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Title: J. S. Le Fanu's Ghostly Tales, Volume 5
Author: Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan, 1814-1873
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "J. S. Le Fanu's Ghostly Tales, Volume 5" ***

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J.S. LE FANU'S GHOSTLY TALES

BY

J.S. LE FANU

VOLUME 5



  CONTENTS


  LAURA SILVER BELL (1872)

  WICKED CAPTAIN WALSHAWE, OF WAULING (1869)

  THE CHILD THAT WENT WITH THE FAIRIES (1870)

  STORIES OF LOUGH GUIR (1870)
    The Magician Earl
    Moll Rial's Adventure
    The Banshee
    The Governess's Dream
    The Earl's Hall

  THE VISION OF TOM CHUFF (1870)

  DICKON THE DEVIL (1872)



LAURA SILVER BELL


In the five Northumbrian counties you will scarcely find so bleak,
ugly, and yet, in a savage way, so picturesque a moor as Dardale Moss.
The moor itself spreads north, south, east, and west, a great
undulating sea of black peat and heath.

What we may term its shores are wooded wildly with birch, hazel, and
dwarf-oak. No towering mountains surround it, but here and there you
have a rocky knoll rising among the trees, and many a wooded
promontory of the same pretty, because utterly wild, forest, running
out into its dark level.

Habitations are thinly scattered in this barren territory, and a full
mile away from the meanest was the stone cottage of Mother Carke.

Let not my southern reader who associates ideas of comfort with the
term "cottage" mistake. This thing is built of shingle, with low
walls. Its thatch is hollow; the peat-smoke curls stingily from its
stunted chimney. It is worthy of its savage surroundings.

The primitive neighbours remark that no rowan-tree grows near, nor
holly, nor bracken, and no horseshoe is nailed on the door.

Not far from the birches and hazels that straggle about the rude wall
of the little enclosure, on the contrary, they say, you may discover
the broom and the rag-wort, in which witches mysteriously delight. But
this is perhaps a scandal.

Mall Carke was for many a year the _sage femme_ of this wild domain.
She has renounced practice, however, for some years; and now, under
the rose, she dabbles, it is thought, in the black art, in which she
has always been secretly skilled, tells fortunes, practises charms,
and in popular esteem is little better than a witch.

Mother Carke has been away to the town of Willarden, to sell knit
stockings, and is returning to her rude dwelling by Dardale Moss. To
her right, as far away as the eye can reach, the moor stretches. The
narrow track she has followed here tops a gentle upland, and at her
left a sort of jungle of dwarf-oak and brushwood approaches its edge.
The sun is sinking blood-red in the west. His disk has touched the
broad black level of the moor, and his parting beams glare athwart the
gaunt figure of the old beldame, as she strides homeward stick in
hand, and bring into relief the folds of her mantle, which gleam like
the draperies of a bronze image in the light of a fire. For a few
moments this light floods the air--tree, gorse, rock, and bracken
glare; and then it is out, and gray twilight over everything.

All is still and sombre. At this hour the simple traffic of the
thinly-peopled country is over, and nothing can be more solitary.

From this jungle, nevertheless, through which the mists of evening are
already creeping, she sees a gigantic man approaching her.

In that poor and primitive country robbery is a crime unknown. She,
therefore, has no fears for her pound of tea, and pint of gin, and
sixteen shillings in silver which she is bringing home in her pocket.
But there is something that would have frighted another woman about
this man.

He is gaunt, sombre, bony, dirty, and dressed in a black suit which a
beggar would hardly care to pick out of the dust.

This ill-looking man nodded to her as he stepped on the road.

"I don't know you," she said.

He nodded again.

"I never sid ye neyawheere," she exclaimed sternly.

"Fine evening, Mother Carke," he says, and holds his snuff-box toward
her.

She widened the distance between them by a step or so, and said again
sternly and pale,

"I hev nowt to say to thee, whoe'er thou beest."

"You know Laura Silver Bell?"

"That's a byneyam; the lass's neyam is Laura Lew," she answered,
looking straight before her.

"One name's as good as another for one that was never christened,
mother."

"How know ye that?" she asked grimly; for it is a received opinion in
that part of the world that the fairies have power over those who have
never been baptised.

The stranger turned on her a malignant smile.

"There is a young lord in love with her," the stranger says, "and I'm
that lord. Have her at your house to-morrow night at eight o'clock,
and you must stick cross pins through the candle, as you have done for
many a one before, to bring her lover thither by ten, and her
fortune's made. And take this for your trouble."

He extended his long finger and thumb toward her, with a guinea
temptingly displayed.

"I have nowt to do wi' thee. I nivver sid thee afoore. Git thee awa'!
I earned nea goold o' thee, and I'll tak' nane. Awa' wi' thee, or I'll
find ane that will mak' thee!"

The old woman had stopped, and was quivering in every limb as she thus
spoke.

He looked very angry. Sulkily he turned away at her words, and strode
slowly toward the wood from which he had come; and as he approached
it, he seemed to her to grow taller and taller, and stalked into it as
high as a tree.

"I conceited there would come something o't", she said to herself.
"Farmer Lew must git it done nesht Sunda'. The a'ad awpy!"

Old Farmer Lew was one of that sect who insist that baptism shall be
but once administered, and not until the Christian candidate had
attained to adult years. The girl had indeed for some time been of an
age not only, according to this theory, to be baptised, but if need be
to be married.

Her story was a sad little romance. A lady some seventeen years before
had come down and paid Farmer Lew for two rooms in his house. She told
him that her husband would follow her in a fortnight, and that he was
in the mean time delayed by business in Liverpool.

In ten days after her arrival her baby was born, Mall Carke acting as
_sage femme_ on the occasion; and on the evening of that day the poor
young mother died. No husband came; no wedding-ring, they said, was on
her finger. About fifty pounds was found in her desk, which Farmer
Lew, who was a kind old fellow and had lost his two children, put in
bank for the little girl, and resolved to keep her until a rightful
owner should step forward to claim her.

They found half-a-dozen love-letters signed "Francis," and calling the
dead woman "Laura."

So Farmer Lew called the little girl Laura; and her _sobriquet_ of
"Silver Bell" was derived from a tiny silver bell, once gilt, which
was found among her poor mother's little treasures after her death,
and which the child wore on a ribbon round her neck.

Thus, being very pretty and merry, she grew up as a North-country
farmer's daughter; and the old man, as she needed more looking after,
grew older and less able to take care of her; so she was, in fact,
very nearly her own mistress, and did pretty much in all things as she
liked.

Old Mall Carke, by some caprice for which no one could account,
cherished an affection for the girl, who saw her often, and paid her
many a small fee in exchange for the secret indications of the future.

It was too late when Mother Carke reached her home to look for a visit
from Laura Silver Bell that day.

About three o'clock next afternoon, Mother Carke was sitting knitting,
with her glasses on, outside her door on the stone bench, when she saw
the pretty girl mount lightly to the top of the stile at her left
under the birch, against the silver stem of which she leaned her
slender hand, and called,

"Mall, Mall! Mother Carke, are ye alane all by yersel'?"

"Ay, Laura lass, we can be clooas enoo, if ye want a word wi' me,"
says the old woman, rising, with a mysterious nod, and beckoning her
stiffly with her long fingers.

The girl was, assuredly, pretty enough for a "lord" to fall in love
with. Only look at her. A profusion of brown rippling hair, parted low
in the middle of her forehead, almost touched her eyebrows, and made
the pretty oval of her face, by the breadth of that rich line, more
marked. What a pretty little nose! what scarlet lips, and large, dark,
long-fringed eyes!

Her face is transparently tinged with those clear Murillo tints which
appear in deeper dyes on her wrists and the backs of her hands. These
are the beautiful gipsy-tints with which the sun dyes young skins so
richly.

The old woman eyes all this, and her pretty figure, so round and
slender, and her shapely little feet, cased in the thick shoes that
can't hide their comely proportions, as she stands on the top of the
stile. But it is with a dark and saturnine aspect.

"Come, lass, what stand ye for atoppa t' wall, whar folk may chance to
see thee? I hev a thing to tell thee, lass."

She beckoned her again.

"An' I hev a thing to tell _thee_, Mall."

"Come hidder," said the old woman peremptorily.

"But ye munna gie me the creepin's" (make me tremble). "I winna look
again into the glass o' water, mind ye."

The old woman smiled grimly, and changed her tone.

"Now, hunny, git tha down, and let ma see thy canny feyace," and she
beckoned her again.

Laura Silver Bell did get down, and stepped lightly toward the door of
the old woman's dwelling.

"Tak this," said the girl, unfolding a piece of bacon from her apron,
"and I hev a silver sixpence to gie thee, when I'm gaen away heyam."

They entered the dark kitchen of the cottage, and the old woman stood
by the door, lest their conference should be lighted on by surprise.

"Afoore ye begin," said Mother Carke (I soften her patois), "I mun
tell ye there's ill folk watchin' ye. What's auld Farmer Lew about, he
doesna get t' sir" (the clergyman) "to baptise thee? If he lets Sunda'
next pass, I'm afeared ye'll never be sprinkled nor signed wi' cross,
while there's a sky aboon us."

"Agoy!" exclaims the girl, "who's lookin' after me?"

"A big black fella, as high as the kipples, came out o' the wood near
Deadman's Grike, just after the sun gaed down yester e'en; I knew weel
what he was, for his feet ne'er touched the road while he made as if
he walked beside me. And he wanted to gie me snuff first, and I
wouldna hev that; and then he offered me a gowden guinea, but I was no
sic awpy, and to bring you here to-night, and cross the candle wi'
pins, to call your lover in. And he said he's a great lord, and in
luve wi' thee."

"And you refused him?"

"Well for thee I did, lass," says Mother Carke.

"Why, it's every word true!" cries the girl vehemently, starting to
her feet, for she had seated herself on the great oak chest.

"True, lass? Come, say what ye mean," demanded Mall Carke, with a dark
and searching gaze.

"Last night I was coming heyam from the wake, wi' auld farmer Dykes
and his wife and his daughter Nell, and when we came to the stile, I
bid them good-night, and we parted."

"And ye came by the path alone in the night-time, did ye?" exclaimed
old Mall Carke sternly.

"I wasna afeared, I don't know why; the path heyam leads down by the
wa'as o' auld Hawarth Castle."

"I knaa it weel, and a dowly path it is; ye'll keep indoors o' nights
for a while, or ye'll rue it. What saw ye?"

"No freetin, mother; nowt I was feared on."

"Ye heard a voice callin' yer neyame?"

"I heard nowt that was dow, but the hullyhoo in the auld castle wa's,"
answered the pretty girl. "I heard nor sid nowt that's dow, but mickle
that's conny and gladsome. I heard singin' and laughin' a long way
off, I consaited; and I stopped a bit to listen. Then I walked on a
step or two, and there, sure enough in the Pie-Mag field, under the
castle wa's, not twenty steps away, I sid a grand company; silks and
satins, and men wi' velvet coats, wi' gowd-lace striped over them, and
ladies wi' necklaces that would dazzle ye, and fans as big as
griddles; and powdered footmen, like what the shirra hed behind his
coach, only these was ten times as grand."

"It was full moon last night," said the old woman.

"Sa bright 'twould blind ye to look at it," said the girl.

"Never an ill sight but the deaul finds a light," quoth the old woman.
"There's a rinnin brook thar--you were at this side, and they at that;
did they try to mak ye cross over?"

"Agoy! didn't they? Nowt but civility and kindness, though. But ye mun
let me tell it my own way. They was talkin' and laughin', and eatin',
and drinkin' out o' long glasses and goud cups, seated on the grass,
and music was playin'; and I keekin' behind a bush at all the grand
doin's; and up they gits to dance; and says a tall fella I didna see
afoore, 'Ye mun step across, and dance wi' a young lord that's faan in
luv wi' thee, and that's mysel',' and sure enow I keeked at him under
my lashes and a conny lad he is, to my teyaste, though he be dressed
in black, wi' sword and sash, velvet twice as fine as they sells in
the shop at Gouden Friars; and keekin' at me again fra the corners o'
his een. And the same fella telt me he was mad in luv wi' me, and his
fadder was there, and his sister, and they came all the way from
Catstean Castle to see me that night; and that's t' other side o'
Gouden Friars."

"Come, lass, yer no mafflin; tell me true. What was he like? Was his
feyace grimed wi' sut? a tall fella wi' wide shouthers, and lukt like
an ill-thing, wi' black clothes amaist in rags?"

"His feyace was long, but weel-faured, and darker nor a gipsy; and his
clothes were black and grand, and made o' velvet, and he said he was
the young lord himsel'; and he lukt like it."

"That will be the same fella I sid at Deadman's Grike," said Mall
Carke, with an anxious frown.

"Hoot, mudder! how cud that be?" cried the lass, with a toss of her
pretty head and a smile of scorn. But the fortune-teller made no
answer, and the girl went on with her story.

"When they began to dance," continued Laura Silver Bell, "he urged me
again, but I wudna step o'er; 'twas partly pride, coz I wasna dressed
fine enough, and partly contrairiness, or something, but gaa I wudna,
not a fut. No but I more nor half wished it a' the time."

"Weel for thee thou dudstna cross the brook."

"Hoity-toity, why not?"

"Keep at heyame after nightfall, and don't ye be walking by yersel' by
daylight or any light lang lonesome ways, till after ye're baptised,"
said Mall Carke.

"I'm like to be married first."

"Tak care _that_ marriage won't hang i' the bell-ropes," said Mother
Carke.

"Leave me alane for that. The young lord said he was maist daft wi'
luv o' me. He wanted to gie me a conny ring wi' a beautiful stone in
it. But, drat it, I was sic an awpy I wudna tak it, and he a young
lord!"

"Lord, indeed! are ye daft or dreamin'? Those fine folk, what were
they? I'll tell ye. Dobies and fairies; and if ye don't du as yer bid,
they'll tak ye, and ye'll never git out o' their hands again while
grass grows," said the old woman grimly.

"Od wite it!" replies the girl impatiently, "who's daft or dreamin'
noo? I'd a bin dead wi' fear, if 'twas any such thing. It cudna be;
all was sa luvesome, and bonny, and shaply."

"Weel, and what do ye want o' me, lass?" asked the old woman sharply.

"I want to know--here's t' sixpence--what I sud du," said the young
lass. "'Twud be a pity to lose such a marrow, hey?"

"Say yer prayers, lass; _I_ can't help ye," says the old woman darkly.
"If ye gaa wi' _the_ people, ye'll never come back. Ye munna talk wi'
them, nor eat wi' them, nor drink wi' them, nor tak a pin's-worth by
way o' gift fra them--mark weel what I say--or ye're _lost!_"

The girl looked down, plainly much vexed.

The old woman stared at her with a mysterious frown steadily, for a
few seconds.

"Tell me, lass, and tell me true, are ye in luve wi' that lad?"

"What for sud I?" said the girl with a careless toss of her head, and
blushing up to her very temples.

"I see how it is," said the old woman, with a groan, and repeated the
words, sadly thinking; and walked out of the door a step or two, and
looked jealously round. "The lass is witched, the lass is witched!"

"Did ye see him since?" asked Mother Carke, returning.

The girl was still embarrassed; and now she spoke in a lower tone, and
seemed subdued.

"I thought I sid him as I came here, walkin' beside me among the
trees; but I consait it was only the trees themsels that lukt like
rinnin' one behind another, as I walked on."

"I can tell thee nowt, lass, but what I telt ye afoore," answered the
old woman peremptorily. "Get ye heyame, and don't delay on the way;
and say yer prayers as ye gaa; and let none but good thoughts come
nigh ye; and put nayer foot autside the door-steyan again till ye gaa
to be christened; and get that done a Sunda' next."

And with this charge, given with grizzly earnestness, she saw her over
the stile, and stood upon it watching her retreat, until the trees
quite hid her and her path from view.

The sky grew cloudy and thunderous, and the air darkened rapidly, as
the girl, a little frightened by Mall Carke's view of the case, walked
homeward by the lonely path among the trees.

A black cat, which had walked close by her--for these creatures
sometimes take a ramble in search of their prey among the woods and
thickets--crept from under the hollow of an oak, and was again with
her. It seemed to her to grow bigger and bigger as the darkness
deepened, and its green eyes glared as large as halfpennies in her
affrighted vision as the thunder came booming along the heights from
the Willarden-road.

She tried to drive it away; but it growled and hissed awfully, and set
up its back as if it would spring at her, and finally it skipped up
into a tree, where they grew thickest at each side of her path, and
accompanied her, high over head, hopping from bough to bough as if
meditating a pounce upon her shoulders. Her fancy being full of
strange thoughts, she was frightened, and she fancied that it was
haunting her steps, and destined to undergo some hideous
transformation, the moment she ceased to guard her path with prayers.

She was frightened for a while after she got home. The dark looks of
Mother Carke were always before her eyes, and a secret dread prevented
her passing the threshold of her home again that night.

Next day it was different. She had got rid of the awe with which
Mother Carke had inspired her. She could not get the tall
dark-featured lord, in the black velvet dress, out of her head. He had
"taken her fancy"; she was growing to love him. She could think of
nothing else.

Bessie Hennock, a neighbour's daughter, came to see her that day, and
proposed a walk toward the ruins of Hawarth Castle, to gather
"blaebirries." So off the two girls went together.

In the thicket, along the slopes near the ivied walls of Hawarth
Castle, the companions began to fill their baskets. Hours passed. The
sun was sinking near the west, and Laura Silver Bell had not come
home.

Over the hatch of the farm-house door the maids leant ever and anon
with outstretched necks, watching for a sign of the girl's return, and
wondering, as the shadows lengthened, what had become of her.

At last, just as the rosy sunset gilding began to overspread the
landscape, Bessie Hennock, weeping into her apron, made her appearance
without her companion.

Her account of their adventures was curious.

I will relate the substance of it more connectedly than her agitation
would allow her to give it, and without the disguise of the rude
Northumbrian dialect.

The girl said, that, as they got along together among the brambles
that grow beside the brook that bounds the Pie-Mag field, she on a
sudden saw a very tall big-boned man, with an ill-favoured smirched
face, and dressed in worn and rusty black, standing at the other side
of a little stream. She was frightened; and while looking at this
dirty, wicked, starved figure, Laura Silver Bell touched her, gazing
at the same tall scarecrow, but with a countenance full of confusion
and even rapture. She was peeping through the bush behind which she
stood, and with a sigh she said:

"Is na that a conny lad? Agoy! See his bonny velvet clothes, his sword
and sash; that's a lord, I can tell ye; and weel I know who he
follows, who he luves, and who he'll wed."

Bessie Hennock thought her companion daft.

"See how luvesome he luks!" whispered Laura.

Bessie looked again, and saw him gazing at her companion with a
malignant smile, and at the same time he beckoned her to approach.

"Darrat ta! gaa not near him! he'll wring thy neck!" gasped Bessie in
great fear, as she saw Laura step forward with a look of beautiful
bashfulness and joy.

She took the hand he stretched across the stream, more for love of the
hand than any need of help, and in a moment was across and by his
side, and his long arm about her waist.

"Fares te weel, Bessie, I'm gain my ways," she called, leaning her
head to his shoulder; "and tell gud Fadder Lew I'm gain my ways to be
happy, and may be, at lang last, I'll see him again."

And with a farewell wave of her hand, she went away with her dismal
partner; and Laura Silver Bell was never more seen at home, or among
the "coppies" and "wickwoods," the bonny fields and bosky hollows, by
Dardale Moss.

Bessie Hennock followed them for a time.

She crossed the brook, and though they seemed to move slowly enough,
she was obliged to run to keep them in view; and she all the time
cried to her continually, "Come back, come back, bonnie Laurie!"
until, getting over a bank, she was met by a white-faced old man, and
so frightened was she, that she thought she fainted outright. At all
events, she did not come to herself until the birds were singing their
vespers in the amber light of sunset, and the day was over.

No trace of the direction of the girl's flight was ever discovered.
Weeks and months passed, and more than a year.

At the end of that time, one of Mall Carke's goats died, as she
suspected, by the envious practices of a rival witch who lived at the
far end of Dardale Moss.

All alone in her stone cabin the old woman had prepared her charm to
ascertain the author of her misfortune.

The heart of the dead animal, stuck all over with pins, was burnt in
the fire; the windows, doors, and every other aperture of the house
being first carefully stopped. After the heart, thus prepared with
suitable incantations, is consumed in the fire, the first person who
comes to the door or passes by it is the offending magician.

Mother Carke completed these lonely rites at dead of night. It was a
dark night, with the glimmer of the stars only, and a melancholy
night-wind was soughing through the scattered woods that spread
around.

After a long and dead silence, there came a heavy thump at the door,
and a deep voice called her by name.

She was startled, for she expected no man's voice; and peeping from
the window, she saw, in the dim light, a coach and four horses, with
gold-laced footmen, and coachman in wig and cocked hat, turned out as
if for a state occasion.

She unbarred the door; and a tall gentleman, dressed in black, waiting
at the threshold, entreated her, as the only _sage femme_ within
reach, to come in the coach and attend Lady Lairdale, who was about to
give birth to a baby, promising her handsome payment.

Lady Lairdale! She had never heard of her.

"How far away is it?"

"Twelve miles on the old road to Golden Friars."

Her avarice is roused, and she steps into the coach. The footman
claps-to the door; the glass jingles with the sound of a laugh. The
tall dark-faced gentleman in black is seated opposite; they are
driving at a furious pace; they have turned out of the road into a
narrower one, dark with thicker and loftier forest than she was
accustomed to. She grows anxious; for she knows every road and by-path
in the country round, and she has never seen this one.

He encourages her. The moon has risen above the edge of the horizon,
and she sees a noble old castle. Its summit of tower, watchtower and
battlement, glimmers faintly in the moonlight. This is their
destination.

She feels on a sudden all but overpowered by sleep; but although she
nods, she is quite conscious of the continued motion, which has become
even rougher.

She makes an effort, and rouses herself. What has become of the
coach, the castle, the servants? Nothing but the strange forest
remains the same.

She is jolting along on a rude hurdle, seated on rushes, and a tall,
big-boned man, in rags, sits in front, kicking with his heel the
ill-favoured beast that pulls them along, every bone of which sticks
out, and holding the halter which serves for reins. They stop at the
door of a miserable building of loose stone, with a thatch so sunk and
rotten, that the roof-tree and couples protrude in crooked corners,
like the bones of the wretched horse, with enormous head and ears,
that dragged them to the door.

The long gaunt man gets down, his sinister face grimed like his hands.

It was the same grimy giant who had accosted her on the lonely road
near Deadman's Grike. But she feels that she "must go through with it"
now, and she follows him into the house.

Two rushlights were burning in the large and miserable room, and on a
coarse ragged bed lay a woman groaning piteously.

"That's Lady Lairdale," says the gaunt dark man, who then began to
stride up and down the room rolling his head, stamping furiously, and
thumping one hand on the palm of the other, and talking and laughing
in the corners, where there was no one visible to hear or to answer.

Old Mall Carke recognized in the faded half-starved creature who lay
on the bed, as dark now and grimy as the man, and looking as if she
had never in her life washed hands or face, the once blithe and pretty
Laura Lew.

The hideous being who was her mate continued in the same odd
fluctuations of fury, grief, and merriment; and whenever she uttered a
groan, he parodied it with another, as Mother Carke thought, in
saturnine derision.

At length he strode into another room, and banged the door after him.

In due time the poor woman's pains were over, and a daughter was born.

Such an imp! with long pointed ears, flat nose, and enormous restless
eyes and mouth. It instantly began to yell and talk in some unknown
language, at the noise of which the father looked into the room, and
told the _sage femme_ that she should not go unrewarded.

The sick woman seized the moment of his absence to say in the ear of
Mall Carke:

"If ye had not been at ill work tonight, he could not hev fetched ye.
Tak no more now than your rightful fee, or he'll keep ye here."

At this moment he returned with a bag of gold and silver coins, which
he emptied on the table, and told her to help herself.

She took four shillings, which was her primitive fee, neither more nor
less; and all his urgency could not prevail with her to take a
farthing more. He looked so terrible at her refusal, that she rushed
out of the house.

He ran after her.

"You'll take your money with you," he roared, snatching up the bag,
still half full, and flung it after her.

It lighted on her shoulder; and partly from the blow, partly from
terror, she fell to the ground; and when she came to herself, it was
morning, and she was lying across her own door-stone.

It is said that she never more told fortune or practised spell. And
though all that happened sixty years ago and more, Laura Silver Bell,
wise folk think, is still living, and will so continue till the day of
doom among the fairies.



WICKED CAPTAIN WALSHAWE, OF WAULING


CHAPTER I.

_Peg O'Neill Pays the Captain's Debts_

A very odd thing happened to my uncle, Mr. Watson, of Haddlestone; and
to enable you to understand it, I must begin at the beginning.

In the year 1822, Mr. James Walshawe, more commonly known as Captain
Walshawe, died at the age of eighty-one years. The Captain in his
early days, and so long as health and strength permitted, was a scamp
of the active, intriguing sort; and spent his days and nights in
sowing his wild oats, of which he seemed to have an inexhaustible
stock. The harvest of this tillage was plentifully interspersed with
thorns, nettles, and thistles, which stung the husbandman
unpleasantly, and did not enrich him.

Captain Walshawe was very well known in the neighborhood of Wauling,
and very generally avoided there. A "captain" by courtesy, for he had
never reached that rank in the army list. He had quitted the service
in 1766, at the age of twenty-five; immediately previous to which
period his debts had grown so troublesome, that he was induced to
extricate himself by running away with and marrying an heiress.

Though not so wealthy quite as he had imagined, she proved a very
comfortable investment for what remained of his shattered affections;
and he lived and enjoyed himself very much in his old way, upon her
income, getting into no end of scrapes and scandals, and a good deal
of debt and money trouble.

When he married his wife, he was quartered in Ireland, at Clonmel,
where was a nunnery, in which, as pensioner, resided Miss O'Neill, or
as she was called in the country, Peg O'Neill--the heiress of whom I
have spoken.

Her situation was the only ingredient of romance in the affair, for
the young lady was decidedly plain, though good-humoured looking, with
that style of features which is termed _potato_; and in figure she was
a little too plump, and rather short. But she was impressible; and the
handsome young English Lieutenant was too much for her monastic
tendencies, and she eloped.

In England there are traditions of Irish fortune-hunters, and in
Ireland of English. The fact is, it was the vagrant class of each
country that chiefly visited the other in old times; and a handsome
vagabond, whether at home or abroad, I suppose, made the most of his
face, which was also his fortune.

At all events, he carried off the fair one from the sanctuary; and for
some sufficient reason, I suppose, they took up their abode at
Wauling, in Lancashire.

Here the gallant captain amused himself after his fashion, sometimes
running up, of course on business, to London. I believe few wives have
ever cried more in a given time than did that poor, dumpy,
potato-faced heiress, who got over the nunnery garden wall, and jumped
into the handsome Captain's arms, for love.

He spent her income, frightened her out of her wits with oaths and
threats, and broke her heart.

Latterly she shut herself up pretty nearly altogether in her room. She
had an old, rather grim, Irish servant-woman in attendance upon her.
This domestic was tall, lean, and religious, and the Captain knew
instinctively she hated him; and he hated her in return, often
threatened to put her out of the house, and sometimes even to kick her
out of the window. And whenever a wet day confined him to the house,
or the stable, and he grew tired of smoking, he would begin to swear
and curse at her for a _diddled_ old mischief-maker, that could never
be easy, and was always troubling the house with her cursed stories,
and so forth.

But years passed away, and old Molly Doyle remained still in her
original position. Perhaps he thought that there must be somebody
there, and that he was not, after all, very likely to change for the
better.


CHAPTER II

_The Blessed Candle_

He tolerated another intrusion, too, and thought himself a paragon of
patience and easy good nature for so doing. A Roman Catholic
clergyman, in a long black frock, with a low standing collar, and a
little white muslin fillet round his neck--tall, sallow, with blue
chin, and dark steady eyes--used to glide up and down the stairs, and
through the passages; and the Captain sometimes met him in one place
and sometimes in another. But by a caprice incident to such tempers he
treated this cleric exceptionally, and even with a surly sort of
courtesy, though he grumbled about his visits behind his back.

I do not know that he had a great deal of moral courage, and the
ecclesiastic looked severe and self-possessed; and somehow he thought
he had no good opinion of him, and if a natural occasion were offered,
might say extremely unpleasant things, and hard to be answered.

Well the time came at last, when poor Peg O'Neill--in an evil hour
Mrs. James Walshawe--must cry, and quake, and pray her last. The
doctor came from Penlynden, and was just as vague as usual, but more
gloomy, and for about a week came and went oftener. The cleric in the
long black frock was also daily there. And at last came that last
sacrament in the gates of death, when the sinner is traversing those
dread steps that never can be retraced; when the face is turned for
ever from life, and we see a receding shape, and hear a voice already
irrevocably in the land of spirits.

So the poor lady died; and some people said the Captain "felt it very
much." I don't think he did. But he was not very well just then, and
looked the part of mourner and penitent to admiration--being seedy and
sick. He drank a great deal of brandy and water that night, and called
in Farmer Dobbs, for want of better company, to drink with him; and
told him all his grievances, and how happy he and "the poor lady
up-stairs" might have been, had it not been for liars, and
pick-thanks, and tale-bearers, and the like, who came between
them--meaning Molly Doyle--whom, as he waxed eloquent over his liquor,
he came at last to curse and rail at by name, with more than his
accustomed freedom. And he described his own natural character and
amiability in such moving terms, that he wept maudlin tears of
sensibility over his theme; and when Dobbs was gone, drank some more
grog, and took to railing and cursing again by himself; and then
mounted the stairs unsteadily, to see "what the devil Doyle and the
other ---- old witches were about in poor Peg's room."

When he pushed open the door, he found some half-dozen crones, chiefly
Irish, from the neighbouring town of Hackleton, sitting over tea and
snuff, etc., with candles lighted round the corpse, which was arrayed
in a strangely cut robe of brown serge. She had secretly belonged to
some order--I think the Carmelite, but I am not certain--and wore the
habit in her coffin.

"What the d---- are you doing with my wife?" cried the Captain, rather
thickly. "How dare you dress her up in this ---- trumpery, you--you
cheating old witch; and what's that candle doing in her hand?"

I think he was a little startled, for the spectacle was grisly
enough. The dead lady was arrayed in this strange brown robe, and in
her rigid fingers, as in a socket, with the large wooden beads and
cross wound round it, burned a wax candle, shedding its white light
over the sharp features of the corpse. Moll Doyle was not to be put
down by the Captain, whom she hated, and accordingly, in her phrase,
"he got as good as he gave." And the Captain's wrath waxed fiercer,
and he chucked the wax taper from the dead hand, and was on the point
of flinging it at the old serving-woman's head.

"The holy candle, you sinner!" cried she.

"I've a mind to make you eat it, you beast," cried the Captain.

But I think he had not known before what it was, for he subsided a
little sulkily, and he stuffed his hand with the candle (quite extinct
by this time) into his pocket, and said he--

"You know devilish well you had no business going on with y-y-your
d---- _witch_-craft about my poor wife, without my leave--you do--and
you'll please take off that d---- brown pinafore, and get her decently
into her coffin, and I'll pitch your devil's waxlight into the sink."

And the Captain stalked out of the room.

"An' now her poor sowl's in prison, you wretch, be the mains o' ye;
an' may yer own be shut into the wick o' that same candle, till it's
burned out, ye savage."

"I'd have you ducked for a witch, for two-pence," roared the Captain
up the staircase, with his hand on the banisters, standing on the
lobby. But the door of the chamber of death clapped angrily, and he
went down to the parlour, where he examined the holy candle for a
while, with a tipsy gravity, and then with something of that
reverential feeling for the symbolic, which is not uncommon in rakes
and scamps, he thoughtfully locked it up in a press, where were
accumulated all sorts of obsolete rubbish--soiled packs of cards,
disused tobacco pipes, broken powder flasks, his military sword, and a
dusky bundle of the "Flash Songster," and other questionable
literature.

He did not trouble the dead lady's room any more. Being a volatile man
it is probable that more cheerful plans and occupations began to
entertain his fancy.


CHAPTER III

_My Uncle Watson Visits Wauling_

So the poor lady was buried decently, and Captain Walshawe reigned
alone for many years at Wauling. He was too shrewd and too experienced
by this time to run violently down the steep hill that leads to ruin.
So there was a method in his madness; and after a widowed career of
more than forty years, he, too, died at last with some guineas in his
purse.

Forty years and upwards is a great _edax rerum_, and a wonderful
chemical power. It acted forcibly upon the gay Captain Walshawe. Gout
supervened, and was no more conducive to temper than to enjoyment, and
made his elegant hands lumpy at all the small joints, and turned them
slowly into crippled claws. He grew stout when his exercise was
interfered with, and ultimately almost corpulent. He suffered from
what Mr. Holloway calls "bad legs," and was wheeled about in a great
leathern-backed chair, and his infirmities went on accumulating with
his years.

I am sorry to say, I never heard that he repented, or turned his
thoughts seriously to the future. On the contrary, his talk grew
fouler, and his fun ran upon his favourite sins, and his temper waxed
more truculent. But he did not sink into dotage. Considering his
bodily infirmities, his energies and his malignities, which were many
and active, were marvellously little abated by time. So he went on to
the close. When his temper was stirred, he cursed and swore in a way
that made decent people tremble. It was a word and a blow with him;
the latter, luckily, not very sure now. But he would seize his crutch
and make a swoop or a pound at the offender, or shy his
medicine-bottle, or his tumbler, at his head.

It was a peculiarity of Captain Walshawe, that he, by this time, hated
nearly everybody. My uncle, Mr. Watson, of Haddlestone, was cousin to
the Captain, and his heir-at-law. But my uncle had lent him money on
mortgage of his estates, and there had been a treaty to sell, and
terms and a price were agreed upon, in "articles" which the lawyers
said were still in force.

I think the ill-conditioned Captain bore him a grudge for being richer
than he, and would have liked to do him an ill turn. But it did not
lie in his way; at least while he was living.

My uncle Watson was a Methodist, and what they call a "classleader";
and, on the whole, a very good man. He was now near fifty--grave, as
beseemed his profession--somewhat dry--and a little severe,
perhaps--but a just man.

A letter from the Penlynden doctor reached him at Haddlestone,
announcing the death of the wicked old Captain; and suggesting his
attendance at the funeral, and the expediency of his being on the spot
to look after things at Wauling. The reasonableness of this striking
my good uncle, he made his journey to the old house in Lancashire
incontinently, and reached it in time for the funeral.

My uncle, whose traditions of the Captain were derived from his
mother, who remembered him in his slim, handsome youth--in shorts,
cocked-hat and lace, was amazed at the bulk of the coffin which
contained his mortal remains; but the lid being already screwed down,
he did not see the face of the bloated old sinner.


CHAPTER IV

_In the Parlour_

What I relate, I had from the lips of my uncle, who was a truthful
man, and not prone to fancies.

The day turning out awfully rainy and tempestuous, he persuaded the
doctor and the attorney to remain for the night at Wauling.

There was no will--the attorney was sure of that; for the Captain's
enmities were perpetually shifting, and he could never quite make up
his mind, as to how best to give effect to a malignity whose direction
was constantly being modified. He had had instructions for drawing a
will a dozen times over. But the process had always been arrested by
the intending testator.

Search being made, no will was found. The papers, indeed, were all
right, with one important exception: the leases were nowhere to be
seen. There were special circumstances connected with several of the
principal tenancies on the estate--unnecessary here to detail--which
rendered the loss of these documents one of very serious moment, and
even of very obvious danger.

My uncle, therefore, searched strenuously. The attorney was at his
elbow, and the doctor helped with a suggestion now and then. The old
serving-man seemed an honest deaf creature, and really knew nothing.

My uncle Watson was very much perturbed. He fancied--but this possibly
was only fancy--that he had detected for a moment a queer look in the
attorney's face; and from that instant it became fixed in his mind
that he knew all about the leases. Mr. Watson expounded that evening
in the parlour to the doctor, the attorney, and the deaf servant.
Ananias and Sapphira figured in the foreground; and the awful nature
of fraud and theft, of tampering in anywise with the plain rule of
honesty in matters pertaining to estates, etc., were pointedly dwelt
upon; and then came a long and strenuous prayer, in which he entreated
with fervour and aplomb that the hard heart of the sinner who had
abstracted the leases might be softened or broken in such a way as to
lead to their restitution; or that, if he continued reserved and
contumacious, it might at least be the will of Heaven to bring him to
public justice and the documents to light. The fact is, that he was
praying all this time at the attorney.

When these religious exercises were over, the visitors retired to
their rooms, and my Uncle Watson wrote two or three pressing letters
by the fire. When his task was done, it had grown late; the candles
were flaring in their sockets, and all in bed, and, I suppose, asleep,
but he.

The fire was nearly out, he chilly, and the flame of the candles
throbbing strangely in their sockets, shed alternate glare and shadow
round the old wainscoted room and its quaint furniture. Outside were
all the wild thunder and piping of the storm; and the rattling of
distant windows sounded through the passages, and down the stairs,
like angry people astir in the house.

My Uncle Watson belonged to a sect who by no means rejected the
supernatural, and whose founder, on the contrary, has sanctioned
ghosts in the most emphatic way. He was glad therefore to remember,
that in prosecuting his search that day, he had seen some six inches
of wax candle in the press in the parlour; for he had no fancy to be
overtaken by darkness in his present situation. He had no time to
lose; and taking the bunch of keys--of which he was now master--he
soon fitted the lock, and secured the candle--a treasure in his
circumstances; and lighting it, he stuffed it into the socket of one
of the expiring candles, and extinguishing the other, he looked round
the room in the steady light reassured. At the same moment, an unusual
violent gust of the storm blew a handful of gravel against the parlour
window, with a sharp rattle that startled him in the midst of the roar
and hubbub; and the flame of the candle itself was agitated by the
air.


CHAPTER V

_The Bed-Chamber_

My uncle walked up to bed, guarding his candle with his hand, for the
lobby windows were rattling furiously, and he disliked the idea of
being left in the dark more than ever.

His bedroom was comfortable, though old-fashioned. He shut and bolted
the door. There was a tall looking-glass opposite the foot of his
four-poster, on the dressing-table between the windows. He tried to
make the curtains meet, but they would not draw; and like many a
gentleman in a like perplexity, he did not possess a pin, nor was
there one in the huge pincushion beneath the glass.

He turned the face of the mirror away therefore, so that its back was
presented to the bed, pulled the curtains together, and placed a chair
against them, to prevent their falling open again. There was a good
fire, and a reinforcement of round coal and wood inside the fender. So
he piled it up to ensure a cheerful blaze through the night, and
placing a little black mahogany table, with the legs of a satyr,
beside the bed, and his candle upon it, he got between the sheets, and
laid his red nightcapped head upon his pillow, and disposed himself to
sleep.

The first thing that made him uncomfortable was a sound at the foot of
his bed, quite distinct in a momentary lull of the storm. It was only
the gentle rustle and rush of the curtains, which fell open again; and
as his eyes opened, he saw them resuming their perpendicular
dependence, and sat up in his bed almost expecting to see something
uncanny in the aperture.

There was nothing, however, but the dressing-table, and other dark
furniture, and the window-curtains faintly undulating in the violence
of the storm. He did not care to get up, therefore--the fire being
bright and cheery--to replace the curtains by a chair, in the position
in which he had left them, anticipating possibly a new recurrence of
the relapse which had startled him from his incipient doze.

So he got to sleep in a little while again, but he was disturbed by a
sound, as he fancied, at the table on which stood the candle. He could
not say what it was, only that he wakened with a start, and lying so
in some amaze, he did distinctly hear a sound which startled him a
good deal, though there was nothing necessarily supernatural in it. He
described it as resembling what would occur if you fancied a thinnish
table-leaf, with a convex warp in it, depressed the reverse way, and
suddenly with a spring recovering its natural convexity. It was a
loud, sudden thump, which made the heavy candlestick jump, and there
was an end, except that my uncle did not get again into a doze for ten
minutes at least.

The next time he awoke, it was in that odd, serene way that sometimes
occurs. We open our eyes, we know not why, quite placidly, and are on
the instant wide awake. He had had a nap of some duration this time,
for his candle-flame was fluttering and flaring, _in articulo_, in the
silver socket. But the fire was still bright and cheery; so he popped
the extinguisher on the socket, and almost at the same time there came
a tap at his door, and a sort of crescendo "hush-sh-sh!" Once more my
uncle was sitting up, scared and perturbed, in his bed. He
recollected, however, that he had bolted his door; and such inveterate
materialists are we in the midst of our spiritualism, that this
reassured him, and he breathed a deep sigh, and began to grow
tranquil. But after a rest of a minute or two, there came a louder and
sharper knock at his door; so that instinctively he called out, "Who's
there?" in a loud, stern key. There was no sort of response, however.
The nervous effect of the start subsided; and I think my uncle must
have remembered how constantly, especially on a stormy night, these
creaks or cracks which simulate all manner of goblin noises, make
themselves naturally audible.


CHAPTER VI

_The Extinguisher Is Lifted_

After a while, then, he lay down with his back turned toward that side
of the bed at which was the door, and his face toward the table on
which stood the massive old candlestick, capped with its extinguisher,
and in that position he closed his eyes. But sleep would not revisit
them. All kinds of queer fancies began to trouble him--some of them I
remember.

He felt the point of a finger, he averred, pressed most distinctly on
the tip of his great toe, as if a living hand were between his sheets,
and making a sort of signal of attention or silence. Then again he
felt something as large as a rat make a sudden bounce in the middle of
his bolster, just under his head. Then a voice said "Oh!" very gently,
close at the back of his head. All these things he felt certain of,
and yet investigation led to nothing. He felt odd little cramps
stealing now and then about him; and then, on a sudden, the middle
finger of his right hand was plucked backwards, with a light playful
jerk that frightened him awfully.

Meanwhile the storm kept singing, and howling, and ha-ha-hooing
hoarsely among the limbs of the old trees and the chimney-pots; and my
Uncle Watson, although he prayed and meditated as was his wont when he
lay awake, felt his heart throb excitedly, and sometimes thought he
was beset with evil spirits, and at others that he was in the early
stage of a fever.

He resolutely kept his eyes closed, however, and, like St. Paul's
shipwrecked companions, wished for the day. At last another little
doze seems to have stolen upon his senses, for he awoke quietly and
completely as before--opening his eyes all at once, and seeing
everything as if he had not slept for a moment.

The fire was still blazing redly--nothing uncertain in the light--the
massive silver candlestick, topped with its tall extinguisher, stood
on the centre of the black mahogany table as before; and, looking by
what seemed a sort of accident to the apex of this, he beheld
something which made him quite misdoubt the evidence of his eyes.

He saw the extinguisher lifted by a tiny hand, from beneath, and a
small human face, no bigger than a thumb-nail, with nicely
proportioned features, peep from beneath it. In this Lilliputian
countenance was such a ghastly consternation as horrified my uncle
unspeakably. Out came a little foot then and there, and a pair of wee
legs, in short silk stockings and buckled shoes, then the rest of the
figure; and, with the arms holding about the socket, the little legs
stretched and stretched, hanging about the stem of the candlestick
till the feet reached the base, and so down the satyr-like leg of the
table, till they reached the floor, extending elastically, and
strangely enlarging in all proportions as they approached the ground,
where the feet and buckles were those of a well-shaped, full grown
man, and the figure tapering upward until it dwindled to its original
fairy dimensions at the top, like an object seen in some strangely
curved mirror.

Standing upon the floor he expanded, my amazed uncle could not tell
how, into his proper proportions; and stood pretty nearly in profile
at the bedside, a handsome and elegantly shaped young man, in a bygone
military costume, with a small laced, three-cocked hat and plume on
his head, but looking like a man going to be hanged--in unspeakable
despair.

He stepped lightly to the hearth, and turned for a few seconds very
dejectedly with his back toward the bed and the mantel-piece, and he
saw the hilt of his rapier glittering in the firelight; and then
walking across the room he placed himself at the dressing-table,
visible through the divided curtains at the foot of the bed. The fire
was blazing still so brightly that my uncle saw him as distinctly as
if half a dozen candles were burning.


CHAPTER VII

_The Visitation Culminates_

The looking-glass was an old-fashioned piece of furniture, and had a
drawer beneath it. My uncle had searched it carefully for the papers
in the daytime; but the silent figure pulled the drawer quite out,
pressed a spring at the side, disclosing a false receptable behind it,
and from this he drew a parcel of papers tied together with pink tape.

All this time my uncle was staring at him in a horrified state,
neither winking nor breathing, and the apparition had not once given
the smallest intimation of consciousness that a living person was in
the same room. But now, for the first time, it turned its livid stare
full upon my uncle with a hateful smile of significance, lifting up
the little parcel of papers between his slender finger and thumb. Then
he made a long, cunning wink at him, and seemed to blow out one of his
cheeks in a burlesque grimace, which, but for the horrific
circumstances, would have been ludicrous. My uncle could not tell
whether this was really an intentional distortion or only one of those
horrid ripples and deflections which were constantly disturbing the
proportions of the figure, as if it were seen through some unequal and
perverting medium.

The figure now approached the bed, seeming to grow exhausted and
malignant as it did so. My uncle's terror nearly culminated at this
point, for he believed it was drawing near him with an evil purpose.
But it was not so; for the soldier, over whom twenty years seemed to
have passed in his brief transit to the dressing-table and back again,
threw himself into a great high-backed arm-chair of stuffed leather at
the far side of the fire, and placed his heels on the fender. His feet
and legs seemed indistinctly to swell, and swathings showed themselves
round them, and they grew into something enormous, and the upper
figure swayed and shaped itself into corresponding proportions, a
great mass of corpulence, with a cadaverous and malignant face, and
the furrows of a great old age, and colourless glassy eyes; and with
these changes, which came indefinitely but rapidly as those of a
sunset cloud, the fine regimentals faded away, and a loose, gray,
woollen drapery, somehow, was there in its stead; and all seemed to be
stained and rotten, for swarms of worms seemed creeping in and out,
while the figure grew paler and paler, till my uncle, who liked his
pipe, and employed the simile naturally, said the whole effigy grew to
the colour of tobacco ashes, and the clusters of worms into little
wriggling knots of sparks such as we see running over the residuum of
a burnt sheet of paper. And so with the strong draught caused by the
fire, and the current of air from the window, which was rattling in
the storm, the feet seemed to be drawn into the fire-place, and the
whole figure, light as ashes, floated away with them, and disappeared
with a whisk up the capacious old chimney.

It seemed to my uncle that the fire suddenly darkened and the air grew
icy cold, and there came an awful roar and riot of tempest, which
shook the old house from top to base, and sounded like the yelling of
a blood-thirsty mob on receiving a new and long-expected victim.

Good Uncle Watson used to say, "I have been in many situations of fear
and danger in the course of my life, but never did I pray with so much
agony before or since; for then, as now, it was clear beyond a cavil
that I had actually beheld the phantom of an evil spirit."


CONCLUSION

Now there are two curious circumstances to be observed in this
relation of my uncle's, who was, as I have said, a perfectly veracious
man.

First--The wax candle which he took from the press in the parlour and
burnt at his bedside on that horrible night was unquestionably,
according to the testimony of the old deaf servant, who had been fifty
years at Wauling, that identical piece of "holy candle" which had
stood in the fingers of the poor lady's corpse, and concerning which
the old Irish crone, long since dead, had delivered the curious curse
I have mentioned against the Captain.

Secondly--Behind the drawer under the looking-glass, he did actually
discover a second but secret drawer, in which were concealed the
identical papers which he had suspected the attorney of having made
away with. There were circumstances, too, afterwards disclosed which
convinced my uncle that the old man had deposited them there
preparatory to burning them, which he had nearly made up his mind to
do.

Now, a very remarkable ingredient in this tale of my Uncle Watson was
this, that so far as my father, who had never seen Captain Walshawe in
the course of his life, could gather, the phantom had exhibited a
horrible and grotesque, but unmistakeable resemblance to that defunct
scamp in the various stages of his long life.

Wauling was sold in the year 1837, and the old house shortly after
pulled down, and a new one built nearer to the river. I often wonder
whether it was rumoured to be haunted, and, if so, what stories were
current about it. It was a commodious and stanch old house, and withal
rather handsome; and its demolition was certainly suspicious.



THE CHILD THAT WENT WITH THE FAIRIES


Eastward of the old city of Limerick, about ten Irish miles under the
range of mountains known as the Slieveelim hills, famous as having
afforded Sarsfield a shelter among their rocks and hollows, when he
crossed them in his gallant descent upon the cannon and ammunition of
King William, on its way to the beleaguering army, there runs a very
old and narrow road. It connects the Limerick road to Tipperary with
the old road from Limerick to Dublin, and runs by bog and pasture,
hill and hollow, straw-thatched village, and roofless castle, not far
from twenty miles.

Skirting the healthy mountains of which I have spoken, at one part it
becomes singularly lonely. For more than three Irish miles it
traverses a deserted country. A wide, black bog, level as a lake,
skirted with copse, spreads at the left, as you journey northward, and
the long and irregular line of mountain rises at the right, clothed in
heath, broken with lines of grey rock that resemble the bold and
irregular outlines of fortifications, and riven with many a gully,
expanding here and there into rocky and wooded glens, which open as
they approach the road.

A scanty pasturage, on which browsed a few scattered sheep or kine,
skirts this solitary road for some miles, and under shelter of a
hillock, and of two or three great ash-trees, stood, not many years
ago, the little thatched cabin of a widow named Mary Ryan.

Poor was this widow in a land of poverty. The thatch had acquired the
grey tint and sunken outlines, that show how the alternations of rain
and sun have told upon that perishable shelter.

But whatever other dangers threatened, there was one well provided
against by the care of other times. Round the cabin stood half a dozen
mountain ashes, as the rowans, inimical to witches, are there called.
On the worn planks of the door were nailed two horse-shoes, and over
the lintel and spreading along the thatch, grew, luxuriant, patches of
that ancient cure for many maladies, and prophylactic against the
machinations of the evil one, the house-leek. Descending into the
doorway, in the _chiaroscuro_ of the interior, when your eye grew
sufficiently accustomed to that dim light, you might discover, hanging
at the head of the widow's wooden-roofed bed, her beads and a phial of
holy water.

Here certainly were defences and bulwarks against the intrusion of
that unearthly and evil power, of whose vicinity this solitary family
were constantly reminded by the outline of Lisnavoura, that lonely
hillhaunt of the "Good people," as the fairies are called
euphemistically, whose strangely dome-like summit rose not half a mile
away, looking like an outwork of the long line of mountain that sweeps
by it.

It was at the fall of the leaf, and an autumnal sunset threw the
lengthening shadow of haunted Lisnavoura, close in front of the
solitary little cabin, over the undulating slopes and sides of
Slieveelim. The birds were singing among the branches in the thinning
leaves of the melancholy ash-trees that grew at the roadside in front
of the door. The widow's three younger children were playing on the
road, and their voices mingled with the evening song of the birds.
Their elder sister, Nell, was "within in the house," as their phrase
is, seeing after the boiling of the potatoes for supper.

Their mother had gone down to the bog, to carry up a hamper of turf on
her back. It is, or was at least, a charitable custom--and if not
disused, long may it continue--for the wealthier people when cutting
their turf and stacking it in the bog, to make a smaller stack for the
behoof of the poor, who were welcome to take from it so long as it
lasted, and thus the potato pot was kept boiling, and hearth warm that
would have been cold enough but for that good-natured bounty, through
wintry months.

Moll Ryan trudged up the steep "bohereen" whose banks were overgrown
with thorn and brambles, and stooping under her burden, re-entered her
door, where her dark-haired daughter Nell met her with a welcome, and
relieved her of her hamper.

Moll Ryan looked round with a sigh of relief, and drying her forehead,
uttered the Munster ejaculation:

"Eiah, wisha! It's tired I am with it, God bless it. And where's the
craythurs, Nell?"

"Playin' out on the road, mother; didn't ye see them and you comin'
up?"

"No; there was no one before me on the road," she said, uneasily; "not
a soul, Nell; and why didn't ye keep an eye on them?"

"Well, they're in the haggard, playin' there, or round by the back o'
the house. Will I call them in?"

"Do so, good girl, in the name o' God. The hens is comin' home, see,
and the sun was just down over Knockdoulah, an' I comin' up."

So out ran tall, dark-haired Nell, and standing on the road, looked up
and down it; but not a sign of her two little brothers, Con and Bill,
or her little sister, Peg, could she see. She called them; but no
answer came from the little haggard, fenced with straggling bushes.
She listened, but the sound of their voices was missing. Over the
stile, and behind the house she ran--but there all was silent and
deserted.

She looked down toward the bog, as far as she could see; but they did
not appear. Again she listened--but in vain. At first she had felt
angry, but now a different feeling overcame her, and she grew pale.
With an undefined boding she looked toward the heathy boss of
Lisnavoura, now darkening into the deepest purple against the flaming
sky of sunset.

Again she listened with a sinking heart, and heard nothing but the
farewell twitter and whistle of the birds in the bushes around. How
many stories had she listened to by the winter hearth, of children
stolen by the fairies, at nightfall, in lonely places! With this fear
she knew her mother was haunted.

No one in the country round gathered her little flock about her so
early as this frightened widow, and no door "in the seven parishes"
was barred so early.

Sufficiently fearful, as all young people in that part of the world
are of such dreaded and subtle agents, Nell was even more than usually
afraid of them, for her terrors were infected and redoubled by her
mother's. She was looking towards Lisnavoura in a trance of fear, and
crossed herself again and again, and whispered prayer after prayer.
She was interrupted by her mother's voice on the road calling her
loudly. She answered, and ran round to the front of the cabin, where
she found her standing.

"And where in the world's the craythurs--did ye see sight o' them
anywhere?" cried Mrs. Ryan, as the girl came over the stile.

"Arrah! mother, 'tis only what they're run down the road a bit. We'll
see them this minute coming back. It's like goats they are, climbin'
here and runnin' there; an' if I had them here, in my hand, maybe I
wouldn't give them a hiding all round."

"May the Lord forgive you, Nell! the childhers gone. They're took, and
not a soul near us, and Father Tom three miles away! And what'll I do,
or who's to help us this night? Oh, wirristhru, wirristhru! The
craythurs is gone!"

"Whisht, mother, be aisy: don't ye see them comin' up?"

And then she shouted in menacing accents, waving her arm, and
beckoning the children, who were seen approaching on the road, which
some little way off made a slight dip, which had concealed them. They
were approaching from the westward, and from the direction of the
dreaded hill of Lisnavoura.

But there were only two of the children, and one of them, the little
girl, was crying. Their mother and sister hurried forward to meet
them, more alarmed than ever.

"Where is Billy--where is he?" cried the mother, nearly breathless, so
soon as she was within hearing.

"He's gone--they took him away; but they said he'll come back again,"
answered little Con, with the dark brown hair.

"He's gone away with the grand ladies," blubbered the little girl.

"What ladies--where? Oh, Leum, asthora! My darlin', are you gone away
at last? Where is he? Who took him? What ladies are you talkin' about?
What way did he go?" she cried in distraction.

"I couldn't see where he went, mother; 'twas like as if he was going
to Lisnavoura."

With a wild exclamation the distracted woman ran on towards the hill
alone, clapping her hands, and crying aloud the name of her lost
child.

Scared and horrified, Nell, not daring to follow, gazed after her, and
burst into tears; and the other children raised high their
lamentations in shrill rivalry.

Twilight was deepening. It was long past the time when they were
usually barred securely within their habitation. Nell led the younger
children into the cabin, and made them sit down by the turf fire,
while she stood in the open door, watching in great fear for the
return of her mother.

After a long while they did see their mother return. She came in and
sat down by the fire, and cried as if her heart would break.

"Will I bar the doore, mother?" asked Nell.

"Ay, do--didn't I lose enough, this night, without lavin' the doore
open, for more o' yez to go; but first take an' sprinkle a dust o' the
holy waters over ye, acuishla, and bring it here till I throw a taste
iv it over myself and the craythurs; an' I wondher, Nell, you'd forget
to do the like yourself, lettin' the craythurs out so near nightfall.
Come here and sit on my knees, asthora, come to me, mavourneen, and
hould me fast, in the name o' God, and I'll hould you fast that none
can take yez from me, and tell me all about it, and what it was--the
Lord between us and harm--an' how it happened, and who was in it."

And the door being barred, the two children, sometimes speaking
together, often interrupting one another, often interrupted by their
mother, managed to tell this strange story, which I had better relate
connectedly and in my own language.

The Widow Ryan's three children were playing, as I have said, upon the
narrow old road in front of her door. Little Bill or Leum, about five
years old, with golden hair and large blue eyes, was a very pretty
boy, with all the clear tints of healthy childhood, and that gaze of
earnest simplicity which belongs not to town children of the same age.
His little sister Peg, about a year older, and his brother Con, a
little more than a year elder than she, made up the little group.

Under the great old ash-trees, whose last leaves were falling at their
feet, in the light of an October sunset, they were playing with the
hilarity and eagerness of rustic children, clamouring together, and
their faces were turned toward the west and storied hill of
Lisnavoura.

Suddenly a startling voice with a screech called to them from behind,
ordering them to get out of the way, and turning, they saw a sight,
such as they never beheld before. It was a carriage drawn by four
horses that were pawing and snorting, in impatience, as it just pulled
up. The children were almost under their feet, and scrambled to the
side of the road next their own door.

This carriage and all its appointments were old-fashioned and
gorgeous, and presented to the children, who had never seen anything
finer than a turf car, and once, an old chaise that passed that way
from Killaloe, a spectacle perfectly dazzling.

Here was antique splendour. The harness and trappings were scarlet,
and blazing with gold. The horses were huge, and snow white, with
great manes, that as they tossed and shook them in the air, seemed to
stream and float sometimes longer and sometimes shorter, like so much
smoke--their tails were long, and tied up in bows of broad scarlet and
gold ribbon. The coach itself was glowing with colours, gilded and
emblazoned. There were footmen in gay liveries, and three-cocked hats,
like the coachman's; but he had a great wig, like a judge's, and their
hair was frizzed out and powdered, and a long thick "pigtail," with a
bow to it, hung down the back of each.

All these servants were diminutive, and ludicrously out of proportion
with the enormous horses of the equipage, and had sharp, sallow
features, and small, restless fiery eyes, and faces of cunning and
malice that chilled the children. The little coachman was scowling and
showing his white fangs under his cocked hat, and his little blazing
beads of eyes were quivering with fury in their sockets as he whirled
his whip round and round over their heads, till the lash of it looked
like a streak of fire in the evening sun, and sounded like the cry of
a legion of "fillapoueeks" in the air.

"Stop the princess on the highway!" cried the coachman, in a piercing
treble.

"Stop the princess on the highway!" piped each footman in turn,
scowling over his shoulder down on the children, and grinding his keen
teeth.

The children were so frightened they could only gape and turn white in
their panic. But a very sweet voice from the open window of the
carriage reassured them, and arrested the attack of the lackeys.

A beautiful and "very grand-looking" lady was smiling from it on them,
and they all felt pleased in the strange light of that smile.

"The boy with the golden hair, I think," said the lady, bending her
large and wonderfully clear eyes on little Leum.

The upper sides of the carriage were chiefly of glass, so that the
children could see another woman inside, whom they did not like so
well.

This was a black woman, with a wonderfully long neck, hung round with
many strings of large variously-coloured beads, and on her head was a
sort of turban of silk striped with all the colours of the rainbow,
and fixed in it was a golden star.

This black woman had a face as thin almost as a death's-head, with
high cheekbones, and great goggle eyes, the whites of which, as well
as her wide range of teeth, showed in brilliant contrast with her
skin, as she looked over the beautiful lady's shoulder, and whispered
something in her ear.

"Yes; the boy with the golden hair, I think," repeated the lady.

And her voice sounded sweet as a silver bell in the children's ears,
and her smile beguiled them like the light of an enchanted lamp, as
she leaned from the window with a look of ineffable fondness on the
golden-haired boy, with the large blue eyes; insomuch that little
Billy, looking up, smiled in return with a wondering fondness, and
when she stooped down, and stretched her jewelled arms towards him, he
stretched his little hands up, and how they touched the other children
did not know; but, saying, "Come and give me a kiss, my darling," she
raised him, and he seemed to ascend in her small fingers as lightly as
a feather, and she held him in her lap and covered him with kisses.

Nothing daunted, the other children would have been only too happy to
change places with their favoured little brother. There was only one
thing that was unpleasant, and a little frightened them, and that was
the black woman, who stood and stretched forward, in the carriage as
before. She gathered a rich silk and gold handkerchief that was in her
fingers up to her lips, and seemed to thrust ever so much of it, fold
after fold, into her capacious mouth, as they thought to smother her
laughter, with which she seemed convulsed, for she was shaking and
quivering, as it seemed, with suppressed merriment; but her eyes,
which remained uncovered, looked angrier than they had ever seen eyes
look before.

But the lady was so beautiful they looked on her instead, and she
continued to caress and kiss the little boy on her knee; and smiling
at the other children she held up a large russet apple in her fingers,
and the carriage began to move slowly on, and with a nod inviting them
to take the fruit, she dropped it on the road from the window; it
rolled some way beside the wheels, they following, and then she
dropped another, and then another, and so on. And the same thing
happened to all; for just as either of the children who ran beside had
caught the rolling apple, somehow it slipt into a hole or ran into a
ditch, and looking up they saw the lady drop another from the window,
and so the chase was taken up and continued till they got, hardly
knowing how far they had gone, to the old cross-road that leads to
Owney. It seemed that there the horses' hoofs and carriage wheels
rolled up a wonderful dust, which being caught in one of those eddies
that whirl the dust up into a column, on the calmest day, enveloped
the children for a moment, and passed whirling on towards Lisnavoura,
the carriage, as they fancied, driving in the centre of it; but
suddenly it subsided, the straws and leaves floated to the ground, the
dust dissipated itself, but the white horses and the lackeys, the
gilded carriage, the lady and their little golden-haired brother were
gone.

At the same moment suddenly the upper rim of the clear setting sun
disappeared behind the hill of Knockdoula, and it was twilight. Each
child felt the transition like a shock--and the sight of the rounded
summit of Lisnavoura, now closely overhanging them, struck them with a
new fear.

They screamed their brother's name after him, but their cries were
lost in the vacant air. At the same time they thought they heard a
hollow voice say, close to them, "Go home."

Looking round and seeing no one, they were scared, and hand in
hand--the little girl crying wildly, and the boy white as ashes, from
fear, they trotted homeward, at their best speed, to tell, as we have
seen, their strange story.

Molly Ryan never more saw her darling. But something of the lost
little boy was seen by his former playmates.

Sometimes when their mother was away earning a trifle at haymaking,
and Nelly washing the potatoes for their dinner, or "beatling" clothes
in the little stream that flows in the hollow close by, they saw the
pretty face of little Billy peeping in archly at the door, and smiling
silently at them, and as they ran to embrace him, with cries of
delight, he drew back, still smiling archly, and when they got out
into the open day, he was gone, and they could see no trace of him
anywhere.

This happened often, with slight variations in the circumstances of
the visit. Sometimes he would peep for a longer time, sometimes for a
shorter time, sometimes his little hand would come in, and, with
bended finger, beckon them to follow; but always he was smiling with
the same arch look and wary silence--and always he was gone when they
reached the door. Gradually these visits grew less and less frequent,
and in about eight months they ceased altogether, and little Billy,
irretrievably lost, took rank in their memories with the dead.

One wintry morning, nearly a year and a half after his disappearance,
their mother having set out for Limerick soon after cockcrow, to sell
some fowls at the market, the little girl, lying by the side of her
elder sister, who was fast asleep, just at the grey of the morning
heard the latch lifted softly, and saw little Billy enter and close
the door gently after him. There was light enough to see that he was
barefoot and ragged, and looked pale and famished. He went straight to
the fire, and cowered over the turf embers, and rubbed his hands
slowly, and seemed to shiver as he gathered the smouldering turf
together.

The little girl clutched her sister in terror and whispered, "Waken,
Nelly, waken; here's Billy come back!"

Nelly slept soundly on, but the little boy, whose hands were extended
close over the coals, turned and looked toward the bed, it seemed to
her, in fear, and she saw the glare of the embers reflected on his
thin cheek as he turned toward her. He rose and went, on tiptoe,
quickly to the door, in silence, and let himself out as softly as he
had come in.

After that, the little boy was never seen any more by any one of his
kindred.

"Fairy doctors," as the dealers in the preternatural, who in such
cases were called in, are termed, did all that in them lay--but in
vain. Father Tom came down, and tried what holier rites could do, but
equally without result. So little Billy was dead to mother, brother,
and sisters; but no grave received him. Others whom affection
cherished, lay in holy ground, in the old churchyard of Abington, with
headstone to mark the spot over which the survivor might kneel and say
a kind prayer for the peace of the departed soul. But there was no
landmark to show where little Billy was hidden from their loving eyes,
unless it was in the old hill of Lisnavoura, that cast its long shadow
at sunset before the cabin-door; or that, white and filmy in the
moonlight, in later years, would occupy his brother's gaze as he
returned from fair or market, and draw from him a sigh and a prayer
for the little brother he had lost so long ago, and was never to see
again.



STORIES OF LOUGH GUIR


When the present writer was a boy of twelve or thirteen, he first made
the acquaintance of Miss Anne Baily, of Lough Guir, in the county of
Limerick. She and her sister were the last representatives at that
place, of an extremely good old name in the county. They were both
what is termed "old maids," and at that time past sixty. But never
were old ladies more hospitable, lively, and kind, especially to young
people. They were both remarkably agreeable and clever. Like all old
county ladies of their time, they were great genealogists, and could
recount the origin, generations, and intermarriages, of every county
family of note.

These ladies were visited at their house at Lough Guir by Mr. Crofton
Croker; and are, I think, mentioned, by name, in the second series of
his fairy legends; the series in which (probably communicated by Miss
Anne Baily), he recounts some of the picturesque traditions of those
beautiful lakes--lakes, I should no longer say, for the smaller and
prettier has since been drained, and gave up from its depths some long
lost and very interesting relics.

In their drawing-room stood a curious relic of another sort: old
enough, too, though belonging to a much more modern period. It was the
ancient stirrup cup of the hospitable house of Lough Guir. Crofton
Croker has preserved a sketch of this curious glass. I have often had
it in my hand. It had a short stem; and the cup part, having the
bottom rounded, rose cylindrically, and, being of a capacity to
contain a whole bottle of claret, and almost as narrow as an
old-fashioned ale glass, was tall to a degree that filled me with
wonder. As it obliged the rider to extend his arm as he raised the
glass, it must have tried a tipsy man, sitting in the saddle, pretty
severely. The wonder was that the marvellous tall glass had come down
to our times without a crack.

There was another glass worthy of remark in the same drawing-room. It
was gigantic, and shaped conically, like one of those old-fashioned
jelly glasses which used to be seen upon the shelves of confectioners.
It was engraved round the rim with the words, "The glorious, pious,
and immortal memory"; and on grand occasions, was filled to the brim,
and after the manner of a loving cup, made the circuit of the Whig
guests, who owed all to the hero whose memory its legend invoked.

It was now but the transparent phantom of those solemn convivialities
of a generation, who lived, as it were, within hearing of the cannon
and shoutings of those stirring times. When I saw it, this glass had
long retired from politics and carousals, and stood peacefully on a
little table in the drawing-room, where ladies' hands replenished it
with fair water, and crowned it daily with flowers from the garden.

Miss Anne Baily's conversation ran oftener than her sister's upon the
legendary and supernatural; she told her stories with the sympathy,
the colour, and the mysterious air which contribute so powerfully to
effect, and never wearied of answering questions about the old castle,
and amusing her young audience with fascinating little glimpses of old
adventure and bygone days. My memory retains the picture of my early
friend very distinctly. A slim straight figure, above the middle
height; a general likeness to the full-length portrait of that
delightful Countess d'Aulnois, to whom we all owe our earliest and
most brilliant glimpses of fairy-land; something of her
gravely-pleasant countenance, plain, but refined and ladylike, with
that kindly mystery in her side-long glance and uplifted finger, which
indicated the approaching climax of a tale of wonder.

Lough Guir is a kind of centre of the operations of the Munster
fairies. When a child is stolen by the "good people," Lough Guir is
conjectured to be the place of its unearthly transmutation from the
human to the fairy state. And beneath its waters lie enchanted, the
grand old castle of the Desmonds, the great earl himself, his
beautiful young countess, and all the retinue that surrounded him in
the years of his splendour, and at the moment of his catastrophe.

Here, too, are historic associations. The huge square tower that rises
at one side of the stable-yard close to the old house, to a height
that amazed my young eyes, though robbed of its battlements and one
story, was a stronghold of the last rebellious Earl of Desmond, and is
specially mentioned in that delightful old folio, the _Hibernia
Pacata_, as having, with its Irish garrison on the battlements, defied
the army of the lord deputy, then marching by upon the summits of the
overhanging hills. The house, built under shelter of this stronghold
of the once proud and turbulent Desmonds, is old, but snug, with a
multitude of small low rooms, such as I have seen in houses of the
same age in Shropshire and the neighbouring English counties.

The hills that overhang the lakes appeared to me, in my young days
(and I have not seen them since), to be clothed with a short soft
verdure, of a hue so dark and vivid as I had never seen before.

In one of the lakes is a small island, rocky and wooded, which is
believed by the peasantry to represent the top of the highest tower of
the castle which sank, under a spell, to the bottom. In certain states
of the atmosphere, I have heard educated people say, when in a boat
you have reached a certain distance, the island appears to rise some
feet from the water, its rocks assume the appearance of masonry, and
the whole circuit presents very much the effect of the battlements of
a castle rising above the surface of the lake.

This was Miss Anne Baily's story of the submersion of this lost
castle:


_The Magician Earl_

It is well known that the great Earl of Desmond, though history
pretends to dispose of him differently, lives to this hour enchanted
in his castle, with all his household, at the bottom of the lake.

There was not, in his day, in all the world, so accomplished a
magician as he. His fairest castle stood upon an island in the lake,
and to this he brought his young and beautiful bride, whom he loved
but too well; for she prevailed upon his folly to risk all to gratify
her imperious caprice.

They had not been long in this beautiful castle, when she one day
presented herself in the chamber in which her husband studied his
forbidden art, and there implored him to exhibit before her some of
the wonders of his evil science. He resisted long; but her entreaties,
tears, and wheedlings were at length too much for him and he
consented.

But before beginning those astonishing transformations with which he
was about to amaze her, he explained to her the awful conditions and
dangers of the experiment.

Alone in this vast apartment, the walls of which were lapped, far
below, by the lake whose dark waters lay waiting to swallow them, she
must witness a certain series of frightful phenomena, which once
commenced, he could neither abridge nor mitigate; and if throughout
their ghastly succession she spoke one word, or uttered one
exclamation, the castle and all that it contained would in one instant
subside to the bottom of the lake, there to remain, under the
servitude of a strong spell, for ages.

The dauntless curiosity of the lady having prevailed, and the oaken
door of the study being locked and barred, the fatal experiments
commenced.

Muttering a spell, as he stood before her, feathers sprouted thickly
over him, his face became contracted and hooked, a cadaverous smell
filled the air, and, with heavy winnowing wings, a gigantic vulture
rose in his stead, and swept round and round the room, as if on the
point of pouncing upon her.

The lady commanded herself through this trial, and instantly another
began.

The bird alighted near the door, and in less than a minute changed,
she saw not how, into a horribly deformed and dwarfish hag: who, with
yellow skin hanging about her face and enormous eyes, swung herself on
crutches toward the lady, her mouth foaming with fury, and her
grimaces and contortions becoming more and more hideous every moment,
till she rolled with a yell on the floor, in a horrible convulsion, at
the lady's feet, and then changed into a huge serpent, with crest
erect, and quivering tongue. Suddenly, as it seemed on the point of
darting at her, she saw her husband in its stead, standing pale before
her, and, with his finger on his lip, enforcing the continued
necessity of silence. He then placed himself at his length on the
floor, and began to stretch himself out and out, longer and longer,
until his head nearly reached to one end of the vast room, and his
feet to the other.

This horror overcame her. The ill-starred lady uttered a wild scream,
whereupon the castle and all that was within it, sank in a moment to
the bottom of the lake.

But, once in every seven years, by night, the Earl of Desmond and his
retinue emerge, and cross the lake, in shadowy cavalcade. His white
horse is shod with silver. On that one night, the earl may ride till
daybreak, and it behoves him to make good use of his time; for, until
the silver shoes of his steed be worn through, the spell that holds
him and his beneath the lake, will retain its power.

When I (Miss Anne Baily) was a child, there was still living a man
named Teigue O'Neill, who had a strange story to tell.

He was a smith, and his forge stood on the brow of the hill,
overlooking the lake, on a lonely part of the road to Cahir Conlish.
One bright moonlight night, he was working very late, and quite alone.
The clink of his hammer, and the wavering glow reflected through the
open door on the bushes at the other side of the narrow road, were the
only tokens that told of life and vigil for miles around.

In one of the pauses of his work, he heard the ring of many hoofs
ascending the steep road that passed his forge, and, standing in this
doorway, he was just in time to see a gentleman, on a white horse, who
was dressed in a fashion the like of which the smith had never seen
before. This man was accompanied and followed by a mounted retinue, as
strangely dressed as he.

They seemed, by the clang and clatter that announced their approach,
to be riding up the hill at a hard hurry-scurry gallop; but the pace
abated as they drew near, and the rider of the white horse who, from
his grave and lordly air, he assumed to be a man of rank, and
accustomed to command, drew bridle and came to a halt before the
smith's door.

He did not speak, and all his train were silent, but he beckoned to
the smith, and pointed down to one of his horse's hoofs.

Teigue stooped and raised it, and held it just long enough to see that
it was shod with a silver shoe; which, in one place, he said, was worn
as thin as a shilling. Instantaneously, his situation was made
apparent to him by this sign, and he recoiled with a terrified prayer.
The lordly rider, with a look of pain and fury, struck at him
suddenly, with something that whistled in the air like a whip; and an
icy streak seemed to traverse his body as if he had been cut through
with a leaf of steel. But he was without scathe or scar, as he
afterwards found. At the same moment he saw the whole cavalcade break
into a gallop and disappear down the hill, with a momentary hurtling
in the air, like the flight of a volley of cannon shot.

Here had been the earl himself. He had tried one of his accustomed
stratagems to lead the smith to speak to him. For it is well known
that either for the purpose of abridging or of mitigating his period
of enchantment, he seeks to lead people to accost him. But what, in
the event of his succeeding, would befall the person whom he had thus
ensnared, no one knows.


_Moll Rial's Adventure_

When Miss Anne Baily was a child, Moll Rial was an old woman. She had
lived all her days with the Bailys of Lough Guir; in and about whose
house, as was the Irish custom of those days, were a troop of
bare-footed country girls, scullery maids, or laundresses, or employed
about the poultry yard, or running of errands.

Among these was Moll Rial, then a stout good-humoured lass, with
little to think of, and nothing to fret about. She was once washing
clothes by the process known universally in Munster as beetling. The
washer stands up to her ankles in water, in which she has immersed the
clothes, which she lays in that state on a great flat stone, and
smacks with lusty strokes of an instrument which bears a rude
resemblance to a cricket bat, only shorter, broader, and light enough
to be wielded freely with one hand. Thus, they smack the dripping
clothes, turning them over and over, sousing them in the water, and
replacing them on the same stone, to undergo a repetition of the
process, until they are thoroughly washed.

Moll Rial was plying her "beetle" at the margin of the lake, close
under the old house and castle. It was between eight and nine o'clock
on a fine summer morning, everything looked bright and beautiful.
Though quite alone, and though she could not see even the windows of
the house (hidden from her view by the irregular ascent and some
interposing bushes), her loneliness was not depressing.

Standing up from her work, she saw a gentleman walking slowly down the
slope toward her. He was a "grand-looking" gentleman, arrayed in a
flowered silk dressing-gown, with a cap of velvet on his head; and as
he stepped toward her, in his slippered feet, he showed a very
handsome leg. He was smiling graciously as he approached, and drawing
a ring from his finger with an air of gracious meaning, which seemed
to imply that he wished to make her a present, he raised it in his
fingers with a pleased look, and placed it on the flat stones beside
the clothes she had been beetling so industriously.

He drew back a little, and continued to look at her with an
encouraging smile, which seemed to say: "You have earned your reward;
you must not be afraid to take it."

The girl fancied that this was some gentleman who had arrived, as
often happened in those hospitable and haphazard times, late and
unexpectedly the night before, and who was now taking a little
indolent ramble before breakfast.

Moll Rial was a little shy, and more so at having been discovered by
so grand a gentleman with her petticoats gathered a little high about
her bare shins. She looked down, therefore, upon the water at her
feet, and then she saw a ripple of blood, and then another, ring after
ring, coming and going to and from her feet. She cried out the sacred
name in horror, and, lifting her eyes, the courtly gentleman was gone,
but the blood-rings about her feet spread with the speed of light over
the surface of the lake, which for a moment glowed like one vast
estuary of blood.

Here was the earl once again, and Moll Rial declared that if it had
not been for that frightful transformation of the water she would have
spoken to him next minute, and would thus have passed under a spell,
perhaps as direful as his own.


_The Banshee_

So old a Munster family as the Bailys, of Lough Guir, could not fail
to have their attendant banshee. Everyone attached to the family knew
this well, and could cite evidences of that unearthly distinction. I
heard Miss Baily relate the only experience she had personally had of
that wild spiritual sympathy.

She said that, being then young, she and Miss Susan undertook a long
attendance upon the sick bed of their sister, Miss Kitty, whom I have
heard remembered among her contemporaries as the merriest and most
entertaining of human beings. This light-hearted young lady was dying
of consumption. The sad duties of such attendance being divided among
many sisters, as there then were, the night watches devolved upon the
two ladies I have named: I think, as being the eldest.

It is not improbable that these long and melancholy vigils, lowering
the spirits and exciting the nervous system, prepared them for
illusions. At all events, one night at dead of night, Miss Baily and
her sister, sitting in the dying lady's room, heard such sweet and
melancholy music as they had never heard before. It seemed to them
like distant cathedral music. The room of the dying girl had its
windows toward the yard, and the old castle stood near, and full in
sight. The music was not in the house, but seemed to come from the
yard, or beyond it. Miss Anne Baily took a candle, and went down the
back stairs. She opened the back door, and, standing there, heard the
same faint but solemn harmony, and could not tell whether it most
resembled the distant music of instruments, or a choir of voices. It
seemed to come through the windows of the old castle, high in the
air. But when she approached the tower, the music, she thought, came
from above the house, at the other side of the yard; and thus
perplexed, and at last frightened, she returned.

This aerial music both she and her sister, Miss Susan Baily, avowed
that they distinctly heard, and for a long time. Of the fact she was
clear, and she spoke of it with great awe.


_The Governess's Dream_

This lady, one morning, with a grave countenance that indicated
something weighty upon her mind, told her pupils that she had, on the
night before, had a very remarkable dream.

The first room you enter in the old castle, having reached the foot of
the spiral stone stair, is a large hall, dim and lofty, having only a
small window or two, set high in deep recesses in the wall. When I saw
the castle many years ago, a portion of this capacious chamber was
used as a store for the turf laid in to last the year.

Her dream placed her, alone, in this room, and there entered a
grave-looking man, having something very remarkable in his
countenance: which impressed her, as a fine portrait sometimes will,
with a haunting sense of character and individuality.

In his hand this man carried a wand, about the length of an ordinary
walking cane. He told her to observe and remember its length, and to
mark well the measurements he was about to make, the result of which
she was to communicate to Mr. Baily of Lough Guir.

From a certain point in the wall, with this wand, he measured along
the floor, at right angles with the wall, a certain number of its
lengths, which he counted aloud; and then, in the same way, from the
adjoining wall he measured a certain number of its lengths, which he
also counted distinctly. He then told her that at the point where
these two lines met, at a depth of a certain number of feet which he
also told her, treasure lay buried. And so the dream broke up, and her
remarkable visitant vanished.

She took the girls with her to the old castle, where, having cut a
switch to the length represented to her in her dream, she measured the
distances, and ascertained, as she supposed, the point on the floor
beneath which the treasure lay. The same day she related her dream to
Mr. Baily. But he treated it laughingly, and took no step in
consequence.

Some time after this, she again saw, in a dream, the same
remarkable-looking man, who repeated his message, and appeared
displeased. But the dream was treated by Mr. Baily as before.

The same dream occurred again, and the children became so clamorous to
have the castle floor explored, with pick and shovel, at the point
indicated by the thrice-seen messenger, that at length Mr. Baily
consented, and the floor was opened, and a trench was sunk at the spot
which the governess had pointed out.

Miss Anne Baily, and nearly all the members of the family, her father
included, were present at this operation. As the workmen approached
the depth described in the vision, the interest and suspense of all
increased; and when the iron implements met the solid resistance of a
broad flagstone, which returned a cavernous sound to the stroke, the
excitement of all present rose to its acme.

With some difficulty the flag was raised, and a chamber of stone work,
large enough to receive a moderately-sized crock or pit, was
disclosed. Alas! it was empty. But in the earth at the bottom of it,
Miss Baily said, she herself saw, as every other bystander plainly
did, the circular impression of a vessel: which had stood there, as
the mark seemed to indicate, for a very long time.

Both the Miss Bailys were strong in their belief hereafterwards, that
the treasure which they were convinced had actually been deposited
there, had been removed by some more trusting and active listener than
their father had proved.

This same governess remained with them to the time of her death, which
occurred some years later, under the following circumstances as
extraordinary as her dream.


_The Earl's Hall_

The good governess had a particular liking for the old castle, and
when lessons were over, would take her book or her work into a large
room in the ancient building, called the Earl's Hall. Here she caused
a table and chair to be placed for her use, and in the chiaroscuro
would so sit at her favourite occupations, with just a little ray of
subdued light, admitted through one of the glassless windows above
her, and falling upon her table.

The Earl's Hall is entered by a narrow-arched door, opening close to
the winding stair. It is a very large and gloomy room, pretty nearly
square, with a lofty vaulted ceiling, and a stone floor. Being
situated high in the castle, the walls of which are immensely thick,
and the windows very small and few, the silence that reigns here is
like that of a subterranean cavern. You hear nothing in this solitude,
except perhaps twice in a day, the twitter of a swallow in one of the
small windows high in the wall.

This good lady having one day retired to her accustomed solitude, was
missed from the house at her wonted hour of return. This in a country
house, such as Irish houses were in those days, excited little
surprise, and no harm. But when the dinner hour came, which was then,
in country houses, five o'clock, and the governess had not appeared,
some of her young friends, it being not yet winter, and sufficient
light remaining to guide them through the gloom of the dim ascent and
passages, mounted the old stone stair to the level of the Earl's Hall,
gaily calling to her as they approached.

There was no answer. On the stone floor, outside the door of the
Earl's Hall, to their horror, they found her lying insensible. By the
usual means she was restored to consciousness; but she continued very
ill, and was conveyed to the house, where she took to her bed.

It was there and then that she related what had occurred to her. She
had placed herself, as usual, at her little work table, and had been
either working or reading--I forget which--for some time, and felt in
her usual health and serene spirits. Raising her eyes, and looking
towards the door, she saw a horrible-looking little man enter. He was
dressed in red, was very short, had a singularly dark face, and a most
atrocious countenance. Having walked some steps into the room, with
his eyes fixed on her, he stopped, and beckoning to her to follow,
moved back toward the door. About half way, again he stopped once more
and turned. She was so terrified that she sat staring at the
apparition without moving or speaking. Seeing that she had not obeyed
him, his face became more frightful and menacing, and as it underwent
this change, he raised his hand and stamped on the floor. Gesture,
look, and all, expressed diabolical fury. Through sheer extremity of
terror she did rise, and, as he turned again, followed him a step or
two in the direction of the door. He again stopped, and with the same
mute menace, compelled her again to follow him.

She reached the narrow stone doorway of the Earl's Hall, through which
he had passed; from the threshold she saw him standing a little way
off, with his eyes still fixed on her. Again he signed to her, and
began to move along the short passage that leads to the winding stair.
But instead of following him further, she fell on the floor in a fit.

The poor lady was thoroughly persuaded that she was not long to
survive this vision, and her foreboding proved true. From her bed she
never rose. Fever and delirium supervened in a few days and she died.
Of course it is possible that fever, already approaching, had touched
her brain when she was visited by the phantom, and that it had no
external existence.



THE VISION OF TOM CHUFF


At the edge of melancholy Catstean Moor, in the north of England, with
half-a-dozen ancient poplar-trees with rugged and hoary stems around,
one smashed across the middle by a flash of lightning thirty summers
before, and all by their great height dwarfing the abode near which
they stand, there squats a rude stone house, with a thick chimney, a
kitchen and bedroom on the ground-floor, and a loft, accessible by a
ladder, under the shingle roof, divided into two rooms.

Its owner was a man of ill repute. Tom Chuff was his name. A
shock-headed, broad-shouldered, powerful man, though somewhat short,
with lowering brows and a sullen eye. He was a poacher, and hardly
made an ostensible pretence of earning his bread by any honest
industry. He was a drunkard. He beat his wife, and led his children a
life of terror and lamentation, when he was at home. It was a blessing
to his frightened little family when he absented himself, as he
sometimes did, for a week or more together.

On the night I speak of he knocked at the door with his cudgel at
about eight o'clock. It was winter, and the night was very dark. Had
the summons been that of a bogie from the moor, the inmates of this
small house could hardly have heard it with greater terror.

His wife unbarred the door in fear and haste. Her hunchbacked sister
stood by the hearth, staring toward the threshold. The children
cowered behind.

Tom Chuff entered with his cudgel in his hand, without speaking, and
threw himself into a chair opposite the fire. He had been away two or
three days. He looked haggard, and his eyes were bloodshot. They knew
he had been drinking.

Tom raked and knocked the peat fire with his stick, and thrust his
feet close to it. He signed towards the little dresser, and nodded to
his wife, and she knew he wanted a cup, which in silence she gave him.
He pulled a bottle of gin from his coat-pocket, and nearly filling the
teacup, drank off the dram at a few gulps.

He usually refreshed himself with two or three drams of this kind
before beating the inmates of his house. His three little children,
cowering in a corner, eyed him from under a table, as Jack did the
ogre in the nursery tale. His wife, Nell, standing behind a chair,
which she was ready to snatch up to meet the blow of the cudgel, which
might be levelled at her at any moment, never took her eyes off him;
and hunchbacked Mary showed the whites of a large pair of eyes,
similarly employed, as she stood against the oaken press, her dark
face hardly distinguishable in the distance from the brown panel
behind it.

Tom Chuff was at his third dram, and had not yet spoken a word since
his entrance, and the suspense was growing dreadful, when, on a
sudden, he leaned back in his rude seat, the cudgel slipped from his
hand, a change and a death-like pallor came over his face.

For a while they all stared on; such was their fear of him, they dared
not speak or move, lest it should prove to have been but a doze, and
Tom should wake up and proceed forthwith to gratify his temper and
exercise his cudgel.

In a very little time, however, things began to look so odd, that they
ventured, his wife and Mary, to exchange glances full of doubt and
wonder. He hung so much over the side of the chair, that if it had not
been one of cyclopean clumsiness and weight, he would have borne it to
the floor. A leaden tint was darkening the pallor of his face. They
were becoming alarmed, and finally braving everything his wife timidly
said, "Tom!" and then more sharply repeated it, and finally cried the
appellative loudly, and again and again, with the terrified
accompaniment, "He's dying--he's dying!" her voice rising to a scream,
as she found that neither it nor her plucks and shakings of him by the
shoulder had the slightest effect in recalling him from his torpor.

And now from sheer terror of a new kind the children added their
shrilly piping to the talk and cries of their seniors; and if anything
could have called Tom up from his lethargy, it might have been the
piercing chorus that made the rude chamber of the poacher's habitation
ring again. But Tom continued unmoved, deaf, and stirless.

His wife sent Mary down to the village, hardly a quarter of a mile
away, to implore of the doctor, for whose family she did duty as
laundress, to come down and look at her husband, who seemed to be
dying.

The doctor, who was a good-natured fellow, arrived. With his hat still
on, he looked at Tom, examined him, and when he found that the emetic
he had brought with him, on conjecture from Mary's description, did
not act, and that his lancet brought no blood, and that he felt a
pulseless wrist, he shook his head, and inwardly thought:

"What the plague is the woman crying for? Could she have desired a
greater blessing for her children and herself than the very thing that
has happened?"

Tom, in fact, seemed quite gone. At his lips no breath was
perceptible. The doctor could discover no pulse. His hands and feet
were cold, and the chill was stealing up into his body.

The doctor, after a stay of twenty minutes, had buttoned up his
great-coat again and pulled down his hat, and told Mrs. Chuff that
there was no use in his remaining any longer, when, all of a sudden, a
little rill of blood began to trickle from the lancet-cut in Tom
Chuffs temple.

"That's very odd," said the doctor. "Let us wait a little."

I must describe now the sensations which Tom Chuff had experienced.

With his elbows on his knees, and his chin upon his hands, he was
staring into the embers, with his gin beside him, when suddenly a
swimming came in his head, he lost sight of the fire, and a sound like
one stroke of a loud church bell smote his brain.

Then he heard a confused humming, and the leaden weight of his head
held him backward as he sank in his chair, and consciousness quite
forsook him.

When he came to himself he felt chilled, and was leaning against a
huge leafless tree. The night was moonless, and when he looked up he
thought he had never seen stars so large and bright, or sky so black.
The stars, too, seemed to blink down with longer intervals of
darkness, and fiercer and more dazzling emergence, and something, he
vaguely thought, of the character of silent menace and fury.

He had a confused recollection of having come there, or rather of
having been carried along, as if on men's shoulders, with a sort of
rushing motion. But it was utterly indistinct; the imperfect
recollection simply of a sensation. He had seen or heard nothing on
his way.

He looked round. There was not a sign of a living creature near. And
he began with a sense of awe to recognise the place.

The tree against which he had been leaning was one of the noble old
beeches that surround at irregular intervals the churchyard of
Shackleton, which spreads its green and wavy lap on the edge of the
Moor of Catstean, at the opposite side of which stands the rude
cottage in which he had just lost consciousness. It was six miles or
more across the moor to his habitation, and the black expanse lay
before him, disappearing dismally in the darkness. So that, looking
straight before him, sky and land blended together in an
undistinguishable and awful blank.

There was a silence quite unnatural over the place. The distant murmur
of the brook, which he knew so well, was dead; not a whisper in the
leaves about him; the air, earth, everything about and above was
indescribably still; and he experienced that quaking of the heart that
seems to portend the approach of something awful. He would have set
out upon his return across the moor, had he not an undefined
presentiment that he was waylaid by something he dared not pass.

The old grey church and tower of Shackleton stood like a shadow in the
rear. His eye had grown accustomed to the obscurity, and he could just
trace its outline. There were no comforting associations in his mind
connected with it; nothing but menace and misgiving. His early
training in his lawless calling was connected with this very spot.
Here his father used to meet two other poachers, and bring his son,
then but a boy, with him.

Under the church porch, towards morning, they used to divide the game
they had taken, and take account of the sales they had made on the
previous day, and make partition of the money, and drink their gin. It
was here he had taken his early lessons in drinking, cursing, and
lawlessness. His father's grave was hardly eight steps from the spot
where he stood. In his present state of awful dejection, no scene on
earth could have so helped to heighten his fear.

There was one object close by which added to his gloom. About a yard
away, in rear of the tree, behind himself, and extending to his left,
was an open grave, the mould and rubbish piled on the other side. At
the head of this grave stood the beech-tree; its columnar stem rose
like a huge monumental pillar. He knew every line and crease on its
smooth surface. The initial letters of his own name, cut in its bark
long ago, had spread out and wrinkled like the grotesque capitals of a
fanciful engraver, and now with a sinister significance overlooked the
open grave, as if answering his mental question, "Who for is t' grave
cut?"

He felt still a little stunned, and there was a faint tremor in his
joints that disinclined him to exert himself; and, further, he had a
vague apprehension that take what direction he might, there was danger
around him worse than that of staying where he was.

On a sudden the stars began to blink more fiercely, a faint wild light
overspread for a minute the bleak landscape, and he saw approaching
from the moor a figure at a kind of swinging trot, with now and then a
zig-zag hop or two, such as men accustomed to cross such places make,
to avoid the patches of slob or quag that meet them here and there.
This figure resembled his father's, and like him, whistled through his
finger by way of signal as he approached; but the whistle sounded not
now shrilly and sharp, as in old times, but immensely far away, and
seemed to sing strangely through Tom's head. From habit or from fear,
in answer to the signal, Tom whistled as he used to do five-and-twenty
years ago and more, although he was already chilled with an unearthly
fear.

Like his father, too, the figure held up the bag that was in his left
hand as he drew near, when it was his custom to call out to him what
was in it. It did not reassure the watcher, you may be certain, when a
shout unnaturally faint reached him, as the phantom dangled the bag
in the air, and he heard with a faint distinctness the words, "Tom
Chuff's soul!"

Scarcely fifty yards away from the low churchyard fence at which Tom
was standing, there was a wider chasm in the peat, which there threw
up a growth of reeds and bulrushes, among which, as the old poacher
used to do on a sudden alarm, the approaching figure suddenly cast
itself down.

From the same patch of tall reeds and rushes emerged instantaneously
what he at first mistook for the same figure creeping on all-fours,
but what he soon perceived to be an enormous black dog with a rough
coat like a bear's, which at first sniffed about, and then started
towards him in what seemed to be a sportive amble, bouncing this way
and that, but as it drew near it displayed a pair of fearful eyes that
glowed like live coals, and emitted from the monstrous expanse of its
jaws a terrifying growl.

This beast seemed on the point of seizing him, and Tom recoiled in
panic and fell into the open grave behind him. The edge which he
caught as he tumbled gave way, and down he went, expecting almost at
the same instant to reach the bottom. But never was such a fall!
Bottomless seemed the abyss! Down, down, down, with immeasurable and
still increasing speed, through utter darkness, with hair streaming
straight upward, breathless, he shot with a rush of air against him,
the force of which whirled up his very arms, second after second,
minute after minute, through the chasm downward he flew, the icy
perspiration of horror covering his body, and suddenly, as he expected
to be dashed into annihilation, his descent was in an instant arrested
with a tremendous shock, which, however, did not deprive him of
consciousness even for a moment.

He looked about him. The place resembled a smoke-stained cavern or
catacomb, the roof of which, except for a ribbed arch here and there
faintly visible, was lost in darkness. From several rude passages,
like the galleries of a gigantic mine, which opened from this centre
chamber, was very dimly emitted a dull glow as of charcoal, which was
the only light by which he could imperfectly discern the objects
immediately about him.

What seemed like a projecting piece of the rock, at the corner of one
of these murky entrances, moved on a sudden, and proved to be a human
figure, that beckoned to him. He approached, and saw his father. He
could barely recognise him, he was so monstrously altered.

"I've been looking for you, Tom. Welcome home, lad; come along to your
place."

Tom's heart sank as he heard these words, which were spoken in a
hollow and, he thought, derisive voice that made him tremble. But he
could not help accompanying the wicked spirit, who led him into a
place, in passing which he heard, as it were from within the rock,
deadful cries and appeals for mercy.

"What is this?" said he.

"Never mind."

"Who are they?"

"New-comers, like yourself, lad," answered his father apathetically.
"They give over that work in time, finding it is no use."

"What shall I do?" said Tom, in an agony.

"It's all one."

"But what shall I do?" reiterated Tom, quivering in every joint and
nerve.

"Grin and bear it, I suppose."

"For God's sake, if ever you cared for me, as I am your own child, let
me out of this!"

"There's no way out."

"If there's a way in there's a way out, and for Heaven's sake let me
out of this."

But the dreadful figure made no further answer, and glided backwards
by his shoulder to the rear; and others appeared in view, each with a
faint red halo round it, staring on him with frightful eyes, images,
all in hideous variety, of eternal fury or derision. He was growing
mad, it seemed, under the stare of so many eyes, increasing in number
and drawing closer every moment, and at the same time myriads and
myriads of voices were calling him by his name, some far away, some
near, some from one point, some from another, some from behind, close
to his ears. These cries were increased in rapidity and multitude, and
mingled with laughter, with flitting blasphemies, with broken insults
and mockeries, succeeded and obliterated by others, before he could
half catch their meaning.

All this time, in proportion to the rapidity and urgency of these
dreadful sights and sounds, the epilepsy of terror was creeping up to
his brain, and with a long and dreadful scream he lost consciousness.

When he recovered his senses, he found himself in a small stone
chamber, vaulted above, and with a ponderous door. A single point of
light in the wall, with a strange brilliancy illuminated this cell.

Seated opposite to him was a venerable man with a snowy beard of
immense length; an image of awful purity and severity. He was dressed
in a coarse robe, with three large keys suspensed from his girdle. He
might have filled one's idea of an ancient porter of a city gate; such
spiritual cities, I should say, as John Bunyan loved to describe.

This old man's eyes were brilliant and awful, and fixed on him as they
were, Tom Chuff felt himself helplessly in his power. At length he
spoke:

"The command is given to let you forth for one trial more. But if you
are found again drinking with the drunken, and beating your
fellow-servants, you shall return through the door by which you came,
and go out no more."

With these words the old man took him by the wrist and led him through
the first door, and then unlocking one that stood in the cavern
outside, he struck Tom Chuff sharply on the shoulder, and the door
shut behind him with a sound that boomed peal after peal of thunder
near and far away, and all round and above, till it rolled off
gradually into silence. It was totally dark, but there was a fanning
of fresh cool air that overpowered him. He felt that he was in the
upper world again.

In a few minutes he began to hear voices which he knew, and first a
faint point of light appeared before his eyes, and gradually he saw
the flame of the candle, and, after that, the familiar faces of his
wife and children, and he heard them faintly when they spoke to him,
although he was as yet unable to answer.

He also saw the doctor, like an isolated figure in the dark, and heard
him say:

"There, now, you have him back. He'll do, I think."

His first words, when he could speak and saw clearly all about him,
and felt the blood on his neck and shirt, were:

"Wife, forgie me. I'm a changed man. Send for't sir."

Which last phrase means, "Send for the clergyman."

When the vicar came and entered the little bedroom where the scared
poacher, whose soul had died within him, was lying, still sick and
weak, in his bed, and with a spirit that was prostrate with terror,
Tom Chuff feebly beckoned the rest from the room, and, the door being
closed, the good parson heard the strange confession, and with equal
amazement the man's earnest and agitated vows of amendment, and his
helpless appeals to him for support and counsel.

These, of course, were kindly met; and the visits of the rector, for
some time, were frequent.

One day, when he took Tom Chuff's hand on bidding him good-bye, the
sick man held it still, and said:

"Ye'r vicar o' Shackleton, sir, and if I sud dee, ye'll promise me a'e
thing, as I a promised ye a many. I a said I'll never gie wife, nor
barn, nor folk o' no sort, skelp nor sizzup more, and ye'll know o' me
no more among the sipers. Nor never will Tom draw trigger, nor set a
snare again, but in an honest way, and after that ye'll no make it a
bootless bene for me, but bein', as I say, vicar o' Shackleton, and
able to do as ye list, ye'll no let them bury me within twenty good
yerd-wands measure o' the a'd beech trees that's round the churchyard
of Shackleton."

"I see; you would have your grave, when your time really comes, a good
way from the place where lay the grave you dreamed of."

"That's jest it. I'd lie at the bottom o' a marl-pit liefer! And I'd
be laid in anither churchyard just to be shut o' my fear o' that, but
that a' my kinsfolk is buried beyond in Shackleton, and ye'll gie me
yer promise, and no break yer word."

"I do promise, certainly. I'm not likely to outlive you; but, if I
should, and still be vicar of Shackleton, you shall be buried
somewhere as near the middle of the churchyard as we can find space."

"That'll do."

And so content they parted.

The effect of the vision upon Tom Chuff was powerful, and promised to
be lasting. With a sore effort he exchanged his life of desultory
adventure and comparative idleness for one of regular industry. He
gave up drinking; he was as kind as an originally surly nature would
allow to his wife and family; he went to church; in fine weather they
crossed the moor to Shackleton Church; the vicar said he came there to
look at the scenery of his vision, and to fortify his good resolutions
by the reminder.

Impressions upon the imagination, however, are but transitory, and a
bad man acting under fear is not a free agent; his real character does
not appear. But as the images of the imagination fade, and the action
of fear abates, the essential qualities of the man reassert
themselves.

So, after a time, Tom Chuff began to grow weary of his new life; he
grew lazy, and people began to say that he was catching hares, and
pursuing his old contraband way of life, under the rose.

He came home one hard night, with signs of the bottle in his thick
speech and violent temper. Next day he was sorry, or frightened, at
all events repentant, and for a week or more something of the old
horror returned, and he was once more on his good behaviour. But in a
little time came a relapse, and another repentance, and then a relapse
again, and gradually the return of old habits and the flooding in of
all his old way of life, with more violence and gloom, in proportion
as the man was alarmed and exasperated by the remembrance of his
despised, but terrible, warning.

With the old life returned the misery of the cottage. The smiles,
which had begun to appear with the unwonted sunshine, were seen no
more. Instead, returned to his poor wife's face the old pale and
heartbroken look. The cottage lost its neat and cheerful air, and the
melancholy of neglect was visible. Sometimes at night were overheard,
by a chance passer-by, cries and sobs from that ill-omened dwelling.
Tom Chuff was now often drunk, and not very often at home, except when
he came in to sweep away his poor wife's earnings.

Tom had long lost sight of the honest old parson. There was shame
mixed with his degradation. He had grace enough left when he saw the
thin figure of "t' sir" walking along the road to turn out of his way
and avoid meeting him. The clergyman shook his head, and sometimes
groaned, when his name was mentioned. His horror and regret were more
for the poor wife than for the relapsed sinner, for her case was
pitiable indeed.

Her brother, Jack Everton, coming over from Hexley, having heard
stories of all this, determined to beat Tom, for his ill-treatment of
his sister, within an inch of his life. Luckily, perhaps, for all
concerned, Tom happened to be away upon one of his long excursions,
and poor Nell besought her brother, in extremity of terror, not to
interpose between them. So he took his leave and went home muttering
and sulky.

Now it happened a few months later that Nelly Chuff fell sick. She had
been ailing, as heartbroken people do, for a good while. But now the
end had come.

There was a coroner's inquest when she died, for the doctor had
doubts as to whether a blow had not, at least, hastened her death.
Nothing certain, however, came of the inquiry. Tom Chuff had left his
home more than two days before his wife's death. He was absent upon
his lawless business still when the coroner had held his quest.

Jack Everton came over from Hexley to attend the dismal obsequies of
his sister. He was more incensed than ever with the wicked husband,
who, one way or other, had hastened Nelly's death. The inquest had
closed early in the day. The husband had not appeared.

An occasional companion--perhaps I ought to say accomplice--of Chuff's
happened to turn up. He had left him on the borders of Westmoreland,
and said he would probably be home next day. But Everton affected not
to believe it. Perhaps it was to Tom Chuff, he suggested, a secret
satisfaction to crown the history of his bad married life with the
scandal of his absence from the funeral of his neglected and abused
wife.

Everton had taken on himself the direction of the melancholy
preparations. He had ordered a grave to be opened for his sister
beside her mother's, in Shackleton churchyard, at the other side of
the moor. For the purpose, as I have said, of marking the callous
neglect of her husband, he determined that the funeral should take
place that night. His brother Dick had accompanied him, and they and
his sister, with Mary and the children, and a couple of the
neighbours, formed the humble cortège.

Jack Everton said he would wait behind, on the chance of Tom Chuff
coming in time, that he might tell him what had happened, and make him
cross the moor with him to meet the funeral. His real object, I think,
was to inflict upon the villain the drubbing he had so long wished to
give him. Anyhow, he was resolved, by crossing the moor, to reach the
churchyard in time to anticipate the arrival of the funeral, and to
have a few words with the vicar, clerk, and sexton, all old friends of
his, for the parish of Shackleton was the place of his birth and early
recollections.

But Tom Chuff did not appear at his house that night. In surly mood,
and without a shilling in his pocket, he was making his way homeward.
His bottle of gin, his last investment, half emptied, with its neck
protruding, as usual on such returns, was in his coat-pocket.

His way home lay across the moor of Catstean, and the point at which
he best knew the passage was from the churchyard of Shackleton. He
vaulted the low wall that forms its boundary, and strode across the
graves, and over many a flat, half-buried tombstone, toward the side
of the churchyard next Catstean Moor.

The old church of Shackleton and its tower rose, close at his right,
like a black shadow against the sky. It was a moonless night, but
clear. By this time he had reached the low boundary wall, at the other
side, that overlooks the wide expanse of Catstean Moor. He stood by
one of the huge old beech-trees, and leaned his back to its smooth
trunk. Had he ever seen the sky look so black, and the stars shine
out and blink so vividly? There was a deathlike silence over the
scene, like the hush that precedes thunder in sultry weather. The
expanse before him was lost in utter blackness. A strange quaking
unnerved his heart. It was the sky and scenery of his vision! The same
horror and misgiving. The same invincible fear of venturing from the
spot where he stood. He would have prayed if he dared. His sinking
heart demanded a restorative of some sort, and he grasped the bottle
in his coat-pocket. Turning to his left, as he did so, he saw the
piled-up mould of an open grave that gaped with its head close to the
base of the great tree against which he was leaning.

He stood aghast. His dream was returning and slowly enveloping him.
Everything he saw was weaving itself into the texture of his vision.
The chill of horror stole over him.

A faint whistle came shrill and clear over the moor, and he saw a
figure approaching at a swinging trot, with a zig-zag course, hopping
now here and now there, as men do over a surface where one has need to
choose their steps. Through the jungle of reeds and bulrushes in the
foreground this figure advanced; and with the same unaccountable
impulse that had coerced him in his dream, he answered the whistle of
the advancing figure.

On that signal it directed its course straight toward him. It mounted
the low wall, and, standing there, looked into the graveyard.

"Who med answer?" challenged the new-comer from his post of
observation.

"Me," answered Tom.

"Who are you?" repeated the man upon the wall.

"Tom Chuff; and who's this grave cut for?" He answered in a savage
tone, to cover the secret shudder of his panic.

"I'll tell you that, ye villain!" answered the stranger, descending
from the wall, "I a' looked for you far and near, and waited long, and
now you're found at last."

Not knowing what to make of the figure that advanced upon him, Tom
Chuff recoiled, stumbled, and fell backward into the open grave. He
caught at the sides as he fell, but without retarding his fall.

An hour later, when lights came with the coffin, the corpse of Tom
Chuff was found at the bottom of the grave. He had fallen direct upon
his head, and his neck was broken. His death must have been
simultaneous with his fall. Thus far his dream was accomplished.

It was his brother-in-law who had crossed the moor and approached the
churchyard of Shackleton, exactly in the line which the image of his
father had seemed to take in his strange vision. Fortunately for Jack
Everton, the sexton and clerk of Shackleton church were, unseen by
him, crossing the churchyard toward the grave of Nelly Chuff, just as
Tom the poacher stumbled and fell. Suspicion of direct violence would
otherwise have inevitably attached to the exasperated brother. As it
was, the catastrophe was followed by no legal consequences.

The good vicar kept his word, and the grave of Tom Chuff is still
pointed out by the old inhabitants of Shackleton pretty nearly in the
centre of the churchyard. This conscientious compliance with the
entreaty of the panic-stricken man as to the place of his sepulture
gave a horrible and mocking emphasis to the strange combination by
which fate had defeated his precaution, and fixed the place of his
death.

The story was for many a year, and we believe still is, told round
many a cottage hearth, and though it appeals to what many would term
superstition, it yet sounded, in the ears of a rude and simple
audience, a thrilling, and let us hope, not altogether fruitless
homily.



DICKON THE DEVIL


About thirty years ago I was selected by two rich old maids to visit a
property in that part of Lancashire which lies near the famous forest
of Pendle, with which Mr. Ainsworth's "Lancashire Witches" has made us
so pleasantly familiar. My business was to make partition of a small
property, including a house and demesne, to which they had a long time
before succeeded as co-heiresses.

The last forty miles of my journey I was obliged to post, chiefly by
cross-roads, little known, and less frequented, and presenting scenery
often extremely interesting and pretty. The picturesqueness of the
landscape was enhanced by the season, the beginning of September, at
which I was travelling.

I had never been in this part of the world before; I am told it is now
a great deal less wild, and, consequently, less beautiful.

At the inn where I had stopped for a relay of horses and some
dinner--for it was then past five o'clock--I found the host, a hale
old fellow of five-and-sixty, as he told me, a man of easy and
garrulous benevolence, willing to accommodate his guests with any
amount of talk, which the slightest tap sufficed to set flowing, on
any subject you pleased.

I was curious to learn something about Barwyke, which was the name of
the demesne and house I was going to. As there was no inn within some
miles of it, I had written to the steward to put me up there, the best
way he could, for a night.

The host of the "Three Nuns," which was the sign under which he
entertained wayfarers, had not a great deal to tell. It was twenty
years, or more, since old Squire Bowes died, and no one had lived in
the Hall ever since, except the gardener and his wife.

"Tom Wyndsour will be as old a man as myself; but he's a bit taller,
and not so much in flesh, quite," said the fat innkeeper.

"But there were stories about the house," I repeated, "that they said,
prevented tenants from coming into it?"

"Old wives' tales; many years ago, that will be, sir; I forget 'em; I
forget 'em all. Oh yes, there always will be, when a house is left so;
foolish folk will always be talkin'; but I hadn't heard a word about
it this twenty year."

It was vain trying to pump him; the old landlord of the "Three Nuns,"
for some reason, did not choose to tell tales of Barwyke Hall, if he
really did, as I suspected, remember them.

I paid my reckoning, and resumed my journey, well pleased with the
good cheer of that old-world inn, but a little disappointed.

We had been driving for more than an hour, when we began to cross a
wild common; and I knew that, this passed, a quarter of an hour would
bring me to the door of Barwyke Hall.

The peat and furze were pretty soon left behind; we were again in the
wooded scenery that I enjoyed so much, so entirely natural and pretty,
and so little disturbed by traffic of any kind. I was looking from the
chaise-window, and soon detected the object of which, for some time,
my eye had been in search. Barwyke Hall was a large, quaint house, of
that cage-work fashion known as "black-and-white," in which the bars
and angles of an oak framework contrast, black as ebony, with the
white plaster that overspreads the masonry built into its interstices.
This steep-roofed Elizabethan house stood in the midst of park-like
grounds of no great extent, but rendered imposing by the noble stature
of the old trees that now cast their lengthening shadows eastward over
the sward, from the declining sun.

The park-wall was grey with age, and in many places laden with ivy. In
deep grey shadow, that contrasted with the dim fires of evening
reflected on the foliage above it, in a gentle hollow, stretched a
lake that looked cold and black, and seemed, as it were, to skulk from
observation with a guilty knowledge.

I had forgot that there was a lake at Barwyke; but the moment this
caught my eye, like the cold polish of a snake in the shadow, my
instinct seemed to recognize something dangerous, and I knew that the
lake was connected, I could not remember how, with the story I had
heard of this place in my boyhood.

I drove up a grass-grown avenue, under the boughs of these noble
trees, whose foliage, dyed in autumnal red and yellow, returned the
beams of the western sun gorgeously.

We drew up at the door. I got out, and had a good look at the front of
the house; it was a large and melancholy mansion, with signs of long
neglect upon it; great wooden shutters, in the old fashion, were
barred, outside, across the windows; grass, and even nettles, were
growing thick on the courtyard, and a thin moss streaked the timber
beams; the plaster was discoloured by time and weather, and bore great
russet and yellow stains. The gloom was increased by several grand
old trees that crowded close about the house.

I mounted the steps, and looked round; the dark lake lay near me now,
a little to the left. It was not large; it may have covered some ten
or twelve acres; but it added to the melancholy of the scene. Near the
centre of it was a small island, with two old ash trees, leaning
toward each other, their pensive images reflected in the stirless
water. The only cheery influence in this scene of antiquity, solitude,
and neglect was that the house and landscape were warmed with the
ruddy western beams. I knocked, and my summons resounded hollow and
ungenial in my ear; and the bell, from far away, returned a
deep-mouthed and surly ring, as if it resented being roused from a
score years' slumber.

A light-limbed, jolly-looking old fellow, in a barracan jacket and
gaiters, with a smile of welcome, and a very sharp, red nose, that
seemed to promise good cheer, opened the door with a promptitude that
indicated a hospitable expectation of my arrival.

There was but little light in the hall, and that little lost itself in
darkness in the background. It was very spacious and lofty, with a
gallery running round it, which, when the door was open, was visible
at two or three points. Almost in the dark my new acquaintance led me
across this wide hall into the room destined for my reception. It was
spacious, and wainscoted up to the ceiling. The furniture of this
capacious chamber was old-fashioned and clumsy. There were curtains
still to the windows, and a piece of Turkey carpet lay upon the floor;
those windows were two in number, looking out, through the trunks of
the trees close to the house, upon the lake. It needed all the fire,
and all the pleasant associations of my entertainer's red nose, to
light up this melancholy chamber. A door at its farther end admitted
to the room that was prepared for my sleeping apartment. It was
wainscoted, like the other. It had a four-post bed, with heavy
tapestry curtains, and in other respects was furnished in the same
old-world and ponderous style as the other room. Its window, like
those of that apartment, looked out upon the lake.

Sombre and sad as these rooms were, they were yet scrupulously clean.
I had nothing to complain of; but the effect was rather dispiriting.
Having given some directions about supper--a pleasant incident to look
forward to--and made a rapid toilet, I called on my friend with the
gaiters and red nose (Tom Wyndsour) whose occupation was that of a
"bailiff," or under-steward, of the property, to accompany me, as we
had still an hour or so of sun and twilight, in a walk over the
grounds.

It was a sweet autumn evening, and my guide, a hardy old fellow,
strode at a pace that tasked me to keep up with.

Among clumps of trees at the northern boundary of the demesne we
lighted upon the little antique parish church. I was looking down upon
it, from an eminence, and the park-wall interposed; but a little way
down was a stile affording access to the road, and by this we
approached the iron gate of the churchyard. I saw the church door
open; the sexton was replacing his pick, shovel, and spade, with which
he had just been digging a grave in the churchyard, in their little
repository under the stone stair of the tower. He was a polite, shrewd
little hunchback, who was very happy to show me over the church. Among
the monuments was one that interested me; it was erected to
commemorate the very Squire Bowes from whom my two old maids had
inherited the house and estate of Barwyke. It spoke of him in terms of
grandiloquent eulogy, and informed the Christian reader that he had
died, in the bosom of the Church of England, at the age of
seventy-one.

I read this inscription by the parting beams of the setting sun, which
disappeared behind the horizon just as we passed out from under the
porch.

"Twenty years since the Squire died," said I, reflecting as I loitered
still in the churchyard.

"Ay, sir; 'twill be twenty year the ninth o' last month."

"And a very good old gentleman?"

"Good-natured enough, and an easy gentleman he was, sir; I don't think
while he lived he ever hurt a fly," acquiesced Tom Wyndsour. "It ain't
always easy sayin' what's in 'em though, and what they may take or
turn to afterwards; and some o' them sort, I think, goes mad."

"You don't think he was out of his mind?" I asked.

"He? La! no; not he, sir; a bit lazy, mayhap, like other old fellows;
but a knew devilish well what he was about."

Tom Wyndsour's account was a little enigmatical; but, like old Squire
Bowes, I was "a bit lazy" that evening, and asked no more questions
about him.

We got over the stile upon the narrow road that skirts the churchyard.
It is overhung by elms more than a hundred years old, and in the
twilight, which now prevailed, was growing very dark. As side-by-side
we walked along this road, hemmed in by two loose stone-like walls,
something running towards us in a zig-zag line passed us at a wild
pace, with a sound like a frightened laugh or a shudder, and I saw, as
it passed, that it was a human figure. I may confess now, that I was a
little startled. The dress of this figure was, in part, white: I know
I mistook it at first for a white horse coming down the road at a
gallop. Tom Wyndsour turned about and looked after the retreating
figure.

"He'll be on his travels to-night," he said, in a low tone. "Easy
served with a bed, _that_ lad be; six foot o' dry peat or heath, or a
nook in a dry ditch. That lad hasn't slept once in a house this twenty
year, and never will while grass grows."

"Is he mad?" I asked.

"Something that way, sir; he's an idiot, an awpy; we call him 'Dickon
the devil,' because the devil's almost the only word that's ever in
his mouth."

It struck me that this idiot was in some way connected with the story
of old Squire Bowes.

"Queer things are told of him, I dare say?" I suggested.

"More or less, sir; more or less. Queer stories, some."

"Twenty years since he slept in a house? That's about the time the
Squire died," I continued.

"So it will be, sir; and not very long after."

"You must tell me all about that, Tom, to-night, when I can hear it
comfortably, after supper."

Tom did not seem to like my invitation; and looking straight before
him as we trudged on, he said,

"You see, sir, the house has been quiet, and nout's been troubling
folk inside the walls or out, all round the woods of Barwyke, this ten
year, or more; and my old woman, down there, is clear against talking
about such matters, and thinks it best--and so do I--to let sleepin'
dogs be."

He dropped his voice towards the close of the sentence, and nodded
significantly.

We soon reached a point where he unlocked a wicket in the park wall,
by which we entered the grounds of Barwyke once more.

The twilight deepening over the landscape, the huge and solemn trees,
and the distant outline of the haunted house, exercised a sombre
influence on me, which, together with the fatigue of a day of travel,
and the brisk walk we had had, disinclined me to interrupt the silence
in which my companion now indulged.

A certain air of comparative comfort, on our arrival, in great measure
dissipated the gloom that was stealing over me. Although it was by no
means a cold night, I was very glad to see some wood blazing in the
grate; and a pair of candles aiding the light of the fire, made the
room look cheerful. A small table, with a very white cloth, and
preparations for supper, was also a very agreeable object.

I should have liked very well, under these influences, to have
listened to Tom Wyndsour's story; but after supper I grew too sleepy
to attempt to lead him to the subject; and after yawning for a time, I
found there was no use in contending against my drowsiness, so I
betook myself to my bedroom, and by ten o'clock was fast asleep.

What interruption I experienced that night I shall tell you presently.
It was not much, but it was very odd.

By next night I had completed my work at Barwyke. From early morning
till then I was so incessantly occupied and hard-worked, that I had
not time to think over the singular occurrence to which I have just
referred. Behold me, however, at length once more seated at my little
supper-table, having ended a comfortable meal. It had been a sultry
day, and I had thrown one of the large windows up as high as it would
go. I was sitting near it, with my brandy and water at my elbow,
looking out into the dark. There was no moon, and the trees that are
grouped about the house make the darkness round it supernaturally
profound on such nights.

"Tom," said I, so soon as the jug of hot punch I had supplied him
with began to exercise its genial and communicative influence; "you
must tell me who beside your wife and you and myself slept in the
house last night."

Tom, sitting near the door, set down his tumbler, and looked at me
askance, while you might count seven, without speaking a word.

"Who else slept in the house?" he repeated, very deliberately. "Not a
living soul, sir"; and he looked hard at me, still evidently expecting
something more.

"That _is_ very odd," I said returning his stare, and feeling really a
little odd. "You are sure _you_ were not in my room last night?"

"Not till I came to call you, sir, this morning; _I_ can make oath of
that."

"Well," said I, "there was some one there, _I_ can make oath of that.
I was so tired I could not make up my mind to get up; but I was waked
by a sound that I thought was some one flinging down the two tin boxes
in which my papers were locked up violently on the floor. I heard a
slow step on the ground, and there was light in the room, although I
remembered having put out my candle. I thought it must have been you,
who had come in for my clothes, and upset the boxes by accident.
Whoever it was, he went out and the light with him. I was about to
settle again, when, the curtain being a little open at the foot of the
bed, I saw a light on the wall opposite; such as a candle from outside
would cast if the door were very cautiously opening. I started up in
the bed, drew the side curtain, and saw that the door _was_ opening,
and admitting light from outside. It is close, you know, to the head
of the bed. A hand was holding on the edge of the door and pushing it
open; not a bit like yours; a very singular hand. Let me look at
yours."

He extended it for my inspection.

"Oh no; there's nothing wrong with your hand. This was differently
shaped; fatter; and the middle finger was stunted, and shorter than
the rest, looking as if it had once been broken, and the nail was
crooked like a claw. I called out 'Who's there?' and the light and the
hand were withdrawn, and I saw and heard no more of my visitor."

"So sure as you're a living man, that was him!" exclaimed Tom
Wyndsour, his very nose growing pale, and his eyes almost starting out
of his head.

"Who?" I asked.

"Old Squire Bowes; 'twas _his_ hand you saw; the Lord a' mercy on us!"
answered Tom. "The broken finger, and the nail bent like a hoop. Well
for you, sir, he didn't come back when you called, that time. You came
here about them Miss Dymock's business, and he never meant they should
have a foot o' ground in Barwyke; and he was making a will to give it
away quite different, when death took him short. He never was uncivil
to no one; but he couldn't abide them ladies. My mind misgave me when
I heard 'twas about their business you were coming; and now you see
how it is; he'll be at his old tricks again!"

With some pressure and a little more punch, I induced Tom Wyndsour to
explain his mysterious allusions by recounting the occurrences which
followed the old Squire's death.

"Squire Bowes of Barwyke died without making a will, as you know,"
said Tom. "And all the folk round were sorry; that is to say, sir, as
sorry as folk will be for an old man that has seen a long tale of
years, and has no right to grumble that death has knocked an hour too
soon at his door. The Squire was well liked; he was never in a
passion, or said a hard word; and he would not hurt a fly; and that
made what happened after his decease the more surprising.

"The first thing these ladies did, when they got the property, was to
buy stock for the park.

"It was not wise, in any case, to graze the land on their own account.
But they little knew all they had to contend with.

"Before long something went wrong with the cattle; first one, and then
another, took sick and died, and so on, till the loss began to grow
heavy. Then, queer stories, little by little, began to be told. It was
said, first by one, then by another, that Squire Bowes was seen, about
evening time, walking, just as he used to do when he was alive, among
the old trees, leaning on his stick; and, sometimes when he came up
with the cattle, he would stop and lay his hand kindly like on the
back of one of them; and that one was sure to fall sick next day, and
die soon after.

"No one ever met him in the park, or in the woods, or ever saw him,
except a good distance off. But they knew his gait and his figure
well, and the clothes he used to wear; and they could tell the beast
he laid his hand on by its colour--white, dun, or black; and that
beast was sure to sicken and die. The neighbours grew shy of taking
the path over the park; and no one liked to walk in the woods, or come
inside the bounds of Barwyke: and the cattle went on sickening and
dying as before.

"At that time there was one Thomas Pyke; he had been a groom to the
old Squire; and he was in care of the place, and was the only one that
used to sleep in the house.

"Tom was vexed, hearing these stories; which he did not believe the
half on 'em; and more especial as he could not get man or boy to herd
the cattle; all being afeared. So he wrote to Matlock in Derbyshire,
for his brother, Richard Pyke, a clever lad, and one that knew nout o'
the story of the old Squire walking.

"Dick came; and the cattle was better; folk said they could still see
the old Squire, sometimes, walking, as before, in openings of the
wood, with his stick in his hand; but he was shy of coming nigh the
cattle, whatever his reason might be, since Dickon Pyke came; and he
used to stand a long bit off, looking at them, with no more stir in
him than a trunk o' one of the old trees, for an hour at a time, till
the shape melted away, little by little, like the smoke of a fire that
burns out.

"Tom Pyke and his brother Dickon, being the only living souls in the
house, lay in the big bed in the servants' room, the house being fast
barred and locked, one night in November.

"Tom was lying next the wall, and he told me, as wide awake as ever
he was at noonday. His brother Dickon lay outside, and was sound
asleep.

"Well, as Tom lay thinking, with his eyes turned toward the door, it
opens slowly, and who should come in but old Squire Bowes, his face
lookin' as dead as he was in his coffin.

"Tom's very breath left his body; he could not take his eyes off him;
and he felt the hair rising up on his head.

"The Squire came to the side of the bed, and put his arms under
Dickon, and lifted the boy--in a dead sleep all the time--and carried
him out so, at the door.

"Such was the appearance, to Tom Pyke's eyes, and he was ready to
swear to it, anywhere.

"When this happened, the light, wherever it came from, all on a sudden
went out, and Tom could not see his own hand before him.

"More dead than alive, he lay till daylight.

"Sure enough his brother Dickon was gone. No sign of him could he
discover about the house; and with some trouble he got a couple of the
neighbours to help him to search the woods and grounds. Not a sign of
him anywhere.

"At last one of them thought of the island in the lake; the little
boat was moored to the old post at the water's edge. In they got,
though with small hope of finding him there. Find him, nevertheless,
they did, sitting under the big ash tree, quite out of his wits; and
to all their questions he answered nothing but one cry--'Bowes, the
devil! See him; see him; Bowes, the devil!' An idiot they found him;
and so he will be till God sets all things right. No one could ever
get him to sleep under roof-tree more. He wanders from house to house
while daylight lasts; and no one cares to lock the harmless creature
in the workhouse. And folk would rather not meet him after nightfall,
for they think where he is there may be worse things near."

A silence followed Tom's story. He and I were alone in that large room;
I was sitting near the open window, looking into the dark night air. I
fancied I saw something white move across it; and I heard a sound like low
talking that swelled into a discordant shriek--"Hoo-oo-oo! Bowes, the
devil! Over your shoulder. Hoo-oo-oo! ha! ha! ha!" I started up, and saw,
by the light of the candle with which Tom strode to the window, the wild
eyes and blighted face of the idiot, as, with a sudden change of mood,
he drew off, whispering and tittering to himself, and holding up his long
fingers, and looking at the tips like a "hand of glory."

Tom pulled down the window. The story and its epilogue were over. I
confess I was rather glad when I heard the sound of the horses' hoofs
on the court-yard, a few minutes later; and still gladder when, having
bidden Tom a kind farewell, I had left the neglected house of Barwyke
a mile behind me.





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