He passed his hands over those parts of his limbs most affected by his complaint, and in a short time he (the philosopher) found himself completely free from his pains.
During those two most extraordinary processes Woodward looked on with a degree of wonder and of interest that might be truly termed intense. What the operations which took place before him could mean he knew not, but when the stranger turned round to the friar and said,—"Now bring me to this unhappy girl," Woodward seized his hat, feeling a presentiment that he was going to the relief of Alice Goodwin, and with hasty steps proceeded to the farm house in which she and her parents lodged. He was now desperate, and resolved, if courtesy failed, to force one more annihilating glance upon her before the mysterious stranger should arrive. We need scarcely inform our readers that he was indignantly repulsed by the family; but he was furious, and in spite of all opposition forced his way into her bedroom, to which he was led by her groans—dying groans they were considered by all around her. He rushed into her bed-room, and fixed his eye upon her with something like the fury of hell in it. The poor girl on seeing him a second time fell back and moaned as if she had expired. The villain stood looking over her in a spirit of the most malignant triumph.
"It is done now," said he; "there she lies—a corpse—and I am now master of my twelve hundred a year."
He had scarcely uttered the words when he felt a powerful hand grasp him by the shoulder, and send him with dreadful violence to the other side of the room. On turning round to see who the person was who had actually twirled him about like an infant, he found the large, but benevolent-looking stranger standing at Alice's bedside, his finger upon the pulse and his eyes intently fixed upon her apparently lifeless features. He then turned round to Woodward, and exclaimed in a voice of thunder,—
"She is not dead, villain, and will not die on this occasion: begone, and leave the room."
"Villain!" replied Woodward, putting his hand to his sword: "I allow no man to call me villain unpunished."
The stranger contemptuously and indignantly waved his hand to him, as much as to say—presently, presently, but not now. The truth is, the loud tones of his voice had caused Alice to open her eyes, and instead of trading the dreaded being before her, there stood the symbol of benevolence and moral power, with his mild, but clear and benignant eye smiling upon her.
"My dear child," said he, "look upon me and give me your hands. You shall, with the assistance of that God who has so mysteriously gifted me, soon be well, and free from the evil and diabolical influence which I has been for such selfish and accursed purposes exercised over you."
He then took her beautiful but emaciated hands into his own, which were also soft and beautiful, and keeping his eyes fixed upon hers, he then, with that necessary freedom which physicians exercise with their patients, pressed his hands after a time upon her temples, her head, her eyes, and her heart, the whole family being present, servants and all. The effect was miraculous. In the course of twenty minutes the girl was recovered; her spirits—her health had returned to her. Her eyes smiled as she turned them with delight upon her father and mother.
"O, papa!" she exclaimed, smiling, "O, dear mamma, what can this mean? I am; cured, and what is more, I am no longer afraid of that vile, bad man. May the God of heaven be praised for this! but how will we thank—how can we thank the benevolent gentleman who has rescued me from death?"
"More thanks are due," replied the stranger, smiling, "to Father Mulrenin here, who acquainted me in a letter, not only with your melancholy condition, but with the supposed cause of it. However, let your thanks be first returned to God, whose mysterious instrument I only am. Now, sir," said he, turning to Woodward, "you laid your hand upon your sword. I also wear a sword, not for aggression but defence. You know we met before. I was not then aware of your personal history, but I am now. I have just returned from London, where I was at the court of his Majesty Charles the Second. While in London I met your granduncle, and from him I learned your history, and a bad one it is. Now, sir, I beg to inform you that your malignant and diabolical influence over the person of this young lady has ceased forever. As to the future, she is free from that influence; but if I ever hear that you attempt to intrude yourself into her presence, or to annoy her family, I will have you secured in the jail of Waterford in forty-eight hours afterwards, for other crimes that render you liable to the law."
"And pray who are you?" asked Woodward, with a blank and crestfallen countenance, but still with a strong feeling of enmity and bitterness—a feeling which he could not repress. "Who are you who presume to dictate to me upon my conduct and course of life?"
"Who am I?" replied the stranger, assuming an air of incredible dignity. "Sir, my name is VALENTINE GREATRAKES, a person on whom God has bestowed powers which, apart from inspiration, have seldom for centuries ever been vouchsafed to man."
Woodward got pale again. He had heard of his extraordinary powers of curing almost every description of malady peculiar to the human frame, and without another word slunk out of the room. On hearing his name Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin rushed to him, seized his hands, and with the enthusiasm of grateful hearts each absolutely wept upon his broad and ample bosom. He was at this period about forty-six; but seeing Alice's face lit up with joy and delight, he stooped down and kissed her as a father would a daughter who had recovered from the death struggle. "My dear child," he said, "you are now saved; but you must remain here for some time longer, because I do not wish to part with you until I shall have completely confirmed the sanative influence with which God has enabled me to reinvigorate you and others. As for your selfish persecutor, he will trouble you no more. He knows now what the consequences would be if he attempt it."
History of the Black Spectre.
Woodward returned to the public room, where he was soon followed by Father Mulrenin and Greatrakes, who were shortly joined by Mr. Goodwin; Mrs. Goodwin having remained at home with Alice. The dancing went on with great animation, and when the hour of supper arrived there was a full and merry table. The friar was in great glee, but from time to time kept his eye closely fixed upon Woodward, whose countenance and conduct he watched closely; It might have been about the hour of midnight, if not later, when, after a short lull in the conversation, Father Mulrenin addressed Mr. Goodwin as follows:—
"Mr. Goodwin, is there not a family in your neighborhood named Lindsay?"
"There is," replied Goodwin; "and a very respectable family, too."
"By the way, there is a very curious tradition, or legend, connected with the family of Mr. Lindsay's wife: have you ever heard of it?"
"That such a tradition, or legend, exists, I believe," he replied, "but there are many versions of it—although I have never heard any of them distinctly; something I did hear about what is termed the Shan-dhinne-dhuv, or the Black Spectre."
"Well, then," proceeded the friar, "if the company has no objection to hear an authentic account of this fearful apparition, I will indulge them with a slight sketch of the narrative:
"When Essex was over here in the Elizabethan wars—and a nice hand he made of them; not, God knows, that we ought to regret it, but I like a good general whether he is for us or against us—devil a doubt of that: well, when Essex was over here conducting them (with reverence be it spoken) it so happened that he had a scoundrel with him by name Hamilton—and a thorough scoundrel was he. O Lord! if I had lived in those days, and wasn't in Orders to tie my hands up—but no matter; this same scoundrel was one of the handsomest vagabonds in the English camp. Well and good; but, indeed, to tell God's truth, it was neither well nor good, because, as I said, the man was a first-rate, tiptop scoundrel; but you will find that he was a devilish sight more so before I have put a period to my little narration. Mr. Woodward, will you hob or nob? I think your name is Woodward?"
"With great pleasure, sir," replied Woodward; "and you are right, my name is Woodward; but proceed with your narrative, for, I assure you, I feel very much interested in it, especially in that portion of it which relates to the Black Spectre. Though not a believer in supernatural appearances, I feel much gratification in listening to accounts of them. Pray proceed, sir."
"Well sir, it so happened that this Hamilton, who had been originally a Scotch Redshank, became privately acquainted with a beautiful and wealthy orphan girl, a relation of the O'Neils; and it so happened again, that whether they made a throw on the dice for it or not, he won her affections. So far, however, there was nothing very particularly obnoxious in it, because we know that intermarriages between Catholics and Protestants may disarm the parties of their religious prejudices against each other; and although I cannot affirm the truth of what I am about to say from my own experience, still, I think I have been able to smell out the fact that little Cupid is of no particular religion, and can be claimed by no particular church; or rather I should say that he is claimed by all churches and all creeds. This Hamilton, as I said, was exceedingly handsome, but it seems from the tradition that it was by the beauty of his eyes that Eva O'Neil was conquered, just as the first Eve was by the eyes and tongue of the serpent. Not, God knows, that the great Eve was any great shakes, for she left the world in a nice plight by falling in love with a serpent; but upon my credit she was not the first woman, excuse the blunder, who fell in love with a serpent, and suffered accordingly. I appeal to Pythagoras there."
"It is an allegory," replied the Pythagorean, "and simply means that we are innocent so long as we are young, and that when we come to maturity we are corrupted and depraved by our passions."
"How the sorra can you say that," replied the friar, "when you know that Adam and Eve were created full-grown?"
"Pray go on with your tradition," said Greatrakes, "and let us hear the history of the Black Spectre. I am not myself an infidel in the history of supernatural appearances, and I wish to hear you out."
"Well, then," replied the friar, "you shall. The villain proposed marriage to this beautiful young orphan, and as he was a handsome vagabone, as I have stated, he was accepted; but his eyes, above all things, were irresistible. They were married by a Protestant clergyman, and immediately afterwards by a Catholic priest, who was far advanced in years. The lady would submit to no marriage but a legal one. The marriage, however, was private; for Hamilton knew that Essex was aware of his having been during this event a married man, and that his wife, who was a distant relation of the Earl's, was still living. The marriage, however, came to Essex's ears, and Hamilton was called to account. He denied the marriage, the old priest having been now dead, and none but the Protestant clergyman of the parish being alive to bear testimony to the fact of the marriage. He endeavored to prevail upon the clergyman also to deny the marriage, which he refused to do, whereupon he was found murdered. His wife by this marriage having learned from Essex that Hamilton had most treacherously deceived her, fell into premature labor and died; but her last words were an awful curse upon him, and his children after him, to the last generation.
"'May the Eye that lured me to destruction,' she said, 'become a curse to you and your descendants forever! May it blight and kill all those whom it looks upon, and render it dreadful and dreaded to all those who will place confidence in you or your descendants!'"
"God knows I couldn't much blame her; it was her last Christian benediction to the villain who had destroyed her, and, setting-charity aside, I don't see how she could have spoken otherwise.
"When the proofs of the marriage, however, were about to be brought against him, the Protestant clergyman, who, on discovering his iniquity, was too honest to conceal it, and who felt bitterly the fraud that had been practised on him, was found murdered, as I have said, because he was now the only evidence left against Hamilton's crime. The latter did not, however, get rid of him by that atrocious and inhuman act. The spirit of that man haunts the family from that day to this; it is always a messenger of evil to them whenever he appears, and it matters not where they go or where they live, he is sure to follow them, and to fasten upon some of the family, generally the wickedest, of course, as his victim. Now, Mr. Woodward, what do you think of that family tradition?"
"I think of it," replied Woodward, "with contempt, as I do of everything that proceeds from the lips of an ignorant and illiterate Roman Catholic priest."
"Sir," replied the friar, "I am not the inventor of this family tradition, nor of the crime which is said—however justly I know not—to have given rise to it; but this I do know, that no man having claims to the character of a gentleman would use such language to a defenceless man as you have just used to me. The legend is traditionary in your family, and I have only given it as I have heard it. If I were not a clergyman I would chastise you for your insolence; but my hands are bound up, and you well know it."
"Friar," said Greatrakes, "when you know that your hands are bound up, you should have avoided insulting any man. You should not have related a piece of family history—perhaps false from beginning to end—in the presence of a gentleman so intimately connected with that family as you knew him to be. It was no topic for a common room like this, and it was quite unjustifiable in you to have introduced it."
"I feel, sir, that you are perfectly right," replied the good-natured friar, "and I ask Mr. Woodward's pardon for having, without the slightest intention of offence to him, done so. You will recollect that he himself expressed an anxiety to hear it."
"All I say upon the subject," observed the Pythagorean, "is simply this, that Pythagoras himself could not have cured me of the rheumatism as my friend Valentine Greatrakes has done."
"You will require no cure, and, what is better, no necessity for cure," replied Greatrakes, smiling, "if you will have only common sense, my dear Cooke. Clothe yourself in warm and comfortable garments, and feed your miserable carcass with good beef and mutton, and, in addition to which, like myself and the friar here, take a warm tumbler of good usquebaugh punch to promote digestion."
"I will never abandon my principles," replied the philosopher. "Linen and vegetable diet forever."
Manifold was asleep after his gorge,—a sleep from which he never awoke,—but Doctor Doolittle, anxious to secure Cooke as a patient, became quite eloquent upon the advantages of a vegetable diet, and of the Pythagorean system in general; after which the conversation of the night closed, and the guests departed to their respective lodgings.
The night was still an beautiful. The moon was about to sink, but still she emitted that faint and shadowy light which lends such calm, but picturesque beauty to the nocturnal landscape. Woodward was alone; but it would be difficult to find language in which to describe the bitterness of his feelings and the frightful sense of his disappointment on finding, not only that his infamous design upon the life of Alice Goodwin had been frustrated, but on feeling certain that she had been restored to perfect health before his eyes. This, however, was not the worst of it. He had calculated on killing her, and consequently of securing the twelve hundred a year, on the strength of which he and his mother could confidently negotiate with the old nobleman, who always slept with one eye open. In the venom and dark malignity of his heart he cursed Alice Goodwin, he cursed Valentine Greatrakes, he cursed the world, and he cursed God, or rather would have cursed him had he believed in the existence of such a being.
In this mood of mind he was proceeding to his lodgings, when he espied before him the Shan-dhinne-dhuv, or Black Spectre with the middogue in his hand. He stood and looked at it steadily.
"What is this?" said he, addressing the figure before him. "What pranks are you playing now? Do you think me a fool? What brought you here? and what do you mean by this pantomimic nonsense, Mr. Conjurer?"
The figure, of course, made no reply, except by gesture. It brandished the middogue, or dagger, however, and pointed it three times at his heart. The spot upon which this strange interview occurred was perfectly clear of anything that could conceal an individual. In fact it was an open common. Woodward, consequently, led astray by circumstances with which the reader will become subsequently acquainted, started forward with the intention of reaching the individual whom he suspected of indulging himself in playing with his fears, or rather with jocularly intending to excite them. He sprang forward, we say, and reached the spot on which the Black Spectre had stood, but our readers may judge of his surprise when he found that the spectre, or whatever it was, had disappeared, and was nowhere, or any longer, visible. Place of concealment there was none. He examined the ground about him. It was firm and compact, and without a fissure in which a rat could, conceal itself.
There is no power in human nature which enables the heart of man, under similar circumstances, to bear the occurrence of such a scene as we have described, unmoved. The man was hardened—an infidel, an atheist; but, notwithstanding all this, a sense of awe, wonder, and even, in some degree, of terror, came over his heart, which nearly unnerved him. Most atheists, however, are utter profligates, as he was; or silly philosophers, who, because they take their own reason for their guide, will come to no other conclusion than that to which it leads them. "It is simply a hallucination," said he to himself, "and merely the result of having heard the absurd nonsense of what that ignorant and credulous old friar related tonight concerning my family. Still it is strange, because I am cool and sober, and in the perfect use of my senses. This is the same appearance which I saw before near the Haunted House, and of which I never could get any account. What if there should be—?"
He checked himself and proceeded to his lodgings, with an intention of returning home the next morning; which he did, after having failed in the murderous mission which he undertook to accomplish.
"Mother," said he, after his return home, "all is lost: Alice Goodwin has been restored to perfect health by Valentine Greatrakes, and my twelve hundred a year is gone for ever. How can we enter into negotiations with that sharp old scoundrel, Lord Cockle-town, now? I assure you I had her at the last gasp, when Greatrakes came in and restored her to perfect health before my face. But, setting that aside for the present, is there such a being as what is termed the Black Spectre, mysteriously connected, if I may say so, with our family?"
His mother's face got pale as death.
"Why do you ask, Harry?" said she.
"Because," he replied, "I have reason to think that I have seen it twice."
"Alas! alas!" she exclaimed, "then the doom of the curse is upon you. It selects only one of every generation on which to work its vengeance. The third appearance of it will be fatal to you."
"This is all contemptible absurdity, my dear mother. I don't care if I saw it a thousand times. How can it interfere with my fate?"
"It does not interfere," she replied, "it only intimates it, and whatever the nature of the individual's death among our family may be, it shadows it out. What signs did it make to you?"
"It brandished what is called in this country a middogue, or Irish dagger, at my heart."
His mother got pale again.
"Harry," said she, "I would recommend you to leave the kingdom. Avoid the third warning!"
"Mother," he replied, "this certainly is sad nonsense. I have no notion of leaving the kingdom in consequence of such superstitious stuff as this; all these things are soap bubbles; put your finger on them and they dissolve into nothing. How is Charles? for I have not yet seen him."
"Improving very much, although not able yet to leave his room."
Woodward walked about and seemed absorbed in thought.
"It is a painful thing, mother," said he, "that Charles is so long recovering. Do you know that I am half inclined to think he will never recover? His wound was a dreadful one, and its consequences on his constitution will, I fear, be fatal."
"I hope not, Harry," she replied, "for ever since his illness I have found that my heart gathers about him with an affection that I have never felt for him before."
"Your resolution, then, is fixed, I suppose, to leave him your property?"
"It is fixed; there is, or can be, no doubt about it. Once I come to a determination I am immovable. We shall be able to wheedle Lord Cockletown and his niece."
Harry paused a moment, then passed out of the room, and retired to his own apartment.
Here he remained for hours. At the close of the evening he appeared in the withdrawing-room, but still in a silent and gloomy state.
The perfect cure of Miss Goodwin had spread like wildfire, and reached the whole country.
Greatrake's reputation was then at its highest, and the number of his cures was the theme of all conversation, Barney Casey had well marked Woodward since his return from Ballyspellan, and having heard, in connection with others, that Miss Goodwin had been cured by Greatrakes, he resolved to keep his eye upon him, and, indeed, as the event will prove, it was well he did so.
That night, about the hour of twelve o'clock, Barney, who had suspected that he (Woodward) had either murdered Grace Davoren in order to conceal his own guilt, or kept her in some secret place for the most unjustifiable purposes, remarked that, as was generally usual with him, he did not go to bed at the period peculiar to the habits of the family.
"There is something on my mind this night," said Barney; "I can't tell what it is; but I think he is bent on some villainous scheme that ought to be watched, and in the name of God I will watch him."
Woodward went out of the house more stealthily than usual, and took his way towards the town of Rathfillan. A good way in the distance behind him might be discovered another figure dogging his footsteps, that figure being no other than the honest figure of Barney Casey. On went Woodward unsuspicious that he was watched, until he reached the indescribable cabin of Sol Donnel, the old herbalist. The night had become dark, and Barney was able, without being seen, to come near enough to Woodward to hear his words and observe his actions. He tapped at the old man's window, which, after some delay and a good deal of grumbling, was at length opened to him. The hut consisted of only one room—a fact which Barney well knew.
"Who is there?" said the old herbalist. "Why do you come at this hour to deprive me of my rest? Nobody comes for any good purpose at such an hour as this."
"Open your door, you hypocritical old sinner, and I will speak to you. Open your door instantly."
"Wait, then; I will open it; to be sure—I will open it; because I know whoever you are that if there was not something extraordinary in it, it isn't at this hour you'd be coming to me."
"Open the door I say, and then I shall speak to you."
The window, which the old herbalist had opened, and, in the hurry of the moment, left unshut, remained unshut, and Barney, after Woodward had entered, stood close to it in order to hear the conversation which might pass between them.
"Now," said Woodward, after he had entered the hut, "I want a dose from you. One of my dogs, I fear, is seized with incipient symptoms of hydrophobia, and I wish to dose him to death."
"And what hour is this to come for such a purpose?" asked Sol Donnel. "It isn't at midnight that a man comes to me to ask for a dose of poison for a dog."
"You are very right in that," replied Woodward; "but the truth is, that I had an assignation with a girl in the town, and I thought that I might as well call upon you now as at any other time."
The eye of the old sinner glistened, for he knew perfectly well that the malady of the dog was a fable.
"Well," said he, "I can give you the dose, but what's to be the recompense?"
"What do you ask?" replied the other. "I will dose nothing under five pounds."
"Are you certain that your dose will be sure to effect its purpose?" asked Woodward.
"As sure as I am of life," replied the old sinner; "one glass of it would settle a man as soon as it would a dog;" and as he spoke he fastened his keen, glittering eyes upon Woodward. The glance seemed to say, I understand you, and I know that the dog you are about to give the dose to walks upon two legs instead of four.
"Now," said Woodward after having secured the bottle, "here are your five pounds, and mark me——" he looked sternly in the face of the herbalist, but added not another word.
The herbalist, having secured the money and deposited it in his pocket, said, with a malicious grin,
"Couldn't you, Mr. Woodward, have prevented yourself from going to the expense of five pounds for poisoning a dog, that you could have shot without all this expense?"
Woodward looked at him. "Your life," said he, "will not be worth a day's purchase if you breathe a syllable of what took place between us this night. Sol Donnel, I am a desperate man, otherwise I would not have come to you. Keep the secret between us, for, if you divulge it, you may take my word for it that you will not survive it twenty-four hours. Now, be warned, for I am both resolute and serious."
The herbalist felt the energy of his language and was subdued.
"No," he replied, "I shall never breathe it; kill your dog in your own way; all I can say is, that half a glass of it would kill the strongest horse in your stable; only let me remark that I gave you the bottle to kill a dog!"
"Now," thought Barney Casey, "what can all this mean? There is none of the dogs wrong. He is at some devil's work; but what it is I do not know; I shall watch him well, however, and it will go hard or I shall find out his purpose."
As Woodward was about to depart he mused for a time, and at length addressed the herbalist.
"Suppose," said he, "that I wish to kill this dog by slow degrees, would it not be a good plan to give him a little of it every day, and let him die, as it were, by inches?"
"That my bed may be made in heaven but it is a good thought, and by far the safest plan," replied the herbalist, "and the very one I would recommend you. A small spoonful every day put into his coffee or her coffee, as the case may be, will, in the course of a fortnight or three weeks, make a complete cure."
"Why, you old scoundrel, who ever heard of a dog drinking coffee?"
"I did," replied the old villain, with another grin, "and many a time it is newly sweetened for them, too, and they take it until they fall asleep; but they forget to waken somehow. Taste that yourself, and you'll find that it is beautifully sweetened; because if it was given to the dog in its natural bitter state he might refuse to take it at all, or, what would be worse and more dangerous still, he might suspect the reason why it was given to him."
The two persons looked each other in the face, and it would, indeed, be difficult to witness such an expression as the countenance of each betrayed. That of the herbalist lay principally in his ferret eyes. It was cruel, selfish, cunning, and avaricious. The eye of the other was dark, significant, vindictive, and terrible. In his handsome features there was, when contrasted with those of the herbalist, a demoniacal elevation, a satanic intellectuality of expression, which rendered the contrast striking beyond belief. The one appeared with the power of Apollyon, the god of destruction, conscious of that power; the other as his mere contemptible agent of evil-subordinate, low, villanous, and wicked.
Woodward, after a significant look, bade him good night, and took his way home.
Barney Casey, however, still dogged him stealthily, because he knew not whether the dose was intended for Grace Davoren or his brother Charles. Mrs. Lindsay had made no secret of her intention to leave her property to the latter, whose danger, and the state of whose health, had awakened all those affections of the mother which had lain dormant in her heart so long. The revivification of her affections for him was one of those capricious manifestations of feeling which can emanate from no other source but the heart of a mother. Independently of this, there was in the mind of Mrs. Lindsay a principle of conscious guilt, of hardness of heart, of all want of common humanity, that sometimes startled her into terror. She knew the villany of her son Woodward, and, after all, the heart of a woman and a mother is not like the heart of a man. There is a tendency to recuperation in a woman's and a mother's heart, which can be found nowhere else; and the contrast which she felt herself forced to institute between the generous character of her son Charles and the villany of Woodward broke down the hard propensities of her spirit, and subdued her very wickedness into something like humanity. Virtue and goodness, after all, will work their way, especially where a mother's feelings, conscious of the evil and conscious of the good, are forced to strike the balance between them. This consideration it was which determined Mrs. Lindsay, in addition to other considerations already alluded to, to come to the resolution of leaving her property to her son Charles. There is, besides, a want of confidence and of mutual affection in villany which reacts upon the heart, precisely as it did upon that of Mrs. Lindsay. She knew that her eldest son was in intention a murderer; and there is a terrible summons in conscience which sometimes awakens the soul into a sense of virtue and truth.
Be this as it may, Barney Casey's vigilance was ineffectual. From the night on which Woodward got the bottle from the herbalist, Charles Lindsay began gradually and slowly to decline. Barney's situation in the family was that of a general servant, in fact, a man of all work, and the necessary consequence was, that he could not contravene the conduct of Harry Woodward, although he saw clearly that, notwithstanding Charles's wound was nearly healed, his general health was getting worse.
Now, the benevolence and singular power of Valentine Greatrakes are historical facts which cannot be contradicted. After about a month from the time he cured Alice Goodwin he came to the town of Rathfillan, with several objects in view, one of which was to see Alice Goodwin, and to ascertain that her health was perfectly reestablished. But the other and greater one was that which we shall describe. Mr. Lindsay, having perceived that his son Charles's health was gradually becoming worse, though his wound was healed, and on finding that the physician who attended him could neither do anything for his malady, nor even account for it, or pronounce a diagnosis upon its character, bethought him of the man who had so completely cured Alice Goodwin. Accordingly, on Greatrakes's visit to Rathfillan, he waited upon him, and requested, as a personal favor, that he would come and see his dying son, for indeed Charles at that time was apparently not many days from death. This distinguished and wealthy gentleman at once assented, and told Mr. Lindsay that he "would visit his sen the next day.
"I may not cure him," said he, "because there are certain complaints which cannot be cured. Such complaints I never attempt to cure; and even in others that are curable I sometimes fail. But wherever there is a possibility of cure I rarely fail. I am not proud of this gift; on the contrary, it has subdued my heart into a sense of piety and gratitude to God, who, in his mercy, has been pleased to make me the instrument of so much good to my fellow-creatures."
Mr Lindsay returned home to his family in high spirits, and on his way to the house observed his stepson Woodward and Barney Casey at the door of the dog-kennel.
"I maintain the dog is wrong," said Woodward, "and to me it seems an incipient case of hydrophobia."
"And to me," replied Barney, "it appears that his complaint is hunger, and that you have simply deprived him of his necessary food."
At this moment Mr. Lindsay approached them, and exclaimed,—
"Harry, let your honest and affectionate heart cheer up. Valentine Greatrakes will be here to-morrow, and will cure Charles, as he cured Alice Goodwin, and then we will have them married; for if he recovers I am determined on it, and will abide no opposition from any quarter. Indeed, Harry, your mother is now willing that they should be married, and is sorry that she ever opposed it. Your mother, thank God, is a changed woman, and thank God the change is one that makes my very heart rejoice."
"God be praised," exclaimed Barney, "that is good news, and makes my heart rejoice nearly as much as yours."
"Father," said Woodward, "you have taken a heavy load off my mind. Charles is certainly very ill, and until Greatrakes comes I shall make it a point to watch and nurse-tend him myself."
"It is just what I would expect from your kind and affectionate heart, Harry," replied Lindsay, rather slowly though, who then passed into the house to communicate the gratifying intelligence to his wife and daughter.
The intensity of Woodward's malignity and villany was such that, as we have mentioned before, on some occasions he forgot himself into such a state of mind, and, what was worse, into such an expression of countenance, as, especially to Barney Casey, who so deeply suspected him, challenged observation. After Lindsay had gone he put his hand to his chin, and said, still with caution,—
"Yes, poor fellow, I will watch him myself this night; for if he happened to die before Greatrakes comes to-morrow, what an affliction would it not be to the family, and especially to myself, who love him so well. Yes, in order to sustain and support him, I will watch him and act as his nurse this night."
There was, however, such an expression on his countenance as could not be mistaken even by a common observer, much less by such an acute one as Barney Casey, who had his eye upon him for such a length of time! His countenance, Barney saw plainly, was as dark as hell, and seemed to catch its inspiration from that damnable region.
"Barney," said he, "I shall watch the sick bed, and nurse my brother Charles tonight, in order, if possible, to sustain him until Greatrakes cures him to-morrow."
"Ah, it's you that is the affectionate brother," replied Barney, who had read deliberate murder in his countenance. "But," he exclaimed, after Woodward had gone, "if you watch him this night, I will watch you. You know now that he stands between you and your mother's property, and you will put him out of the way if you can. Yes, I will watch you well this night."
The minute poisoned doses which he had contrived to administer to his brother were always followed by an excessive thirst. Now, Barney had, as we have often said, strong suspicions; but on this occasion he was determined to place himself in a position from which he could watch every movement of Woodward without being suspected himself. His usual sleeping place was in a low gallery below stairs; but it so happened that there was a closet beside Charles's bed in which there was neither bed nor furniture of any kind, with the exception of a single chair. The door between them had, as is usual, two panes of glass in; it, through which any person in the dark could see what happened in the room in which Charles slept.
Barney locked the door on the inside, and it was well that he did so, for in a short time Woodward came in, with a guilty and a stealthy pace, and having looked, like a murderer, about the room, he approached the closet door and tried to open it; but finding that it was locked his apprehensions vanished, and he deliberately, on seeing that his brother was asleep, took a bottle out of his pocket, and having poured about a wine-glassful of the poison into the small jug which contained the usual drink of the patient, he left the room, satisfied that, as soon as his brother awoke, he would take the deadly draught. When he departed, Barney came out, and having substituted another for it—for there was a variety of potions on the sick table—he, too, stealthily descended the stairs, and going to the dog-kennel deliberately administered the pernicious draught to the dog which Woodward had insisted was unwell. He happily escaped all observation, and accomplished his plan without either notice or suspicion. He stayed in the kennel in order to watch the effects of the potion upon the dog, who died in the course of about fifteen minutes after having received it.
"Now," said Barney, "I think I have my thumb upon him, and it will go hard with me or I will make him suffer for this hellish intention to murder his brother. Mr. Greatrakes is a man of great wealth and high rank; he is, besides, a magistrate of the county, and, please God, I will disclose to him all that I have seen and suspect."
Barney, under the influence of these feelings, went to bed, satisfied that he had saved the life of Charles Lindsay, at least for that night, but at the same time resolved to bring his murderous brother to an account for his conduct.
CHAPTER XXIII. Greatrakes at Work—Denouement
Greatrakes was on his way from Birch Grove to Rathnllan House the next day when he was met by Barney Casey, who had been on the lookout for him. Barney, who knew not his person, was not capable of determining whether he was the individual whom he wanted or not. At all events he resolved at once to ascertain that fact. Accordingly, putting his hand to his hat, he said, with a respectful manner,—
"Pray, sir, are you the great Valentine Great Rooke, who prevents the people from dyin'?"
"I am Valentine Greatrakes," he replied, with a smile; "but I cannot prevent the people from dying."
"Begad, but you can prevent them from being sick, at any rate. I am myself sometimes subject to a colic, bad luck to it—(this was a lie, got up for the purpose of arresting the attention of Greatrakes)—and maybe if you would be kind enough to rub me down you would drive the wind out of me and cure me of it, for at least, by all accounts through the whole parish, it's a windy colic that haunts me."
Greatrakes, who was a man of great goodnature, and strongly susceptible of humor, laughed very heartily at Barney's account of his miserable state of health.
"Well," said he, "my good friend, let me tell you that the colic you speak of is one of the most healthy diseases we have. Don't, if you regard your constitution, and your health, ever attempt to get rid of it. Your constitution is a windy constitution, and that is the reason why you are graciously afflicted with a windy colic."
It was, in fact, diamond cut diamond between the two. Barney, who had never had a colic in his life, shrugged his shoulders very dolefully at the miserable character of the sympathy which was expressed for him; and Greatrakes, from his great powers of observation, saw that every word Barney uttered with respect to his besetting malady was a lie.
At length Barney's countenance assumed an expression of such honest sincerity and feeling that Greatrakes was at once struck by it, and he kept his eye steadily fixed upon him.
"Sir," said Barney, "I understand you are a distinguished gentleman and a magistrate besides?"
"I am certainly a magistrate," replied Greatrakes; "but what is your object in asking the question, my good fellow?"
"I understand you are going to our Masther Charles Lindsay. Now, I wish to give you a hint or two concerning him. His brother—he of the Evil Eye—according to my most solemn and serious opinion, is poisoning him by degrees. I think he has been dosing him upon a small scale, so as to make him die off by the effects of poison, without any suspicion being raised against himself; but when his father told him yesterday that you were to come this day to cure him, his brother insisted that he should sit up with him, and nurse-tend him himself. I was aware of this, and from a conversation I heard him have with an old herbalist, named Sol Donnel, I had suspicions of his design against his brother's life. He strove to kill Miss Goodwin by the damnable force and power of his Evil Eye, and would have done so had not you cured her."
"And are you sure," replied Greatrakes, "that it is not his Evil Eye that is killing his brother?"
"I don't know that," replied Barney; "perhaps it may be so."
"No," replied Greatrakes, "from all I have read and heard of its influence it cannot act upon persons within a certain degree of consanguinity."
"I would take my oath," said honest Barney, "that it is the poison that acts in this instance."
He then gave him a description of Woodward's having poured the poison—or at least what he suspected to be such—into the drink which was usually left at the bedside of his brother, and of its effect upon the dog.
Greatrakes, on hearing this, drew up his horse, and looking Barney sternly in the face, asked him,—
"Pray, my good fellow, did Mr. Woodward ever injure or offend you?"
"No, sir," replied Barney, "never in any instance; but what I say I say from my love for his brother, whose life, I can swear, he is tampering with. It is a weak word, I know, but I will use a stronger, for I say he is bent upon his murder by poison."
"Well," said Greatrakes, "keep your counsel for the present. I will study this matter, and examine into it; and I shall most certainly receive your informations against him; but I must have better opportunities for making myself acquainted with the facts. In the meantime keep your own secret, and leave the rest to me."
When Greatrakes reached Rathfillan House the whole family attended him to the sick bed of Charles. Woodward was there, and appeared to feel a deep interest in the fate of his brother. Greatrakes, on looking at him, said, before he applied the sanative power which God had placed in his constitution,—
"This young man is dying of a slow and subtle poison, which some person under the roof of this house has been administering to him in small doses."
As he uttered these words he fixed his eyes upon Woodward, whose face quailed and blanched under the power and significance of his gaze.
"Sir," replied Lindsay, "with the greatest respect for you, there is not a single individual under this roof who would injure him. He is beloved by every one. The sympathy felt for him through the whole parish is wonderful—but by none more than by his brother Woodward."
This explanation, however, came too late. Greatrakes's impressions were unchanged.
"I think I will cure him," he proceeded; "but after his recovery let him be cautious in taking any drink unless from the hands of his mother or his father."
He then placed his hands over his face and chest, which he kept rubbing for at least a quarter of an hour, when, to their utter astonishment, Charles pronounced himself in as good health as he had ever enjoyed in his lift.
"This, sir," said he, "is wonderful; why, I am perfectly restored to health. As I live, this man must have the power of God about him to be able to effect such an extraordinary cure: and he has also cured my darling Alice. What can I say? Father, give him a hundred—five hundred pounds."
"You don't know, it seems," he replied, "that I do not receive remuneration for any cures I may effect. I am wealthy and independent, and I fear that if I were to make the wonderful gift which God has bestowed on me the object of mercenary gain, it might be withdrawn from me altogether. My principle is one of humanity and benevolence. I will remain in Rathfillan for a fortnight, and shall see you again," he added, addressing himself to Charles. "Now," he proceeded, "mark me, you will require neither drinks nor medicine of any description. Whatever drinks you take, take them at the common table of the family. There are circumstances connected with your case which, as a magistrate of the county, I am I resolved to investigate."
He looked sternly at Woodward as he uttered the last words, and then took his departure to Rathfillan, having first told Barney Casey to call on him the next day.
After Greatrakes had gone, Woodward repaired to the room of his mother, in a state of agitation which we cannot describe.
"Mother," said he, "unless we can manage that old peer and his niece, I am a lost man."
"Do not be uneasy," replied his mother; "whilst you were at Ballyspellan I contrived to manage that. Ask me nothing about it; but every arrangement is made, and you are to be married this day week. Keep yourself prepared for a settled case."
What the mother's arguments in behalf of the match may have been, we cannot pretend to say. We believe that Miss Riddle's attachment to his handsome person and gentlemanly manners overcame all objections on the part of her uncle, and nothing now remained to stand in the way of their union.
The next day Barney Casey waited upon Greatrakes, according to appointment, when the following conversation took place between them:—
"Now," said Greatrakes, solemnly, "what is your name?"
As he put the question with a stern and magisterial air, his tablets and pencil in hand, which he did with the intention of awing Barney into a full confession of the exact truth—a precaution which Barney's romance of the windy colic induced him to take,—"I say," he repeated, "what's your name?"
Barney, seeing the pencil and tablets in hand, and besides not being much, or at all, acquainted with magisterial investigations, felt rather blank, and somewhat puzzled at this query.
He accordingly resorted to the usage of the country, and commenced scratching a rather round bullet head.
"My name, your honor," he replied; "my name, couldn't you pass that by, sir?"
"No," said Greatrakes, "I cannot pass it by. In this business it is essential that I should know it."
"Ay," replied Barney, "but maybe you have some treacherous design in it, and that you are goin' to take the part of the wealthy scoundrel against the poor man; and even if you did, you wouldn't be the first magistrate who did it."
Greatrakes looked keenly at him. The observation he expressed was precisely in accordance with the liberality of his own feelings.
"Don't be alarmed," he added; "if you knew my character, which it is evident you do not, you would know that I never take the part of the rich man against the poor man, unless when there is justice on the part of the wealthy man, and crime, unjustifiable and cruel crime, on the part of the poor man, which, I am sorry to say, is not an unfrequent case. Now, I must insist, as a magistrate, that you give me your name."
"Well, then," replied the other, "I'm one Barney Casey, sir, who lives in Rathfillan House, as a servant to Mr. Lindsay, step-father to that murtherin' blackguard."
Greatrakes then examined him closely, and made him promise to come to Rathfillan that night, in order that he might accompany him to the hut of old Sol Donnel, the herbalist.
"I am resolved," said he, "to investigate this matter, and in my capacity of a magistrate to bring the guilty to justice."
"Faith, sir," replied Barney, "and I'm not the boy who is going to stand in your way in such a business as that. You know that it was I that put you up to it, and any assistance I can give you in it you may reckon on. Although not a magistrate, as you are, maybe I'm just as fond of justice as yourself. Of coorse I'll attend you to-night, and show you the devil's nest in which Sol Donnel and his blessed babe of a niece, by name Caterine Collins, live."
Greatrakes took down the name of Caterine Collins, and after having arranged the hour at which Barney was to conduct him to Sol Donnel's hut, they separated.
About eleven o'clock that night Barney and Greatrakes reached the miserable-looking residence in which this old viper lived.
"Now," said Greatrakes, addressing the herbalist, "my business with you is this: I have a bitter enemy who wants to establish a claim upon my property, and I wish to put him out of my way. Do you understand me? I am a wealthy man, and can reward you well."
"I never talk of these things in the presence of a third party," replied the herbalist, looking significantly at Barney, whom he well knew.
"Well," replied the other, "I dare say you are right. Casey, go out and leave us to ourselves."
There was a little hall in the house, which hall was in complete obscurity. Barney availed himself of this circumstance, opened the door and clapped it to as if he had gone out, but remained at the same time in the inside.
"No, sir," replied Sol Donnel, ignorant of the trick which Barney had played upon him, "I never allow a third person to be present at any of those conversations about the strength and power of my herbs. Now, tell me, what it is that you want me to do for you."
"Why, to tell you the truth," replied Greatrakes, "I never heard of your name until within a few days ago, that you were mentioned to me by Mr. Henry Woodward, who told me that you gave him a dose to settle a dog that was laboring under the first symptoms of hydrophobia. Well, the dog is dead by the influence of the bottle you gave him; but now that we are by ourselves I tell you at once that I want a dose for a man who is likely, if he lives, to cut me out of a large property."
"O, Cheernah!" exclaimed the old villain, "do you think that I who lives by curin' the poor for nothing, or next to nothing, could lend myself to sich a thing as that?"
"Very well," replied the other, preparing to take his departure, "you have lost fifty pounds by the affair at all events."
"Fifty pounds!" exclaimed the other, whilst his keen and diabolical eyes gleamed with the united spirit of avarice and villany. "Fifty pounds! well how simple and foolish some people are. Why now, if you had a dog, say a setter or a pointer, that from fear of madness you wished to get rid of, and that you had mentioned it to me, I could give you a bottle that would soon settle it; I don't go above a dog or the inferior animals, and no man that has his senses about him ought to ask me to do anything else."
"Well, then, I tell you at once that, as I said, it is not for a dog, but for a worse animal, a man, my own cousin, who, unless I absolutely contrive to poison him, will deprive me of six thousand a year. Instead of fifty I shall make the recompense a hundred, after having found that your medicine is successful."
The old villain's eye gleamed again at the prospect of such liberality.
"Well now," said he, "see what it is for a pious man to forget his devotions, even for one day. I forgot to say my Leadan Wurrah this mornin', and that is the raison that your temptation has overcome me. You must call then to-morrow night, because I have nothing now, barrin' what 'ud excite the bowels, and it seems that isn't what you want; but if you be down here about this same hour to-morrow night, you shall have what will put your enemy out of the way."
"That will do then," replied Greatrakes, "and I shall depend on you."
"Ay," replied the old villain, "but remember that the act is not mine but your own. I simply furnish you with the necessary means—your own act will be to apply them."
On leaving the hut, Greatrakes was highly gratified on finding that Barney Casey had overheard their whole conversation.
"You will serve as a corroborative evidence," said he.
The herbalist, at all events, was entrapped, and not only his disposition to sell botanical poisons, but his habit of doing so, was clearly proved to the benevolent magistrate.
On the next night he got the poison, and having consulted with Casey, he said he would not urge the matter for a few days, as he wished, in the most private way possible, to procure further evidence against the guilty parties.
In the meantime, every preparation was made in both families for Woodward's wedding. The old peer, who had cross-examined his niece upon the subject, discovered her attachment to Woodward; and as he wished to see her settled before his death with a gentlemanly and respectable husband—a man who would be capable of taking care of the property which he must necessarily leave her, as she was his favorite and his heiress—and besides, he loved her as a daughter—he was resolved that Woodward and she should be united."
"I don't care a fig," said he, "whether this Woodward has property or not. He is a gentleman, respectably connected, of accomplished manners, handsome in person, and if he has no fortune, why you have; and I think the best thing you can do is to accept him without hesitation. The comical rascal," said he, laughing heartily, "took me in so completely during our first interview, that he became a favorite with me."
"I think well of him," replied his firm-minded niece; "and even I admit that I love him, as far as a girl of such a cold constitution as mine may; but I tell you, uncle, that if I discovered a taint of vice or want of principle in his character, I could fling him off with contempt."
"I wish to heaven," replied the uncle, rather nettled, "that we could have up one of the twelve apostles. I dare say some of them, if they were disposed to marry, might come up to your mark."
"Well, uncle, at all events I like him sufficiently to consent that he should become my husband."
"Well, and is not that enough; bless my heart, could you wish to go beyond it?"
In the meantime, very important matters were proceeding, which bore strongly upon Woodward's destiny. Greatrakes had collected—aided, of course, by Barney Casey, who was the principal, but not the sole, evidence against him—such a series of facts, as, he felt, justified him in receiving informations against him.
At this crisis a discovery was made in connection with the Haunted House, which was privately, through Casey, communicated to Greatrakes, who called a meeting of the neighboring magistrates upon it. This he did by writing to them privately to meet him on a particular day at his little inn in Rathfillan. For obvious reasons, and out of consideration to his feelings, Mr. Lindsay's name was omitted. At all events the night preceding the day of Woodward's marriage with Miss Riddle had arrived, but two circumstances occurred on that evening and on that night which not only frustrated all his designs upon Miss Riddle, or rather upon her uncle's property, but—however, we shall not anticipate.
It was late in the evening when Miss Riddle was told by a servant that a young man, handsome and of fine proportions, wished to see her for a few minutes.
"Not that I would recommend you to see him," said the serving-woman who delivered the message. "He is, to be sure, very handsome; but, then, he is one of those wild people, and armed with a great mid-dogue or dagger, and God knows what his object may be—maybe to take your life. As sure as I live he is a tory."
"That may be," replied Miss Riddle; "but I know, by your description of him, that he is the individual to whose generous spirit I and my dear uncle owe our lives: let him be shown in at once to the front parlor."
In a few minutes she entered, and found Shawn before her.
"O Shawn!" said she, "I am glad to see you. My uncle is using all his interest to get you a pardon—that is, provided you are willing to abandon the wild life to which you have taken."
"I am willing to abandon it," he replied; "but I have one task to perform before I leave it. You have heard of the toir, or tory-hunt, which was made after me and others; but chiefly after me, for I was the object they wanted to shoot down, or rather that he, the villain, wanted to murder under the authority of those cruel laws that make us tories."
"Who do you mean by he?" asked Miss Riddle.
"I mean Harry Woodward," he replied. "He hunted me, disguised by a black mask."
"But are you sure of that, Shawn?"
"I am sure of it," he replied; "and it was not until yesterday that I discovered his villany. I know the barber in Rathfillan where the black mask was got for him, I believe, by his wicked mother."
Miss Riddle, who was a strong-minded girl, paused, and was silent for a time, after which she said,—
"I am glad you told me this, Shawn. I spoke to him in your favor, and he pledged his honor to me previous to the terrible hunt you allude to, and of which the whole country rang, that he would never take a step to your prejudice, but would rather protect you as far as he could, in consequence of your having generously saved my dear uncle's life and mine."
"The deeper villain he, then. He is upon my trail night and day. He ruined Grace Davoren, who has disappeared, and the belief of the people is that he has murdered her. He possesses the Evil Eye too, and would by it have murdered Miss Goodwin, of Beech Grove, in order to get back the property which his uncle left her, only for the wonderful power of Squire Greatrakes, who cured her. And, besides, I have raison to know that he will be arrested this very night for attempting to poison his brother. I am a humble young man, Miss Riddle, but I am afeard that if you marry him you will stand but a bad chance for happiness."
"She was again silent, but, after a pause, she said—
"Shawn, do you want money?"
"I thank you, Miss Riddle," he replied, "I don't want money: all I want is, that you will not be desaved by one of the most damnable villains on the face of the earth."
There was an earnestness and force of truth in what the generous young tory said that could not be mistaken. He arose, and was about to take his leave, when he said,—
"Miss Riddle, I understand he is about to be married to you to-morrow. Should he become your husband, he is safe from my hand—and that on your account; but as it may not yet be too late to spake, I warn you against his hypocrisy and villany—against the man who destroyed Grace Davoren—who would have killed Miss Goodwin with his Evil Eye, in order to get back the property which his uncle left her, and who would have poisoned his own brother out of his way bekase his mother told him she had changed her mind in leaving it to him (Woodward), and came to the resolution of leaving it to his brother, and that was the raison why he attempted to poison him. All these things have been proved, and I have raison to believe that he will sleep—if sleep he can—in Waterford jail before to-morrow mornin'. But," he added, with a look which was so replete with vengeance and terror, that it perfectly stunned the girl, "perhaps he won't, though. It is likely that the fate of Grace Davoren will prevent him from it."
He did not give her time to reply, but instantly disappeared, and left her in a state of mind which our readers may very well understand.
She immediately went to her uncle's library, where the following brief dialogue occurred:
"Uncle, this marriage must not and shall not take place."
"What!" replied the peer; "then he is none of the twelve apostles."
"You are there mistaken," said she; "he is one of them. Remember Judas."
"Judas! What the deuce are you at, my dear niece?"
"Why, that he is a most treacherous villain: that's what I'm at," and her face became crimson with indignation.
"But what's in the wind? Don't keep me in a state of suspense. Judas! Confound it, what a comparison! Well, I perceive you are not disposed to become Mrs. Judas. You know me, however, well enough: I'm not going to press you to it. Do you think, my dear niece, that Judas was a gentleman?"
"Precisely such a gentleman, perhaps, as Mr. Woodward is."
"And you think he would betray Christ?"
"He would poison his brother, uncle, because he stands between him and his mother's property, which she has recently expressed her intention of leaving to that brother—a fact which awoke something like compassion in my breast for Woodward."
"Well, then, kick him to hell, the scoundrel. I liked the fellow in the beginning, and, indeed, all along, because he had badgered me so beautifully,—which I thought few persons had capacity to,—and in consequence, I entertained a high opinion of his intellect, and be hanged to him; kick him to hell, though."
"Well, my dear lord and uncle, I don't think I would be capable of kicking him so far; nor do I think it will be at all necessary, as my opinion is, that he will be able to reach that region without any assistance."
"Come, that's very well said, at all events—one of your touchers, as I call them. There, then, is an end to the match and marriage, and so be it."
She here detailed at further length, the conversation which she had with Shawn-na-Middogue; mentioned the fact, which had somehow become well known, of his having wrought the ruin of Grace Davoren, and concluded by stating that, notwithstanding his gentlemanly manners and deportment, he was unworthy either the notice or regard of any respectable female.
"Well," said the peer, "from, all you have told me I must say you have had a narrow escape; I did suspect him to be a fortune-hunter; but then who the deuce can blame a man for striving to advance himself in life? However, let there be an end to it, and you must only wait until a better man comes."
"I assure you, my dear uncle, I am in no hurry; so let that be your comfort so far as I am concerned."
"Well, then," said the peer, "I shall write to him to say that the marriage, in consequence of what we have heard of his character, is off."
"Take whatever steps you please," replied his admirable niece; "for most assuredly, so far as I am concerned, it is off. Do you imagine, uncle, that I could for a moment think of marrying a seducer and a poisoner?"
"It would be a very queer thing if you did," replied her uncle; "but was it not a fortunate circumstance that you came to discover his real character in time to prevent you from becoming the wife of such a scoundrel?"
"It was the providence of God," said his niece, "that would not suffer the innocent to become associated with the guilty."
Greatrakes, in the meantime, was hard at work. He and the other magistrates had collected evidence, and received the informations against Woodward, the herbalist, and the mysterious individual who was in the habit of appearing about the Haunted House as the Shan-dhinne-dhuv, or the Black Spectre. Villany like this cannot be long concealed, and will, in due time, come to light.
During the dusk of the evening preceding Woodward's intended marriage, an individual came to Mr. Lindsay's house and requested to see Mr. Woodward. That gentleman came down, and immediately recognized the person who had, for such a length of time, frightened the neighborhood as the Shan-dhinne-dhuv or the Black Spectre. He was shown into the parlor, and, as there was no one present, the following dialogue took place, freely and confidentially, between them:—
"You must fly," said the Spectre, or, in other words, the conjurer, whom we have already described,—"you must fly, for you are to be arrested this night. Our establishment for the forgery of bad notes must also be given up, and the Haunted House must be deserted. The magistrates, somehow, have smelled out the truth, and we must change our lodgings. We dodged them pretty well, but, after all, these things can't last long. On to-morrow night I bid farewell to the neighborhood; but you cannot wait so long, because on this very night you are to be arrested. It is very well that you sent Grace Davoren, at my suggestion, from the Haunted House to what is supposed to be the haunted cottage, in the mountains, where Nannie Morrissy soon joined her. I supplied them with provisions, and had a bed and other articles brought to them, according to your own instructions, and I think that, for the present, the safest place of concealment will be there."
Woodward became terribly alarmed. It was on the eve of his marriage, and the intelligence almost drove him into distraction.
"I will follow your advice," said he, "and will take refuge in what is called the haunted cottage, for this night."
His mysterious friend now left him, and Woodward prepared to seek the haunted cottage in the mountains. Poor Grace Davoren was in a painful and critical condition, but Woodward had engaged Caterine Collins to attend to her: for what object, will soon become evident to our readers.
Woodward, after night had set in,—it was a mild night with faint moonlight,—took his way towards the cottage that was supposed to be haunted, and which, in those days of witchcraft and. superstition, nobody would think of entering. We have already described it, and that must suffice for our readers. On entering a dark, but level moor, he was startled by the appearance of the Black Spectre, which, as on two occasions before, pointed its middogue three times at his heart. He rushed towards it, but on arriving at the spot he could find nothing. It had vanished, and he was left to meditate on it as best he might.
We now pass to the haunted cottage itself. There lay Grace Davoren, after having given birth to a child; there she lay—the victim of the seducer, on the very eve of dissolution, and beside her, sitting on the bed, the unfortunate Nannie Morrissy, now a confirmed and dying maniac.
"Grace," said Nannie, "you, like me, were ruined."
"I was," replied Grace, in a voice scarcely audible.
"Ay, but you didn't murder your father, though, as I did; that's one advantage I have over you—ha! ha! ha!"
"I'm not so sure of that, Nannie," replied the dying girl; "but where's my baby?"
"O! yes, you have had a baby, but Caterine Collins took it away with her."
"My child! my child! where is my child?" she exclaimed in a low, but husky voice; "where's my child? and besides, ever since I took that bottle she gave me I feel deadly sick."
"Will I go for your father and mother—but above all things for your father? But then if he punished the villain that ruined you and brought disgrace upon your name, he might be hanged as mine was."
"Ah! Nannie," replied poor Grace; "my father won't die of the gallows; but he will of a broken heart."
"Better to be hanged," said the maniac, whose reason, after a lapse of more than a year, was in some degree returning, precisely as life was ebbing out, "bekase, thank God, there's then an end to it."
"I agree with you, Nannie, it might be only a long life of suffering; but I wouldn't wish to see my father hanged."
"Do you know," said Nannie, relapsing into a deeper mood of her mania,—"do you know that when I saw my father last he wouldn't nor didn't spake to me? The house was filled with people, and my little brother Frank—why now isn't it strange that I feel somehow as if I will never wash his face again nor comb his white head in order to prepare him for mass?—but whisper, Grace, sure then I was innocent and had not met the destroyer."
The two unhappy girls looked at each other, and if ever there was a gaze calculated to wring the human heart with anguish and with pity, it was that gaze. Both of them were, although unconsciously, on the very eve of dissolution, and it would seem as if a kind of presentiment of death had seized upon both at the same time.
"Nannie," said Grace, "do you know that I'm afeard we're both goin' to die?"
"And why are you afeard of it?" asked Nannie. "Many a time I would 'a given the world to die."
"Why," replied Grace, who saw the deep shadows of death upon her wild, pale, but still beautiful countenance,—"why Nannie, you have your wish—you are dying this moment."
Just as Grace spoke the unfortunate girl seemed as if she had been stricken by a spasm of the heart. She gave a slight start—turned up her beautiful, but melancholy eyes to heaven, and exclaimed, as if conscious of the moment that had come,—
"Forgive me, O God!" after which she laid herself calmly down by the side of Grace and expired. Grace, by an effort, put her hand out and felt her heart, but there was no pulsation there—it did not beat, and she saw by the utter lifelessness of her features that she was dead, and had been relieved at last from all her sorrows.
"Nannie," she said, "your start before me won't be long. I do not wish to live to show a shamed face and a ruined character to my family and the world. Nannie, I am coming; but where is my child? Where is that woman who took it away? My child! Where is my child?"
Whilst this melancholy scene was taking place, another of a very different description was occurring near the cottage. Two poachers, who were concealed in a hazel copse on the brow of a little glen beside it, saw a woman advance with an infant, which, by its cries, they felt satisfied was but newly born.
Its cries, however, were soon stilled, and they saw her deposit it in a little grave which had evidently been prepared for it. She had covered it slightly with a portion of clay, but ere she had time to proceed further they pounced upon her.
"Hould her fast," said one of them, "she has murdered the infant. At all events, take it up, and I will keep her safe."
This was done, and a handkerchief, the one with which she had strangled it, was found tightly tied about its neck. That she was the instrument of Woodward in this terrible act, who can doubt? In the meantime both she and the dead body of the child were brought back to Rathfillan, where, upon their evidence, he was at once committed to prison, the handkerchief having been kept as a testimony against him, for it was at once discovered to be her own property.
During all this time Grace Davoren lay dying, in a state of the most terrible desolation, with the dead body of Nannie Morrissy on the bed beside her. What had become of her child, and of Caterine Collins, she could not tell. She had, however, other reflections, for the young, but guilty mother was not without strong, and even tender, domestic affections.
"O!" she exclaimed, in her woful solitude and utter desolation, "if I only had the forgiveness of my father and mother I could die happy; but now I feel that death is upon me, and I must die alone."
A footstep was heard, and it relieved her. "Oh! this is Caterine," she said, "with the child."
The door opened, and the young tory, Shawn-na-Middogue, entered. He paused for a moment and looked about him.
"What is this?" said he, looking at the body of Nannie Morrissy; "is it death?"
"It is death," replied Grace, faintly; "there is one death, but, Shawn, there will soon be another. Shawn, forgive me, and kiss me for the sake of our early love."
"I am an outlaw," replied the stern young tory; "but I will never kiss the polluted lips of woman as long as she has breath in her body."
"But Caterine Collins has taken away my child, and has not returned with it."
"No, nor ever will," replied the outlaw. "She was the instrument of your destroyer. But I wish you to be consoled, Grace. Do you see that middogue? It is red with blood. Now listen. I have avenged you; that middogue was reddened in the heart of the villain that wrought your ruin. As far as man can be, I am now satisfied."
"My child!" she faintly said; "my child! where is it?"
Her words were scarcely audible. She closed her eyes and was silent. The outlaw looked closely into her countenance, and perceived at once that death was there. He felt her pulse, her heart, but all was still.
"Now," said he, "the penalty you have paid for your crime has taken away the pollution from your lips, and I will kiss you for the sake of our early love."
He then kissed her, and rained showers of tears over her now unconscious features. The two funerals took place upon the same day; and, what was still more particular, they were buried in the same churchyard. Their unhappy fates were similar in more than one point. The selfish and inhuman seducer of each became the victim of his crime; one by the just and righteous vengeance of a heart-broken and indignant father, and the other by the middogue of the brave and noble-minded outlaw. Who the murderer of Harry Woodward, or rather the avenger of Grace Davoren, was, never became known. The only ears to which the outlaw revealed the secret were closed, and her tongue silent for ever.
The body of Woodward was found the next morning lifeless upon the moors; and when death loosened the tongues of the people, and when the melancholy fate of Grace Davoren became known, there was one individual who knew perfectly well, from moral conviction, who the avenger of her ruin was.
"Uncle," said Miss Riddle, while talking with him on the subject, "I feel who the avenger of the unfortunate and beautiful Grace Davoren is."
"And who is he, my dear niece?"
"It shall never escape my lips, my lord and uncle."
"Egad, talking of escapes, I think you have had a very narrow one yourself, in escaping from that scoundrel of the Evil Eye."
"I thank God for it," she replied, and this closed their conversation.
There is little now to be added to our narrative. We need scarcely assure our readers that Charles Lindsay and Alice Goodwin were in due time made happy, and that Ferdora O'Connor, who had been long attached to Maria Lindsay, was soon enabled to call her his beloved wife.
The devilish old herbalist, and his equally devilish niece, together with the conjurer and forger, who had assumed the character of the Black Spectre, were all hanged, through the instrumentality of Valentine Greatrakes, who had acquired so many testimonies of their villainy and their crimes as enabled him, in conjunction with the other magistrates of the county, to obtain such a body of evidence against them as no jury could withstand. It was, probably, well for Woodward that the middogue of the outlaw prevented him from sharing the same fate, and dying a death of public disgrace.
Need we say that honest Barney Casey was rewarded by the love of Sarah Sullivan, who, soon after their marriage, was made housekeeper in Mr. Lindsay's family; and that Barney himself was appointed to the comfortable situation of steward over his property?
Lord Cockletown exercised all his influence with the government of the day to procure a pardon for Shawn-na-Middogue, but without effect. He furnished him, however, with a liberal sum of money, with which he left the country, but was never heard of more.
Miss Riddle was married to a celebrated barrister, who subsequently became a judge.