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Title: The Purcell Papers — Volume 1
Author: Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan, 1814-1873
Language: English
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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 "The Purcell Papers — Volume 1" ***

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THE PURCELL PAPERS.

BY THE LATE

JOSEPH SHERIDAN LE FANU,

AUTHOR OF 'UNCLE SILAS.'


With a Memoir by

ALFRED PERCEVAL GRAVES


IN THREE VOLUMES.


VOL. I.


CONTENTS OF VOL. I.

     MEMOIR OF JOSEPH SHERIDAN LE FANU
     THE GHOST AND THE BONE-SETTER
     THE FORTUNES OF SIR ROBERT ARDAGH
     THE LAST HEIR OF CASTLE CONNOR
     THE DRUNKARD'S DREAM



MEMOIR OF JOSEPH SHERIDAN LE FANU.

A noble Huguenot family, owning considerable property in Normandy, the
Le Fanus of Caen, were, upon the revocation of the Edict of Nantes,
deprived of their ancestral estates of Mandeville, Sequeville, and
Cresseron; but, owing to their possessing influential relatives at the
court of Louis the Fourteenth, were allowed to quit their country for
England, unmolested, with their personal property. We meet with John Le
Fanu de Sequeville and Charles Le Fanu de Cresseron, as cavalry officers
in William the Third's army; Charles being so distinguished a member of
the King's staff that he was presented with William's portrait from his
master's own hand. He afterwards served as a major of dragoons under
Marlborough.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, William Le Fanu was the sole
survivor of his family. He married Henrietta Raboteau de Puggibaut,
the last of another great and noble Huguenot family, whose escape
from France, as a child, by the aid of a Roman Catholic uncle in high
position at the French court, was effected after adventures of the most
romantic danger.

Joseph Le Fanu, the eldest of the sons of this marriage who left issue,
held the office of Clerk of the Coast in Ireland. He married for the
second time Alicia, daughter of Thomas Sheridan and sister of Richard
Brinsley Sheridan; his brother, Captain Henry Le Fanu, of Leamington,
being united to the only other sister of the great wit and orator.

Dean Thomas Philip Le Fanu, the eldest son of Joseph Le Fanu, became by
his wife Emma, daughter of Dr. Dobbin, F.T.C.D., the father of Joseph
Sheridan Le Fanu, the subject of this memoir, whose name is so familiar
to English and American readers as one of the greatest masters of the
weird and the terrible amongst our modern novelists.

Born in Dublin on the 28th of August, 1814, he did not begin to speak
until he was more than two years of age; but when he had once started,
the boy showed an unusual aptitude in acquiring fresh words, and using
them correctly.

The first evidence of literary taste which he gave was in his sixth
year, when he made several little sketches with explanatory remarks
written beneath them, after the manner of Du Maurier's, or Charles
Keene's humorous illustrations in 'Punch.'

One of these, preserved long afterwards by his mother, represented a
balloon in mid-air, and two aeronauts, who had occupied it, falling
headlong to earth, the disaster being explained by these words: 'See the
effects of trying to go to Heaven.'

As a mere child, he was a remarkably good actor, both in tragic and
comic pieces, and was hardly twelve years old when he began to write
verses of singular spirit for one so young. At fourteen, he produced
a long Irish poem, which he never permitted anyone but his mother and
brother to read. To that brother, Mr. William Le Fanu, Commissioner of
Public Works, Ireland, to whom, as the suggester of Sheridan Le Fanu's
'Phaudrig Croohore' and 'Shamus O'Brien,' Irish ballad literature owes
a delightful debt, and whose richly humorous and passionately pathetic
powers as a raconteur of these poems have only doubled that obligation
in the hearts of those who have been happy enough to be his hearers--to
Mr. William Le Fanu we are indebted for the following extracts from the
first of his works, which the boy-author seems to have set any store by:

     'Muse of Green Erin, break thine icy slumbers!
        Strike once again thy wreathed lyre!
      Burst forth once more and wake thy tuneful numbers!
        Kindle again thy long-extinguished fire!

     'Why should I bid thee, Muse of Erin, waken?
        Why should I bid thee strike thy harp once more?
      Better to leave thee silent and forsaken
        Than wake thee but thy glories to deplore.

     'How could I bid thee tell of Tara's Towers,
        Where once thy sceptred Princes sate in state--
      Where rose thy music, at the festive hours,
        Through the proud halls where listening thousands
             sate?

     'Fallen are thy fair palaces, thy country's glory,
        Thy tuneful bards were banished or were slain,
      Some rest in glory on their deathbeds gory,
        And some have lived to feel a foeman's chain.

     'Yet for the sake of thy unhappy nation,
        Yet for the sake of Freedom's spirit fled,
      Let thy wild harpstrings, thrilled with indignation,
        Peal a deep requiem o'er thy sons that bled.

     'O yes! like the last breath of evening sighing,
        Sweep thy cold hand the silent strings along,
      Flash like the lamp beside the hero dying,
        Then hushed for ever be thy plaintive song.'


To Mr. William Le Fanu we are further indebted for the accompanying
specimens of his brother's serious and humorous powers in verse, written
when he was quite a lad, as valentines to a Miss G. K.:


     'Life were too long for me to bear
        If banished from thy view;
      Life were too short, a thousand year,
        If life were passed with you.

     'Wise men have said "Man's lot on earth
        Is grief and melancholy,"
      But where thou art, there joyous mirth
        Proves all their wisdom folly.

     'If fate withhold thy love from me,
        All else in vain were given;
      Heaven were imperfect wanting thee,
        And with thee earth were heaven.'

     A few days after, he sent the following sequel:

'My dear good Madam, You can't think how very sad I'm. I sent you, or
I mistake myself foully, A very excellent imitation of the poet Cowley,
Containing three very fair stanzas, Which number Longinus, a very
critical man, says, And Aristotle, who was a critic ten times more
caustic, To a nicety fits a valentine or an acrostic. And yet for all my
pains to this moving epistle, I have got no answer, so I suppose I may
go whistle. Perhaps you'd have preferred that like an old monk I
had pattered on In the style and after the manner of the unfortunate
Chatterton; Or that, unlike my reverend daddy's son, I had attempted the
classicalities of the dull, though immortal Addison.

     I can't endure this silence another week;
     What shall I do in order to make you speak?
                 Shall I give you a trope
                 In the manner of Pope,
     Or hammer my brains like an old smith
     To get out something like Goldsmith?
     Or shall I aspire on
     To tune my poetic lyre on
     The same key touched by Byron,
     And laying my hand its wire on,
     With its music your soul set fire on
     By themes you ne'er could tire on?
                 Or say,
                 I pray,
                 Would a lay
                 Like Gay
                 Be more in your way?
            I leave it to you,
            Which am I to do?
            It plain on the surface is
            That any metamorphosis,
            To affect your study
            You may work on my soul or body.
     Your frown or your smile makes me Savage or Gay
       In action, as well as in song;
     And if 'tis decreed I at length become Gray,
       Express but the word and I'm Young;
     And if in the Church I should ever aspire
       With friars and abbots to cope,
     By a nod, if you please, you can make me a Prior--
       By a word you render me Pope.
     If you'd eat, I'm a Crab; if you'd cut, I'm your Steel,
       As sharp as you'd get from the cutler;
     I'm your Cotton whene'er you're in want of a reel,
       And your livery carry, as Butler.
                 I'll ever rest your debtor
                 If you'll answer my first letter;
                 Or must, alas, eternity
                 Witness your taciturnity?
                 Speak--and oh! speak quickly
                 Or else I shall grow sickly,
                           And pine,
                           And whine,
                 And grow yellow and brown
                   As e'er was mahogany,
                 And lie me down
                   And die in agony.

        P.S.--You'll allow I have the gift
              To write like the immortal Swift.'


But besides the poetical powers with which he was endowed, in common
with the great Brinsley, Lady Dufferin, and the Hon. Mrs. Norton, young
Sheridan Le Fanu also possessed an irresistible humour and oratorical
gift that, as a student of Old Trinity, made him a formidable rival of
the best of the young debaters of his time at the 'College Historical,'
not a few of whom have since reached the highest eminence at the Irish
Bar, after having long enlivened and charmed St. Stephen's by their wit
and oratory.

Amongst his compeers he was remarkable for his sudden fiery eloquence of
attack, and ready and rapid powers of repartee when on his defence.
But Le Fanu, whose understanding was elevated by a deep love of the
classics, in which he took university honours, and further heightened by
an admirable knowledge of our own great authors, was not to be tempted
away by oratory from literature, his first and, as it proved, his last
love.

Very soon after leaving college, and just when he was called to the
Bar, about the year 1838, he bought the 'Warder,' a Dublin newspaper,
of which he was editor, and took what many of his best friends and
admirers, looking to his high prospects as a barrister, regarded at the
time as a fatal step in his career to fame.

Just before this period, Le Fanu had taken to writing humorous Irish
stories, afterwards published in the 'Dublin University Magazine,' such
as the 'Quare Gander,' 'Jim Sulivan's Adventure,' 'The Ghost and the
Bone-setter,' etc.

These stories his brother William Le Fanu was in the habit of repeating
for his friends' amusement, and about the year 1837, when he was about
twenty-three years of age, Joseph Le Fanu said to him that he thought an
Irish story in verse would tell well, and that if he would choose him
a subject suitable for recitation, he would write him one. 'Write me an
Irish "Young Lochinvar,"' said his brother; and in a few days he handed
him 'Phaudrig Croohore'--Anglice, 'Patrick Crohore.'

Of course this poem has the disadvantage not only of being written after
'Young Lochinvar,' but also that of having been directly inspired by
it; and yet, although wanting in the rare and graceful finish of the
original, the Irish copy has, we feel, so much fire and feeling that it
at least tempts us to regret that Scott's poem was not written in that
heart-stirring Northern dialect without which the noblest of our British
ballads would lose half their spirit. Indeed, we may safely say that
some of Le Fanu's lines are finer than any in 'Young Lochinvar,' simply
because they seem to speak straight from a people's heart, not to be the
mere echoes of medieval romance.

'Phaudrig Croohore' did not appear in print in the 'Dublin University
Magazine' till 1844, twelve years after its composition, when it was
included amongst the Purcell Papers.

To return to the year 1837. Mr. William Le Fanu, the suggester of this
ballad, who was from home at the time, now received daily instalments
of the second and more remarkable of his brother's Irish poems--'Shamus
O'Brien' (James O'Brien)--learning them by heart as they reached him,
and, fortunately, never forgetting them, for his brother Joseph kept no
copy of the ballad, and he had himself to write it out from memory ten
years after, when the poem appeared in the 'University Magazine.'

Few will deny that this poem contains passages most faithfully, if
fearfully, picturesque, and that it is characterised throughout by
a profound pathos, and an abundant though at times a too grotesquely
incongruous humour. Can we wonder, then, at the immense popularity
with which Samuel Lover recited it in the United States? For to Lover's
admiration of the poem, and his addition of it to his entertainment,
'Shamus O'Brien' owes its introduction into America, where it is now
so popular. Lover added some lines of his own to the poem, made Shamus
emigrate to the States, and set up a public-house. These added lines
appeared in most of the published versions of the poem. But they are
indifferent as verse, and certainly injure the dramatic effect of the
poem.

'Shamus O'Brien' is so generally attributed to Lover (indeed we remember
seeing it advertised for recitation on the occasion of a benefit at a
leading London theatre as 'by Samuel Lover') that it is a satisfaction
to be able to reproduce the following letter upon the subject from Lover
to William le Fanu:

               'Astor House,
                 'New York, U.S. America.
                      'Sept. 30, 1846.

  'My dear Le Fanu,

'In reading over your brother's poem while I crossed the Atlantic,
I became more and more impressed with its great beauty and dramatic
effect--so much so that I determined to test its effect in public, and
have done so here, on my first appearance, with the greatest success.
Now I have no doubt there will be great praises of the poem, and people
will suppose, most likely, that the composition is mine, and as you know
(I take for granted) that I would not wish to wear a borrowed feather, I
should be glad to give your brother's name as the author, should he not
object to have it known; but as his writings are often of so different a
tone, I would not speak without permission to do so. It is true that in
my programme my name is attached to other pieces, and no name appended
to the recitation; so far, you will see, I have done all I could to
avoid "appropriating," the spirit of which I might have caught here,
with Irish aptitude; but I would like to have the means of telling all
whom it may concern the name of the author, to whose head and heart it
does so much honour. Pray, my dear Le Fanu, inquire, and answer me here
by next packet, or as soon as convenient. My success here has been quite
triumphant.

'Yours very truly,

'SAMUEL LOVER.'


We have heard it said (though without having inquired into the truth
of the tradition) that 'Shamus O'Brien' was the result of a match at
pseudo-national ballad writing made between Le Fanu and several of the
most brilliant of his young literary confreres at T. C. D. But however
this may be, Le Fanu undoubtedly was no young Irelander; indeed he did
the stoutest service as a press writer in the Conservative interest, and
was no doubt provoked as well as amused at the unexpected popularity
to which his poem attained amongst the Irish Nationalists. And here
it should be remembered that the ballad was written some eleven years
before the outbreak of '48, and at a time when a '98 subject might
fairly have been regarded as legitimate literary property amongst the
most loyal.

We left Le Fanu as editor of the 'Warder.' He afterwards purchased the
'Dublin Evening Packet,' and much later the half-proprietorship of the
'Dublin Evening Mail.' Eleven or twelve years ago he also became the
owner and editor of the 'Dublin University Magazine,' in which his
later as well as earlier Irish Stories appeared. He sold it about a year
before his death in 1873, having previously parted with the 'Warder' and
his share in the 'Evening Mail.'

He had previously published in the 'Dublin University Magazine' a number
of charming lyrics, generally anonymously, and it is to be feared that
all clue to the identification of most of these is lost, except that of
internal evidence.

The following poem, undoubtedly his, should make general our regret at
being unable to fix with certainty upon its fellows:


     'One wild and distant bugle sound
        Breathed o'er Killarney's magic shore
      Will shed sweet floating echoes round
        When that which made them is no more.

     'So slumber in the human heart
        Wild echoes, that will sweetly thrill
      The words of kindness when the voice
        That uttered them for aye is still.

     'Oh! memory, though thy records tell
        Full many a tale of grief and sorrow,
      Of mad excess, of hope decayed,
        Of dark and cheerless melancholy;

     'Still, memory, to me thou art
        The dearest of the gifts of mind,
      For all the joys that touch my heart
        Are joys that I have left behind.


Le Fanu's literary life may be divided into three distinct periods.
During the first of these, and till his thirtieth year, he was an Irish
ballad, song, and story writer, his first published story being the
'Adventures of Sir Robert Ardagh,' which appeared in the 'Dublin
University Magazine' of 1838.

In 1844 he was united to Miss Susan Bennett, the beautiful daughter of
the late George Bennett, Q.C. From this time until her decease, in 1858,
he devoted his energies almost entirely to press work, making, however,
his first essays in novel writing during that period. The 'Cock and
Anchor,' a chronicle of old Dublin city, his first and, in the opinion
of competent critics, one of the best of his novels, seeing the light
about the year 1850. This work, it is to be feared, is out of print,
though there is now a cheap edition of 'Torlogh O'Brien,' its immediate
successor. The comparative want of success of these novels seems to have
deterred Le Fanu from using his pen, except as a press writer, until
1863, when the 'House by the Churchyard' was published, and was soon
followed by 'Uncle Silas' and his five other well-known novels.

We have considered Le Fanu as a ballad writer and poet. As a press
writer he is still most honourably remembered for his learning and
brilliancy, and the power and point of his sarcasm, which long made the
'Dublin Evening Mail' one of the most formidable of Irish press critics;
but let us now pass to the consideration of him in the capacity of a
novelist, and in particular as the author of 'Uncle Silas.'

There are evidences in 'Shamus O'Brien,' and even in 'Phaudrig
Croohore,' of a power over the mysterious, the grotesque, and the
horrible, which so singularly distinguish him as a writer of prose
fiction.

'Uncle Silas,' the fairest as well as most familiar instance of this
enthralling spell over his readers, is too well known a story to tell
in detail. But how intensely and painfully distinct is the opening
description of the silent, inflexible Austin Ruthyn of Knowl, and
his shy, sweet daughter Maude, the one so resolutely confident in his
brother's honour, the other so romantically and yet anxiously
interested in her uncle--the sudden arrival of Dr. Bryerly, the strange
Swedenborgian, followed by the equally unexpected apparition of Madame
de la Rougiere, Austin Ruthyn's painful death, and the reading of his
strange will consigning poor Maude to the protection of her unknown
Uncle Silas--her cousin, good, bright devoted Monica Knollys, and her
dreadful distrust of Silas--Bartram Haugh and its uncanny occupants, and
foremost amongst them Uncle Silas.

This is his portrait:

'A face like marble, with a fearful monumental look, and for an old man,
singularly vivid, strange eyes, the singularity of which rather grew
upon me as I looked; for his eyebrows were still black, though his hair
descended from his temples in long locks of the purest silver and fine
as silk, nearly to his shoulders.

'He rose, tall and slight, a little stooped, all in black, with an ample
black velvet tunic, which was rather a gown than a coat....

'I know I can't convey in words an idea of this apparition, drawn, as it
seemed, in black and white, venerable, bloodless, fiery-eyed, with
its singular look of power, and an expression so bewildering--was it
derision, or anguish, or cruelty, or patience?

'The wild eyes of this strange old man were fixed on me as he rose; an
habitual contraction, which in certain lights took the character of
a scowl, did not relax as he advanced towards me with a thin-lipped
smile.'

Old Dicken and his daughter Beauty, old L'Amour and Dudley Ruthyn, now
enter upon the scene, each a fresh shadow to deepen its already sombre
hue, while the gloom gathers in spite of the glimpse of sunshine shot
through it by the visit to Elverston. Dudley's brutal encounter with
Captain Oakley, and vile persecution of poor Maude till his love
marriage comes to light, lead us on to the ghastly catastrophe, the
hideous conspiracy of Silas and his son against the life of the innocent
girl.

It is interesting to know that the germ of Uncle Silas first appeared
in the 'Dublin University Magazine' of 1837 or 1838, as the short tale,
entitled, 'A Passage from the Secret History of an Irish Countess,'
which is printed in this collection of Stories. It next was published as
'The Murdered Cousin' in a collection of Christmas stories, and finally
developed into the three-volume novel we have just noticed.

There are about Le Fanu's narratives touches of nature which reconcile
us to their always remarkable and often supernatural incidents. His
characters are well conceived and distinctly drawn, and strong soliloquy
and easy dialogue spring unaffectedly from their lips. He is a close
observer of Nature, and reproduces her wilder effects of storm and gloom
with singular vividness; while he is equally at home in his descriptions
of still life, some of which remind us of the faithfully minute detail
of old Dutch pictures.

Mr. Wilkie Collins, amongst our living novelists, best compares with
Le Fanu. Both of these writers are remarkable for the ingenious mystery
with which they develop their plots, and for the absorbing, if often
over-sensational, nature of their incidents; but whilst Mr. Collins
excites and fascinates our attention by an intense power of realism
which carries us with unreasoning haste from cover to cover of his
works, Le Fanu is an idealist, full of high imagination, and an
artist who devotes deep attention to the most delicate detail in his
portraiture of men and women, and his descriptions of the outdoor and
indoor worlds--a writer, therefore, through whose pages it would be
often an indignity to hasten. And this more leisurely, and certainly
more classical, conduct of his stories makes us remember them more fully
and faithfully than those of the author of the 'Woman in White.' Mr.
Collins is generally dramatic, and sometimes stagy, in his effects. Le
Fanu, while less careful to arrange his plots, so as to admit of their
being readily adapted for the stage, often surprises us by scenes of so
much greater tragic intensity that we cannot but lament that he did
not, as Mr. Collins has done, attempt the drama, and so furnish another
ground of comparison with his fellow-countryman, Maturin (also, if we
mistake not, of French origin), whom, in his writings, Le Fanu far
more closely resembles than Mr. Collins, as a master of the darker and
stronger emotions of human character. But, to institute a broader ground
of comparison between Le Fanu and Mr. Collins, whilst the idiosyncrasies
of the former's characters, however immaterial those characters may
be, seem always to suggest the minutest detail of his story, the latter
would appear to consider plot as the prime, character as a subsidiary
element in the art of novel writing.

Those who possessed the rare privilege of Le Fanu's friendship, and only
they, can form any idea of the true character of the man; for after the
death of his wife, to whom he was most deeply devoted, he quite forsook
general society, in which his fine features, distinguished bearing, and
charm of conversation marked him out as the beau-ideal of an Irish wit
and scholar of the old school.

From this society he vanished so entirely that Dublin, always ready with
a nickname, dubbed him 'The Invisible Prince;' and indeed he was for
long almost invisible, except to his family and most familiar friends,
unless at odd hours of the evening, when he might occasionally be seen
stealing, like the ghost of his former self, between his newspaper
office and his home in Merrion Square; sometimes, too, he was to be
encountered in an old out-of-the-way bookshop poring over some rare
black letter Astrology or Demonology.

To one of these old bookshops he was at one time a pretty frequent
visitor, and the bookseller relates how he used to come in and ask with
his peculiarly pleasant voice and smile, 'Any more ghost stories for me,
Mr. -----?' and how, on a fresh one being handed to him, he would
seldom leave the shop until he had looked it through. This taste for the
supernatural seems to have grown upon him after his wife's death, and
influenced him so deeply that, had he not been possessed of a deal of
shrewd common sense, there might have been danger of his embracing some
of the visionary doctrines in which he was so learned. But no! even
Spiritualism, to which not a few of his brother novelists succumbed,
whilst affording congenial material for our artist of the superhuman to
work upon, did not escape his severest satire.

Shortly after completing his last novel, strange to say, bearing the
title 'Willing to Die,' Le Fanu breathed his last at his home No. 18,
Merrion Square South, at the age of fifty-nine.

'He was a man,' writes the author of a brief memoir of him in the
'Dublin University Magazine,' 'who thought deeply, especially on
religious subjects. To those who knew him he was very dear; they admired
him for his learning, his sparkling wit, and pleasant conversation, and
loved him for his manly virtues, for his noble and generous qualities,
his gentleness, and his loving, affectionate nature.' And all who knew
the man must feel how deeply deserved are these simple words of sincere
regard for Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.

Le Fanu's novels are accessible to all; but his Purcell Papers are now
for the first time collected and published, by the permission of his
eldest son (the late Mr. Philip Le Fanu), and very much owing to the
friendly and active assistance of his brother, Mr. William Le Fanu.



THE GHOST AND THE BONE SETTER.


In looking over the papers of my late valued and respected friend,
Francis Purcell, who for nearly fifty years discharged the arduous
duties of a parish priest in the south of Ireland, I met with the
following document. It is one of many such; for he was a curious and
industrious collector of old local traditions--a commodity in which
the quarter where he resided mightily abounded. The collection and
arrangement of such legends was, as long as I can remember him, his
hobby; but I had never learned that his love of the marvellous and
whimsical had carried him so far as to prompt him to commit the results
of his inquiries to writing, until, in the character of residuary
legatee, his will put me in possession of all his manuscript papers.
To such as may think the composing of such productions as these
inconsistent with the character and habits of a country priest, it is
necessary to observe, that there did exist a race of priests--those of
the old school, a race now nearly extinct--whose education abroad tended
to produce in them tastes more literary than have yet been evinced by
the alumni of Maynooth.

It is perhaps necessary to add that the superstition illustrated by the
following story, namely, that the corpse last buried is obliged,
during his juniority of interment, to supply his brother tenants of
the churchyard in which he lies, with fresh water to allay the burning
thirst of purgatory, is prevalent throughout the south of Ireland.

The writer can vouch for a case in which a respectable and wealthy
farmer, on the borders of Tipperary, in tenderness to the corns of his
departed helpmate, enclosed in her coffin two pair of brogues, a light
and a heavy, the one for dry, the other for sloppy weather; seeking thus
to mitigate the fatigues of her inevitable perambulations in procuring
water and administering it to the thirsty souls of purgatory. Fierce
and desperate conflicts have ensued in the case of two funeral parties
approaching the same churchyard together, each endeavouring to secure to
his own dead priority of sepulture, and a consequent immunity from the
tax levied upon the pedestrian powers of the last-comer. An instance not
long since occurred, in which one of two such parties, through fear of
losing to their deceased friend this inestimable advantage, made their
way to the churchyard by a short cut, and, in violation of one of their
strongest prejudices, actually threw the coffin over the wall, lest time
should be lost in making their entrance through the gate. Innumerable
instances of the same kind might be quoted, all tending to show
how strongly among the peasantry of the south this superstition is
entertained. However, I shall not detain the reader further by any
prefatory remarks, but shall proceed to lay before him the following:

Extract from the MS. Papers of the late Rev. Francis Purcell, of
Drumcoolagh.


I tell the following particulars, as nearly as I can recollect them, in
the words of the narrator. It may be necessary to observe that he
was what is termed a well-spoken man, having for a considerable time
instructed the ingenious youth of his native parish in such of the
liberal arts and sciences as he found it convenient to profess--a
circumstance which may account for the occurrence of several big words
in the course of this narrative, more distinguished for euphonious
effect than for correctness of application. I proceed then, without
further preface, to lay before you the wonderful adventures of Terry
Neil.


'Why, thin, 'tis a quare story, an' as thrue as you're sittin' there;
and I'd make bould to say there isn't a boy in the seven parishes could
tell it better nor crickther than myself, for 'twas my father himself it
happened to, an' many's the time I heerd it out iv his own mouth; an' I
can say, an' I'm proud av that same, my father's word was as incredible
as any squire's oath in the counthry; and so signs an' if a poor man
got into any unlucky throuble, he was the boy id go into the court an'
prove; but that doesn't signify--he was as honest and as sober a man,
barrin' he was a little bit too partial to the glass, as you'd find in a
day's walk; an' there wasn't the likes of him in the counthry round for
nate labourin' an' baan diggin'; and he was mighty handy entirely for
carpenther's work, and men din' ould spudethrees, an' the likes i' that.
An' so he tuk up with bone-settin', as was most nathural, for none of
them could come up to him in mendin' the leg iv a stool or a table; an'
sure, there never was a bone-setter got so much custom-man an' child,
young an' ould--there never was such breakin' and mendin' of bones
known in the memory of man. Well, Terry Neil--for that was my father's
name--began to feel his heart growin' light, and his purse heavy; an'
he took a bit iv a farm in Squire Phelim's ground, just undher the ould
castle, an' a pleasant little spot it was; an' day an' mornin' poor
crathurs not able to put a foot to the ground, with broken arms and
broken legs, id be comin' ramblin' in from all quarters to have their
bones spliced up. Well, yer honour, all this was as well as well could
be; but it was customary when Sir Phelim id go anywhere out iv the
country, for some iv the tinants to sit up to watch in the ould castle,
just for a kind of compliment to the ould family--an' a mighty unplisant
compliment it was for the tinants, for there wasn't a man of them but
knew there was something quare about the ould castle. The neighbours
had it, that the squire's ould grandfather, as good a gintlenlan--God
be with him--as I heer'd, as ever stood in shoe-leather, used to keep
walkin' about in the middle iv the night, ever sinst he bursted a blood
vessel pullin' out a cork out iv a bottle, as you or I might be doin',
and will too, plase God--but that doesn't signify. So, as I was sayin',
the ould squire used to come down out of the frame, where his picthur
was hung up, and to break the bottles and glasses--God be marciful to us
all--an' dthrink all he could come at--an' small blame to him for that
same; and then if any of the family id be comin' in, he id be up again
in his place, looking as quite an' as innocent as if he didn't know
anything about it--the mischievous ould chap.

'Well, your honour, as I was sayin', one time the family up at the
castle was stayin' in Dublin for a week or two; and so, as usual, some
of the tinants had to sit up in the castle, and the third night it kem
to my father's turn. "Oh, tare an' ouns!" says he unto himself, "an'
must I sit up all night, and that ould vagabone of a sperit, glory be
to God," says he, "serenadin' through the house, an' doin' all sorts iv
mischief?" However, there was no gettin' aff, and so he put a bould
face on it, an' he went up at nightfall with a bottle of pottieen, and
another of holy wather.

'It was rainin' smart enough, an' the evenin' was darksome and gloomy,
when my father got in; and what with the rain he got, and the holy
wather he sprinkled on himself, it wasn't long till he had to swally a
cup iv the pottieen, to keep the cowld out iv his heart. It was the ould
steward, Lawrence Connor, that opened the door--and he an' my father wor
always very great. So when he seen who it was, an' my father tould him
how it was his turn to watch in the castle, he offered to sit up along
with him; and you may be sure my father wasn't sorry for that same. So
says Larry:

'"We'll have a bit iv fire in the parlour," says he.

'"An' why not in the hall?" says my father, for he knew that the
squire's picthur was hung in the parlour.

'"No fire can be lit in the hall," says Lawrence, "for there's an ould
jackdaw's nest in the chimney."

'"Oh thin," says my father, "let us stop in the kitchen, for it's very
unproper for the likes iv me to be sittin' in the parlour," says he.

'"Oh, Terry, that can't be," says Lawrence; "if we keep up the ould
custom at all, we may as well keep it up properly," says he.

'"Divil sweep the ould custom!" says my father--to himself, do ye mind,
for he didn't like to let Lawrence see that he was more afeard himself.

'"Oh, very well," says he. "I'm agreeable, Lawrence," says he; and so
down they both wint to the kitchen, until the fire id be lit in the
parlour--an' that same wasn't long doin'.

'Well, your honour, they soon wint up again, an' sat down mighty
comfortable by the parlour fire, and they beginned to talk, an' to
smoke, an' to dhrink a small taste iv the pottieen; and, moreover, they
had a good rousin' fire o' bogwood and turf, to warm their shins over.

'Well, sir, as I was sayin' they kep' convarsin' and smokin' together
most agreeable, until Lawrence beginn'd to get sleepy, as was but
nathural for him, for he was an ould sarvint man, and was used to a
great dale iv sleep.

'"Sure it's impossible," says my father, "it's gettin' sleepy you are?"

'"Oh, divil a taste," says Larry; "I'm only shuttin' my eyes," says
he, "to keep out the parfume o' the tibacky smoke, that's makin' them
wather," says he. "So don't you mind other people's business," says
he, stiff enough, for he had a mighty high stomach av his own (rest his
sowl), "and go on," says he, "with your story, for I'm listenin'," says
he, shuttin' down his eyes.

'Well, when my father seen spakin' was no use, he went on with his
story. By the same token, it was the story of Jim Soolivan and his ould
goat he was tellin'--an' a plisant story it is--an' there was so much
divarsion in it, that it was enough to waken a dormouse, let alone to
pervint a Christian goin' asleep. But, faix, the way my father tould
it, I believe there never was the likes heerd sinst nor before, for
he bawled out every word av it, as if the life was fairly lavin' him,
thrying to keep ould Larry awake; but, faix, it was no use, for the
hoorsness came an him, an' before he kem to the end of his story Larry
O'Connor beginned to snore like a bagpipes.

'"Oh, blur an' agres," says my father, "isn't this a hard case," says
he, "that ould villain, lettin' on to be my friend, and to go asleep
this way, an' us both in the very room with a sperit," says he. "The
crass o' Christ about us!" says he; and with that he was goin' to shake
Lawrence to waken him, but he just remimbered if he roused him, that
he'd surely go off to his bed, an' lave him complately alone, an' that
id be by far worse.

'"Oh thin," says my father, "I'll not disturb the poor boy. It id be
neither friendly nor good-nathured," says he, "to tormint him while he
is asleep," says he; "only I wish I was the same way, myself," says he.

'An' with that he beginned to walk up an' down, an' sayin' his prayers,
until he worked himself into a sweat, savin' your presence. But it was
all no good; so he dthrunk about a pint of sperits, to compose his mind.

'"Oh," says he, "I wish to the Lord I was as asy in my mind as Larry
there. Maybe," says he, "if I thried I could go asleep;" an' with that
he pulled a big arm-chair close beside Lawrence, an' settled himself in
it as well as he could.

'But there was one quare thing I forgot to tell you. He couldn't
help, in spite av himself, lookin' now an' thin at the picthur, an' he
immediately obsarved that the eyes av it was follyin' him about, an'
starin' at him, an' winkin' at him, wheriver he wint. "Oh," says he,
when he seen that, "it's a poor chance I have," says he; "an' bad luck
was with me the day I kem into this unforthunate place," says he. "But
any way there's no use in bein' freckened now," says he; "for if I am to
die, I may as well parspire undaunted," says he.

'Well, your honour, he thried to keep himself quite an' asy, an' he
thought two or three times he might have wint asleep, but for the way
the storm was groanin' and creakin' through the great heavy branches
outside, an' whistlin' through the ould chimleys iv the castle. Well,
afther one great roarin' blast iv the wind, you'd think the walls iv the
castle was just goin' to fall, quite an' clane, with the shakin' iv it.
All av a suddint the storm stopt, as silent an' as quite as if it was
a July evenin'. Well, your honour, it wasn't stopped blowin' for
three minnites, before he thought he hard a sort iv a noise over the
chimley-piece; an' with that my father just opened his eyes the smallest
taste in life, an' sure enough he seen the ould squire gettin' out iv
the picthur, for all the world as if he was throwin' aff his ridin'
coat, until he stept out clane an' complate, out av the chimley-piece,
an' thrun himself down an the floor. Well, the slieveen ould chap--an'
my father thought it was the dirtiest turn iv all--before he beginned
to do anything out iv the way, he stopped for a while to listen wor they
both asleep; an' as soon as he thought all was quite, he put out his
hand and tuk hould iv the whisky bottle, an dhrank at laste a pint iv
it. Well, your honour, when he tuk his turn out iv it, he settled it
back mighty cute entirely, in the very same spot it was in before. An'
he beginned to walk up an' down the room, lookin' as sober an' as solid
as if he never done the likes at all. An' whinever he went apast my
father, he thought he felt a great scent of brimstone, an' it was that
that freckened him entirely; for he knew it was brimstone that was
burned in hell, savin' your presence. At any rate, he often heerd it
from Father Murphy, an' he had a right to know what belonged to it--he's
dead since, God rest him. Well, your honour, my father was asy enough
until the sperit kem past him; so close, God be marciful to us all, that
the smell iv the sulphur tuk the breath clane out iv him; an' with that
he tuk such a fit iv coughin', that it al-a-most shuk him out iv the
chair he was sittin' in.

'"Ho, ho!" says the squire, stoppin' short about two steps aff, and
turnin' round facin' my father, "is it you that's in it?--an' how's all
with you, Terry Neil?"

'"At your honour's sarvice," says my father (as well as the fright id
let him, for he was more dead than alive), "an' it's proud I am to see
your honour to-night," says he.

'"Terence," says the squire, "you're a respectable man" (an' it was
thrue for him), "an industhrious, sober man, an' an example of inebriety
to the whole parish," says he.

'"Thank your honour," says my father, gettin' courage, "you were always
a civil spoken gintleman, God rest your honour."

'"REST my honour?" says the sperit (fairly gettin' red in the face with
the madness), "Rest my honour?" says he. "Why, you ignorant spalpeen,"
says he, "you mane, niggarly ignoramush," says he, "where did you lave
your manners?" says he. "If I AM dead, it's no fault iv mine," says he;
"an' it's not to be thrun in my teeth at every hand's turn, by the likes
iv you," says he, stampin' his foot an the flure, that you'd think the
boords id smash undther him.

'"Oh," says my father, "I'm only a foolish, ignorant poor man," says he.

'"You're nothing else," says the squire: "but any way," says he, "it's
not to be listenin' to your gosther, nor convarsin' with the likes
iv you, that I came UP--down I mane," says he--(an' as little as the
mistake was, my father tuk notice iv it). "Listen to me now, Terence
Neil," says he: "I was always a good masther to Pathrick Neil, your
grandfather," says he.

'"'Tis thrue for your honour," says my father.

'"And, moreover, I think I was always a sober, riglar gintleman," says
the squire.

'"That's your name, sure enough," says my father (though it was a big
lie for him, but he could not help it).

'"Well," says the sperit, "although I was as sober as most men--at laste
as most gintlemin," says he; "an' though I was at different pariods a
most extempory Christian, and most charitable and inhuman to the poor,"
says he; "for all that I'm not as asy where I am now," says he, "as I
had a right to expect," says he.

'"An' more's the pity," says my father. "Maybe your honour id wish to
have a word with Father Murphy?"

'"Hould your tongue, you misherable bliggard," says the squire; "it's
not iv my sowl I'm thinkin'--an' I wondther you'd have the impitence to
talk to a gintleman consarnin' his sowl; and when I want THAT fixed,"
says he, slappin' his thigh, "I'll go to them that knows what belongs to
the likes," says he. "It's not my sowl," says he, sittin' down opossite
my father; "it's not my sowl that's annoyin' me most--I'm unasy on my
right leg," says he, "that I bruk at Glenvarloch cover the day I killed
black Barney."

'My father found out afther, it was a favourite horse that fell undher
him, afther leapin' the big fence that runs along by the glin.

'"I hope," says my father, "your honour's not unasy about the killin' iv
him?"

'"Hould your tongue, ye fool," said the squire, "an' I'll tell you why
I'm unasy on my leg," says he. "In the place, where I spend most iv my
time," says he, "except the little leisure I have for lookin' about me
here," says he, "I have to walk a great dale more than I was ever used
to," says he, "and by far more than is good for me either," says he;
"for I must tell you," says he, "the people where I am is ancommonly
fond iv cowld wather, for there is nothin' betther to be had; an',
moreover, the weather is hotter than is altogether plisant," says he;
"and I'm appinted," says he, "to assist in carryin' the wather, an' gets
a mighty poor share iv it myself," says he, "an' a mighty throublesome,
wearin' job it is, I can tell you," says he; "for they're all iv them
surprisinly dthry, an' dthrinks it as fast as my legs can carry it,"
says he; "but what kills me intirely," says he, "is the wakeness in my
leg," says he, "an' I want you to give it a pull or two to bring it to
shape," says he, "and that's the long an' the short iv it," says he.

'"Oh, plase your honour," says my father (for he didn't like to handle
the sperit at all), "I wouldn't have the impidence to do the likes to
your honour," says he; "it's only to poor crathurs like myself I'd do it
to," says he.

'"None iv your blarney," says the squire. "Here's my leg," says he,
cockin' it up to him--"pull it for the bare life," says he; an'"if you
don't, by the immortial powers I'll not lave a bone in your carcish I'll
not powdher," says he.

'When my father heerd that, he seen there was no use in purtendin',
so he tuk hould iv the leg, an' he kep' pullin' an' pullin', till the
sweat, God bless us, beginned to pour down his face.

'"Pull, you divil!" says the squire.

'"At your sarvice, your honour," says my father.

"'Pull harder," says the squire.

'My father pulled like the divil.

'"I'll take a little sup," says the squire, rachin' over his hand to the
bottle, "to keep up my courage," says he, lettin' an to be very wake in
himself intirely. But, as cute as he was, he was out here, for he tuk
the wrong one. "Here's to your good health, Terence," says he; "an' now
pull like the very divil." An' with that he lifted the bottle of holy
wather, but it was hardly to his mouth, whin he let a screech out, you'd
think the room id fairly split with it, an' made one chuck that sent the
leg clane aff his body in my father's hands. Down wint the squire over
the table, an' bang wint my father half-way across the room on his back,
upon the flure. Whin he kem to himself the cheerful mornin' sun was
shinin' through the windy shutthers, an' he was lying flat an his back,
with the leg iv one of the great ould chairs pulled clane out iv the
socket an' tight in his hand, pintin' up to the ceilin', an' ould Larry
fast asleep, an' snorin' as loud as ever. My father wint that mornin' to
Father Murphy, an' from that to the day of his death, he never neglected
confission nor mass, an' what he tould was betther believed that he
spake av it but seldom. An', as for the squire, that is the sperit,
whether it was that he did not like his liquor, or by rason iv the loss
iv his leg, he was never known to walk agin.'



THE FORTUNES OF SIR ROBERT ARDAGH.

Being a second Extract from the Papers of the late Father Purcell.

     'The earth hath bubbles as the water hath--
       And these are of them.'

In the south of Ireland, and on the borders of the county of Limerick,
there lies a district of two or three miles in length, which is rendered
interesting by the fact that it is one of the very few spots throughout
this country, in which some vestiges of aboriginal forest still remain.
It has little or none of the lordly character of the American forest,
for the axe has felled its oldest and its grandest trees; but in the
close wood which survives, live all the wild and pleasing peculiarities
of nature: its complete irregularity, its vistas, in whose perspective
the quiet cattle are peacefully browsing; its refreshing glades, where
the grey rocks arise from amid the nodding fern; the silvery shafts of
the old birch trees; the knotted trunks of the hoary oak, the grotesque
but graceful branches which never shed their honours under the tyrant
pruning-hook; the soft green sward; the chequered light and shade; the
wild luxuriant weeds; the lichen and the moss--all, all are beautiful
alike in the green freshness of spring, or in the sadness and sere of
autumn. Their beauty is of that kind which makes the heart full with
joy--appealing to the affections with a power which belongs to nature
only. This wood runs up, from below the base, to the ridge of a long
line of irregular hills, having perhaps, in primitive times, formed but
the skirting of some mighty forest which occupied the level below.

But now, alas! whither have we drifted? whither has the tide of
civilisation borne us? It has passed over a land unprepared for
it--it has left nakedness behind it; we have lost our forests, but our
marauders remain; we have destroyed all that is picturesque, while we
have retained everything that is revolting in barbarism. Through the
midst of this woodland there runs a deep gully or glen, where
the stillness of the scene is broken in upon by the brawling of a
mountain-stream, which, however, in the winter season, swells into a
rapid and formidable torrent.

There is one point at which the glen becomes extremely deep and narrow;
the sides descend to the depth of some hundred feet, and are so steep as
to be nearly perpendicular. The wild trees which have taken root in the
crannies and chasms of the rock have so intersected and entangled, that
one can with difficulty catch a glimpse of the stream, which wheels,
flashes, and foams below, as if exulting in the surrounding silence and
solitude.

This spot was not unwisely chosen, as a point of no ordinary strength,
for the erection of a massive square tower or keep, one side of which
rises as if in continuation of the precipitous cliff on which it is
based. Originally, the only mode of ingress was by a narrow portal in
the very wall which overtopped the precipice, opening upon a ledge
of rock which afforded a precarious pathway, cautiously intersected,
however, by a deep trench cut with great labour in the living rock; so
that, in its original state, and before the introduction of artillery
into the art of war, this tower might have been pronounced, and that not
presumptuously, almost impregnable.

The progress of improvement and the increasing security of the times
had, however, tempted its successive proprietors, if not to adorn, at
least to enlarge their premises, and at about the middle of the last
century, when the castle was last inhabited, the original square tower
formed but a small part of the edifice.

The castle, and a wide tract of the surrounding country, had from time
immemorial belonged to a family which, for distinctness, we shall call
by the name of Ardagh; and owing to the associations which, in Ireland,
almost always attach to scenes which have long witnessed alike the
exercise of stern feudal authority, and of that savage hospitality which
distinguished the good old times, this building has become the subject
and the scene of many wild and extraordinary traditions. One of them I
have been enabled, by a personal acquaintance with an eye-witness of the
events, to trace to its origin; and yet it is hard to say whether the
events which I am about to record appear more strange or improbable as
seen through the distorting medium of tradition, or in the appalling
dimness of uncertainty which surrounds the reality.

Tradition says that, sometime in the last century, Sir Robert Ardagh, a
young man, and the last heir of that family, went abroad and served
in foreign armies; and that, having acquired considerable honour and
emolument, he settled at Castle Ardagh, the building we have just now
attempted to describe. He was what the country people call a DARK man;
that is, he was considered morose, reserved, and ill-tempered; and, as
it was supposed from the utter solitude of his life, was upon no terms
of cordiality with the other members of his family.

The only occasion upon which he broke through the solitary monotony
of his life was during the continuance of the racing season, and
immediately subsequent to it; at which time he was to be seen among
the busiest upon the course, betting deeply and unhesitatingly, and
invariably with success. Sir Robert was, however, too well known as a
man of honour, and of too high a family, to be suspected of any unfair
dealing. He was, moreover, a soldier, and a man of an intrepid as well
as of a haughty character; and no one cared to hazard a surmise, the
consequences of which would be felt most probably by its originator
only.

Gossip, however, was not silent; it was remarked that Sir Robert never
appeared at the race-ground, which was the only place of public resort
which he frequented, except in company with a certain strange-looking
person, who was never seen elsewhere, or under other circumstances. It
was remarked, too, that this man, whose relation to Sir Robert was never
distinctly ascertained, was the only person to whom he seemed to speak
unnecessarily; it was observed that while with the country gentry
he exchanged no further communication than what was unavoidable in
arranging his sporting transactions, with this person he would converse
earnestly and frequently. Tradition asserts that, to enhance the
curiosity which this unaccountable and exclusive preference excited, the
stranger possessed some striking and unpleasant peculiarities of person
and of garb--she does not say, however, what these were--but they, in
conjunction with Sir Robert's secluded habits and extraordinary run of
luck--a success which was supposed to result from the suggestions and
immediate advice of the unknown--were sufficient to warrant report in
pronouncing that there was something QUEER in the wind, and in surmising
that Sir Robert was playing a fearful and a hazardous game, and that, in
short, his strange companion was little better than the devil himself.

Years, however, rolled quietly away, and nothing novel occurred in the
arrangements of Castle Ardagh, excepting that Sir Robert parted with his
odd companion, but as nobody could tell whence he came, so nobody could
say whither he had gone. Sir Robert's habits, however, underwent no
consequent change; he continued regularly to frequent the race
meetings, without mixing at all in the convivialities of the gentry,
and immediately afterwards to relapse into the secluded monotony of his
ordinary life.

It was said that he had accumulated vast sums of money--and, as his bets
were always successful, and always large, such must have been the case.
He did not suffer the acquisition of wealth, however, to influence his
hospitality or his housekeeping--he neither purchased land, nor extended
his establishment; and his mode of enjoying his money must have been
altogether that of the miser--consisting merely in the pleasure of
touching and telling his gold, and in the consciousness of wealth.

Sir Robert's temper, so far from improving, became more than ever gloomy
and morose. He sometimes carried the indulgence of his evil dispositions
to such a height that it bordered upon insanity. During these paroxysms
he would neither eat, drink, nor sleep. On such occasions he insisted on
perfect privacy, even from the intrusion of his most trusted servants;
his voice was frequently heard, sometimes in earnest supplication,
sometime as if in loud and angry altercation with some unknown visitant;
sometimes he would, for hours together, walk to and fro throughout the
long oak wainscoted apartment, which he generally occupied, with wild
gesticulations and agitated pace, in the manner of one who has been
roused to a state of unnatural excitement by some sudden and appalling
intimation.

These paroxysms of apparent lunacy were so frightful, that during
their continuance even his oldest and most-faithful domestics dared not
approach him; consequently, his hours of agony were never intruded upon,
and the mysterious causes of his sufferings appeared likely to remain
hidden for ever.

On one occasion a fit of this kind continued for an unusual time, the
ordinary term of their duration--about two days--had been long past,
and the old servant who generally waited upon Sir Robert after these
visitations, having in vain listened for the well-known tinkle of his
master's hand-bell, began to feel extremely anxious; he feared that his
master might have died from sheer exhaustion, or perhaps put an end to
his own existence during his miserable depression. These fears at length
became so strong, that having in vain urged some of his brother servants
to accompany him, he determined to go up alone, and himself see whether
any accident had befallen Sir Robert.

He traversed the several passages which conducted from the new to the
more ancient parts of the mansion, and having arrived in the old hall of
the castle, the utter silence of the hour, for it was very late in the
night, the idea of the nature of the enterprise in which he was
engaging himself, a sensation of remoteness from anything like human
companionship, but, more than all, the vivid but undefined anticipation
of something horrible, came upon him with such oppressive weight that
he hesitated as to whether he should proceed. Real uneasiness, however,
respecting the fate of his master, for whom he felt that kind of
attachment which the force of habitual intercourse not unfrequently
engenders respecting objects not in themselves amiable, and also a
latent unwillingness to expose his weakness to the ridicule of his
fellow-servants, combined to overcome his reluctance; and he had just
placed his foot upon the first step of the staircase which conducted
to his master's chamber, when his attention was arrested by a low but
distinct knocking at the hall-door. Not, perhaps, very sorry at finding
thus an excuse even for deferring his intended expedition, he placed
the candle upon a stone block which lay in the hall, and approached the
door, uncertain whether his ears had not deceived him. This doubt was
justified by the circumstance that the hall entrance had been for nearly
fifty years disused as a mode of ingress to the castle. The situation
of this gate also, which we have endeavoured to describe, opening upon
a narrow ledge of rock which overhangs a perilous cliff, rendered it
at all times, but particularly at night, a dangerous entrance. This
shelving platform of rock, which formed the only avenue to the door, was
divided, as I have already stated, by a broad chasm, the planks across
which had long disappeared by decay or otherwise, so that it seemed at
least highly improbable that any man could have found his way across the
passage in safety to the door, more particularly on a night like that,
of singular darkness. The old man, therefore, listened attentively, to
ascertain whether the first application should be followed by another.
He had not long to wait; the same low but singularly distinct knocking
was repeated; so low that it seemed as if the applicant had employed no
harder or heavier instrument than his hand, and yet, despite the immense
thickness of the door, with such strength that the sound was distinctly
audible.

The knock was repeated a third time, without any increase of loudness;
and the old man, obeying an impulse for which to his dying hour he could
never account, proceeded to remove, one by one, the three great oaken
bars which secured the door. Time and damp had effectually corroded the
iron chambers of the lock, so that it afforded little resistance. With
some effort, as he believed, assisted from without, the old servant
succeeded in opening the door; and a low, square-built figure,
apparently that of a man wrapped in a large black cloak, entered
the hall. The servant could not see much of this visitant with any
distinctness; his dress appeared foreign, the skirt of his ample cloak
was thrown over one shoulder; he wore a large felt hat, with a very
heavy leaf, from under which escaped what appeared to be a mass of long
sooty-black hair; his feet were cased in heavy riding-boots. Such were
the few particulars which the servant had time and light to observe. The
stranger desired him to let his master know instantly that a friend
had come, by appointment, to settle some business with him. The servant
hesitated, but a slight motion on the part of his visitor, as if to
possess himself of the candle, determined him; so, taking it in his
hand, he ascended the castle stairs, leaving his guest in the hall.

On reaching the apartment which opened upon the oak-chamber he was
surprised to observe the door of that room partly open, and the room
itself lit up. He paused, but there was no sound; he looked in, and
saw Sir Robert, his head and the upper part of his body reclining on
a table, upon which burned a lamp; his arms were stretched forward on
either side, and perfectly motionless; it appeared that, having been
sitting at the table, he had thus sunk forward, either dead or in a
swoon. There was no sound of breathing; all was silent, except the sharp
ticking of a watch, which lay beside the lamp. The servant coughed
twice or thrice, but with no effect; his fears now almost amounted to
certainty, and he was approaching the table on which his master partly
lay, to satisfy himself of his death, when Sir Robert slowly raised
his head, and throwing himself back in his chair, fixed his eyes in a
ghastly and uncertain gaze upon his attendant. At length he said, slowly
and painfully, as if he dreaded the answer:

'In God's name, what are you?'

'Sir,' said the servant, 'a strange gentleman wants to see you below.'

At this intimation Sir Robert, starting on his feet and tossing his arms
wildly upwards, uttered a shriek of such appalling and despairing terror
that it was almost too fearful for human endurance; and long after
the sound had ceased it seemed to the terrified imagination of the old
servant to roll through the deserted passages in bursts of unnatural
laughter. After a few moments Sir Robert said:

'Can't you send him away? Why does he come so soon? O God! O God! let
him leave me for an hour; a little time. I can't see him now; try to
get him away. You see I can't go down now; I have not strength. O God!
O God! let him come back in an hour; it is not long to wait. He cannot
lose anything by it; nothing, nothing, nothing. Tell him that; say
anything to him.'

The servant went down. In his own words, he did not feel the stairs
under him till he got to the hall. The figure stood exactly as he had
left it. He delivered his master's message as coherently as he could.
The stranger replied in a careless tone:

'If Sir Robert will not come down to me, I must go up to him.'

The man returned, and to his surprise he found his master much more
composed in manner. He listened to the message, and though the cold
perspiration rose in drops upon his forehead faster than he could wipe
it away, his manner had lost the dreadful agitation which had marked
it before. He rose feebly, and casting a last look of agony behind him,
passed from the room to the lobby, where he signed to his attendant not
to follow him. The man moved as far as the head of the staircase,
from whence he had a tolerably distinct view of the hall, which was
imperfectly lighted by the candle he had left there.

He saw his master reel, rather than walk down the stairs, clinging all
the way to the banisters. He walked on, as if about to sink every moment
from weakness. The figure advanced as if to meet him, and in passing
struck down the light. The servant could see no more; but there was
a sound of struggling, renewed at intervals with silent but fearful
energy. It was evident, however, that the parties were approaching the
door, for he heard the solid oak sound twice or thrice, as the feet of
the combatants, in shuffling hither and thither over the floor, struck
upon it. After a slight pause he heard the door thrown open with such
violence that the leaf seemed to strike the side-wall of the hall, for
it was so dark without that this could only be surmised by the sound.
The struggle was renewed with an agony and intenseness of energy
that betrayed itself in deep-drawn gasps. One desperate effort, which
terminated in the breaking of some part of the door, producing a sound
as if the door-post was wrenched from its position, was followed by
another wrestle, evidently upon the narrow ledge which ran outside the
door, overtopping the precipice. This proved to be the final struggle,
for it was followed by a crashing sound as if some heavy body had fallen
over, and was rushing down the precipice, through the light boughs that
crossed near the top. All then became still as the grave, except when
the moan of the night wind sighed up the wooded glen.

The old servant had not nerve to return through the hall, and to him the
darkness seemed all but endless; but morning at length came, and with
it the disclosure of the events of the night. Near the door, upon the
ground, lay Sir Robert's sword-belt, which had given way in the scuffle.
A huge splinter from the massive door-post had been wrenched off by
an almost superhuman effort--one which nothing but the gripe of a
despairing man could have severed--and on the rock outside were left the
marks of the slipping and sliding of feet.

At the foot of the precipice, not immediately under the castle, but
dragged some way up the glen, were found the remains of Sir Robert, with
hardly a vestige of a limb or feature left distinguishable. The right
hand, however, was uninjured, and in its fingers were clutched, with the
fixedness of death, a long lock of coarse sooty hair--the only direct
circumstantial evidence of the presence of a second person. So says
tradition.

This story, as I have mentioned, was current among the dealers in such
lore; but the original facts are so dissimilar in all but the name of
the principal person mentioned and his mode of life, and the fact that
his death was accompanied with circumstances of extraordinary mystery,
that the two narratives are totally irreconcilable (even allowing the
utmost for the exaggerating influence of tradition), except by supposing
report to have combined and blended together the fabulous histories
of several distinct bearers of the family name. However this may be, I
shall lay before the reader a distinct recital of the events from which
the foregoing tradition arose. With respect to these there can be no
mistake; they are authenticated as fully as anything can be by human
testimony; and I state them principally upon the evidence of a lady who
herself bore a prominent part in the strange events which she related,
and which I now record as being among the few well-attested tales of the
marvellous which it has been my fate to hear. I shall, as far as I am
able, arrange in one combined narrative the evidence of several distinct
persons who were eye-witnesses of what they related, and with the truth
of whose testimony I am solemnly and deeply impressed.

Sir Robert Ardagh, as we choose to call him, was the heir and
representative of the family whose name he bore; but owing to the
prodigality of his father, the estates descended to him in a very
impaired condition. Urged by the restless spirit of youth, or more
probably by a feeling of pride which could not submit to witness, in
the paternal mansion, what he considered a humiliating alteration in
the style and hospitality which up to that time had distinguished
his family, Sir Robert left Ireland and went abroad. How he occupied
himself, or what countries he visited during his absence, was never
known, nor did he afterwards make any allusion or encourage any
inquiries touching his foreign sojourn. He left Ireland in the year
1742, being then just of age, and was not heard of until the year
1760--about eighteen years afterwards--at which time he returned. His
personal appearance was, as might have been expected, very greatly
altered, more altered, indeed, than the time of his absence might
have warranted one in supposing likely. But to counterbalance the
unfavourable change which time had wrought in his form and features, he
had acquired all the advantages of polish of manner and refinement of
taste which foreign travel is supposed to bestow. But what was truly
surprising was that it soon became evident that Sir Robert was very
wealthy--wealthy to an extraordinary and unaccountable degree; and this
fact was made manifest, not only by his expensive style of living,
but by his proceeding to disembarrass his property, and to purchase
extensive estates in addition. Moreover, there could be nothing
deceptive in these appearances, for he paid ready money for everything,
from the most important purchase to the most trifling.

Sir Robert was a remarkably agreeable man, and possessing the combined
advantages of birth and property, he was, as a matter of course, gladly
received into the highest society which the metropolis then commanded.
It was thus that he became acquainted with the two beautiful Miss
F----ds, then among the brightest ornaments of the highest circle of
Dublin fashion. Their family was in more than one direction allied to
nobility; and Lady D----, their elder sister by many years, and sometime
married to a once well-known nobleman, was now their protectress. These
considerations, beside the fact that the young ladies were what is
usually termed heiresses, though not to a very great amount, secured to
them a high position in the best society which Ireland then produced.
The two young ladies differed strongly, alike in appearance and in
character. The elder of the two, Emily, was generally considered the
handsomer--for her beauty was of that impressive kind which never
failed to strike even at the first glance, possessing as it did all the
advantages of a fine person and a commanding carriage. The beauty of her
features strikingly assorted in character with that of her figure and
deportment. Her hair was raven-black and richly luxuriant, beautifully
contrasting with the perfect whiteness of her forehead--her finely
pencilled brows were black as the ringlets that clustered near them--and
her blue eyes, full, lustrous, and animated, possessed all the power and
brilliancy of brown ones, with more than their softness and variety of
expression. She was not, however, merely the tragedy queen. When she
smiled, and that was not seldom, the dimpling of cheek and chin, the
laughing display of the small and beautiful teeth--but, more than all,
the roguish archness of her deep, bright eye, showed that nature had not
neglected in her the lighter and the softer characteristics of woman.

Her younger sister Mary was, as I believe not unfrequently occurs in
the case of sisters, quite in the opposite style of beauty. She was
light-haired, had more colour, had nearly equal grace, with much more
liveliness of manner. Her eyes were of that dark grey which poets so
much admire--full of expression and vivacity. She was altogether a very
beautiful and animated girl--though as unlike her sister as the presence
of those two qualities would permit her to be. Their dissimilarity did
not stop here--it was deeper than mere appearance--the character of
their minds differed almost as strikingly as did their complexion.
The fair-haired beauty had a large proportion of that softness and
pliability of temper which physiognomists assign as the characteristics
of such complexions. She was much more the creature of impulse than of
feeling, and consequently more the victim of extrinsic circumstances
than was her sister. Emily, on the contrary, possessed considerable
firmness and decision. She was less excitable, but when excited her
feelings were more intense and enduring. She wanted much of the gaiety,
but with it the volatility of her younger sister. Her opinions
were adopted, and her friendships formed more reflectively, and
her affections seemed to move, as it were, more slowly, but more
determinedly. This firmness of character did not amount to anything
masculine, and did not at all impair the feminine grace of her manners.

Sir Robert Ardagh was for a long time apparently equally attentive to
the two sisters, and many were the conjectures and the surmises as to
which would be the lady of his choice. At length, however, these doubts
were determined; he proposed for and was accepted by the dark beauty,
Emily F----d.

The bridals were celebrated in a manner becoming the wealth and
connections of the parties; and Sir Robert and Lady Ardagh left Dublin
to pass the honeymoon at the family mansion, Castle Ardagh, which had
lately been fitted up in a style bordering upon magnificent. Whether
in compliance with the wishes of his lady, or owing to some whim of his
own, his habits were henceforward strikingly altered; and from having
moved among the gayest if not the most profligate of the votaries
of fashion, he suddenly settled down into a quiet, domestic, country
gentleman, and seldom, if ever, visited the capital, and then his
sojourns were as brief as the nature of his business would permit.

Lady Ardagh, however, did not suffer from this change further than in
being secluded from general society; for Sir Robert's wealth, and the
hospitality which he had established in the family mansion, commanded
that of such of his lady's friends and relatives as had leisure or
inclination to visit the castle; and as their style of living was very
handsome, and its internal resources of amusement considerable, few
invitations from Sir Robert or his lady were neglected.

Many years passed quietly away, during which Sir Robert's and Lady
Ardagh's hopes of issue were several times disappointed. In the lapse of
all this time there occurred but one event worth recording. Sir Robert
had brought with him from abroad a valet, who sometimes professed
himself to be French, at others Italian, and at others again German. He
spoke all these languages with equal fluency, and seemed to take a kind
of pleasure in puzzling the sagacity and balking the curiosity of such
of the visitors at the castle as at any time happened to enter into
conversation with him, or who, struck by his singularities, became
inquisitive respecting his country and origin. Sir Robert called him by
the French name, JACQUE, and among the lower orders he was familiarly
known by the title of 'Jack, the devil,' an appellation which originated
in a supposed malignity of disposition and a real reluctance to mix in
the society of those who were believed to be his equals. This morose
reserve, coupled with the mystery which enveloped all about him,
rendered him an object of suspicion and inquiry to his fellow-servants,
amongst whom it was whispered that this man in secret governed the
actions of Sir Robert with a despotic dictation, and that, as if to
indemnify himself for his public and apparent servitude and self-denial,
he in private exacted a degree of respectful homage from his so-called
master, totally inconsistent with the relation generally supposed to
exist between them.

This man's personal appearance was, to say the least of it, extremely
odd; he was low in stature; and this defect was enhanced by a distortion
of the spine, so considerable as almost to amount to a hunch; his
features, too, had all that sharpness and sickliness of hue which
generally accompany deformity; he wore his hair, which was black as
soot, in heavy neglected ringlets about his shoulders, and always
without powder--a peculiarity in those days. There was something
unpleasant, too, in the circumstance that he never raised his eyes to
meet those of another; this fact was often cited as a proof of his being
something not quite right, and said to result not from the timidity
which is supposed in most cases to induce this habit, but from a
consciousness that his eye possessed a power which, if exhibited, would
betray a supernatural origin. Once, and once only, had he violated this
sinister observance: it was on the occasion of Sir Robert's hopes having
been most bitterly disappointed; his lady, after a severe and dangerous
confinement, gave birth to a dead child. Immediately after the
intelligence had been made known, a servant, having upon some business
passed outside the gate of the castle-yard, was met by Jacque, who,
contrary to his wont, accosted him, observing, 'So, after all the
pother, the son and heir is still-born.' This remark was accompanied
by a chuckling laugh, the only approach to merriment which he was ever
known to exhibit. The servant, who was really disappointed, having hoped
for holiday times, feasting and debauchery with impunity during the
rejoicings which would have accompanied a christening, turned tartly
upon the little valet, telling him that he should let Sir Robert know
how he had received the tidings which should have filled any faithful
servant with sorrow; and having once broken the ice, he was proceeding
with increasing fluency, when his harangue was cut short and his
temerity punished, by the little man raising his head and treating him
to a scowl so fearful, half-demoniac, half-insane, that it haunted his
imagination in nightmares and nervous tremors for months after.

To this man Lady Ardagh had, at first sight, conceived an antipathy
amounting to horror, a mixture of loathing and dread so very powerful
that she had made it a particular and urgent request to Sir Robert, that
he would dismiss him, offering herself, from that property which Sir
Robert had by the marriage settlements left at her own disposal, to
provide handsomely for him, provided only she might be relieved from
the continual anxiety and discomfort which the fear of encountering him
induced.

Sir Robert, however, would not hear of it; the request seemed at first
to agitate and distress him; but when still urged in defiance of his
peremptory refusal, he burst into a violent fit of fury; he spoke
darkly of great sacrifices which he had made, and threatened that if the
request were at any time renewed he would leave both her and the country
for ever. This was, however, a solitary instance of violence; his
general conduct towards Lady Ardagh, though at no time uxorious, was
certainly kind and respectful, and he was more than repaid in the
fervent attachment which she bore him in return.

Some short time after this strange interview between Sir Robert and
Lady Ardagh; one night after the family had retired to bed, and when
everything had been quiet for some time, the bell of Sir Robert's
dressing-room rang suddenly and violently; the ringing was repeated
again and again at still shorter intervals, and with increasing
violence, as if the person who pulled the bell was agitated by the
presence of some terrifying and imminent danger. A servant named Donovan
was the first to answer it; he threw on his clothes, and hurried to the
room.

Sir Robert had selected for his private room an apartment remote from
the bed-chambers of the castle, most of which lay in the more modern
parts of the mansion, and secured at its entrance by a double door. As
the servant opened the first of these, Sir Robert's bell again sounded
with a longer and louder peal; the inner door resisted his efforts to
open it; but after a few violent struggles, not having been perfectly
secured, or owing to the inadequacy of the bolt itself, it gave way, and
the servant rushed into the apartment, advancing several paces before
he could recover himself. As he entered, he heard Sir Robert's
voice exclaiming loudly--'Wait without, do not come in yet;' but the
prohibition came too late. Near a low truckle-bed, upon which Sir Robert
sometimes slept, for he was a whimsical man, in a large armchair, sat,
or rather lounged, the form of the valet Jacque, his arms folded, and
his heels stretched forward on the floor, so as fully to exhibit his
misshapen legs, his head thrown back, and his eyes fixed upon his master
with a look of indescribable defiance and derision, while, as if to add
to the strange insolence of his attitude and expression, he had placed
upon his head the black cloth cap which it was his habit to wear.

Sir Robert was standing before him, at the distance of several yards,
in a posture expressive of despair, terror, and what might be called an
agony of humility. He waved his hand twice or thrice, as if to dismiss
the servant, who, however, remained fixed on the spot where he had first
stood; and then, as if forgetting everything but the agony within him,
he pressed his clenched hands on his cold damp brow, and dashed away the
heavy drops that gathered chill and thickly there.

Jacque broke the silence.

'Donovan,' said he, 'shake up that drone and drunkard, Carlton; tell
him that his master directs that the travelling carriage shall be at the
door within half-an-hour.'

The servant paused, as if in doubt as to what he should do; but his
scruples were resolved by Sir Robert's saying hurriedly, 'Go--go, do
whatever he directs; his commands are mine; tell Carlton the same.'

The servant hurried to obey, and in about half-an-hour the carriage
was at the door, and Jacque, having directed the coachman to drive to
B----n, a small town at about the distance of twelve miles--the nearest
point, however, at which post-horses could be obtained--stepped into the
vehicle, which accordingly quitted the castle immediately.

Although it was a fine moonlight night, the carriage made its way but
very slowly, and after the lapse of two hours the travellers had arrived
at a point about eight miles from the castle, at which the road strikes
through a desolate and heathy flat, sloping up distantly at either side
into bleak undulatory hills, in whose monotonous sweep the imagination
beholds the heaving of some dark sluggish sea, arrested in its first
commotion by some preternatural power. It is a gloomy and divested spot;
there is neither tree nor habitation near it; its monotony is unbroken,
except by here and there the grey front of a rock peering above the
heath, and the effect is rendered yet more dreary and spectral by the
exaggerated and misty shadows which the moon casts along the sloping
sides of the hills.

When they had gained about the centre of this tract, Carlton, the
coachman, was surprised to see a figure standing at some distance in
advance, immediately beside the road, and still more so when, on coming
up, he observed that it was no other than Jacque whom he believed to be
at that moment quietly seated in the carriage; the coachman drew up, and
nodding to him, the little valet exclaimed:

'Carlton, I have got the start of you; the roads are heavy, so I shall
even take care of myself the rest of the way. Do you make your way back
as best you can, and I shall follow my own nose.'

So saying, he chucked a purse into the lap of the coachman, and turning
off at a right angle with the road, he began to move rapidly away in the
direction of the dark ridge that lowered in the distance.

The servant watched him until he was lost in the shadowy haze of night;
and neither he nor any of the inmates of the castle saw Jacque again.
His disappearance, as might have been expected, did not cause any regret
among the servants and dependants at the castle; and Lady Ardagh did
not attempt to conceal her delight; but with Sir Robert matters were
different, for two or three days subsequent to this event he confined
himself to his room, and when he did return to his ordinary occupations,
it was with a gloomy indifference, which showed that he did so more
from habit than from any interest he felt in them. He appeared from that
moment unaccountably and strikingly changed, and thenceforward walked
through life as a thing from which he could derive neither profit nor
pleasure. His temper, however, so far from growing wayward or morose,
became, though gloomy, very--almost unnaturally--placid and cold; but
his spirits totally failed, and he grew silent and abstracted.

These sombre habits of mind, as might have been anticipated, very
materially affected the gay house-keeping of the castle; and the dark
and melancholy spirit of its master seemed to have communicated itself
to the very domestics, almost to the very walls of the mansion.

Several years rolled on in this way, and the sounds of mirth and wassail
had long been strangers to the castle, when Sir Robert requested his
lady, to her great astonishment, to invite some twenty or thirty of
their friends to spend the Christmas, which was fast approaching, at
the castle. Lady Ardagh gladly complied, and her sister Mary, who still
continued unmarried, and Lady D---- were of course included in the
invitations. Lady Ardagh had requested her sisters to set forward as
early as possible, in order that she might enjoy a little of their
society before the arrival of the other guests; and in compliance with
this request they left Dublin almost immediately upon receiving the
invitation, a little more than a week before the arrival of the festival
which was to be the period at which the whole party were to muster.

For expedition's sake it was arranged that they should post, while Lady
D----'s groom was to follow with her horses, she taking with herself
her own maid and one male servant. They left the city when the day was
considerably spent, and consequently made but three stages in the first
day; upon the second, at about eight in the evening, they had reached
the town of K----k, distant about fifteen miles from Castle Ardagh.
Here, owing to Miss F----d's great fatigue, she having been for a
considerable time in a very delicate state of health, it was determined
to put up for the night. They, accordingly, took possession of the best
sitting-room which the inn commanded, and Lady D----remained in it
to direct and urge the preparations for some refreshment, which the
fatigues of the day had rendered necessary, while her younger sister
retired to her bed-chamber to rest there for a little time, as the
parlour commanded no such luxury as a sofa.

Miss F----d was, as I have already stated, at this time in very delicate
health; and upon this occasion the exhaustion of fatigue, and the dreary
badness of the weather, combined to depress her spirits. Lady D----
had not been left long to herself, when the door communicating with the
passage was abruptly opened, and her sister Mary entered in a state of
great agitation; she sat down pale and trembling upon one of the chairs,
and it was not until a copious flood of tears had relieved her, that
she became sufficiently calm to relate the cause of her excitement and
distress. It was simply this. Almost immediately upon lying down upon
the bed she sank into a feverish and unrefreshing slumber; images of all
grotesque shapes and startling colours flitted before her sleeping fancy
with all the rapidity and variety of the changes in a kaleidoscope. At
length, as she described it, a mist seemed to interpose itself between
her sight and the ever-shifting scenery which sported before her
imagination, and out of this cloudy shadow gradually emerged a figure
whose back seemed turned towards the sleeper; it was that of a lady,
who, in perfect silence, was expressing as far as pantomimic gesture
could, by wringing her hands, and throwing her head from side to side,
in the manner of one who is exhausted by the over indulgence, by the
very sickness and impatience of grief; the extremity of misery. For
a long time she sought in vain to catch a glimpse of the face of the
apparition, who thus seemed to stir and live before her. But at length
the figure seemed to move with an air of authority, as if about to give
directions to some inferior, and in doing so, it turned its head so as
to display, with a ghastly distinctness, the features of Lady Ardagh,
pale as death, with her dark hair all dishevelled, and her eyes dim
and sunken with weeping. The revulsion of feeling which Miss
F----d experienced at this disclosure--for up to that point she had
contemplated the appearance rather with a sense of curiosity and of
interest, than of anything deeper--was so horrible, that the shock awoke
her perfectly. She sat up in the bed, and looked fearfully around the
room, which was imperfectly lighted by a single candle burning dimly, as
if she almost expected to see the reality of her dreadful vision lurking
in some corner of the chamber. Her fears were, however, verified, though
not in the way she expected; yet in a manner sufficiently horrible--for
she had hardly time to breathe and to collect her thoughts, when she
heard, or thought she heard, the voice of her sister, Lady Ardagh,
sometimes sobbing violently, and sometimes almost shrieking as if in
terror, and calling upon her and Lady D----, with the most imploring
earnestness of despair, for God's sake to lose no time in coming to her.
All this was so horribly distinct, that it seemed as if the mourner
was standing within a few yards of the spot where Miss F----d lay. She
sprang from the bed, and leaving the candle in the room behind her, she
made her way in the dark through the passage, the voice still following
her, until as she arrived at the door of the sitting-room it seemed to
die away in low sobbing.

As soon as Miss F----d was tolerably recovered, she declared her
determination to proceed directly, and without further loss of time,
to Castle Ardagh. It was not without much difficulty that Lady D----
at length prevailed upon her to consent to remain where they then were,
until morning should arrive, when it was to be expected that the young
lady would be much refreshed by at least remaining quiet for the night,
even though sleep were out of the question. Lady D---- was convinced,
from the nervous and feverish symptoms which her sister exhibited, that
she had already done too much, and was more than ever satisfied of the
necessity of prosecuting the journey no further upon that day. After
some time she persuaded her sister to return to her room, where she
remained with her until she had gone to bed, and appeared comparatively
composed. Lady D---- then returned to the parlour, and not finding
herself sleepy, she remained sitting by the fire. Her solitude was
a second time broken in upon, by the entrance of her sister, who now
appeared, if possible, more agitated than before. She said that Lady
D---- had not long left the room, when she was roused by a repetition of
the same wailing and lamentations, accompanied by the wildest and most
agonized supplications that no time should be lost in coming to Castle
Ardagh, and all in her sister's voice, and uttered at the same proximity
as before. This time the voice had followed her to the very door of the
sitting-room, and until she closed it, seemed to pour forth its cries
and sobs at the very threshold.

Miss F----d now most positively declared that nothing should prevent her
proceeding instantly to the castle, adding that if Lady D---- would not
accompany her, she would go on by herself. Superstitious feelings are at
all times more or less contagious, and the last century afforded a soil
much more congenial to their growth than the present. Lady D---- was so
far affected by her sister's terrors, that she became, at least, uneasy;
and seeing that her sister was immovably determined upon setting forward
immediately, she consented to accompany her forthwith. After a slight
delay, fresh horses were procured, and the two ladies and their
attendants renewed their journey, with strong injunctions to the driver
to quicken their rate of travelling as much as possible, and promises of
reward in case of his doing so.

Roads were then in much worse condition throughout the south, even than
they now are; and the fifteen miles which modern posting would have
passed in little more than an hour and a half, were not completed even
with every possible exertion in twice the time. Miss F----d had been
nervously restless during the journey. Her head had been constantly
out of the carriage window; and as they approached the entrance to the
castle demesne, which lay about a mile from the building, her anxiety
began to communicate itself to her sister. The postillion had just
dismounted, and was endeavouring to open the gate--at that time a
necessary trouble; for in the middle of the last century porter's lodges
were not common in the south of Ireland, and locks and keys almost
unknown. He had just succeeded in rolling back the heavy oaken gate so
as to admit the vehicle, when a mounted servant rode rapidly down the
avenue, and drawing up at the carriage, asked of the postillion who the
party were; and on hearing, he rode round to the carriage window and
handed in a note, which Lady D---- received. By the assistance of one
of the coach-lamps they succeeded in deciphering it. It was scrawled in
great agitation, and ran thus:


'MY DEAR SISTER--MY DEAR SISTERS BOTH,--In God's name lose no time, I am
frightened and miserable; I cannot explain all till you come. I am too
much terrified to write coherently; but understand me--hasten--do not
waste a minute. I am afraid you will come too late.

'E. A.'


The servant could tell nothing more than that the castle was in great
confusion, and that Lady Ardagh had been crying bitterly all the night.
Sir Robert was perfectly well. Altogether at a loss as to the cause
of Lady Ardagh's great distress, they urged their way up the steep and
broken avenue which wound through the crowding trees, whose wild and
grotesque branches, now left stripped and naked by the blasts of winter,
stretched drearily across the road. As the carriage drew up in the area
before the door, the anxiety of the ladies almost amounted to agony; and
scarcely waiting for the assistance of their attendant, they sprang to
the ground, and in an instant stood at the castle door. From within
were distinctly audible the sounds of lamentation and weeping, and
the suppressed hum of voices as if of those endeavouring to soothe the
mourner. The door was speedily opened, and when the ladies entered, the
first object which met their view was their sister, Lady Ardagh, sitting
on a form in the hall, weeping and wringing her hands in deep agony.
Beside her stood two old, withered crones, who were each endeavouring in
their own way to administer consolation, without even knowing or caring
what the subject of her grief might be.

Immediately on Lady Ardagh's seeing her sisters, she started up, fell on
their necks, and kissed them again and again without speaking, and then
taking them each by a hand, still weeping bitterly, she led them into
a small room adjoining the hall, in which burned a light, and, having
closed the door, she sat down between them. After thanking them for the
haste they had made, she proceeded to tell them, in words incoherent
from agitation, that Sir Robert had in private, and in the most solemn
manner, told her that he should die upon that night, and that he
had occupied himself during the evening in giving minute directions
respecting the arrangements of his funeral. Lady D---- here suggested
the possibility of his labouring under the hallucinations of a fever;
but to this Lady Ardagh quickly replied:

'Oh! no, no! Would to God I could think it. Oh! no, no! Wait till you
have seen him. There is a frightful calmness about all he says and
does; and his directions are all so clear, and his mind so perfectly
collected, it is impossible, quite impossible.' And she wept yet more
bitterly.

At that moment Sir Robert's voice was heard in issuing some directions,
as he came downstairs; and Lady Ardagh exclaimed, hurriedly:

'Go now and see him yourself. He is in the hall.'

Lady D---- accordingly went out into the hall, where Sir Robert met her;
and, saluting her with kind politeness, he said, after a pause:

'You are come upon a melancholy mission--the house is in great
confusion, and some of its inmates in considerable grief.' He took her
hand, and looking fixedly in her face, continued: 'I shall not live to
see to-morrow's sun shine.'

'You are ill, sir, I have no doubt,' replied she; 'but I am very
certain we shall see you much better to-morrow, and still better the day
following.'

'I am NOT ill, sister,' replied he. 'Feel my temples, they are cool; lay
your finger to my pulse, its throb is slow and temperate. I never was
more perfectly in health, and yet do I know that ere three hours be
past, I shall be no more.'

'Sir, sir,' said she, a good deal startled, but wishing to conceal
the impression which the calm solemnity of his manner had, in her own
despite, made upon her, 'Sir, you should not jest; you should not even
speak lightly upon such subjects. You trifle with what is sacred--you
are sporting with the best affections of your wife----'

'Stay, my good lady,' said he; 'if when this clock shall strike the hour
of three, I shall be anything but a helpless clod, then upbraid me. Pray
return now to your sister. Lady Ardagh is, indeed, much to be pitied;
but what is past cannot now be helped. I have now a few papers to
arrange, and some to destroy. I shall see you and Lady Ardagh before my
death; try to compose her--her sufferings distress me much; but what is
past cannot now be mended.'

Thus saying, he went upstairs, and Lady D---- returned to the room where
her sisters were sitting.

'Well,' exclaimed Lady Ardagh, as she re-entered, 'is it not so?--do you
still doubt?--do you think there is any hope?'

Lady D---- was silent.

'Oh! none, none, none,' continued she; 'I see, I see you are convinced.'
And she wrung her hands in bitter agony.

'My dear sister,' said Lady D----, 'there is, no doubt, something
strange in all that has appeared in this matter; but still I cannot but
hope that there may be something deceptive in all the apparent calmness
of Sir Robert. I still must believe that some latent fever has affected
his mind, or that, owing to the state of nervous depression into which
he has been sinking, some trivial occurrence has been converted, in
his disordered imagination, into an augury foreboding his immediate
dissolution.'

In such suggestions, unsatisfactory even to those who originated them,
and doubly so to her whom they were intended to comfort, more than two
hours passed; and Lady D---- was beginning to hope that the fated term
might elapse without the occurrence of any tragical event, when Sir
Robert entered the room. On coming in, he placed his finger with a
warning gesture upon his lips, as if to enjoin silence; and then having
successively pressed the hands of his two sisters-in-law, he stooped
sadly over the fainting form of his lady, and twice pressed her cold,
pale forehead, with his lips, and then passed silently out of the room.

Lady D----, starting up, followed to the door, and saw him take a
candle in the hall, and walk deliberately up the stairs. Stimulated by
a feeling of horrible curiosity, she continued to follow him at a
distance. She saw him enter his own private room, and heard him close
and lock the door after him. Continuing to follow him as far as she
could, she placed herself at the door of the chamber, as noiselessly as
possible, where after a little time she was joined by her two sisters,
Lady Ardagh and Miss F----d. In breathless silence they listened to what
should pass within. They distinctly heard Sir Robert pacing up and down
the room for some time; and then, after a pause, a sound as if some
one had thrown himself heavily upon the bed. At this moment Lady D----,
forgetting that the door had been secured within, turned the handle for
the purpose of entering; when some one from the inside, close to the
door, said, 'Hush! hush!' The same lady, now much alarmed, knocked
violently at the door; there was no answer. She knocked again more
violently, with no further success. Lady Ardagh, now uttering a piercing
shriek, sank in a swoon upon the floor. Three or four servants,
alarmed by the noise, now hurried upstairs, and Lady Ardagh was carried
apparently lifeless to her own chamber. They then, after having knocked
long and loudly in vain, applied themselves to forcing an entrance into
Sir Robert's room. After resisting some violent efforts, the door at
length gave way, and all entered the room nearly together. There was a
single candle burning upon a table at the far end of the apartment; and
stretched upon the bed lay Sir Robert Ardagh. He was a corpse--the eyes
were open--no convulsion had passed over the features, or distorted
the limbs--it seemed as if the soul had sped from the body without a
struggle to remain there. On touching the body it was found to be cold
as clay--all lingering of the vital heat had left it. They closed the
ghastly eyes of the corpse, and leaving it to the care of those who
seem to consider it a privilege of their age and sex to gloat over the
revolting spectacle of death in all its stages, they returned to
Lady Ardagh, now a widow. The party assembled at the castle, but the
atmosphere was tainted with death. Grief there was not much, but awe and
panic were expressed in every face. The guests talked in whispers, and
the servants walked on tiptoe, as if afraid of the very noise of their
own footsteps.

The funeral was conducted almost with splendour. The body, having been
conveyed, in compliance with Sir Robert's last directions, to Dublin,
was there laid within the ancient walls of St. Audoen's Church--where I
have read the epitaph, telling the age and titles of the departed dust.
Neither painted escutcheon, nor marble slab, have served to rescue from
oblivion the story of the dead, whose very name will ere long moulder
from their tracery,

          'Et sunt sua fata sepulchris.'(1)


     (1) This prophecy has since been realised; for the aisle in
     which Sir Robert's remains were laid has been suffered to
     fall completely to decay; and the tomb which marked his
     grave, and other monuments more curious, form now one
     indistinguishable mass of rubbish.


The events which I have recorded are not imaginary. They are FACTS;
and there lives one whose authority none would venture to question, who
could vindicate the accuracy of every statement which I have set down,
and that, too, with all the circumstantiality of an eye-witness.(2)


     (2) This paper, from a memorandum, I find to have been
     written in 1803. The lady to whom allusion is made, I
     believe to be Miss Mary F----d. She never married, and
     survived both her sisters, living to a very advanced age.



THE LAST HEIR OF CASTLE CONNOR.

Being a third Extract from the legacy of the late Francis Purcell, P. P.
of Drumcoolagh.

There is something in the decay of ancient grandeur to interest even the
most unconcerned spectator--the evidences of greatness, of power, and of
pride that survive the wreck of time, proving, in mournful contrast with
present desolation and decay, what WAS in other days, appeal, with a
resistless power, to the sympathies of our nature. And when, as we gaze
on the scion of some ruined family, the first impulse of nature that
bids us regard his fate with interest and respect is justified by the
recollection of great exertions and self-devotion and sacrifices in
the cause of a lost country and of a despised religion--sacrifices and
efforts made with all the motives of faithfulness and of honour, and
terminating in ruin--in such a case respect becomes veneration, and the
interest we feel amounts almost to a passion.

It is this feeling which has thrown the magic veil of romance over every
roofless castle and ruined turret throughout our country; it is this
feeling that, so long as a tower remains above the level of the soil, so
long as one scion of a prostrate and impoverished family survives,
will never suffer Ireland to yield to the stranger more than the 'mouth
honour' which fear compels.(3) I who have conversed viva voce et propria
persona with those whose recollections could run back so far as the
times previous to the confiscations which followed the Revolution of
1688--whose memory could repeople halls long roofless and desolate, and
point out the places where greatness once had been, may feel all this
more strongly, and with a more vivid interest, than can those whose
sympathies are awakened by the feebler influence of what may be called
the PICTURESQUE effects of ruin and decay.


     (3) This passage serves (mirabile dictu) to corroborate a
     statement of Mr. O'Connell's, which occurs in his evidence
     given before the House of Commons, wherein he affirms that
     the principles of the Irish priesthood 'ARE democratic, and
     were those of Jacobinism.'--See digest of the evidence upon
     the state of Ireland, given before the House of Commons.


There do, indeed, still exist some fragments of the ancient Catholic
families of Ireland; but, alas! what VERY fragments! They linger like
the remnants of her aboriginal forests, reft indeed of their strength
and greatness, but proud even in decay. Every winter thins their ranks,
and strews the ground with the wreck of their loftiest branches; they
are at best but tolerated in the land which gave them birth--objects of
curiosity, perhaps of pity, to one class, but of veneration to another.

The O'Connors, of Castle Connor, were an ancient Irish family. The name
recurs frequently in our history, and is generally to be found in a
prominent place whenever periods of tumult or of peril called forth
the courage and the enterprise of this country. After the accession of
William III., the storm of confiscation which swept over the land
made woeful havoc in their broad domains. Some fragments of property,
however, did remain to them, and with it the building which had for ages
formed the family residence.

About the year 17--, my uncle, a Catholic priest, became acquainted with
the inmates of Castle Connor, and after a time introduced me, then a lad
of about fifteen, full of spirits, and little dreaming that a profession
so grave as his should ever become mine.

The family at that time consisted of but two members, a widow lady and
her only son, a young man aged about eighteen. In our early days the
progress from acquaintance to intimacy, and from intimacy to friendship
is proverbially rapid; and young O'Connor and I became, in less than a
month, close and confidential companions--an intercourse which ripened
gradually into an attachment ardent, deep, and devoted--such as I
believe young hearts only are capable of forming.

He had been left early fatherless, and the representative and heir of
his family. His mother's affection for him was intense in proportion as
there existed no other object to divide it--indeed--such love as that
she bore him I have never seen elsewhere. Her love was better bestowed
than that of mothers generally is, for young O'Connor, not without some
of the faults, had certainly many of the most engaging qualities of
youth. He had all the frankness and gaiety which attract, and the
generosity of heart which confirms friendship; indeed, I never saw a
person so universally popular; his very faults seemed to recommend
him; he was wild, extravagant, thoughtless, and fearlessly
adventurous--defects of character which, among the peasantry of Ireland,
are honoured as virtues. The combination of these qualities, and the
position which O'Connor occupied as representative of an ancient Irish
Catholic family--a peculiarly interesting one to me, one of the old
faith--endeared him to me so much that I have never felt the pangs of
parting more keenly than when it became necessary, for the finishing of
his education, that he should go abroad.

Three years had passed away before I saw him again. During the interval,
however, I had frequently heard from him, so that absence had not abated
the warmth of our attachment. Who could tell of the rejoicings that
marked the evening of his return? The horses were removed from the
chaise at the distance of a mile from the castle, while it and its
contents were borne rapidly onward almost by the pressure of the
multitude, like a log upon a torrent. Bonfires blared far and
near--bagpipes roared and fiddles squeaked; and, amid the thundering
shouts of thousands, the carriage drew up before the castle.

In an instant young O'Connor was upon the ground, crying, 'Thank you,
boys--thank you, boys;' while a thousand hands were stretched out from
all sides to grasp even a finger of his. Still, amid shouts of 'God
bless your honour--long may you reign!' and 'Make room there, boys!
clear the road for the masther!' he reached the threshold of the castle,
where stood his mother weeping for joy.

Oh! who could describe that embrace, or the enthusiasm with which it was
witnessed? 'God bless him to you, my lady--glory to ye both!' and 'Oh,
but he is a fine young gentleman, God bless him!' resounded on all
sides, while hats flew up in volleys that darkened the moon; and when at
length, amid the broad delighted grins of the thronging domestics, whose
sense of decorum precluded any more boisterous evidence of joy, they
reached the parlour, then giving way to the fulness of her joy the
widowed mother kissed and blessed him and wept in turn. Well might
any parent be proud to claim as son the handsome stripling who now
represented the Castle Connor family; but to her his beauty had a
peculiar charm, for it bore a striking resemblance to that of her
husband, the last O'Connor.

I know not whether partiality blinded me, or that I did no more than
justice to my friend in believing that I had never seen so handsome a
young man. I am inclined to think the latter. He was rather tall,
very slightly and elegantly made; his face was oval, and his features
decidedly Spanish in cast and complexion, but with far more vivacity
of expression than generally belongs to the beauty of that nation.
The extreme delicacy of his features and the varied animation of his
countenance made him appear even younger than his years--an illusion
which the total absence of everything studied in his manners seemed
to confirm. Time had wrought no small change in me, alike in mind and
spirits; but in the case of O'Connor it seemed to have lost its power to
alter. His gaiety was undamped, his generosity unchilled; and though
the space which had intervened between our parting and reunion was
but brief, yet at the period of life at which we were, even a shorter
interval than that of three years has frequently served to form or
DEform a character.

Weeks had passed away since the return of O'Connor, and scarce a day had
elapsed without my seeing him, when the neighbourhood was thrown into
an unusual state of excitement by the announcement of a race-ball to be
celebrated at the assembly-room of the town of T----, distant scarcely
two miles from Castle Connor.

Young O'Connor, as I had expected, determined at once to attend it; and
having directed in vain all the powers of his rhetoric to persuade his
mother to accompany him, he turned the whole battery of his logic upon
me, who, at that time, felt a reluctance stronger than that of mere
apathy to mixing in any of these scenes of noisy pleasure for which for
many reasons I felt myself unfitted. He was so urgent and persevering,
however, that I could not refuse; and I found myself reluctantly
obliged to make up my mind to attend him upon the important night to the
spacious but ill-finished building, which the fashion and beauty of the
county were pleased to term an assembly-room.

When we entered the apartment, we found a select few, surrounded by a
crowd of spectators, busily performing a minuet, with all the congees
and flourishes which belonged to that courtly dance; and my companion,
infected by the contagion of example, was soon, as I had anticipated,
waving his chapeau bras, and gracefully bowing before one of the
prettiest girls in the room. I had neither skill nor spirits to qualify
me to follow his example; and as the fulness of the room rendered it
easy to do so without its appearing singular, I determined to be merely
a spectator of the scene which surrounded me, without taking an active
part in its amusements.

The room was indeed very much crowded, so that its various groups,
formed as design or accident had thrown the parties together, afforded
no small fund of entertainment to the contemplative observer. There were
the dancers, all gaiety and good-humour; a little further off were the
tables at which sat the card-players, some plying their vocation with
deep and silent anxiety--for in those days gaming often ran very high in
such places--and others disputing with all the vociferous pertinacity
of undisguised ill-temper. There, again, were the sallow, blue-nosed,
grey-eyed dealers in whispered scandal; and, in short, there is scarcely
a group or combination to be met with in the court of kings which might
not have found a humble parallel in the assembly-room of T----.

I was allowed to indulge in undisturbed contemplation, for I suppose I
was not known to more than five or six in the room. I thus had leisure
not only to observe the different classes into which the company had
divided itself, but to amuse myself by speculating as to the rank and
character of many of the individual actors in the drama.

Among many who have long since passed from my memory, one person for
some time engaged my attention, and that person, for many reasons, I
shall not soon forget. He was a tall, square-shouldered man, who stood
in a careless attitude, leaning with his back to the wall; he seemed to
have secluded himself from the busy multitudes which moved noisily and
gaily around him, and nobody seemed to observe or to converse with him.
He was fashionably dressed, but perhaps rather extravagantly; his face
was full and heavy, expressive of sullenness and stupidity, and marked
with the lines of strong vulgarity; his age might be somewhere between
forty and fifty. Such as I have endeavoured to describe him, he remained
motionless, his arms doggedly folded across his broad chest, and turning
his sullen eyes from corner to corner of the room, as if eager to detect
some object on which to vent his ill-humour.

It is strange, and yet it is true, that one sometimes finds even in the
most commonplace countenance an undefinable something, which fascinates
the attention, and forces it to recur again and again, while it is
impossible to tell whether the peculiarity which thus attracts us lies
in feature or in expression, or in both combined, and why it is that our
observation should be engrossed by an object which, when analysed, seems
to possess no claim to interest or even to notice. This unaccountable
feeling I have often experienced, and I believe I am not singular.
but never in so remarkable a degree as upon this occasion. My friend
O'Connor, having disposed of his fair partner, was crossing the room
for the purpose of joining me, in doing which I was surprised to see him
exchange a familiar, almost a cordial, greeting with the object of
my curiosity. I say I was surprised, for independent of his very
questionable appearance, it struck me as strange that though so
constantly associated with O'Connor, and, as I thought, personally
acquainted with all his intimates, I had never before even seen this
individual. I did not fail immediately to ask him who this gentleman
was. I thought he seemed slightly embarrassed, but after a moment's
pause he laughingly said that his friend over the way was too mysterious
a personage to have his name announced in so giddy a scene as the
present; but that on the morrow he would furnish me with all the
information which I could desire. There was, I thought, in his affected
jocularity a real awkwardness which appeared to me unaccountable, and
consequently increased my curiosity; its gratification, however, I was
obliged to defer. At length, wearied with witnessing amusements in which
I could not sympathise, I left the room, and did not see O'Connor until
late in the next day.

I had ridden down towards the castle for the purpose of visiting the
O'Connors, and had nearly reached the avenue leading to the mansion,
when I met my friend. He was also mounted; and having answered my
inquiries respecting his mother, he easily persuaded me to accompany
him in his ramble. We had chatted as usual for some time, when, after a
pause, O'Connor said:

'By the way, Purcell, you expressed some curiosity respecting the tall,
handsome fellow to whom I spoke last night.'

'I certainly did question you about a TALL gentleman, but was not aware
of his claims to beauty,' replied I.

'Well, that is as it may be,' said he; 'the ladies think him handsome,
and their opinion upon that score is more valuable than yours or mine.
Do you know,' he continued, 'I sometimes feel half sorry that I ever
made the fellow's acquaintance: he is quite a marked man here, and they
tell stories of him that are anything but reputable, though I am sure
without foundation. I think I know enough about him to warrant me in
saying so.'

'May I ask his name?' inquired I.

'Oh! did not I tell you his name?' rejoined he. 'You should have heard
that first; he and his name are equally well known. You will recognise
the individual at once when I tell you that his name is--Fitzgerald.'

'Fitzgerald!' I repeated. 'Fitzgerald!--can it be Fitzgerald the
duellist?'

'Upon my word you have hit it,' replied he, laughing; 'but you have
accompanied the discovery with a look of horror more tragic than
appropriate. He is not the monster you take him for--he has a good deal
of old Irish pride; his temper is hasty, and he has been unfortunately
thrown in the way of men who have not made allowance for these things.
I am convinced that in every case in which Fitzgerald has fought, if the
truth could be discovered, he would be found to have acted throughout
upon the defensive. No man is mad enough to risk his own life, except
when the doing so is an alternative to submitting tamely to what he
considers an insult. I am certain that no man ever engaged in a duel
under the consciousness that he had acted an intentionally aggressive
part.'

'When did you make his acquaintance?' said I.

'About two years ago,' he replied. 'I met him in France, and you know
when one is abroad it is an ungracious task to reject the advances
of one's countryman, otherwise I think I should have avoided
his society--less upon my own account than because I am sure the
acquaintance would be a source of continual though groundless uneasiness
to my mother. I know, therefore, that you will not unnecessarily mention
its existence to her.'

I gave him the desired assurance, and added:

'May I ask you. O'Connor, if, indeed, it be a fair question, whether
this Fitzgerald at any time attempted to engage you in anything like
gaming?'

This question was suggested by my having frequently heard Fitzgerald
mentioned as a noted gambler, and sometimes even as a blackleg. O'Connor
seemed, I thought, slightly embarrassed. He answered:

'No, no--I cannot say that he ever attempted anything of the kind. I
certainly have played with him, but never lost to any serious amount;
nor can I recollect that he ever solicited me--indeed he knows that I
have a strong objection to deep play. YOU must be aware that my finances
could not bear much pruning down. I never lost more to him at a sitting
than about five pounds, which you know is nothing. No, you wrong him if
you imagine that he attached himself to me merely for the sake of such
contemptible winnings as those which a broken-down Irish gentleman could
afford him. Come, Purcell, you are too hard upon him--you judge only by
report; you must see him, and decide for yourself.--Suppose we call upon
him now; he is at the inn, in the High Street, not a mile off.'

I declined the proposal drily.

'Your caution is too easily alarmed,' said he. 'I do not wish you to
make this man your bosom friend: I merely desire that you should see and
speak to him, and if you form any acquaintance with him, it must be of
that slight nature which can be dropped or continued at pleasure.'

From the time that O'Connor had announced the fact that his friend
was no other than the notorious Fitzgerald, a foreboding of something
calamitous had come upon me, and it now occurred to me that if any
unpleasantness were to be feared as likely to result to O'Connor
from their connection, I might find my attempts to extricate him much
facilitated by my being acquainted, however slightly, with Fitzgerald. I
know not whether the idea was reasonable--it was certainly natural; and
I told O'Connor that upon second thoughts I would ride down with him to
the town, and wait upon Mr. Fitzgerald.

We found him at home; and chatted with him for a considerable time. To
my surprise his manners were perfectly those of a gentleman, and his
conversation, if not peculiarly engaging, was certainly amusing. The
politeness of his demeanour, and the easy fluency with which he told his
stories and his anecdotes, many of them curious, and all more or less
entertaining, accounted to my mind at once for the facility with which
he had improved his acquaintance with O'Connor; and when he pressed
upon us an invitation to sup with him that night, I had almost joined
O'Connor in accepting it. I determined, however, against doing so, for
I had no wish to be on terms of familiarity with Mr. Fitzgerald; and
I knew that one evening spent together as he proposed would go further
towards establishing an intimacy between us than fifty morning visits
could do. When I arose to depart, it was with feelings almost favourable
to Fitzgerald; indeed I was more than half ashamed to acknowledge to my
companion how complete a revolution in my opinion respecting his
friend half an hour's conversation with him had wrought. His appearance
certainly WAS against him; but then, under the influence of his manner,
one lost sight of much of its ungainliness, and of nearly all its
vulgarity; and, on the whole, I felt convinced that report had done
him grievous wrong, inasmuch as anybody, by an observance of the common
courtesies of society, might easily avoid coming into personal collision
with a gentleman so studiously polite as Fitzgerald. At parting,
O'Connor requested me to call upon him the next day, as he intended to
make trial of the merits of a pair of greyhounds, which he had thoughts
of purchasing; adding, that if he could escape in anything like
tolerable time from Fitzgerald's supper-party, he would take the field
soon after ten on the next morning. At the appointed hour, or perhaps a
little later, I dismounted at Castle Connor; and, on entering the
hall, I observed a gentleman issuing from O'Connor's private room. I
recognised him, as he approached, as a Mr. M'Donough, and, being but
slightly acquainted with him, was about to pass him with a bow, when he
stopped me. There was something in his manner which struck me as odd;
he seemed a good deal flurried if not agitated, and said, in a hurried
tone:

'This is a very foolish business, Mr. Purcell. You have some influence
with my friend O'Connor; I hope you can induce him to adopt some more
moderate line of conduct than that he has decided upon. If you will
allow me, I will return for a moment with you, and talk over the matter
again with O'Connor.'

As M'Donough uttered these words, I felt that sudden sinking of the
heart which accompanies the immediate anticipation of something dreaded
and dreadful. I was instantly convinced that O'Connor had quarrelled
with Fitzgerald, and I knew that if such were the case, nothing short
of a miracle could extricate him from the consequences. I signed to
M'Donough to lead the way, and we entered the little study together.
O'Connor was standing with his back to the fire; on the table lay the
breakfast-things in the disorder in which a hurried meal had left them;
and on another smaller table, placed near the hearth, lay pen, ink,
and paper. As soon as O'Connor saw me, he came forward and shook me
cordially by the hand.

'My dear Purcell,' said he, 'you are the very man I wanted. I have got
into an ugly scrape, and I trust to my friends to get me out of it.'

'You have had no dispute with that man--that Fitzgerald, I hope,' said
I, giving utterance to the conjecture whose truth I most dreaded.

'Faith, I cannot say exactly what passed between us,' said he, 'inasmuch
as I was at the time nearly half seas over; but of this much I am
certain, that we exchanged angry words last night. I lost my temper most
confoundedly; but, as well as I can recollect, he appeared perfectly
cool and collected. What he said was, therefore, deliberately said, and
on that account must be resented.'

'My dear O'Connor, are you mad?' I exclaimed. 'Why will you seek to
drive to a deadly issue a few hasty words, uttered under the influence
of wine, and forgotten almost as soon as uttered? A quarrel with
Fitzgerald it is twenty chances to one would terminate fatally to you.'

'It is exactly because Fitzgerald IS such an accomplished shot,'
said he, 'that I become liable to the most injurious and intolerable
suspicions if I submit to anything from him which could be construed
into an affront; and for that reason Fitzgerald is the very last man to
whom I would concede an inch in a case of honour.'

'I do not require you to make any, the slightest sacrifice of what
you term your honour,' I replied; 'but if you have actually written a
challenge to Fitzgerald, as I suspect you have done, I conjure you to
reconsider the matter before you despatch it. From all that I have heard
you say, Fitzgerald has more to complain of in the altercation which has
taken place than you. You owe it to your only surviving parent not to
thrust yourself thus wantonly upon--I will say it, the most appalling
danger. Nobody, my dear O'Connor, can have a doubt of your courage; and
if at any time, which God forbid, you shall be called upon thus to risk
your life, you should have it in your power to enter the field under the
consciousness that you have acted throughout temperately and like a man,
and not, as I fear you now would do, having rashly and most causelessly
endangered your own life and that of your friend.'

'I believe, Purcell, your are right,' said he. 'I believe I HAVE viewed
the matter in too decided a light; my note, I think, scarcely allows
him an honourable alternative, and that is certainly going a step too
far--further than I intended. Mr. M'Donough, I'll thank you to hand me
the note.'

He broke the seal, and, casting his eye hastily over it, he continued:

'It is, indeed, a monument of folly. I am very glad, Purcell, you
happened to come in, otherwise it would have reached its destination by
this time.'

He threw it into the fire; and, after a moment's pause, resumed:

'You must not mistake me, however. I am perfectly satisfied as to the
propriety, nay, the necessity, of communicating with Fitzgerald. The
difficulty is in what tone I should address him. I cannot say that the
man directly affronted me--I cannot recollect any one expression which
I could lay hold upon as offensive--but his language was ambiguous, and
admitted frequently of the most insulting construction, and his manner
throughout was insupportably domineering. I know it impressed me with
the idea that he presumed upon his reputation as a DEAD SHOT, and that
would be utterly unendurable.'

'I would now recommend, as I have already done,' said M'Donough, 'that
if you write to Fitzgerald, it should be in such a strain as to leave
him at perfect liberty, without a compromise of honour, in a friendly
way, to satisfy your doubts as to his conduct.'

I seconded the proposal warmly, and O'Connor, in a few minutes, finished
a note, which he desired us to read. It was to this effect:


'O'Connor, of Castle Connor, feeling that some expressions employed by
Mr. Fitzgerald upon last night, admitted of a construction offensive
to him, and injurious to his character, requests to know whether Mr.
Fitzgerald intended to convey such a meaning.

'Castle Connor, Thursday morning.'


This note was consigned to the care of Mr. M'Donough, who forthwith
departed to execute his mission. The sound of his horse's hoofs, as
he rode rapidly away, struck heavily at my heart; but I found some
satisfaction in the reflection that M'Donough appeared as averse from
extreme measures as I was myself, for I well knew, with respect to the
final result of the affair, that as much depended upon the tone adopted
by the SECOND, as upon the nature of the written communication.

I have seldom passed a more anxious hour than that which intervened
between the departure and the return of that gentleman. Every instant I
imagined I heard the tramp of a horse approaching, and every time that
a door opened I fancied it was to give entrance to the eagerly expected
courier. At length I did hear the hollow and rapid tread of a horse's
hoof upon the avenue. It approached--it stopped--a hurried step
traversed the hall--the room door opened, and M'Donough entered.

'You have made great haste,' said O'Connor; 'did you find him at home?'

'I did,' replied M'Donough, 'and made the greater haste as Fitzgerald
did not let me know the contents of his reply.'

At the same time he handed a note to O'Connor, who instantly broke the
seal. The words were as follow:


'Mr. Fitzgerald regrets that anything which has fallen from him should
have appeared to Mr. O'Connor to be intended to convey a reflection upon
his honour (none such having been meant), and begs leave to disavow any
wish to quarrel unnecessarily with Mr. O'Connor.

'T---- Inn, Thursday morning.'


I cannot describe how much I felt relieved on reading the above
communication. I took O'Connor's hand and pressed it warmly, but my
emotions were deeper and stronger than I cared to show, for I was
convinced that he had escaped a most imminent danger. Nobody whose
notions upon the subject are derived from the duelling of modern times,
in which matters are conducted without any very sanguinary determination
upon either side, and with equal want of skill and coolness by both
parties, can form a just estimate of the danger incurred by one who
ventured to encounter a duellist of the old school. Perfect coolness
in the field, and a steadiness and accuracy (which to the unpractised
appeared almost miraculous) in the use of the pistol, formed the
characteristics of this class; and in addition to this there generally
existed a kind of professional pride, which prompted the duellist, in
default of any more malignant feeling, from motives of mere vanity,
to seek the life of his antagonist. Fitzgerald's career had been a
remarkably successful one, and I knew that out of thirteen duels which
he had fought in Ireland, in nine cases he had KILLED his man. In
those days one never heard of the parties leaving the field, as not
unfrequently now occurs, without blood having been spilt; and the
odds were, of course, in all cases tremendously against a young and
unpractised man, when matched with an experienced antagonist. My
impression respecting the magnitude of the danger which my friend had
incurred was therefore by no means unwarranted.

I now questioned O'Connor more accurately respecting the circumstances
of his quarrel with Fitzgerald. It arose from some dispute respecting
the application of a rule of piquet, at which game they had been
playing, each interpreting it favourably to himself, and O'Connor,
having lost considerably, was in no mood to conduct an argument with
temper--an altercation ensued, and that of rather a pungent nature,
and the result was that he left Fitzgerald's room rather abruptly,
determined to demand an explanation in the most peremptory tone. For
this purpose he had sent for M'Donough, and had commissioned him to
deliver the note, which my arrival had fortunately intercepted.

As it was now past noon, O'Connor made me promise to remain with him
to dinner; and we sat down a party of three, all in high spirits at
the termination of our anxieties. It is necessary to mention, for the
purpose of accounting for what follows, that Mrs. O'Connor, or, as she
was more euphoniously styled, the lady of Castle Connor, was precluded
by ill-health from taking her place at the dinner-table, and, indeed,
seldom left her room before four o'clock.(4) We were sitting after
dinner sipping our claret, and talking, and laughing, and enjoying
ourselves exceedingly, when a servant, stepping into the room, informed
his master that a gentleman wanted to speak with him.


     (4) It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader, that at
     the period spoken of, the important hour of dinner occurred
     very nearly at noon.


'Request him, with my compliments, to walk in,' said O'Connor; and in a
few moments a gentleman entered the room.

His appearance was anything but prepossessing. He was a little above the
middle size, spare, and raw-boned; his face very red, his features sharp
and bluish, and his age might be about sixty. His attire savoured a good
deal of the SHABBY-GENTEEL; his clothes, which had much of tarnished
and faded pretension about them, did not fit him, and had not improbably
fluttered in the stalls of Plunket Street. We had risen on his entrance,
and O'Connor had twice requested of him to take a chair at the table,
without his hearing, or at least noticing, the invitation; while with
a slow pace, and with an air of mingled importance and effrontery, he
advanced into the centre of the apartment, and regarding our small party
with a supercilious air, he said:

'I take the liberty of introducing myself--I am Captain M'Creagh,
formerly of the--infantry. My business here is with a Mr. O'Connor, and
the sooner it is despatched the better.'

'I am the gentleman you name,' said O'Connor; 'and as you appear
impatient, we had better proceed to your commission without delay.'

'Then, Mr. O'Connor, you will please to read that note,' said the
captain, placing a sealed paper in his hand.

O'Connor read it through, and then observed:

'This is very extraordinary indeed. This note appears to me perfectly
unaccountable.'

'You are very young, Mr. O'Connor,' said the captain, with vulgar
familiarity; 'but, without much experience in these matters, I think
you might have anticipated something like this. You know the old saying,
"Second thoughts are best;" and so they are like to prove, by G--!'

'You will have no objection, Captain M'Creagh, on the part of your
friend, to my reading this note to these gentlemen; they are both
confidential friends of mine, and one of them has already acted for me
in this business.'

'I can have no objection,' replied the captain, 'to your doing what you
please with your own. I have nothing more to do with that note once I
put it safe into your hand; and when that is once done, it is all one to
me, if you read it to half the world--that's YOUR concern, and no affair
of mine.'

O'Connor then read the following:


'Mr. Fitzgerald begs leave to state, that upon re-perusing Mr.
O'Connor's communication of this morning carefully, with an experienced
friend, he is forced to consider himself as challenged. His friend,
Captain M'Creagh, has been empowered by him to make all the necessary
arrangements.

'T---- Inn, Thursday.'


I can hardly describe the astonishment with which I heard this note. I
turned to the captain, and said:

'Surely, sir, there is some mistake in all this?'

'Not the slightest, I'll assure you, sir.' said he, coolly; 'the case is
a very clear one, and I think my friend has pretty well made up his mind
upon it. May I request your answer?' he continued, turning to O'Connor;
'time is precious, you know.'

O'Connor expressed his willingness to comply with the suggestion, and in
a few minutes had folded and directed the following rejoinder:


'Mr. O'Connor having received a satisfactory explanation from Mr.
Fitzgerald, of the language used by that gentleman, feels that there no
longer exists any grounds for misunderstanding, and wishes further to
state, that the note of which Mr. Fitzgerald speaks was not intended as
a challenge.'


With this note the captain departed; and as we did not doubt that the
message which he had delivered had been suggested by some unintentional
misconstruction of O'Connor's first billet, we felt assured that the
conclusion of his last note would set the matter at rest. In this
belief, however, we were mistaken; before we had left the table, and in
an incredibly short time, the captain returned. He entered the room
with a countenance evidently tasked to avoid expressing the satisfaction
which a consciousness of the nature of his mission had conferred; but
in spite of all his efforts to look gravely unconcerned, there was a
twinkle in the small grey eye, and an almost imperceptible motion in the
corner of the mouth, which sufficiently betrayed his internal glee, as
he placed a note in the hand of O'Connor. As the young man cast his eye
over it, he coloured deeply, and turning to M'Donough, he said:

'You will have the goodness to make all the necessary arrangements for
a meeting. Something has occurred to render one between me and Mr.
Fitzgerald inevitable. Understand me literally, when I say that it is
now totally impossible that this affair should be amicably arranged.
You will have the goodness, M'Donough, to let me know as soon as all
the particulars are arranged. Purcell,' he continued, 'will you have
the kindness to accompany me?' and having bowed to M'Creagh, we left the
room.

As I closed the door after me, I heard the captain laugh, and thought I
could distinguish the words--'By ---- I knew Fitzgerald would bring him
to his way of thinking before he stopped.'

I followed O'Connor into his study, and on entering, the door being
closed, he showed me the communication which had determined him upon
hostilities. Its language was grossly impertinent, and it concluded by
actually threatening to 'POST' him, in case he further attempted 'to
be OFF.' I cannot describe the agony of indignation in which O'Connor
writhed under this insult. He said repeatedly that 'he was a degraded
and dishohoured man,' that 'he was dragged into the field,' that 'there
was ignominy in the very thought that such a letter should have
been directed to him.' It was in vain that I reasoned against this
impression; the conviction that he had been disgraced had taken
possession of his mind. He said again and again that nothing but his
DEATH could remove the stain which his indecision had cast upon the
name of his family. I hurried to the hall, on hearing M'Donough and the
captain passing, and reached the door just in time to hear the latter
say, as he mounted his horse:

'All the rest can be arranged on the spot; and so farewell, Mr.
M'Donough--we'll meet at Philippi, you know;' and with this classical
allusion, which was accompanied with a grin and a bow, and probably
served many such occasions, the captain took his departure.

M'Donough briefly stated the few particulars which had been arranged.
The parties were to meet at the stand-house, in the race-ground, which
lay at about an equal distance between Castle Connor and the town of
T----. The hour appointed was half-past five on the next morning, at
which time the twilight would be sufficiently advanced to afford a
distinct view; and the weapons to be employed were PISTOLS--M'Creagh
having claimed, on the part of his friend, all the advantages of the
CHALLENGED party, and having, consequently, insisted upon the choice of
'TOOLS,' as he expressed himself; and it was further stipulated that the
utmost secrecy should be observed, as Fitzgerald would incur great risk
from the violence of the peasantry, in case the affair took wind. These
conditions were, of course, agreed upon by O'Connor, and M'Donough left
the castle, having appointed four o'clock upon the next morning as the
hour of his return, by which time it would be his business to provide
everything necessary for the meeting. On his departure, O'Connor
requested me to remain with him upon that evening, saying that 'he
could not bear to be alone with his mother.' It was to me a most painful
request, but at the same time one which I could not think of refusing.
I felt, however, that the difficulty at least of the task which I had
to perform would be in some measure mitigated by the arrival of two
relations of O'Connor upon that evening.

'It is very fortunate,' said O'Connor, whose thoughts had been running
upon the same subject, 'that the O'Gradys will be with us to-night;
their gaiety and good-humour will relieve us from a heavy task. I trust
that nothing may occur to prevent their coming.' Fervently concurring in
the same wish, I accompanied O'Connor into the parlour, there to await
the arrival of his mother.

God grant that I may never spend such another evening! The O'Gradys DID
come, but their high and noisy spirits, so far from relieving me, did
but give additional gloom to the despondency, I might say the despair,
which filled my heart with misery--the terrible forebodings which I
could not for an instant silence, turned their laughter into discord,
and seemed to mock the smiles and jests of the unconscious party. When
I turned my eyes upon the mother, I thought I never had seen her look so
proudly and so lovingly upon her son before--it cut me to the heart--oh,
how cruelly I was deceiving her! I was a hundred times on the very point
of starting up, and, at all hazards, declaring to her how matters
were; but other feelings subdued my better emotions. Oh, what monsters
are we made of by the fashions of the world! how are our kindlier and
nobler feelings warped or destroyed by their baleful influences! I felt
that it would not be HONOURABLE, that it would not be ETIQUETTE, to
betray O'Connor's secret. I sacrificed a higher and a nobler duty than I
have since been called upon to perform, to the dastardly fear of bearing
the unmerited censure of a world from which I was about to retire. O
Fashion! thou gaudy idol, whose feet are red with the blood of human
sacrifice, would I had always felt towards thee as I now do!

O'Connor was not dejected; on the contrary, he joined with loud and
lively alacrity in the hilarity of the little party; but I could see in
the flush of his cheek, and in the unusual brightness of his eye, all
the excitement of fever--he was making an effort almost beyond his
strength, but he succeeded--and when his mother rose to leave the
room, it was with the impression that her son was the gayest and most
light-hearted of the company. Twice or thrice she had risen with the
intention of retiring, but O'Connor, with an eagerness which I alone
could understand, had persuaded her to remain until the usual hour of
her departure had long passed; and when at length she arose, declaring
that she could not possibly stay longer, I alone could comprehend the
desolate change which passed over his manner; and when I saw them part,
it was with the sickening conviction that those two beings, so dear to
one another, so loved, so cherished, should meet no more.

O'Connor briefly informed his cousins of the position in which he was
placed, requesting them at the same time to accompany him to the field,
and this having been settled, we separated, each to his own apartment.
I had wished to sit up with O'Connor, who had matters to arrange
sufficient to employ him until the hour appointed for M'Donough's visit;
but he would not hear of it, and I was forced, though sorely against
my will, to leave him without a companion. I went to my room, and, in
a state of excitement which I cannot describe, I paced for hours up and
down its narrow precincts. I could not--who could?--analyse the strange,
contradictory, torturing feelings which, while I recoiled in shrinking
horror from the scene which the morning was to bring, yet forced me to
wish the intervening time annihilated; each hour that the clock told
seemed to vibrate and tinkle through every nerve; my agitation was
dreadful; fancy conjured up the forms of those who filled my thoughts
with more than the vividness of reality; things seemed to glide through
the dusky shadows of the room. I saw the dreaded form of Fitzgerald--I
heard the hated laugh of the captain--and again the features of O'Connor
would appear before me, with ghastly distinctness, pale and writhed in
death, the gouts of gore clotted in the mouth, and the eye-balls
glared and staring. Scared with the visions which seemed to throng with
unceasing rapidity and vividness, I threw open the window and looked out
upon the quiet scene around. I turned my eyes in the direction of the
town; a heavy cloud was lowering darkly about it, and I, in impious
frenzy, prayed to God that it might burst in avenging fires upon the
murderous wretch who lay beneath. At length, sick and giddy with excess
of excitement, I threw myself upon the bed without removing my clothes,
and endeavoured to compose myself so far as to remain quiet until the
hour for our assembling should arrive.

A few minutes before four o'clock I stole noiselessly downstairs, and
made my way to the small study already mentioned. A candle was burning
within; and, when I opened the door, O'Connor was reading a book, which,
on seeing me, he hastily closed, colouring slightly as he did so. We
exchanged a cordial but mournful greeting; and after a slight pause he
said, laying his hand upon the volume which he had shut a moment before:

'Purcell, I feel perfectly calm, though I cannot say that I have much
hope as to the issue of this morning's rencounter. I shall avoid half
the danger. If I must fall, I am determined I shall not go down to
the grave with his blood upon my hands. I have resolved not to fire at
Fitzgerald--that is, to fire in such a direction as to assure myself
against hitting him. Do not say a word of this to the O'Gradys. Your
doing so would only produce fruitless altercation; they could not
understand my motives. I feel convinced that I shall not leave the
field alive. If I must die to-day, I shall avoid an awful aggravation
of wretchedness. Purcell,' he continued, after a little space, 'I was so
weak as to feel almost ashamed of the manner in which I was occupied as
you entered the room. Yes, _I--I_ who will be, before this evening,
a cold and lifeless clod, was ashamed to have spent my last moment of
reflection in prayer. God pardon me! God pardon me!' he repeated.

I took his hand and pressed it, but I could not speak. I sought for
words of comfort, but they would not come. To have uttered one cheering
sentence I must have contradicted every impression of my own mind. I
felt too much awed to attempt it. Shortly afterwards, M'Donough arrived.
No wretched patient ever underwent a more thrilling revulsion at the
first sight of the case of surgical instruments under which he had to
suffer, than did I upon beholding a certain oblong flat mahogany box,
bound with brass, and of about two feet in length, laid upon the table
in the hall. O'Connor, thanking him for his punctuality, requested
him to come into his study for a moment, when, with a melancholy
collectedness, he proceeded to make arrangements for our witnessing
his will. The document was a brief one, and the whole matter was just
arranged, when the two O'Gradys crept softly into the room.

'So! last will and testament,' said the elder. 'Why, you have a very
BLUE notion of these matters. I tell you, you need not be uneasy.
I remember very well, when young Ryan of Ballykealey met M'Neil the
duellist, bets ran twenty to one against him. I stole away from school,
and had a peep at the fun as well as the best of them. They fired
together. Ryan received the ball through the collar of his coat, and
M'Neil in the temple; he spun like a top: it was a most unexpected
thing, and disappointed his friends damnably. It was admitted, however,
to have been very pretty shooting upon both sides. To be sure,' he
continued, pointing to the will, 'you are in the right to keep upon the
safe side of fortune; but then, there is no occasion to be altogether so
devilish down in the mouth as you appear to be.'

'You will allow,' said O'Connor, 'that the chances are heavily against
me.'

'Why, let me see,' he replied, 'not so hollow a thin, either. Let me
see, we'll say about four to one against you; you may chance to throw
doublets like him I told you of, and then what becomes of the odds I'd
like to know? But let things go as they will, I'll give and take four to
one, in pounds and tens of pounds. There, M'Donough, there's a GET
for you; b--t me, if it is not. Poh! the fellow is stolen away,' he
continued, observing that the object of his proposal had left the room;
'but d---- it, Purcell, you are fond of a SOFT THING, too, in a quiet
way--I'm sure you are--so curse me if I do not make you the same
offer-is it a go?'

I was too much disgusted to make any reply, but I believe my looks
expressed my feelings sufficiently, for in a moment he said:

'Well, I see there is nothing to be done, so we may as well be stirring.
M'Donough, myself, and my brother will saddle the horses in a jiffy,
while you and Purcell settle anything which remains to be arranged.'

So saying, he left the room with as much alacrity as if it were to
prepare for a foxhunt. Selfish, heartless fool! I have often since heard
him spoken of as A CURSED GOOD-NATURED DOG and a D---- GOOD FELLOW; but
such eulogies as these are not calculated to mitigate the abhorrence
with which his conduct upon that morning inspired me.

The chill mists of night were still hovering on the landscape as our
party left the castle. It was a raw, comfortless morning--a kind of
drizzling fog hung heavily over the scene, dimming the light of the
sun, which had now risen, into a pale and even a grey glimmer. As the
appointed hour was fast approaching, it was proposed that we should
enter the race-ground at a point close to the stand-house--a measure
which would save us a ride of nearly two miles, over a broken road; at
which distance there was an open entrance into the race-ground. Here,
accordingly, we dismounted, and leaving our horses in the care of
a country fellow who happened to be stirring at that early hour, we
proceeded up a narrow lane, over a side wall of which we were to climb
into the open ground where stood the now deserted building, under which
the meeting was to take place. Our progress was intercepted by the
unexpected appearance of an old woman, who, in the scarlet cloak which
is the picturesque characteristic of the female peasantry of the south,
was moving slowly down the avenue to meet us, uttering that peculiarly
wild and piteous lamentation well known by the name of 'the Irish cry,'
accompanied throughout by all the customary gesticulation of
passionate grief. This rencounter was more awkward than we had at first
anticipated; for, upon a nearer approach, the person proved to be no
other than an old attached dependent of the family, and who had herself
nursed O'Connor. She quickened her pace as we advanced almost to a run;
and, throwing her arms round O'Connor's neck, she poured forth such a
torrent of lamentation, reproach, and endearment, as showed that she was
aware of the nature of our purpose, whence and by what means I knew not.
It was in vain that he sought to satisfy her by evasion, and gently
to extricate himself from her embrace. She knelt upon the ground, and
clasped her arms round his legs, uttering all the while such touching
supplications, such cutting and passionate expressions of woe, as went
to my very heart.

At length, with much difficulty, we passed this most painful
interruption; and, crossing the boundary wall, were placed beyond her
reach. The O'Gradys damned her for a troublesome hag, and passed on
with O'Connor, but I remained behind for a moment. The poor woman looked
hopelessly at the high wall which separated her from him she had loved
from infancy, and to be with whom at that minute she would have given
worlds, she took her seat upon a solitary stone under the opposite wall,
and there, in a low, subdued key, she continued to utter her sorrow in
words so desolate, yet expressing such a tenderness of devotion as wrung
my heart.

'My poor woman,' I said, laying my hand gently upon her shoulder, 'you
will make yourself ill; the morning is very cold, and your cloak is but
a thin defence against the damp and chill. Pray return home and take
this; it may be useful to you.'

So saying, I dropped a purse, with what money I had about me, into her
lap, but it lay there unheeded; she did not hear me.

'Oh I my child, my child, my darlin',' she sobbed, 'are you gone from
me? are you gone from me? Ah, mavourneen, mavourneen, you'll never come
back alive to me again. The crathur that slept on my bosom--the lovin'
crathur that I was so proud of--they'll kill him, they'll kill him. Oh,
voh! voh!'

The affecting tone, the feeling, the abandonment with which all this was
uttered, none can conceive who have not heard the lamentations of the
Irish peasantry. It brought tears to my eyes. I saw that no consolation
of mine could soothe her grief, so I turned and departed; but as I
rapidly traversed the level sward which separated me from my companions,
now considerably in advance, I could still hear the wailings of the
solitary mourner.

As we approached the stand-house, it was evident that our antagonists
had already arrived. Our path lay by the side of a high fence
constructed of loose stones, and on turning a sharp angle at its
extremity, we found ourselves close to the appointed spot, and within
a few yards of a crowd of persons, some mounted and some on foot,
evidently awaiting our arrival. The affair had unaccountably taken wind,
as the number of the expectants clearly showed; but for this there was
now no remedy.

As our little party advanced we were met and saluted by several
acquaintances, whom curiosity, if no deeper feeling, had brought to the
place. Fitzgerald and the Captain had arrived, and having dismounted,
were standing upon the sod. The former, as we approached, bowed slightly
and sullenly--while the latter, evidently in high good humour, made his
most courteous obeisance. No time was to be lost; and the two seconds
immediately withdrew to a slight distance, for the purpose of completing
the last minute arrangements. It was a brief but horrible interval--each
returned to his principal to communicate the result, which was soon
caught up and repeated from mouth to mouth throughout the crowd. I
felt a strange and insurmountable reluctance to hear the sickening
particulars detailed; and as I stood irresolute at some distance from
the principal parties, a top-booted squireen, with a hunting whip in his
hand, bustling up to a companion of his, exclaimed:

'Not fire together!--did you ever hear the like? If Fitzgerald gets the
first shot all is over. M'Donough sold the pass, by----, and that is the
long and the short of it.'

The parties now moved down a little to a small level space, suited to
the purpose; and the captain, addressing M'Donough, said:

'Mr. M'Donough, you'll now have the goodness to toss for choice of
ground; as the light comes from the east the line must of course run
north and south. Will you be so obliging as to toss up a crown-piece,
while I call?'

A coin was instantly chucked into the air. The captain cried, 'Harp.'
The HEAD was uppermost, and M'Donough immediately made choice of the
southern point at which to place his friend--a position which it will
be easily seen had the advantage of turning his back upon the light--no
trifling superiority of location. The captain turned with a kind of
laugh, and said:

'By ----, sir, you are as cunning as a dead pig; but you forgot one
thing. My friend is a left-handed gunner, though never a bit the worse
for that; so you see there is no odds as far as the choice of light
goes.'

He then proceeded to measure nine paces in a direction running north and
south, and the principals took their ground.

'I must be troublesome to you once again, Mr. M'Donough. One toss more,
and everything is complete. We must settle who is to have the FIRST
SLAP.'

A piece of money was again thrown into the air; again the captain lost
the toss and M'Donough proceeded to load the pistols. I happened to
stand near Fitzgerald, and I overheard the captain, with a chuckle, say
something to him in which the word 'cravat' was repeated. It instantly
occurred to me that the captain's attention was directed to a
bright-coloured muffler which O'Connor wore round his neck, and which
would afford his antagonist a distinct and favourable mark. I instantly
urged him to remove it, and at length, with difficulty, succeeded.
He seemed perfectly careless as to any precaution. Everything was now
ready; the pistol was placed in O'Connor's hand, and he only awaited the
word from the captain.

M'Creagh then said:

'Mr. M'Donough, is your principal ready?'

M'Donough replied in the affirmative; and, after a slight pause, the
captain, as had been arranged, uttered the words:

'Ready--fire.'

O'Connor fired, but so wide of the mark that some one in the crowd
exclaimed:

'Fired in the air.'

'Who says he fired in the air?' thundered Fitzgerald. 'By ---- he lies,
whoever he is.' There was a silence. 'But even if he was fool enough to
fire in the air, it is not in HIS power to put an end to the quarrel by
THAT. D---- my soul, if I am come here to be played with like a child,
and by the Almighty ---- you shall hear more of this, each and everyone
of you, before I'm satisfied.'

A kind of low murmur, or rather groan, was now raised, and a slight
motion was observable in the crowd, as if to intercept Fitzgerald's
passage to his horse. M'Creagh, drawing the horse close to the spot
where Fitzgerald stood, threatened, with the most awful imprecations,
'to blow the brains out of the first man who should dare to press on
them.'

O'Connor now interfered, requesting the crowd to forbear, and some
degree of order was restored. He then said, 'that in firing as he
did, he had no intention whatever of waiving his right of firing upon
Fitzgerald, and of depriving that gentleman of his right of prosecuting
the affair to the utmost--that if any person present imagined that he
intended to fire in the air, he begged to set him right; since, so far
from seeking to exort an unwilling reconciliation, he was determined
that no power on earth should induce him to concede one inch of ground
to Mr. Fitzgerald.'

This announcement was received with a shout by the crowd, who now
resumed their places at either side of the plot of ground which had
been measured. The principals took their places once more, and M'Creagh
proceeded, with the nicest and most anxious care, to load the pistols;
and this task being accomplished, Fitzgerald whispered something in the
Captain's ear, who instantly drew his friend's horse so as to place
him within a step of his rider, and then tightened the girths. This
accomplished, Fitzgerald proceeded deliberately to remove his coat,
which he threw across his horse in front of the saddle; and then,
with the assistance of M'Creagh, he rolled the shirt sleeve up to the
shoulder, so as to leave the whole of his muscular arm perfectly naked.
A cry of 'Coward, coward! butcher, butcher!' arose from the crowd.
Fitzgerald paused.

'Do you object, Mr. M'Donough? and upon what grounds, if you please?'
said he.

'Certainly he does not,' replied O'Connor; and, turning to M'Donough, he
added, 'pray let there be no unnecessary delay.'

'There is no objection, then,' said Fitzgerald.

'_I_ object,' said the younger of the O'Gradys, 'if nobody else will.'

' And who the devil are you, that DARES to object?' shouted Fitzgerald;
'and what d--d presumption prompts you to DARE to wag your tongue here?'

'I am Mr. O'Grady, of Castle Blake,' replied the young man, now much
enraged; 'and by ----, you shall answer for your language to me.'

'Shall I, by ----? Shall I?' cried he, with a laugh of brutal scorn;
'the more the merrier, d--n the doubt of it--so now hold your tongue,
for I promise you you shall have business enough of your own to think
about, and that before long.'

There was an appalling ferocity in his tone and manner which no
words could convey. He seemed transformed; he was actually like a man
possessed. Was it possible, I thought, that I beheld the courteous
gentleman, the gay, good-humoured retailer of amusing anecdote with
whom, scarce two days ago, I had laughed and chatted, in the blasphemous
and murderous ruffian who glared and stormed before me!

O'Connor interposed, and requested that time should not be unnecessarily
lost.

'You have not got a second coat on?' inquired the Captain. 'I beg
pardon, but my duty to my friend requires that I should ascertain the
point.'

O'Connor replied in the negative. The Captain expressed himself as
satisfied, adding, in what he meant to be a complimentary strain, 'that
he knew Mr. O'Connor would scorn to employ padding or any unfair mode of
protection.'

There was now a breathless silence. O'Connor stood perfectly motionless;
and, excepting the death-like paleness of his features, he exhibited
no sign of agitation. His eye was steady--his lip did not tremble--his
attitude was calm. The Captain, having re-examined the priming of
the pistols, placed one of them in the hand of Fitzgerald.--M'Donough
inquired whether the parties were prepared, and having been answered
in the affirmative, he proceeded to give the word, 'Ready.' Fitzgerald
raised his hand, but almost instantly lowered it again. The crowd had
pressed too much forward as it appeared, and his eye had been unsteadied
by the flapping of the skirt of a frieze riding-coat worn by one of the
spectators.

'In the name of my principal,' said the Captain, 'I must and do insist
upon these gentlemen moving back a little. We ask but little; fair play,
and no favour.'

The crowd moved as requested. M'Donough repeated his former question,
and was answered as before. There was a breathless silence. Fitzgerald
fixed his eye upon O'Connor. The appointed signal, 'Ready, fire!' was
given. There was a pause while one might slowly reckon three--Fitzgerald
fired--and O'Connor fell helplessly upon the ground.

'There is no time to be lost,' said M'Creagrh; 'for, by ----, you have
done for him.'

So saying, he threw himself upon his horse, and was instantly followed
at a hard gallop by Fitzgerald.

'Cold-blooded murder, if ever murder was committed,' said O'Grady. 'He
shall hang for it; d--n me, but he shall.'

A hopeless attempt was made to overtake the fugitives; but they were
better mounted than any of their pursuers, and escaped with ease.
Curses and actual yells of execration followed their course; and as,
in crossing the brow of a neighbouring hill, they turned round in
the saddle to observe if they were pursued, every gesture which could
express fury and defiance was exhausted by the enraged and defeated
multitude.

'Clear the way, boys,' said young O'Grady, who with me was kneeling
beside O'Connor, while we supported him in our arms; 'do not press so
close, and be d--d; can't you let the fresh air to him; don't you see
he's dying?'

On opening his waistcoat we easily detected the wound: it was a little
below the chest--a small blue mark, from which oozed a single heavy drop
of blood.

'He is bleeding but little--that is a comfort at all events,' said one
of the gentlemen who surrounded the wounded man.

Another suggested the expediency of his being removed homeward with as
little delay as possible, and recommended, for this purpose, that a
door should be removed from its hinges, and the patient, laid upon this,
should be conveyed from the field. Upon this rude bier my poor friend
was carried from that fatal ground towards Castle Connor. I walked close
by his side, and observed every motion of his. He seldom opened his
eyes, and was perfectly still, excepting a nervous WORKING of the
fingers, and a slight, almost imperceptible twitching of the features,
which took place, however, only at intervals. The first word he uttered
was spoken as we approached the entrance of the castle itself, when
he said; repeatedly, 'The back way, the back way.' He feared lest his
mother should meet him abruptly and without preparation; but although
this fear was groundless, since she never left her room until late
in the day, yet it was thought advisable, and, indeed, necessary, to
caution all the servants most strongly against breathing a hint to their
mistress of the events which had befallen.

Two or three gentlemen had ridden from the field one after another,
promising that they should overtake our party before it reached the
castle, bringing with them medical aid from one quarter or another;
and we determined that Mrs. O'Connor should not know anything of the
occurrence until the opinion of some professional man should have
determined the extent of the injury which her son had sustained--a
course of conduct which would at least have the effect of relieving her
from the horrors of suspense. When O'Connor found himself in his own
room, and laid upon his own bed, he appeared much revived--so much so,
that I could not help admitting a strong hope that all might yet be
well.

'After all, Purcell,' said he, with a melancholy smile, and speaking
with evident difficulty, 'I believe I have got off with a trifling
wound. I am sure it cannot be fatal I feel so little pain--almost none.'

I cautioned him against fatiguing himself by endeavouring to speak; and
he remained quiet for a little time. At length he said:

'Purcell, I trust this lesson shall not have been given in vain. God has
been very merciful to me; I feel--I have an internal confidence that I
am not wounded mortally. Had I been fatally wounded--had I been killed
upon the spot, only think on it'--and he closed his eyes as if the very
thought made him dizzy--'struck down into the grave, unprepared as I
am, in the very blossom of my sins, without a moment of repentance or of
reflection; I must have been lost--lost for ever and ever.'

I prevailed upon him, with some difficulty, to abstain from such
agitating reflections, and at length induced him to court such repose as
his condition admitted of, by remaining perfectly silent, and as much as
possible without motion.

O'Connor and I only were in the room; he had lain for some time in
tolerable quiet, when I thought I distinguished the bustle attendant
upon the arrival of some one at the castle, and went eagerly to the
window, believing, or at least hoping, that the sounds might announce
the approach of the medical man, whom we all longed most impatiently to
see.

My conjecture was right; I had the satisfaction of seeing him dismount
and prepare to enter the castle, when my observations were interrupted,
and my attention was attracted by a smothered, gurgling sound proceeding
from the bed in which lay the wounded man. I instantly turned round, and
in doing so the spectacle which met my eyes was sufficiently shocking.

I had left O'Connor lying in the bed, supported by pillows, perfectly
calm, and with his eyes closed: he was now lying nearly in the same
position, his eyes open and almost starting from their sockets, with
every feature pale and distorted as death, and vomiting blood in
quantities that were frightful. I rushed to the door and called for
assistance; the paroxysm, though violent, was brief, and O'Connor sank
into a swoon so deep and death-like, that I feared he should waken no
more.

The surgeon, a little, fussy man, but I believe with some skill to
justify his pretensions, now entered the room, carrying his case of
instruments, and followed by servants bearing basins and water and
bandages of linen. He relieved our doubts by instantly assuring us
that 'the patient' was still living; and at the same time professed his
determination to take advantage of the muscular relaxation which the
faint had induced to examine the wound--adding that a patient was more
easily 'handled' when in a swoon than under other circumstances.

After examining the wound in front where the ball had entered, he passed
his hand round beneath the shoulder, and after a little pause he shook
his head, observing that he feared very much that one of the vertebrae
was fatally injured, but that he could not say decidedly until his
patient should revive a little. 'Though his language was very technical,
and consequently to me nearly unintelligible, I could perceive plainly
by his manner that he considered the case as almost hopeless.

O'Connor gradually gave some signs of returning animation, and at length
was so far restored as to be enabled to speak. After some few general
questions as to how he felt affected, etc., etc., the surgeon, placing
his hand upon his leg and pressing it slightly, asked him if he felt any
pressure upon the limb? O'Connor answered in the negative--he pressed
harder, and repeated the question; still the answer was the same, till
at length, by repeated experiments, he ascertained that all that part
of the body which lay behind the wound was paralysed, proving that the
spine must have received some fatal injury.

'Well, doctor,' said O'Connor, after the examination of the wound was
over; 'well, I shall do, shan't I?'

The physician was silent for a moment, and then, as if with an effort,
he replied:

'Indeed, my dear sir, it would not be honest to flatter you with much
hope.'

'Eh?' said O'Connor with more alacrity than I had seen him exhibit
since the morning; 'surely I did not hear you aright; I spoke of my
recovery--surely there is no doubt; there can be none--speak frankly,
doctor, for God's sake--am I dying?'

The surgeon was evidently no stoic, and his manner had extinguished in
me every hope, even before he had uttered a word in reply.

'You are--you are indeed dying. There is no hope; I should but deceive
you if I held out any.'

As the surgeon uttered these terrible words, the hands which O'Connor
had stretched towards him while awaiting his reply fell powerless by
his side; his head sank forward; it seemed as if horror and despair
had unstrung every nerve and sinew; he appeared to collapse and shrink
together as a plant might under the influence of a withering spell.

It has often been my fate, since then, to visit the chambers of death
and of suffering; I have witnessed fearful agonies of body and of
soul; the mysterious shudderings of the departing spirit, and the
heart-rending desolation of the survivors; the severing of the tenderest
ties, the piteous yearnings of unavailing love--of all these things
the sad duties of my profession have made me a witness. But, generally
speaking, I have observed in such scenes some thing to mitigate, if not
the sorrows, at least the terrors, of death; the dying man seldom
seems to feel the reality of his situation; a dull consciousness of
approaching dissolution, a dim anticipation of unconsciousness and
insensibility, are the feelings which most nearly border upon an
appreciation of his state; the film of death seems to have overspread
the mind's eye, objects lose their distinctness, and float cloudily
before it, and the apathy and apparent indifference with which men
recognise the sure advances of immediate death, rob that awful hour
of much of its terrors, and the death-bed of its otherwise inevitable
agonies.

This is a merciful dispensation; but the rule has its exceptions--its
terrible exceptions. When a man is brought in an instant, by some sudden
accident, to the very verge of the fathomless pit of death, with all
his recollections awake, and his perceptions keenly and vividly alive,
without previous illness to subdue the tone of the mind as to dull its
apprehensions--then, and then only, the death-bed is truly terrible.

Oh, what a contrast did O'Connor afford as he lay in all the abject
helplessness of undisguised terror upon his death-bed, to the proud
composure with which he had taken the field that morning. I had always
before thought of death as of a quiet sleep stealing gradually upon
exhausted nature, made welcome by suffering, or, at least, softened by
resignation; I had never before stood by the side of one upon whom the
hand of death had been thus suddenly laid; I had never seen the tyrant
arrayed in his terror till then. Never before or since have I seen
horror so intensely depicted. It seemed actually as if O'Connor's mind
had been unsettled by the shock; the few words he uttered were marked
with all the incoherence of distraction; but it was not words that
marked his despair most strongly, the appalling and heart-sickening
groans that came from the terror-stricken and dying man must haunt me
while I live; the expression, too, of hopeless, imploring agony with
which he turned his eyes from object to object, I can never forget. At
length, appearing suddenly to recollect himself, he said, with startling
alertness, but in a voice so altered that I scarce could recognise the
tones:

'Purcell, Purcell, go and tell my poor mother; she must know all, and
then, quick, quick, quick, call your uncle, bring him here; I must have
a chance.' He made a violent but fruitless effort to rise, and after
a slight pause continued, with deep and urgent solemnity: 'Doctor, how
long shall I live? Don't flatter me. Compliments at a death-bed are out
of place; doctor, for God's sake, as you would not have my soul perish
with my body, do not mock a dying man; have I an hour to live?'

'Certainly,' replied the surgeon; 'if you will but endeavour to keep
yourself tranquil; otherwise I cannot answer for a moment.'

'Well, doctor,' said the patient, 'I will obey you; now, Purcell, my
first and dearest friend, will you inform my poor mother of--of what you
see, and return with your uncle; I know you will.'

I took the dear fellow's hand and kissed it, it was the only answer
I could give, and left the room. I asked the first female servant I
chanced to meet, if her mistress were yet up, and was answered in the
affirmative. Without giving myself time to hesitate, I requested her
to lead me to her lady's room, which she accordingly did; she entered
first, I supposed to announce my name, and I followed closely; the poor
mother said something, and held out her hands to welcome me; I strove
for words; I could not speak, but nature found expression; I threw
myself at her feet and covered her hands with kisses and tears. My
manner was enough; with a quickness almost preternatural she understood
it all; she simply said the words: 'O'Connor is killed;' she uttered no
more.

How I left the room I know not; I rode madly to my uncle's residence,
and brought him back with me--all the rest is a blank. I remember
standing by O'Connor's bedside, and kissing the cold pallid forehead
again and again; I remember the pale serenity of the beautiful features;
I remember that I looked upon the dead face of my friend, and I remember
no more.

For many months I lay writhing and raving in the frenzy of brain fever;
a hundred times I stood tottering at the brink of death, and long
after my restoration to bodily health was assured, it appeared doubtful
whether I should ever be restored to reason. But God dealt very
mercifully with me; His mighty hand rescued me from death and from
madness when one or other appeared inevitable. As soon as I was
permitted pen and ink, I wrote to the bereaved mother in a tone
bordering upon frenzy. I accused myself of having made her childless; I
called myself a murderer; I believed myself accursed; I could not find
terms strong enough to express my abhorrence of my own conduct. But,
oh! what an answer I received, so mild, so sweet, from the
desolate, childless mother! its words spoke all that is beautiful in
Christianity--it was forgiveness--it was resignation. I am convinced
that to that letter, operating as it did upon a mind already
predisposed, is owing my final determination to devote myself to that
profession in which, for more than half a century, I have been a humble
minister.

Years roll away, and we count them not as they pass, but their influence
is not the less certain that it is silent; the deepest wounds are
gradually healed, the keenest griefs are mitigated, and we, in
character, feelings, tastes, and pursuits, become such altered beings,
that but for some few indelible marks which past events must leave
behind them, which time may soften, but can never efface; our very
identity would be dubious. Who has not felt all this at one time or
other? Who has not mournfully felt it? This trite, but natural train of
reflection filled my mind as I approached the domain of Castle Connor
some ten years after the occurrence of the events above narrated.
Everything looked the same as when I had left it; the old trees stood
as graceful and as grand as ever; no plough had violated the soft green
sward; no utilitarian hand had constrained the wanderings of the clear
and sportive stream, or disturbed the lichen-covered rocks through
which it gushed, or the wild coppice that over-shadowed its sequestered
nooks--but the eye that looked upon these things was altered, and memory
was busy with other days, shrouding in sadness every beauty that met my
sight.

As I approached the castle my emotions became so acutely painful that
I had almost returned the way I came, without accomplishing the purpose
for which I had gone thus far; and nothing but the conviction that my
having been in the neighbourhood of Castle Connor without visiting its
desolate mistress would render me justly liable to the severest censure,
could overcome my reluctance to encountering the heavy task which was
before me. I recognised the old servant who opened the door, but he did
not know me. I was completely changed; suffering of body and mind had
altered me in feature and in bearing, as much as in character. I asked
the man whether his mistress ever saw visitors. He answered:

'But seldom; perhaps, however, if she knew that an old friend wished to
see her for a few minutes, she would gratify him so far.'

At the same time I placed my card in his hand, and requested him to
deliver it to his mistress. He returned in a few moments, saying that
his lady would be happy to see me in the parlour, and I accordingly
followed him to the door, which he opened. I entered the room, and was
in a moment at the side of my early friend and benefactress. I was too
much agitated to speak; I could only hold the hands which she gave me,
while, spite of every effort, the tears flowed fast and bitterly.

'It was kind, very, very kind of you to come to see me,' she said,
with far more composure than I could have commanded; 'I see it is very
painful to you.'

I endeavoured to compose myself, and for a little time we remained
silent; she was the first to speak:

'You will be surprised, Mr. Purcell, when you observe the calmness with
which I can speak of him who was dearest to me, who is gone; but my
thoughts are always with him, and the recollections of his love'--her
voice faltered a little--'and the hope of meeting him hereafter enables
me to bear existence.'

I said I know not what; something about resignation, I believe.

'I hope I am resigned; God made me more: so,' she said. 'Oh, Mr.
Purcell, I have often thought I loved my lost child TOO well. It was
natural--he was my only child--he was----' She could not proceed for a
few moments: 'It was very natural that I should love him as I did; but
it may have been sinful; I have often thought so. I doated upon him--I
idolised him--I thought too little of other holier affections; and God
may have taken him from me, only to teach me, by this severe lesson,
that I owed to heaven a larger share of my heart than to anything
earthly. I cannot think of him now without more solemn feelings than if
he were with me. There is something holy in our thoughts of the dead; I
feel it so.' After a pause, she continued--'Mr. Purcell, do you remember
his features well? they were very beautiful.' I assured her that I did.
'Then you can tell me if you think this a faithful likeness.' She took
from a drawer a case in which lay a miniature. I took it reverently from
her hands; it was indeed very like--touchingly like. I told her so; and
she seemed gratified.

As the evening was wearing fast, and I had far to go, I hastened to
terminate my visit, as I had intended, by placing in her hand a letter
from her son to me, written during his sojourn upon the Continent. I
requested her to keep it; it was one in which he spoke much of her, and
in terms of the tenderest affection. As she read its contents the heavy
tears gathered in her eyes, and fell, one by one, upon the page; she
wiped them away, but they still flowed fast and silently. It was in
vain that she tried to read it; her eyes were filled with tears: so she
folded the letter, and placed it in her bosom. I rose to depart, and she
also rose.

'I will not ask you to delay your departure,' said she; 'your visit here
must have been a painful one to you. I cannot find words to thank you
for the letter as I would wish, or for all your kindness. It has given
me a pleasure greater than I thought could have fallen to the lot of a
creature so very desolate as I am; may God bless you for it!' And thus
we parted; I never saw Castle Connor or its solitary inmate more.



THE DRUNKARD'S DREAM.

Being a Fourth Extract from the Legacy of the late F. Purcell, P. P. of
Drumcoolagh.

     'All this HE told with some confusion and
     Dismay, the usual consequence of dreams
     Of the unpleasant kind, with none at hand
     To expound their vain and visionary gleams,
     I've known some odd ones which seemed really planned
     Prophetically, as that which one deems
     "A strange coincidence," to use a phrase
     By which such things are settled nowadays.'
                                            BYRON.


Dreams! What age, or what country of the world, has not and acknowledged
the mystery of their origin and end? I have thought not a little upon
the subject, seeing it is one which has been often forced upon my
attention, and sometimes strangely enough; and yet I have never arrived
at anything which at all appeared a satisfactory conclusion. It does
appear that a mental phenomenon so extraordinary cannot be wholly
without its use. We know, indeed, that in the olden times it has been
made the organ of communication between the Deity and His creatures; and
when, as I have seen, a dream produces upon a mind, to all appearance
hopelessly reprobate and depraved, an effect so powerful and so lasting
as to break down the inveterate habits, and to reform the life of an
abandoned sinner, we see in the result, in the reformation of morals
which appeared incorrigible, in the reclamation of a human soul which
seemed to be irretrievably lost, something more than could be produced
by a mere chimera of the slumbering fancy, something more than could
arise from the capricious images of a terrified imagination; but once
presented, we behold in all these things, and in their tremendous and
mysterious results, the operation of the hand of God. And while Reason
rejects as absurd the superstition which will read a prophecy in every
dream, she may, without violence to herself, recognise, even in
the wildest and most incongruous of the wanderings of a slumbering
intellect, the evidences and the fragments of a language which may be
spoken, which HAS been spoken, to terrify, to warn, and to command. We
have reason to believe too, by the promptness of action which in the
age of the prophets followed all intimations of this kind, and by the
strength of conviction and strange permanence of the effects resulting
from certain dreams in latter times, which effects we ourselves may have
witnessed, that when this medium of communication has been employed
by the Deity, the evidences of His presence have been unequivocal. My
thoughts were directed to this subject, in a manner to leave a lasting
impression upon my mind, by the events which I shall now relate, the
statement of which, however extraordinary, is nevertheless ACCURATELY
CORRECT.

About the year 17--, having been appointed to the living of C---h, I
rented a small house in the town, which bears the same name: one morning
in the month of November, I was awakened before my usual time by my
servant, who bustled into my bedroom for the purpose of announcing a
sick call. As the Catholic Church holds her last rites to be totally
indispensable to the safety of the departing sinner, no conscientious
clergyman can afford a moment's unnecessary delay, and in little more
than five minutes I stood ready cloaked and booted for the road, in the
small front parlour, in which the messenger, who was to act as my guide,
awaited my coming. I found a poor little girl crying piteously near the
door, and after some slight difficulty I ascertained that her father was
either dead or just dying.

'And what may be your father's name, my poor child?' said I. She held
down her head, as if ashamed. I repeated the question, and the wretched
little creature burst into floods of tears still more bitter than she
had shed before. At length, almost provoked by conduct which appeared to
me so unreasonable, I began to lose patience, spite of the pity which I
could not help feeling towards her, and I said rather harshly:

'If you will not tell me the name of the person to whom you would lead
me, your silence can arise from no good motive, and I might be justified
in refusing to go with you at all.'

'Oh, don't say that--don't say that!' cried she. 'Oh, sir, it was that
I was afeard of when I would not tell you--I was afeard, when you
heard his name, you would not come with me; but it is no use hidin' it
now--it's Pat Connell, the carpenter, your honour.'

She looked in my face with the most earnest anxiety, as if her very
existence depended upon what she should read there; but I relieved her
at once. The name, indeed, was most unpleasantly familiar to me; but,
however fruitless my visits and advice might have been at another time,
the present was too fearful an occasion to suffer my doubts of their
utility or my reluctance to re-attempting what appeared a hopeless task
to weigh even against the lightest chance that a consciousness of
his imminent danger might produce in him a more docile and tractable
disposition. Accordingly I told the child to lead the way, and followed
her in silence. She hurried rapidly through the long narrow street which
forms the great thoroughfare of the town. The darkness of the hour,
rendered still deeper by the close approach of the old-fashioned houses,
which lowered in tall obscurity on either side of the way; the damp,
dreary chill which renders the advance of morning peculiarly cheerless,
combined with the object of my walk, to visit the death-bed of a
presumptuous sinner, to endeavour, almost against my own conviction, to
infuse a hope into the heart of a dying reprobate--a drunkard but
too probably perishing under the consequences of some mad fit of
intoxication; all these circumstances united served to enhance the gloom
and solemnity of my feelings, as I silently followed my little guide,
who with quick steps traversed the uneven pavement of the main street.
After a walk of about five minutes she turned off into a narrow lane,
of that obscure and comfortless class which is to be found in almost all
small oldfashioned towns, chill, without ventilation, reeking with all
manner of offensive effluviae, and lined by dingy, smoky, sickly and
pent-up buildings, frequently not only in a wretched but in a dangerous
condition.

'Your father has changed his abode since I last visited him, and, I am
afraid, much for the worse,' said I.

'Indeed he has, sir; but we must not complain,' replied she. 'We have to
thank God that we have lodging and food, though it's poor enough, it is,
your honour.'

Poor child! thought I, how many an older head might learn wisdom from
thee--how many a luxurious philosopher, who is skilled to preach but not
to suffer, might not thy patient words put to the blush! The manner
and language of this child were alike above her years and station;
and, indeed, in all cases in which the cares and sorrows of life have
anticipated their usual date, and have fallen, as they sometimes do,
with melancholy prematurity to the lot of childhood, I have observed the
result to have proved uniformly the same. A young mind, to which joy and
indulgence have been strangers, and to which suffering and self-denial
have been familiarised from the first, acquires a solidity and an
elevation which no other discipline could have bestowed, and which, in
the present case, communicated a striking but mournful peculiarity to
the manners, even to the voice, of the child. We paused before a narrow,
crazy door, which she opened by means of a latch, and we forthwith began
to ascend the steep and broken stairs which led upwards to the sick
man's room.

As we mounted flight after flight towards the garret-floor, I heard more
and more distinctly the hurried talking of many voices. I could also
distinguish the low sobbing of a female. On arriving upon the uppermost
lobby these sounds became fully audible.

'This way, your honour,' said my little conductress; at the same time,
pushing open a door of patched and half-rotten plank, she admitted me
into the squalid chamber of death and misery. But one candle, held in
the fingers of a scared and haggard-looking child, was burning in the
room, and that so dim that all was twilight or darkness except within
its immediate influence. The general obscurity, however, served to throw
into prominent and startling relief the death-bed and its occupant. The
light was nearly approximated to, and fell with horrible clearness
upon, the blue and swollen features of the drunkard. I did not think it
possible that a human countenance could look so terrific. The lips were
black and drawn apart; the teeth were firmly set; the eyes a little
unclosed, and nothing but the whites appearing. Every feature was fixed
and livid, and the whole face wore a ghastly and rigid expression of
despairing terror such as I never saw equalled. His hands were crossed
upon his breast, and firmly clenched; while, as if to add to the
corpse-like effect of the whole, some white cloths, dipped in water,
were wound about the forehead and temples.

As soon as I could remove my eyes from this horrible spectacle, I
observed my friend Dr. D----, one of the most humane of a humane
profession, standing by the bedside. He had been attempting, but
unsuccessfully, to bleed the patient, and had now applied his finger to
the pulse.

'Is there any hope?' I inquired in a whisper.

A shake of the head was the reply. There was a pause while he continued
to hold the wrist; but he waited in vain for the throb of life--it was
not there: and when he let go the hand, it fell stiffly back into its
former position upon the other.

'The man is dead,' said the physician, as he turned from the bed where
the terrible figure lay.

Dead! thought I, scarcely venturing to look upon the tremendous and
revolting spectacle. Dead! without an hour for repentance, even a moment
for reflection; dead I without the rites which even the best should
have. Is there a hope for him? The glaring eyeball, the grinning mouth,
the distorted brow--that unutterable look in which a painter would have
sought to embody the fixed despair of the nethermost hell. These were my
answer.

The poor wife sat at a little distance, crying as if her heart would
break--the younger children clustered round the bed, looking with
wondering curiosity upon the form of death never seen before.

When the first tumult of uncontrollable sorrow had passed away, availing
myself of the solemnity and impressiveness of the scene, I desired the
heart-stricken family to accompany me in prayer, and all knelt down
while I solemnly and fervently repeated some of those prayers which
appeared most applicable to the occasion. I employed myself thus in a
manner which, I trusted, was not unprofitable, at least to the living,
for about ten minutes; and having accomplished my task, I was the first
to arise.

I looked upon the poor, sobbing, helpless creatures who knelt so humbly
around me, and my heart bled for them. With a natural transition I
turned my eyes from them to the bed in which the body lay; and, great
God! what was the revulsion, the horror which I experienced on seeing
the corpse-like terrific thing seated half upright before me; the white
cloths which had been wound about the head had now partly slipped from
their position, and were hanging in grotesque festoons about the face
and shoulders, while the distorted eyes leered from amid them--

          'A sight to dream of, not to tell.'

I stood actually riveted to the spot. The figure nodded its head and
lifted its arm, I thought, with a menacing gesture. A thousand confused
and horrible thoughts at once rushed upon my mind. I had often read
that the body of a presumptuous sinner, who, during life, had been the
willing creature of every satanic impulse, after the human tenant had
deserted it, had been known to become the horrible sport of demoniac
possession.

I was roused from the stupefaction of terror in which I stood, by the
piercing scream of the mother, who now, for the first time, perceived
the change which had taken place. She rushed towards the bed, but
stunned by the shock, and overcome by the conflict of violent emotions,
before she reached it she fell prostrate upon the floor.

I am perfectly convinced that had I not been startled from the torpidity
of horror in which I was bound by some powerful and arousing stimulant,
I should have gazed upon this unearthly apparition until I had fairly
lost my senses. As it was, however, the spell was broken--superstition
gave way to reason: the man whom all believed to have been actually dead
was living!

Dr. D---- was instantly standing by the bedside, and upon examination he
found that a sudden and copious flow of blood had taken place from the
wound which the lancet had left; and this, no doubt, had effected his
sudden and almost preternatural restoration to an existence from which
all thought he had been for ever removed. The man was still speechless,
but he seemed to understand the physician when he forbid his repeating
the painful and fruitless attempts which he made to articulate, and he
at once resigned himself quietly into his hands.

I left the patient with leeches upon his temples, and bleeding freely,
apparently with little of the drowsiness which accompanies apoplexy;
indeed, Dr. D---- told me that he had never before witnessed a seizure
which seemed to combine the symptoms of so many kinds, and yet which
belonged to none of the recognised classes; it certainly was not
apoplexy, catalepsy, nor delirium tremens, and yet it seemed, in
some degree, to partake of the properties of all. It was strange, but
stranger things are coming.

During two or three days Dr. D---- would not allow his patient to
converse in a manner which could excite or exhaust him, with anyone;
he suffered him merely as briefly as possible to express his immediate
wants. And it was not until the fourth day after my early visit, the
particulars of which I have just detailed, that it was thought expedient
that I should see him, and then only because it appeared that his
extreme importunity and impatience to meet me were likely to retard
his recovery more than the mere exhaustion attendant upon a short
conversation could possibly do; perhaps, too, my friend entertained some
hope that if by holy confession his patient's bosom were eased of the
perilous stuff which no doubt oppressed it, his recovery would be more
assured and rapid. It was then, as I have said, upon the fourth day
after my first professional call, that I found myself once more in the
dreary chamber of want and sickness.

The man was in bed, and appeared low and restless. On my entering the
room he raised himself in the bed, and muttered, twice or thrice:

'Thank God! thank God!'

I signed to those of his family who stood by to leave the room, and
took a chair beside the bed. So soon as we were alone, he said, rather
doggedly:

'There's no use in telling me of the sinfulness of bad ways--I know it
all. I know where they lead to--I seen everything about it with my own
eyesight, as plain as I see you.' He rolled himself in the bed, as if
to hide his face in the clothes; and then suddenly raising himself,
he exclaimed with startling vehemence: 'Look, sir! there is no use in
mincing the matter: I'm blasted with the fires of hell; I have been in
hell. What do you think of that? In hell--I'm lost for ever--I have not
a chance. I am damned already--damned--damned!'

The end of this sentence he actually shouted. His vehemence was
perfectly terrific; he threw himself back, and laughed, and sobbed
hysterically. I poured some water into a tea-cup, and gave it to him.
After he had swallowed it, I told him if he had anything to communicate,
to do so as briefly as he could, and in a manner as little agitating
to himself as possible; threatening at the same time, though I had no
intention of doing so, to leave him at once, in case he again gave way
to such passionate excitement.

'It's only foolishness,' he continued, 'for me to try to thank you for
coming to such a villain as myself at all. It's no use for me to wish
good to you, or to bless you; for such as me has no blessings to give.'

I told him that I had but done my duty, and urged him to proceed to the
matter which weighed upon his mind. He then spoke nearly as follows:

'I came in drunk on Friday night last, and got to my bed here; I don't
remember how. Sometime in the night it seemed to me I wakened, and
feeling unasy in myself, I got up out of the bed. I wanted the fresh
air; but I would not make a noise to open the window, for fear I'd waken
the crathurs. It was very dark and throublesome to find the door; but
at last I did get it, and I groped my way out, and went down as asy as I
could. I felt quite sober, and I counted the steps one after another, as
I was going down, that I might not stumble at the bottom.

'When I came to the first landing-place--God be about us always!--the
floor of it sunk under me, and I went down--down--down, till the senses
almost left me. I do not know how long I was falling, but it seemed to
me a great while. When I came rightly to myself at last, I was sitting
near the top of a great table; and I could not see the end of it, if it
had any, it was so far off. And there was men beyond reckoning, sitting
down all along by it, at each side, as far as I could see at all. I
did not know at first was it in the open air; but there was a close
smothering feel in it that was not natural. And there was a kind of
light that my eyesight never saw before, red and unsteady; and I did not
see for a long time where it was coming from, until I looked straight
up, and then I seen that it came from great balls of blood-coloured
fire that were rolling high over head with a sort of rushing, trembling
sound, and I perceived that they shone on the ribs of a great roof of
rock that was arched overhead instead of the sky. When I seen this,
scarce knowing what I did, I got up, and I said, "I have no right to
be here; I must go." And the man that was sitting at my left hand only
smiled, and said, "Sit down again; you can NEVER leave this place." And
his voice was weaker than any child's voice I ever heerd; and when he
was done speaking he smiled again.

'Then I spoke out very loud and bold, and I said, "In the name of God,
let me out of this bad place." And there was a great man that I did not
see before, sitting at the end of the table that I was near; and he was
taller than twelve men, and his face was very proud and terrible to look
at. And he stood up and stretched out his hand before him; and when he
stood up, all that was there, great and small, bowed down with a sighing
sound, and a dread came on my heart, and he looked at me, and I could
not speak. I felt I was his own, to do what he liked with, for I knew at
once who he was; and he said, "If you promise to return, you may depart
for a season;" and the voice he spoke with was terrible and mournful,
and the echoes of it went rolling and swelling down the endless cave,
and mixing with the trembling of the fire overhead; so that when he
sat down there was a sound after him, all through the place, like
the roaring of a furnace, and I said, with all the strength I had, "I
promise to come back--in God's name let me go!"

'And with that I lost the sight and the hearing of all that was there,
and when my senses came to me again, I was sitting in the bed with the
blood all over me, and you and the rest praying around the room.'

Here he paused and wiped away the chill drops of horror which hung upon
his forehead.

I remained silent for some moments. The vision which he had just
described struck my imagination not a little, for this was long
before Vathek and the 'Hall of Eblis' had delighted the world; and the
description which he gave had, as I received it, all the attractions of
novelty beside the impressiveness which always belongs to the narration
of an EYE-WITNESS, whether in the body or in the spirit, of the scenes
which he describes. There was something, too, in the stern horror
with which the man related these things, and in the incongruity of his
description, with the vulgarly received notions of the great place of
punishment, and of its presiding spirit, which struck my mind with awe,
almost with fear. At length he said, with an expression of horrible,
imploring earnestness, which I shall never forget--'Well, sir, is
there any hope; is there any chance at all? or, is my soul pledged and
promised away for ever? is it gone out of my power? must I go back to
the place?'

In answering him, I had no easy task to perform; for however clear
might be my internal conviction of the groundlessness of his tears,
and however strong my scepticism respecting the reality of what he had
described, I nevertheless felt that his impression to the contrary, and
his humility and terror resulting from it, might be made available as
no mean engines in the work of his conversion from prodigacy, and of his
restoration to decent habits, and to religious feeling.

I therefore told him that he was to regard his dream rather in the light
of a warning than in that of a prophecy; that our salvation depended not
upon the word or deed of a moment, but upon the habits of a life; that,
in fine, if he at once discarded his idle companions and evil habits,
and firmly adhered to a sober, industrious, and religious course of
life, the powers of darkness might claim his soul in vain, for that
there were higher and firmer pledges than human tongue could utter,
which promised salvation to him who should repent and lead a new life.

I left him much comforted, and with a promise to return upon the next
day. I did so, and found him much more cheerful and without any remains
of the dogged sullenness which I suppose had arisen from his despair.
His promises of amendment were given in that tone of deliberate
earnestness, which belongs to deep and solemn determination; and it was
with no small delight that I observed, after repeated visits, that his
good resolutions, so far from failing, did but gather strength by time;
and when I saw that man shake off the idle and debauched companions,
whose society had for years formed alike his amusement and his ruin, and
revive his long discarded habits of industry and sobriety, I said within
myself, there is something more in all this than the operation of an
idle dream.

One day, sometime after his perfect restoration to health, I was
surprised on ascending the stairs, for the purpose of visiting this
man, to find him busily employed in nailing down some planks upon the
landing-place, through which, at the commencement of his mysterious
vision, it seemed to him that he had sunk. I perceived at once that he
was strengthening the floor with a view to securing himself against such
a catastrophe, and could scarcely forbear a smile as I bid 'God bless
his work.'

He perceived my thoughts, I suppose, for he immediately said:

'I can never pass over that floor without trembling. I'd leave this
house if I could, but I can't find another lodging in the town so cheap,
and I'll not take a better till I've paid off all my debts, please God;
but I could not be asy in my mind till I made it as safe as I could.
You'll hardly believe me, your honour, that while I'm working, maybe a
mile away, my heart is in a flutter the whole way back, with the bare
thoughts of the two little steps I have to walk upon this bit of a
floor. So it's no wonder, sir, I'd thry to make it sound and firm with
any idle timber I have.'

I applauded his resolution to pay off his debts, and the steadiness with
which he perused his plans of conscientious economy, and passed on.

Many months elapsed, and still there appeared no alteration in his
resolutions of amendment. He was a good workman, and with his better
habits he recovered his former extensive and profitable employment.
Everything seemed to promise comfort and respectability. I have little
more to add, and that shall be told quickly. I had one evening met Pat
Connell, as he returned from his work, and as usual, after a mutual, and
on his side respectful salutation, I spoke a few words of encouragement
and approval. I left him industrious, active, healthy--when next I saw
him, not three days after, he was a corpse.

The circumstances which marked the event of his death were somewhat
strange--I might say fearful. The unfortunate man had accidentally met
an early friend just returned, after a long absence, and in a moment of
excitement, forgetting everything in the warmth of his joy, he yielded
to his urgent invitation to accompany him into a public-house, which lay
close by the spot where the encounter had taken place. Connell, however,
previously to entering the room, had announced his determination to take
nothing more than the strictest temperance would warrant.

But oh! who can describe the inveterate tenacity with which a drunkard's
habits cling to him through life? He may repent--he may reform--he may
look with actual abhorrence upon his past profligacy; but amid all this
reformation and compunction, who can tell the moment in which the
base and ruinous propensity may not recur, triumphing over resolution,
remorse, shame, everything, and prostrating its victim once more in all
that is destructive and revolting in that fatal vice?

The wretched man left the place in a state of utter intoxication. He was
brought home nearly insensible, and placed in his bed, where he lay in
the deep calm lethargy of drunkenness. The younger part of the family
retired to rest much after their usual hour; but the poor wife remained
up sitting by the fire, too much grieved and shocked at the occurrence
of what she had so little expected, to settle to rest; fatigue, however,
at length overcame her, and she sank gradually into an uneasy slumber.
She could not tell how long she had remained in this state, when she
awakened, and immediately on opening her eyes, she perceived by the
faint red light of the smouldering turf embers, two persons, one of whom
she recognised as her husband, noiselessly gliding out of the room.

'Pat, darling, where are you going?' said she. There was no answer--the
door closed after them; but in a moment she was startled and terrified
by a loud and heavy crash, as if some ponderous body had been hurled
down the stair. Much alarmed, she started up, and going to the head of
the staircase, she called repeatedly upon her husband, but in vain. She
returned to the room, and with the assistance of her daughter, whom I
had occasion to mention before, she succeeded in finding and lighting a
candle, with which she hurried again to the head of the staircase.

At the bottom lay what seemed to be a bundle of clothes, heaped
together, motionless, lifeless--it was her husband. In going down the
stair, for what purpose can never now be known, he had fallen helplessly
and violently to the bottom, and coming head foremost, the spine at
the neck had been dislocated by the shock, and instant death must have
ensued. The body lay upon that landing-place to which his dream had
referred. It is scarcely worth endeavouring to clear up a single point
in a narrative where all is mystery; yet I could not help suspecting
that the second figure which had been seen in the room by Connell's wife
on the night of his death, might have been no other than his own shadow.
I suggested this solution of the difficulty; but she told me that the
unknown person had been considerably in advance of the other, and on
reaching the door, had turned back as if to communicate something to his
companion. It was then a mystery.

Was the dream verified?--whither had the disembodied spirit sped?--who
can say? We know not. But I left the house of death that day in a state
of horror which I could not describe. It seemed to me that I was scarce
awake. I heard and saw everything as if under the spell of a night-mare.
The coincidence was terrible.





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