"She is, sir."
"Where and when could I see her?—but mark me, I don't wish to be seen speaking to her in public."
"Why not?—what's to prevent you from chattin' wid her in an aisy pleasant way in the streets; nobody will obsarve any thing then, or think it strange that a gentleman should have a funny piece o' discoorse wid a fortune-teller."
"I don't know that; observations might be made afterwards."
"But what can she do for you that I can't? She's a bad graft to have anything to do wid, and I wouldn't recommend you to put much trust in her."
"Why, she's nothin' else than a schemer."
Little did old Solomon suspect that he was raising her very highly in the estimation of his visitor by falling foul of her in this manner.
"At all events," said Woodward, "I wish to see her; and, as I said, I came for the express purpose of asking you where and when I could see her—privately, I mean."
"That's what I can't tell you at the present spakin'," replied Solomon. "She has no fixed place of livin', but is here to-day and away to-morrow. God help you, she has travelled over the whole kingdom tellin' fortunes. Sometimes she's a dummy, and spakes to them by signs—sometimes a gypsy—sometimes she's this and sometimes she's that, but not often the same thing long; she's of as many colors as the rainbow. But if you do wish to see her, there's a chance that you may to-morrow. A conjurer has come to town, and he's to open to-morrow, for both town and country, and she'll surely be here, for that's taking the bit out of her mouth."
"Yes, he was here before some time ago, about the night of that bonfire that was put out by the shower o' blood, but somehow he disappeared from the place, and he's now come back."
"A conjurer—well, I shall see the conjurer myself to-morrow; but can you give me no more accurate information with respect to your niece?"
"Sarra syllable—as I tould you, she's never two nights in the same place; but, if I should see her, I'll let her know your wishes; and what might I say, sir, that you wanted her to do for you?"
"That's none of your affair, most sagacious Solomon—I wish to speak with her myself, and privately, too; and if you see her, tell her to meet me here to-morrow night about this hour."
"I'll do so; but God forgive you for disturbin' me in my devotions, as you did. It's not often I'd give them up for any one; but sure out of regard for the proprietor o' the town I'd do that, and more for you."
"Here," replied Woodward, putting some silver into his hand, "let that console you; and tell your niece when you see her that I am a good paymaster; and, if I should stand in need of your skill, you shall find me so, too. Good-night, and may your prayers be powerful, as I know they come from a Christian heart, honest Solomon."
CHAPTER XI. A Conjurer's Levee.
We cannot form at this distance of time any adequate notion of the influence which a conjurer of those days exercised over the minds and feelings of the ignorant. It was necessary that he should be, or be supposed at least to be, well versed in judicial astrology, the use of medicine, and consequently able to cast a nativity, or cure any earthly complaint. There is scarcely any grade or species of superstition that is not associated with or founded upon fear. The conjurer, consequently, was both feared and respected; and his character appeared in different phases to the people—each phase adapted to the corresponding character of those with whom he had to deal. The educated of those days, with but few exceptions, believed in astrology, and the possibility of developing the future fate and fortunes of an individual, whenever the hour of his birth and the name of the star or planet under which he was born could be ascertained. The more ignorant class, however, generally associated the character of the conjurer with that of the necromancer or magician, and consequently attributed his predictions to demoniacal influence. Neither were they much mistaken, for they only judged of these impostors as they found them. In nineteen cases out of twenty, the character of the low astrologer, the necromancer, and the quack was associated, and the influence of the stars and the aid of the devil were both considered as giving assurance of supernatural knowledge to the same individual. This unaccountable anxiety to see, as it were, the volume of futurity unrolled, so far as it discloses individual fate, has characterized mankind ever since the world began; and hence, even in the present day, the same anxiety among the ignorant to run after spae-women, fortunetellers, and gypsies, in order to have their fortunes told through the means of their adroit predictions.
On the following morning the whole town of Rathfillan was in a state of excitement by the rumor that a conjurer had arrived, for the purpose not only of telling all their future fates and fortunes, but of discovering all those who had been guilty of theft, and the places where the stolen property was to be found. This may seem a bold stroke; but when we consider the materials upon which the sagacious conjurer had to work, we need not feel surprised at his frequent success.
The conjurer in question had taken up his residence in the best inn which the little town of Rathfillan afforded. Immediately after his arrival he engaged the beadle, with bell in hand, to proclaim his presence in the town, and the purport of his visit to that part of the country. This was done through the medium of printed handbills, which that officer read and distributed through the crowds who attended him. The bill in question was as follows:
"To the inhabitants of Rathfillan and the adjacent neighborhood, the following important communications are made:—
"Her Zander Vanderpluckem, the celebrated German conjurer, astrologist, and doctor, who has had the honor of predicting the deaths of three kings, five queens, twenty-one princesses, and seven princes, all of royal blood, and in the best possible state of health at the time the predictions were made, and to all of whom he had himself the honor of being medical attendant and state physician, begs to announce his arrival in this town. He is the seventh son of the great and renowned conjurer, Herr Zander Vanderhoaxem, who made the stars tremble, and the devil sweat himself to powder in a fit of repentance. His influence over the stars and heavenly bodies is tremendous, and it is a well-known fact throughout the universe that he has them in such a complete state of terror and subjection, that a single comet dare not wag his tail unless by his permission. He travels up and down the milky way one night in every month, to see that the dairies of the sky are all right, and that that celebrated path be properly lighted; brings down a pail of the milk with him, which he churns into butyrus, an unguent so efficacious that it cures all maladies under the sun, and many that never existed. It can be had at five shillings a spoonful. He can make Ursa Major, or the Great Bear, dance without a leader, and has taught Pisces, or the Fishes, to live out of water—a prodigy never known or heard of before since the creation of terra firma. Such is the power of the great and celebrated Her Vanderpluckem over the stars and planets. But now to come nearer home: he cures all patients of all complaints. No person asking his assistance need ever be sick, unless when they happen to be unwell. His insight into futurity is such that, whenever he looks far into it, he is obliged to shut his eyes. He can tell fortunes, discover hidden wealth to any amount, and create such love between sweethearts as will be sure to end in matrimony. He is complete master of the fairies, and has the whole generation of them under his thumb; and he generally travels with the king of the fairies in his left pocket closed up in a snuffbox. He interprets dreams and visions, and is never mistaken; can foretell whether a child unborn will be a boy or a girl, and can also inform the parents whether it will be brought to the bench or the gallows. He can also foretell backwards, and disclose to the individual anything that shall happen to him or her for the last seven years. His philters, concocted upon the profound science of alchemistic philosophy, have been sought for by persons of the highest distinction, who have always found them to produce the very effects for which they were intended, to wit, mutual affection between the parties, uniformly ending in matrimony and happiness. Devils expelled, ghosts and spirits laid on the shortest notice, and at the most moderate terms. Also, recipes to farmers for good weather or rain, according as they may be wanted.
"(Signed,) Her Zander VANDERPLUCKEM,"
"The Greatest Conjurer, Astrologer, and Doctor in the world."
To describe the effect that this bill, which, by the way, was posted against every dead wall in the town, had upon the people, would be impossible. The inn in which he stopped was, in a short time, crowded with applicants, either for relief or information, according as their ills or wishes came under the respective heads of his advertisement. The room he occupied was upstairs, and he had a door that led into a smaller one, or kind of closet, at the end of it; here sat an old-looking man, dressed in a black coat, black breeches, and black stockings; the very picture of the mysterious individual who had appeared and disappeared so suddenly at the bonfire. He had on a full-bottomed wig, and a long white beard, depending from the lower part of his face, swept his reverend breast. A large book lay open before him, on the pages of which were inscribed cabalistic characters and strange figures. He only admitted those who wished to consult him, singly; for on no occasion did he ever permit two persons at a time to approach him. All the paraphernalia of astrology were exposed upon the same table, at one end of which he sat in an arm-chair, awaiting the commencement of operations. At length a good-looking country-woman, of about forty-five years, made her appearance, and, after a low courtesy, was solemnly motioned to take a seat.
"Well, Mrs. Houlaghan," said he, "how do you do?"
The poor woman got as pale as death. "Heavenly Father," thought she, "how does it happen that he comes to know my name!"
"Mrs. Houlaghan, what can I do for you? not that I need ask, for I could give a very good guess at it;" and this he added with a very sage and solemn visage, precisely as if he knew the whole circumstances.
"Why, your honor," she replied—"but, blessed Father, how did you come to know my name?"
"That's a question," he replied, solemnly, "which you ought not to ask me. It is enough that you see I know it. How is your husband, Frank, and how is your daughter, Mary? She's complaining of late—is she not?"
This private knowledge of the family completely overwhelmed her, and she felt unable to speak for some time.
"Do not be in a hurry, Mrs. Honlaghan," said he, mildly; "reflect upon what you are about to say, and take your time."
"It's a ghost, your reverence," she replied—"a ghost that haunts the house."
"Very well, Mrs. Houlaghan; the fee for laying a ghost is five shillings; I will trouble you for that sum; we conjurers have no power until we get money from the party concerned, and then we can work with effect."
The simple woman, in the agitation of the moment, handed him the amount of his demand, and then collected herself to hear the response, and the means of laying the ghost.
"Well, now," said he, "tell me all about this ghost, Mrs. Houlaghan. How long has it been troubling the family?"
"Why, then, ever since Frank lost the use of his sight, now goin' upon five months."
"When does it appear?"
"Why, generally afther twelve at night; and what makes it more strange is, that poor Mary's more afeard o' me than she is of the ghost. She says it appears to her in her bedroom every night; but she knows I'm so timersome that she keeps her door always locked for fraid I'd see it, poor child."
"Does it terrify her?"
"Not a bit; she says it does her no harm on earth, and that it's great company for her when she can't sleep."
"Has Mary many sweethearts?"
"She has two: one o' them rather ould, but wealthy and well to do; her father and myself, wishin' to see her well settled, are doin' all we can to get her consent to marry him."
"Who's the other?"
"One Brine Oge M'Gaveran, a good-lookin' vagabone, no doubt, but not worth a copper."
"Is she fond of him?"
"Troth, to tell you the truth, I'm afeard she is; he has been often seen about the house in the evenin's."
"Well, Mrs. Houlaghan, I will tell you how to lay this ghost."
"God bless you, sir; poor Mary, although she purtends that the ghost is good company for her, is lookin' pale and very quare somehow."
"Well, then, here is the receipt for laying the ghost: Marry her as soon as you possibly can to Brine Oge M'Gaveran—do that and the ghost will never appear again; but if you refuse to do it—I may lay that ghost of course—but another ghost, as like it as an egg is to an egg, will haunt your house until she is married to Brine Oge. You have wealth yourselves, and you can make Brine and her comfortable if you wish. She is your only child"—("Blessed Father, think of him knowin' this!")—"and as you are well to do in the world, it's both a sin and a scandal for you to urge a pretty young girl of nineteen to marry an old miserly runt of fifty. You know now how to lay the ghost, Mrs. Houlaghan—and that is what I can do for you; but if you do not marry her to Brine Oge, as I said, another ghost will certainly contrive to haunt you. You may now withdraw."
A farmer, with a very shrewd and comic expression of countenance, next made his appearance, and taking his hat off and laying it on the floor with his staff across it, took his seat, as he had been motioned to do, upon the chair which Mrs. Houlaghan had just vacated.
"Well, my friend," said the conjurer, "what's troubling you?"
"A crock o' butther, your honor."
"How is that? explain yourself."
"Why, sir, a crock o' butther that was stolen from me; and I'm tould for a sartinty that you can discover the thief o' the world that stole it."
"And so I can. Do you suspect anybody?"
"Troth, sir, I can't say—for I live in a very honest neighborhood. The only two thieves that were in it—Charley Folliott and George Austin—were hanged not long ago, and I don't know anybody else in the country side that would stale it."
"What family have you?"
"Three sons, sir."
"How many daughters?"
"One, sir—but she's only a girsha" (a little girl).
"I suppose your sons are very good children to you?"
"Betther never broke bread, sir—all but the youngest."
"What age is he?"
"About nineteen, sir, or goin' an twenty; but he's a, heart-scald to me and the family—although he's his mother's pet; the divil can't stand him for dress—and, moreover, he's given to liquor and card-playin', and is altogether goin' to the bad. Widin the last two or three days he has bought himself a new hat, a new pair o' brogues, and a pair o' span-new breeches—and, upon my conscience, it wasn't from me or mine he got the money to buy them."
The conjurer looked solemnly into his book for some minutes, and then raising his head, fastened his cold, glassy, glittering eyes on the farmer with a glance that filled him with awe.
"I have found it out," said he; "there are two parties to the theft—your wife and your youngest son. Go to the hucksters of the town, and ask them if they will buy any more butter like the last of yours that they bought, and, depend on it, you will find out the truth."
"Then you think, sir, it was my wife and son between them that stole the butter?"
"Not a doubt of it, and if you tell them that I said so, they will confess it. You owe me five shillings."
The farmer put his hand in his pocket, and placing the money before him, left the room, satisfied that there was no earthly subject, past, present, or to come, with which the learned conjurer was not acquainted.
The next individual that came before him was a very pretty buxom widow, who, having made the venerable conjurer a courtesy, sat down and immediately burst into tears.
"What is the matter with you, madam?" asked the astrologer, rather surprised at this unaccountable exhibition of the pathetic.
"O, sir, I lost, about fifteen months ago, one of the best husbands that ever broke the world's bread."
Here came another effusion, accompanied with a very distracted blow of the nose.
"That must have been very distressing to you, madam; he must have been extremely fond of such a very pretty wife."
"O sir, he doted alive upon me, as I did upon him—poor, darling old Paul."
"Ah, he was old, was he?"
"Yes, sir, and left me very rich."
"But what do you wish me to do for you?"
"Why, sir, he was very fond of money; was, in fact, a—a—kind of miser in his way. My father and mother forced me to marry the dear old man, and I did so to please them; but at the same time he was very kind in his manner to me—indeed, so kind that he allowed me a shilling a month for pocket money."
"Well, but what is your object in coming to me?"
"Why, sir, to ask your opinion on a case of great difficulty."
"Very well, madam; you shall have the best opinion in the known world upon the subject—that is, as soon as I hear it. Speak out without hesitation, and conceal nothing."
"Why, sir, the poor dear man before his death—ah, that ever my darling old Paul should have been taken away from me!—the poor dear man, before his death—ahem—before his death—O, ah,"—here came another effusion—"began to—to—to—get jealous of me with a young man in the neighborhood that—that—I was fond of before I married my dear old Paul."
"Was the young man in question handsome?"
"Indeed, sir, he was, and is, very handsome—and the impudent minxes of the parish are throwing their caps at him in dozens."
"But still you are keeping me in the dark."
"Well, sir, I will tell you my difficulty. When poor dear old Paul was dying, he called me to the bed-side one day, and says to me: 'Biddy,' says he, 'I'm going to die—and you know I am wealthy; but, in the meantime, I won't leave you sixpence.' 'It's not the loss of your money I am thinking of, my darling Paul,' says I, 'but the loss of yourself"—and I kissed him, and cried. 'You didn' often kiss me that way before,' said he—' and I know what you're kissing me for now.' 'No,' I said, 'I did not; because I had no notion then of losing you, my own darling Paul—you don't know how I loved you all along, Paul,' said I; 'kiss me again, jewel.' 'Now,' said he,' I'm not going to leave you sixpence, and I'll tell you why—I saw young Charley Mulvany, that you were courting before I married you—I saw him, I say, through the windy there, kiss you, with my own eyes, when you thought I was asleep—and you put your arms about his neck and hugged him,' said he. I must be particular, sir, in order that you may understand the difficulty I'm in."
"Proceed, madam," said the conjurer. "If I were young I certainly would envy Charley Mulvany—but proceed."
"Well, sir, I replied to him: 'Paul, dear,' said I, 'that was a kiss of friendship—and the reason of it was, that poor Charley was near crying when he heard that you were going to die and to leave me so lonely.' 'Well,' said he, 'that may be—many a thing may be that's not likely—and that may be one of them. Go and get a prayer-book, and come back here.' Well, sir, I got a book and I went back. 'Now,' said he, 'if you swear by the contents of that book that you will never put a ring on man after my death, I'll leave you my property.' 'Ah, God pardon you, Paul, darling,' said I, 'for supposing that I'd ever dream of marrying again'—and I couldn't help kissing him once more and crying over him when I heard what he said. 'Now,' said he, 'kiss the book, and swear that you'll never put a ring on man after my death, and I'll leave you every shilling I'm worth.' God knows it was a trying scene to a loving heart like mine—so I swore that I'd never put a ring on man after his death—and then he altered his will and left me the property on those conditions."
"Proceed, madam," said the conjurer; "I am still in the dark as to the object of your visit."
"Why, sir, it is to know—ahem—O, poor old Paul. God forgive me! it was to know, sir, O—"
"Don't cry, madam, don't cry."
"It was to know, sir, if I could ever think of—of—you must know, sir, we had no family, and I would not wish that the property should die with me; to know if—if you think I could venture to marry again?"
"This," replied the conjurer, "is a matter of unusual importance and difficulty. In the first place you must hand me a guinea—that is my fee for cases of this kind."
The money was immediately paid, and the conjurer proceeded: "I said it was a case of great difficulty, and so it is, but—"
"I forgot to mention, sir, that when I went out to get the prayer-book, I found Charley Mulvany in the next room, and he said he had one in his pocket; so that the truth, sir, is, I—I took the oath upon a book of ballads. Now," she proceeded, "I have strong reasons for marrying Charley Mulvany; and I wish to know if I can do so without losing the property."
"Make your mind easy on that point," replied the conjurer; "you swore never to put a ring on man, but you did not swear that a man would never put a ring on you. Go home," he continued, "and if you be advised by me, you will marry Charley Mulvany without loss of time."
A man rather advanced in years next came in, and taking his seat, wiped his face and gave a deep groan.
"Well, my friend," said the conjurer, "in what way can I serve you?"
"God knows it's hard to tell that," he replied—"but I'm troubled."
"What troubles you?"
"It's a quare world, sir, altogether."
"There are many strange things in it certainly."
"That's truth, sir; but the saison's favorable, thank God, and there's every prospect of a fine spring for puttin' down the crops."
"You are a farmer, then; but why should you feel troubled about what you call a fine season for putting down the crops?"
The man moved uneasily upon his chair, and seemed at a loss how to proceed; the conjurer looked at him, and waited for a little that he might allow him sufficient time to disclose his difficulties.
"There are a great many troubles in this life, sir, especially in married families."
"There is no doubt of that, my friend," replied the conjurer.
"No, sir, there is not. I am not aisy in my mind, somehow."
"Hundreds of thousands are so, as well as you," replied the other. "I would be glad to see the man who has not something to trouble him; but will you allow me to ask you what it is that troubles you?"
"I took her, sir, widout a shift to her back, and a betther husband never breathed the breath of life than I have been to her;" and then he paused, and pulling out his handkerchief, shed bitter tears. "I would love her still, if I could, sir; but, then, the thing's impossible."
"O, yes," said the conjurer; "I see you are jealous of her; but will you state upon what grounds?"
"Well, sir, I think I have good grounds for it."
"What description of a woman is your wife, and what age is she?"
"Why, sir, she's about my own age. She was once handsome enough—indeed, very handsome when I married her."
"Was the marriage a cordial one between you and her?"
"Why, sir, she was dotin' upon me, as I was upon her?"
"Have you had a family?"
"A fine family, sir, of sons and daughters."
"And how long is it since you began to suspect her?"
"Why, sir, I—I—well, no matther about that; she was always a good wife and a good mother, until—" Here he paused, and again wiped his eyes.
"Why, sir, until Billy Fulton, the fiddler, came across her."
"Well, and what did Billy Fulton do?"
"He ran away wid my ould woman, sir."
"What age is Billy Fulton?"
"About my own age, sir; but by no means so stout a man; he's a dancin' masther, too, sir; and barrin' his pumps and white cotton stockin's, I don't know what she could see in him; he's a poor light crature, and walks as if he had a hump on his hip, for he always carries his fiddle undher his skirt. Ay, and what's more, sir, our daughter, Nancy, is gone off wid him."
"The devil she is. Why, did the old dancing-master run off with both of them? How long is it since this elopement took place?"
"Only three days, sir."
"And you wish me to assist you?"
"If you can, sir; and I ought to tell you that the vagabone's son is gone off wid them too."
"O, O," said the conjurer, "that makes the matter worse."
"No, it doesn't, sir, for what makes the matter worse is, that they took away a hundred and thirty pounds of my money along wid 'em."
"Then you wish to know what I can do for you in this business?"
"I do, sir, i' you plaise."
"Were you ever jealous of your wife before?"
"No, not exactly jealous, sir, but a little suspicious or so; I didn't think it safe to let her out much; I thought it no harm to keep my eye on her."
"Now," said the conjurer, "is it not notorious that you are the most jealous—by the way, give me five shillings; I can make no further communications till I am paid; there—thank you—now, is it not notorious that you are one of the most jealous old scoundrels in the whole country?"
"No, sir, barrin' a little wholesome suspicion."
"Well, sir, go home about your business. Your daughter and the dancing master's son have made a runaway match of it, and your wife, to protect the character of her daughter, has gone with them. You are a miser, too. Go home now; I have nothing more to say to you, except that you have been yourself a profligate. Look at that book, sir; there it is; the stars have told me so."
"You have got my five shillings, sir; but say what you like, all the wather in the ocean wouldn't wash her clear of the ould dancin'-masther."
In the course of a few minutes a beautiful peasant girl entered the room, her face mantled with blushes, and took her seat on the chair as the others had done, and remained for some time silent, and apparently panting with agitation.
"What is your name, my pretty girl?" asked the conjurer.
"Grace Davoren," replied the girl.
"And what do you wish to know from me, Miss Davoren?"
"O, don't call me miss, sir; I'm but a poor girl."
The conjurer looked into his book for a few minutes, and then, raising his head, and fixing his eyes upon her, replied—
"Yes, I will call you miss, because I have looked into your fate, and I see that there is great good fortune before you."
The young creature blushed again and smiled with something like confidence, but seemed rather at a loss what to say, or how to proceed.
"From your extraordinary beauty you must have a great many admirers, Miss Davoren."
"But only two, sir, that gives me any trouble—one of them is a—"
The conjurer raised his hand as an intimation to her to stop, and after poring once more over the book for some time, proceeded:—
"Yes—one of them is Shawn-na-Middogue; but he's an outlaw—and that courtship is at an end now."
"Wid me, it is, sir; but not wid him. The sogers and autorities is out for him and others; but still he keeps watchin' me as close as he can."
"Well, wait till I look into the book of fate again—yes—yes—here is—a gentleman over head and ears in love with you."
Poor Grace blushed, then became quite pale. "But, sir," said she, "will the gentleman marry me?"
"To be sure he will marry you; but he cannot for some time."
"But will he save me from disgrace and shame, sir?" she asked, with a death-like face.
"Don't make your mind uneasy on that point;—but wait a moment till I find out his name in the great book of fatality;—yes, I see—his name is Woodward. Don't, however, make your mind uneasy; he will take care of you."
"My mind is very uneasy, sir, and I wish I had never seen him. But I don't know what could make him fall in love wid a poor simple girl like me."
This was said in the coquettish consciousness of the beauty which she knew she possessed, and it was accompanied, too, by a slight smile of self-complacency.
"Do you think I could become a lady, sir?"
"A lady! why, what is to prevent you? You are a lady already. You want nothing but silks and satins, jewels and gold rings, to make you a perfect lady."
"And he has promised all these to me," she replied.
"Yes; but there is one thing you ought to do for your own sake and his—and that is to betray Shaivn-na-Middogue, if you can; because if you do not, neither your own life, nor that of your lover, Mr. Woodward, will be safe."
"I couldn't do that, sir," replied the girl, "it would be treacherous; and sooner than do so, I'd just as soon he would kill me at wanst—still I would do a great deal to save Mr. Woodward. But will Mr. Woodward marry me, sir? because he said he would—in the coorse of some time."
"And if he said so don't be uneasy; he is a gentleman, and a gentleman, you know, always keeps his word. Don't be alarmed, my pretty girl—your lover will provide for you."
"Am I to pay you anything, sir?" she asked, rising.
"No, my dear, I will take no money from you; but if you wish to save Mr. Woodward from danger, you will enable the soldiers to, arrest Shawn-na-Middogue. Even you, yourself, are not safe so long as he is at large."
She then took her leave in silence.
It is not to be supposed that among the crowd that was assembled around the inn door there were not a number of waggish characters, who felt strongly inclined to have, if possible, a hearty laugh at the great conjurer. No matter what state of society may exist, or what state of feeling may prevail, there will always be found a class of persons who are exceptions to the general rule. Whilst the people were chatting in wonder and admiration, not without awe and fear, concerning the extraordinary knowledge and power of the conjurer, a character peculiar to all times and all ages made his appearance, and soon joined them. This was one of those circulating, unsettled vagabonds, whom, like scum, society, whether agitated or not, is always sure to throw on the surface. The comical miscreant no sooner made his appearance than, like Liston, when coming on the stage, he was greeted with a general roar of laughter.
"So," said he, "you have a conjurer above. But wait a while; by the powdhers o' delf Rantin' Rody's the boy will try his mettle. If he can look farther than his nose, I'm the lad will find it out. If he doesn't say I'll be hanged, he knows nothing about his business. I have myself half-a-dozen hangmen engaged to let me down aisy; it's a death I've a great fancy for, and, plaise God, I'm workin' honestly to desarve it. Which of you has a cow to steal? for, by the sweets o' rosin, I'm low in cash, and want a thrifle to support nather; for nather, my boys, must be supported, and it was never my intintion to die for want o' my vittles; aitin' and drinkin' is not very pleasant to most people, I know, but I was born wid a fancy for both."
"Rantin' Rody, in airnest, will you go up and have your fortune tould?"
"But wait," he proceeded; "wait, I say,—wait,—I have it." And as he said so he went at the top of his speed down the street, and disappeared in Sol Donnel's cabin.
"By this and by that," said one of them, "Rtn'tin' Rody will take spunk out of him, if it's in him."
"I think he had better have notin' to do wid him," said an old woman, "for fraid he'd rise the devil—Lord guard us! Sure it's the same man that was in this very town the night he was riz before, and that the bonfire for Suil Balor (the eye of Balor, or the Evil Eye) Woodward was drowned by a shower of blood. Troth I wouldn't be in the same Woodward's coat for the wealth o' the world. As for Rantin' Rody, let him take care of himself. It's never safe to sport wid edged tools, and he'll be apt to find it so, if he attempts to put his tricks upon the conjurer."
In the meantime, while that gentleman was seated above stairs, a female, tall, slim, and considerably advanced in years, entered the room and took her seat. Her face was thin, and red in complexion, especially about the point of a rather long nose, where the color appeared to be considerably deeper in hue.
"Sir," said she, in a sharp tone of voice, "I'm told you can tell fortunes."
"Certainly, madam," he replied, you have been correctly informed."
"You won't be offended, then, if I wish to ask you a question or two. It's not about myself, but a sister of mine, who is—ahem—what the censorious world is pleased to call an old maid."
"Why did your sister not come herself?" he asked; "I cannot predict anything unless the individual is before me; I must have him or her, as the case may be, under my eye."
"Bless me, sir! I didn't know that; but as I am now here—could you tell me anything about myself?"
"I could tell you many things," replied the conjurer, who read old maid in every line of her face—"many things not very pleasant for you to reflect upon."
"O, but I don't wish to hear anything unpleasant," said she; "tell me something that's agreeable."
"In the first place, I cannot do so," he replied; "I must be guided by truth. You have, for instance, been guilty of great cruelty; and although you are but a young woman, in the very bloom of life—"
Here the lady bowed to him, and simpered—her thin, red nose twisted into a gracious curl, as thanking him for his politeness.
"In the very prime of life, madam—yet you have much to be accountable for, in consequence of your very heartless cruelty to the male sex—you see, madam, and you feel too, that I speak truth."
The lady put the spectre of an old fan up to her withered visage, and pretended to enact a blush of admission.
"Well, sir," she replied, "I—I—I cannot say but that—indeed I have been charged with—not that it—cruelty—I mean—was ever in my heart; but you must admit, sir, that—that—in fact—where too many press, upon a person, it is the more difficult choose."
"Unquestionably; but you should have, made a judicious selection—and that was because you were in no hurry—and indeed you need not be; you have plenty of time before you. Still, there is much blame attached to you—you have defrauded society of its rights. Why, now, you might have been the proud mother of a son or daughter at least five years old by this time, if it had not been for your own obduracy—excuse me."
Up went the skeleton fan again with a wonderfully modest if not an offended simper at the notion of such an insinuation; but, said she in her heart, this is the most gentlemanly conjurer that ever told a fortune; quite a delightful old gentleman; he is really charming; I wish I had met him twenty years ago."
"Well, sir," she replied, "I see there is no use in denying—especially to you, who seem to know everything—the truth of the facts you have stated. There was one gentleman in particular whom I rejected—that is, conditionally—rather harshly; and do you know, he took the scarlet-fever soon afterwards and died of a broken-heart."
"Go on, madam," said he; "make a clean breast of it—so shall you enable me to compare the future with the past, and state your coming fortunes more distinctly."
"Another gentleman, sir—a country squire—owes, I fear, his death to my severity; he was a hard drinker, but I gave him a month to reform—which sentence he took so much to heart that he broke his neck in a fox-chase from mere despair. A third individual—a very handsome young man—of whom I must confess I was a little jealous about his flirting with another young lady—felt such remorse that he absolutely ran away with and married her. I know, of course, I am accountable for all these calamities; but it cannot be helped now—my conscience must bear it."
"You should not look back upon these things with too much remorse," replied the conjurer; "forget them—bear a more relenting heart; make some man happy, and marry. Have you no person at present in your eye with whom you could share your charms and your fortune?"
"O, sir, you are complimentary."
"Not at all, madam; speak to me candidly, as you perceive I do to you."
"Well, then," she replied, "there is a young gentleman with whom I should wish to enter into a—a domestic—that is—a matrimonial connection."
"Pray what age is he?"
"Indeed, he is but young, scarce nineteen; but then he is very wild, and I—I—have—indeed I am of too kind a heart, sir. I have supplied his extravagance—for so I must call it—poor boy—but cannot exactly get him to accept a legitimate right over me—I fear he is attached elsewhere—but you know he is young, sir, and. not come to his ripe judgment yet. I read your handbill, sir; and if you could furnish me with a—something—ahem—that might enable me to gain, or rather to restore his affections—for I think he was fond of me some few months ago—I would not grudge whatever the payment might be."
"You mean a philter?"
"I believe that is what it is called, sir."
"Well, madam, you shall be supplied with a philter that never fails, on the payment ol twenty-one shillings. This, philter, madam, will not only make him fond of you before marriage, but will secure his affections during life, increasing them day by day, so that every month of your lives will be a delicious honeymoon. There is another bottle at the same price; it may not, indeed, be necessary for you, but I can assure you that it has made many families happy where there had been previously but little prospect of happiness; the price is the same—twenty-one shillings."
Up went the spectral fan again, and out came the forty-two shillings, and, with a formal courtesy, the venerable old maid walked away with the two bottles of aqua pura in her pocket.
Now came the test for the conjurer's knowledge—the sharp and unexpected trial of his skill and sagacity. After the old maid had taken her leave, possessed of the two bottles, a middle-aged, large-sized woman walked in, and, after making a low courtesy, sat down as she had been desired. The conjurer glanced keenly at her, and something like a smile might be seen to settle upon his features; it was so slight, however, that the good woman did not notice it.
"Pray, what's the object of your visit to me, may I ask?"
"My husband, sir—he runn'd away from me, sure."
"Small blame to him," replied the conjurer. "If I had such a wife I would not remain a single hour in her company."
"And is that the tratement you give a heart-broken and desarted crature like me?"
"Come, what made him run away from you?"
"In regard, sir, of a dislike he took to me."
"That was a proof that the man had some taste."
"Ay, but why hadn't he that taste afore he married me?"
"It was very well that he had it afterwards—better late than never."
"I want you to tell me where he is."
"What family have you?"
"Seven small childre that's now fatherless, I may say."
"What kind of a man was your husband?"
"Why, indeed, as handsome a vagabone as you'd see in a day's travellin'."
"Mention his name; I can tell you nothing till I hear it."
"He's called Rantin' Rody, the thief, and a great schamer he is among the girls."
"Ranting Rody—let me see," and here he looked very solemnly into his book—"yes; I see—a halter. My good woman, you had better not inquire after him; he was born to be hanged."
"But when will that happen, sir?"
"Your fate and his are so closely united, that, whenever he swings, you will swing. You will both hang together from the same gallows; so that, in point of fact, you need not give yourself much trouble about the time of his suspension, because I see it written here in the book of fate, that the same hangman who swings you off, will swing him off at the same moment. You'll 'lie lovingly together; and when he puts his tongue out at those who will attend his execution, so will you; and when he dances his last jig in their presence, so will you. Are you now satisfied?"
"Troth, and I'm very fond o' the vagabone, although he's the worst friend I ever had. But you won't tell me where he is? and I know why, because, with all your pretended knowledge, the devil a know you know."
"Are you sure of that?"
"Then I can tell you that he is sitting on the chair there, opposite me. Go about your business, Rody, and rant elsewhere; you may impose upon others, but not upon a man that can penetrate the secrets of human life as I can. Go now; there is a white wand in the corner,—my conjuring rod,—and if I only touched you with it, I could leave you a cripple and beggar for life. Go, I say, and tell Caterine Collins how much she and you gained by this attempt at disgracing me."
Rody, for it was he, was thunderstruck at this discovery, and, springing to his feet, disappeared.
"Well, Rody," said the crowd, "how did you manage? Did he know you?"
Rody was as white in the face as a sheet. "Let me alone," he replied; "the conjurer above is the devil, and nothin' else. I must get a glass o' whiskey; I'm near faintin'; I'm as wake as a child; my strength's gone The man, or the devil, or whatsomever he is, knows everything, and, what is worse, he tould me I am to be hanged in earnest."
"Faith, Rody, that required no great knowledge on his part; there's not a man here but could have tould you the same thing, and there's none of us a conjurer."
Rody, however, immediately left them to discuss the matter among themselves, and went, thoroughly crestfallen, to give an account of his mission to Caterine Collins, who had employed him, and to reassume his own clothes, which, indeed, were by no means fresh from the tailor.
The last individual whose interview with the conjurer we shall notice was no other than Harry Woodward, our hero. On entering he took his seat, and looked familiarly at the conjurer.
"Well," said he, "there was no recognition?"
"How could there?" replied the other; "you know the thing's impossible; even without my beard, nobody in the town or about it knows my face, and to those who see me in character, they have other things to think of than the perusal of my features."
"The girl was with you?"
"She yes, and I feel that, unless we can get Shawn-na-Middogue taken off by some means or other, your life will not, cannot, be safe."
"She won't betray him, then? But I need not ask, for I have pressed her upon that matter before."
"She is very right in not doing so," replied the conjurer; "because, if she did, the consequence would be destruction to herself and her family. In addition to this, however, I don't think it's in her power to betray him. He never sleeps more than one night in the same place; and since her recent conduct to him—I mean since her intimacy with you—he would place no confidence in her."
"He certainly is not aware of our intimacy."
"Of course he is not; you would soon know it to your cost if he were. The place of your rendezvous is somewhat too near civilization for him; you should, however, change it; never meet twice in the same place, if you can."
"You are reaping a tolerably good harvest here, I suppose. Do they ever place you in a difficulty?"
"Difficulty! God help you; there is not an individual among them, or throughout the whole parish, with whose persons, circumstances, and characters I am not acquainted; but even if it were not so, I could make them give me unconsciously the very information they want—returned to them, of course, in a new shape. I make them state the facts, and I draw the inferences; nothing is easier; it is a trick that every impostor is master of. How do you proceed with Miss Goodwin?"
"That matter is hopeless by fair means—she's in love with that d——d brother of mine."
"No chance of the property, then?"
"Not as affairs stand at present; we must, however, maintain our intimacy; if so, I won't despair yet."
"But what do you intend to do? If she marries your brother the property goes to him—and you may go whistle."
"I don't give it up, though—I bear a brain still, I think; but the truth is, I have not completed my plan of operations. What I am to do, I know not yet exactly. If I could break off the match between her and my brother, she might probably, through the influence of her parents and other causes, he persuaded into a reluctant marriage with Harry Woodward; time, however, will tell, and I must only work my way through the difficulty as well as I can. I will now leave you, and I don't think I shall be able to see you again for a week to come."
"Before you go let me ask if you know a vagabond called Ranting Rody, who goes about through the country living no one knows how?"
"No, I do not know him; what is he?"
"He's nothing except a paramour of Caterine Collins's, who, you know, is a rival of ours; nobody here knows anything about him, whilst he, it appears, knows every one and everything."
"He would make a good conjurer," replied Woodward, smiling.
"If the fellow could be depended on," replied the other, "he might be useful; in fact, I am of opinion that if he wished he could trace Shawn-na-Middogue's haunts. The scoundrel attempted just now to impose upon me in the dress of a woman, and, were it not that I knew him so well, he might have got my beard stripped from my face, and my bones broken besides; but I feel confident that if any one could trace and secure the outlaw, he could—I mean with proper assistance. Think of this."
"I shall find him out," replied Woodward, "and sound him, at all events, and I think through Caterine Collins I may possibly secure him; but we must be cautious. Good-by; I wish you success!"
After which he passed through the crowd, exclaiming,
"A wonderful man—an astonishing man—and a fearful man; that is if he be a man, which I very much doubt."
CHAPTER XII. Fortune-telling
Ever since the night of the bonfire Woodward's character became involved more or less in a mystery that was peculiar to the time and the superstitions of the period. That he possessed, the Evil Eye was whispered about; and what was still more strange, it was not his wish that such rumors should be suppressed. They had not yet, however, reached either Alice Goodwin or her parents. In the meantime the feelings of the two families were once more suspended in a kind of neutral opposition, each awaiting the other to make the first advance. Poor Alice, however, appeared rather declining in health and spirits, for, notwithstanding her firm and generous defence of Charles Lindsay, his brother, to a certain extent, succeeded in shaking her confidence in his attachment. Her parents; frequently asked her the cause of her apparent melancholy, but she only gave them evasive replies, and stated that she had not felt herself very well since Henry Woodward's last interview with her.
They now urged her to take exercise—against which, indeed, she always had a constitutional repugnance—and not to sit so much in her own room as she did; and in order to comply with their wishes in this respect, she forced herself to walk a couple of hours each day in the lawn, where she generally read a book, for the purpose, if possible, of overcoming her habitual melancholy. It was upon one of these occasions that she saw the fortune-teller, Caterine Collins, approach her, and as her spirits were unusually depressed for the moment, she felt no inclination to enter into any conversation with her. Naturally courteous, however, and reluctant to give offence, she allowed the woman to advance, especially as she could perceive from the earnestness of her manner that she was anxious to speak with her.
"Well, Caterine," said she, "I hope you are not coming to tell my fortune to-day; I am not in spirits to hear much of the future, be it good or bad. Will you not go up to the house? They will give you something to eat."
"Thank you, Miss Alice, I will go up by and by; but in the manetime, what fortune could any one tell you but good fortune? There's nothin' else before you; and if there is, I'm come to put you on your guard against it, as I will, plaise goodness. I heard what I'm goin' to mention to you on good autority, and, as I know it's true, I think it's but right you should know of it, too." Alice immediately became agitated; but mingled with that agitation was a natural wish—perhaps it might be a pardonable curiosity, under the circumstances—to hear how what the woman had to disclose could affect herself. Being nervous, restless, and depressed, she was just in the very frame of mind to receive such an impression as might be deeply prejudicial to the ease of her heart—perhaps her happiness, and consequently her health.
"What is it that you think I should know, Caterine?"
Caterine, who looked about her furtively, as if to satisfy herself that there was no one present but themselves, said,—
"Now, Miss Goodwin, everything depends on whether you'll answer me one question truly, and you needn't be afeard to spake the truth to me."
"Is it concerning myself?"
"It is, Miss Goodwin, and another, too, but principally yourself."
"But what right have you, Caterine, to question me upon my own affairs?"
"No right, miss; but I wish to prevent you from, harm."
"I thank you for your good wishes, Caterine; but what is it you would say?"
"Is it true, Miss Alice, that you and Mr. Woodward are coortin'?"
"It is not, Caterine," replied Alice, uttering the disavowal with a good deal of earnestness; "there is no truth whatsoever in it; nothing can be more false and groundless—I wonder how such a rumor could have got abroad; it certainly could not proceed from Mr. Woodward."
"It did not, indeed, Miss Alice; but it did from his brother, who, it seems, is very fond of him, and said he was glad of it; but indeed, miss, it delights my heart to hear that there is no truth in it. Mr. Woodward, God save us! is no fit husband for any Christian! woman."
"Why so?" asked Alice, laboring under, some vague sense of alarm.
"Why, Heavenly Father! Miss Alice, sure it's well known he has the Evil Eye; it's in the family upon his mother's side."
"My God!" exclaimed Alice, who became instantly as pale as death, "if that be true, Caterine, it's shocking."
"True," replied Caterine; "did you never I observe his eyes?"
"Did you remark that they're of different colors? that one of them is as black as the devil's, and the other a gray?"
"I never observed that," replied Alice, who really never had.
"Yes, and I could tell you more than that about him," proceeded Caterine; "they say he's connected wid what's not good. Sure, when they got up a bonfire for him, doesn't all the world know that it was put out by a shower of blood; and that's a proof that he's a favorite wid the devil and the fairies."
"I believe," replied Alice, "that there is no doubt whatsoever about the shower of blood; but I should not consider that fact as proof that he is a favorite with either the devil or the fairies."
"Ay, but you don't know, miss, that this is the way they have of showin' it. Then, ever since he has come to the country, Bet Harramount, the witch, in the shape of a white hare, is come back to the neighborhood, and the Shawn-dhinne-dhuv is now seen about the Haunted House, oftener than he ever was. It's well known that the white hare plays about Mr. Woodward like a dog, and that she goes into the Haunted House, too, every night."
"And what brought you to tell me all this, Caterine?" asked Alice.
"Why, miss, to put you on your guard; afraid you might get married to a man that, maybe, has sould himself to the devil. It's well known by his father's sarvints that he's out two or three nights in the week, and nobody can tell where he goes."
"Are the servants your authority for that?"
"Indeed they are; Barney Casey knows a great deal about him. Now, Miss Alice, you're on your guard; have nothing to do wid him as a sweetheart; but above all things don't fall out wid him, bekaise, if you did, as sure as I stand here he'd wither you off o' the earth. And above all things again watch his eyes; I mane the black one, but don't seem to do so; and now good-by, miss; I've done my duty to you."
"But about his brother, Caterine? He has not the Evil Eye, I hope?"
"Ah, miss, I could tell you something about him, too. They're a bad graft, these Lindsays; there's Mr. Charles, and it's whispered he's goin' to make a fool of himself and disgrace his family."
"How is that, Caterine?"
"I don't know rightly; I didn't hear the particulars; but I'll be on the watch, and when I can I'll let you know it."
"Take no such trouble, Caterine," said Alice; "I assure you I feel no personal interest whatsoever in any of the family except Miss Lindsay. Leave me, Caterine, leave me; I must finish my book; but I thank you for your good wishes. Go up, and say I desired them to give you your dinner."
Alice soon felt herself obliged to follow; and it was, indeed, with some difficulty she was able to reach the house. Her heart got deadly sick; an extraordinary weakness came over her; she became alarmed, frightened, distressed; her knees tottered under her, and she felt on reaching the hall-door as if she were about to faint. Her imagination became disturbed; a heavy, depressing gloom descended upon her, and darkened her flexible and unresisting spirit, as if it were the forebodings of some terrible calamity.
The diabolical wretch who had just left her took care to perform her base and heartless task with double effect. It was not merely the information she had communicated concerning Woodward that affected her so deeply, although she felt, as it were, in the Inmost recesses of her soul, that it was true, but that which went at the moment with greater agony to her heart was the allusion to Charles Lindsay, and the corroboration it afforded to the truth of the charge which Woodward had brought, with so much apparent reluctance, against him—the charge of having neglected and abandoned her for another, and that other a person of low birth, who, by relinquishing her virtue, had contrived to gain such an artful and selfish ascendancy over him. How could she doubt it? Here was a woman ignorant of the communication Woodward had made to her,—ignorant of the vows that had passed between them,—who had heard of his falsehood and profligacy, and who never would have alluded to them had she not been questioned. So far, then, Woodward, she felt, stood without blame with respect to his brother. And how could she suspect Caterine to have been the agent of that gentleman, when she knew now that her object in seeking an interview with herself was to put her on her guard against him? The case was clear, and, to her, dreadful as it was clear. She felt herself now, however, in that mood which no sympathy can alleviate or remove. She experienced no wish to communicate her distress to any one, but resolved to preserve the secret in her own bosom. Here, then, was she left to suffer the weight of a twofold affliction—the dread of Woodward, with which Caterine's intelligence had filled her heart, feeble, and timid, and credulous as it was upon any subject of a superstitious tendency—and the still deeper distress which weighed her down in consequence of Charles Lindsay's treachery and dishonor. Alas! poor Alice's heart was not one for struggles, nurtured and bred up, as she had been, in the very wildest spirit of superstition, in all its degrading ramifications. There was something in the imagination and constitution of the poor girl which generated and cherished the superstitions which prevailed in her day. She could not throw them off her mind, but dwelt upon them with a kind of fearful pleasure which we can understand from those which operated upon our own fancies in our youth. These prepare the mind for the reception of a thousand fictions concerning ghosts, witches, fairies, apparitions, and a long catalogue of nonsense, equally disgusting and repugnant to reason and common-sense. It is not surprising, then, that poor Alice's mind on that night was filled with phantasms of the most feverish and excited description. As far as she could, however, she concealed her agitation from her parents, but not so successfully as to prevent them from perceiving that she was laboring under some extraordinary and unaccountable depression. This unfortunately was too true. On that night she experienced a series of such wild and frightful visions as, when she was startled out of them, made her dread to go again to sleep. The white hare, the Black Spectre, but, above all, the fearful expression her alarmed fancy had felt in Woodward's eye, which was riveted upon her, she thought, with a baleful and demoniacal glance, that pierced and prostrated her spirit with its malignant and supernatural power; all these terrible images, with fifty other incoherent chimeras, flitted before the wretched girl's imagination during her feverish slumbers. Towards morning she sank into a somewhat calmer state of rest, but still with occasional and flitting glimpses of the same horrors.
So far the master-spirit had set, at least, a portion of his machinery in motion, in order to work out his purposes; but we shall find that his designs became deeper and blacker as he proceeded in his course.
In a few days Alice became somewhat relieved from the influence of these tumultuous and spectral phantasms which had run riot in her terrified fancy; and this was principally owing to the circumstance of her having prevailed upon one of the maid-servants, a girl named Bessy Mangan, Barney Casey's sweetheart, to sleep privately in her room. The attack had reduced and enfeebled her very much, but still she was slightly improved and somewhat relieved in her spirits. The shock, and the nervous paroxysm that accompanied it, had nearly passed away, and she was now anxious, for the sake of her health, to take as much exercise as she could. Still—still—the two leading thoughts would recur to her—that of Charles's treachery, and the terrible gift of curse possessed by his brother Henry; and once more her heart would sink to the uttermost depths of distress and terror. The supernatural, however, in the course of a little time, prevailed, as it was only reasonable to suppose it would in such a temperament as hers; and as her mind proceeded to struggle with the two impressions, she felt that her dread of Woodward was gradually gaining upon and absorbing the other. Her fear of him, consequently, was deadly; that terrible and malignant eye—notwithstanding its dark brilliancy and awful beauty, alas! too, significant of its power—was constantly before her imagination, gazing upon her with a fixed, determined, and mysterious look, accompanied by a smile of triumph, which deepened its satanity, if we may be allowed to coin a word, at every glance. It was not mere antipathy she felt for him now, but dread and horror. How, then, was she to act? She had pledged herself to receive his visits upon one condition, and to permit him to continue a friendly intimacy altogether apart from love. How, then, could she violate her word, or treat him with rudeness, who had always not only treated her with courtesy, but expressed an interest in her happiness which she had every reason to believe sincere? Thus was the poor girl entangled with difficulties on every side without possessing any means of releasing herself from them.
In a few days after this she was sitting in the drawing-room when Woodward unexpectedly entered it, and saluted her with great apparent good feeling and politeness. The surprise caused her to become as pale as death; she felt her very limbs relax with weakness, and her breath for a few moments taken away from her; she looked upon him with an expression of alarm and fear which she could not conceal, and it was with some difficulty that she was at length enabled to speak.
"You will excuse me, sir," she said, "for not rising; I am very nervous, and have not been at all well for the last week or upwards."
"Indeed, Miss Goodwin, I am very sorry to hear this; I trust it is only a mere passing indisposition; I think the complaint is general, for my sister has also been ailing much the same way for the last few days. Don't be alarmed, Miss Goodwin, it is nothing, and won't signify. You should mingle more in society; you keep too much alone."
"But I do not relish society; I never mingle in it that I don't feel exhausted and depressed."
"That certainly makes a serious difference; in such a case, then, I imagine society would do you more harm than good. I should not have intruded on you had not your mother requested me to come up and try to raise your spirits—a pleasure which I would gladly enjoy if I could."
"I am much obliged to you, Mr. Woodward," she replied; "I hope a short time will remove this unusual depression, and I must only have a little patience."
"Just so, Miss Goodwin; a little time, as you say, will restore you to yourself."
Now all this was very courteous and kind of Mr. Woodward, and might have raised her spirits were it not for the eye. From the moment he entered the apartment that dreaded instrument of his power was fixed upon her with a look so concentrated, piercing, and intense, that it gave a character of abstraction to all he said. In other words, she felt as if his language proceeded out of his lips unconsciously, and that some mysterious purport of his heart emanated from his eye. It appeared to her that he was thinking of something secret connected with herself, to which his words bore no reference whatsoever. She neither knew what to do nor what to say under this terrible and permeating gaze; it was in vain she turned away her eyes; she knew—she felt—that his was upon her—that it was drinking up her strength—that, in fact, the evil influence was; mingling with and debilitating her frame, and operating upon all her faculties. There was still, however, a worse symptom, and one which gave that gaze a significance that appalled her—this was the smile of triumph which she had seen playing coldly but triumphantly about his lips in her dreams. That smile was the feather to the arrow that pierced her, and that was piercing her at that moment—it was the cold but glittering glance of the rattlesnake, when breaking down by the poison of his eyes the power of resistance in his devoted victim.
"Mr. Woodward," said she, after a long pause, "I am unable to bear an interview—have the goodness to withdraw, and when you go down-stairs send my mother up. Excuse me, sir; but you must perceive how very ill I have got within a few minutes."
"I regret it exceedingly, Miss Goodwin. I had something to mention to you respecting that unfortunate brother of mine; but you are not now in a condition to hear anything unpleasant and distressing; and, indeed, it is better, I think, now that I observe your state of health, that you should not even wish to hear it."
"I never do wish to hear it, sir; but have the goodness to leave me."
"I trust my next visit will find you better. Good-by, Miss Goodwin! I shall send your mother up."
He withdrew very much after the etiquette of a subject leaving a crowned head—that is, nearly backwards; but when he came to the door he paused a moment, turning upon her one long, dark, inexplicable gaze, whilst the muscles of his hard, stony mouth were drawn back with a smile that contained in its expression a spirit that might be considered complacent, but which Alice interpreted as derisive and diabolical.
"Mamma," said she, when her mother joined her, "I am ill, and I know not what to do."
"I know you are not well, my love," replied her mother, "but I hope you're not worse; how do you feel?"
"Quite feeble, utterly without strength, and dreadfully depressed and alarmed."
"Alarmed, Alley! Why, what could alarm you? Does not Mr. Woodward always conduct himself as a gentleman?"
"He does, ma'am; but, nevertheless, I never wish to see him again."
"Why, dear me! Alice, is it reasonable that you should give way to such a prejudice against that gentleman? Indeed I believe you absolutely hate him."
"It is not personal hatred, mother; it is fear and terror. I do not, as I said, hate the man personally, because I must say that he never deserved such a feeling at my hands, but, in the meantime, the sight of him sickens me almost to death. I am not aware that he is or ever was immoral, or guilty of any act that ought to expose him to hatred; but, notwithstanding that, my impression, when conversing with him, is, that I am in the presence of an evil spirit, or of a man who is possessed of one. Mamma, he must be excluded the house, and forbidden to visit here again, otherwise my health will be destroyed, and my very life placed in danger."
"My dear Alice, that is all very strange," replied her mother, now considerably alarmed at her language, but still more so at her appearance; "why, God bless me, child! now that I look at you, you certainly do seem to be in an extraordinary state. You are the color of death, and then you are all trembling! Why is this, I ask again?"
"The presence of that man," she replied, in a faint voice; "his presence simply and solely. That is what has left me as you see me."
"Well, Alice, it is very odd and very strange, and it seems as if there was some mystery in it. I will, however, talk to your father about it, and we will hear what he shall say. In the meantime, raise your spirits, and don't be so easily alarmed. You are naturally nervous and timid, and this is merely a poor, cowardly conceit that has got into your head; but your own good sense will soon show you the folly of yielding to a mere fancy. Amuse yourself on the spinet, and play some brisk music that will cheer your spirits; it is nothing but the spleen."
Woodward, in the meantime, having effected his object, and satisfied himself of his power over Alice, pursued his way home in high spirits. To his utter astonishment, however, he found the family in an uproar, the cause of which we will explain. His mother, whose temper neither she herself nor any other human being, unless her husband, when provoked too far, could keep under anything like decent restraint, had got into a passion, while he, Woodward, was making his visit; and while in a blaze of resentment against the Goodwins she disclosed the secret of his rejection by Alice, and dwelt with bitter indignation upon the attachment she had avowed for Charles—a secret which Henry had most dishonorably intrusted to her, but which, as the reader sees, she had neither temper nor principle to keep.
On entering the house he found his; mother and step-father at high feud. The I brows of the latter were knit, as was always the case when he found himself bent upon mischief. He was calm, however, which was another bad sign, for in him the old adage was completely reversed, "After a storm comes a calm," whilst in his case it uniformly preceded it.
Woodward looked about him with amazement; his step-father was standing with his back to the parlor fire, holding the skirts of his coat divided behind, whilst his wife stood opposite to him, her naturally red face still naming more deeply with a tornado of indignation.
"And you dare to tell me that you'll consent to Charles's marriage with her?"
"Yes, my dear, I dare to tell you so. You have no objection that she should marry your son Harry there. You forgot or dissembled your scorn and resentment against her, when you thought you could make a catch of her property: a very candid and disinterested proceeding on your part, Well, what's the consequence? That's all knocked up; the girl won't have him, because she is attached to his brother, and because his brother is attached to her. Now that is just as it ought to be, and, please God, we'll have them married. And I now I take the liberty of asking you both to the wedding."
"Lindsay, you're an offensive old dog, sir."
"I might retort the compliment by changing the sex, my dear," he replied, laughing! and nodding at her, with a face, from the nose down, rather benevolent than otherwise, but still the knit was between the brows.
"Lindsay, you're an unmanly villain, and a coward to boot, or you wouldn't use such language to a woman."
"Not to a woman; but I'm sometimes forced to do so to a termagant."
"What's the cause of all this?" inquired Woodward; "upon my honor, the language I hear is very surprising, as coming from a justice of quorum and his lady. Fie! fie! I am ashamed of you both. In what did it originate?"
"Why, the fact is, Harry, she has told us that Alice Goodwin, in the most decided manner, has rejected your addresses, and confided to you an avowal of her attachment to Charles here. Now, when I heard this, I felt highly delighted at it, and said we should have them married, and so we shall. Then your mother, in flaming indignation at this, enacted Vesuvius in a blaze, and there she stands ready for another eruption."
"I wish you were in the bottom of Vesuvius, Lindsay; but you shall not have your way, notwithstanding."
"So I am, my dear, every day in my life. I have a little volcano of my own here, under the very roof with me; and I tell that volcano that I will have my own way in this matter, and that this marriage must take place if Alice is willing; and I'm sure she is, the dear girl."
"Sir," said Woodward, addressing his step-father calmly, "I feel a good deal surprised that a thinking man, of a naturalise late temper as you are,—"
"Yes, Harry, I am so."
"Of such a sedate temper as you are, should not recollect the possibility of my mother, who sometimes takes up impressions hastily, if not erroneously—as the calmest of us too frequently do—of my mother, I say, considerably mistaking and unconsciously misrepresenting the circumstances I mentioned to her."
"But why did you mention them exclusively to her?" asked Charles; "I cannot see your object in concealing them from the rest of the family, especially from those who were most interested in the knowledge of them."
"Simply because I had nothing actually decisive to mention. I principally confined myself to my own inferences, which unfortunately my mother, with her eager habit of snatching at conclusions, in this instance, mistook for facts. I shall satisfy you, Charles, of this, and of other matters besides; but we will require time."
"I assure you, Harry, that if your mother does not keep her temper within some reasonable bounds, either she or I shall leave the house—and I am not likely to be the man to do so."
"This house is mine, Lindsay, and the property is mine—both in my own right; and you and your family may leave it as soon as you like."
"But you forget that I have property enough to support myself and them independently of you."
"Wherever you go, my dear papa," said Maria, bursting into tears, "I will accompany you. I admit it is a painful determination for a daughter to be forced to make against her own mother; but it is one I should have died sooner than come to if she had ever treated me as a daughter."
Her good-natured and affectionate father took her in his arms and kissed her.
"My own darling Maria," said he, "I could forgive your mother all her domestic violence and outrage had she acted with the affection of a mother towards you. She has a heart only for one individual, and that is her son Harry, there."
"As for me," said Charles, "wherever my father goes, I, too, my dear Maria, will accompany him."
"You hear that, Harry," said Mrs. Lindsay; "you see now they are in a league—in a conspiracy against your happiness and mine;—but think of their selfishness and cunning—it is the girl's property they want."
"Perish the property," exclaimed Charles indignantly. "I will now mention a fact which I have hitherto never breathed—Alice Goodwin and I were, I may say, betrothed before ever she dreamed of possessing it; and if I held back since that time, I did so from the principles of a man of honor, lest she might imagine that I renewed our intimacy, after the alienation of the families, from mercenary motives."
"You're a fine fellow, Charley," said his father; "you're a fine fellow, and you deserve her and her property, if it was ten times what it is."
"Don't you be disheartened, Harry," said his mother; "I have a better wife in my eye for you—a wife that will bring you connection, and that is Lord Bilberry's niece."
"Yes," said her husband, ironically, "a man with fifty thousand acres of mountain. Faith, Harry, you will be a happy man, and may feed on bilberries all your life; but upon little else, unless you can pick the spare bones of an old maid who has run herself into an asthma in the unsuccessful sport of husband-hunting."
"She will inherit her uncle's property, Lindsay."
"Yes, she will inherit the heather and the bilberries. But go in God's name; work out that project; there is nobody here disposed to hinder you. Only I hope you will ask us to the wedding."
"Mother," said Woodward, affectionately taking her hand and giving it a significant squeeze; "mother, you must excuse me for what I am about to say"—another squeeze, and a glance which was very well understood—"upon my honor, mother, I must give my verdict for the present"—another squeeze—"against you. You—must be kinder to Charles and Maria, and you must not treat my father with such disrespect and harshness. I wish to become a mediator and pacificator in the family. As for myself, I care not about property; I wish to marry the girl I love. I am not, I trust, a selfish man—God forbid I should; but for the present"—another squeeze—"let me entreat you all to forget this little breeze; urge nothing, precipitate nothing; a little time, perhaps, if we have patience to wait, may restore us all, and everything else we are quarrelling about, to peace and happiness. Charles, I wish to have some conversation with you."
"Harry," said Lindsay, "I am glad you have spoken as you did; your words do you credit, and your conduct is manly and honorable."
"I do believe, indeed," said his unsuspecting brother, "that the best thing we could all do would be to put ourselves under his guidance; as for my part I am perfectly willing to do so, Harry. After hearing the good sense you have just uttered, I think you are entitled to every confidence from us all."
"You overrate my abilities, Charles; but not, I hope, the goodness of an affectionate heart that loves you all. Charles, come with me for a few minutes; and, mother, do you also expect a private lecture from me by and by."
"Well," said the mother, "I suppose I must. If I were only spoken to kindly I could feel as kindly; however, let there be an end to this quarrel as the boy says, and I, as well as Charles, shall be guided by his advice."
"Now, Charles," said he, when they had gone to another room, "you know what kind! of a woman my mother is; and the truth is, until matters get settled, we will have occasion for a good, deal of patience with her; let us, therefore, exercise it. Like most hot-tempered women, she has a bad memory, and wrests the purport of words too frequently to a wrong meaning. In the account she gave you of what occurred between Alice Goodwin and me, she entirely did."
"But what did occur between Alice Goodwin and you, Harry?"
"A very few words will tell it. She admitted that there certainly has been an attachment between you and her, but—that—that—I will not exactly repeat her words, although I don't say they were meant offensively; but it amounted, to this, that she now filled a different position in the eyes of the world; that she would rather the matter were not renewed; that if her mind had changed, she had good reason for justifying the change; and when I, finding that I had no chance myself, began to plead for you, she hinted to me that, in consequence of the feud that had taken place between the families, and the slanders that my mother had cast upon her honor and principles, she was resolved to have no further connection whatsoever with any one of the blood; her affections were not now her own."
"Alas, Harry!" said Charles, "how few can bear the effects of unexpected prosperity. When she and I were both comparatively poor, she was all affection; but now that she has become an heiress, see what a change there is! Well, Harry, if she can be faithless and selfish, I can be both resolute and proud. She shall have no further trouble from me on that subject; only I must say, I don't envy her her conscience."
"Don't be rash, Charles—-we should judge of her charitably and generously; I don't think myself she is so much to blame. O'Connor Fardour, or Farther, or whatever you call him—"
"Yes, Ferdora; that fellow is at the bottom of it all; he has plied her well during the estrangement, and to some purpose. I never visit them that I don't find him alone with her. He is, besides, both frank and handsome, with a good deal of dash and insinuation in his address and manner, and, besides, a good property, I am told. But, in the meantime, I have a favor to ask of you; that is, if you think you can place confidence in me."
"Every confidence, my dear Harry," said Charles, clasping his hand warmly; "every confidence. As I said before, you shall be my guide and adviser."
"Thank you, Charles. I may make mistakes, but I shall do all for the best. Well, then, will you leave O'Connor to me? If you do, I shall not promise much, because I am not master of future events; but this is all I ask of you—yes, there is one thing more—to hold aloof from her and her family for a time."
"After what you have told me, Harry, that is an unnecessary request now; but as for O'Connor, I think he ought to be left to myself."
"And so he shall in due time; but I must place him in a proper position for you first—a thing which you could not do now, nor even attempt to do, without meanness. Are you, then, satisfied to leave this matter in my hands, and to remain quiet until I shall bid you act?"
"Perfectly, Harry, perfectly; I shall be guided by you in everything."
"Well, now, Charley, we will have a double triumph soon, I hope. All is not lost that's in danger. The poor girl is surrounded by a clique. Priests have interfered. Her parents, you know, are Catholics; so, you know, is O'Connor. Poor Alice, you know, too, is anything but adamant. And now I will say no more; but in requital for what I have said, go and send our patient mild mamma, to me. I really must endeavor to try something with her, in order to save us all from this kind of life she is leading us."
When his mother entered he assumed the superior and man of authority; his countenance exhibited something unpleasant, and in a decisive and rather authoritative tone he said,—
"Mother, will you be pleased to take a seat?"
"You are angry with me, Harry—I know you are; but I could not restrain my feelings, nor keep your secret, when I thought of their insolence in requiting you—you, to whom the property would and ought to have come—"
"Pray, ma'am, take a seat."
She sat down—anxious, but already subdued, as was evident by her manner.
"I," proceeded her son, "to whom the property would and ought to have come—and I to whom it will come—"
"But are you sure of that?"
"Not, I am afraid, while I have such a mother as you are—a woman in whom I can place no confidence with safety. Why did you betray me to this silly family?"
"Because, as I said before, I could not help it; my temper got the better of me."
"Ay, and I fear it will always get the better of you. I could now give you very agreeable information as to that property and the piece of curds that possesses it; but then, as I said, there is no placing any confidence in a woman of your temper."
"If the property is concerned, Harry, you may depend your life on me. So help me, God, if ever I will betray you again."
"Well, that's a solemn asseveration, and I will depend on it; but if you betray me to this family the property is lost to us and our heirs forever."
"Do not fear me; I have taken the oath."
"Well, then, listen; if you could understand Latin, I would give you a quotation from a line of Virgil—
'Haeret lateri lethhalis arundo.'
The girl's doomed—subdued—overcome; I am in the process of killing her."
"Of killing her! My God, how? not by violence, surely—that, you know, would not be safe."
"I know that; no—not by violence, but by the power of this dark eye that you see in my head."
"Heavenly Father! then you possess it?"
"I do; and if I were never to see her again I don't think she could recover; she will merely wither away very gently, and in due time will disappear without issue—and then, whose is the property?"
"As to that, you know there can be no doubt about it; there is the will—the stupid; will, by which she got it."
"I shall see her again, however—nay, in spite of them I shall see her time after time, and shall give her the Evil Eye, until the; scene closes—until I attend her funeral."
"My mind is somewhat at ease," replied his mother; "because I was alarmed lest you should have had recourse to any process that might have brought you within the operation of the law."
"Make your mind easy on that point, my dear mother. No law compels a man to close his eyes; a cat, you know, may look on a king; but of one thing you may be certain—she dies—the victim is mine."
"One thing is certain," replied his mother, "that if she and Charles should marry, you are ousted from the property."
"Don't trouble yourself about such a contingency; I have taken steps which I think will prevent that. I speak in a double sense; but if I find, after all, that they are likely to fail, I shall take others still more decisive."
CHAPTER XIII. Woodward is Discarded from Mr. Goodwin's Family
—Other Particulars of Importance.
The reader sees that Harry Woodward, having ascertained the mutual affection which subsisted between his brother and Alice, resorted to such measures as were likely to place obstructions in the way of their meeting, which neither of them was likely to remove. He felt, now, satisfied that Charles, in consequence of the malignant fabrications which he himself had palmed upon him for truth, would, most assuredly, make no further attempt to renew their former intimacy. When Alice, too, stated to him, that if she married not Charles, whether he proved worthy of her or otherwise, she would never marry another, he felt that she was unconsciously advancing the diabolical plans which he was projecting and attempting to carry into effect. If she died without marriage or without issue, the property, at her death, according to his uncle's will, reverted, as we have said, to himself. His object, therefore, was to expedite her demise with as little delay as possible, in order that he might become master of the patrimony. With this generous principle for his guide, he made it a point to visit the Goodwins, and to see Alice as often as was compatible with the ordinary usages of society. Had Caterine Collins not put the unsuspecting and timid girl on her guard against the influence of the Evil Eye, as possessed by Woodward, for whom she acted as agent in the business, that poor girl would not have felt anything like what this diabolical piece of information occasioned her to experience. From the moment she heard it her active imagination took the alarm. An unaccountable terror seized upon her; she felt as if some dark doom was impending over her. It was in a peculiar degree the age of superstition; and the terrible influence of the Evil Eye was one not only of the commonest, but the most formidable of them all. The dark, significant, but sinister gaze of Harry Woodward was, she thought, forever upon her. She could not withdraw her imagination from it. It haunted her; it was fixed upon her, accompanied by a dreadful smile of apparent courtesy, but of a malignity which she felt as if it penetrated her whole being, both corporeal and mental. She hurried to bed at night with a hope that sleep might exclude the frightful vision which followed her; but, alas! even sleep was no security to her against its terrors. It was now that in her distempered dreams imagination ran riot. She fled from him, or attempted to fly, but feared that she had not strength for the effort; he followed her, she thought, and when she covered her face with her hands in order to avoid the sight of him, she felt him seizing her by the wrists, and removing her arms in order that he might pour the malignant influence of that terrible eye into her very heart. From these scenes she generally awoke with a shriek, when her maid, Sarah Sullivan, who of late slept in the same room with her, was obliged to come to her assistance, and soothe and sustain her as well as she could. She then lay for hours in such a state of terror and agitation as cannot be described, until near morning, WHen she generally fell into something like sound sleep. In fact, her waking moments were easy when compared with the persecution which the spirit of that man inflicted on her during her broken and restless slumbers. The dreadful eye, as it rested upon her, seemed as if its powerful but killing expression proceeded from the heart and spirit of some demon who sought to wither her by slow degrees out of life; and she felt that he was succeeding in his murderous and merciless object. It is not to be wondered at, then, that she dreaded the state of sleep more than any other condition of existence in which she could find herself. As night, and the hour of retiring to what ought to have been a refreshing rest returned, her alarms also returned with tenfold terror; and such was her apprehension of those fiend-like and nocturnal visits, that she entreated Sarah Sullivan to sleep with and awaken her the moment she heard her groan or shriek. Our readers may perceive that the innocent girl's tenure of life could not be a long one under such strange and unexampled sufferings.
The state of her health now occasioned her parents to feel the most serious alarm. She herself disclosed to them the fearful intelligence which had been communicated to her in such a friendly spirit by Caterine Collins, to wit, that Harry Woodward possessed the terrible power of the Evil Eye, and that she felt he was attempting to kill her by it; adding, that from the state of her mind and health she feared he had succeeded, and that certainly, if he were permitted to continue his visits, she knew that she could not long survive.
"I remember well," said her father, "that when he was a boy of about six or seven he was called, by way of nickname, Harry na Suil Glair; and, indeed, the common report always has been that his mother possesses the evil eye against cattle, when she wishes to injure any neighbor that doesn't treat her with what she thinks to be proper and becoming respect. If her son Harry has the accursed gift it comes from her blood; they say there is some old story connected with her family that accounts for it, but, as I never heard it, I don't know what it is."
"I agree with you," said his wife; "if he has it at all, he may thank her for it. There is, I fear, some bad principle in her; for surely the fierceness and overbearing spirit of her pride, and the malignant calumnies of her foul and scandalous tongue, can proceed from nothing that's good."
"Well, Martha," observed her husband, "if the devilish and unaccountable hatred which she bears her fellow-creatures is violent, she has the satisfaction of knowing—and well she knows it—that it is returned to her with compound interest; I question if the devil himself is detested with such a venomous feeling as she is. Her own husband and children cannot like a bone in her skin."
"And yet," replied Alice, "you would have made this woman my mother-in-law! Do you think it was from any regard to us that she came here to propose a marriage between her son and me? No, indeed, dear papa, it was for the purpose of securing the property, which her brother left me, for him who would otherwise have inherited it. And do you imagine for a moment that Harry Woodward himself ever felt one emotion of personal affection for me? If you do you are quite mistaken. I knew and felt all along—even while he was assuming the part of the lover—that he actually hated, not only me, but every one of the family. His object was the property, and so was that of his mother; but I absolve all the other members of the family from any knowledge of, or participation in, their schemes. As it is, if you wish to see yourselves childless you will allow his, visits, or, if not, you will never permit his presence under this roof again. I fear, however, that it is now too late—you see that I am already on the brink of the grave, in consequence of the evil influence which the dreadful villain has gained over me, and, indeed," she added, bursting into tears, "I have, at this moment, no hopes of recovery. My strength, both bodily and mental, is gone—I am as weak as an infant, and I see nothing before me but an early grave. I have also other sorrows, but even to you I will not disclose them—perhaps on my bed of death I may."
The last words were scarcely uttered when she fainted. Her parents were dreadfully alarmed—in a moment both were in tears, but they immediately summoned assistance. Sarah Sullivan made her appearance, attended by others of the servants; the usual remedies were applied, and in the course of about ten or twelve minutes she recovered, and was weeping in a paroxysm bordering on despair when Harry Woodward entered the room. This was too much for the unfortunate girl. It seemed like setting the seal of death to her fate. She caught a glimpse of him. There was the malignant, but derisive look—one which he meant to be courteous, but which the bitter feeling within him overshadowed with the gloomy triumph of an evil spirit. She placed her hands over her eyes, gave one loud shriek, and immediately fell into strong convulsions.
"Good heavens!" exclaimed Woodward, "what is the matter with Miss Goodwin? I am sincerely sorry to see this. Is not her health good?"
"Pray, sir," replied her father, "how did you come to obtrude yourself here at such a moment of domestic distress?"
"Why, my dear sir," replied Woodward, "of course you must know that I was ignorant of all this. The hall-door was open, as it generally is, so was the door of this room, and I came in accordingly, as I have been in the habit of doing, to pay my respects to the family."
"Yes," said Mr. Goodwin, "the hall-door is generally open, but it shall not be so in future. Come out of the room, Mr. Woodward; your presence is not required here."
"O, certainly," replied Woodward, "I feel that; and I assure you I would not by any means have intruded had I known that Miss Goodwin was unwell."
"She is unwell," responded her father; "very unwell; unwell unto death, I fear. And now, Mr. Woodward," he proceeded, when they had reached the hall, "I beg to state peremptorily and decidedly that all intimacy and intercourse between you and our family must cease from this hour. You visit here no more."
"This is very strange language, Mr. Goodwin," replied the other, "and I think, as between two gentlemen, I am entitled to an explanation. I received the permission of yourself, your lady, and your daughter to visit here. I am not conscious of having done anything unbecoming a gentleman, that could or ought to deprive me of a privilege which I looked upon as an honor."
"Well, then," replied her father, "look into your own conscience, and perhaps you will find the necessary explanation there. I am master of my own house and my own motions, and now I beg you instantly to withdraw, and to consider this your last visit here."
"May I not be permitted to call to-morrow to inquire after Miss Goodwin's health?"
"Nor to send a messenger?"
"By no means; and now, sir, withdraw; I must go in to my daughter, till I see what can be done for her, or whether anything can or not."
Harry Woodward looked upon him steadily for a time, and the old man felt as if his very strength was becoming relaxed; a sense of faintness and terror came over him, and, as Woodward took his departure in silence, the father of Alice began to abandon all hopes of her recovery. He himself felt the effects of the mysterious gaze which Woodward had fastened on him, and entered the room, conscious of the fatal power of the Evil Eye.
Fit after fit succeeded each other for the space of, at least, an hour and a half, after which they ceased, but left her in such a state of weakness and terror that she might be said, at that moment, to hover between life and death. She was carried in her distracted father's arms to bed, and after they had composed her as well as they could, her father said,—
"My darling child, you may now summon strength and courage; that man, that bad man, will never come under this roof again. I have finally settled the point, and you have nothing further now, nor anything worse, to dread from him. I have given the villain his nunc dimittis once and forever, and you will never see him more."
"But I fear, papa," she replied, feebly, "that, as I said before, it is now too late. I feel that he has killed me. I know not how I will pass this night. I dread the hours of sleep above all conditions of my unhappy existence. O, no wonder that the entrance of that man-demon to our house should be heralded by the storms and hurricanes of heaven, and that the terrible fury of the elements, as indicative of the Almighty's anger, should mark his introduction to our family. Then the prodigy which took place when the bonfires were lighted to welcome his accursed return—the shower of blood! O, may God support me, and, above all things, banish him from my dreams! Still, I feel some relief by the knowledge that he is not to come here again. Yes, I feel that it relieves me; but, alas! I fear that even the consciousness of that cannot prevent the awful impression that I think I am near death."
"No, darling," replied her mother, "don't allow that thought to gain upon you. We'll get a fairy-man or a fairy-woman, because they know the best remedies against everything of that kind, when a common leech or chirurgeon can do nothing."
"No," replied her father, "I will allow nothing of the kind under this roof. It's not a safe thing to have dealings with such people. We know that the Church forbids it. Perhaps it's a witch we might stumble on; and would it not be a frightful thing to see one of those who are leagued with the devil bringing their unconsecrated breaths about us this week, as it were, and, perhaps, burned the next? No, we will have a regular physician, who has his own character, as such, to look to and support by his honesty and skill, but none of those withered classes of hell that are a curse to the country."
"Very well," replied Mrs. Goodwin, "have your own way in it. I dare say you are right."
"O, don't bring any fairy-women or fairy-men about me," said Alice. "The very sight of them would take away the little life I have left."
In the meantime Harry Woodward, who had a variety of plans and projects to elaborate, found himself, as every villain of his kind generally does, encompassed by doubt and apprehension of their failure. The reader will understand the condition of his heart and feelings when he advances further in this narrative. Old Lindsay, who was of a manly and generous disposition, felt considerable surprise that all intimacy should have been discontinued between his son Charles and Alice Goodwin. As for the property which she now possessed, he never once thought of it in connection with their former affection for each other. He certainly appreciated the magnanimity and disinterestedness of his son in ceasing to urge his claims after she had become possessed of such a fortune; and it struck him that something must have been wrong, or some evil agency at work, which prevented the Goodwins from reestablishing their former intimacy with Charles whilst they seemed to court that of his brother. Here was something strange, and he could not understand it. One. morning, when they were all seated at breakfast, he spoke as follows:—
"I can't," he said, "comprehend the conduct of the Goodwins. Their daughter, if we are to judge from appearances, has discarded her accepted lover, poor Charles, here. Now, this doesn't look well. There seems to be something capricious, perhaps selfish, in it. Still, knowing the goodness of their hearts, as I do, I cannot but feel that there is something like a mystery in it. I had set my heart upon a marriage between Charles and Alice before ever she came into the property bequeathed to her. In this I was not selfish certainly. I looked only to their happiness. Yes, and my mind is still set upon this marriage, and it shall go hard with me or I will accomplish it."