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though the rain still fell in what would once fairly in he can make himself
with, I assailed the door, hand and I bad not proceeded more than half foot, after a fashion calculated to saa mile, when the sullen voice of rush- tisfy the inmates that if they took ing water warned me of the proximi- much more time to consider before ty of a mountain stream, swollen to a they made up their minds to admit me dangerous torrent by the heavy rains. in the usual way, I was likely to save Steering myself cautiously by the them all further trouble on the subsound, I reached what seemed to be a ject, by effecting an entrance into their rude by-path ; and not being in a very respectable mansion in the manner of fastidious mood, I was right well house -breakers and heroes; that is to pleased at finding myself in a few mi- say, by storm. A harsh-voiced feputes in front of a ruinous looking ho. male instantly acknowledged the force vel, through whose manifold chinks a of my reasoning, with “ Asy—asyfaint light glimmered, notwithstanding take your time-ye're always in a the lateness of the hour.
hurry," at the same instant opening Knowing that the part of the coun- the door so suddenly and readily, that try I was in was free from disturbance, be the sleepers whom they might, it though the embers of insurrection still was quite clear that she was not one glowed in the southern counties of of them. I never, in the course of Ireland, the worst I apprehended from my life, saw so repulsive-looking a intruding into the cabin at that unsea- being as that woman. Her age might sonable hour, was finding myself amidst be about five-and-tbirty; her strongthe orgies of a knot of bibacious pea- built, muscular figure, rose so consisants, enjoying the festivities of a derably above the female height, as to “ Shebean,” anglice, house of con- give her the appearance of a man in cealment; that is to say, a house where disguise, and the harshness of her people get drunk in secret, not be- voice in some measure countenanced cause the act is disgraceful or frown- the idea : but her features, stamped ed at by the law, but because the more deeply than any I have ever scen whisky is of illegal description; and before or since with the indelible as I well know the manners and lan- traces of fierce and evil passions and guage of the people, and have not in a licentious life, were those of a wothe least the look of a gauger, I ap- man. Her dress was squalid and prehended no danger beyond that of neglected; ber long hair, once as being obliged to join in the debauch, black as jet, but now linged with grey, my scruples about which, to say the less as it seemed from years, than truth, the rain had in a great mea. from the premature old age of misery sure washed away; so I saluted the and care, and, it might be, guilt, hung door with the half-confident, half-dil- in matted elf-locks over her face and fident knock of an unexpected guest, shoulders. In one hand she held a sure that whatever difficulties he may candle, and cautiously shaded it from encounter in getting admittance, when the wind with the other, so that the
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light fell full upon her face and figure, ceased abruptly. The woman walked while I remained in the shade ; and in slowly to the side of the bed. Upon spite of all I have said, and though I it lay a man stretched on his back at repeat that I never saw a human being full length. She felt his temples, and from whom I felt so much inclined to his side, as if to ascertain if pulsation draw back, with that undefinable, in- remained, holding the light close to stinctive feeling, which seems implant- his face ; but a single glance at his ed in us by Nature to give warning of distorted features was enough to show the approach of guilt, yet I could not that he had, that instant, passed the help seeing that, changed as they were, final and bitter agony of death. She that face and figure had once been set down the candle at the head of the beautiful and majestic; but, as it was, corpse, and stood for an instant with so strong were the traces of recent her hands folded and her lips moving. and powerful emotion, that she looked Then turning abruptly to me,-" Are more like a witch, disturbed from some ye a ministher ?"* said she, “because, «damned rite, than the poverty-stricken if ye are, say some o' ger prayers : tenant of an Irish cabin. I suppose I anybody's prayers 'il be betther por need hardly tell you, that in the mi- mine." I assured her that though I nute description I have given you, I did not belong to the sacred profes. have embodied much more than the sion, yet I sincerely compassionated first impression of my hasty glance her desolate condition, and would will. when the cabin door was flung open; ingly assist her to the utmost of my but, I promise you, enough occurred power, taking out my purse at the afterwards to fix all I saw, that night, same time as the best and shortest in my recollection to the longest day proof of my sincerity. My singular I have to live, “Come in,” said she, companion bent on me a look of sotoo busily occupied in shading the lemnity not unmixed with scorn. “Put candle from the gust of wind, to be- up your purse, young man,” said she, stow a glance on me, “ye needn't " and leave off condolin' me. I don't be a feard of disturbin' him now want your money-an' I'm not in come in quick, and shut the door.” grief. But mind what I'm sayin'. Ye Though I saw that she evidently mis- say ye want shelther till daylighttook me for some one she expected, I take my warnin', and go look for it did as I was desired, and then turning somewhere else, or inaybe ye'll nerer round from the closed door, our eyes see daylight again-lave the placeinet for the first time. The woman there's neither loock nor grace in it." drew back a step or two, and holding " Why,” said I, “what danger can up the light, eyed me in silence from happen to me from remaining here for head to foot with a most sinister look. a few hours? You are alone, I sup“ Who the devil are ye?" said she at pose."-"Yes,” replied she, sternly: Jast, “and what d'ye want here this "yes-I am alone-here, and in the hour of the night ?"_" My good wo- world-but I'll soon be where there's man,” said I, "I am a stranger, and company enough.” She paused for a I only want a little shelter until day- moment, as if to master her feelings, light.”_" Your good wonian! Who and recal and collect her scattered tould ye I was a good woman ?-don't thoughts; and so wild and convulsed believe them the next thing they tell was the expression of her counteye. And you're a stranger, and only nance, while, with a powerful effort, want shelther-throth, an' I dare say, and without uttering word or groan, or it's not here ye'd come to look for she controlled an obvious tendency to it.” Just then the snoring noise I something like epilepsy, that, for the spoke of, and which seemed to come instant, I was afraid both mind and from a pallet in a corner of the cabin, body would give way in the struggle,
* In most parts of Ireland the Protestant clergyman is so called by the lower classes.
and, with an impulse of pity which I the covering of bed-clothes that lay could not check, I caught her in my upon the body, that I could judge of arms to prevent her from falling on his proportions almost as well as if he the floor. The effect of this trifling were naked. Though emaciated, eiact, not of kindness, but mere humani- ther by bunger or wasting sickness, ty, was magical. The touch of hu- he had evidently been a man of a most inan sympathy struck to the fountain powerful frame. He appeared to be of her grief like the wand of the pro- several years older than his wretched phet to the waters of the rock: and companion ; and if ever I saw " Desthe unbappy creature burst into a flood pair and die !" written by the mortal of tears, so passionate, veheinent, and agony of an abandoned villain, it was overpowering, that it resembled rather on the brow of that man. In his a struggle of nature for life and death, wildest reveries, Dante never dream than any ebullition of mortal grief I ed anything half so horrible. I had ever beheld. At last, when the could have thought that the guilty hysterical sobbing suffered her to arti- spirit had been suffered, for an instant, culate " Ye're the first,” said she, to return from the place of doom to " that spoke a kind word, or looked a whisper the awful secrets of the kind look at me for many a long day, grave to its cold companion; or, that, and may God Almighty grant ye an half in life and half in death, while innocent life and a happy death, and looking down into the gulf, before the may the Heavens be ye're bed for the final spring, it had left (like the footsame. Many and many a weary hour steps of a suicide on the brink of a I've been prayin' to be able to cry, precipice, stamped deep with the enand I didn't think there was a tear left ergy of his fatal plunge) the appalling in my heart; but God was good to me, traces of its despair on the senseless and gave me leave to cry at last; so clay it had abandoned,–50 intense let me alone a little, an' I'll be bet- and powerful was the painful expresther by and by." I saw, of course, sion of the final pang which tears the that the best thing I could do was to soul out of the body, and the mental let Nature take her own time, so I spiritual horror of the soul itself at turned away from her at once, and the thoughts of the doom to which it employed myself in examining the was about to be borne on the wings: cabin itself.
of death. I turned, shuddering, from Everything that met my eye in the ghastly corpse, as from a dark vithis house of death, spoke of the most sion of the world of woe. abject, hopeless poverty : that state of By this time my companion had self-abandonment and despair, when recovered her self-possession to a dethe wretch gives up the contest, with gree I could scarcely have expected his destiny, and sullenly resigns him- from what I had seen her suffer. self to bis doom. A low ruinous par. Her features, which were as pale as tition had divided the cabin into two those of the dead, had lost their strugrooms; but the door and door-framegling and convulsire expression : her were gone, and the greater part of the inien and manner bad no longer the partition itself bad fallen down and abrupt, energetic sternness which at cumbered the floor, from which the first attracted my attention, but were innates had not even taken the trou- solemn, and marked with the natural ble of shovelling it away, though, to dignity which a strong mind, when exall appearance, it had remained there cited by danger, or emergency, or any a considerable time. The entire fur- other impulse sufficient to awaken its niture consisted of two or three brok- powers, communicates to the tone and en stools, a crazy dresser, ungarnished bearing of its possessor, be his state by a single plate, a large wooden or station what it may, thereby lifting, chest, and the wretched pallet where as it were, in the crisis when a leader the dead man lay; and so scanty was is required, the master spirit above
the heads of the throng, and placing before any of them thought of knorthim in an attitude of command. Her ing. During this tiine, I watcbei tie eye was calm and settled, but full of face of my mysterious hostess, with serious purpose. “Young man,” out taking my eyes from her for a se said she, “it was in an unloocky hour cond; though she never interrupted that ye came to the house o' sin, to her melancholy, moaning lay, yet her see a bad man die an unhappy death, eyes, fixed on the door as if they without priest, nor prayer, nor friend, would pierce through it, her erect to say a blessed word, nor heart to attitude of watchful attention, and the think a holy thought, an' inake his air of coolness and promptitude with way asy. If ye had taken my word, which she had made her simple preand gone ye're way when I bid ye paration for defence, satisfied the first, it might have been betther for that be my dangers what they might, you, maybe, but worse for me ; for treachery was not among the number I'd have missed the only kind eye At last one of the party knocked for that ’ill ever look on me in this world admittance. "Who's there !” said agin-but mind me now, for the time my companion, in the same harsh is short. There's thim comin' that tone with which she had first address’id cut the priest's throath afore the ed me. “It's me—it's all of us," althar ov God for a goolden guinea, growled a brutal voice from without let alone the money in ye're purse, “ Open the door, and be d- d t're, an' the watch in ye're pocket, an'an' don't be keepin' us in the could thiin chains of goold ye have twisted rain.”_" Ye can't come in, Larry," about ye, like a lady, jist as if ye replied my hostess, coolly. "An't wanted to coax somebody to murther he dead yit ?” exclaimed the other : ye; an' him that's lyin' dead afore "blood an' turf, let us in quick, we're ye 'id be the first to do it if God 'id got what'll put life in him in a let him-ye've stayed here, any how, hurry."'-" The breath's lavin' bin till it's safer for ye to wait on till while ye're speakin'," answered my mornin', and take chance, than ven- companion, “an' nothin' ye bave can thur out o th door whin maybe, stop id, an' the sight o' ye will brin' every step ye'd take 'id be to meet bad loock ; divil resave the one of thim that- hould ye're tongue- ye'll see him till he's laid out, thin iv ye stir, or spake, ye're time's come yez can do no harm."*_" Ye'll not -here they are”-and, sure enough, let us in-ye'll not let us in, won't I heard the voices and footsteps of ye ?” shouted half-a-dozen Foices; several men approaching the hut. Si- “break the door, boys.”_" An' then lently, but with the speed of light- is ye do,” cried the woman in the ning, the woman passed two strong same tone, springing to her feet, and rough wooden bars, such as I had snatching a blunderbuss froni under never seen in a cabin before, across the bed, " ye'll go out stiffer nor ye the door, secured them in their re- come in; for, by the cross, I'll blow spective staples, and then sitting the head off the first o' ye that stirs down near the dead body, commenced a sut in here this blessed night.” As singing a low, monotonous song, she passed to the door, with the cool, something like a nurse's lullaby. Her fierce look of one determined to exearrangements were scarcely complet- cute her threat, she turned for an ined, when the dreaded visiters reached stant towards me. Notwithstanding the door. Something had happened her sneer at my effeminate chains, I to tickle their fancies, for they were had better means of protecting them laughing boisterously, and continued than she imagined. I never go altoin noisy merriment for a few minutes gether unarmed on a wild pedestrian
* In Ireland, the corpse is never exposed to view until it has been washed and dressed, cr, to speak in the usual phrase, “ laid out ;” any intrusion before that time, is counted to the last degree indelicate.
ramble, for as my habits on these oc- “ The boys are gone on to Biddy's, casions are very erratic, I cannot even as I bid thim, an' I stopped to ax ye iv guess where, or in what strange scene ye wouldn't like a dhrop ov whisky to nightfall may find me : so that on the comfort ye in the could an' the grief, present occasion I had within my ye poor crathur.”_" An' there's no-. waistcoat an ancient and trusty friend, body wid ye, an' ye wont want to namely, a dirk : not a midshipman's cross the door, Micky ?" inquired my miniature sword, but a small, stout, hostess. “The never a sowl wid me, substantial eight-inch blade, that a an' I wouldn't go in iv ye axed me strong hand might drive through a till the wake,” replied he, in an offenddeal plank—and I need hardly tell a ed tone, as if hurt at his politeness cool active man that such a weapon is being called in question. While unthe best possible one in a scuffle barring the door with one hand, with When she saw me with this unsheath- the other she drew me bebind it, so ed in my hand, prepared to second as to put me completely out of view, whatever she might do, her eyes actu- and holding it ajar, took from the hand ally flashed fire. « Stab the tall of her condoling visiter a bottle. “Did black-lookin' one first,” whispered he go asy?” said he, in a voice inshe, her mouth so close to my ear that tended to be very sympathetic, but her voice sounded within my head which resembled the subdued growllike an uttered thought of my own ing of a mastiff over a bone. “He mind, rather than an advice from with- was in great pain, ravin' an' dhramin' out; “make sure ov him iv they brake about the bloody bill-hook last night, in, be's the activest an' worst ov all. -he died as hard as ever man died,” Boys,” said she, when close to the said she, “an' struggled the way door, “what do yez want? is it you'll struggle on the gallows, Micky ; proper or dacent for yez to be wantin' bud away wid ye, an' send Biddy to come into the place where the down;" and, without further cerecorpse is, the minute the breath's out mony, she shut the door in his ov it ? it id be fitter for ye to go an' face. sind Biddy Oulaghan to me to help an' From a dark nook she produced two lay it out, nor to come rioting this away horn goblets and a pitcher of water, afore the wake."-" Throth, an' that's and knocking off the neck of the botthrue for ye,” replied another and tle she had received from her last via graver voice ; “an' divil a one siter, invited me by her example to o' the best o'ye, boys, I'll let taste its contents; and let bons vivants stir in to-night till the wimin lays say what they please about Clos de him out, and makes him dacent an' Vougert, La Fitte or Sillery, there fit to be seen-s0 come along an' sind never was a draught so much to my Biddy;" and instantly, though not mind after the fatigue, the deluge, without some gruff murmurs, the and the excitation of that night, as siege was broken up, and the party the copious libation of whisky and retired.
water with which I forth with refreshWhen I thought they were out of ed my inward man. “ Ye want to ear-shot, I was about to speak, but know who I am, and where ye are,” the instant I articulated a sound, my said my singular hostess when I had companion laid her hand on my mouth, finished my draught; “I see it in and with a fierce gesture motioned me ye're eye, and so ye shall :-Ye're in to be silent. Scarcely had she done the house ov a man that might have so, when a low whisper of “ Molly been a dacent laborer, and the father Molly,” close to the door, told me ov a lively, healthy family, and the that her caution was not without rea- husband of an honest wife," and here son. « Well, what is it?” replied her voice faltered for an instant, “but she, sinking her own voice to the he had a bad dbrop in his heart that same key with that of the whisperer. wouldn't let him come to good. I
55 ATHENEUM, VOL. 2, 3d series.