larned man as you must be shouldn't know what Sol means! Well, the ignorance of you great people is unknown. Don't you know—but you don't—oughn't you know, then, that Sol means Solomon, who was the wisest many and the biggest blaggard that ever lived! Faith, if I had lived in his day he'd be a poor customer to me, bekaise he had no shame in him; but indeed, the doin's that goes on now in holes and corners among ourselves was no shame in his time. That's a fine bay horse you ride; would you like to have him dappled? A dappled bay, you know, is always a great beauty."
"And could you dapple him?
"Ay, as sure as you ride him."
"Well, I'll think about it and let you know; there's some silver for you, and good-by, honest Solomon."
Woodward then rode on, reflecting on the novel and extraordinary character of this hypocritical old villain, in whose withered and repulsive visage he could not discover a single trace of anything that intimated the existence of sympathy with his kind. As to that, it was a tabula rasa, blank of all feelings except those which characterize the hyena and the fox. After he had left him, the old fellow gave a bitter and derisive look after him.
"There you go," said he, "and well I knew you, although you didn't think so. Weren't you pointed out to me the night o' the divil's bonfire, that your mother, they say, got up for you; and didn't I see you since spakin' to that skamin' blaggard, Caterine Collins, my niece, that takes many a penny out o' my hands; and didn't I know that you couldn't be talkin' to her about anything that was good. Troth, you're not your mother's son or you'll be comin' to me as well as her. Bad luck to her! she was near gettin' me into the stocks when I sowld her the dose of oak bark for the sarvants, to draw in their stomachs and shorten their feedin'. My faith, ould Lindsay 'ud have put me in them only for bringin' shame upon his wife."*
* Some of our readers may imagine that in the enumeration of the cures which old Sol professed to effect we have drawn too largely upon their credulity, whereas there is scarcely one of them that, is not practised, or attempted, in remote and uneducated parts of Ireland, almost down to the present day. We ourselves in early youth saw a man who professed, and was believed to be able, to cure jealousy in either man or woman by a potion; whilst charms for colics, toothaches, taking motes out of the eye, and for producing love, were common among the ignorant people within our own recollection.
CHAPTER VIII. A Healing of the Breach.
—A Proposal for Marriage Accepted.
On that evening, when the family were assembled at supper, Mrs. Lindsay, who had had a previous consultation with her son Harry, thought proper to introduce the subject of the projected marriage between him and Alice Goodwin.
"Harry has paid a visit to these neighbors of ours," said she, "these Goodwins, and I think, now that he has come home, it would be only prudent on our part to renew the intimacy that was between us. Not that I like, or ever will like, a bone in one of their bodies; but it's only right that we should foil them at their own weapons, and try to get back the property into the hands of one of the family at least, if we can, and so prevent it from going to strangers. I am determined to pay them a friendly visit tomorrow."
"A friendly visit!" exclaimed her husband, with an expression of surprise and indignation on his countenance which he could not conceal; "how can you say a friendly visit, after having just told us that you neither like them, nor ever will like them? not that it was at all necessary for you to assure us of that. It is, however, the hypocrisy of the thing on your part that startle? and disgusts me."
"Call it prudence, if you please, Lindsay, or worldly wisdom, if you like, after all the best kind of wisdom; and I only wish you had more of it."
"That makes no difference in life," replied her husband, calmly, but severely; "as it is, you have enough, and more than enough for the whole family."
"But has Harry any hopes of success with Alice Goodwin," asked Charles, "because everything depends on that?"
"If he had not, you foolish boy, do you think I would be the first to break the ice by going to pay them a visit? The girl, I dare say, will make a very good wife, or if she does not, the property will not be a pound less in value on that account; that's one comfort."
"And is it upon this hollow and treacherous principle that you are about to pay them a friendly visit?" asked her husband, with ill-repressed indignation.
"Lindsay," she replied, sharply, "I perceive you are rife for a quarrel now; but I beg to tell you, sir, that I will neither seek your approbation nor regard your authority. I must manage these people after my own fashion."
"Harry," said his step-father, turning abruptly, and with incredulous surprise to him, "surely it is not possible that you are a party to such a shameful imposture upon this excellent family?"
His brother Charles fastened his eyes upon him as if he would read his heart.
"I am sorry, sir," replied that gentleman, "that you should think it necessary to apply the word imposture to any' proceeding of mine. You ought to know my mother's outspoken way, and that her heart is kinder than her language. The fact is, from the first moment I saw that beautiful girl I felt a warm interest in her, and I feel that interest increasing every day. I certainly am very anxious to secure her for her own sake, whilst I candidly admit that I am not wholly indifferent to the property. I am only a common man like others, and not above the world and its influences—who can be that lives in it? My mother, besides, will come to think better of Alice, and all of them, when she shall be enabled to call Alice daughter; won't you, mother?"
The mother, who knew by the sentiments which he had expressed to her before on this subject, that he was now playing a game with the family, did not consider it prudent to contradict him; she consequently replied,—
"I don't know, Harry; I cannot get their trick about the property out of my heart; but, perhaps, if I saw it once more where it ought to be, I might change. That's all I can say at present."
"Well, come, Harry," said Lindsay—adverting to what he had just said—"I think you have spoken fairly enough; I do—it's candid; you are not above this world; why should you be?—come, it is candid."
"I trust, sir, you will never find me un-candid, either on this or any other subject."
"No; I don't think I shall, Harry. Well, be it so—setting your mother out of the question,—proceed with equal candor in your courtship. I trust you deserve her, and, if so, I hope you may get her."
"If he does not," said Maria, "he will never get such a wife."
"By the way, Harry," asked Charles, "has she given you an intimation of anything like encouragement?"
"Well, I rather think I am not exactly a fool, Charles, nor likely to undertake an enterprise without some prospect of success. I hope you deem me, at least, a candid man."
"Yes; but there is a class of persons who frequently form too high an estimate of themselves, especially in their intercourse with women; and who very often mistake civility for encouragement."
"Very true, Charles—exceedingly just and true; but I hope I am not one of those either; my knowledge of life and the world will prevent me from that, I trust."
"I hope," continued Charles, "that if the girl is adverse to such a connection she will not be harassed or annoyed about it."
"I hope, Charles, I have too much pride to press any proposal that may be disagreeable to her; I rather think I have. But have you, Charles, any reason to suppose that she should not like me?"
"Why, from what you have already hinted, Harry, you ought to be the best judge of that yourself."
"Well, I think so, too. I am not in the habit of walking blindfold into any adventure, especially one so important as this. Trust to my address, my dear fellow," he added, with a confident smile, "and, believe me, you shall soon see her your sister-in-law."
"And I shall be delighted at it, Harry," said his sister; "so go on and prosper. If you get her you will get a treasure, setting her property out of the question."
"Her property!" ejaculated Mrs. Lindsay; "but no matter; we shall see. I can speak sweetly enough when I wish."
"I wish to God you would try it oftener, then," said her husband; "but I trust that during this visit of yours you will not give way to your precious temper and insult them at the outset. Don't tie a knot with your tongue that you can't unravel with your teeth. Be quiet, now; I didn't speak to raise the devil and draw on a tempest—only let us have a glass of punch, till Charley and I drink success to Harry."
The next day Mrs. Lindsay ordered the car, and proceeded to pay her intended visit to the Goodwins. She had arrived pretty near the house, when two of Goodwin's men, who were driving his cows to a grazing field on the other side of the road by which she was approaching, having noticed and recognized her, immediately turned them back and drove them into a paddock enclosed by trees, where they were completely out of her sight.
"Devil blow her, east and west!" said one of them. "What brings her across us now that we have the cattle wid us? and doesn't all the world know that she'd lave them sick and sore wid one glance of her unlucky eye. I hope in God she didn't see them, the thief o' the devil that she is."
"She can't see them now, the cratures," replied the other; "and may the devil knock the light out of her eyes at any rate," he added, "for sure, they say it's the light of hell that's in them."
"Well, when she goes there she'll be able to see her way, and sure that'll be one comfort," replied his companion; "but in the mane time, if anything happens the cows—poor bastes—we'll know the rason of it."
"She must dale wid the devil," said the other, "and I hope she'll be burned for a witch yet; but whisht, here she comes, and may the devil roast her on his toastin' iron the first time he wants a male!"
"Troth, an' he'd find her tough feedin'," said his comrade; "and. barrin' he has strong tusks, as I suppose he has, he'd find it no every-day male wid him."
As they spoke, the object of their animadversion appeared, and turned upon them, so naturally, a sinister and sharp look, that it seemed to the men as if she had suspected the subject of their conversation.
"You are Mr. Goodwin's laborers, are you not?"
"We are, ma'am," replied one of them, without, as usual, touching his hat however.
"You ill-mannered boor," she said, "why do you not touch your hat to a lady, when she condescends to speak to you?"
"I always touch my hat to a lady, ma'am," replied the man sharply.
"Come here, you other man," said she; "perhaps you are not such an insolent ruffian as this? Can you tell me if Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin are at home?"
"Are you goin' there?" asked the man, making a low bow.
"Yes, I am, my good man," she replied.
"Well, then, ma'am," he added, bowing again, "you'll find that out when you go to the house;" and he made her another bow to wind up the information with all due politeness.
"Barney," said she to the servant, her face inflamed with rage, "drive on. I only wish I had those ruffianly scoundrels to deal with; I would teach them manners to their betters at all events; and you, sirra, why did you not use your whip and chastise them?"
"Faith, ma'am," replied our friend Barney Casey, "it's aisier said than done wid some of us. Why, ma'am, they're the two hardiest and best men in the parish; however, here's Pugshy Ruah turnin' out o' the gate, and she'll be able to tell you whether they are at home or not."
"O, that's the woman they say is unlucky," observed his mistress—"unlucky to meet, I mean; I have often heard of her; indeed, it may be so, for I believe there are such persons; we shall speak to her, however. My good woman," she said, addressing Pugshy, "allow me to ask, have you been at Mr. Goodwin's?"
Now Pugshy had all the legitimate characteristics of an "unlucky" woman; red-haired, had a game eye—that is to say, she squinted with one of them; Pugshy wore a caubeen hat, like a man; had on neither shoe nor stocking; her huge, brawny arms, uncovered almost to the shoulders, were brown with freckles, as was her face; so that, altogether, she would have made a bad substitute either for the Medicean Venus or the Apollo Belvidere.
"My good woman, allow me to ask if you have been at Mr. Goodwin's."
Pugshy, who knew her well, stood for a moment, and closing the eye with which she did not squint, kept the game one fixed upon her very steadily for half a minute, and as she wore the caubeen rather rakishly on one side of her head, her whole figure and expression were something between the frightful and the ludicrous.
"Was I at Misther Goodwin's, is it? Lord love you, ma'am, (and ye need it, sotto voce), an' maybe you'd give us a thrifle for the male's mate; it's hard times wid us this weader."
"I have no change; I never bring change out with me."
"You're goin' to Mr. Goodwin's, ma'am?"
"Yes; are he and Mrs. Goodwin at home, can you tell me?"
"They are, ma'am, but you may as well go back again; you'll have no luck this day."
"Why, bekaise you won't; didn't you meet me? Who ever has luck that meets me? Nobody ought to know that betther than yourself, for, by all accounts, you're tarred wid the same stick."
"Foolish woman," replied Mrs. Lindsay, "how is it in your power to prevent me?"
"No matther," replied the woman; "go an; but mark my words, you'll have your journey for nuttin', whatever it is. Indeed, if I turned back three steps wid you it might be otherwise, but you refused to cross my hand, so you must take your luck," and with a frightful glance from the eye aforesaid, she passed on.
As she drove up to Mr. Goodwin's residence she was met on the steps of the hall-door by that kind-hearted gentleman and his wife, and received with a feeling of gratification which the good people could not disguise.
"I suppose," said Mrs. Lindsay, after they had got seated in the drawing-room, "that you are surprised to see me here?"
"We are delighted, say, Mrs. Lindsay," replied Mr. Goodwin—"delighted. Why should ill-will come between neighbors and friends without any just cause on either side? That property—"
"O, don't talk about that," replied Mrs. Lindsay; "I didn't come to speak about it; let everything connected with it be forgotten; and as proof that I wish it should be so, I came here to-day to renew the intimacy that should subsist between us."
"And, indeed," replied Mrs. Goodwin, "the interruption of that intimacy distressed us very much—more, perhaps, Mrs. Lindsay, than you might feel disposed to give us credit for."
"Well, my dear madam," replied the other, "I am sure you will be glad to hear that I have not only my own inclination, but the sanction and wish of my whole family, in making this friendly visit, with the hope of placing us all upon our former footing. But, to tell you the truth, this might not have been so, were it not for the anxiety of my son Henry, who has returned to us, and whom, I believe, you know."
"We have that pleasure," replied Goodwin; "and from what we have seen of him, we think you have a right to feel proud of such a son."
"So I do, indeed," replied his mother; "he is a good and most amiable young man, without either art or cunning, but truthful and honorable in the highest degree. It is to him we shall all be indebted for this reconciliation; or, perhaps, I might say," she added, with a smile, "to your own daughter Alice."
"Ah! poor Alice," exclaimed her father; "none of us felt the estrangement of the families with so much regret as she did."
"Indeed, Mrs. Lindsay," added his wife, "I can bear witness to that; many a bitter tear it occasioned the poor girl."
"I believe she is a most amiable creature," replied Mrs. Lindsay; "and I believe," she added with a smile, "that there is one particular young gentleman of that opinion as well as myself."
We believe in our souls that the simplest woman in existence, or that ever lived, becomes a deep and thorough diplomatist when engaged in a conversation that involves in the remotest degree any matrimonial speculation for a daughter. Now, Mrs. Goodwin knew as well as the reader does, that Mrs. Lindsay made allusion to her son Harry, the new-comer; but she felt that it was contrary to the spirit of such negotiations to make a direct admission of that feeling; she, accordingly, was of opinion that in order to bring Mrs. Lindsay directly to the point, and to exonerate herself and her husband from ever having entertained the question at all, her best plan was to misunderstand her, and seem to proceed upon a false scent.