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Title: Captain Kyd (Vol 1 of 2) - or, The Wizard of the Sea
Author: Ingraham, Jonathon Holt
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Captain Kyd (Vol 1 of 2) - or, The Wizard of the Sea" ***

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                           CAPTAIN KYD;


                      THE WIZARD OF THE SEA.

                            A ROMANCE.

                        BY J. H. INGRAHAM

           AUTHOR OF "THE SOUTHWEST," "LAFITTE," "BURTON," &c.


    IN TWO VOLUMES.

    VOL. I.

    NEW-YORK:
    HARPER & BROTHERS, 82 CLIFF-STREET.
    1839.

    Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1838,
    By HARPER & BROTHERS,
    In the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New-York.

                TO
        THE AUTHOR OF THE
       "WINTER IN THE WEST,"
    CHARLES FENNO HOFFMAN, ESQ.,
        THESE VOLUMES ARE,
    WITH SENTIMENTS OF ESTEEM,
      Respectfully Inscribed.


   "There's many a one who oft has heard
      The name of Robert Kyd,
    Who cannot tell, perhaps, a word
      Of him, or what he did.

    "So, though I never saw the man,
      And lived not in his day,
    I'll tell you how his guilt began--
      To what it led the way."

    H. F. GOULD.



PREFACE.


The following dramatic romance consists of two acts, with an interval of
five years between them. The time and action of the first part, the
scene of which is placed in the south of Ireland, are comprised in
something less than three days; that of the second, the scenes of which
are laid in New-York Bay and on its adjacent shores, embraces a somewhat
longer space of time, the two comprising the most prominent crises of
the hero's life--one giving the colouring to the whole of his subsequent
career, which in the other is brought to its close.

Natchez, Miss., Jan., 1839.



BOOK I.

THE CAUSE.


                    "A lady should not scorn
    One soul that loves her, howe'er lowly it be."

    BARRY CORNWALL.

    "'Twere idle to remember now,
      Had I the heart, my thwarted schemes.
    I bear beneath this alter'd brow
      The ashes of a thousand dreams--
    Some wrought of wild Ambition's fingers,
      Some colour'd of Love's pencil well--

           *       *       *       *       *

    Ambition has but foil'd my grasp,
      And Love has perish'd in my clasp."

    _Melanie._



CHAPTER I.

          "Oh, bold Robin Hood
          Was a forester good
    As ever drew bow in the merry green wood,
          And what eye hath e'er seen
          Such a sweet maiden queen
    As Marian the pride of the forester's green."


On a rocky headland that stretches boldly out into the bosom of one of
the lakelike bays that indent the southern shore of Ireland, stands a
picturesque ruin, half hidden to the eye of the voyager amid a group of
old trees. With its solitary square tower, and warlike battlements
jagged and stern in their desolation, it still wears an air of imposing
grandeur, that conveys some idea of its ancient baronial state. It is
known by the name of "old Castle Cor;" and in its palmy days was the
summer abode of the last Earl of Bellamont.

On a bright morning in the merry month of May, in the year sixteen
hundred and ninety-four, its now silent halls rung with the joyous
voices and noisy sports of a score of gallant youths and noble maidens,
gathered there, from many a lordly roof both far and near, to celebrate
a rural fête in honour of the sixteenth birthday of the only child of
this ancient house, the beautiful Kate Bellamont, better known
throughout the barony as "wild Kate of Castle Cor." In the pastimes of
the day, archery, then much practised by ladies of gentle blood, was to
hold a conspicuous place, and a silver arrow was to be awarded to the
victor by the hands of Lady Bellamont herself. As the hour of noon
approached, the earl's chief forester, Cormac Dermot, his gray locks
covered with a red cloth bonnet, in which was fastened an eagle's plume,
and his goodly person arrayed in a holyday suit of green and gold, made
his appearance on the lawn by the west side of the castle, and wound his
horn, loud and long, as the signal that the "gentle sporte of archerie"
was now about to begin.

The place chosen for the trial of skill was an ample lawn of the softest
and greenest verdure, lying between the wall of the castle and the verge
of the cliff. A few ancient oaks grew here and there upon it; and
towards the south it was open to the land-locked bay and far-distant
sea, which, wide as the vision extended, seemed to belt the horizon like
a shining band of silver. At each extremity of the field, one hundred
yards apart, was pitched upon the sward a gorgeous pavilion, one of
blue, the other of orange-coloured silk: the hangings of the former were
fringed with silver; and from the festooned curtains of the latter
pended tassels of silk and gold. In these were laid tables spread with
cloths of crimson damask, and covered with every luxury that could tempt
the palate or gratify the eye. From the summit of one of the pavilions
fluttered a crimson banneret, displaying the arms of Bellamont, its
boar's-head crest pierced through with an arrow, emblematical of the
occasion; and from the top of the other waved a white banner, in the
centre of which, according to the rules of heraldry, a bow, quiver,
target and other signs of archery were tastefully emblazoned.

Twenty-five yards in front of each pavilion, two targets were placed,
fifty yards apart, so that, after sending all their arrows at one, the
archers might walk up to it and gather them, and, taking their stand by
it, shoot back to the other; thus alternately reversing the direction of
their shots, and adding healthful exercise to their graceful pastime.
The targets were both very beautiful, and gay with colours; being round
wooden shields half an inch in thickness and three feet in diameter,
with four circles painted on the faces: the outer white, with a green
border; the next black; the next within it orange; and the inner circle
red, encompassing a gold centre. They were elevated, at a slight angle,
twenty inches from the ground, on a light frame resembling a painter's
easel.

Midway between the targets, but safely placed several paces back from
the erratic path of the arrows, was erected beneath an ancient
linden-tree a sylvan throne, surmounted by a canopy of silk, elaborately
worked with the needle to represent Diana, with her nymphs and hounds,
pursuing a herd of deer with flights of arrows. This was the seat of the
umpire of the sports--Katrine, the lovely Countess of Bellamont.
Altogether, it was an imposing and gorgeous scene; and, with its stern
castle rising boldly from the verdant lawn topped with battlements and
towers; with its boundary on the north side, of green, dark old woods,
and the calm, deep bay beneath, with a yacht sleeping on its bosom; with
its extended prospect of the illimitable sea forever breathing with a
mysterious life, the field of archery at Castle Cor, for the natural
beauty of the spot and the taste displayed in its adornment, has
doubtless had no parallel in the annals of archery.

Scarcely had the echoes of old Cormac's horn died away in the forest,
startling many a stately stag to flight, when the castle poured forth
its gay throng of archers towards the lists. In their midst was the
Countess of Bellamont, escorted by a bodyguard of young archeresses. She
was then in the prime and beauty of ripe womanhood: at that delightful
age when the wife and mother, all the charms of mind and person fully
developed and refined by taste and elegant culture, fascinates by a
thousand nameless graces, and captivates and enslaves even the youthful
crowd that sigh at the feet of her lovely daughter of seventeen--the age
that leaves one in doubt whether beautiful women arrive at the zenith of
their beauty and power under five-and-thirty.

This was the age of Katrine of Bellamont; and though at eighteen (when
she became a bride) the loveliest of all Irish maidens either of gentle
or lowly birth, yet now, as the Countess of Bellamont, far-famed for her
rare and stately beauty. She was arrayed in a simple white robe; and a
laced jacket of royal-purple velvet closely fitted her magnificent bust.
When she entered the field she was conducted by her juvenile escort to
the throne, on which she seated herself, and with a playfully assumed
queenly dignity that became her highborn air. A coronet of pearls graced
her brow; and her symmetrical hand, that rivalled pearls in its soft
transparency, gracefully held, like a sceptre, the miniature arrow which
was to be the prize for excelling in archery. Her deep blue eyes, as she
looked around, reflected, in a thousand smiling beams, the joy that
danced on each youthful face, and the sunny light of her own countenance
communicated sunshine of the heart wherever it fell.

On each side of the throne stood a well-born youth habited as a page,
and behind her were stationed two beautiful young girls attired as
sylphides. On her right hand, a few feet in the rear, leaning on a yew
bow six feet in length, stood Cormac Dermot, his stag's horn, richly
inlaid and curiously carved with woodland devices, slung beneath his
left shoulder, with the mouthpiece brought round in front ready for use.
A little farther beyond, and nearer the castle-wall, was assembled a
group of lower degree, consisting of under-foresters, retainers of the
household, and neighbouring peasants; while on the opposite side of the
lawn might be seen, relieved against the sky, the forms of two or three
fishermen, whom curiosity had led to climb the dizzy precipice from the
beach--far along the white line of which were visible their scattered
huts, looking like black specks upon the sand.

All was now animation with the preparations for the lists. From bundles
of bows thrown by Dermot on the ground before each pavilion, the youths
began busily to select weapons for the fair archers, who were themselves
earnestly engaged in choosing arrows from quivers that were hung on the
front of the tent; fastening braces of thick fawn's leather on their
left or bow arm just above the wrist to preserve it from injury by the
rebound of the bow-string; and drawing on the right hand, from parcels
handed them by pages, shooting-gloves, with three finger-stalls, fitted
with a strap and button to fasten at the wrist, to protect their fingers
in drawing the arrow. Besides these appendages of archery, each
archeress wore a belt buckled about the waist, to which pended a tassel
of the softest floss of Brussels, to wipe away the soil that adhered to
the arrows when drawn from the ground; and also an ivory box with a
metal lid, containing a perfumed paste for anointing the finger-stalls
of the shooting-gloves and the brace on the arm, that the bow-string
might the more easily quit the fingers and pass over the guarded wrist.
A small pouch, either of tortoise-shell or of silver, in shape and
dimensions like a sportsman's cup or a dicebox, was suspended on the
right side to receive two or three arrows; the more cumbersome quiver,
while in target-shooting, being left on the ground near at hand, filled
with shafts to replace those broken or lost.

The party of archeresses consisted of seven fair girls, the eldest
scarce seventeen. They were fancifully attired, some in green, and
others in orange or blue hunting-jackets, after the tasteful fashion of
the period; a costume admirably calculated to display their sylphan
shapes. They all wore hats of the colour of their spencers, looped up in
front, and ornamented with waves of snowy plumes. Long white trains
descended from their waists to the ground, but, in shooting, were
gathered beneath the belt on the left side, and, thence falling down
again to the feet in numerous folds, added to the grace and
picturesqueness of their appearance. Each archeress was attended by a
favoured youth as an esquire, habited in a green or gray hunting-frock,
bordered with a wreath of embroidered oak-leaves, with an arrow worked
in silver thread on each lappel. They wore broad flapping hats, turned
boldly back from the forehead, and shaded in front with a drooping black
plume. Each carried a short hunting-spear, decked with ribands of the
colour of his mistress' jacket, gifts from her own hand and tied thereon
with her own fingers, in token that she acknowledged him as her "Esquire
of the Bow." The duty of these youthful cavaliers was to select a bow
suited to the strength of the archeress whose colours they wore; to fit
it with an arrow of a weight proportioned to its power, having a nock
exactly receiving the string; to assist, if the lady is unskilled, in
stringing the bow; to draw the arrows from the butt, or collect the
far-shot shafts and return them to the owner; and otherwise, as courtesy
and gallantry prompted, to do their duty as "esquires of archerie."

Once more the sonorous horn of old Cormac was heard winding, now high,
now low, in a long, wild strain, and then ending in three sharp blasts,
like the stirring notes of a bugle sounding to the charge. Every
archeress now had her brace buckled on her arm, and her shooting-glove
buttoned about her wrist; every one had two good arrows in the pouch at
her belt, and a third on the string; and each fair girl, attended by her
esquire, hastened to the stand by the southernmost target at the sound
of the forester's horn--save, in each instance, Kate Bellamont! Her
brace would not buckle all she could do; her shooting-glove would not go
on, and three, that she had pulled off, were lying rent at her feet; and
not an arrow was to be seen in her tortoise-shell pouch, though half a
dozen fair ones lay about her on the ground! It was very plain that
something was going wrong with the maiden. Such a dilemma could not have
happened without a cause. The braces of the rest buckled with ease;
their shooting-gloves fitted beautifully; and there had been time enough
to fill twenty pouches. Why, then, was Kate Bellamont not ready? Her
brace, both strap and buckle, was perfect; and the wrist it was destined
to compass was not to be matched for its smallness of size! The gloves,
plainly were just what they should be! Her companions had been fitted,
and her hand was the smallest as well as the fairest of the party;
besides, there were a dozen pairs on the ground that evidently were made
for no other hand. The cause could not lie in the arrows, for they were,
to the eye, without fault, and of every variety of shape and fashion
known to archery; nor in her handsome esquire, who, save when requested
by some eager girl to assist her, had been diligently serving her with
arrow after arrow, until he had emptied two quivers, the contents of
which now lay strewn around. The cause is not to be found in either of
these. The truth is, Kate Bellamont was playing with her little foot
against the ground when she should have been trying on her glove. No
sooner was one pulled half way on than she suffered it to remain so,
drumming the while in a fit of absence on the sward, while her eyes
followed the motions of her handsome esquire. The next moment,
recovering herself, she would tear it off impatiently, and, with a
laugh, fling it to the ground. She would then take up another, and go
through the same process, or play with her brace instead of buckling it;
and when the young gentleman gave her an arrow, without scarcely
touching it to the bow-string she threw it down, saying it was too heavy
or too light, too long or too short, had too much feather or had not
feather enough; so that, when the rest of the party were ready, Kate
Bellamont was just where she was at the outset. The result of all this,
whether brought about designedly or not by a little female
manoeuvring, being a question to be solved by such as are skilled in
the ways and means by which women work out their ends, was, that when
the last notes of Cormac's horn died away in the forest, Kate Bellamont
found herself and her esquire, the noble and youthful heir of the broad
lands of the earldom of Lester, left quite alone. The brace was on her
arm unbuckled, and she held a glove in her hand.

"Lord Robert, do clasp this troublesome brace for me. Strange you could
not see what difficulty I have had to get ready! But I suppose you were
so engaged fitting an arrow to pretty Gracy Fitzgerald's bow, that you
had no eyes for any one else!"

This was said half in pique, half laughingly; and holding, with a
pouting lip, her snowy arm towards her esquire as she spoke, he
gallantly received it, and with the merest effort in the world clasped
the rebellious brace. But he did not release her soft hand without
giving it a slight pressure, and looking into her face with an eloquent
gaze, which she consciously met with eyes half downcast, yet beaming
through their long dark lashes with a gentle fire that young love only
could have kindled.

"Now, Sir Esquire, fasten this glove."

The youth bent till the black plume of his bonnet rested on her arm,
and, with some difficulty apparently, for he was a very long time about
it, succeeded in buttoning the silken strap across the blue-veined
wrist; nor did he lift his head from the fair hand, which lay nestled
like a bird in his beneath the thick covert of his drooping feather, ere
he had touched it with his bold lip.

"Ha, Sir Forester, is this a part of your service as squire of archery?"
she demanded, with the blood mounting to her cheek in maidenly surprise;
though the pouting smile on her mouth, which she vainly tried to turn
into a frown, and the dancing light in her telltale eyes, betokened
anything besides resentment at the bold deed; "I see I must resign you
to my sly little cousin Gracy, and take her well-behaved esquire;
doubtless you better understand her humour than you seem to do mine."

By the time she had ended she had succeeded in calling up a small cloud
on her brow, which struggled very hard to cast a shadow over the sunny
light that played around her lovely mouth and was reflected back in a
thousand rays from the deep wells of her black, Castilian eyes.

"Forgive me, sweet Lady Kate," said the esquire, dropping on one
knee--disguising his attitude to the eyes of others by gathering
carelessly one or two arrows from the ground--to her eyes alone a
suppliant. The expression of his face amusingly wavered between playful
mockery and seriousness, as if greatly fearing, yet doubting much, that
his daring act had really given offence: a sort of neutral ground
between mirth and grief, with the advantage of enabling him to fall
readily into the one or the other, as he should find the needle of her
humour pointed.

"See, then, you offend not again, sir," she said, laughing at the
troubled expression of his serio-comic countenance. "Haste! choose me an
arrow that tapers from the pile to the feather."

"One that tapers each way from the middle will suit you better for
shooting in this light wind," said the young esquire, the puzzled play
of his handsome features changed to sunshine by her voice. As he spoke
he brought a quiver full of arrows and poured them out at her feet, and,
kneeling on the thick verdure, selected an arrow of the kind he had
named.

"No, no," she said, putting it aside; "they always curve from the line
of sight; and, besides, fly unsteady."

"Not in a wind, Kate. The fulness in the middle counteracts the weight
of the ends, and drives it more evenly."

"Do as you are bidden, Sir Esquire," she said. "Don't think now you are
going to have your own way." A second arrow was placed in her hand by
the youth.

"Why, Lord Robert, what _is_ the matter with your wits! This is an arrow
of the same kind; and, besides, it is without a cock-feather. I shall
have to call yonder handsome fisher's lad, who is watching me so
admiringly, to my assistance."

The esquire, without looking up, mechanically handed to her a third
arrow, with the head broken and the feathers ruffled. Without being able
to speak in her surprise, she looked quietly down and beheld the young
man so intently contemplating one of her exquisite little feet, that
twice she spoke to him ere he looked up to encounter her gaze of arch
astonishment. It was very plain what had become of her esquire's wits.
The youth blushed, and hastily rose to his feet; but the maiden could
not disguise a little female vanity, though she shook her finger at him,
and said mischievously,

"Do you propose becoming a cordwainer, and making me a pair of slippers,
Lord Robert, that you are so busy taking the dimensions of my foot?"

"I would willingly become apprentice to the meanest cobbler, to be
suffered to take the measure of that tiny foot, and fit it with a shoe,"
said the youth, with gallantry.

The maiden laughed, and, unwilling to betray the feeling his words had
created, said, "Do be quick, Lord Robert; my bow is not yet strung with
our foolish idling here, and I shall be too late for the lists."

As she spoke she grasped her bow firmly in the middle, and extending her
hand, containing the string terminating with a loop, to the upper limb,
she pulled smartly upward, pressing the limb downward at the same time
with her left wrist, and skilfully and accurately carried the eye of the
bow-string into the nock. Her bow, like those of her companions, was
five feet in length, neatly made of dark wood highly polished, and
rounded on the inner side to increase its power in shooting.

"Well and featly done! That's a tough yew, and a man's strength could
not have better done what your little fingers, with skill to guide them,
I have just seen do. You were an apt pupil, young mistress, and do
honour to old Dermot's lessons."

Kate Bellamont turned and saw the old forester close at her side. "If I
have any skill, good Cormac," she said, "I do owe it all to your kind
teaching; and if I win the arrow this day, you shall have it as a
birthday gift from me, to wear in your bonnet instead of your pipe."

The forester lifted his bonnet with a gratified air, mingled with
respect, at this expression of kindness from his lovely young mistress,
and said,

"I know you would give Cormac, sweet lady, even the fair white plume
that graces your brow if you thought it would gratify the old man. God
bless you, noble child; may you live to see many such bright birthdays
as this!" The rough huntsman brushed a tear from his eyes as he spoke;
for the experience of years had told him that clouds would obscure the
bright sky of her young hopes, and that each returning birthday might be
but a sad waymark to denote the slow passage of a life of sorrow and
trial. "The countess has bid me come and see if you need my aid in
fitting your shafts, that you delay."

"No, no, Cormac," said the maiden, blushing; but directly she cried,
"Yes, you can help me. I am undecided whether to shoot an arrow that
tapers from the head to the feathers, or from the feathers to the head,
or from the middle both ways."

"What says Master Robert?" asked Dermot, smiling archly through one of
his little gray eyes, the other, from the long habit of shutting it in
shooting, having at last got to be so firmly closed up in a radiating
network of fine wrinkles as to have been for the last ten years of his
life invisible.

"Pshaw, Cormac!" she cried, stooping till her snowy plumes shaded her
burning cheek; "I did not ask Lord Robert, but you."

"I have advised Lady Kate, forester, to shoot arrows that taper both to
feather and pile," said the youth, haughtily.

"And she chooses--"

"Those that taper from the pile to the feather," said the maiden,
quickly.

"If the distance were seventy yards instead of fifty," said the
forester, measuring the ground with his eye, "it would be a good shaft
for a steady hand; but, if you will let me decide, I would recommend you
to take the taper from the feather, especially as the air is in motion."

"Your skill is at fault for once, old man," said the young noble, with a
flushed brow; "the best bowmen in England--ay, Robin Hood himself, were
he here this day--would teach you your craft better."

"You are in error, Master Robert," said the forester, with some warmth,
in defence of his profession; "and he who taught you that a double taper
is better in a wind than--"

"Hist, old graybeard! you know nothing of woodscraft; yonder fisher's
lad will even tell you a shaft swelling in the middle will waver in its
passage through the wind like a weathercock."

"Nay, Master Robert--"

"Speak again, old man, and I strike you!" said the young noble,
imperiously, angry that his skill should be called in question; feeling
positive that he alone was right, or else too proud to acknowledge his
conviction.

"For shame, Lester," cried Kate Bellamont, with an indignant look; "I
did not think you were of so overbearing and ungracious a temper!
Besides," she added, proudly, "I sought Cormac's opinion! Strike an old
man, and in a lady's presence! Out upon thy manhood, Robert. Ask
Cormac's forgiveness, or never speak to me more."

"Pardon my hasty speech, Kate," he said, abashed by her look, and
reproached by the cutting irony of her words, approaching her as he
spoke with an air of deep mortification, "forgive--"

"To Cormac, sir, not me."

"For Cormac, in atonement, I will send from Castle More a fat buck, with
this very arrow sticking in its heart; but," he added, with haughty
fierceness, "I will ask no man's forgiveness. If I have offended, I am
ready to stand by my words."

"Marry come up! we are like to have a letting of blood here," said the
maiden, between jest and seriousness. "Will you be docile, Robert?"

"At your bidding, Kate, as a lamb."

"_Very_ like a lamb. Forget it, Dermot. You have made his pride a little
sore to tell him, before a lady, he knew not how to choose a shaft, and
so unfit to be an esquire of archery."

"Young blood will up," said the forester. "I meant not to gainsay your
skill, Master Robert, for it's known to every bowman that no young hand
in the county can send a shaft farther or surer than young Lord Robert
of Castle More."

"That will do, Cormac. Now, Robert, see that you henceforward take fire
less readily; and you, good Dermot, refrain from wounding the esteem of
these young lords. Verily, it behooves me to look to my own speech in
such fiery company. Nay, Robert," she added, laughing, "I have done.
Give me the shafts; and, as we are to have three shots apiece at the
target, I will shoot one of each kind, and be the prize his whose arrow
wins! Give me them, Robert!--nay, don't press my fingers so hard; I
don't want them in my hand, but in the pouch. Go, Cormac, I am ready. I
see my lady mother is shaking her silver arrow at me already for
loitering here when I should be at the post."

The next moment she had joined the archers, and the trial of skill
forthwith commenced. The first arrow that was shot was from the bow of a
fair-haired girl, in a blue hat and a silken bodice of the same colour;
it flew wide of the mark, and quivered in the trunk of a tree sixty
yards off.

"There was nerve in that, Lady Eustace," said old Cormac, who watched
each shot with professional interest; "but you grasped the handle of
your bow too tightly, and so made your aim unsteady. Hold your bow as
lightly as you would a hunting-whip. 'Tis not strength, but skill, that
sends the bolt into the eye of the butt."

The young archeress laughed at her failure, and resigned her place to
another, who was distinguished by an orange-coloured spencer. This
second shot was more successful; for, swiftly cleaving the air, the
arrow stuck in the orange circle.

"Bravo! orange to orange!" was the cry that on all sides hailed this
appropriate hit.

The third shaft was still better directed; and, hitting the red or inner
circle, stuck there for a moment trembling like an aspen-leaf, and then
fell to the ground.

"A brave bolt that! a brave bolt that," said the forester, "and drawn
well to the head. But you should have brought the nock of your arrow
down more towards your ear. The ear in shooting an arrow; the eye in
firing a pistol or harquebuss. That shaft was a taper from the feather,
Master Robert."

"Hush, Cormac," cried Kate Bellamont, quickly; "would you get your gray
beard into a broil. Robert, bring me my quiver," she said, as she saw
the young man's eye light up; "one of my arrows, the very one you gave
me, has the cock-feather awry! Stay! you need not bring the quiver, but
select a shaft for me yourself. I will keep it as my forlorn hope, and
mark me if it do not carry off the prize." She sought his eyes and
looked so bewitchingly after a manner maidens have of their own, that
his brow coloured and his eyes beamed with a different emotion, while,
with a fluttering heart, he went to do her bidding.

Oh, gentle and angelic woman! ever ready to calm the ruffled brow with
words of peace! to bring good out of evil! to step between fierce man
and his reinless passions! with an eye to sooth, a voice to disarm, a
smile to win! Blessings on thee, woman! whether in thy happy and
innocent girlhood, or fair and gentle maidenhood; whether maid or
matron, young or old, lovely or homely! Blessings on thee, sweet leaven
of humanity! yet partaking so much of the heavenly nature, that the sons
of the gods, we are told, were lured from their celestial thrones to
cast their crowns at thy feet!

A fourth arrow hit the black circle; and the fifth, sent from the bow of
a tall, graceful girl, struck on the outer edge of the target and
splintered it, while the bow itself snapped in two in her hand.

"What a mischievous shot, Fanny," cried Lady Bellamont, smiling; "if
by-and-by you launch Cupid's shafts at your lovers' hearts in that way,
you will make sad havoc."

"It was all, your ladyship, of placing the short limb of the bow
uppermost. Hugh Conor must be getting old that he teacheth not his pupil
better to handle the bow," said old Cormac, shaking his snowy locks as
the next archeress, a sylph-like little being, about fifteen, with
dangerous hazel eyes; rich chestnut-coloured hair, that flowed in curls
all over her shoulders; a voice like some merry bird's, and a wild,
joyous spirit lighting up like a sunbeam her whole countenance, took her
place at the stand.

"Now, cousin Gracy, do be steady!" cried Kate Bellamont; "take heed! you
will shoot my esquire through the heart if you handle your bow so
carelessly."

"And then you would shoot me through the head in return, I dare say."

The laughing girl bounded to the stand as she spoke, carelessly drew her
arrow to the head, and, ere she had well taken aim, away it flew, and
passed through the centre of the emblazoned target waving on the summit
of the pavilion, and continued its wild flight into the wood beyond.

"Bravo, cousin Gracy! you have won the silver arrow," cried Kate
Bellamont. "Lord Robert, I wonder if that was the arrow you chose for
Lady Grace. A taper both ways, or I'll forfeit my jennet!"

"Who makes the broil now, young mistress?" asked the old forester, with
a glance of humour.

"You and I, worthy Cormac, are two very different people where a young
gentleman is concerned," said the maiden, laughing.

The forester shook his head incredulously, and, turning to Grace
Fitzgerald, said, "Faith, but it was a brave shot that, my young lady!
You have done what old Dermot could not have done at a target, playing
in the wind like that. But, with the leave of my lady the queen, you
must have a second shot at the real target. Take this arrow, that tapers
from the feather to the pile; fit it to your bow-string exactly at the
spot where it is wound round with silk; and, if you will follow my
directions, I will teach you to strike the centre of the true butt, or
never draw arrow to head again." Leave being granted by acclamation, the
archeress merrily resumed her attitude and prepared to follow his
instructions.

"Hold the bow easily in your hand. Throw your head back a little. That
will do. Now keep your bow-arm straightened, and bend the wrist of your
gloved hand inward. Now raise your bow, steadily drawing the arrow at
the same time--not towards your eye, but towards your ear. Be steady!
When it is three parts drawn, take your aim at the centre. Keep the head
of the arrow a little to the right of the mark. Be cool, and, if you are
sure of your aim, draw the arrow quickly and steadily to the head, and
gently part your fingers and let it go!"

The shaft, loosened from the string, cut the air and buried itself in
the very centre of the golden eye of the target. A shout from every part
of the field acknowledged the success of the quick pupil, and bore
testimony to the skill of the experienced old archer.

"It is Cormac's shot, not mine," said the archeress; "I am satisfied
with piercing the glittering centre of yonder escutcheon."

"The queen shall decide," cried several of the party, turning towards
the throne where sat the lovely countess, amid her youthful attendants,
participating with girlish interest in the scene, and prepared to decide
all appeals to her royal umpirage.

"Gracy is right. Cormac's skill directed the shaft. She has no honest
claim to the honour of the hit, save the credit of having stood quiet
longer than she was ever known to before! The banner with its perforated
target she is justly entitled to; and," added the countess, with a
smile, "I here award it to her."

"And if I ever get a husband he shall carry it before him into battle,"
said the merry sylph. "Now, divine Kate, see that you don't wound my
arrow. I would not have it injured for a silver one."

"It tapers from the middle in each direction, I have no doubt," said
Kate, archly, glancing mischievously towards her esquire as she prepared
to take her place at the stand.

"Your speech tapers in both directions, wild Kate," retorted the other,
blushing. "I wonder what you and Lord Robert could have been doing, that
you loitered so long about the pavilion! There, I declare, if you are
not holding your bow with the short limb uppermost!"

Kate blushed in her turn, and reversed it.

"Why, cousin Kate Bellamont, you are going to shoot with the feather
towards the target!" cried the tantalizing little maiden. "Really, I
_do_ begin to wonder what you and Lester _could_ have been about, that
the mention of it scatters your wits and makes you look so _very_
foolish!"

Kate shook her head with a playful menace at her tormentor, placed her
arrow with the right end to the bow-string, and took her stand by the
target. The instant she fixed her eyes on it her self-possession
returned, and, elevating her bow, she threw herself with careless grace
into the attitude of an accomplished archeress.

A more beautiful object than this young creature, standing in the
strikingly spirited attitude she had assumed, can hardly be imagined.
Though but sixteen, her form was divinely perfect. Every limb--foot,
hand, and arm--was a rare model for the sculptor's chisel. The
undulating outline of her shoulders was faultless; and her figure,
perhaps, was the more beautiful that her bust and waist, and the wavy
symmetry of her whole person, was just receiving that harmony of touch
and roundness of finish which marks the era when the wild romping girl
is merging into the blushing, conscious, loving, and loveable maiden of
seventeen. Descended from an ancient Milesian family, she betrayed her
origin in her complexion, which was a rich brunette, reflecting in warm,
sunny tints the mantling blood, which came and went at every emotion.
Her eyes were dark and sparkling as night with its stars, and as, with a
slightly bent brow, she fixed them on the target, they had a cool and
steady expression remarkable in one of her years and sex. She wore a
dark ruby velvet jacket, laced over a stomacher rich with brilliants,
and a velvet hat of the same dark ruby, surmounted by a plume of white
ostrich feathers, in that day a rare and costly ornament, which
gracefully drooped about her head in striking contrast with her raven
locks that floated around her superb neck in the wildest freedom. Her
lips, like most of the lips of Erin's fair maidens, were of a rich coral
red, and, just parted as she took sight, rendered visible a pearly line
of beautifully-arranged teeth. Her mouth, when closed, was finely
shaped, and sometimes wore an air of decision, that did not, however, in
any way diminish its witchery. The glow of health, and the pride of
birth and beauty, were upon her countenance, and every feminine grace
and charm seemed to play around her.

As she stood with one foot a little advanced, her neck slightly curved
to bring her eyes down to a level with the mark, her left side, but no
part of the front of the body, accurately turned towards the target, the
eyes of old Cormac Dermot glistened with pride. Slowly she elevated the
bow, drawing the arrow simultaneously towards the ear with the first
three gloved fingers of her right hand, till she had drawn it out three
quarters of its length, when, pausing till she had filled her eye with
the golden eye of the target, she drew it smartly to its head and let it
loose from her fingers. For an instant she stood following its swift
flight: the pupils of her dark eyes dilated and eager; her lips closely
shut; her chest advanced; her right arm elevated and curved above her
shoulders, the wrist bent, and the fingers of the hand turned gently
downward; the left arm extended at full length, and grasping the relaxed
bow; her neck curved; her spirited head thrown back, and her whole
action animated and commanding; presenting altogether, perhaps, the most
graceful attitude the female form is susceptible of assuming.

The arrow was sent with unerring aim, struck the golden eye within half
an inch of Grace Fitzgerald's, and buried itself to its feather. The
lawn rung with the plaudits of both archeresses and esquires; and even
the retainers and fishermen, who were humble but curious spectators of
the sports, gave vent to their admiration in shouts of clamorous
applause. Old Cormac swung his long yew bow above his head with delight,
and looked as if, in the pride of the moment, he would have hugged his
accomplished pupil to his heart.

"Do not be so elated, good Dermot," she said, laughing; "it was the
arrow I chose--a taper from the pile."

"The more skill in the hand that drove it so truly," said the forester.

"I must do still better than this, else neither you nor Lord Robert,
who, methinks, looks somewhat blank to find I have not missed to gratify
him, will neither of you get the prize."

"It was not a fair trial, Kate," said the esquire, gayly; "the wind has
lulled; and, as you drew your bow, there was not a breath of air."

"If, nevertheless, that had been a taper from the feather," said the
forester, after surveying the target earnestly for a moment, as
obstinately bent on adhering to his original opinion as even the
spirited young noble himself, "it would have cleft the arrow of Lady
Gracy through its length to the pile."

"We will see to that anon, worthy Cormac. I have two shots more. Here is
the arrow you chose for me, which I will fit to my bow-string, and do my
best to drive it through my cousin's."

"I dare say you will if you can, and would like, also, to destroy
everything else Lord Robert gives me," said the roguish Grace, putting
up her lip and tossing her head, with its cloud of rich hair, in
admirably affected pique.

The young esquire of Kate Bellamont looked embarrassed; Kate laughed and
drummed on the ground with her foot, while the whole party began
forthwith to prepare for the next round. The customary mode of
ascertaining the value of the hits in archery, by estimating it in
proportion to their distance from the centre, was departed from in the
present instance. By the method alluded to, a hit in the gold counts
nine; in the red, three; in the orange, two; in the black, one; and
their sum is the value of the hits: a process which makes three hits in
the red circle of the same value, or nearly so, of one in the gold. In
the present case, the shots were limited to three, and the prize awarded
to the greatest number of hits in the gold.

In the second round, the first three arrows struck three different
circles; and one well-directed shaft, shot by the archeress who had
before broken her bow, hit the gold, though at its junction with the
red. Grace Fitzgerald bent her bow without aim, but the courteous arrow
went accurately to the mark, and struck within a finger's breadth of the
centre, much to the delight of Cormac, the forester, who took himself
all the credit of the fair shot. Kate, with the arrow given her by
Cormac fitted to her bow-string, took somewhat less careful aim than
with her first shot, and was about to loose the arrow, when a hawk,
bearing a live fish in his talons, soared above the cliff, and with
swift wing flew high across the lawn in the direction of the forest.
Quicker than thought, the point of the arrow was elevated from the
target into the air, drawn to its head with a stronger arm and more
resolute eye, and launched from the bow-string. With irresistible force
and unerring aim, it cleft the air and struck the proud bird of prey
beneath the wing. He uttered a wild cry, flew heavily a few feet
perpendicularly upward, and then, whirling round and round in concentric
circles, each gyration bringing him nearer the earth, fell, transfixed
with the arrow, among the fishermen: fluttering wildly on the ground in
agony, he succeeded, before they could secure him, in flapping himself
over the precipice. He was instantly followed by a daring young
fisherman, who had been endeavouring to capture him--the same youth
whose admiration of her had before attracted the notice of Kate
Bellamont.

For a moment the generous heart of the fair archer shrunk from the wreck
she had made, and she turned away her head from the dying struggles of
the dark bandit of the air. But maidens of that period were too familiar
with the more revolting scenes of the chase to show emotion at
witnessing the death of a hawk; and, therefore, sympathy for the fate of
the victim of her skill gave place to the pride of the successful
archer.

"There is a prize for you, Cormac, better than a golden arrow," she
said, with a flashing eye; "and, when next I go a hawking," she archly
added, "I will be sure to use arrows that taper from the feather."

The third and final round now followed. Each archeress had shot her last
arrow save Kate Bellamont, yet but three arrows besides her own and the
equivocal shot of Grace Fitzgerald were in the centre, and these from as
many different bows. Grace had made a wilder shot even than her first;
for her arrow, jeopardizing the lives of the poor fishermen, flew far
over the cliff out of sight. Four of the companions of Kate had, equally
with herself, each an arrow in the gold; but as she had yet to shoot her
third arrow, she had yet a chance of making a second hit and winning the
prize. Glancing with proud consciousness of her own skill towards her
young esquire, she drew her remaining arrow through her fingers,
carefully examining each one of its three feathers, and fitted it
accurately to the bow-string; then elevating her bow, she steadily drew
the arrow. All was breathless expectation. The old archer looked on as
if he would not grieve if for once his pupil should miss; while her
young esquire watched her with the anxiety of one who felt that his
judgment and skill in the noble science of archery were at stake. As she
was ready to loose the arrow, the wind, which had hitherto gently fanned
her cheek, increased suddenly to a strong breeze, lifting the hair from
her brow and tossing her tresses in wild confusion about her neck. The
eyes of Cormac lighted up with triumph, while Lord Robert himself curled
his lip scornfully and smiled with confidence. The archeress, who had
dropped the point of the arrow with a misgiving, remembering what Cormac
had said of it as ill adapted to a wind, on catching the confident eye
of her esquire again raised the bow, and coolly and steadily drew the
shaft to its head. Every eye followed it in its swift course, and saw it
strike the arrow of Grace Fitzgerald on the end, shiver it to its pile,
and drive itself through the target to the feather. A general
exclamation of surprise and admiration bore testimony to the skill of
the victor; the dark eyes of the young esquire sparkled with triumph,
while the discomfited Dermot said, with a broad laugh of good-humour,

"Well, Master Robert, it's your time to boast now. By the boar's head o'
Castle Cor! I shall never hear the end of your double taper. Faith,
masters, no hand but my young Lady Kate's could have sent a double taper
with such an aim and in this wind, which young Lord Robert there has got
old Elpsy to set a blowing to triumph over the old man's skill. Well
a-day! What the gray-headed forester said of it is true, nevertheless;
but when such a hand and eye as Lady Kate's sends the bolt to the butt,
there is no depending on old rules; especially," he added, laughing,
"with a witch's wind to carry the arrow to its centre."

The young noble frowned darkly on the speaker, and joined not in the
laugh of his companions. Lady Bellamont now commanded Cormac to sound
his horn three times, and bid, in the name of the queen of archery, the
band of archeresses, with their esquires, who were hastening towards the
target to collect their arrows, to approach the throne, and witness the
award of the prize to the victor.

Amid the congratulations and applauses of the whole field, for,
unenvious, each light-hearted girl seemed to share the triumph of the
accomplished archeress, the victoress advanced to the rustic footstool
of the throne, and gracefully knelt to receive, from the hand of the
beautiful queen of the sports, the glittering prize--a finely-wrought
arrow of silver, five inches in length, with a chased gold head, on
which was graven, in small Gothic characters, these words:

    "Field of Archery, Castle Cor, May, MDCXCIV."

"Victorious archeress," said the queen, rising, her face beaming with
maternal love and pride, and extending her arm containing the prize,
"receive this fair token of your matchless skill, so well displayed this
day. May you in every other female accomplishment, my sweet Kate, be as
successful as in archery."

"She'll be a match for poor little Cupid, with his tiny bow and arrow, I
dare say," said Grace Fitzgerald, with a roguish eye. "Poor youth!" she
continued, glancing significantly towards the handsome Lord Robert, who
stood at the right hand of the victress, "I pity him if he's like to
have such a hole made in his heart as Kate has made in yonder target."

This sally of the sprightly maiden was merrily received by all the
youthful circle save the conscious two who were its subjects. The lovely
countess now left the throne, embraced and kissed her noble Kate, whom
her companions, gathering around her, playfully forced into the vacant
seat. She was about to bound from it again, when she checked the
impulse, reseated herself, and bade her esquire advance and kneel before
her. The gallant youth obeyed; when, bending gracefully forward, she
fastened the silver arrow in the loop of his bonnet, and bade him wear
it on every return of that day in memory of the field of archery at
Castle Cor.

The noble youth accepted the gift, won by the arrow he had chosen, with
the same playful, half-serious spirit in which it was bestowed, and then
kissed the fair hand that presented it with at least full as much
passion as gallantry. Amid the merry sallies, especially from Grace
Fitzgerald, this scene created, the whole party of archers bounded away
like a troop of wild deer towards the target, to ascertain more
accurately the nature, of the several hits, while the countess, at a
more dignified pace, attended by the forester, returned to the castle to
prepare for the further entertainments of the day. But the fleetest of
foot among the youthful bevy of fair girls had not measured half the
green space between the linden-tree and bristling target, when a
thrilling outcry of terror from a fisherman on the cliff, who wildly
waved his arms to some one below, and the next moment clasped his hands
together in despair, checked them in mid career; and, with hearts
palpitating with vague apprehensions of danger, they flew to the
precipice to ascertain the cause of this sudden alarm.



CHAPTER II.

    "From crag to crag descending--swiftly sped
    Stern Conrad down, nor once he turned his head;
    He bounds, he flies, until his footsteps reach
    The verge where ends the cliff, begins the beach."

    _The Corsair._

    "Dark was the flow of Oscar's hair,
    But Allan's locks were bright and fair."

    _Oscar of Alva._

    "But who is he, whose darken'd brow
    Glooms in the midst of general mirth?"

    _Ibid._


When the hawk, which had been so skilfully struck by the arrow of Kate
Bellamont, flapped himself, in his violent death-throes, over the edge
of the cliff, a gallant young fisher's lad, seeing him lodge in the
topmost branches of a blasted tree twenty feet below, fearlessly flung
himself off the precipice, and lighted, by the aid of a limb, on a
projecting rock within twelve feet of him. The cliff at this place was
one hundred and forty feet in height, and, except where its surface was
opened by narrow crevices, in which a few shrubs and dwarf cedars found
precarious roothold, or where a fragment, hurled from its seat by the
lightning, or fallen through age into the sea, left a narrow shelf, it
presented to the passing boatman on the bay below a naked and gigantic
wall, of nearly perpendicular ascent and inaccessible to human foot:
indeed, from a midway brow seventy feet from the base, it receded,
leaving a sheer descent of that space from the water, which lay black,
still, and of profound depth beneath. Near the top of the cliff grew a
scathed cedar, clinging with its hardy roots into a cleft in its face,
and leaning threateningly over the flood. Its top reached within twenty
feet of the summit of the precipice; but, inclining at an angle away
from it, stood full seven feet out from its side. It was the ragged arms
of this tree which caught the hawk in his descent, and where, with
fierce cries of rage and pain, he struggled to free himself from the
fatal shaft, but which he drove deeper and deeper into his side with
every beat of his strong wing.

The young man paused after lighting upon the first landing-place, and
measured with a cool glance the dizzy descent; and then fixed his gaze
on the bird, whose blood-red eyes flashed forth vindictive fire as they
met his, with a resolute look that conveyed a determination to capture
him at whatever risk. The pliant limb of a tree growing on the summit,
by which he had let himself down to the place where he stood, had, on
being released, sprung back to its natural position far beyond his
reach: the surface of rock, eight feet in height above him, was as even
as a wall of masonry; and an upward glance satisfied him that, without
assistance from those above, to reascend again would be impossible.
Quietly smiling at the difficulty in which he had involved himself, the
fearless lad placed his eyes again on the hawk with the confident and
resolute, and almost stern, expression they had before borne, and began
to examine narrowly his position, and to look about for some safe way of
descending to a perilous spur, the breadth of a man's two hands, which,
on peering down, he discovered projecting from the side of the rock on a
level with the top of the tree. Whether governed solely by that pride of
spirit which is found in most youths of high-toned feelings, he
internally resolved to accomplish what he had thoughtlessly undertaken;
whether actuated by the spirit of adventure, or whether fascinated by
the beauty of Kate Bellamont, he wished to preserve the proud bird as a
trophy of her skill; whether one or all of these motives influenced the
daring fisher's lad, remains to be unfolded.

The spot on which he stood was the projecting edge of the second stratum
of rock, twenty inches wide, running irregularly along the face of the
precipice, and appeared to have been formed by the falling away of large
chips or flakes from the upper and softer stratum. From this rim there
ran a zigzag crevice, an inch wide, obliquely downward along the rock to
the shelf below, on which grew a handful of long grass and two or three
slender shrubs. On a level with it was the top of the tree; underneath,
thirty feet below, were visible its gnarled roots clinging to a mere lip
of the rock, yet vigorously inserting themselves in the neighbouring
crevices; farther down, on the edge of the brow where the cliff began to
incline inward, was visible yet one more foothold, scarcely a palm in
breadth; below that, the shrinking eye measured a dizzy vacancy till it
fell upon the still, pool-like bay beneath.

The youth surveyed these features of the dangerous precipice with a
steady eye; and having coolly calculated his chance of accomplishing
safely the descent of the twelve feet below him, sat down with his legs
hanging over, and deliberately drew off his stout fisher's boots and
hung them on a twig beside him. Then turning round, he carefully slid
off and suspended his body an instant by his right hand, till he had
firmly inserted the tip of one foot and the fingers of the other hand in
the zigzag crevice. Releasing his right hand from its grasp on the
shelf, he then carried it below the left, and having got a firm hold of
the edge of the fissure, let go with the left and passed it in its turn
under the right: he changed the position of his feet in the same manner
so long as he could obtain, which was not always the case, a
resting-place for his toes; and in this way, with cool self-possession
and undaunted nerve, which even the wild cries and beating wings of the
bird could not move, he succeeded in safely reaching the small
projecting leaf, and stood on a level with the top of the tree. The
falcon was now within seven feet of him horizontally; but he seemed as
far from the attainment of his object as before. It was impossible to
spring into the tree, even if its roots should not be torn from their
rocky bed by the force of the leap and his weight. But the young
fisherman possessed a temper that never yielded to obstacles, and seemed
to be governed by a spirit that scorned defeat. Stretching himself out
upon the shelf, which was just broad enough to contain his body lying
sideways to the face of the rock, he looked down, and saw within reach
of his arm a stout root, the strength of which he tested; and below
this, within reach of his feet if he should swing himself off, was a
sharp projection scarce the size of his foot; and a few inches below
that, a stout limb of the tree rested against the precipice. His eye
embraced at once these advantages, and he did not hesitate to avail
himself of them.

Lightly, but yet with care, he committed his weight to the root, and,
hanging at the full length of his arm, reached, after three unsuccessful
trials, the spur below with the tip end of one of his toes. This, to one
like him, was a sufficient hold to authorize him to release his grasp
above. Lying, like a fly upon a wall, close against the side of the
rock, he now fearlessly yet cautiously let go his hold, and stood with
one foot on the projection, with no other support but his muscular
adhesion to the wide wall of the precipice. This was a situation
attended with the most imminent peril; and by the firmly-closed lips and
the almost stern expression of his eyes, it was clear that he was fully
conscious of his dangerous position. But there was no shrinking, no
pallor, no sign of fear! He was equal to the danger he had braved; and,
as this increased, the powers of his mind and body seemed to expand to
compass it.

The branch of the tree was within a few inches of the point on which his
foot rested. Slowly and cautiously he dropped his unsupported leg, while
he pressed his cheek and shoulder close against the side of the cliff;
for he knew that the slightest deviation from the equilibrium would be
fatal. His foot at length touched the horizontal limb, which was the
thickness of a man's arm where it met the rock. He repeatedly pressed
upon it, each successive time harder and heavier, until he found that it
would bear his whole weight. Then directing his hand carefully downward
towards his feet, he placed it on the point of rock, removing his foot
at the same instant to make room for it, and stood upright and with
confidence on the limb.

Satisfied that the branch, which, turned back by the cliff, had forced
the tree to lean over the water, would safely sustain him, he now
glanced down to the foot of the tree, and began to inspect the hold of
the trunk upon the shelf from which it grew. The examination afforded
him no very great assurance; nevertheless, he determined to test its
strength by advancing out on the limb, though aware that, if it should
yield to his weight, he would be hurled with it into the sea. Even this
reflection did not present any weighty objection to his making the
trial; for with a fearless recklessness, for which there is no
sufficient term in language, he half anticipated the possibility of such
a catastrophe, and caught himself calculating the chances in favour of
his taking in safety a flight into the deep pool beneath. Letting go his
grasp on the point of rock, he now settled himself astride the branch,
and made gradual approaches towards the trunk. It remained firm as the
rock in which it was imbedded, and scarcely gave signs of feeling his
weight till he touched the body, when the top slightly vibrated. He
paused; but, finding it still remain fast, rose to his feet and clasped
the scathed trunk, at first lightly, and then more firmly; and at last,
gaining confidence, he shook it till the hawk fluttered anew in its
perch. Assured of its security, his lips unclosed, and his eyes lost
their severity, and with a smile of success he cast them triumphantly
upward, where, but a few feet above him, entangled by the long shaft of
the arrow and his broken wing, he saw the falcon secured in the crotch
formed by a fork of three stumps of limbs (all that decay had left) that
terminated its summit.

Without hesitation he began to climb the trunk, which, save the limb by
which he had reached it, and the branches crowning it, was bare from its
roots upward. This was the least difficult part of his hazardous
enterprise, and he soon got within reach of the bird, and stretched one
arm forth to seize him by the wing. But the fierce animal, who had for a
few moments ceased his struggles to watch, with a quick and guarded
glance, the movements of the young fisherman, no sooner saw this hostile
demonstration on the part of his human foe, than, with an intelligence
supernaturally called forth by existing suffering and anticipated
danger, he struck at him fiercely with his sharp, glittering talons;
while, stretching downward his head to the full extent of his neck, he
uttered long, wild cries of mingled fear and menace. Nothing daunted by
what, in itself, was sufficiently appalling, the young man coolly
watched his opportunity, and, at the expense of several severe wounds in
the wrist from his talons, caught the hawk by the throat. Clinging round
a limb with the disengaged arm, he raised himself higher in the tree,
and lifting his prize, which still struck at him with his armed feet, he
skilfully extricated the wing and arrow from the crotch: the next
instant, with the huge, fluttering bird in his hand, he had slidden down
the trunk, and was standing on the transverse limb with a flushed brow,
and a triumphant look illuminating his handsome and fearless
countenance.

With one arm bent around the tree, and the other holding the hawk at
full length, he now began to cast his eyes upward. They travelled over
the bare surface, scarcely without lighting upon a resting-place for a
squirrel; and he began, for the first time, to question the possibility
of reascending; it having been comparatively easy for him to let his
body down by the crevice, as he had descended, while it would be
impracticable for him to lift its whole weight up again by the mere
effort of the fingers. A glance demonstrated this to him at once. But
time was not given him to reflect on a plan for surmounting a difficulty
which, in reality, was insurmountable, his faculties being at once
called into action to save himself from being thrown from this dizzy
perch by the struggles of the hawk. This ferocious creature had been
wounded by the arrow in the side just beneath the wing, which was broken
by the fall to the earth, and, thence passing upward, the barb had come
out through his back, without touching any vital part. His strength was,
therefore, through pain, rather augmented than diminished; and
notwithstanding the manual pressure upon his windpipe, he now began to
battle fiercely with his captor, fighting both with his claws and
remaining wing. Though holding him out at arm's length, the young man
was unable wholly to defend himself from the strong blows of the wing,
which was three feet in length, with which he violently assailed him
about the head, while with his talons he succeeded in striking his
person and inflicting a deep wound in his breast. He for a time coolly
bore the heavy sweeps of the wing, hoping he would soon tire; but he
forgot that his terrible antagonist was "the bird of tireless wing;"
and, at length, finding his own strength beginning to fail, though his
spirit was unsubdued, he loosened his hold from the trunk of the tree
which his arm had hitherto encircled, and, leaning his back against it,
watched his opportunity, and suddenly, with a firm grasp, seized the
wing as it was beating against his temples, and, by a sudden and skilful
turn of his wrist, dislocated it. This bold act nearly destroyed his
equilibrium; and, after its successful accomplishment, he just had time
to recover his hold on the tree to save himself from falling into the
dark wave below. For a moment afterward his heart throbbed tumultuously;
and reflecting on the imminent peril he had incurred by this necessary
exposure, he trembled with emotion and several times breathed heavily,
as if to relieve his breast of a weight of suffocating sensations--the
tribute which nature demanded of humanity.

Goaded to increased rage by the additional pain, and maddened at his
vain efforts to lift his useless wing, the eyes of the hawk glittered in
his head like a snake's, and, opening his red jaws, he thrust forth his
long, narrow tongue, and hissed at his captor like an angry serpent. It
was a moment that called for all the moral energy and physical nerve man
is capable of exercising in the hour of danger. The extraordinary young
fisherman evinced the possession of these qualities in a degree adequate
to the crisis which called them into action. With his eyes fixed
unflinchingly on the burning eyeballs of the hawk, and calmly
indifferent the while to the terrible hisses which came hot from his
throat and fell warm upon his face, he continued to keep him at bay so
that his talons should not reach his person, and put forth all his
strength to strangle him. There was a moral grandeur in the spectacle
this young fisher's lad presented, fearlessly perched on his fearful
eminence, as regardless of the depth below as if standing in his own
cottage door, battling at such odds with the fiercest warrior of the
air!

It was at this crisis that one of the fishermen, a very old man, whose
attention, with that of his companions, had been hitherto too much
occupied by the trial at archery to give a thought to the youth, after
having remained to see the prize awarded to the victress, turned to
leave the ground, when missing the young man, he recollected that he had
seen him follow the hawk to the verge of the cliff. Calling him by name
and not receiving any reply, he approached the precipice; but finding
that he was on the most perpendicular part of it, he cast only a hasty
glance down, and was about to turn away, supposing he had, unseen,
descended to the beach by the usual route a little farther to the north,
when a movement far below arrested his eyes. Looking steadily, he beheld
the youth with one arm clasped round the tree, and the other stretched
out, holding the bird by the neck, while all his moral and physical
energies were called into action to enable him to defend himself against
the talons of the savage creature.

A glance conveyed to the fisherman the whole extent of the danger; and,
after looking down upon him for a moment in speechless horror, his limbs
trembled with fear, and, giving utterance to a wild cry, he would have
fallen from the precipice had he not caught by a tree that hung over its
verge. Kate Bellamont was the first to reach the cliff on hearing the
alarm given by the old man; and, glancing down, she intuitively
comprehended the peril in which the youth had placed himself. With
wonderful presence of mind, waving her hand back to those advancing, she
said with energy,

"Hold! all of ye! Breathe not a word! He is in mortal danger! A shriek,
or a sign of fear among us may unnerve his bold spirit and be fatal to
him!"

Several of the young archeresses stopped suddenly, and turned pale at
this intimation of danger; while one or two, with more sensibility of
nerves, unable to control their fears, turned and fled towards the
castle, as if in the retirement of their closets they would shut out all
sense of the threatened evil. Young Lord Robert was the first by Kate
Bellamont's side.

"By Heaven! a bold peasant!" he said, his eyes sparkling with
admiration; "but--"

"Lester, this is no time for words," spoke the maiden, quickly.
"Something must be done for him. How could he have got there in safety!
Poor, rash youth!"

"Alas! my child, my lost, lost child!" cried the old fisherman, who was
seated on the ground shaking his head mournfully, turning his eyes away
from the trying scene. "God protect thee, lad, for no human aid will
avail thee!"

"Do not despair, good Dennis, he may yet be saved," said Kate,
encouragingly.

"Let go the bird!" shouted Lester.

The fisher's lad, whose attention had been called to the top of the
cliff by the shout of the old man, and who had watched the movements of
those above, smiled proudly at this request, and firmly shook his head
in the negative.

"He deserves to perish if he will peril his life for that bird," said
the young noble.

"Hush, Lester, he must be aided. Mark, drop the bird, or he will throw
you off. How could you be so foolish as to adventure your life for that
fierce hawk!"

"There is humble gallantry at the bottom of it, I dare swear," said
Lester, with a tone in which there was a slight shade of scorn.

"Perhaps there may be!" was the quiet reply of the maiden. "Mark, let
the bird go, I command you. If your life is sacrificed, I shall feel
that I am the cause of it."

"By the bow of Dan Cupid! I would change places with the serf to have my
situation create such an interest in your breast, fair lady." This was
spoken, partly with sincere feeling, partly with derision, by the
haughty Lester.

The full, dark gaze of Kate Bellamont encountered his; and with a manner
that eloquently conveyed the feeling of contempt that sprang up in her
heart, she said,

"Robert Lester must have fallen low in his own self-esteem to be jealous
of a fisher's lad!"

The young noble, with all his native haughtiness and pride of spirit,
possessed a generous nature, and was ever ready to atone for the wounds
which his wayward temper might have caused him unawares to inflict.
Especially was this the case where Kate Bellamont was the party
interested. With an instantaneous change peculiar to hasty spirits, he
sought pardon of the offended maiden with his eyes, and at once appeared
so different, that she saw that she could fully rely on him; plainly
reading in his face, with unerring feminine tact, that he nobly had
resolved to banish every feeling but the humane one the occasion
demanded.

"Lester, he will not release the bird for which he has perilled so
much," she said, with frank confidence in her tones, "and we must devise
some means to save both him and his prize. Haste to the castle, and get
a rope to save your comrade!" she cried to the remaining fisherman.

"I will save him with my life!" said the young noble. "How many bows
have we here?"

"A dozen," said Kate, at once comprehending the object of his inquiry.
"But are they strong enough, Robert?"

"To bear the weight of three men. Aid me, Kate, in making a chain of
them."

In a few seconds they had prepared a rope or chain nearly threescore
feet in length, of bows strung together, each link being five feet long.
Firmly securing one end to the top of the precipice by carrying it over
an upright limb, they successfully tested the strength of the whole by
extending it along the lawn, half a dozen drawing on it at once without
breaking it.

"This will do," he said with confidence, approaching the cliff to let it
down; but, to his surprise, he saw that the youth no longer retained the
bird, which, notwithstanding the command of the maiden, he had hitherto
seemed resolved, as Lester had hinted, to preserve, at the peril of his
life.

While these preparations had been making on the cliff, the hawk, not
being any longer able to reach the young fisher's body with his talons,
began to strike and lacerate his wrists. Finding at length that his
strength was unequal to the effort of strangulation (his intention
having been, if he could have killed him, to have lashed him to his
back, and so ascended with him), and satisfied that, while holding him
in his hand alive, he could not reascend, he reluctantly had been
compelled by a severe wound in the hand to let him go. In his fall the
bird struck heavily against the root of the tree, and, bounding off,
descended twenty feet lower, when the point of the arrow, which passed
through him like a spit, caught in a cleft and firmly held him on the
little shelf before described, which projected from the brow that
beetled over the sea at the height of seventy feet from it. The youth
watched him a few moments steadily, and saw that he moved neither wing
nor talon. He was dead!

When the intrepid lad saw him arrested in this manner, and that life was
now extinct, the cloud of regret that began to darken his face was all
at once chased away by a sunbeam of pleasure; for he discovered, as he
followed the bird's course with his eye, that the cleft in which he was
caught commenced at the very foot of the tree, and offered him the same
perilous facilities of descent that the zigzag one above had afforded.
When Lester looked over the cliff preparatory to letting down the chain
of bows, he beheld him, therefore, to his astonishment, in the act of
swinging himself from the horizontal limb, and the next moment clinging
about the trunk below it. Before either Kate or he could speak to warn
him, so sudden was their surprise, the daring youth had effected a
cautious and rapid descent of the tree, and was standing safely at its
roots: on casting their eyes farther below, they discerned, hanging over
the very verge of the brow, midway the precipice, the lifeless
ger-falcon, which instantly accounted to them for this new and
unexpected movement.

"His blood be upon his own head!" cried the maiden, shrinking from the
sight. "Lester, look! Is he not attempting to reach the bird? Or perhaps
he finds that he cannot climb the precipice again, and is trying to
descend to the water!"

"It is a long step of seventy feet from where that bird hangs to the
bottom," said the old fisherman, for an instant rousing himself. "He
will die, lady, and I shall have to convey his mangled corpse in my
skiff to my lonely hut, and dig for the poor boy a grave in the sand. I
loved him as if he had been my own flesh and blood!"

Kate was about to ask him, with surprise, if he were not his own son,
when a cry of alarm caused her to turn round just in time to see Lord
Robert commit himself fearlessly to the chain of bows and swing himself
over the dizzy verge. As he descended from her sight, with a smile on
his lip and a devotion of the eyes as he met hers, that told her,
plainer than words could convey it, that he ventured his life for her
sake prompted by his sympathy with the interest she took in the daring
fisher's boy, he said resolutely,

"I will save him in spite of himself, or share his fate!"

She was about to speak, but her voice failed her; and covering her eyes
to hide him, as he hung suspended above the sea, from her swimming
sight, for a few seconds she appeared as if her presence of mind had
deserted her. This weakness, if an emotion so natural can be termed
such, was but momentary. Recovering herself by a strong mental effort,
she once more looked over the cliff, and calmly watched the descent of
the daring Lester, whom she knew to be a skilful cragsman, with a prayer
on her lip for his safety. The novel chain by which he descended reached
to within ten feet of the spot where the young fisherman stood, and the
intention of Lord Robert was to take the tree, and reach the roots of it
as the other had done before him. He had accomplished, however, but a
few feet of his passage down the rock, not without great peril, though
at each junction of the bows he found a resting-place for his feet and a
hold for his hands, when the young fisher's lad lowered himself from his
shelf, and, getting his fingers in the cleft, began to descend,
alternately supporting his weight by his arms, with a celerity and
apparent recklessness that, to the spectators above, was fearful to
witness: he, however, took a firm grasp of the rock each time, and with
a cool head and steady eye, gained the spur where the hawk was fixed. In
the mean while Lord Robert had reached the tree; and leaving the chain
swinging in the air, he clasped the trunk, and quickly descended it: but
the object for which he had so generously ventured his life was now
twenty feet below him. With all his nerve, the fearless young noble
shuddered when he looked down and beheld the means by which the fisher's
lad had made his last descent. Both had reached the points at which they
aimed at the same instant; and when Lord Robert bent over to look down,
holding firmly by the roots of the tree, the other was standing with
perfect self-possession on his dizzy foothold, holding the hawk in one
hand, and waving with the other to those above.

"Do you value your life so lightly, peasant, without saying anything of
the painful sympathy your folly produces in those who are spectators of
your foolhardiness, that you peril it after this fashion?" said the
young noble, passionately, yet unable to refuse the admiration due to
his fearless character.

"I am not your serf, Lord Robert of Castle More, that my life should be
of value in your eyes," said the youth, with a look and bearing as
haughty as the young noble's.

"Ha!" exclaimed Lord Robert, with astonishment and anger; "these are
brave words to come from beneath a homespun jerkin. By the cross of St.
Peter! fisherman, thou dost presume too much upon that equality to which
mutual danger has for the moment brought us. I have periled my life to
assist thee--not by mine own will, by Heaven! for thou deservest to be
rewarded for thy temerity by a bath in the sea; but at the bidding of a
lady, who, perforce, thinks, if thou shouldst, by any lucky chance,
break thy neck for the hawk her arrow has sent over the cliff, thy blood
will be on her head. So I have explained to thee the height and depth of
my charity, lest thou shouldst swell still bigger to think that, peasant
as thou art, thou hast made a noble thy servant."

"A very proper speech, I have no doubt, Lord Robert More," answered the
fisherman, with a quiet smile of superiority (as the noble construed
it). "I need none of your lordship's aid. Without it I came down, and
without it I can go up again."

"The devil have thee, then, for thy obstinacy," cried Lester, his eyes
flashing with anger; "by the rood, if I had thee there, I would be of a
mind to help thee down rather than up."

"The path by which I came is equally open to your lordship," was the
cool answer. "Robert More, thrice have I saved your life; and though you
have thanked me like a noble for the deed at the time, have after
cancelled it by treating me like a slave, because the accident of birth
has made you noble and me base. Leave me again. I will not owe my life
to your lordship!" This was said in a steady and determined, but very
quiet tone.

"My good Meredith, I will forgive thy rudeness of speech, for thou hast
had offence," said the young man, struck with his proud and independent
character, so nearly akin to his own. "The haughtiness with which I have
treated thee is one of the consequences of this accident of birth.
Believe me, I have never forgotten what I owe to thy courage: once saved
from drowning by thee! once snatched from a peril almost equal to that
thou art now in! once preserved from death beneath the antlers of an
enraged stag! I have not forgotten these debts, thou seest. If I have
seemed to thee ungrateful, set it down, brave Mark, to pride of birth
rather than want of feeling. Shall I aid thee, lad, in gaining the top?"

"Lord Robert, your words have atoned for the past," said the young
fisherman, not unmoved by this generous and manly defence of the proud
young noble; "nevertheless, I will not owe my life to you!"

The noble fastened his penetrating gaze on the upturned face of the
young fisherman, and thought he discovered a meaning there that was a
key to his refusal.

"Ha! I have it!" he said, internally, after a few moments' reflection.
"_He dares to place his thoughts on her!_"

Instantly, with that lightning-like rapidity with which his impulsive
feelings changed, he shouted in a loud, haughty tone of voice,

"Ho, Sir Peasant! prithee tell me what strange fondness for dead hawks
set thee to jeoparding thy life after this sort?"

"Lester," cried Kate Bellamont from the summit of the cliff, hearing
their voices without understanding the words, "why this delay? Can there
be no means of reaching the noble youth?"

"Noble youth!" repeated the young man, scornfully, to himself; "it will
be a _princely_ next. By the cross! If he does not smile and wave his
daring hand to her! And she answers it back! Fellow!" he added,
fiercely, "I will come down and hurl thee into the sea!"

"You are welcome, Lord Robert," replied the other, unmoved; "yet, as
there is barely room for me, it is certain that, if you do descend,
_one_ of us only can remain upon it."

The impetuous Lester was already preparing to descend by the crevice;
but the coolness of the other at once disarmed his anger.

"Thou art a brave fellow, Mark, and I would not injure thee. But," he
added, sternly, "see that thou cross not my path!"

"How mean you, Lord Robert?" he inquired, concealing his penetration of
the lover's motives under a look of simplicity that embarrassed the
haughty and sensitive noble.

Before he could reply, the voice of the Countess of Bellamont,
encouraging them both, was heard from the summit. She only had this
instant arrived, drawn hither by the rumour of the danger of the
fisher's lad, accompanied by Dermot, and one or two men-servants, with
ropes and other means of assisting those below.

Her first proceeding, on discovering the position of the parties, was to
attach the rope to the chain of bows, and have the end of it firmly tied
to the tree. She then bade the men to lower it steadily till it could be
reached by Lord Robert, and in a few seconds he held it in his grasp.

"Now, Sir Peasant," said Lester, relaxing into his former haughty mood,
"here is the means of reascending the cliff."

"You may profit by it, my lord, I will not," said the youth, firmly. "I
will receive no favour at your hands."

"Then, by Heaven, thou shalt ascend, whether thou wilt or no," said the
noble, with energy. "I have pledged my word to save thee, and I will
redeem my pledge. Ho! there above! Drop a piece of cord a few yards in
length, so that it will fall at my feet."

The coil was placed by Kate Bellamont on the rope, and the next moment,
sliding down like a ring along the chain of bows, it was caught in his
hand.

"Let out twenty feet more of the rope," he again shouted, "and see that
it is well fast above."

As it passed through his hands, he conducted it over the shelf on which
he stood till it touched the feet of the young fisherman. He had quietly
watched these preparations, and, as they were completed, he coolly
glanced into the depth beneath, and then upward to the young noble, with
an air so resolute that the other paused ere he descended by the chain,
on a link of which one foot already rested.

"Surely thou wilt not be so mad!" exclaimed Lester, reading a fatal
determination in his lofty and intrepid look.

"Robert More, I will owe you no favour. Rather than be beholden to you
for my life, I will fling it away, as freely as I have now hazarded it
to win a smile from the fair maiden of Castle Cor."

"THOU! By Heaven, I thought it!" he shouted, with scorn and indignation.
"If I had thee on a piece of ground two feet square that would hold us
both, I would waive my birth, and do battle with thee on that score,
hind as thou art! and see if I could not beat out of thy bones this
leaven of insolence! I will now assuredly aid thy return to the summit,
that I may have the pleasure afterward of doing for thee this good
service."

As Lester spoke, he committed himself with cool intrepidity to the
chain, holding in one hand the coil of line, by which it was evidently
his intention to lash the young fisherman to the rope, and began rapidly
to descend.

"Robert More, I do not fear to meet you on any ground. If I did, I
should hardly take _this leap_ to avoid the lesson you have in
contemplation for me! But I will owe you no favour, not even that of
life. Nor shall you lay a finger upon me to force me to do your pleasure
in this thing. Hold! place your foot on the nock of this second bow
above me, and I will take a free spring out into the air."

This was said in a tone and manner--a steady uplighting of his clear
dark eyes, and a firm, muscular compression of the lip--that made the
other hesitate; but it was only for an instant: the next moment he let
the bow to which he held slip through his hands, and he descended with
velocity till his foot struck upon the last link, which was on a level
with the young fisherman's head. At the same moment the latter elevated
his arms high above his head, holding the hawk between his hands, and,
placing his feet close together, made a spring into the air!

Lester, with a full knowledge of his cool and resolute character, had
not anticipated this result; and, in his surprise, had nearly let go his
hold. He at the same time uttered a cry of horror, which was answered
from the summit by a loud wail of anguish from many voices; for this act
had been witnessed by all, without the cause which influenced it being
apparent. Preserving the erect attitude with which he had left the rock,
the young fisherman descended like lightning, cut the still bosom of the
black wave beneath, and disappeared below the agitated surface; the
heavy, splashing sound of his fall striking on the ears of those on the
summit of the cliff like his death-knell. Wild and full of mortal
anguish was the shriek that echoed it!

A flush of hope lighted up the countenance of Lester when he saw the
accuracy with which he had struck the surface, and thought upon the
manner of his descent. At the same time Kate Bellamont, who had been an
interested but puzzled spectator (for their voices, at the height she
stood, had not distinctly reached her) of the previous conduct of the
parties, and had beheld with horror the seemingly fatal act of the
adventurous youth, also marked the natatory art with which he had taken
the spring; and, scarcely hoping, watched, equally with Lester, the
circling waves, as they widened from the centre, with an intensity
amounting to agony.

After an interval of full thirty seconds, which seemed an age to those
who watched, the water, which had once more become nearly smooth, was
seen to part many yards from the point of descent, and the head of the
daring youth appeared above the surface. A shout, loud and long, greeted
him from the cliff; and no voice was louder or more glad in the joyful
welcome than Lord Robert's. With the hawk elevated in one hand, and
buffeting the waves with the other, he swam bravely towards a belt of
sand a few yards farther northward; and in a few moments afterward he
safely landed, full in sight of those standing anxiously on the cliff.
Pointing to his prize, and waving his hand to Kate Bellamont with native
gallantry, he disappeared around an angle of the shore, to reascend, by
a beaten and easy path, to the summit of the promontory.

In the mean time Lord Robert became an object of renewed interest to the
party. He was sixty feet from the top of the cliff, with no other means
of reaching it than the precarious chain of bows and a few additional
feet of rope: even the permanent safety of this was doubtful. It
depended solely for its strength on the goodness of the yews and the
entire soundness of the slender bow-strings; and one of these he
discovered, on running his eyes upward, was chafed by some sharp point
of the rock with which it had come in contact. There remained, however,
no alternative. It was plain that he must either trust himself to it, or
follow the example of the young fisherman, and take the leap into the
sea. For a moment he gazed down into the water, and seemed to measure
with deliberate purpose the empty void between; but, shaking his head
with doubt, he once more turned his attention to the equally dangerous,
but more probable, means of escape. The catgut which had stranded
belonged to the third bow above him. Drawing hard upon it with his whole
weight, he saw that it was slowly untwisting, and that it would be
madness to trust himself to it. His self-possession, however, did not
desert him.

"Can you obtain no stout rope that will reach me here, 'wild Kate?'" he
said, in a careless tone; "I fear the ragged points of the rock will cut
your bow-strings, and spoil them for further shooting."

"No, Lester, there is none!" answered the maiden, in a deep voice, that
betrayed the depth and intensity of her feelings at this crisis; "men
have been sent to the cove for ropes, but it is far, and it will be long
before they return, even if they succeed in getting them. God protect
you! Preserve your coolness, for my sake, Robert!" she added, with that
force and truth that spurned, at such a moment, all disguise.

Her words seemed to have awakened anew the spirit within him. Placing
his hand on his heart, he carried it to his lips, and gallantly waved it
towards her. She answered it encouragingly in return; but instantly
turning away overcome by her feelings, cast herself on the bosom of her
mother, and burst into tears.

Necessarily ignorant of this touching testimony of her attachment to
him, which his imminent danger now forbade her to disguise longer under
a mask of badinage, Lester concentrated all his energies to the task
before him. He felt that before the lapse of one or two hours, which it
would require to get ropes from the cove which was more than a league
distant, the inconvenience of his position would have left him with
little strength to climb the cliff, even with the assistance that might
then be rendered. He was now in the full possession of his physical and
mental energies, and resolved, without longer delay, to avail himself of
them. Taking the cord, which he had demanded for a very different
intention, he fastened one end around his wrist; then leaning backward
from the rock, sustaining himself by the grasp of one hand on the chain,
he threw it upward with such accurate aim that it passed through the bow
next above the one with the stranded string, and fell down within his
reach. He then loosened it from his wrist, firmly secured the ends to
the lower bow on which he was sustained, and so made the cord supply the
place of the weak bow-string, and bear the whole strain. This done, he
prepared to ascend the smooth face of the rock twenty feet to the foot
of the tree. Grasping the cord with both hands, he braced himself in a
horizontal position, one of most imminent hazard which demanded all the
coolness, self-possession and physical strength he was possessed of, and
began literally to walk up the perpendicular side of the precipice. The
stranding of a string; a sudden strain upon the tensely bent bows; the
least deviation from the horizontal, would have been instantly fatal!
Coolly, slowly, steadily, lifting himself, step by step, hand after
hand, he at last got to a level with the tree, firmly grasped one of its
roots, and by its aid sprung lightly upon the shelf on which it grew.

His preparations had been watched, and it was told Kate Bellamont that
he was preparing to ascend. But the maiden had yielded her full heart to
her woman's nature; and while he was making the perilous ascent, with
her head lifted from her mother's bosom, and with tearful eyes and
clasped hands, she was looking heavenward, breathing a silent prayer for
his safety. A shout of joy announced to her his success! Once more she
dropped her face and wept with joy. Lady Bellamont, who felt that all
had been done that circumstances admitted of, refrained from watching
his perilous feat; and, while she solaced her daughter, calmly directed
Cormac the forester to steady the rope, and keep it from rubbing against
the rocks.

Quitting the chain, Lester now ascended the tree to the transverse
branch, which he had scarcely reached when a loud crack at the root
warned him that the scathed solitary of the cliff, unused to such
repeated trials, was giving way under his weight. Hardly had he time to
throw himself upon the chain, and hang by a bow-string with one hand,
when a series of loud reports rapidly followed each other as one after
another the roots snapped; the top of the tree waved wildly to and fro,
and then the huge trunk plunged, crashing and roaring, into the flood
beneath. For an instant afterward the appalled Lester continued to cling
to the fragile chain with nervous solicitude; but at length assured that
he was not to be carried along with it into the frightful gulf, he
prepared to continue, by the same process of horizontal walking he had
hitherto adopted, his upward progress to the next shelf, six feet above
him, and with which the top of the tree had been on a level.

The effect of the fall of the tree on those so deeply interested above
can scarcely be imagined. Lady Bellamont answered the heavy crash by a
wild shriek, echoed by all around save Kate. With her the dreadful
suspense and anxiety were now lost in the certainty of his fate. She
calmly raised her head, approached the cliff with a firm step, and
looked steadily down, not with hope, but with a settled gaze of despair,
as if she would take a last look at his grave, and for ever impress upon
her heart's tablet his sea-covered tomb. It was at this moment of her
soul's anguish she confessed within her own heart that, notwithstanding
the lightness with which she might have attempted to disguise it, she
loved him with all the fervour and devotedness of a first passion.
Approaching the verge with such feelings, her surprise was only equalled
by her joy when she saw him in the act of climbing on the shelf above
described. A joyful cry escaped her; and the bold youth, looking up,
acknowledged her presence with a proud smile and wave of his hand. From
this moment Kate Bellamont was herself again. He was safe! The change
from grief to joy in her countenance was electrical! and she prepared to
watch and aid his ascent with all the coolness and energy she was
possessed of.

He had accomplished thus far his arduous task in comparative safety; and
as he had now but twenty feet more to ascend, she looked with confidence
to its successful accomplishment. This space, however, save a shelf
within eight feet of the top on which the young fisherman had alighted,
and the zigzag crevice by which he had descended the remaining twelve
feet, was steep as a wall, and as difficult of ascent. The young man,
after having hitherto passed through such trying scenes, was not now to
be daunted by any obstacles, of whatever magnitude, that opposed his
farther progress. Nerving himself to the effort, he grasped the rope,
which here had taken the place of the chain of bows, and extended
himself, as before, into a horizontal position, meeting and returning
with a smile, as he did so, her look of solicitude. As he slowly and
laboriously ascended, she inspired the men to their task of keeping the
rope from the cliff, often assisting them with her own fingers, till at
length she was rewarded by seeing him safely reach the shelf, and stand
within eight feet of the summit. By her direction the men now bent the
projecting branch of the tree until it was within his reach; when, aided
by one hand placed on the rope, he lightly climbed the limb, and with a
spring stood in safety on the top of the cliff.

Kate, who had scarcely breathed as she watched this final effort, guided
by the impulse of the moment, flung herself at once, grateful, happy,
weeping, into his arms!--so certain it is that true love will out, give
it occasion to speak for itself! And what fitter one than this? At such
a time, love is both deaf and blind. It sees, hears, knows no voice but
its own; is indifferent to the opinions of a world of witnesses, and,
setting aside all canons of propriety and discretion, abandons itself to
the impulses of its ardent nature. Such was the love of Kate Bellamont.

But love, like all other emotions, is but short-lived in its excess. The
temporary excitement passes away; reflection follows; notions of
propriety return; and the conscious victim, blushing, mortified, angry
with shame, feels that there _is_ a world of witnesses to whose canons
she is amenable, and shrinks at the judgment that will be passed on her
outrage of its received notions of maidenly propriety. Such, the next
moment after abandoning herself to the first wild gush of joy at his
escape, were the thoughts that rushed thick on the mind of the proud and
sensitive maiden. She sprang away from him; hid her face in her hands;
and, for the moment, scarcely knew whether her wounded feelings would
have vent in tears or laughter. True to her character as "Wild Kate of
Castle Cor," the latter prevailed; and, exposing her face, she broke
into a fit of merry laughter, which was caught up and continued, with
many a lively witticism, by those around, who, the moment before, were
sad and gloomy under the pressure of fatal forebodings: for so
wonderfully, yet wisely, is the human heart constituted, that smiles
never come so readily, and are never so bright, as when heralded by
tears.

The gratified Lester was too happy to receive such an ingenuous,
impulsive token of her love, and of its deep, womanly sincerity, to feel
hurt at this change in her manner, which his good sense enabled him to
refer to its true cause. With deep and silent pleasure, he felt that
that moment had fully repaid him for all he had risked.

Grace Fitzgerald, who had been by no means an indifferent spectator of
his hazardous adventure, now advanced, grasped his hand with great
warmth, and congratulated him on his safety.

"You need not look so very fond, Sir Cragsman," she said, gayly; "I am
not about to follow the example cousin Kate has so generously set for
us. Oh no! What with your exploit and Kate's folly, you will be
completely spoiled for me! I dare say you would go down that horrid
place again for another such hug as my cousin Kate gave you. Really, I
am shocked!"

"I will go down and take the leap off into the sea for a similar
reception from Grace Fitzgerald," said Lester, with an air of gallantry.

"And do you think I would come near such a dripping monster as you would
make of yourself? No, no, I am no Nereid to fancy a man coming out of
the sea."

"By which I infer, fair lady," he said, archly, "that, if I will go down
and come up dry, you will give me such a welcome as--"

"Kate gave you? Really, you are quite spoiled. Kate, come and take care
of your beau cavalier, for he is no longer fit for any company but
yours. But here comes one I will welcome, dripping or dry!"

She bounded forward as she spoke, and met, at the head of the path, the
gallant fisher's lad, who just then appeared, on his way up from the
water, bearing in his hand the ger-falcon which had been the cause of
putting in peril two human lives. He was accompanied by the old
fisherman, who, having remained on the summit of the cliff, paralyzed
and inert through alarm and anxiety until assured of his safety, had
gone down to the beach to meet him on his return. She approached the
young adventurer with one hand extended to welcome him, the forefinger
of the other at the same time lifted with censure.

"I will shake hands with you, Mark; but you deserve, handsome as you
are, to have your ears boxed. See what a to-do you have been the cause
of; and all for that great black bird, which Kate, forsooth, must shoot
instead of sending her arrow at the target. Well, you are a noble and
gallant young man, and I like you. Do you hear that, Kate? I too have
made a declaration! Well, but I won't embrace you, I think, for you are
too wet."

While the lively girl was speaking, the rest of the party, including
Lord Robert and Kate, approached and joined in welcoming him.

"My brave Meredith," said Lester, frankly extending his hand, "you
deserve a better career than that before you. Henceforth let us be
friends."

The hand of the young noble was received without embarrassment and with
a native dignity of manner by the humble youth, that, to all present,
atoned for his want of high birth; while he said, with a firm yet
respectful tone,

"We may not be enemies, but we can never be friends, Lord Robert:
friendship between the high and low is but another name for dependance
to the latter."

"I fear you speak too truly, Mark," said Kate, who had congratulated him
on his escape with an honest warmth and sincerity of manner that sent
the blood like lightning to his brows.

"Not in my case, brave Mark," said the noble, earnestly; "I will become
your patron and--"

"And is there patronage without dependance, my lord?" he asked, in a
quiet tone.

"Well, well," said Lester, colouring, "have it your own way. You have
pride enough for Lucifer!"

"But not enough for a noble," said the other, with a very slight curl of
the lip.

"Mark Meredith," said Kate, reprovingly, "you forget your station. A
proper degree of pride is the secret of independence. Perhaps you have
too much. Lord Robert is sincere, and means well by you."

"Believe her, Mark," said Grace Fitzgerald, with playful raillery;
"nobody ought to know so well what Lord Robert means as my cousin Kate."

"Stop your saucy tongue, Grace," said the maiden, placing a finger on
her bright lips. "What will you now do, Mark, with this bird, that has
cost us, through your thoughtlessness, so much anxiety and suffering?"

"And betrayed a secret that was not quite a secret before," said the
mischievous Grace.

"Grace, prithee hist!" cried Kate, with a spice of asperity.

"Give me the bird, peasant!" said Lester, in a tone of authority. "I
will nail it on the door of the lodge at Castle More, in honour of the
fair archer who shot it."

"Here is the gentle owner," replied the youth, turning towards Kate
Bellamont; and gracefully kneeling as he spoke, he gallantly laid the
bird at her feet, saying,

"Gentle archeress, deign to accept--it is the only boon I crave for my
peril--this trophy of thy skill. I have obtained it for thee at the risk
of life and limb, valuing neither, so that I might do thee a service,
and save what I know thou wilt be proud to preserve in remembrance of
this day."

"By the cross! a forward youth! an Alfred in disguise, I would swear!"
said Lester, haughtily, his quick spirit kindling at the scene. "He will
be offering next, fair Kate," he added, scornfully, "to share with thee
his palace of bark and poles, and his wide realm of sand and seashells.
S'death! a proper peasant!" The young noble's eyes sparkled, and he
paced the sward with angry impatience, as he concluded.

Kate Bellamont was not indifferent to the tone, manner, and language
with which the hawk was presented by the humble youth. She was flattered
by his well-directed compliments, and pleased, without knowing why, with
the deep, silent admiration with which he regarded her. Was it the
language of love? His manner reminded her of Lester in his most
impassioned moments of devotion; but there was in the fine face of the
young fisherman a calmer, sweeter, more chastened expression; a
reverence without humility; devotion without awe. Was it love? She
trembled, as she thought so, and dared not a second time meet his
dark-beaming eyes. The peculiar character of the expression of his face
was read aright by none but herself and Lester: for only love and
jealousy can translate the language of love. The light blue eyes of the
young noble flashed fierce fire as he witnessed what he deemed palpable
proof of his suspicions. His glance turned rapidly from the face of one
to the face of the other. The expression of his maddened him; that of
hers troubled and puzzled him; and he turned away, grinding his teeth
with bitterness: for what is there on earth so bitter as jealousy?

The contrast between the appearance of these two haughty young men was
as great as that existing between their ranks in life. The young noble
was in his eighteenth year, tall, and firmly made, with uncommon breadth
and expansion of chest, which gave a striking appearance of compactness
and muscular finish to his frame, that promised, in manhood, nobleness
of carriage as well as great personal strength. His complexion was fair
as the Saxon's; his features regular as the Greek's; but, unlike his,
stamped with that union of manly grace and strength, and bold, fiery
energy, supposed to be characteristic of the ancient Briton. Over his
clear, high forehead fell locks of light flaxen hair of rare beauty, and
shining tresses of the same pale, golden hue floated about his
shoulders. His eyes were his most remarkable feature. They were large
and blue, clear as light, and of a beautiful shape, glowing with
intellect and sparkling with animation, and, when undisturbed, beaming
with a soft and gentle expression betokening gayety of temper and
lightness of spirit; but, when roused by anger, they flashed fierce
fire, and seemed literally to blaze, so bright was the light they
emitted. They further possessed a striking peculiarity, which so marked
his angered glance that he who once encountered it never forgot it till
his dying day. This was a habit, or, rather, nature had given it to him,
when under the influence of angry passions, of lowering his brows down
over his eyes in such a way as to destroy their fine, oval form, and
give them a strange, triangular shape; and the pupil of his eyes
darkening at the same time till they grew black as night, communicated
to them a singularly wild and terrible expression.

His lips were very beautiful both in form and colour; but the upper wore
a haughty curl that marred the beauty of a mouth which nature had
chiselled with the nicest hand. He carried himself at all times with a
gallant but proud air; and his demeanour was like that of the highborn
youths of his time, taught to regard all of low degree as created for
their use and pleasure. His faults were those of education rather than
of the heart; and, where these deeply-grafted prejudices were not
attacked, he was frank, noble, and generous, and not unworthy the love
of a noble maiden like Kate Bellamont. At the moment seized upon to
describe his appearance, he was standing within a few feet of the young
fisherman, his eyes sparkling with anger and assuming that remarkable
shape which has been described, with his head and one foot advanced, and
his whole attitude hostile and threatening.

The fisher's lad, who continued kneeling for an instant at the feet of
the fair archeress awaiting her acceptance of the trophy he had
presented, met his dark look unmoved, and, as he thought, with a smile
of proud defiance. The appearance of this bold youth, whose bearing
caused the haughty Lester to question if nature had not a nobility of
her own creation, was, save in his proud carriage, strikingly opposite
to that of the young noble. He was about the same age, and nearly as
tall, but had not such fulness in the chest, and was wanting something
of his breadth of shoulders; but his figure, if lighter, was more
elegant, and united great muscular activity with native dignity and ease
of motion. He wore fishermen's loose trousers, with a coarse jacket of
brown stuff, and was both barefooted and bareheaded. His face was
exceedingly fine. It was oval in shape, with an olive complexion, still
more darkened by exposure to wind and sun: now, with the glow of
exercise and the magic presence of her before whom he bent, it had
become of the richest brown colour. His dark hair was glossy with
sea-water, and, parted naturally on his brow, fell in long raven waves
adown his well-shaped neck. His eyes were dark as hers on whom he gazed,
exceedingly large-orbed, and eloquent with thought and feeling.

"What handsome eyes!" thought Grace Fitzgerald, as she gazed on them.

"What dangerous eyes!" thought Kate.

His eyebrows were as even and accurately arched as if pencilled; but
they were redeemed from anything like effeminacy, on account of the
delicacy of their outline, by the intellectual fulness of the brow. His
nose was straight, and of just proportions; his mouth beautiful as a
girl's, yet full of character, decision, and strength, and oftener it
was the seat of dejected thought than of smiles. Its expression was
generally quiet; yet the finely chiselled lips were full of spirit; and,
when silent, seemed most to speak, so eloquent were the thoughts that
coloured them with their ruby life. The merest movement of the upper
conveyed the intensest feelings with the vivid rapidity of the
lightning's flash, whether they were begotten of scorn or irony, love or
hatred. His bearing, as well as his appearance, was above his station;
and he manifested a haughty independence of spirit that scorned the
distinctions of rank, and a pride of character that, in one of his
humble grade, was not far from being closely allied to audacity. But
perhaps this only proceeded from a certain impatience at being
compelled, nevertheless, to admit in his own person a conventional
inferiority to those with whom he felt he was on that broad basis of
equality, the elements of which are equal physical and intellectual
qualifications.

Though a poor fisher's lad, he possessed all the feelings and sensations
common to humanity, and experienced emotions both of pleasure and pain;
could feel disgusted at what was revolting, and be pleased at what was
agreeable. He shared, therefore, with all men, of whatever rank, from
the prince to himself--for there could scarcely be a lower scale--that
mysterious principle of the heart by which it attracts, and is attracted
to, woman--he beheld Kate Bellamont, and this moral loadstone, acting as
nature intended it should do, irresistibly drew him towards her. Without
reflection, without cherishing either a hope or a fear, but simply happy
in the contiguity, he gave himself up to the new and delightful
sensations produced by the flow of love's magnetic fluid through his
heart. In plain words, the poor fisher's lad fell deeply in love with
the highborn heiress of Castle Cor.

No one of the wonderful phenomena of the human mind so fully
demonstrates that it is a mesh of anomalies, as the existence of the
fact that, when a man loves a woman, he has only to learn that another
regards her with the same flattering sentiments, to hate him most
cordially, seek him out, quarrel with him, and even take his life. It
would seem to be taken for granted that the knowledge of this fact would
have a directly contrary effect; for the presumption irresistibly
follows, that whoever feels an interest in the object to which we
ourselves are so closely bound by ties of love, must, without regarding
the delicacy of the compliment to our individual tastes, be
proportionably loved by us. But experience has too often demonstrated
this by no means to be the case; but, on the contrary, the knowledge of
the existence of a parallel attachment produces in the breast of the
legitimate admirer wrath, malice, and hatred, filling his soul towards
the subject of it with all manner of evil.

True to this feeling of the human heart, the young noble and fisher's
lad forthwith felt rising in their breasts towards each other emotions
of a hostile character; for love is a famous leveller, and the prince
can deign even to hate his slave if love raises him to a rival. In one
of the youths it manifested itself in the cool expression of defiance:
in the other, by haughty scorn and indignant surprise.

When the fisher's lad had finished his manly and gallant address, he
modestly continued to await, with his hand upon the bird, the
acknowledgments of the fair maiden. Gratified, yet embarrassed, Kate
remained silent, knowing not how to reply to the chivalrous lad, who,
under the magic tuition of love, had suddenly assumed a character that
alarmed her; who, all at once, had been converted, as if by a spell,
from the quiet, yet handsome fisher's boy, who was accustomed to attend
her in her excursions along the beach, into a bold and daring lover! She
could not be insensible to the compliment. She loved Lester with all her
heart; therefore she could not have requited the youth's boyish love,
had his blood been noble as her own. Yet there remained a place in her
heart for kindly gratitude, and with a smile that sent the quick colour
to the forehead of the boy, she said, in a voice that thrilled to his
soul,

"I thank you, Mark, for the gift. I will keep it in remembrance of your
courage, as well as a trophy of my skill in archery; notwithstanding, I
fear good Cormac will lay claim to it, as it was hit with his own arrow.
It would make a brave ornament, with its wings spread at length above
the door of his cot," she added, turning to the old forester, who stood
respectfully on the outskirts of the party that was gathered about Mark
and his ger-falcon.

As she spoke her thanks she extended to Mark her hand, which he took
with blushing embarrassment, and, after a moment's hesitation,
gracefully carried to his lips. The eyes of the young noble sparkled
with anger as he saw the offer of the hand, but they shot forth a
menacing glare as he witnessed the act on the part of the youth: turning
on his heel with an execration, he would have left the ground but for
the eye of Kate Bellamont, which he caught fixed upon him.

"Come, Mark," said Grace, "you must join us all in the pavilion; for you
need refreshment after your fatigue. I wish, Robert, you would present
him with one of your green hunting-suits. I declare, I should like to
see if he would not outbrave you all. Do! good Lord Robert."

"You are perfectly crazy, Grace," said Kate, aside.

"Am I? was the quiet reply, accompanied by a quizzical look, which
conveyed far more than the words to Kate's comprehension, and made her,
in spite of her efforts to maintain indifference, look exceedingly
foolish.

"You are all beside yourselves, I verily believe," said Lester, in a
tone that his accent alone made biting; "I have no doubt whatever that
it would oblige you excessively, Lady Grace, if I would exchange attire
with your fishy favourite."

"Really, Lord Robert, I wish you would. I have a curiosity to know what
sort of a fisherman you would make. I dare say a very nice one, save a
spice or so of pride, that would hardly suit your station."

"Pride in a peasant is impertinence. But 'tis an attribute most
congenial to the station, I discover," he added, with cool irony, "and
doth recommend its possessor, I see, most particularly to the favour of
noble ladies."

"I advise you, then, Lester, when you chance to fall in their good
graces," said Kate, assuming the same tone, yet qualifying its
bitterness with good-humour, "that you renew your suit under a fisher's
garb; believe me, it will assuredly restore you to favour."

"I have no hesitation in believing it," said Lester, in a grave tone,
and with a marked emphasis of manner that excited both maidens to
laughter; but he was far from participating in their merriment, and
turned from them with an angry brow.

"I have delayed the banquet too long with this folly," said Kate; "hie
to the pavilion, fair archers and gallant esquires all," she added,
gayly, "and I will soon follow you. As for you, Mark, I will send to you
some of the choicest viands on the board, and cousin Grace shall be the
bearer of them. Cormac, take up the hawk."

"This honour will please Lord Robert better," replied Grace, glancing at
him with an archly malicious look.

"Lord Robert will have nothing to do with this piece of folly," cried
he, in a tone that made her start. "By the cross of Christ! peasant, if
you betake not yourself speedily to thy hovel, I will hurl thee with
mine own hand from the cliff upon its roof."

As he spoke he advanced upon him. Mark looked apologetically at Kate,
and then sprang to his feet, and confronted him with that calm courage
which had hitherto characterized him. His coolness maddened the
impulsive Lester, and with a bound he leaped upon him, and caught him by
the throat; but, ere he could get his fingers firmly clinched upon his
windpipe, he reeled violently backward by the force of a blow upon his
chest, dealt with a skill and accuracy of aim that compensated for any
inequality of physical strength. With eyes darkening with rage, he
recovered himself, and seeing lying not far from him on the ground his
short hunting-spear, he snatched it up, and launched it at his breast
with a force and direction that would have transfixed him on the spot
but for his presence of mind; anticipating its flight, he quietly moved
from its path, when it passed within a few inches of his head with a
loud whirring noise, and, striking against a distant rock, shivered into
a thousand fragments.

"Robert Lester," exclaimed Kate Bellamont, with a flashing eye and a
voice of indignant horror, "by that act you have forfeited all that
belongs to you as a noble gentleman, and also," she added, with deep
feeling and a proud spirit, "all that connects you with any person (I
speak for all) that is here present."

"Pardon me, lady," he said, throwing himself at her feet, and attempting
to take her hand.

"Never, Robert Lester. Touch me not! Leave me--leave me! Leave us all!
The farther festivities of the day will be marred by your presence!"

"Lady--"

"Silence, assassin!" and the dark eyes of the roused heiress of
Bellamont flashed with such a light as might burn in an indignant
seraph's.

"Ha!" he cried, starting to his feet, "this to me!"

"This to you, Robert Lester, who now have made yourself lower than the
meanest peasant. I degrade you from your esquireship; and, faith! if the
more noble Mark Meredith shall not take your place. Mark, approach and
be my esquire of archery!"

The youth proudly smiled, but hesitated.

"I command you. As true as my father's blood runs in my veins, thou art
the more noble!"

"God of Heaven! this is too much to bear calmly," cried Lester, his eyes
assuming that remarkable shape that characterized them when his anger
had grown to its height.

"Mercy!" cried Grace Fitzgerald, with real alarm; "what a fearful look!
I wonder," she added, with a slight touch of her usual manner, "that I
ever could have had the courage to coquet with such a terrible
creature."

The fierce noble made no reply, but, glancing from her to Kate, looked
pleadingly, as if about to speak; but she shook her head with a motion
scarcely perceptible, but in a firm manner, that left no hope to his
repentant spirit. Striking his forehead violently, with mingled shame
and rage he rushed from the spot towards the castle, and walked rapidly
until he disappeared behind an angle of one of the towers. Kate
Bellamont followed him with her eyes, her brow unbent, her proud manner
and high-toned look unchanged; but, when he could no longer be seen,
there was perceptible a struggle on her eloquent countenance to restrain
the emotion with which her heart was full. With an even voice and forced
gayety, she said,

"We will now to the pavilion, maidens fair and cavaliers; and I trust
this rudeness of yonder haughty boy will not mar our festivities. Mark,
you will attend me. What! has he gone too? God grant two such fiery
youths meet not again this day."

"Didst observe, my lady," said Cormac, who had been a silent spectator
of the exciting scene, "didst take note of that look out of the eyes of
Lord Robert? Well, if it did not remind me of Hurtel o' the Red Hand, as
if he had stood before me."

And the old forester ominously shook his head, as if it contained
something very mysterious, yet untold, and followed the party to the
pavilion, whither they had already directed their steps, to partake,
with what spirits they might after the scenes that had transpired, of
the luxurious banquet therein spread for their entertainment.

Here Kate Bellamont, who preserved a calm dignity the while, and, save
to the eye of Grace, whose generous spirit sympathized warmly and
sincerely in her feelings, betrayed no outward signs of emotion, with a
tranquilly-spoken excuse for her absence left them and fled to the
castle: she ran through its long hall like a hunted hart; flew up the
broad staircase to her boudoir, and entering it, closed the door. Then
uttering a gasping cry of suffering, she threw herself, with a wild
abandonment of passion, upon a seat; the fountains of her bursting
heart, so long choked up, were opened; and she gave way to an
irresistible flood of tears.

It is ever thus with woman! Although, in the moment of just resentment,
pride and anger may for a while check the flow of affection, and harden
the wounded heart as if bound about with bands of steel, yet love will
return again, dissolve these bands, and convert resentment into
tenderness. It is its nature to obliterate all dark spots that wrong may
have cast upon the heart; to palliate offences, and to forgive even
where forgiveness is a weakness: it makes itself half sharer of the
fault; is ever ready to bear the whole weight of the blame, and with
open arms to receive back again, without either atonement or
acknowledgment, the guilty but still loved offender.

In a few moments the current of her feelings had changed. She thought of
the thousand noble qualities of Lester's head and heart, shaded only by
the faults of pride of birth and a hasty temper.

"For these," she asked of her heart, "shall I break his high spirit? For
these shall I inflict a pang on his noble nature? For these, which among
men are regarded praiseworthy attributes of highborn gentlemen--for
_these_ shall I make him unhappy, and myself--for it will kill
me--miserable? Oh, Lester, dear Lester, I was too, too cruel! You had
cause for anger; but oh, that fatal spear! Would that it had been far
from your hasty arm!"

At this moment she heard the sound of horses' feet moving rapidly across
the court towards the forest. With a foreboding of the cause she flew to
the lattice, and beheld Lester, mounted on his coal-black steed,
galloping at the top of the animal's speed away from the castle, each
moment burying his armed heels into his sides, and riding as if he would
outstrip the winds. For a moment she watched him with an earnest gaze,
then threw open the lattice, shouted his name, and waved her hand! But
his back was towards her, and he was too far off to hear even _her_
voice calling him to return; and in a few seconds afterward he entered
the wood. With tearful eyes she saw the last wave of his dark plume as
he disappeared in the winding of the road; and, leaning her hand upon
the window, she sobbed as if her young heart would break. Oh love, love,
what a mystery thou art!



CHAPTER III.

    "Alas! the love of women! it is known
      To be a lovely and a fearful thing;
    For all of theirs upon that die is thrown,
      And if 'tis lost, life hath no more to bring
    To them but mockeries of the past alone,
      And their revenge is as the tiger's spring,
    Deadly, and quick, and crushing; yet, as real
      Fortune is theirs--what they inflict they feel."

    _Don Juan._


Kate Bellamont gazed after the departing Lester until his receding form
became indistinct, and his dancing plume mingled with the waving foliage
of the forest into which he rode; she then bent her ear and listened
till his horse's feet ceased longer to give back a sound, when, overcome
by the depth and strength of her feelings, she leaned her head upon the
lattice and wept like a very child; at length she recollected the duties
that devolved upon her as entertainer of the party of archers; and,
forcing a calmness that she did not feel, she descended to the lawn, and
once more mingled in the festivities of her birthday.

Notwithstanding all her self-possession, her eyes often filled with
tears when they should have lighted up with smiles; and even her smiles
were tinged with sadness! And how could it be otherwise, when her heart
and her thoughts were at no moment with the scenes before her? She
longed for the day to close--for the night to approach--that she might
fly to her solitary chamber, and there, hidden from every eye, indulge
her feelings. At length the long, long day came to an end, and with it
departed the youthful company on horse-back to their several homes. A
gay and gallant appearance the cavalcade presented as it rode away from
the castle--a youthful cavalier prancing by the bridle of each maiden,
and a band of armed retainers of the several families bringing up the
rear. Kate bade them adieu, and stood in the hall-door following them
with her eyes till the last horseman was lost in the windings of the
forest; she then flew to her chamber, and, turning the bolt of her door,
cast herself upon her bed and once more gave free vent to the gushing
tears which she could no longer restrain.

Twilight was lost in night: the round moon rose apace, and, shining
through the Gothic lattice, fell in a myriad of diamond-shaped flakes on
the floor; yet had she not lifted her face from her pillow since first
she had buried it there, though the violence of her grief had long since
subsided; and so still was she that she seemed to sleep. But the soft
influence of this gentle blessing was a stranger to her aching eyelids.
Her soul was sad and dark! her sensitive spirit had been wounded! the
wing of her heart was broken. Her thoughts rushed wild and tumultuous
through her brain, and her young bosom, torn by strong emotions, heaved
like the billow when lashed by the storm. She mourned in the silence of
her heart's depths, without solace, and without hope; condemning her own
hasty act, and, like a very woman, excusing his conduct by every
invention that her true love could find in palliation.

All at once she was disturbed by a light tap at her door. She started
suddenly, aroused from that world of troubled thought in which she had
so long been lost to the exclusion of everything external, and lifted
her face. Her surprise was great on seeing the moon looking in upon her,
and filling her little room with an atmosphere like floating dust of
silver. A glow of pleasure warmed her heart, and an exclamation of
delight unconsciously escaped from her lips--it was so calmly bright, so
richly beautiful! Like a blessing sent from heaven, the sweet moonlight
fell upon her soul, and all the softer and holier sympathies of her
nature were touched by its celestial beauty. She approached the lattice
and threw it open, forgetting the cause that had aroused her from her
mood of grief, in admiration of the loveliness to which she had
awakened.

A second tap was heard at her door. She started with instant
consciousness; and throwing back from her face the cloud of raven
ringlets that had fallen about it, tried to assume a cheerful look, and
bade the applicant enter.

"I can't, cousin Kate," said the sweet voice of Grace Fitzgerald, in a
low tone; "you have locked yourself in."

Kate blushed, stammered something, she scarcely knew what, in excuse,
and turning the key, admitted her mischievous cousin.

"In the dark, Kate!" exclaimed Grace, as she entered.

"'T were sacrilege, cousin, to bring a lamp in presence of this lovely
moon! Come stand by the lattice with me," she said, throwing her arms
about her and drawing her towards her.

The fair cousins leaned together from the window and looked out upon the
silvery scene. There was something in the quiet loveliness of the lawn
beneath, spangled with myriads of dewdrops like minute fragments of
diamonds; in the deep repose of the dark woods; in the majesty of the
ocean, which sent its heavy, sighing sound to their ears with every
passing breeze; in the glory of the glittering firmament, with the moon
like a bride walking in its midst, and in their own lonely situation,
which the silence of the castle and the lateness of the hour contributed
to increase, to make both silent and thoughtful.

At length a deep sigh escaped the bosom of Kate, and Grace turned to
contemplate her unconscious face, as with thoughtful eyes, her head
resting in her hand, she gazed on vacancy, evidently thinking on
subjects wholly separated from the natural scenery before her.

"Dear Kate," said Grace, after watching for some time in silence the
sad, pale brow of her cousin, and speaking in a tone of tender and
affectionate sympathy; "dear Kate, I pity you!" She gently threw her
arms about her neck as she spoke, and, drawing her towards her, kissed
her cheek.

The touching sincerity of her manner, unusual to the merry maiden, came
directly home to her heart. She felt that she was understood; that her
sorrow was appreciated! She struggled with virgin coyness for a few
seconds, and then, yielding to her increasing emotions, threw herself
into her arms and wept there. How grateful to her full heart to find
another into which it could freely empty itself! How happy, very happy
was she, that that heart was, of all others, her beloved cousin's! How
unexpected her sympathy! How soothing, how welcome to her sad and
isolated bosom! At length she lifted her face, and, smiling through her
tears, said, after dwelling an instant on the lovely features of her
cousin,

"You are a sweet, noble creature, Grace! You don't know how happy your
kind sympathy has made me! and all so unlooked for! Yet I know you will
think me very silly; and I fear your natural spirit will break out
again, and that you will, ere long, ridicule what you now regard with
such sweet charity!"

"Believe me, Kate, I feel for you with all my heart. I could have cried
for you a dozen times to-day, when I saw how very unhappy you looked!"
she added, with tenderness beaming through her deep shaded eyes.

"And yet, dear Grace, I think I never saw you so gay, nor those little
lips so rich with merry speeches," pursued Kate, playfully tapping her
rosy lips with her finger.

"It was for your sake, dear cousin Kate. I saw that your feelings were
wrought up to just that point when you must either laugh or cry, and one
as easy for you to do as the other; so, trembling lest, in spite of
yourself, you should lean towards the tragic vein, I did my little best
to make you laugh."

"You were a kind, generous creature, Grace," said the maiden, with a
glow of grateful energy in her manner. "I have not half known your
worth, though you have been full six months at Castle Cor."

"And now, just as you are beginning to know what a nice, good cousin I
turn out to be, I am, hey for merry England again!"

"I cannot part with you, Grace; my father must sail to-morrow without
you. You will stay with me, won't you?" she added, with sportive
earnestness.

"I have twice delayed my departure, and poor father will need my nursing
in this recent return of his old complaint. I fear we may not meet again
for many years. I shall then," she said, with her usual thoughtlessness,
"perhaps, find you Lady Lester! Forgive me, cousin Kate," she instantly
added, as she saw the expression of her face change; "I am a careless
creature, to wound at one moment where I have healed at another. But,"
she added, with playful assurance, "this may yet be even as I have said!
Nay, don't shake your head so determinedly! Lester is not so angry that
a word from you will not bring him to your feet."

"Cousin Grace, do you know what and of whom you are speaking?" said
Kate, startled that her feelings should have been so well divined;
shrinking with maidenly shame that the strength of her love and the
weakness of her resolution should be discovered to her observing cousin,
and involuntarily resenting, with the impulse of a woman at such a time,
the imputation.

"Indeed I do, dear coz! so do no injustice to your own feelings by
denying them. You will forgive Lester if I will bring him to your feet?"
she inquired, archly.

"Yes--no--that is--"

"That _you will_. Very well. Before to-morrow's sun be an hour old, he
shall kneel there."

"Not for the world, Grace!" she cried, trembling between fear and hope;
her love struggling with the respect due to her maidenly dignity, which
she could not but feel, still, that Lester had outraged.

"I don't care for your words, Kate; I know they mean just the opposite
of what you say. Robert Lester shall kneel at your feet to-morrow
morning, and sue for pardon for his offence," she added, with gentle
stubbornness.

"Without compromising my--" she half unconsciously began.

"I shall not compromise you in the least. There shall be no syllable of
concession on your part mentioned; let me manage it my own way, and see
if you do not love each other the better for it yet?"

"Coz!" she cried, placing her fore finger on her mouth reprovingly, yet
pleased and smiling with the first dawnings of bright returning hope.

"I am glad to see you smile once more, and I am resolved you shall yet
be happy," added Grace, who had shown that, beneath the light current of
gayety that usually characterized her, there was a flow of deep and
generous feeling; and that, with all her thoughtless levity, she was
susceptible both of the sincerest attachment and of the warmest
friendship. Her words conveyed the germe of hope to the breast of her
cousin. Her confident manner inspired confidence; and the happy Kate,
giving herself up to the direction of the sanguine feelings her language
and presence had caused to spring up in her sinking heart, became all at
once a different being.

"If I am happy in the way you mean, I shall owe it all to you," she
said, kissing her. "Now for your plan, my sweet diplomatist."

"Now for my plan, then. That Lord Robert has gone home very angry
indeed, there can be no question. Now, when a lover is angry, justly,
with his mistress, he will be ever ready to meet her, not only half, but
the whole, of the way, to bring about a reconciliation. When he has no
right to be angry with her, and is so foolish as to be so, how much the
more readily then will he be brought to her feet! There is a spice of
argument for you. Now, as Lord Robert has no cause in the world to be
offended with you, it follows that he has every cause in the world to
induce him to acknowledge his offence, and ask pardon therefor on the
very first opportunity. Now all that he wants cheerfully to do this, it
appears to me, is the assurance that, after such a philippic as that
with which you were pleased to send him off, he will be received
graciously."

"But how, if I should be inclined to be gracious, sage cousin of mine,
is Lester to know it?"

"That will very easily be brought about, I think. Let me see!" and she
seemed to muse very profoundly for a few seconds. "Ha! I have it. I will
borrow that curious locket he gave you--"

"Locket, Grace--Lord Robert gave me!" repeated Kate, colouring, and
looking out of the lattice as if some interesting object had at that
moment drawn her attention.

"Yes," replied Grace, dryly, and with a look of the most provoking
positiveness.

"It is no use, I see, to conceal anything from you, mischief! How _did_
you know he gave it to me?"

"Young ladies are not wont to take from their bosoms a boughten trinket,
and slyly kiss it a hundred times a day, and--"

"Grace, Grace!" cried Kate, attempting to stop her saucy speech.

"And sleep with it under their pillow."

"Cousin Grace!"

"I have done," she said, quietly.

"You well may be. Oh, if I do not wish you had a lover, that I could
repay you in kind!"

"Perhaps I have!" was the imperturbable rejoinder of the maiden.

"I dare say fifty whom you call so. Among the gay Oxford gallants, the
heiress of a coronet could not be without admirers; but oh, if I knew
only of one _lover_ who could set that little heart of yours a
trembling!"

"You forget your locket, cousin," said the other, gravely.

"What shall be done with it, Grace?"

"Send it to Lester, with this message: '_He who returns this gift of
love to her who sends it, shall with love be met_.' Now is not that very
pretty, and as it should be?"

"What a wild creature! Would you have me send such a message to Lester,
child? He would think me jesting with him."

"No, never. Is it not just what you want to say--what you feel--what you
wish, above all things, he should know you feel?"

"Yes, indeed, Grace," she replied, with the most ingenuous naïveté.

"Then it shall go. Give me the token. Nay, part not with it so
reluctantly; 'twill soon be back, with a prize worth a thousand of it.
Give it me, coz. Nay, then, kiss it! and so will I."

"No, you shall not!" cried Kate, with laughing earnestness.

"Oh, I _do_ hope _I_ never shall be in love!" said Grace, getting
possession of the locket. "Here is pencil and paper. Can you write by
this moonlight? Lovers, methinks, should write by no other light." She
spread the paper on the window as she spoke.

"Write! what do you mean, Grace?" exclaimed Kate, with surprise.

"I mean for you to put down, in your nicest hand, my gem of a message to
Robert."

"Never, Grace. What will he think of me?"

"He will think you love him very much."

"Just what I don't wish him to think," she said, with singular decision.

"Was there ever!" cried Grace, holding up both hands. "Well, this love
is an odd thing! What instinctive coquetry! Like John Milton's Eve,

                'All conscious of your worth,
    You would be woo'd, and, not unsought, be won.'

I don't understand this disguising love under a show of
coldness--seeming to hate where the heart pants and glows with devotion.
Oh, if this be love, I'll none of it. Here is the pencil, and there is a
fair sheet, and the moon is patiently holding her silver lamp for you;
will you write?"

"I will, to gratify you, cousin Grace;" she said, taking the pencil and
placing her fingers lightly on the paper which lay in the window.

"To please _me_! very well, be it so. Who could have believed, a quarter
of an hour ago, that I should have had to coax you to send a line to
Robert Lester! You may well hide your telltale face."

Kate bent her head over the gilded sheet and began to write, or, at
least, to make characters with her pencil, when Grace, impatient at her
slow progress, looked over her shoulder and exclaimed,

"Why, what are you writing? _Lester Robert, Robert Lester, Robert
Lester, Lester Rob--._"

Kate glanced at what she had written, hastily run her pencil through it,
and said, with a mortified laugh,

"I had forgotten what to write."

"And so put down what was deepest in your memory," said Grace, with a
vexatious air. "Now take this fair page, and write as I repeat:

"'_He who shall bring again this gift of love to her who sends it, shall
with love be met._'

"Is it written?"

"Letter for letter."

"And you will find that each letter will act as a charm. Never so few
monosyllables as I have strung together here held so much magic."

"Who will be its bearer?" Kate now inquired in a lively tone.

"I will find a Mercury both sure and swift," she said, folding the
locket in the billet.

This _gage d'amour_ was oval in shape, of plain gold, with a chased rim,
a little raised, enclosing an azure field, on which, in exquisite
enamel, were inlaid the crests of Lester and Bellamont, joined together
by two clasped hands: beneath was the sanguine motto,

    DURANTE VITÂ.

"Now, coz, for one of your raven ringlets to bind around it!"

"No, I will not, Grace!"

"Then I will tie it with a lock of my own hair," she said, in a sportive
manner, running her fingers through her auburn tresses; and, selecting
one that was like a silken braid for its soft and shining texture, she
prepared to sever it from her temples.

"You provoking child, you will have your own way," said Kate, shaking
forward the dark cloud of her abundant hair, and intwining her finger in
a jetty tress that rivalled the sable hue of the night swallow's dark
and glossy wing.

"Half an hour since you verily would have parted with every lock to be
assured the sacrifice would bring him to you; and now, forsooth,
scarcely will you part with a strand to bind a note. There!" she added,
clipping a beautiful ringlet that Kate had selected from the rest; "now
all that is wanted is wax--no, not that! I will fasten it with a
true-lover's-knot, which will be far better; will it not, coz?"

As she said this she looked up with a bright light dancing in her dark
hazel eyes; and, without waiting for a reply, in a few seconds tied,
with great gravity, the mysterious knot she had mentioned, and gave the
billet to her cousin for the superscription. "Write, 'These: to the
hands of Robert, Lord Lester, of Castle More, greeting,'" she said, with
gravity.

"Nay, I will direct it simply 'Lester, Castle More,'" she said,
decidedly.

"By which," said Grace, laughing, "you avoid the distant respect
conveyed in my own on the one hand, and the tenderness that is ready
to gush from your heart on the other. Love certainly does make his
votaries skilful tacticians! Truly, now, is not this a proper
love-billet--written in a lattice by the light of the moon, and tied
with a braid of the lady's hair in a true-love-knot? Well, when I am in
love I shall know how to manage rightly all these little affairs."

"Who is to be our Mercury on this occasion?" inquired Kate, with a
little doubt in the tones of her voice. "I fear we shall have to trust
it to a moonbeam also."

"Something more substantial, I assure you," said the good-humoured
maiden, in a very positive manner.

"Not one of the menials, for the world!"

"No, no!" she answered, with quickness; and then approaching her
cousin's ear, she pronounced, very mysteriously, the very homely
monosyllable,

"Mark!"

"That proud boy! _He_ become the bearer of a message to Lester!" she
exclaimed, looking at her with surprise.

"For _me_ he will!" replied Grace, confidently.

"Two such spirits to come in contact! No, no! Have you forgotten how
they parted to-day?"

"No."

"Then why do you propose so wild a scheme?"

"Mark will do as I bid him," she said, with a naïve and pertinaciousness
that was wholly irresistible.

Kate burst into such a merry, musical peal of laughter, that at first
the maiden looked very grave, but at length found it in vain to withhold
her sympathy, and laughed with her; while the rich blood mounted to her
cheeks, and invested her with surpassing beauty.

"Oh, oh!" cried Kate, triumphantly, "so you are a _very_ little in love!
I half guessed it! Doubtless there is blood enough in thy noble veins
for both of you."

"Very well, cousin, you may think what you choose," she replied; adding,
in a tone and manner that left her cousin in doubt if she were not half
in earnest, "but if I were in love with him, is he not noble in person?
handsome, gallant, and brave? Why may he not be worthy a noble maiden's
love? I would not give him as he is, for Lester, with all his nobility,
coupled as it is with his terrible passions."

"Out upon you, jade," said Kate, good-humouredly; "will you revile in
this vein my noble Lester--compare him to a fisher's lad? Where is your
pride of birth and rank, Grace Fitzgerald! Really, I should not wonder
if, with your levelling notions, you should some day throw yourself away
upon some one unworthy to wear so fair and rich a flower in his bosom."

"I have both wealth and rank, and shall be my own mistress soon! that I
will give my hand where my heart goes, you may rest assured, cousin
Kate," said the maiden, with spirited, yet sportive decision.

"Marry come up! I shall not wonder if I come to be cousin to a
cordwainer's 'prentice yet! I shall assuredly allow you to go to the
good old earl, your father, to-morrow, and shall not fail to bid him, in
a letter, to lock you up."

"Love laughs at locksmiths, you have heard it said, cousin. But a truce
to this. I am not yet in love, so be not alarmed. I will sally forth and
find Mark, and at once despatch him with this message to Castle More."

As she spoke she threw a cloak over her shoulders and prepared to
envelop her head and face in its hood. At this crisis Kate's troubled
countenance indicated a wavering purpose; and as Grace was fastening the
hood beneath her chin, she laid her hand on her arm:

"No, Grace, you must not. Lester will scorn me; let him go for ever
first!" she added, in a sad, irresolute tone of voice.

"No, no! In ten minutes afterward you would be playing Niobe. Have your
feelings towards Lester changed an iota?"

"No; but--"

"Yet you know not, if you delay, how his may change, nor what rash act
he may commit!"

"I will send the token," she said, after a moment's struggle.

"I will soon return with news of my success," she said, placing her hand
on the latch of the door.

"Go, then, quickly! But you will not venture to the beach alone?"

"'Tis light as noonday! A step across the lawn, and a short trip down
the path, and old Meredith's hut is within a stone's throw. I will not
be three minutes gone."

"I must certainly go with you, Grace."

"Not for the world!"

"Lest I interrupt the tender moonlight interview you have in prospect
with the handsome fisherman, I dare say. Ah, you arch girl! I verily
believe you have an eye to your own interests, which accounts for your
devotion to me in this matter," said Kate, laughing, and shaking her
head at her.

"A fisher's lad!" she repeated, in the slightly scornful tone her cousin
had hitherto used.

"Nay, I was not in earnest, Grace," said Kate, apologetically, kissing
her as she was leaving the chamber.

"Nor was I," replied the lively maiden. "Watch me from the opposite
window as I cross the lawn. Courage, dear cousin! You will soon have
Lester at your feet, and be folded in his--"

"Go!" cried the blushing Kate, closing the door upon her ere she could
finish her sentence.

She listened to her light footstep echoing through the hall till it was
lost on the lawn; then turning to her window, she shortly afterward
discovered her gliding across the archery-field towards the cliff, and,
with a wave of her hand towards the lattice, rapidly descend the path
that led to the beach. With her heart fluttering with mingled hopes,
fears, and desires, she sat watching in the window for her return. Her
thoughts the while were busy. She followed, in imagination, the message
to Castle More; pictured Lester's reception of the token; fancied his
surprise, his rapture, perhaps his scornful indifference! No! she would
not believe he could feel _this_, for she judged his truth by her own!
Then, in her imagination, she heard his loud and hasty demand for his
horse! she could see him on his swift course towards Castle Cor. He
approaches! she can almost hear his horse's hoofs in the court! the next
moment he is kneeling at her feet for forgiveness! Wonderful power of
the imagination! How delightful to yield the soul to its influences when
the images it paints on the mind are all pleasing; all as vivid as the
reality of which they are only the shadows! While the meditative maiden
is leaning from her lonely lattice, indulging her happy visions, the
mind naturally turns to the adventurous Grace and the young fisher's
lad, who was to become the bearer of the message which should be the
magical instrument of converting all these delightful dreams into
reality.

After the attack upon his life by the impetuous noble, taking advantage
of the exciting scene that followed between him and Kate Bellamont, Mark
quietly withdrew from the party, gained, unobserved, the path, and was
out of sight, far down the cliff, before his absence was discovered. He
had remained long enough, however, to witness the disgrace of Lester,
and to hear the indignant and bitter words of the offended maiden. With
a fleet foot he reached the beach, hastened along the shore to his cot,
and, crossing its lonely threshold, cast himself upon a block by the
hearth, and buried his face between his hands. His heart heaved
strongly, and he seemed to labour under deep and great emotion. It was
clearly apparent that he was undergoing a severe mental struggle, and
that the tide of his life would turn on the issue. At length he lifted
his fine face and looked around upon the interior of his humble home;
poverty and its signs met his eye wherever it fell! His glance then
rested on his own coarse habiliments, and he started to his feet, and
with a lofty expression of resolution and an air of stern decision,
said, half aloud,

"This day shall end my servitude to poverty. Because the accident of
_birth_ has cast my lot within these wretched walls, and made me
fellow-prisoner with penury, therefore shall I not throw off my chains
when I will? Have I not a soul--a mind? Do I not think, feel, act,
speak, like those whom men call noble? May I not, in spite of nature,
yet become the builder of my own name--the carver of my own fortunes? By
the light of the bright sun, I will no longer be the slave of others!
the 'lowborn serf'--the 'humble fisher's lad'--the peasant, hind, and
what not, that means baseness of birth and degradation of soul! No;
henceforth I will take my place among the highest of them all, or leave
my bones to bleach on the sand!"

He paced the bare ground-floor of the wretched shed for a few moments
with an energy of tread and a determined air that well harmonized with
his words. At length he stopped short in his excited walk; his face
assumed a gentler aspect; and in a voice low and melancholy, he
continued,

"And this beauteous being, whose bright form fills my dreams like a
celestial visitant; who is in all my thoughts; whom to gaze upon at an
_humble_ distance is bliss; whose voice strangely thrills my soul: her,
for whom I would lay down my life! whom to make happy I would forego all
earthly, ay, future hopes of happiness, I am forbidden to love! I cannot
gaze on her without reproof! I am denied the bliss of speaking to her
and listening to the music of her voice in reply; of attending her in
her walks; of sharing in her pursuits and pleasures, because I am
_lowborn_. Yes, I am 'the poor fisher's lad!' and scarce deemed worthy
to be her footman. My approach into her presence is rudeness! my adoring
gaze vulgar impertinence! _I am the fisher's lad!_ 'Tis not for such to
love such a glorious creature! Though his heart may be of the noblest
mould; his taste refined; his spirit proud; his nature lofty and
aspiring, yet he may not love where love points him. 'Tis not for him to
place his affections on the gentle and lovely: on those worthy of his
heart's deep devotion, and to whom he can distribute the rich treasure
of his love. He must degrade his pure and sacred passion by linking his
fate with one of his own class, who may never appreciate him; or let his
wealth of love exhaust itself on his own life, and consume it with its
fire! Nevertheless," he added, with a sparkling eye, "the fisher's boy
dares to love, and love _high_! Love knows no rank. I have placed my
affections on a noble object, my gaze on a lofty eyry--and never will I
clip the wing that once has taken so high and bold a flight. I love her!
highborn as she is, I have dared to send my thoughts up to her! Yet,
alas!" he continued, moodily folding his arms on his breast, and
speaking slowly and bitterly, "alas! what shall this avail? Will she
requite the daring love of a peasant? Will she not scorn--will she not
laugh at me? Will she listen to the deep outpourings of my passion? No,
no, no! She must mate with _her_ mates, and she would bid me mate with
_mine_! Yet, may I not rise above my condition," he exclaimed, with a
glowing brow and flashing eye; "may I not win rank and name that shall
make me worthy of her? Shall I stand here idle, and see this haughty
Lester bear away a prize of which he is no more worthy than I? No, I
will perish first. From this day I am a man! Henceforth I belong to no
degree, no rank. I am to choose what I will be. This hour I burst the
degrading fetters that chain me to the class in which birth has cast me.
From this moment I am the architect of my own fortune, and I will erect
a temple that men shall admire, or bury myself beneath its ruins! The
sea, on which I have been cradled, is open before me like a mother's
bosom, welcoming me to its embrace; and on it, with the aid of God and
my own spirit, I will win a name that shall hide the humble one I wear,
and under it yet lay at the feet of her, who would scorn me under my
present one, laurels that shall have made me worthy of her love!"

As he concluded his cheek was flushed; his eye sparkling; his step rapid
and firm; his countenance elevated and glowing; and he strode the little
cabin as if he was for the moment all that he had resolved to be. He was
so lost in his feelings, so wrapped in the noble vision of the future
his ambitious and ardent mind had pictured, that the old fisherman, who
had slowly followed him from the cliff, entered without attracting his
notice. The aged man gazed on the animated and excited youth with
astonishment, and for a few moments was silent from surprise. At length
he called him by name. He started, and was for the first time sensible
that he was not alone:

"Well!" was the short, stern response.

"Do you know who speaks to you, my boy?" asked the old man, with mild
reproof.

"Yes I do, my good father," he said, instantly resuming his wonted
kindness of manner, and taking his hand; "forgive me; I had forgotten
myself!"

"Do not be angry, child, at this freak of my young lord," said the old
fisherman, in a tone habitual to his class in speaking of those above
them; "it was but a little outbreak of spirit; and you know it is not
for the like of us to be angry at the nobility for such things. They are
our lords, and we must do as they will."

"And let them take my life--ay, if they will, make me their slave, which
is far worse! Never! 'Tis the language of a bondman you utter, and
unworthy the lips of manhood!"

"You talk as if you was one of the quality, boy! You will find it
different when you get to be as old as I am. I have put up with many
wrongs in my day from gentle blood."

"And have not resented it?" demanded the youth, with spirit.

"What could a poor fisherman do? Is it not their right to act what they
will to? We poor fishermen have only to pray to God to give them gentle
wills towards us!"

"And is this the creed you would teach me? Debasing, grovelling, mean
obedience to the tyranny of an order! Before I do it, may my hand wither
at the shoulder, my tongue palsy in my mouth! I should indeed deserve to
be a slave! You would forbid me to resent this wrong from this hotheaded
young noble?"

"It will do thee no good; if thou shouldst take his life, thou wouldst
hang for't."

"And, if he should take mine?"

"There would be none to avenge thee, boy. The judges, who are always on
the side of the great, would say thy life was forfeited because thou
hadst lifted thy hand against one of the privileged."

"God! I cannot believe that all men do spring from Adam and Eve,"
exclaimed the youth, impetuously. "Father," he said, after a moment's
silence, speaking in a tone of mingled shame and sorrow, "thou hast,
fortunately, a spirit fitted to thy station--I pity thee! For myself, I
will be no man's serf, no lord's menial! If accident has made me almost
on a level with the brute, nature has endowed me with the feelings of a
man. Father, I leave you with to-morrow's sun."

"My child! my child! what evil hath taken possession of thee?" cried the
old man, holding him by both hands.

"No evil, but good! To-morrow I go from you!" he replied, resolutely.

"And leave me destitute in my old age, my boy?"

The youth was touched more by the accent in which this was said than by
the words. He buried his face in his hands and groaned aloud; then, with
a sudden burst of filial affection, he cried, throwing himself upon his
aged breast,

"No, no! I will bend my neck to every insult, rather than thou, my more
than father, shouldst be left helpless."

"Thou wilt not go away?" reiterated the old man, pleadingly, as if
doubting the sincerity of his words.

"Not while thou art spared to me, beloved grandsire. Thou hast protected
my infancy and youth! been to me both father and mother. If I be not a
faithful son to thee, and protect not thy old age, may I fail to attain
the rank and honour among men to which I aspire, and which, if purchased
at the expense of filial gratitude, I should be unworthy to wear!"

"Bless thee, bless thee, Mark!" said he, fondly embracing him.
"Providence has made our lot a humble one; let us submit to it with
obedience. Come, my boy, think no more of it, but launch the skiff, and
bring home our evening meal from the vast storehouse that has ever fed
us, and which never holds its life even from the undeserving. Go, my
son: on the rocking wave, and in the silence of the lone deep, your
heart will become calm, and peace will return to your soul. At such
times it is that the good and devout Christian is the most happy! I
sometimes think the holy apostles did owe much of the holy piety which
they possessed to their lowly occupation of fishers."

"_They were Christians._ You are a Christian, father! I am not one save
in name. Would to God I were! perhaps I then might bear my humble lot
more calmly. Now farewell a while; I will be in again ere the moon
rises."

He rushed from the cabin with his heart almost bursting in his breast,
launched his little bark, hoisted the frail latteen sail, and committed
himself to the deep.

Seated in the narrow stern of his fragile skiff, the thwarts and bottom
of which were covered with fishing-lines, a dip-net, and other signs of
his lowly pursuit, holding the rude tiller in one hand and the sheet of
his narrow white sail in the other, he shot swiftly out from the shore,
wafted by a light and fitful wind. From habit he steered his course, and
shifted the sail from side to side to woo the baffling airs, without
giving his thoughts to his occupation. His lips were compressed with
thought, his brow was set, and every feature of his silent face was
eloquent with the feelings that occupied his bosom. His mind was
struggling between filial affection and ambition--between love for the
highborn maiden and duty to his grandsire. The sufferings of the latter,
who looked to his labours for his daily bread, were, if he should desert
him, present and positive. The hopes connected with the former were
altogether future and uncertain. Should he inflict a present evil for a
future good? Would his filial attachment compare with his love? Which
should he sacrifice? He felt that he could not make his grandsire the
victim, either of his love or of his ambition, without the forfeiture of
that filial virtue, wanting which he would be unworthy the prize he
should incur this penalty to obtain. His thoughts became insupportable;
and, for a time, he was nearly wrought up to phrensy by the intensity of
the mental conflict. At this crisis, while his eyes were fixed vacantly
on the crisp waves as they went singing and rippling past him, his bosom
far more disturbed than they, he was startled by a loud, quick hail.

"Boat ahoy! Helm-a-starboard, or you will be into us!"

He mechanically obeyed; and, as he looked up, saw the dark hull of the
yacht, that had lain all day at anchor in the bay, within reach of his
hand, while his boat was gliding safely along its side, directly against
which he had been unconsciously steering.

"You must keep a look-out, lad, how you run aboard a king's yacht, or
you will stand a chance of getting a shot in your locker!" said a gruff,
yet good-humoured voice. "But you have a quick ear and ready hand to
clear our counter as you did. What say you to serving his majesty, my
lad? It's better than catching herring; and, then, many's the younker of
your inches that's come in over the cat-head, and afterward walked the
quarter-deck with a brace of gold bobs on his shoulders."

The young fisherman's ears greedily received every word; they struck a
chord within his bosom that strongly vibrated again. Involuntarily he
put his helm down, and brought his boat up into the wind. He looked
longingly upon the vessel's deck; measured the beautiful and light
proportions of her hull, and surveyed with delight the graceful spars,
following them with his eye to their tapering tops, from which gay flags
streamed in the breeze: he admired, apparently with all a seaman's
gratification, the tracery and interlacing of the neatly-set rigging,
and the snowy sails, some of which were hanging in festoons from the
yards, while one or two lazily spread their broad white fields from yard
to yard: he observed the neat appearance of the men; their happy faces;
their frank, good-humoured manners: he thought over the blunt but kindly
offer he had received, and his hopes whispered,

"Fortune has opened this way for me! my destiny must be linked with this
vessel!"

He then thought of his father, and his head dropped despondingly on his
bosom; he thought of Kate Bellamont, and his eyes sparkled, and he felt
like bursting all filial ties and leaping at once on board.

"What say you, my lad, will you ship?" said the man, observing his
hesitation; "I'll give you ten rix-dollars as bounty."

"Now?" he eagerly asked, starting up in his boat, and extending his
hands with intense earnestness.

"The instant you enter your name on the yacht's books."

"I will go with you."

"Done! come alongside."

Mark hesitated ere he obeyed. Ten rix-dollars had, at first, seemed to
him an inexhaustible sum: a moment's reflection convinced him that it
would not support his grandfather six months without labour, for which
he was nearly unfitted on account of his age. If, he thought, at the end
of six months, therefore, he should not be able to return to him, or if
his own life should be lost in the interim, would not the misery and
want such an event would entail upon him fall heavy to his charge?

All this passed through his mind as he drew aft the tack and pressed the
tiller up to windward to run under the vessel's bows. Instantly he
shifted his helm, let the sheet fly free to the wind, and shot suddenly
away in the opposite direction.

"He's off with a flowing sheet!" said one of the seamen, laughing.

"He's gone to bid the old man good-by," cried another; "he'll be
alongside before morning, kit and kid."

"He's gone to take leave of his lass," added a third. "A wise lad to
anchor his last night ashore."

"I wouldn't lose him for six months' pay," said the captain of the
forecastle, who had first hailed him; "but I am afraid we shall see no
more of him than what he now shows us," he added, shaking his head, and
turning to pace the deck.

Scarce hearing, and heedless of these characteristic remarks, the young
fisherman kept on his course seaward till he had got a league from the
land, when he hove to and lowered his sail; then baiting and casting his
lines, he plied his humble task, his eyes the while often fixed on the
distant towers of Castle Cor, and his thoughts now with its fair inmate,
now brooding over his own lowly destiny. When at length the sun dipped
the edge of his burnished shield into the sea, he for the last time drew
in his lines, each heavy with a fish, hoisted his sail, flung it broad
to the evening wind that blew gently landward, and, taking the helm,
steered towards home. But the wind grew lighter, and soon came only at
intervals in "cat's-paws;" his progress was therefore slow, and he was
yet a mile from the land when it left his sail altogether. Night came
on, and the moon rose above the battlements of the castle, and flung its
scarf of silver far out upon the scarcely dimpled bay. From time to time
he held his open palm to windward, in vain trying to catch a passing
current. He threw back the dark curls that clustered about his forehead,
and laid it bare to receive the faintest breath that might promise the
return of the wind. But the air was motionless! His boat rose and fell
on the glassy undulations, but moved not towards the shore, save by the
slow landward heave of the sea. Springing upon the thwarts, he brailed
up his sail and bound it to the mast, and then, bending to the slender
oars, sent his light skiff over the water with a speed that mocked the
idle winds. He soon got within the dark shadow flung by the cliff along
the water far beyond the land, and run his boat on the beach beside his
cot. The old fisherman welcomed him with a kindness that not only
touched his heart, but rewarded him for the sacrifice he had made on his
account. He also assisted him in conveying the fish into the hut, and
set about himself to prepare their rude repast. Mark placed his oars in
the beckets over the door, and walked out to indulge his thoughts; to
brood over his deferred, if not blasted hopes; and to struggle again and
again against the unfilial temptations that assailed him. He insensibly
wandered along the beach, that sparkled in the moonlight like snow
beneath his feet, until he came to the narrow strip of sand that
stretched beneath the over-hanging cliff from which he had leaped, and
connected his hut with the path up the rocks. He looked up to its dark
and terrific roof, and then down into the black pool at his feet, and a
half-formed wish that he had never risen again from its silent depths,
escaped him.

"That I had perished, ere life had been preserved to be dragged out in
this miserable servitude," he said aloud. "What is life to me? Its
refined joys; its courtly pleasures; its fair forms; its wealth; its
honours! This is _my_ world--these slimy rocks--this lonely bay; yonder
hut my palace, and to fish for daily sustenance my pastime. This is _my_
life--this my universe! What have I to do with aught beyond it? The
world was made for others, not for me--not for the peasant boy! No, no!
Madness! Must I endure this?" he cried, with fierce impatience. "Filial
love, filial gratitude, how bitter, bitter are ye!"

He struck his forehead violently, and turned on the belt of sand with a
fevered step. Suddenly he felt a touch on his shoulder, as light as if a
fairy's foot had lit upon it. He started, and, turning quickly round,
beheld a female, enveloped in a hood and cloak, standing immediately
behind him. The grace of her attitude, and the easy decision of her
whole manner, assured him that she was not lowborn. His heart would have
whispered the name that was enshrined in it, but the figure was not tall
enough for _hers_. With an instinctive consciousness that he was in the
presence of rank and beauty, to which, in this union, his independent
spirit never refused to do homage, he doffed his cap, and addressed her
with that native grace and dignity which characterized him:

"Lady, seek you aught in which I can aid you, that you have come to the
seaside at this lonely hour?"

The moon shone full on his youthful features, which were shaded with
locks of dark-flowing hair, parted across his high, pale forehead, and
descending to his shoulder. She gazed for an instant, ere she replied,
on his youthful face, on each lineament of which his bold character was
written, while his ardent spirit spoke eloquently in every look. As he
bent forward to catch her answer, with his bonnet in his hand, the cloud
had vanished from his brow before the supposed presence of youth and
beauty, and his deferential manner, so opposite to his former bearing,
seemed to inspire her with confidence.

"My business is with you alone, Mark!" spoke, from beneath the shaded
hood, the sweet, hesitating voice of Grace Fitzgerald, intuitively
shrinking within the shadow of the cliff as she addressed him, just out
of which, in the full light of the moon, the young fisherman himself
stood.

"Lady Grace!" he exclaimed, with surprise, as her voice fell on his ear.

"Grace Fitzgerald, in body and spirit," said she, with her usual gayety.

"Can the highborn heiress of Earl Fitzgerald be served by one so
humble?" he asked, in a tone slightly tinged with his former gloomy
humour.

She seemed to be at a loss, for a moment, how to reply, scarcely knowing
in what way to interpret his words. At length she said, advancing
frankly towards him,

"I have not come to command your services, Mark, but to beg of you a
favour; to ask you to execute a mission of delicacy, that can be
intrusted to no one so well as yourself."

The frank and kind manner in which she spoke, the graceful propriety
with which she overstepped the barrier of _caste_ that separated them,
sensibly affected him. It was the first time he had been so addressed by
those above him in birth and station; the first time his services had
not been demanded as a right by those who needed them.

Her suavity and condescension of manner were perhaps prompted by the
remembrance of the outrage he had received at Lester's hands, and by a
knowledge of his intrepidity, and of his pride of spirit, which she knew
to be chafed and goaded by the insults inseparable from his station. She
therefore generously wished to sooth and bind up his injured feelings.
She had, too, her own notions of what constitutes true nobility; and it
is plain, from her conversation with Kate, that she was less governed by
the social canons which regulate such things, and was infinitely more of
a democrat than her haughty and beautiful cousin. That her heart had
anything to do in the matter, though Mark was so handsome, so gentle,
and so brave withal, cannot be supposed; inasmuch as the little god
seldom ensconces himself behind a peajacket to take aim at a heart
mailed beneath a silken spencer. But, then, Cupid is very blind, and,
besides, is so given to odd whims, that but little calculation can be
made as to the direction from which his shafts will fly.

"Command me, lady," he replied, with grateful emotion, as she concluded.

"Are you angry with Lord Robert?" she asked, falteringly.

"Can I forgive him?"

"But you will forgive him--for--for--the sake of--my cousin Kate!"

"If _she_ were to bid me kiss his hand, I would not refuse her," he
exclaimed, with a sudden glow of animation.

Grace sighed, and was for a moment silent; for she plainly saw that her
influence had but little weight in this quarter in comparison with her
cousin's. She then took the locket from the folds of her cloak, and
said, in a very slightly mortified tone,

"It is _her_ wish that you bear this token of her forgiveness to Lord
Robert. You will see that it is tied with a braid of _her own hair_!"

(Was there not a spice of feminine pique in this last clause, lady?)

"Bear this from _her_ to _him_?" he inquired, in a voice trembling with
emotion.

"Yes."

"Never!" replied he, with vehemence.

"Mark!" she said, in a tone of gentle reproof, placing her hand lightly
upon his arm.

"Pardon me," he said, hastily, "but--but--" His voice choked for
utterance. "Oh God! Lady Grace," he suddenly cried, with an outbreak of
terrible and ungovernable emotion, "you know not what it is to be--to
be--" Here his feelings were too strong to be controlled, and, turning
his face from her, he gave way to a paroxysm of the wildest grief.

She stood by in silence! She appreciated fully his feelings, for she had
overheard the soliloquy he gave utterance to before he had become aware
of her presence. She knew what he was and what he aspired to be, and how
deeply his degradation preyed upon him. She sympathized with him with
her whole heart; and with her sympathy there entered into her breast
another emotion, which in woman's heart is so nearly allied to love,
namely, gentle pity! When she saw that the first strong tide of his
feelings had in some degree subsided, in a voice so full of what she
felt that it touched all the finer sensibilities of his nature, and
seemed to breathe peace throughout his soul, stilling every billow of
passion, she said to him,

"Mark, I do pity you from my heart! I know you are not fitted by nature
for the state to which you were born. But to the bold spirit and
determined will there is a wide road open to distinction; and in it men,
humble as yourself, have won honourable renown, in the splendour of
which the mere accident of their birth has been lost. The same road to
honour lies open before you!"

The vivid eloquence, the animation of voice, the spirited manner, and
the lofty energy of look with which this was spoken, united with the
depth and sincerity of her interest in him, which she disdained to
disguise, language can inadequately express. Its effect on him was
electrical. He sprang forward, knelt at her feet, seized her hand, and,
in the fulness of his heart, pressed it gratefully to his lips. She
withdrew it in confusion, and he instantly buried his face in his hands,
overcome with the painful feeling of having offended. She was the first
to speak.

"Mark, bear this packet to Lord Robert; deliver it into his own hand,
and immediately leave him, so that you give him no opportunity of
renewing his feud. In the morning, on the earl's return from Kinsale,
come to the castle, and I will represent your case to him."

"Dear lady, I will leave this message for you at Castle More; but pardon
me if I decline your offer to serve me!"

"Then cousin Kate shall make it," she said, good-humouredly.

"Forgive me, but it will be still more firmly declined."

Grace was puzzled; and half sportively, half sincerely, it entered her
thoughts that she had played her hand well if already, as his words
seemed to imply, she had found more favour in the young fisherman's eyes
than her cousin. But, all at once, the thought flashed upon her mind
that it was alone the pride of love that led him to refuse any favour at
her cousin's hands.

"You mean," she said in revenge, smiling as she spoke, "that you dislike
my cousin Kate so much that you will not receive any kindness at her
hands."

"If such could be inferred from my words, I recall every letter of
them," he said, with an earnestness that amused her.

"I will then speak for you to my uncle."

"Lady, you will think me very ungrateful," he replied, "but--"

"But you will take no favour from the father of Kate Bellamont. Really,
my cousin is complimented."

He was embarrassed by the light in which she seemed to take his words,
and, in attempting to explain, involved himself still deeper.

"Do not be distressed; I perfectly understand you, Mark," she said, with
a laugh that relieved him. "Will you be obliged to _me_?"

"Pardon me if I say no!" he answered, gratefully but firmly. "No, lady,"
he added, in a grateful tone of voice, yet sadly, "I must work out
brighter fortunes for myself by my own energies."

"I admire your independence. But, if you should need my--I would say,
the assistance of any one--will you remember Grace Fitzgerald?"

He did not reply; his heart was swelling, but he laid his hand upon his
bosom with an eloquent gesture that conveyed more than words.

"Enough!" she said, touched with his impressive manner. "I shall ever be
ready to do for you all that can advance you to name and rank; and for
your own sake, for the sake of--" here she paused with embarrassment,
and then added, "those who take an interest in you, it becomes you to
rise from this humble station, and win for yourself a name and station
among men. Do not forget that the proudest names in England sprang from
the lowest rank. My own maternal ancestor was a favourite groom of
William the Conqueror, who, for his prowess in a certain battle,
knighted and parcelled out to him an equal division of land with his own
knightly companions in arms. Shall I not yet hear of _you_ with pride?"
she added, extending her hand to him with characteristic frankness.

"Lady," he said, with animation, "if ever a lowborn youth, who would
rise above his adverse fortunes, had cause to go forward, have I. The
memory of your words will shine like a star of hope to guide me through
the future. God help me! Lady Grace, you shall never blush with shame
for him in whose fate you this night have shown an interest," he
continued, with emotion. "For your sake I will achieve whatever man can
accomplish."

"And will you do nothing for my poor cousin's sake?" she asked,
significantly, and in a tone of raillery, not able, even at such a time,
to subdue altogether her natural temperament.

"There is little hope that one so humble is ever in her thoughts," he
replied, doubting, yet half believing.

"Little hope, I fear, while Lester lives," she said, smiling. "But think
not of her--think not of love now," continued she, with animation; "let
honour be your idol, and woo fame alone as your bride. There are
some--there is _one_, Mark, who would rather see you honoured and
ennobled by your own hand than--than--but no matter, I have already said
too much. Kate will have good reason to suspect I had cause to come
alone," she said, mentally, "if I linger here longer;" she then added
aloud,

"Fly, Mark, with this message. If you would serve me, bear it safely; if
you would do my cousin Kate a favour, bear it quickly; and, lastly, for
your own sake, get into no quarrel."

They had insensibly walked along while speaking, and were now at the
foot of the path by which she had descended to the beach.

Mark took the packet from her hand, and, as he did so, pressed it with
an air of native gallantry blended with gratitude, greatly to her not
unpleasurable surprise and confusion, and then hastened at a rapid pace
along the beach in the direction of Castle More. She followed him for a
few moments with her eyes, and then, sighing unconsciously (for it is in
vain longer to disguise the interest she felt in the interesting
fisher's lad), ascended the steep path and safely gained the castle,
where, still at her lattice waiting her return, she found her cousin, to
whom forthwith she communicated her success.

With a swift tread Mark traversed the curving shore till he had left a
full league between him and the spot where he had separated from Grace
Fitzgerald. Then striking into a path that led inland, he followed it
with undiminished speed, and with a light and confident step, that
showed his familiarity with every intricate winding of his moonlit way.

How often he pressed to his adoring lips the locket of hair that secured
the billet; how often he paused to read over and over again, by the
light of the moon, the delicate characters traced by the pencil her
fingers had guided, let each one that has loved enumerate for himself.
As he went along, he could not help revolving in his mind the manner of
Grace Fitzgerald, and asking himself a hundred times if she could mean
anything; and when it could not be concealed from his penetrating mind
that she did mean something, or affected to do so--the wish rose to his
lips that Kate Bellamont had been in her place. Yet the very next
moment, so contradictory is love, he congratulated himself that she was
not, feeling that he should never have had the courage to meet her face
to face alone, as he had met her cousin. Love surely endows his votaries
with a singular union of boldness and timidity! Your lover is either an
arrant coward or a lion, and sometimes he is both in one, as he happens
to be in or out of his mistress's presence.

At length he came in sight of an ancient and extensive ruin in the midst
of the forest, and was picking his way among the fallen fragments, along
which his road wound, when he was startled by the sound of horses' feet
coming from the direction of Castle More; the moment afterward, he saw,
by the light of the moon, two horsemen emerge from the wood, and rapidly
approach the ruin. He instinctively drew to one side of the path to
escape observation, when he heard one of them utter an exclamation of
surprise; both then suddenly reined up, and, from the sound of a third
voice, they appeared to be holding conversation with some one they had
unexpectedly encountered.



CHAPTER IV.

    "Away, away my steed and I
    Upon the pinions of the wind!"

    _Mazeppa._

                "Thou false fiend, thou liest!
    I do defy--deny--spurn back and scorn ye!"

    "That thus a son should stand and hear
    The tale of his disgrace."

    BYRON.


The indignant Lester, to whom the story now reverts, had no sooner left
the presence of Kate Bellamont and the field of archery, than he
hastened to the stables, saddled his horse with his own hand, and threw
himself across his back. Then, turning his head northward towards Castle
More, he gave him the rein, and, without forming any definite aim or
object, but goaded onward simply by the fiery impetus of his feelings,
with a feverish desire to leave far behind the scene of his disgrace,
rode away at full speed.

His thoughts were dark and confused; his heart full; his spirit sore! He
looked neither to the right nor left, and gave backward glance to turret
nor lattice--for he was all unskilled in that book of riddles, woman's
heart! and what hope then had he, that he should turn his head for beck
or signal of return? If he had been a little more experienced, or
somewhat better read in this book of mysteries, where every line of the
text is contradicted by a page of annotations, he might have known that
a signal would have been flying for him--at the very last moment! But,
alas for poor Kate Bellamont! alas for both! her voice, and the wave of
her snowy arm were alike in vain! He rode onward, seeing, feeling, being
conscious of nothing save his own deep disgrace and misery; and at each
fierce pang that reflection inflicted, he buried his spurs deep, and
dashed forward as if he would fly from his thoughts, or find relief from
them in swift motion.

The forest into which he rode, and in the depths of which he disappeared
from the earnest gaze of Kate Bellamont, was very ancient and of great
extent, and intersected by many roads winding in all directions through
its dark bosom: it was inhabited chiefly by woodsmen and foresters, but
contained, besides, two solitary hunting-lodges, a league asunder,
appertaining to the contiguous estates of Bellamont and Castle More. At
the northern termination of this wood, two leagues distant from Castle
Cor, on the crest of a rock that overhung a small woodland lake or mere,
was situated Castle More; a single square tower, with a low turret
rising at each angle, and defended on the inland side by a high wall
with bastions and a deep moat. It was, at the date of this narrative,
the abode of Lady Lester, the widow of General Lord Lester, who had
fallen a few years before while gallantly fighting in Spain. Since his
death she had withdrawn herself from the sphere of the court, and
excluded herself almost altogether from society; devoting her time to
the performance of the severe religious duties usually imposed by the
Catholic church only on religieuses, and to the observance of rigorous
and frequent fasts; and it was rumoured that she even inflicted upon
herself painful penance with rods, and slept through Lent in a crown of
thorns. In these austerities her friends, and, also, sensible and
discreet people, saw only the diseased melancholy of a widowed wife who
had been fondly devoted to her departed lord, finding relief, as woman's
sorrow often will, in a life of religious seclusion. But the suspicious
and evil disposed, the humble labourer and marvel-loving hind, saw in
her stern religious life only painful penance for crimes committed in
early life, and were wont to shake their heads and lower their voices
whenever the "Dark Lady of the Rock" was named.

But, notwithstanding her austere life, Lady Lester was not indifferent
to the claims of young Lord Robert. Her heart had been wrapped up in the
high-spirited boy from his childhood; and as he grew in stature and
grace, next to her graven images, she worshipped him. Unrestrained by
paternal fear, and indulged by Lady Lester in every idle wish, he grew
up to the age of seventeen with a spirit that never had been curbed;
with a temper that never had known a check. Though by nature of a
generous and noble disposition, as the unavoidable result of such a
course, he was the slave of passion and the victim of self-impulse; with
the will to act justly, but without the power to guide that will: like a
noble bark that has lost its rudder and is driven furiously along by its
out-spread sails, which, managed by skill and discipline, might yet
become the instruments of its safety, to irremediable shipwreck and
ruin. If educated at all, he was taught to regard all the retainers of
his vast estates as vassals; beings of meaner mould; a race of mortals
who had somehow smuggled themselves into existence long after Adam
founded his ancient family--poachers on the world's manor--now doomed,
for their punishment, to crawl as slaves on the earth they had dared to
come upon unbidden. He was taught to regard all unnoble as ignoble; and
to consider them as an inferior and secondary race, and only created to
be subservient to the will of those of his caste and rank. With such
notions he became haughty and arrogant, and cherished a spirit of pride
of birth, combined with a jealousy of his privileges, that at all times
was sufficiently prompt to show itself.

With two such opposite characters; a generous and just one--the gift of
nature; an imperious and haughty one--the result of education, he was as
uncertain as the wind, variable as the evening cloud. There was but one
mind that could control his; one spirit to whose power his own would
bend; but one voice that could act upon his passions with a gentle
influence, and, with a word, chase the darkest cloud from his brow, even
as the harp of the youthful minstrel banished the gloomy spirit of evil
from the soul of Saul! This potent person was Kate Bellamont: the wand
she used, Cupid's magical bow. By its aid she brought his haughty will
in subjection to her own mild sway, and converted the lion into the
lamb. She had been his playfellow from childhood; they had strolled,
fished, hunted, boated together. Others might be in company, but somehow
Kate and Robert seemed to be attracted to each other by a mysterious
affinity: if they fished, he baited her hook and took off the fish when
she caught them; if there was a ramble, they were certain to stray off
together and lose themselves in the forest, and always were the last
back to the castle; if there was a party to sail on the mere, Robert and
Kate were sure to be seated near each other!

By-and-by they began to advance into their teens: when Kate got to be
fifteen, she began to grow very shy of her playfellow; would not let him
kiss her as he was wont; nor ramble with her his arm encircling her
little round waist. She ceased running races with him, and began to call
him "Lord Robert;" and would blush if he happened to turn and catch her
eye fixed musingly upon his face. Robert himself also began to show
signs of change. He grew diffident and silent in her company; looked at
her for a long time together without saying a word; then would turn away
and sigh, and look again, and sigh again. He became less violent, less
frequently angry; his voice became gentle and subdued: and he began to
show signs of fear in her presence, and trembled if she laid her hand on
his arm, which, of late, she was very careful not to do. Indeed, there
is no describing half the signs by which their progress from the
playmate state of chrysalis to the lovemate state of ripe youth was
marked. Robert Lester very soon found that he was very unhappy away from
Kate, and very happy in her presence. The maiden, on her part, was not
long in discovering that the days were very long when Robert did not
visit Castle Cor, and that she thought of him, somehow, a great deal
more than she used to do. It evidently was very clear that she loved to
look from the battlement of the tower at the four distant turrets on the
top of Castle More, when he was away, much oftener than she had done the
year before. Things went on in this manner, though from worse to worse,
till about a week before Kate's sixteenth birthday, when it chanced that
she and her quondam playfellow were riding slowly homeward, after an
unsuccessful pursuit of a stag, which, after having led them within a
mile of Castle More, doubled and turned upon its track towards the
south, and plunged into a morass not far from Castle Cor; so, as night
was approaching, they had given up the pursuit, and turned their horses
heads towards the castle.

They had been slowly riding side by side for some time, breathing their
horses, neither speaking a word, but occasionally exchanging timid
side-glances in the way young people sometimes do without lifting their
eyelids. If by chance their eyes met, both instantly averted their
heads, switched their horses, or plucked a leaf; but, in a few seconds,
their heads would gradually come round, the pupil of the eyes steal into
the corners and again meet, causing a second time very great
embarrassment, and very guilty colouring of cheek and brow, as if each
had been detected by the other in some crime. So they rode together in
this pleasant manner for full half a mile; and one would believe, from
their silence and the wide space they guardedly preserved between each
other, that they had quarrelled. But their countenances, though grave,
looked too happy and sentimental for that; besides, a slight smile, or,
rather, just the soft reflection of one, played about their mouths. This
for several weeks past had been precisely their bearing towards one
another whenever they happened to be alone together; but, when in the
presence of others, they both gave way to the highest tone of gayety and
spirits. It was all very strange, very!

The lover at length looked ahead, and saw, through an opening in the
forest, the towers of Castle Cor not a quarter of a mile distant. He
involuntarily reined in his horse, and looked full in Kate's face; his
lips parted; he essayed to speak, but his voice adhered to his jaws. So
he gasped, sighed, and laid his hand eloquently on his heart. Kate also
saw the towers, and reined up at the same moment he did; looked demurely
on the ground, and then, as if she had nothing better to do, let fall
her riding whip, notwithstanding she had to untie it from her wrist to
do so. Instantly Lord Robert threw himself from his saddle, giving the
bridle a slight shake as his foot left the stirrup, a hint which the
sagacious animal obeyed by bounding off towards the stables, and took it
from the ground; then blushingly, and with a conscious look, as if
contemplating a daring deed, he presented it to her. As, with averted
eyes, she extended her hand for it, he placed in it tremblingly, instead
of the whip, his own hand. She neither started nor turned her head, but
her young bosom rose and fell quick, and he thought the hand fluttered
with a new pulsation as it lay in his. She did not withdraw it. He grew
confident, and slightly, very slightly, pressed a finger. Thereupon the
little hand only throbbed the quicker. He pressed two, then three
fingers, and then, with a boldness that grew with the occasion, he
folded the soft, gloved hand all in his own. The next moment he coloured
with conscious guilt, and looked up into her face as if about to throw
himself upon her mercy. But she was so intently watching the rich dies
of a sunset cloud that she evidently did not know what he was about; so,
instead of asking pardon and looking very sad, he put on a very happy
countenance, and, ever and anon casting his glance upward to her face,
began, little by little, to draw off her glove. But, as she made no
demonstrations of being aware of what he was doing, he pulled the glove
quite off. For an instant he held it suspended, while he stole a very
doubtful glance into her half-averted face; the next moment the warm,
snowy hand was pressed between his own, and then, growing bolder apace,
he began to cover it with kisses. Hereupon the maiden slowly turned her
head and looked down at the bold youth with a look that she doubtless
meant to be a reproving one; he cast his eyes to the ground, still
holding the quiet hand nestled between both his own, and said, in a soft
whisper,

"Kate!"

"Robert!" was the equally gentle suspiration in reply.

"Are you angry?"

"I ought to be."

"Then you are not?" was the half-joyful, half-doubting interrogation.

"No," was breathed in accents so very gentle that it was conveyed to him
by the movements of the lips alone.

"Shall we walk to the castle?"

"Yes."

And the young lady, studiously avoiding his eyes, was gently and
passively assisted to the ground; as she touched it, his arm glided
about her taper waist, and somehow their lips met, and again met, and
met again, and met so often, that the horse was far out of sight before
the fact forced itself on the mind of the maiden.

"Robert, desist! There! my horse has galloped off!"

"Shall I bring him to you?" asked the delighted youth, in a tone that
showed he did not very much apprehend she would despatch him on such a
mission.

"No, we can walk. But it is so foolish!"

"What?"

"Nothing."

And they walked on together for a few moments in silence.

"Kate!"

"Robert."

"Do you love me?"

"Yes."

"May I seal the confession?"

"A fine time to ask leave now!" she said, laughing.

Another kiss, and then another, and then a great many others, firmly
sealed this little love affair, and placed them on a perfect
understanding with each other. They were from this moment lovers! They
quarrelled only twenty times in the subsequent interval of a week that
preceded her birthday; than which no greater proof need be advanced to
show the new relation in which they stood to each other. But, then, they
always made up again; the youth, whose hasty spirit caused him five
times out of seven to be the offender, being ever ready to atone by
every loverlike device.

But such a sad breach as had been made between them this day was without
a parallel. To his own mind it seemed too wide to be repaired; too gross
to be atoned for by words. He, on his part, felt that the lofty
character and proud spirit of Kate, though love plead never so loudly,
would not brook the insult her feelings had received by the wild
outbreak of his passions in her presence. He felt that he had forfeited
all title to a place in her affections; and that her indignation was
justly roused by the outrageous deed he had madly attempted: with
bitterness of heart he acknowledged that he deserved to be banished for
ever from her presence, and to be remembered by her only with contempt.
But he knew not of what enduring material a maiden's heart is composed;
he knew not that, when love takes possession of it, like a magnet thrown
among some delicate machinery of steel communicating to every part a
portion of its own mysterious nature, it penetrates and pervades every
attribute, converts every passion to its own hue, and renders each
feeling subservient to itself. To its arbitrament all things are
referred. Reason, judgment, prudence, and even piety become secondary to
the will of this autocrat of the heart; and a deaf ear is turned even to
the counsels of the wise and good when they do not conform to its
dictates. Such is the power of love--wondrous, vast, incomprehensible! A
religion without a god or a future; unbounded in its power; universal in
its extent; all-pervading in its influences!

He galloped along through the winding avenues of the silent forest,
scarce roused from his sad meditations by the startled deer that fled at
his approach, yet stooping mechanically as some old oak flung its
gigantic arm low across the path. Unconsciously he urged on his noble
horse to its utmost speed; his bonnet pressed down over his gloomy brow;
his eyes dark and settled in their expression; and his hand nervously
grasping the rein. At one moment he would drop his head upon his breast,
and be overcome by the bitterness of grief. At the next he would throw
back his head, and with eyes flashing fire, gnash his glittering teeth,
shake his clinched hands above his head, and curse in the face of
Heaven; while the horse, catching his fierce spirit, would erect his
bristling mane, and bound madly forward like the wind. These terrible
paroxysms of mingled grief and rage would pass away, and then he would
ride slowly, with his arms folded, and with an expression of settled
despondency. Three several times did he check his horse, and,
half-turning him round towards Castle Cor, pause, and seem to deliberate
between the suggestions of mingled hope and doubt. But, after a few
seconds' thought, he would shake his head despairingly and again spur
forward.

In one of his moods of sullen gloom, with his arms folded across his
breast, his head drooped, the reins lying loosely upon the horse's neck,
he came upon an old ruin half a league from Castle More, and within the
boundaries of its wide domain. Here and there, amid a confusion of
moss-grown fragments that everywhere strewed the ground, rose to his eye
a mouldering buttress; the half of a Gothic window; a ruined tower,
lifting itself in melancholy loneliness, in the last stages of decay;
or, a doorway choked to its lintel with rubbish. Over all crept the ivy,
that lovely emblem of charity, binding up, with its slender fingers, the
wounded towers; covering with its thick robe of leaves the nakedness
that time had exposed; and, where it could neither heal nor strengthen,
wreathing about the dilapidated walls garlands of enduring verdure.

It was the ruins of a chapel, where, centuries before, the barons of
Castle More had worshipped. Now all was desolation. Its bell was hushed;
its choir for ever silent. The priests--the worshippers, where were
they? sleeping beneath the ruins of the crumbling chancel; their high or
holy names, which no man remembers, carved deep in the superincumbent
marble. Apparently coeval with the fallen temple, near its eastern end
grew an aged tree, spreading over half the ruin its huge broad arms as
if it would fain protect, in its desolation, the relics of that
structure whose days of honour it had witnessed. A soft evening
sunlight, struggling through the tops of the surrounding forest, shed a
crimson glow over the whole scene, and imparted a quiet and sacred
character to the spot that took from it its aspect of desolation. It
stood there lonely and majestic in its ruin, forcibly suggesting to the
mind the idea (for there does exist a mysterious sympathy of association
between man and inanimate objects) of calm, Christian old age, ripe in
years and holiness, gathering about itself, with dignity and grace, its
mantle of decay.

Wrapped in his gloomy thoughts, the horseman was absently following the
path that wound among the ruins, when, as he turned a sudden angle of
the pile, his horse started and nearly threw him from his saddle. Roused
to a sense of his situation, he recovered his seat, seized the bridle,
and looked up. Directly in his path stood a woman, in a short scarlet
cloak, then, as now, the favourite colour of the Irish peasantry,
leaning on a long white staff, curiously carved with mysterious figures.
She was beneath the middle height, and hideously hunch-backed. Her hair
was bright red, of extraordinary length, and hung down in masses nearly
to the ground. Around her forehead was bound a cincture of beads, woven
into singular devices, which confined a sort of turban of green silk.
Her complexion was bronzed by exposure, but evidently once had been
fair. Her features were stern and almost masculine, yet bearing traces
of feminine beauty: the straight forehead, contracted by a rigid frown;
the aquiline nose; the arched brow, and thin, well-shaped lips, with a
roundly turned chin, were all, evidently, wrecks of what had once been
beautiful. Her eye was large, full, and clear, and would still have been
handsome but for a lurking devil in it. But the unsightly deformity of
her person, if natural, must always have served to render nugatory any
charm of countenance; and, whatever might have been her attractions in
youth, her present appearance was calculated to excite only feelings of
mingled fear and disgust. The young man gazed at her a moment as she
stood in his path, and then, in a tone that was in unison with his
present humour, said fiercely,

"Curses light on thee, hag! Stand from my path, or I will ride over
thee, and trample thy hideous carcass with my horse's hoofs."

"Robert Lester, as men call thee," she said, without changing her
position, in a cold, hard voice, and with a malicious laugh, "thou hast
been crossed in thy will, and art out of temper. Dost wish revenge?"

"Woman, avaunt! I want none of thy counsel. From my path, or I will ride
thee down!"

As he spoke, the impatient horseman struck his spurs deep into his
horse's flanks, and urged the animal forward; the beast reared and
plunged fearfully to either side, but refused to advance.

"Ha, ha, Robert More! If men will obey thee thy brute will not. He has
the eye to see dangers that are hidden from mortal vision."

"Witch--fiend!" cried the young man, fiercely, "I will dismount and hurl
thee from the path if thou bar my way farther. Stand aside and let me
pass!"

And a second time the infuriated rider urged the terrified beast
forward, but was nearly unhorsed by his efforts to turn from the road.
In an instant he leaped to the ground and advanced upon her. She smiled
scornfully as he approached, caught the arm he extended to seize her,
and held him in her grasp with the force of a vice.

"Ha, ha, Robert More! thou art defeated."

Quick as lightning, with his other hand he drew from his breast a
hunting-knife, and, elevating it above her head, said, in a cool,
decided tone,

"Elpsy, release me, or I sheath this blade in thy heart!"

She fixed her dark wild eyes upon his face an instant, and reading
aright its resolute expression, let go her grasp.

"'Tis well for thee, Elpsy," he said, returning the blade to his bosom;
"thou hast saved thy wretched life, and thy blood is not on my soul. Now
leave the path!" he added, sternly. "By the cross! ere I will be bearded
thus on my own lands, I will command my retainers to hurl thee into the
sea."

"_Thy_ lands! _thy_ retainers! Ha, ha, ha, Robert _More_! I have in
store a punishment for thee and for thy pride, that will repay me for
all thy arrogance! Oh, how thy haughty soul will writhe! how thy proud
spirit will groan! _Have I not a cup for thee to drink?_--Oh, have I!
Ha, ha, ha!"

The foreboding words and wild laugh of the hag sunk deep into the soul
of the young man. He was impressed by her manner as much as by her
language, and, with a changing cheek, said quickly,

"What mean these dark words, Elpsy?"

"Dark! yes, they are dark to thee now, but I can make them clear as the
sun at noon; ay, proud Robert of Lester! they shall scorch thee! wither
thy soul! cause thy heart to shrink! thy neck to bow! thy head to lie in
the very dust! Oh, will not the lowest slave among the vassals that wait
thy word pity thee, when thine ears receive what I would reveal!"

The wild prophetic air, the energy and taunting scorn with which she
spoke, alarmed while it enraged him.

"Madness! Woman--fiend! monster of deformity! speak, I command thee."

"_Thou_ command _me_, Robert Lester! Well, there will be a time! Wouldst
thou know what I have to reveal?" she asked, fixing on him her scorching
eyes.

"Beware if thou art mocking my fears! I will pluck thy tongue from thy
throat, and fling it to my hounds if thou hast trifled with me!"

"What I will tell thee will be so true, thou wilt indeed wish the tongue
that spoke it had been plucked from its roots ere it had given it
utterance. Nevertheless, the time has come for thee to hear; and I may
no longer delay the recital of what, for thy sake," she added, with a
softer manner, "I would bear close locked in my breast to the grave.
But," she concluded, in a lofty tone, "what is to be revealed must be
made known, though the heavens were to fall and the earth to quake. Who
shall stay the hand of fate when once it is lifted to destroy?"

"Elpsy," said Lester, in a deep and earnest voice, unable to throw off
the presentiment of coming evil her words had awakened, "I would believe
thou hadst something to make known to me either of good or evil, though
of the latter alone I know thou art the minister. Yet, if thou hast
aught to say, I am ready to listen, good mother!" he added, in a mild
and persuasive tone.

"Robert More," she said, in a voice of super-human softness, while the
frigid and austere character of her face passed away, and her features
assumed a more womanly and gentler expression; "those last few words
were kindly spoken, and became thee: they have touched my heart--for
even Elpsy has a heart," she said, with sarcastic bitterness; "for those
kind expressions I would withhold from thee the knowledge of the doom
that awaits thee. But it is not for me," she added, in an enthusiastic
voice, and with returning wildness of the eye; "it is not for one like
me to refuse to obey the decree that has gone forth against thee. As a
mortal, I pity thee! as a woman, I could weep for thee! and as--No," she
interrupted herself, and muttered, "no, he shall not know all now; he
shall not learn all till my soul is on the wing; then, _then_ will it be
time enough!" She then added aloud, "as the minister of the invisible
world, I must do as I am commanded. Robert More, if you can bear to hear
what I am doomed to tell, follow me!"

"Nay, Elpsy, speak to me here."

"Obey me!" she commanded, in an authoritative voice, that had a singular
power over his will, and which he had not the ability to resist.

Without waiting for a reply, or looking round to see if she were
followed, she turned from the bridle-path, and, bounding with great
activity and with a sort of mad exhilaration of spirits over the
fragments of stone that lay in her way, directed her course towards a
low door at the foot of the crumbling tower. He hesitated a moment, and
then, leaving his horse cropping the long rich grass that grew among the
ruins, followed her. She entered the ruin, and, guided by a dim twilight
that penetrated through the top of the ruinous arch, led the way along a
covered passage which ran in the direction of the chancel. Its extremity
was wrapped in total darkness.

"Elpsy, I will follow thee no farther," he called, after advancing till
he could no longer take a step safely in the impenetrable gloom that
surrounded him, while she walked before him with a free, rapid, and
confident pace.

"Take the end of my staff," she said, returning a few steps and placing
it within his reach.

"Thy cabalistic wand, woman!" he repeated, in a tone of horror,
recoiling from her several paces and crossing himself. "Avoid thee!"

Like many among the highborn and educated of that day, Lester was not
above the superstitious notions of the times, and assented to, perhaps
without firmly believing, the existence and power of sorceresses. Among
the great number of these singular beings that about this time rose up
and filled the minds of all men, both in Great Britain and the
New-England colonies, with pious alarm and godly horror, was Elpsy More,
or "Elpsy of the Tower," for by both of these names she was known, who
had the reputation, above all others who practised the black art, of
being on the most intimate footing with his Satanic highness. Dark and
wild were the tales that had gone forth, and were repeated in hall and
cot, of the supernatural deeds of this communer with the world of
spirits. By the imaginations of the credulous and timid she was invested
with powers that could belong only to the Creator of the universe; and
it was believed by all good Catholics, that every Whitsuntide the devil
came to dine with her in the chancel of the old church, making a table
of the marble tomb of Black Morris O'More; who, as the tradition went,
sold his soul for the love of a beautiful lady, who turned out to be a
fiend, and on the bridal night flew away with him into the regions of
wo.

When Lester crossed the threshold of the gloomy gallery, these tales of
diablerie had come crowding thick upon his memory, painted in their most
vivid hues by his imagination; and with all his daring his blood ran
cold in his veins: nevertheless, he had continued to grope on until he
could go no farther, when he called to her. As the staff she offered
came in contact with his hand, he had shuddered and shrunk back,
remembering how that it was said her crutch was given her by her master,
who had charmed it by hardening it in the fires of the ever-burning
lake; and that whomsoever she touched with it, or even pointed it to,
that wore neither cross, bead, nor blessed relic about his neck, his
soul would surely be lost. Lester trembled as these legends passed
through his mind, crossed himself, and with great devotion muttered a
_paternoster_.

"Here, then, is my hand!" she said, seeing his hesitation.

"Fearful being, I will not go with thee."

"Robert More, obey me! There is my hand. It shall not harm thee," she
added, in that peculiar tone which held such a singular power over his
volition.

Without replying, he took the extended hand and followed her through the
dark passage a few yards farther, when she stopped and said,

"Heed thy footsteps! Here are steps--thou must go down with me."

As she spoke she began to descend a flight of stone stairs into a vault
beneath. He would have held back, but she gently and irresistibly led
him down, when they stood upright in a damp chamber, in which a faint
light struggled through an opening in the floor of the chapel above. The
dank, noisome atmosphere of the place, and its subterraneous position
beneath the chancel, filled him with awe and fear.

"Woman, whither have you led me?" he asked, in a voice deep with the
mingled emotions of suspicion, alarm, and resentment.

"Into the tomb where rest the bones of Black Morris O'More," she
answered, in a voice that sounded hollow and sepulchral.

"Mother of Heaven!" he gasped, "then is my soul lost!"

"Thou wilt little heed thy soul, proud youth, when thou hast heard my
tale."

"Be speedy with thy story, then; for, good or ill befall, I will not
long remain here."

"Fear not; thou art in no danger! Step cautiously, and I will guide thee
across this chamber to my own house. This is only the anteroom to it.
Ha, ha!" she laughed frightfully. "See! I have grim Morris O'More to
stand guard over my door."

As she said this she struck something, which, in the darkness, rattled
like bones suspended from the ceiling of the vault.

"Sorceress!" cried he, shuddering at the sound, "I will go no farther."

"Come with me, Robert More!" she said, firmly; "and see thou fall not
over the tomb of Black Morris in the way."

She drew him by the arm as she spoke with a strength far beyond his own.
He felt for his hunting-knife, determined to free himself by striking
her with it.

"Hold!" she cried, divining his intentions; "I will not harm thee. Here
is my abode!"

While speaking, she struck against the opposite wall with her staff, and
a door flew open, exposing the interior of a small circular chamber
receiving a dim light from the sky, which was seen calm and blue through
the roofless tower above.

"Welcome to the abode of Elpsy of the Tower!" she said, with irony.
"'Tis not the princely one thou art accustomed to, but it will serve thy
present purpose. Didst know that on thy domains thou hadst such a brave
woodland palace? Look about thee!"

The young man entered the room with a feeling of relief that he no
longer was in the very sepulchre, though still within reach, of the tomb
of Black Morris the accursed. The apartment in which he now found
himself originally had been constructed by the priests for the
preservation of the sacred vessels of the church in times of hostile
invasion of their domains. It was a subterranean room, situated beneath
a circular tower or turret that rose at the southeast angle of the
chapel. The tower once had contained three floors, one above the other;
the mortises for the sleepers being yet visible, ranged regularly and at
equal distances around the inner side. The top or roof of the tower,
with its battlement and Gothic ornaments, had long since fallen in; and
the floors, down even to the ground that formed the floor of the witch's
apartment and the very foundation of the tower, had successively decayed
and disappeared. The only entrance to this tunnel-like turret was the
door from the sepulchre by which he had been admitted. From this vault
to the chambers formerly above, access had been obtained by a circular
stairway within the tower and conducting from floor to floor, the beds
of the beams and fixtures which supported them still remaining in the
masonry. The object of these once-existing upper chambers of the round
tower is involved in mystery, though tradition hath given to the "three
tower-chambers" each their own wild tale of dark superstition and
priestly crime.

As he stood in the vault in the bottom of the tower, and looked far out
at the sky, it was like gazing upward from the bottom of a well. The
light came in strongly at the top, but grew fainter and fainter as it
penetrated deeper, till only a dim twilight reached the chamber below.
He recognised the tower as the loftiest of the ruin which often he had
made a landmark when hunting, and ascertained thereby his position: this
discovery rendering him more at his ease, he turned to survey the
subterranean abode which Elpsy had chosen.

In the midst of the floor was a heap of cinders, on which stood a small
iron kettle, apparently the only utensil she used for preparing her
food. A stone escutcheon, broken from one of the tombs, served her for a
seat, and a pile of fern and leaves for a bed. These constituted all the
necessaries that her singular and solitary way of life called for. But
there were other objects that attracted his attention, and thrilled his
blood as he gazed on them. Beside the door, its bones tied together with
strips of deer's hide, hung a skeleton of great size, its ghastly jaws
carefully bound up and grinning horribly, and its hollow, bony sockets
filled with stag's eyes wildly staring at him. Sculls, cross-bones, and
other hideous mementoes of the charnel-house were arranged along the
sides of the walls; while charms, amulets, and all the numerous
instruments of sorcery lay about. Through the open door he beheld the
stone effigy of Black Morris, which had slided from its recumbent
posture above his tomb by the sinking of the earth, standing nearly
upright, staring with his stony gaze into the round chamber, before
which swung the skeleton of which his tomb had been despoiled. The tomb
itself was open, and its black sepulchral mouth yawned as if it would
gladly receive a new occupant.

Terrible to Lester's nerves was the trial produced by this scene. Bold
and fearless as he was by nature, he could not suppress emotions of fear
(the cowardice of superstition) at the situation and circumstances in
which he had suffered himself to be drawn by the taunting language of a
wild weird woman, who not only was the professed enemy of all mankind,
but had manifested hostile feelings towards himself. He nevertheless
resolved that, having adventured, he would go through with it, trusting,
with religious faith, that all good saints would help him against
spiritual foes; while for protection against mortal ones, ay, even Elpsy
herself, he trusted to his own coolness, and, if it should come to that,
the broad sharp blade of his hunting-knife. Having fortified his mind
with this resolve, he felt more confidence; and being now in some degree
familiarized with his situation and the ghastly objects around him, he
turned to address the sorceress, who, on entering, had seated herself on
a scull, and, with her chin buried between her hands, continued to fix
her dark eyes upon his face with a mingled expression of pity and
malignant triumph. Before he could speak she rose, and, laying her hand
on his arm, said, in a tone between sadness and derision,

"How like you my abode, my lord?"

"'Tis a gloomy place."

"Ay, and many a gloomy day have I spent in it. Sit ye down on that
stone, _Lord Lester_!" she added, laying a peculiar emphasis upon the
last two words; "'tis a knight's shield, and should be a fit seat for
_thee_!"

"Is it thus, Elpsy, you use the sculptured armour and the sepultured
bones of my ancestors?" he said, in an indignant tone.

"_Thy_ ancestors?" she repeated, scornfully. "Sit thou there, _Lord
Lester_. Dost hear, Lord Lester? Open thine ears, and drink in the title
and style well--for 'twill be the last time they will fall upon them."

"Cease your mockery, woman! Say what thou hast to say, and quickly."

"Listen!" she said, seating herself on a scull opposite to him, while a
struggle between sympathy and malicious exultation was visible on her
features. "Young, and fair, and brave to look upon withal!" she said,
muttering to herself, and gazing on him steadfastly and thoughtfully; "a
coronet would grace that brow even as if 'twere born to it. Robert
Lester, or Robert More, for men call thee both," she said aloud, bending
her face towards him, and speaking in an impressive manner, "now listen
to the tale I have in store for thee. Fix thine eye upon me that I may
see it blench as I go on. Oh! it's a tale for a Christmas eve, I trow!"

She was silent a few seconds, as if sending her thoughts back through
the past; then, in a low voice, which rose or fell, was wild or sad,
slow or rapid, as her subject moved her, she began:

"Eighteen long years ago there dwelt by the seaside a poor fisherman,
honest, hard labouring in his vocation, but contented with his lot,
never having known better. He was a widower, but had an only daughter,
his sole companion, and the only link that bound him to his kind. This
child grew up to be a tall and comely maiden. Her eyes were of the rich
brown hue of the ripe chestnut. Her hair, soft as the floss of Florence,
was a fair brown; but when the winds that came off the sea would toss it
in the sunlight, there played over it a blaze of gold. It never had
known confinement, but floated like a sunset cloud about her head."

"What has this to do with thy tale?" demanded Lester, impatiently.

"Listen!" she said, calmly but firmly; her features, as her thoughts
seemed to dwell pleasurably on the beauty of the maiden, becoming more
humanized, while her voice modulated and harmonized with the words she
uttered. "This fair maid grew up, unknowing and unknown; budding and
blooming like a lone flower by the seaside. Her laugh was merry as the
carol of the glad lark as it soars and sings; her spirits were light as
the sparkling foam of the summer's sea; her heart as pure as the
moonbeam that slept on the wave. Her happiness was in her father's smile
and in his paternal love; and, besides her little cot, and the wide sea
which she loved, and the tall cliff that towered above her home, she
knew not, until she had entered her eighteenth year, that there was any
other world. Alas, for that maiden, that she had not remained in
ignorance! Alas, for her, that her heart was not as cold as the moonbeam
it resembled in its purity! One black and stormy night, a voice,
shouting for aid, reached the ears of the old fisherman and his child,
heard above the howlings of wind and roaring of the angry deep.

"'Rise, my child!' he cried, 'there is life in peril.'

"In a few moments they were by the seaside, and by flashes of lightning
beheld a small bark driving towards the shore before the tempest. On its
prow stood a group of men, who waved their arms wildly as the lightning
showed to them the forms of the old man and his daughter standing on the
beach, and shouted for help. Swift and irresistible, like an affrighted
courser, the fatal vessel drove onward, now lifted high on a surge, now
plunging into a yawning chasm, till at length, borne to a great height
on a wave, she trembled an instant on its top, and then, descending like
an arrow, struck against the bottom and was dashed to pieces. Wild,
fearful, unearthly was the shriek that pierced the ears of the fisherman
and his child! They looked where, a moment before, it went careering
over the foaming billows, and the lightning gleamed only upon fragments
of the wreck, human heads, and wildly waving arms. One solitary cry rent
the air after she struck, and then naught but the shriek of the winds,
like a human wail, and the tumult of the sea as it lashed the shore in
its fury, was to be heard."

"What has this to do with the tale I came hither to learn?" asked the
youth, impatiently; nevertheless, had he listened to her with interest,
deeply impressed by the energy of her voice and manner, as she warmed in
her narrative.

"Much," she said, quietly. "Listen! The fisherman, with his hair
streaming in the wind, and his garments wet with the spray, long
traversed the beach to see if human life had been cast on shore. He was
accompanied by his daughter, who, with her golden locks glancing in the
lightning, her lofty forehead calm and firm with womanly energy, and her
fair young face lighted up with the noble spirit that inspired her to
the task, looked like some bright spirit of peace that had come to stay
the tempest. They watched by that lonely shore till the dawn broke,
when, by its first faint glimmer, the maiden discovered an object like a
human form lying on the edge of the sea beside a rock, whither it had
been tossed by the stormy waves. With a cry between hope and mistrust
she sprang fearlessly towards the object--for, in the stern duties of
humanity to its suffering kind, fear nor false delicacy have no place,
and, if they had, that maiden was too good, too ignorant of life to know
either. As she came close to it, she saw that it was the body of a man.
She placed her hand upon his temples. They were warm. He was alive!
Alas, far better would it have been for her had he been cold as the
stone beside which he lay! His pulse was very faint; she could just feel
it throb like a fine chord vibrating against her finger. He was lying
upon his side naturally, like one in sleep. It was not yet light enough
to see whether he was young or old, but she knew, from the soft smooth
skin of his brow, that many winters of manhood had not passed over his
head. With her aid her father bore him to their hut, and, after bathing
his forehead and hands in spirits, and applying for his restoration the
few but effective means known to those whose lives are passed on the
sea, he opened his eyes, and, after a little while, was able to sit up.
After having waited a few moments to recall his faculties, he seemed to
have become conscious of his situation, and the fatal cause which led to
it: with a smile of gratitude he looked up, and, glancing first at the
father and then at the daughter, acknowledged, in a voice and with a
look that thrilled to the heart of the poor maiden, how much he owed
them for their exertions in saving his life."

"This is a long story, Elpsy, and, methinks, little to the purpose!"
interrupted Lester.

"Listen! His language was courteous, and his speech addressed alone to
her; his manner was also gentle, and such as would please a maiden. He
got up and walked to the window to look out upon the beach, which was
strewn with fragments of the wreck; and, as he did so, she was struck
with his noble figure, and proud, soldierly air; and the soft sadness
that came over his face, as he surveyed the melancholy relics of his
gallant vessel, touched her heart. He was not above thirty years of age,
with a high, fair brow, and a cheek, though sunburnt, bright as a
child's. His hair was of a silvery hue, that harmonized with his
complexion, and flowed long and in shining waves about his shoulders.
His eyes were as blue as if they had been mirrors to reflect the
summer's sky, and, as she met them, were tender, yet ardent, in their
expression. His smile was fascinating, and his rich voice was full of
melody and most manly in its tones. Poor fisher's daughter! She gazed on
him bewildered with love, and lost her heart ere she scarce knew she
possessed one! He turned away from the window, and his eyes met the
fervent gaze of the maiden. She blushed; her eyelids fell; her young
bosom heaved tumultuously, and the worldly-wise stranger read her heart
at a glance.

"The evening of that day (for hour after hour did he linger beneath the
fisherman's lowly roof) they sat together in the door of her cot. He
took her hand, and told her, in a low, gentle voice, how he had sailed
homeward from Spain, where he had been fighting as a soldier; and how,
with his companions, he had been, the last night, driven by the tempest
on that inhospitable shore when within five leagues of his destination;
and how that he had lost much treasure by the shipwreck, but that her
presence had made him forget all he had lost; that her smile repaid him
for all that he had suffered. Poor maiden! The hours wore away, yet they
seemed minutes to her; the stars came out, and the tardy moon rose! He
discoursed to her of love, and she listened! Her ears drank in his
words! Her heart was no longer her own. He told her that he loved her,
and received her ingenuous confession in return. He then told her of a
brave tower, that stood amid broad lands five leagues northward, which
owned him as master, and this, he said, he would make her the mistress
of if she would become his bride. She believed and promised. He then
said he must leave her, but would return in a few days in a fair ship,
and claim its fulfilment. The next morning he took his departure. She
wept sorely in his arms when he left her. But, ere her father, who had
been pursuing his daily toil on the deep, returned, she had dried up her
tears and clothed her face with smiles to meet him, lest her sorrow
should make him sad. She did not tell him of her love or the promise of
the stranger: it was the first time she had harboured a secret in her
guileless heart. She was silent from maidenly modesty; for, with the
love that had got into her heart, had entered many new feelings hitherto
unknown to her.

"Sad and heavy passed the days, when one evening, as she stood upon the
beach looking, now southward for the light skiff of her father, and,
much oftener, northward for the expected bark of her lover, she saw the
evening sun glancing on a white sail that appeared coming round a
promontory a league distant to the north. It bent its course towards the
beach. Her heart fluttered. She knew not what to do for joy; and, in her
impatience, could have flown along the white sand to meet it! Steadily
it bore down towards her. She now forgot to look for the little skiff of
her father; her eyes were fixed alone on the coming bark! It approached
nearer and nearer. She could see forms on the deck. As it came closer,
high on the poop, standing alone like its master spirit, she discovered
her lover. He waved his hand to her, and, as she answered it, the vessel
came to; a boat was launched, and he sprang into it. A few strokes of
the oar sent it to the land, and, leaping out, the handsome stranger
clasped the lovely maiden in his arms.

"'Come, gentle maid,' he said, in accents of love; 'come and be the
bride of my home and heart.'

"'Not without my father!' she said, looking anxiously to see if she
could descry his boat.

"'Think not of him now,' said he; 'he shall soon come, and cheer with
his presence your new home.'

"'He will grieve when he finds I have left him,' she said, with filial
tenderness. 'I cannot go.'

"'He shall, ere long, see you again,' he said, gently leading her along;
'come, dearest, fly with me to the abode I have prepared for you. This
shall be our bridal night!'

"The maiden suffered herself to be borne to the waiting bark; its sails
were trimmed to the breeze, and swiftly it cut its way through the
crested billows towards the direction from which it came."

"Hast done?" asked the impatient Lester.

"Hear me!" said Elpsy, in a stern tone. "The morning's sun shone upon a
dark square tower, with a single wing that looked upon the sea, and his
beams penetrated a stained lattice, and fell in brilliant and varied
dies on the floor of a chamber within it. In that chamber sat the
fisher's daughter; and the fair-locked stranger was bending over her as
she sat by the window, dallying with her golden tresses. The night upon
the sea had been her bridal night! But, alas! unblessed by priest,
unmarked by altar, or prayer, or vow! She was neither bride nor maid."

Here the witch's voice trembled with emotion, while her eyes grew rigid,
and her brow became gloomy and fearful to look upon.

"Who did this maiden this foul wrong?" asked the youth, with a flashing
eye.

"Hurtel of the Red-Hand!"

"Ha! that rebel Irish chief, who, to save his head, fled to the
Colonies, and who, for his bloodthirsty spirit, got the title of 'The
Red-Hand?'" demanded Lester, with interest.

"The same."

"I would have sworn it! Go on."

She smiled grimly, and then continued:

"For many days he was devoted to his victim; but amused her, when she
besought him to heal her wounded honour by the words of the holy mass of
marriage, with idle excuses; and so she was put off from day to day,
till she found there was life within her bosom, and that she was about
to become a wedless mother.

"Gradually he got to neglect her, and daily grew more and more estranged
from her; and at length, heading a secret conspiracy, his tower became
the rendezvous of insurgent leaders, and day and night rung with
bacchanalian revels. Lonely she sat, evening after evening, in her
solitary chamber, with her face resting on her hand, and her eyes
looking south over the sea; her thoughts winging their way to her lowly
cot and its humble occupant, who, perhaps, mourned his daughter as
having perished in the deep.

"At length she became a mother. _He_ was away at the time, at the head
of a party of conspirators bound on an expedition of treason and
bloodshed. On the third day afterward he returned. She heard the tramp
of horses, and with hurried joy opening the lattice--for,
notwithstanding his neglect, she loved him still--saw him riding rapidly
towards the tower, followed only by a single rider, and leading by the
rein a palfrey, on which was mounted a beautiful lady; she saw that her
head drooped, that she appeared sick and faint, and that he supported
her by passing one arm about her waist. A pang of jealousy, the first
she had ever known, shot through her bosom. They reined up beneath the
window: she saw him take her in his arms from the saddle, and bear her
within the tower. Then, with surprise, she heard him, in a loud tone,
give commands for all the defences of the castle to be put up, as if he
expected to encounter a siege. She returned again to her couch faint and
sick at heart, and waited his appearance. An hour elapsed ere he came,
and painful were the thoughts that agitated her bosom. When at length
she heard his footsteps, she rose to meet him with a smile of love, with
her infant extended in her arms. His dress was disordered and bloody, as
if he was just from conflict; and she at once saw, for affection is
quick and suspicious ever, that his brow was dark and angry.

"'Ha!' he cried, scornfully, 'what have we here?'

"'The pledge of your former love,' she said, with gentle reproof,
offering it to his arms.

"'By the head of St. Peter!' he exclaimed, pushing her rudely away, and
fixing upon her a terrible look (which but one other living can give,"
said Elpsy, with peculiar emphasis, fixing her gaze upon Lester), "'I
brought thee not hither to breed brats! Fling it from the window!'

"And, without deigning to cast a glance upon it, he strode across the
chamber, while, with a cry of pain and mortal anguish, she sunk down
upon the floor. He turned and looked back at her for a few seconds, and
then said fiercely,

"'Rise, woman! I have brought a lady hither who will need thy services
ere the dawn. Up, I say. Thou shalt be her servant if I bid thee. Such a
station will best suit thy birth. Up, or I will tear thy brat from thee
and cast it from the balcony.'

"She clung convulsively to her babe and rose from the ground. But was
she not changed in that little while, Robert More? Was not her deep love
turned into deep hate? Ay! as if by the wave of a wand her soul was
changed, and she became a different being. 'Tis but a step from the
deepest love to the deepest hate in woman's heart, when she feels that
she is deliberately injured. Then lightning is not quicker than the
change--hell not deeper than her hate! She rose from the floor another
creature. He saw the alteration in her countenance, and, for a moment,
his guilty spirit cowered. But Satan helped him to banish all feeling
from his breast, and he waved her sternly away.

"'Whither?' she asked, meeting his fierce gaze with a cool glance of
contempt.

"'To the chamber opening from the hall,' he said, in a tone of less
authority, dropping his eyes before her steady look.

"As he went out he muttered to himself, but the mother's open ears
caught the meaning of the words,

"'That child shall die!'

"She shuddered, but spoke not: clasping her child to her bosom after he
had left her, she tottered from the room and descended to the hall.
Entering the apartment designated, she there beheld the lady whom she
had seen ride up to the tower. She was reclining on a couch, and
appeared to be overpowered by fatigue and grief. She was very lovely,
with fine dark eyes that were filled with tears, and raven hair that was
spread dishevelled over her pillow. She turned her face as the door
opened, and her countenance brightened with hope as she saw the approach
of one of her own sex. The young mother advanced to the couch and
offered her consolation. The lady glanced at the swaddled infant, and
asked if she were the wife of 'Hurtel of the Red-Hand.'

"'No,' was the sad, yet stern, reply.

"The lady ceased to inquire further, and, being in her turn asked how
she came there, said that she was a noble lady and a wife."

"A noble lady!" repeated Lester, with interest.

"Now that there is high blood spoken of, you can feel an interest in my
story," she said, sarcastically. "Listen! She told how her lord had gone
that morning at the head of a party of gentlemen to attack a strong
position of the insurgents, when, anxious and impatient for
intelligence, she rode out, accompanied by several servants, nearly a
league from her castle, in hopes of meeting him or a messenger. She got
no tidings of him, and was on her return, when one overtook her with a
message from her lord, saying that he had gained a signal victory over
the conspirators, who were totally routed with great slaughter, and that
their chief, Hurtel of the Red-Hand, had barely escaped with his life."

"A battle with conspirators, and defeat of Hurtel of the Red-Hand. By
Heaven! woman, my father once fought and conquered this same chief!
Ha--your looks! what--speak--was it--was she--no--go on, it cannot be!"

The sorceress smiled mysteriously and continued,

"'I had hardly received this joyful news,' she said, 'when three
horsemen, riding at full speed, came spurring behind us. They were
passing us, when one of them, whom I recognised as Hurtel of the
Red-Hand, turned in his saddle as he dashed by, and, looking at me
earnestly, exclaimed,

"'The countess, by all that's fortunate! This will help redeem the day's
reverses, and give me a chance for my head!"

"'As he spoke he threw himself, with his company, sword in hand, upon my
servants, and, after a brief struggle, in which he lost one of his
party, either slew or dispersed them; and then, ere I had time to
collect my thoughts, he seized the rein of my palfrey and conveyed me
hither. His object must be either ransom, or, more probably, the hope of
being able, with me in his power, to make his own terms with the
victorious party, of which my noble lord is captain. You, who have so
recently become a mother, will sympathize with me at this crisis.'

"I will briefly pass over the events that followed," continued Elpsy.
"Before dawn the Lady Lester was prematurely delivered of a male child;
a fine, black-eyed boy, healthy and robust; but, through weakness and
mental anxiety, she soon after became insensible, and neither caressed
nor opened her eyes to look upon it. At sunrise the insurgent chief
entered the chamber, and demanded which was the fisher's brat. There was
an expression upon his face and a dark look in his eye that boded ill.
With a convulsive shudder the mother shrunk from his gaze and flew to
the bed, on the foot of which slept the two infants. She was just about
to clasp her own to her heart, with the resolution to defend it with her
life, when suddenly she checked the maternal impulse, and, turning to
him, said, as if her conduct would depend upon his reply,

"'What would you do with it?'

"'Give it me!' he demanded, more fiercely, 'or I will slay both thee and
thy young one.'

"And he approached her menacingly as he spoke.

"She once more bent over the babes! She dared not disobey: yet a
mother's love called loudly at her heart. Her babe's life was all in all
to her. It must be saved! She thought only of saving it!

"'I wait!' he said, sternly.

"Instinctively she caught up the babe of the noble lady and placed it in
his arms.

"''Tis here! But spare, oh, spare it!' she cried, as he strode from the
chamber with it in his rude grasp.

"Her heart smote her for what she had done. Leaving behind her her own
babe, which she had saved by this maternal deception, she followed,
clinging to him, and entreating him to spare the innocent. He heeded her
not, but advanced rapidly to a balcony that overhung the water thirty
feet above it, and, heedless of her cries, cast it over. She sprang
forward, and saw that the swaddling robe in which it was wrapped had
caught the point of a sharp rock, and that it hung suspended by it
within a foot of the water. With a cry of joy she had nearly sprung off
to save the babe, when, seeing that, by a bold leap from the balustrade,
she could reach a projecting rock, from which she could clamber down to
the water, she prepared to take it. But her exclamation caused him to
turn back; and seeing the fall of the child had been so singularly
arrested, and that she was about to attempt its rescue, he grew black
with rage, and with a violent blow, as she was in the act of springing
to the rock, struck her from the balcony into the sea. As she fell she
caught by the edges of the cliff, and, in some degree, broke her fall,
but, nevertheless, descended heavily into the water. It was not deep,
and she recovered her feet, caught the babe in her arms, and, staggering
to a sandy part of the shore, sunk down insensible. When she recovered
her senses the sun was high in the heavens. She attempted to rise, but
found she was deeply bruised, and that her spine was much injured by
striking against the rock in her descent. She looked up to the balcony.
It was closed, and all was silent. It was evident that the murderer,
supposing the fall fatal, had not the courage to watch her descent, and
had retired.

"She immediately resolved not to enter the castle again. With her soul
turned to bitterness, burning with vengeance against the author of her
wrongs, and suffering with pain, she prepared to seek, with the infant
she held in her arms, her father's cot. For her own babe she had no
fears. She knew that it would ever be regarded as that to which the lady
had given birth. It was fifteen miles to her native hut; yet weary,
suffering, ill, she dragged herself thither by the evening of the second
day. Her father, who had long mourned her dead, met her with open arms.
He pitied and nursed her for many long months till she recovered her
health; but her beauty of form was gone for ever. Her soul grew dark
with her woes; vengeance took the place of love in her heart towards him
who had so basely wronged her; and bitterness against all her species
rankled in her breast, and hourly grew deeper and deeper. Her senses at
length became unsteady. She grew restless and moody, and, after two
years abode with her father, she wandered forth, leaving with him the
boy, and never more returned to her natal roof. She sought a wild home
in the vicinity of her own son, where she could daily see him, watch
with pride his growth, and even speak with him unknown and unsuspected.
But when, as he increased in years and stature, he began to look like
his father, she began to hate him too, though, alas! it cost her many a
pang to do so.

"She now learned, that on the evening of the day on which she had been
hurled from the balcony, the husband of the lady, followed by fifty
armed men, surrounded the tower and demanded her surrender of her
captor. He replied that he would give her up on two conditions: first,
that his lands should not be confiscated: secondly, that he should be
permitted to ride forth, wherever he would, unmolested; which terms the
noble lord promised should be complied with if his lady should say she
had received no insult at his hands; and if, further, he would bind
himself to quit the realm within nine days thereafter. To this he
assented. The gates were shortly after thrown open, and, mounted on the
blood-bay charger which he always rode, he paced forth from his
stronghold, passed slowly and sternly through the lines of besiegers,
and, after trotting deliberately till he had got a great ways beyond
them, put spurs to his horse and rode off, no man knew whither: though
there is _one_ knows," she added, mysteriously, as if alluding to
herself, "that within nine days he was on the sea, bound to the New
World.

"The noble lord took possession of the tower, and joyfully embraced his
lady, and thanked her, saying, that 'notwithstanding she had been a
prisoner, she had not forgotten to make him a father;' and he took up
and kissed the babe as if it had been his own flesh and blood, instead
of sharing the mingled current that flowed in the veins of Hurtel of the
Red-Hand and the fisher's daughter; and from thenceforward he took him
home and made him the heir of his house. A little after that this brave
lord fell in the wars, nor ever knew he the truth to his last dying
breath. Thus ends my story, _Lord Robert of Lester_! Who, think you, was
this noble lord and lady?"

The young man had listened to the latter part of her narration with
thrilling attention. As she was drawing to the conclusion, he sprang
from his feet, and laid a hand on either shoulder of the narrator, and
looked steadily into her eyes, as if he would read there the dreadful
secret he anticipated, yet dared not meet. He listened to each word that
fell from her lips with the most absorbing and painful interest--his
lips parted--his eyes starting from their sockets--his face convulsed,
and brought close to hers--his fingers almost buried in the flesh of her
shoulders! When, at the conclusion, she put the sarcastic question to
him, which he trembled lest he could too well answer, his hands stole
from her shoulders and suddenly fastened upon her throat.

"Woman! sorceress! die!" he hoarsely whispered, through his clinched
teeth, with terrible energy.

She freed herself from his grasp with an extraordinary effort, and flung
him from her, laughing loudly and wildly!

"Ha, ha, ha! _Robert of Lester!_ Does my story please thee, my _lord_!
_my_ retainers! my _domains_!"

He looked at her for a moment with appalling calmness, and then,
approaching her, said, in an even tone, but in a hollow voice that was
horrible to hear,

"Woman or demon, tell me truly, who was this noble lady who gave birth
to a son?"

"Elizabeth of Lester, the 'Dark Lady of the Rock,'" was the firm reply.

"Was this change of infants surely made?" he asked, in the same tone.

"I have said it."

"And what became of her child?"

"'Twas left with the fisherman."

"Does he now live?" he asked, with sudden interest.

"He does!"

"As a fisher's lad?"

"He follows the craft of him who reared him."

"On the beach beneath Castle Cor?"

"You have said."

A strange expression, too complicated to analyze, passed across his
features. But he continued with the same awful calmness:

"The woman--the daughter--what became of her?"

"Thou wilt know hereafter."

"And her own boy--ha! _was_ it a _boy_?" he asked, suddenly.

"It was."

"He was taken home by my--by--Lord Lester?"

"Yes."

"Have they had no children since, woman?"

"None, ever, save him who was born beneath the roof of 'Hurtel of the
Red-Hand.'"

"And this infant--this bastard child--this lowborn boy, grew up within
the halls of Castle More as its liege lord?"

"He did!"

"And that boy stands before you?"

"He does!"

His calmness was appalling to witness. She shrunk from looking him in
the face, and cowered before the light of his eyes.

"Mysterious woman! how thou camest by the knowledge of these things I
know not. I believe thou hast spoken truth; thy tale hangs too well
together for malice to invent."

He struggled with strong emotion. His brow darkened, his face worked
convulsively. At last he seemed to have resolved on a settled purpose.

"Who knows this hellish secret besides thyself?" he asked, his
penetrating glance resting on her face.

"None but thee," she said, meeting his eye with a wary look, as if
anticipating danger from the tone of his voice.

"To every human eye, then, but _thine_, I am Lord of Lester?"

"Who of mortal mould should suspect thee to be other than he, when she
who bore thee not believes thee to be the fruit of her womb."

"Thou wilt swear this?"

"I say it."

"'Tis enough. Does this fisher's boy know the secret of his birth?"

"No!"

"Does the old man?"

"No!"

"Thou wilt swear it?"

"I say it."

"'Tis well, woman! Thou shalt die!"

As he spoke he drew from his breast his hunting knife and sprang upon
her. She detected the momentary lighting up of his eye ere he made the
spring, and alertly avoided the blow by leaping through the door: he
fell forward, and the blade shivered against the stone sides of the
tower.

With a laugh of derision she fled along the passage pursued by him. Her
voice and also her footsteps ceased as he reached the steps leading
upward from the tomb, and, without any sound to guide him, he groped his
way along the gallery. At length he approached the light; but, although
he could see through the door out into the forest, she was nowhere
visible! After vainly searching every part of the ruin, he abandoned the
attempt, remounted his horse, and spurred towards Castle More.



CHAPTER V.

    "Oh God! how changed my nature with all this!
    I, that had been all love and tenderness--
    The truest and most gentle heart till now
    That ever beat--grew suddenly a devil!"

    _Lord Ivan and his Daughter._


What pen can portray, what language describe the feelings of the haughty
Lester, as he rode at furious speed towards Castle More? He could
neither think nor reflect! His thoughts were confused and tempestuous.
He could not realize that he had actually listened to the accursed tale
with his own ears. He felt rather as if he had passed through some
dreadful dream, and the idea flashed on his mind that she had thrown a
dark spell upon his senses, and that the whole was an illusion, and
altogether the result of her art.

By degrees his thoughts became more settled and run in a direct channel.
He checked his headlong speed and began to reflect: to recall, word by
word, the narrative of Elpsy; weigh each sentence; match fact with fact;
each circumstance with its fellow; and trace the unbroken thread to the
last damning proof. The result was irresistible. A thousand
circumstances to corroborate the tale of infamy rose like phantoms to
his shrinking memory.

He remembered how, in childhood, a neighbouring baron, who had been out
against the insurgents, playfully laid his hand upon his head, and told
him he looked so much like Hurtel of the Red-Hand that he must take good
care, when he became a man, he did not lose his head for the likeness:
he remembered, too, how his childish spirit took fire at the similitude,
and that he resented the insult with a blow! He further called to mind
how, later in life, the more aged country people, in passing him, would
shake their heads significantly; and often the whispered words, "Hurtel
of the Red-Hand," would reach his ears. He recollected, also, how Lady
Lester (alas! no longer, if this tale were proved true, to be regarded
as his mother, yet whom he had loved hitherto with the intensest filial
affection) had reproved him in his angry moods, and forbade him to frown
so like Hurtel of the Red-Hand. He called to mind, too, how that, in
childhood (unthought of again till too faithful memory brought it back),
it had more than once reached his ears through the menials, that Lady
Lester, in her youthful days, had been made a prisoner in some old
castle by a rebel chief; and he could remember he had listened with
childish interest to its recital as to a tale of enchanted castles and
cruel giants. _Now_ he could invest it with a too vivid reality! He had
heard, also, he knew not how, and what, at the time, left no distinct
impression on his mind, a scandal which said that Lady Lester did
penance for unfaithfulness in her early marriage days: this cottage
gossip he could now easily trace to her imprisonment by--could he speak
it?--_his father!_ He, too, had been twice called by spirited peasants,
who, on certain occasions, had resented his arbitrary will--a _bastard_!

All these things rushed to his mind. There was something in it beyond
mere idle gossip--something independent of mere accident! The tale he
had listened to was to him a key to the whole. The inference was
overpowering! It was as plain to his mind as the noonday sun, that the
story he had heard from the lips of Elpsy was founded in truth.

"'Tis true! 'tis _true_! 'tis TRUE!" he groaned, covering his face with
his hands.

Oh, was not this an appalling and harrowing reflection for a proud
spirit like his? Was it not a bitter, bitter cup that was presented to
his lips? Alas, how cruelly barbed and how skilfully directed--how
fatally sent, was the shaft of inexorable fate! It pierced the spot
where alone it could penetrate; where its wound would be deepest, and
the smart the keenest. Struck down from its high seat to the very ground
was that pride of birth which constituted the basis of his character;
and withered, dead, bruised in the dust lay the haughtiness of spirit,
which, springing from that soil, had flourished like the green bay-tree.

"Not only lowborn--I could bear that, I could bear that! but, oh God! a
_bastard_! Mercy! mercy! mercy!"

He hid his face as he gave utterance to these words, and sobbed audibly.
He gave way for a few moments to the full tide of his strong and
afflicting grief in the most agonizing manner! His soul was rent! his
heart was broken! and, altogether, he presented a picture of moral
desolation and mental wretchedness that was appalling to contemplate.
What thoughts must then have passed through his mind and wrung his proud
soul! The reflection that he must abandon all his plans and hopes as
Lord of Lester; take leave of the luxuries to which he had been
accustomed; descend from the rank of a noble to that of a peasant; be
called "fellow" by the lowest hind; bear the scorn of the highborn and
the jeers of the low; and, most of all, that he must for ever abandon,
without hope, the love of Kate Bellamont, filled him with wo such as the
heart of man hath seldom known.

"And need I forfeit all these?" he exclaimed, suddenly checking the
current of his grief, his features lighting up at the same time with
guilty exultation, and assuming an expression of deep determination;
"need I make this sacrifice? May I not still be Lord of Lester?" he
cried, rising in his stirrups and almost shouting with the force of his
thoughts. "Ay, and _will I_! Ay, and _will I_! 'Tis but to silence,
either with gold or true steel, this beldame, who is the sole depositary
of the secret of my birth!"

For a moment after giving utterance to this guilty idea he rode silently
along; his honourable nature and his inflexible pride both having
instantly risen at the criminal suggestion, and revolted at a deception
so vast. But there were two strong motives which threatened to weigh
down these better promptings, though honour pointed to the course he
should alone pursue. He could not bear--his proud spirit could never
brook, that the despised fisher's lad--the humble, low-nurtured
peasant--for such he was, notwithstanding his noble birth, should stand
in his place, and _he_ himself--oh, it was madness to think of it--sink
into the fisher's boy!

"No! perish honour--perish truth--perish all that is noble or virtuous
in my nature first!" he cried, with the reckless decision of one who has
resolved to sustain wrong at the expense of right.

There was a second motive, the love of Kate Bellamont! Should he resign
her for ever? Could he endure the scornful disdain with which he
believed she would regard him? Above all, could he bear to have the
handsome fisher's lad, whom he already looked upon, in some sort, in the
light of a rival, sue successfully as Lord of Lester for her hand? Could
he endure all this and be human? Could he resign all to become what he
dared not contemplate, and live?

"No!" he cried, vehemently, "away with all justice and truth! let my
heart be wrapped in a mesh of falsehoods first! But need there be
falsehood? Silence, _silence_ will effect it. Is there injustice when
the victim is ignorant of his rights?" he asked, mentally, as if he were
arguing with his own soul. "Yes, most foul! and silence will be a living
tongue to torture me--a never-ending falsehood to degrade--and will cast
over the soul a night that can never know a dawn! Shall I incur this
load of guilt? Will what I gain by the purchase repay me for the
sacrifice of truth and honesty? Shall I not even be happier, ay, and
more noble, as the poor fisher's lad, having done justice, than as Lord
of Lester and Castle More, convicted at my soul's tribunal of guilt, and
knowing who and what I am?"

Such was the train of reasoning that insensibly passed through his mind,
and to which he gave utterance at this extraordinary crisis of his fate,
and which promised to overthrow his former criminal resolutions.

"But should I do as my better nature prompts," he continued, after
galloping forward a few moments, reining up and pursuing his former
train of reasoning, "I need not be compelled to take the place of this
Lester in his fishing hut, nor need I to remain within the atmosphere of
Castle More, to meet the scorn of the noble, the insults of the lowborn.
The world is all before me; I have a ready spirit, and a hand to sustain
it, and can carve my own way through it; and with honour, too! Ay, I may
yet win a name with the noblest born!"

Suddenly in the midst of this expression of his laudable and honourable
purpose he stopped; a gleam of terrible fire shot from his eyes, while
his face glowed with crimson shame.

"Ha, ha, ha! _honour!_ Ha, ha, ha! a _name_! I had forgot," he repeated,
with an accent bitter, sarcastic, and scornful beyond expression, yet
with a wretched look of hopeless despair and misery; "what has a bastard
to do with _honour_? What is it to him? I had forgotten I was more than
lowborn! I'faith, 'twas well thought of! So all my lofty feelings go for
nothing." His manner now changed, and his voice rang with passion. "What
have _I_ to do with lofty aspirations, with honour, or a name among men?
Am I not branded with infamy? infamous by birth; attainted by my
father's--yes, for I will acknowledge him--_my father's_ blood! base
through my mother's! What have I to do with honour? 'Tis not for me. I
know it not. Henceforward I will forget its sound and meaning. What have
I to do with honour? Ha, ha, ha! A name? Yes, I will win a _name_; I
will show myself the true son of Hurtel of the Red-Hand. He shall not be
ashamed of his blood. No, no! I will win a name that, be he on earth or
in hell, shall make him smile and own me as bone of his bone and flesh
of his flesh."

The scornful energy, fierceness of spirit, and stern determination with
which this guilty resolution was spoken, showed that at a single blow
was crushed all pride of character; that the highborn loftiness of
spirit in which he had been educated had fallen, and that honour was
forever shipwrecked. He felt himself, in anticipation, already an
outcast from the world; a shunned and despised alien; an object of the
scorn and pity of mankind. And such he was. He felt it to his heart's
core. Eventually, perhaps, he might have forgiven the lowness of his
birth, and risen superior to this contingency; but he could not forget
its illegitimacy. What had a bastard to do among men! What had he to do
with the love of highborn maidens? What was to him the luxuries, the
pleasures, the social joys of life? Nothing. The honours of earth were
not for him; "a bastard shall not enter even into the kingdom of
heaven." Who, then, shall condemn the resolution of a proud youth like
Lester, without due cultivation of the moral sense; unrestrained by
religious principle, and thinking, feeling only as a man? Who shall
judge and not pity? Who shall censure and not sympathize with him in his
terrible human trial, and regard with charity even the darkest
aberrations from morality and virtue to which it might lead him;
remembering that he had the moral heroism and godlike virtue to resolve
to become his own executioner; the voluntary herald of the sentence that
should cut him off from rank, title, wealth, yea, love, and brand him as
an exile from his species?

Notwithstanding the array of proofs to substantiate the narrative of
Elpsy; notwithstanding the irresistible connexion existing in his own
mind in support of its truth, yet there lingered in his heart a faint
hope that it might not be as he believed. It became so dreadful when
calmly contemplated, that he began to conceive that it was impossible
for it to be true. There was but one way of confirming it, viz., to
confront Lady Lester, and learn from her lips the truth of what Elpsy
had related in reference to herself. If it should prove correct, then he
resolved finally to decide on the method he should pursue. Gathering up
the reins and pressing his armed heels into his horse's flanks as he
came to this determination, he said, as he dashed forward to Cattle
More, the towers of which were now full in sight,

"From her lips--Lady Lester's (if I may not call her mother), will I
have corroboration of this foul witch's words. Fly, my good horse; we
will soon learn whether thou and I are to part! But, if it must be so,
no other shall back thee after me, my faithful animal; my own hand shall
slay thee first!"

The fleet hunter brought him in a few moments to the gate that led into
the courtyard surrounding Castle More. At the sound of his approach it
flew wide open, and, as he passed through, the porter removed his cap
and bent low with servile respect.

"Ay," he muttered, "'tis so _now_! but he will be the first to scoff
with a high head, and turn the key upon my back, when it shall be noised
abroad that Robert of Lester is the brat of a peasant--the left-handed
offspring of Hurtel of the Red-Hand!"

He threw himself from his horse, and cast his bridle to his groom,
giving him orders to hold him in readiness for him to remount at any
moment, and entered beneath the lofty arch of the castle, over which
were elaborately sculptured in stone the ancient arms of Lester. He
rapidly mounted the spacious stairs to a large and lofty hall, hung with
armour, and adorned with figures of mailed warriors, ancestors of that
warlike house. From childhood he had looked upon these with awe and
pride. Now he curled his lip with haughty despair, and strode past them
with a bitter smile. At its farther extremity he tapped lightly at a
door, partly concealed by tapestry of velvet fringed with gold, and
adorned with needlework representing figures and scenes of a scriptural
character. He was commanded to enter. With a beating heart, and choking
with the anticipated confirmation of what left scarce room for a doubt,
and which he had already begun to contemplate as if there were _no_
question of its truth, he obeyed.

The room into which he was admitted occupied a small octagonal wing of
the building, and from its single Gothic window commanded a prospect of
the mere below, the distant forest, and a blue, wavy line of hills
skirting the northern horizon. It appeared to be used partly as a
boudoir and library, partly as a chapel: a small altar; a marble font
containing water; a crucifix at one end, with two lighted wax tapers
burning before it, appertaining to it in its more sacred character. It
was hung with brown silk tapestry, on which was worked, in yellow silk,
the history of the martyrdoms of the apostles. Immediately about the
altar the hangings were of black velvet, giving that part of the room a
religious and gloomy character. A rich, but soft, light poured in
through the stained glass of the window, and shed a pleasing glow over
all.

Near the window, working with her needle flowers of gold on an
altar-piece of snow white satin, sat the mistress of Castle More--"the
Dark Lady of the Rock!" She was of a tall and stately figure, with an
innate air of high birth and breeding: her features were strikingly
noble, and still bore traces of eminent beauty. Her eyes were black and
piercing; and her brows very dark and thick, yet not masculine, but
giving rather softness and intellect to the expression of the eyes. Her
hair was jet black, and confined beneath a close nun's cap, and her
complexion was deep brown, which, with the general dark tinge of her
face and features, had got for her from the peasants the appellation by
which among them she was more commonly designated. The lustre of her
fine eyes had given place to a melancholy hue; and the smile, which in
youth had fascinated the gallant Lord of Lester, was sad and pensive.
Calmness, gentle resignation, and devotion were now the characteristics
of her countenance. She was evidently one who regarded this world as the
path to that of a happier, and looked to that happier for the enjoyment
which, without her deceased lord, she could not find in this. Twelve
years had passed since the news was brought her that he had fallen
before the walls of Saragossa, breathing her name in his last sigh. From
that hour she seldom had been seen to smile; but, shunning all
intercourse with those around her, she communed only with her priest and
her God.

"I thought I knew the footfall of your horse, Robert, but did not expect
you so soon," she said, in a quiet, subdued tone; "there is a quarter of
an hour yet to sunset, and you seldom return from Castle Cor till it is
very late. And Kate's birthday, too! How is this?"

She knotted her thread as she spoke, and looked up, showing a
countenance chastened by widowed sorrow, and wearing, as she gazed upon
him, a kindly look, rather than a smile, of welcome. The troubled
expression of his features; his flushed brow; his excited manner, and
nervous tread as he crossed the floor to the window, struck her with
surprise and alarm.

"What has happened, Robert? your feelings are wounded, I fear. Come and
tell me what that saucy maiden, Kate Bellamont, has been saying to give
you such uneasiness."

This was spoken with maternal affection, and an approach to playfulness
of manner.

The young man stood by the window and gazed down into the placid mere,
fixing his eyes vacantly on a fleet of stately swans that sailed on its
glassy breast, and remained silent. He knew not how to commence the
subject--he knew not what to say!

"Robert, my son," she said, affectionately attempting to take his hand,
"something has gone wrong with you to-day; make a confidant of your
mother!"

"Would to God thou _wert my mother_!" he cried, almost suffocating.

"Thy mother, Robert! what do these words mean?"

"That my future happiness and misery depend on your lips," he replied,
turning towards her and grasping her hands with strong emotion.

"Explain!" she said, alarmed and deeply moved by the distress and
earnestness of his manner.

"Did you ever--(sustain me, Heaven, at this moment," he gasped) "ever,
face to face, meet Hurtel of the Red-Hand?"

"Robert, what motive, so terrible in its effect on your mind, can have
led you to ask this?"

"Answer me, my mother--speak, Lady Lester!"

"Yes!" and she shuddered, as if some painful incident of the past seemed
to press upon her memory.

"Where? Speak, and tell me truly, if you love me!" he eloquently
entreated.

"Heaven and the blessed saints preserve you, my son! 'Tis a sad story!
Why would you seek to know this now? Be calm; you are ill--very ill!"

"No, I am not. Answer me--_where_?"

"He took me prisoner, and bore me on horse-back--"

"Whither?" he cried, impatiently interrupting her.

"To his tower."

"And, ere thy husband rescued thee, I was born there?"

"Yes. But how heard you this? I knew not that it was known to you,
though I had no motive, surely, in keeping the knowledge of it from
you," she said, with surprise. "Is it this, then, that has so strangely
excited you, my son?"

"Who attended on thee at that crisis?"

"Robert--boy!"

"Answer me, Lady Lester, I conjure thee! in the presence of this holy
symbol of our religion!" he added, with stern solemnity, taking a small
diamond crucifix from her worktable and holding it up before her.

"A pale young woman: I fear me, a leman of that evil man."

"Was she a mother?"

"Who has taught thee to put such questions as these, young man?" she
said, with something of severity in her voice.

"Answer me, Lady Lester, I pray thee!"

"She had an infant of three days' old."

"Was it with her in thy room ere thou becamest a mother?"

"It was."

"Did you see it?"

"No; she kept it swathed up, as if from shame."

"Who first gave your infant to your arms?"

"No one. I had fainted, and, when I came to my senses, I found my babe
lying on the bed beside me; and," added the lady, with a mother's light
rekindling in her eyes, "with all a young mother's first love, I clasped
it to my bosom."

"And this woman and her child?"

"I never saw them more. That day my noble lord rescued me; and after he
had seen and kissed the babe, I remember he pleasantly said to those
around, 'In losing one I have gained two.' My poor, departed Lester!
Heaven be merciful to his soul!"

"And I am that babe?"

"Thou art, my son!" she said, affectionately.

"I am not!" he cried, fiercely.

"Not my son?"

"_Not thy son!_"

"What mean you, insolent boy?"

"In one word, I will tell thee. The guilty paramour of that woman having
resolved to put out of the world the living witness of the wrong he had
done her, threatened also her life when she refused to surrender it.
Prompted by the instinct of maternal love to save it, she laid it, while
thou wert in a state of insensibility, by thy side, and gave thine to
him, palming it off as her own, which, by this stratagem, was saved--and
still lives. _I am_ HE!"

"Robert of Lester!" cried the lady, rising up and fixing her piercing
eyes, bright with unwonted fire, upon his face, "mock me not; spare thy
mother's heart!"

"Before God I speak truly. I am _not_ thy son."

"Holy Virgin! Mercy, Heaven! mercy!" shrieked the lady, and fell nearly
lifeless into his arms.

For a few seconds there was a deep silence, like that of death,
throughout that little chamber. He had not anticipated this! Absorbed in
the contemplation of his own misery, he had not thought of the blow he
should inflict, by the disclosure of the dreadful secret, upon the mind
of Lady Lester. It suddenly occurred to him that there was yet a balm in
the existence of her true son which might heal the wound he had made.
Filial affection caused him immediately to address, and, by touching
this chord, endeavour to restore her once more to life and hope.

"Lady!" he said, in a hoarse tone, that--so deep were the feelings that
governed it--startled even himself.

"Ha! Robert! my son!" she cried, standing up and looking wildly in his
face; "what is this I have heard? Is it a dream--some terrific dream?"

"Thou hast not dreamed, lady," he said, sadly.

"No, I have not," she cried, with energy, and with the sudden return of
all her faculties; "no, I have heard thy lips deny me. Thou hast said I
am not thy mother--that thou art not my own child!"

"Do you remember the tale I have told you, lady?" he asked, calmly.

"Remember? each word is seared into my heart!"

"And do you believe me to be your son?"

"Believe? believe! I know not what to believe. What should I believe! I
believe thou art my own boy--mine, mine, _mine_!"

As she spoke she threw her arms with frantic wildness about his neck,
and hugged him convulsively to her bosom.

"Lady, 'tis vain to shut your eyes to the truth. I am not your son--but
your son lives!"

"He does, he does live, and I clasp him to my heart," she cried,
energetically, folding him closer to her bosom.

"Nay--"

"Nay--_nay_, but I _will_ hold thee! they shall not tear thee from me!
No, no! they must take my heart too, for its strings are bound all about
thee, and thou art tied too long and too strong to it by the thousand
chords of a mother's love to be parted from it now. Ha, ha! They shall
not part us! Shall they, boy?"

He looked up into her face and saw that her mind wandered; that reason
was falling from its throne!

"Mother!" he said, in tones of gentle persuasion: "mother!" and he
affectionately kissed her cheeks; "mother!" he repeated a third time, in
the most touching tones of filial love--"I am, I will be, your own dear
son!"

The softer feelings of her soul came back; all the mother rushed from
the heart to the eyes; and dissolved, melted by his appeal, she burst
into tears, and wept freely and long upon his shoulder.

At length she became composed; when, embracing his opportunity, though
he had been severely tempted in the interval to let it rest for ever, he
spoke again with cautious delicacy upon the fatal subject. She listened
in silence. She heard him with calmness as he went on and explained to
her the successive steps by which the exchange was effected, and
unfolded to her, link by link, the connected chain of the witch's
narrative. He convinced her--not of its probability, but of its
possibility. Collecting all her strength of mind, she tried to
contemplate the subject with composure. She succeeded: weighed it well,
in all its parts and bearings; nicely balanced each particle, and sifted
each doubtful circumstance. Suddenly she turned to him, and said
eagerly, and with an eye kindling with hope,

"It may not be so, Robert! She may, in the agitation of the moment, when
both were swathed, have caught up her own child!"

"At such a moment, above all, would a mother know her own!" he said,
firmly, but looking as if he would, if he dared, still cherish a hope.

"Yes, yes; and she must, too, have seen it afterward," she said, in a
tone of deep despondency. "But who told thee this fatal tale?" she
asked, quickly.

"Elpsy, the sorceress!"

"Ha!" exclaimed the lady, turning pale. "I fear, then, it is too true!
This fearful woman has knowledge of hidden and wondrous things through
her unholy art. Oh, God! that she had used it to a better end! But,
then, there may have been a mistake! Malice--her hatred of her species
may have caused her to give the facts this frightful turn! Dreadful
being! thus to loose, even by raising a doubt of thy birthright, my last
hold on earthly happiness, and wreck all my hopes in thee. Her face ever
has haunted me as if for evil! It seems to me as if I had seen it in the
dreams of my childhood. I know not how it is, but I never looked upon
her without presentiments of evil and vague sensations of suffering, as
if her very presence was associated with scenes of terror. Now are they
all, indeed, realized! But I will not give thee up, Robert, my son--my
own son!" she cried, frantically! "I will cling to the hope that the
fatal exchange was not made!"

He suffered her to embrace him again and again, and then, after a few
moments' silence, and speaking in an indifferent tone, he said,

"Lady Lester! Was thy noble husband of fair complexion?"

"No, dark as the Spaniard's, yet it was exceedingly rich to the eye with
its bright blood!" she said, with conjugal pride.

"Were his eyes blue?"

"Black as night, large and staglike, yet soft as a fawn's in the
gentleness of their expression--but terrible as the eagle's when
roused."

"Were his locks golden?"

"The plumage of the raven not more black and glossy!"

"Was he tall of stature and strongly-framed?"

"Scarce even as tall as thyself now; his frame was light and elegant,
but manly: to sum him up in all," she said, carried away by the prideful
recollections awakened by these allusions to him, "he was a statesman; a
patron of letters and the arts; a gallant knight, a brave soldier, and
an accomplished scholar: he was called the handsomest man of his time:
above all, he was a Christian!"

"_Am I like him?_" asked Lester, startling her with the depth of his
voice, and at once showing her the drift of his seemingly aimless
questions. "Is my stature slight? are these locks raven? are these eyes
black? is the hue of the Spaniard on my cheek?"

The lady shrunk from his words, covered her face with her hands, and
despairingly shook her head.

"Say," he added, with increasing energy, "is there the faintest
lineament in my face--a scarce perceptible cast of the eye--a bend of
the brow--a movement of the lip--a motion of arm or finger--aught in my
carriage, walk, or voice, that reminds thee of thy noble husband?"

"No, no, no! Stop, stop, you will kill me!"

"One word more! Answer me truly, Lady Lester, as you stand before
Heaven, have I not the same fair skin--the same light flowing hair--the
same blue eyes--the stature, the very voice--ay, the very selfsame frown
of Hurtel of the Red-Hand?"

"Ha! now I see it! Oh, Jesu Maria! Thou art his very image! Mercy,
mercy, mercy!" and, with a shriek wrung from a breaking heart, she fell,
as if dead, upon the floor.

For a few moments he stood gazing upon her with the cool, decisive smile
of a man for whom fate has done her worst, and who defies and laughs to
scorn her farther triumphs over his soul. His fixed countenance was more
fearful than phrensied agitation or tremendous wrath. It was the dark,
still cloud that rests upon the crater ere the volcano bursts into
flame. Gradually, as he gazed on that beloved countenance, pale and
deathly in its aspect, he sunk on his knees beside her, took her
insensible hands within his own, and kissed her unconscious brow, while
fast and thick dropped the heavy tears upon her face.

"Mother, for mother thou art, indeed!" said he, feelingly, "I would not
have struck this blow to thy heart; but I could not stand before thee a
deceiver, an impostor! I could not encounter the affectionate glance of
thy pure eyes, meet thy gaze of maternal love, and know they were not
mine. Yet thou art my mother! all the mother I have ever known. Have I
not drawn life from that breast? Has not my infant head been pillowed
from the first on that maternal bosom? Didst thou not hear me when my
infant lips first lisped thy maternal name? Hast thou ever known other
son than me--I other parent? Thou _art_ my mother! I _am_ thy son,
though the blood of strangers, whom I have never known, flows in my
plebeian veins! Mother, we must part! The house of Lester may not have a
baseborn lord! Would to God I could have turned aside this stroke from
thee! But it is past! Henceforward thou art nothing to me--I nothing to
thee. Farewell, farewell, my own, my beloved mother!"

He bent over her, and affectionately and passionately embraced her,
pressing his lips to hers, and bathing her face with his hot tears. She
seemed to be awakened to sudden consciousness by the act; and throwing
her arms about him, she faintly articulated, "My son! my son!" and
relapsed into insensibility. He clasped her unconscious form in one more
long embrace, kissed her for the last time, and gently disengaged
himself from her arms.

His movements became now direct and decided. He approached the
escritoir, and hastily wrote on a leaf of her missal,

     "Lady Lester--nay, _mother_--_dearest_ MOTHER! I have just
     taken my last leave of you. I go forth into the world and
     commit my fortune to its currents.
     Baseborn--guilty-born--attainted by my father's crimes, I am
     unworthy your love or a place in your thoughts. Henceforward
     let me be nothing to thee! Forget that I have ever existed.
     Though I depart, yet is Lester not without an heir! you not
     without a son! _Thy_ child thou wilt find with the fisherman
     Meredith, at Castle Cor. He is the perfect semblance of thy
     husband, Robert, Lord of Lester, as you have described him to
     me; and, when your eyes behold him, your heart will at once
     claim him. He is proud and high-spirited, and worthy of the
     name he is destined to bear. Seek him out; and may he fill the
     place in your heart from which I am for ever excluded.
     Farewell, my mother, for other mother than thee have I never
     known--will never know!

     "ROBERT,

     "_Son of Hurtel of the Red-Hand_."

He placed the paper open before the crucifix, where she was wont to
pray, and was himself unconsciously in the act of kneeling to seek a
blessing from Heaven, when he hastily recovered his erect attitude,
saying, with a thrilling laugh of reckless hopelessness,

"Never more do I bend the knee to Heaven! What have I to do with
prayer?"

He approached the door, and then turned back to gaze an instant with a
melancholy look on the prostrate form of Lady Lester:

"Nay, I must not leave thee so!" he said: returning, he tenderly raised
her up, and used means to restore her.

After a few moments she revived and gazed wildly around her.

"Robert, is it you? are you beside me? Oh, my son, I have had _such_ a
tale of horror revealed to me as I slept."

She pressed her fingers upon her eyelids as if to recall what appeared
to her a dark dream. As she did so he stole from her towards the
door--lingered--turned back--severed a bright lock from his temples,
pressed it to his lips, and placed it within her hand; he then hastily
kissed her pale forehead, saying, half aloud,

"_Here I bury all human feelings!_"

The next moment he precipitately fled from the room.

Roused by the sound of the closing door, she shrieked his name, and,
hastening through the dark hall, called in tones of distressing anguish,

"Robert, my son! my boy! my dear boy! leave not your mother desolate!"

He stopped his ears to the sounds, quickened his steps, and threw
himself into his saddle.

"'Tis full late, my lord, to ride forth alone," said the groom, as he
held the stirrup.

"Lord me not, Tyrell. If thou hast chanced to be born in wedlock, thou
hast better blood in thy veins than I!"

"How mean you, my lord?" said the astonished menial.

"Didst ever hold stirrup for a fisher's son?"

"No, my lord!"

"Thou liest. For thou hast but now done so. Your lord has found out that
he is but a fisher-woman's brat; and a fisher's brat is about to find
out that he is a lord."

"You speak in riddles, my lord."

"Set thy wits, and those of yonder gaping fellows, to work to unriddle
them," was the reply of the degraded youth as he buried his spurs deep
in his horse's flanks. "Give the compliments of the son of Hurtel of the
Red-Hand to your new lord, knaves, and say he has taken the liberty to
borrow his hunter for a time!" he cried, turning round in the saddle as
he rode off.

The next moment he dashed across the drawbridge and disappeared in the
twilight gloom of the forest, leaving the wonder-stricken retainers to
pick the kernel from the difficult nut he had left them to crack; and,
by putting their sage heads together, with the aid of some expressions
dropped by the frantic Lady Lester, they were not long in arriving at a
shrewd guess at the truth.



CHAPTER VI.

    "Guiltless am I, but bear the penalty!"

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Wild was the place, but wilder his despair:
      Low shaggy rocks that o'er deep caverns scowl
    Echo his groans: the tigress in her lair
      Starts at the sound, and answers with a growl."

    _Zóphiël._

                                      "Hurl'd
    From the topmost height of his ambition,
    It became his ambition to mate him
    With the lowest."


The night was fast approaching as the desolate outcast entered the
forest. He hailed the gathering darkness with joy, for it was in unison
with the gloom of his soul. The howl of the wildest storm would have
been music to his ears! He could have mocked with shouts of gladness the
rattling thunder, and played with the shafts of the glittering
lightning.

He rode deep into the wood--whither he cared not so that he left behind
him all that he had lost. For half an hour he thought of nothing but
urging his horse forward at the top of his speed. He banished thought,
reflection, sensation. He dared not think. He found relief only in
animal action and rapid motion, and rode furiously onward without
knowing or regarding the course taken by his horse, who instinctively
followed the dark windings of the forest paths.

At length the moon rose and shone down upon him through the tree tops.
Its light seemed to restore him to himself. He checked his rapid course,
and gazed at her pale orb; as he looked, reflection returned, and he
began to realise his situation, and to taste the full bitterness of the
cup of which he had drunken. The past, the present, the future, flashed
with all their naked colours upon his mind. The picture his imagination
painted with the hues they lent was too appalling to contemplate; and,
as if the fabled influence of the planet, the soft light of which had
restored him to reflection, had acted upon his fevered brain, he was
suddenly converted into a maniac. He rose upright in his stirrups, and
shouted, shrieked, till the forests rang again. He shook his clinched
fists at the placid moon, that seemed smilingly to mock his woes. He
spurred on his horse till the animal groaned with pain, and plunged
madly forward with his phrensied rider! He would then rein him up, and,
gnashing his teeth, lift his hands above his head, and curse God and
man. Then he would again shout with phrensy, and gore his steed till he
became furious and snorted with rage, and ride once more forward with
the speed of the wind.

These passions were too violent to last. His wild excitement gradually
subsided; his horse was suffered to move at his own pace; and, with his
arms folded moodily, and his chin drooping on his breast, he gave
himself up to the stern and gloomy thoughts of his situation, and, for a
time, buried in the depths of his own meditations, seemed to be wholly
unconscious of external objects. He rode on in this way for more than an
hour, when he was aroused by the sudden stopping of his horse. He looked
up and saw before him a dilapidated gate, which barred his farther
progress. Beyond, visible by the full flood of moonlight, was a lonely
square tower, flanked by a single wing, topped with a battlement. He
listened, and thought he heard the dashing of waves upon the beach. The
whole scene was new to him! Where could his faithful steed have borne
him? From the moment he had left Castle More behind all had seemed like
a blank to him. How far, and whither, could he have ridden? He looked up
at the moon. It had not risen when he left Castle More, yet it now rode
high in the heavens! By her position it was near midnight.

Indifferent where he wandered, he leaped the sunken gate, and rode up to
the tower. It was not in ruins, yet wore an aspect of desolation and
neglect. Its loneliness harmonized with his own situation, and was
grateful to him. He rode round the angle of a buttress, when the sea
suddenly opened before him, and he saw that the tower stood on a rock
thirty or forty feet above it, and that where it overhung the water
projected a small balcony. A sudden thought flashed upon his mind as he
discovered this.

"It must be!" he exclaimed, with animation; "'tis the tower of Hurtel of
the Red-Hand! This moat, yonder ruined drawbridge, its situation, and,
above all, that balcony, one and all, identify it with Elpsy's
description. By the bones of my red-handed sire! thou knewest what thou
wert about to bring me hither, sagacious animal!" he added,
sarcastically, patting the noble horse on the neck; "'tis fitting I
should take possession of my father's towers with the inheritance of his
name. Ha, ha! I am not quite a vagabond!" and he laughed scornfully.

He started with surprise, for the laugh seemed to be echoed from the
tower.

"'Twas a human voice, or else a spirit mocking! If demons do rejoice
over the miseries of mankind, they may well hold a jubilee in honour of
mine. Laugh on, imps! I am a fit subject for your merriment!" and he
laughed with nervous derision.

Again he started, for he was answered by a laugh so wild that it chilled
his blood. The sound seemed to proceed from an upper room in the wing of
the building.

"Fiend or flesh, it shall rue this merriment!" he cried, leaping to the
ground and hastening to the door of the tower.

It was ajar; he dashed it open with his heel, and found himself in a
long, low hall, at the extremity of which was the window that opened on
the balcony, through which he caught a glimpse of the glimmering sea. By
the light it afforded he crossed the hall, and, standing on the balcony,
glanced an instant over the vast moonlit expanse of water, and then,
with a strange interest, the whole of Elpsy's story rushing vividly to
his mind, he shudderingly cast his eyes down the rock which stood in
deep shadow. Even by the indistinct light he could discern the sharp
projection on which the garments of the infant had caught in its
descent, and not four feet distant from him, on a level with the window,
was the rock on which the fisher's daughter--_his mother_--was in the
act of springing, when hurled into the sea by--_his father_. On that
very balcony had he stood to do the deed! Strange, wonderful,
overpowering were his sensations. He held his breath with the intensity
of his thoughts.

"Here," said he, mentally, placing his hand on the balustrade, "has lain
my unknown mother's hand; it warmed this senseless iron, which can give
me back no warmth in return. Here pressed the foot of my father! Here
they parted! How! ah, _how_? Where are they now? Where is he? does he
live? Where is she? A fearful thought forces itself upon me that I dare
not dwell upon! This strange tale of the sorceress; her wonderful and
minute knowledge, that could be only known to the actor; her emotion at
different portions of the story; a hundred things, light as air, that
have insinuated themselves into my mind, have made me think she might
be--fiends! it will out!--my mother! But, then, she told me that she was
dead. Well, be it so, yet I can fall no lower! Were my mother living,
could her lot be better than this fearful weird woman's? Ha, ha, ha! I
have no pride now!" he added, with a hollow laugh of mingled despair and
phrensy.

"Ha, ha, ha!" he heard repeated, in tones so unearthly that his heart
ceased to beat, and a thrill like ice shot through his veins.

The next moment he was at the top of a flight of steps leading from one
side of the hall to an upper room, from which the voice seemed to
proceed. A stream of moonlight, falling through a window, showed him a
door on the landing-place, which he threw open. He found himself in a
small room, lighted by a lattice of crimson-stained glass looking south
towards the sea: into it the moon, in its western circle, had just began
to shine, its red-died beams tinting the twilight of the chamber with
the hue of blood. Seated high in the recess of the window, he discovered
the dark figure of a female; her knees drawn up to her chin, and her
hands clasped together around them. As he opened the door she leaped
down like a cat and sprang towards him. The sanguinary light of the room
had affected his imagination, not untinged with the superstitious fears
of his time; but this sudden apparition, though he had prepared himself
to see something either human or supernatural, caused him to start back
with an exclamation of surprise.

"Come in, Robert of Lester! I welcome you to the room which first
welcomed you to the light," said she, in a voice which he at once
recognised as that of the sorceress.

The singular information her words conveyed suspended for the moment all
other emotions in his mind save curiosity at finding himself so
unexpectedly in the chamber where he was born. He gazed about him for a
few moments under the influence of the strange thoughts and emotions the
circumstance called up, and then turning towards her, said,

"Why art thou here, wicked woman? Didst thou anticipate my presence, and
art thou come to mock the misery thou hast wrought?"

"I fled lest thou shouldst do a deed of blood thy hand might rue. I fled
not for myself, but for thee."

"You need not fear me now. There exists no longer any motive for
secrecy," he said, gloomily.

"How mean you?" she eagerly asked.

"Ere to-morrow's sun, 'twill be in every boor's mouth, from Castle Cor
to Kinsale, that I am no longer Lord of Lester!"

"Speak--explain!" she said, hoarsely, grasping his arm with both hands,
and breathing quick and hard.

"I have told the Lady Lester that he whom she thought her son was not
her son," he firmly replied.

"Ha! _thou_--thou hast told thy shame? Speak, Robert More--have you
breathed to mortal ear what I have told thee of thy birth?" she
demanded, with fearful energy of speech and manner.

"I have. 'Tis known to every servitor from hall to stable!"

"Didst give thy name?"

"Robert, son of Hurtel of the Red-Hand."

"And this did thine own lips, of thine own free will?"

"Never man spoke freer!"

"Then hell be thy portion! Accursed be ye, Robert Hurtel! Had I thought
thou wouldst have become the trumpeter of thy shame--had I believed thou
wouldst have breathed to mortal ear thine infamy, I would have seared my
tongue with hot iron ere I would have told thee the secret of thy birth.
The infernal demon has prompted thee to do this! Didst thou not seek to
slay me, that thou shouldst be the sole keeper of the foul secret?"

"I did, at the moment, but thought better of it!"

"Base! lowborn! miserable that thou art! Why was not my tongue withered
ere I told thee this?"

"Would to God it had been, woman. What was thy motive in ever letting it
go from thy own breast?"

"Love of mischief--hatred of mankind; and to lower thy pride, knowing
from what dunghill thou wert sprung. But I did not think thou wouldst
use my secret thus; and wreck the gifts that--that thy mother's
stratagem had purchased, and after secured to thee by years of absence,
privation, and misery."

"How?"

"Did she not, for thy sake, keep the secret of thy birth--coming not
even near thee--when, on the ninth day, Hurtel of the Red-Hand being
gone over the sea, she might safely have claimed thee of Lady Lester,
and given her back her own!" she said, vehemently.

"Rather for her own sake--from maternal pride at having her son sit
among nobles," was the stern reply. "And if these were her motives, as I
doubt not they were, at what price did she purchase this honour for her
child? The price of the deepest guilt, by keeping the true heir from his
birthright. I did not view it in this light before. By the cross! I am a
well-born! a guilty mother, too! 'Tis well you told me she was no more;
I should care little to meet her in my present mood."

As he spoke, the woman sunk her head upon her bosom, and deep groans
escaped her, whether of defeated hopes, of sorrow, of shame, or of
remorse, he knew not. Suddenly he laid his hand upon her arm, and looked
impressively in her face, and said,

"Woman! who is my mother?"

"Thou wilt never know!"

"Art _thou_?"

"Ha, ha, ha! _I?_ Do I look like the gentle maiden that won the love of
Hurtel of the Red-Hand? Are these matted locks tresses of gold? Is this
complexion like the blended ivory and rose? Is my voice soft and full of
love? Are my eyes like the gazelle's, and gentle as the dove's in their
expression? Is this hideous form such as would lure youth to embrace it?
Wilt thou acknowledge thyself the son of 'the witch'--'the
sorceress'--'the beldame Elpsy' (such were thy gentle terms)--the
beleagued with demons--the familiar of the evil one--the--"

"No, no! Avaunt!" he shouted, with a furious gesture; "thank God! I am
not sunk so low as that!"

"Ha, ha! Thy pride is fallen far indeed when it can enter thy thoughts,
and even go from thy lips, that Elpsy of the Tower gave thee birth. Oh,
ho! I am well avenged in this for thy mad folly in throwing away thy
earldom. Oh, how I do hate thee for that act! for it thou shalt never
know peace in body or soul!"

"I defy thee, woman, and all thy arts!"

"Yet the tales of my deeds have made thy human soul to shrink! Beware
how thou speakest lightly of what thou knowest naught, and which is hid
from mortal ken!" she added, with mysterious and solemn earnestness.
"Whither turn thy footsteps now, Lord of Lester?" she asked, with
chilling irony. "Doubtless thou hast come to take possession of thy fair
lands here. They are not so broad, indeed, as the domains of Castle
More, and thy castle needs some furnishing and repair. Doubtless thou
wouldst like to fit it up ere thou bringest home to be its mistress the
fair Kate of Bellamont!"

"Breathe that name again, woman, and I will take thy life!"

"Thou art now thy very father's image!" she said, with derision. "Even
in this moonlight I can see that devilish shape of the eyes that his
were wont to assume when he meditated murder! Ho! I dare to say thou
wilt be like him in more than the glance of the eye. Dost mean to follow
in his footsteps, and head a band of lawless insurgents; or wilt thou,
as 'tis said his brother did--"

"His brother?"

"Thou didst not know before thou hadst once an uncle? So: thou shalt no
longer be kept in ignorance. He was a bold, bad man, and therein true to
his race; was called Black Hurtel, and roved the Danish seas a daring
bucanier. 'Twas said he could float his ship in the blood of the men he
had slain! He was killed on the French coast in a fierce fight; but his
vessel was captured, and his dead body, with his living crew (for the
captors would not leave one alive to blacken the face of the earth),
were sunk in the deep sea. Perhaps, like him, thou wilt take to the
wave, and carve thy fortune in blood! Blood is sweet, and there is music
to the ear in its gurgle where it is shed with a free hand! Look you,"
she said, pointing through the window; "the sea is spread wide before
you, and seems to invite thee with its glancing waves. It knows not of
thy disgrace, nor has it voices to whisper thy infamy; while every bird,
tree, and stone will nod and gossip to one another as thou passest by--

"'There goes he who _was_ the Lord of Lester!'"

"Woman, you madden me!"

"Perhaps," she continued, in the same cutting tone, while he paced the
little chamber with a phrensied step, "thou wilt rather come and share
my tower i'the ruin, if the new Lord of Lester will give thee leave;
doubtless he will honour thee by asking thee to hold his stirrup on
occasion. But, if thou wilt rather habit in this tower, I will be thy
seneschal. I love its old gray walls! many is the moonlight night I've
sat in the window and looked on the sea, as it danced, and glimmered,
and seemed to beck and nod, and laugh when I laughed. Ha, ha! I have had
brave times here, gossipping with the sea!"

As she said this she looked from the window, and suddenly her eye seemed
to be arrested by some unexpected sight. She gazed for a moment eagerly,
and then said, in the enthusiastic tone and manner of a sibyl, skilfully
assumed with the tact of one accustomed to turn to her own purpose every
passing circumstance,

"Look thou, Robert Hurtel! I have had pity on thy state, and have, by
the art thou hast dared to scorn, brought from many a far league away,
to thy tower's foot, a ship to waft thee and thy fortunes! See how
proudly it stands in towards the land, looking like a great white
spirit, with the moon glancing on its canvass wings. Oh, 'tis a brave
bark!"

The young man (her words taunting, malicious, and hateful as they were,
not having been without some effect in influencing him in determining on
his future course) sprang alertly to the window and gazed with interest
on the approaching vessel. It was about a third of a mile from the land,
standing directly towards the tower before a light breeze. It was
apparently about seventy tons burden, short and heavily built, rising
very high out of the water, with a very lofty stern. It had three masts,
each consisting of one entire stick, tapering to a slender point, and
terminated by a little triangular flag. On each mast was hoisted a huge,
square lugger's sail, which, with a short jib, stretched from the head
of the foremast to a stunted bowsprit, and a sort of tri-sail or spanker
aft worked without a boom, was all the canvass she carried or that
belonged to her peculiar class of craft.

He watched it with eager attention as it came bounding landward,
flinging the glittering spray from its round bows, its wet sides shining
in the moonlight as if sheathed with plates of silver. A chaos of hopes,
wishes, and conflicting resolutions agitated his mind as it approached;
after a short struggle, he resolved to throw himself on board if her
master would receive him, and depart with her wherever the winds should
waft her. Having come to this determination, he watched her motions with
additional interest; and when, after coming in so close to the shore
that he could discern that her decks were crowded with men, she wore
round and stood northward, his heart sank within him; and, dashing his
hand through the crimson glass, he was about to hail, when Elpsy checked
him:

"Hold! see you not they are only coming up to wind to lie to! Look! they
are already swinging round their clumsy sails."

The vessel came up slowly and heavily to the wind, and, by means of her
mainsail, lay as still as if at anchor. In a few moments afterward, as
they eagerly watched, they saw a boat let down, and several men descend
over the side into it. He uttered a joyful exclamation when he saw this
movement; and, without reflecting upon the character of the vessel, or
the object it could have in view in landing on so retired a coast at
such a time, he only thought of it as a means of bearing him from the
hateful shore, and perhaps opening for him some path to action and
mental excitement.

"See that flash of light on her deck! There is another gleam!" exclaimed
Elpsy.

"'Tis the glancing of the moonbeams on steel!" he replied, in a
gratified tone.

"There is a sound a man should know!" she said again.

"'Tis the ringing of arms!" he replied, in the same animated manner.

"What think you they are, young man?" asked she, with a peculiar smile,
laying her hand impressively on his arm.

"I know not, nor care, so I may cast my fortune with them!"

"Thou art, of a truth, thy father's son!"

"And, by the cross, he shall not be ashamed to own me!" he replied, in a
desperate and determined tone.

"I will tell thee what they are--for I have passed my life by the
seaside, and know the nature, and have learned to know the occupation
and nation of each ship by its fashion, as I would tell a tradesman's by
his garb."

"What, then, is the nation of this barque?"

"He is a Dane."

"Its nature?"

"To sail in shallow waters, and run before the wind."

"Its business on the sea?"

"To rob, pillage, and slay!"

"Ha, a bucanier?"

"A Dane."

"'Tis but another name for pirate in these waters. By the cross! when I
saw the glitter of steel in the hands of its crew, I half guessed it."

"Wilt thou now link thy fate with theirs?"

"Am I not fit to be their comrade? Are they outcasts; what am I? Are
they branded with shame; who am I? Has society cast them from its bosom;
was I not born in bastardy? Am I not fallen lower than the lowest he
among them who hath been born in wedlock? Why should I hesitate to mate
with my fellows? What has the honourable world to invite me to? What if
I could bury in oblivion from the reach of my own thoughts the black
stain upon my birth and hitherto noble name, and, under a new one, with
a strong heart and virtuous resolves, throw myself into the arena of
honourable contest, and should succeed in winning a name that men would
do homage to--should I not wear it, feeling that a sword was suspended
by a hair above my head?"

"How mean you?" she asked, struck with the impassioned and despairing
tones of his voice.

"I mean that, if, after carrying the secret like a living serpent coiled
in my heart for years, I should, without suspicion, chance to win a fair
name, the time at length would come when some one, with a too faithful
memory, would recognise the bastard Hurtel--the quondam Lester--in the
successful adventurer; and then--No, no!" he said, bitterly, "no, no! It
may not be! The presence of this ship points me to the course I should
pursue. I obey the fate that has directed it hither!"

"Wilt thou become a pirate?" she said, with a natural and feeling
manner, as if prompted by some suddenly-awakened interest in him.
"Yesterday Lord of Lester--to-day a pirate!"

"Yes."

"Curse the tongue that told thee of thy birth! But," she continued,
muttering with her usual quick tones and nervousness of manner, "it was
so pleasant to tell him, for his father's sake, he looked so like him!
And then it was a pleasure to humble his pride, which he made even me
the victim of: and so, as my master would have it, I could not, for the
life o' me, longer help telling him the love-story I had kept so many
years in my heart for him. Ho! ho! ha! ha! and a pleasant tale it was,
too!" she added in that phrensied strain which seemed to be most natural
to her.

While she was speaking the boat, which appeared to be full of men, put
off from the vessel, and they could distinctly hear the command to "let
fall," followed by the splash of the falling sweeps.

"Give way!" in a stern, deep tone, came directly afterward distinctly to
their ears; and, shooting out from the vessel's side, the boat moved in
towards the cliff.

As it neared the shore, one of the men stood up in the stern, and was
heard to command them to cease pulling; and, for a few seconds
afterward, he seemed to be reconnoitring the beach. Apparently satisfied
with his scrutiny, he ordered them to give way again, steered directly
to the foot of the tower, and skilfully run the boat alongside of the
rock almost beneath the window.

"Now lay off an oar's length from the shore, and wait for me," said the
one who had steered the boat, and who appeared to be the leader. "Be on
the alert against surprise, though there's little fear of any one being
within a league of the old tower. Carl, you and Evan take the coil of
rigging and come with me."

As he spoke he leaped on the projection of the rock; then measuring the
cliff with his eye, he placed his cutlass between his teeth and began to
ascend. By the aid of numerous fissures and bold spurs jutting out from
the sides he reached the top, closely followed by his men. Here he
paused a moment, resting on his cutlass, and looked about him. He stood
directly beneath the window from which Elpsy and the young man were
looking, and was plainly visible to them. He was a short, stout-built
man, with a ruddy complexion, browned by the winds and suns of every
clime. His hair was gray, and hung in straight locks about his ears;
and, judging by the deeply-indented lines of his weather-worn visage,
his age was about fifty; yet his compactly-built figure, his light
motions, and athletic appearance, gave indications of many years less.
His countenance, turned upward to their full gaze in his survey of the
tower, wore an expression of careless jovialty, united with desperate
hardihood. The most striking characteristic of his face was a thick red
mustache covering his upper lip. He had on his head an immense fur cap,
and wore a short, full frock of a dark shade, secured at the waist by a
broad belt, stuck with large, heavy pistols of the kind known, at the
period, as the hand-harquebuss. He wore, also, voluminous breeches of
buff leather, buckled at the knee, red cloth gaiters, and high-quartered
shoes with pointed toes, and garnished with sparkling buckles of immense
size. By his side hung the empty sheath of the sabre on which he leaned.
His men, save the fur cap, for which they substituted red woollen ones
of a conical form, and the frock, instead of which they wore long
jackets, were--breeches, buckler, shoes, and gaiters--his counterpart in
apparel.

"'Tis the very spot I once knew it! The unchanged sea--the rock--this
gray tower! It seems as if but a day, and not eighteen years, had passed
since I banqueted here with Hurtel of the Red-Hand," he said to himself,
gazing round with revived recollections at each object. "Well, strange
things have happened since! He is dead, or an exile with a price on his
head; all our brave band scattered; and I, only, am left to stand once
more on this familiar spot. The old rookery looks desolate enough, and
seems to sympathize with its master's fortunes! Open your lantern, Carl,
and let us enter! This moon will scarce afford light where I wish to
penetrate! Heaven grant no evil spirit haunts here to keep guard over
the treasure I have come to carry off! But, if it still remains, I will
e'en cross blades with the devil for it, and win it, will he, nil he."

He passed as he spoke round the tower, and the next moment the listeners
heard the heavy footsteps of the three men echoing through the hall. The
young man was about to spring from the room to meet them, when Elpsy
held him back.

"Would you run upon death! They would sheathe their cutlasses in your
body ere you could open your lips. Hold, and hush! There is time enough.
We will see what their purpose is. I have half a guess, from his words,
at their business here."

"What!"

"Hurtel of the Red-Hand, the story goes, had secreted in some part of
the tower large sums of silver and gold, with which to aid the
conspiracy he headed. He had neither time nor means to take it away with
him, and doubtless it still remains here, and this bucanier is
acquainted with the secret."

"Ha!" he exclaimed, with surprise, "who told thee this?"

"Rumour, said I not!" she replied, after a moment's hesitation.

"And how should these know where to look for what has been concealed for
years?"

"Hark!" she cried, as a heavy noise reached them from a distant part of
the building, "they have opened the trap of the tower, and will descend
into the vaults. He is one that knows well the place."

"Doubtless, from his language, some one of my hospitable parent's
fellow-chiefs, who used to revel here in the days you tell of. I will
see what they do, and take opportunity of forming good fellowship with
my father's friend. Nay--but let me go, woman!"

He broke from her as she attempted to detain him, and, cautiously
opening the door, descended with a cautious and rapid step into the
hall. At its opposite extremity he saw, by the glimmer of a lamp held by
one of them, the two men standing over an opening in the floor, and
their leader just in the act of letting himself down into the
subterranean chamber beneath.

"Hold the ladder steady, Evan!" he said. "Thrust your lantern down at
arm's length, Carl, so that I can see where to place my foot. Ha! there,
I find bottom," he added, his voice sounding hollow from the depth;
"'tis dark and damp as a Calcutta blackhole! Faith, it's more like a
tomb than an honest underground apartment. I hope I shall not see
Hurtel's ghost guarding his box. Tumble down here, boys, and be ready to
hand above decks as soon as I find out where it's stowed away!"

The others, leaving their cutlasses behind, followed him into the vault.
Their heads had no sooner disappeared than the young man crossed the
hall with a free step to the trapdoor, and looked fearlessly after them.
He had from the first, when the vessel came in sight, deliberately
resolved to attach himself to the party; and now the frank, blunt manner
of the old sea-rover struck his fancy, and confirmed him in his
resolution. But he was at a loss how to make his intentions known--how
first to address men ready to shed blood on the instant without
question, and among whom, at such a time, the very discovery of his
presence might be fatal ere he could make known to the chief his
intentions. While watching them as they groped about through the vast
vault, an idea, characteristic of his now reckless disposition,
suggested by the ghostly apprehensions of the leader, entered his mind.
He paused for an instant, and then, favoured by the darkness, dropped
noiselessly into the chamber. With a step that gave back no sound, he
approached them as they moved in an opposite direction from him,
throwing the light all forward, and waited the opportunity he had chosen
for discovering himself.

"'Tis twelve paces to the south, eight paces to the east, and six paces
to the west again--which will bring me to the wall, and on the very
stone Red Hurtel and I placed over the gold," said the captain; "here
are twelve paces, well told!" he added, placing his foot immediately
afterward emphatically on the stone floor.

These words at once gave the youth a key to the course he should adopt.
His quick eye, as the leader turned to pace east, comprehended the
remaining angle at a glance, and, gliding away by the wall, he moved
cautiously and noiselessly along till he felt his foot press upon a
loose slab. He knew he must be on or near the spot; and drawing himself
to his full height, and unconsciously assuming a stern and resolute
look, called up by the novelty and danger of his situation, he waited
the angular advance of the captain, who, with his men, was too intent on
accurately marking his steps to look up even for a moment.

"Now west!" said the leader; and, turning as he spoke, he had counted on
to four, _five_, and was about to take the last step to the wall, when,
pronounced in a deep tone, that rung hollow through the vault, he heard
the word,

"Forbear!"

He lifted his eyes and fell back upon his men as the lantern shone full
upon the object, exclaiming,

"The ghost of Hurtel, by all that's good! Evan, come back here, you
villain! Carl, give me that lantern, coward!" he shouted to his men, who
turned and fled with affright.

He caught the light from the hand of the terrified Dane, and turned upon
this apparition, which, notwithstanding his coolness, had not a little
disconcerted him. He held the lamp, though standing off at a chosen
distance, to the face of the supposed ghost, and said, with an odd
mixture of natural boldness and superstitious fear,

"'Fore Heaven, comrade, you have grown full young in the other world!
But there is no mistaking the cut of your eye. Faith, but you can smile,
I see," he added, more freely. "There's no more mistaking your smile
than your black, ugly frown! So, suppose we shake hands, and, after we
get the chest aboard--for they say you don't want this sort of ballast
in the seas down below--why, we'll empty a can together, and spin a yarn
about old times before the cock crows!"

As the intrepid old sea-rover spoke, he extended his rough hand to grasp
that of the other. The young man hesitated to take it, for he was scarce
sure of his reception when it should be discovered that he was flesh and
blood.

"Never mind if your fingers be a little cold or so, 'tis the nature o'
ghosts. I can give you a grasp that'll put warmth into 'em, and last you
till you get back where you hail from. Come, old friend, give us your
digits, just to say you ain't offended at the liberty I am about to take
with your chest o' sparklers; and afterward I will just thank you to
step one side a bit!"

The young man smiled at the intrepidity of the seaman, and took the
proffered hand.

"Warm! by the bones of St. Nick! The old fellow below has been keeping
you over a hot fire, messmate. Well, you must confess, you lived a
wonderfully wicked life; and so, as the priests say, the devil will fry
it out of you. Sorry for you, on my word! Will lay by fifty of these
guilders in prayers for your soul! So take heart. Now just step aside
off that slab, which you stick to as if 'twas a tombstone, and we'll
bear a hand and bouse this old box out in the snapping of a bolt-rope."

"I am no spirit, but a habitant of this world, like thyself!" he said,
with firmness, and a straight-forward frankness that he wisely
calculated would have its effect; "I am a young adventurer, without name
or family, weal or wealth. I would take service with thee, and follow
thy fortunes on the sea!"

The bucanier listened with surprise; and as he became convinced, from
his words and manner, that he was no shade from the land of spirits,
which shadowy beings he seemed to fear no more than mortal substance,
his countenance instantly changed, and he surveyed him with a puzzled
look of surprise and doubt.

"So! this alters the case! Who art thou, then? what art thou doing
here--and on this particular stone? 'Tis mysterious, i'faith! Guarding
this treasure, which no man save Hurtel and I saw laid here; so like
him, and not be he! Yet thou canst not be Red Hurtel in the flesh, for
his hair would be as gray as mine by this time. Thou sayest thou art not
his spirit. Who, and what, then, in the name of St. Barnabas, may you
be?"

"His son."

"Ha! ho! There it is, as plain as my hand!" he said, slapping the flat
of his cutlass into his left palm. "Priest never had aught to do with
thy begetting or thy christening, I'll be sworn! I now remember he had a
leman-lady in the tower when I knew him. A proper youth," he added,
looking at him with interest, "and as like your father as one
marlin-spike is like another! So you inherit the old tower, I dare say,
and follow in his steps. St. Claus and the apostles! I would not be
surprised if you laid claim to the gold here!"

"I care neither for tower nor gold, good captain. To follow your
fortunes I alone ask."

"Do you know what fortunes I follow?" inquired the other, significantly.

"I care not, so there is work for the free hand and ready spirit."

"A chip of the old block! There's my hand to it. You shall have your
will, my brave one! Your father and I were comrades in that cursed
affair that made the country too hot to hold us. I have been a rover
since, and, trusting to my gray head, have ventured back to carry off
what gold I heard he had not time to remove. Thou shalt go with me for
thy father's sake, boy."

He grasped the old man's offered hand, and, for the moment, felt that he
was less alone in the world. What a change had one brief day made in the
feelings and destinies of this haughty young man!

"Bear a hand, you pale runaways!" cried the captain to the men, who,
seeing that their spirit had proved of flesh and blood, returned,
scowling darkly on the cause of their discomfiture. "Take hold of the
edge of that stone, and lift it from its bed. Place your hands on the
right spot, and it will come up like a cork."

The men made several ineffectual efforts to lift it, though even
assisted in their last attempt by their captain.

"How is this?" he said; "it should move with a finger's touch. Ha, I
have it! I had forgot. You might heave till you were gray, boys, and it
wouldn't stir a hair. Look at some of my magic."

He stooped as he spoke, and pressing the stone horizontally towards the
wall, it moved from its bed, and slid away slowly, as if on wheels,
beneath it exposing a cavity two feet square and about three feet deep,
containing an oaken box, bound with strong bands of rusted steel.

"Here it lies, like a biscuit in a bucket! Let us see if the gold has
got rusty."

He searched a few moments, and at length bore hard upon a corner of the
box, but without producing any effect.

"The spring is as tight as if Old Nick had his foot on it. Let us try
what this good steel, that has served me so often at a push, will do
now."

He pressed the point of his cutlass with steady force against one
corner, when suddenly the lid flew up, and a glittering pile of silver
and gold, and a remarkably shaped dagger, a foot in length, wider at the
point than the handle, and exceedingly rich with precious stones, met
their eyes.

There was a general exclamation of surprise at this display of treasure.
The young man took up the weapon and examined it with curiosity.

"That belonged to Hurtel of the Red-Hand, and he prized it, too!" said
the old pirate. "It shall be thine, young man! Holding it with that
grasp as you do, and your kindling eye, I would swear my old comrade
stood before me. If nature put the father's looks on all children as she
has on thee, it would be a blind father that wouldn't know his own
child. But it's only bas--hoit! I mean to say that children honestly
come by seldom show the breed they hail from as some other sort o' craft
do--I'faith, I haven't bettered it much! But, no harm meant, my brave
fellow! Keep that yataghan for your father's sake. He knew its use, and,
if you are long under me--"

"_Under_ you?" repeated the youth, his natural spirit breaking out.

"Ha! I like that! Better men than I will soon be under you, I see--'tis
in you born and bred! So! let us heave out this precious metal. Six
thousand told pounds, if my memory serves me. Heave heartily, boys.
There she moves! Now she rises on her toes! Steady strain. Hearty,
hearty. There you are!"

"Hafey golt 'tish dat dere, Evan," said one, straightening his bent
loins.

"Ap carnach! ant yer may will say tat, poy!" responded Evan, breathing
himself and passing the back of his hand across his brow, from which
started big drops of perspiration.

They now laid hold of it and dragged it beneath the trapdoor: with the
united efforts of the men, the captain, and even Lester--or Hurtel, as
for the present he should be called--they got it to the floor above,
reascended, and closed the scuttle.

"You will want fresh hands, captain," said the youthful novitiate, at
once readily entering into the spirit of his new vocation, and thirsting
for excitement as a foil to reflection; "shall I call two of your men
from the boat?"

"Ay, ay! do so!" said the captain; adding, as he darted away, "True as
steel, by St. Claus! I would rather lose the gold than lose him. He is
worth his weight of it!"

While he was speaking his protegé reached the balcony, and, bending
over, ordered, in an authoritative tone, two of the men to ascend to
relieve their mates. There was a general exclamation of surprise from
the party below at the sound of the strange voice.

"Treason!"

"We are betrayed!"

"To the rescue of our captain!" were the various exclamations, in as
many different languages, followed by glancing of steel and clicking of
pistols, several of which were levelled at the window.

"Ho, fellows! will you not obey?" said he, sternly; "up, up-with you! By
the cross! if I were your captain, knaves, I would teach you to linger
after an order was given."

"Who in the devil have we there?" said one, in a gruff voice. "Shall I
pink him, mates?"

"Who talks of pinking? What, ho, ye villains!" shouted the captain, who
now appeared at the window. "This youth is my lieutenant, and see that
you obey him, or I will make a pair of earrings of a brace of you for
the main-yard-arms."

"That's another thing," said several voices. "Orders is orders, if they
come from the devil, so as he is got the commission in his pocket!"

"Two of the strongest of you lubberly oxen, clamber up here. Spring! be
nimble! nimble! Back the boat directly under, and keep her steady."

A moment afterward two of the men reached the top of the rock and sprung
into the balcony. It took but a short time to get the chest upon the
balustrade, lash it with the rope they had brought, rig a fall with a
brace of oars, and swing it off.

"Stand ready below there!" cried the captain.

"All ready."

"Handle it as if it was a baby. Gently, gently, or you will knock the
boat's bottom out! Swing it more aft! There, now, let her drop
amidships! Easy--not too fast! There she lies between the thwarts like a
pig in a pillory!"

The box was safely lowered into the launch, and followed with alacrity
by the men: the captain and his new lieutenant were also preparing to go
down, when each, at the same instant, felt himself touched from behind,
and, turning round, Elpsy confronted them.

"Who art thou, in the name of Beelzebub's mother?" demanded the captain,
staring with astonishment, not unmingled with superstitious dread, on
the deformed and hideous being who had so suddenly and mysteriously
appeared to him.

"I would speak with thee, Edmund Turill!"

"Then thou art Sathanas!" he cried, with astonishment; "how knowest thou
me?"

"It matters not. I know thee," she replied, in a tone of mystery. "That
youth goes with thee?" she added, inquiringly.

"He does!"

"See, then, that he is well treated, and receives not ill at thy hands.
Remember, once thou hadst a son!"

"Who art thou, i'the name of all the saints, woman?"

"It matters not. When thou thinkest of thy poor boy's bones, gibbeted
for sharing thy guilt o'er the gate of Cork, the winds whistling through
them with a sad wail, look kindly on this youth, and take him to thy
heart, as if he were thine own flesh and blood!"

"I will do it," he said, with emotion.

"Swear it."

"I swear it!"

"'Tis well. One question I have to ask thee, and truly answer it."

"Name it, woman!"

"Where wanders Hurtel of the Red-Hand?"

"'Tis said he died in the Indies!"

"'Tis false!" she cried, with energy. "He can never die unaccursed by
her he has wronged. No, no! he will have one to watch his pillow in his
dying throes he would rather burn in hell, to which he is doomed, than
see. No, no! his time has not yet come! his master will not let him slip
out o' life so easily. Oh, it will be a glory to see him die; and mock
his groans; and laugh, laugh at his terrors! Ha, ha, ha! Oh, will it not
be a jubilee to see him struggle with the death!"

"I'God's name, woman, tell me who thou art?"

"Dost not behold what I am? Wouldst have fair winds, I will raise thee
foul: wouldst have a smooth sea, I will make it boil and hiss: wilt say
a prayer, I will turn it into a curse ere it can leave thy lips."

"Avaunt, sorceress!" he cried, crossing himself with horror.

"Ha, ha! so you can feel my power! Oh, well! it is a-pleasant to make
men's stout hearts quake. Dost know me?" she asked, impressively,
approaching her face close to his.

"No!" he said, retreating and preparing to descend the rock. "Avoid
thee, Sathanas!"

"Listen!" she said, approaching and laying her hand on his arm, and
whispering low in his ear.

"_Thou!_" he exclaimed, instantly starting back, and surveying her with
mingled surprise, curiosity, and disgust.

"Wouldst care to leave thy revels and their lord, and, stealing to her
lone room, offer thy drunken love to her now! Ha, ha, ha! Does she not
look a comely leman for thy licentious love?" she added, with malicious
irony.

He gazed on her a few seconds by the light of the moon, and seemed too
much overpowered by surprise to speak. At length he said, in a tone of
horror,

"Hideous as thou art, it must be as thou sayest, for only thus could I
be known to thee! But, holy St. Claus!" he added, in a tone, "this
lad--is he--"

"No matter who he is! see thou harm him not!"

"I will be a father to him, woman! 'Fore Heaven," he exclaimed afresh,
gazing upon her with mingled curiosity and pity, "was there ever such
a--"

"Mind me not! spare your sympathy! Go!--Stay!" she cried, earnestly
recalling him; "if you ever meet _him_, breathe not into his ears what
and whom you have this night seen. I have made myself known to thee for
this youth's sake. Farewell, young man," she said, approaching Lester as
he stood on the rock, to which he had bounded from the balcony at the
beginning of their conference. She extended her hand as she spoke. He
took it, and grasped it warmly saying, in a soothing tone,

"Good-by, Elpsy. I have no ill-will against thee in my heart. Thou hast
done but thy duty!"

The sorceress seemed to be moved, turned away from him without speaking,
as if her feelings choked utterance, and stalked away through the hall,
and left the tower.

"Come, my lad," said the captain, turning away and speaking with
feeling, after following with his eyes her retreating form till it
disappeared in the forest, "she is a poor, unhappy creature, and it'll
come hard, I'm thinking, on him that made her so. But this is no time
for sentiment. Let us aboard and make an offing ere the dawn; for, if we
are spied lying here, we shall have the king's bulldog down upon us from
windward I saw lying in Cor Bay, who will bark to some purpose if he
should catch us here on a lee shore."

Thus speaking, the old seaman lightly descended the rock to the boat,
followed by his youthful lieutenant, and in a few minutes they reached
the vessel.

The moment his foot touched the deck the captain gave orders to make
sail: the long, crooked tiller was put hard up to windward; the heavy
mainsail swung back to its place; the vessel's head turned slowly off,
and, feeling the wind on her quarter, she stood in landward for a few
seconds to gain headway, and then came gracefully round with her
starboard bow to the wind. With each broad sail drawn nearly fore and
aft, she lay as near it as her short blunt build would permit, and
stretched away from the shore on a long tack towards the south.



CHAPTER VII.

    "If solitude succeed to grief,
    Release from pain is light relief;
    The vacant bosom's wilderness
    Might thank the pang that made it less.
    The heart once left thus desolate
    Must fly at last for ease--to hate."

    _The Giaour._


The narrative once more returns to Mark, who, it will be remembered, had
arrived, on his way to Castle More, at a ruin in the midst of the forest
he was traversing, when the approach of two horsemen caused him to
withdraw from the path. As he did so, they were encountered and stopped
by some one who unexpectedly met them as they were galloping past the
lonely pile. Curious to know who they were and what could be their
business at that late hour, he entered the deep shadow of the tower, and
approached so near them as to discover that the men wore the livery of
Lady Lester, and that the person with whom they were talking was none
other than the witch Elpsy, with whose person he had been familiar from
childhood.

After Elpsy disappeared from the eyes of the old bucanier and his young
lieutenant at Hurtel's tower, she had continued to move rapidly through
the forest towards Castle Cor, without turning either to the right or
left. Sometimes she would skip forward with mad hilarity till exhausted;
at others, leap, and clap her hands, and shout, till the dales of the
old wood rung again with her shrieking laughter. From the unnatural
speed, and the wild, straight-forward direction in which she moved, her
sole object seemed to be to reach some point for which she aimed in the
least possible time. The scared owl hooted aloud at her approach, and
flew, with a heavy flap of his thick wings, deeper into the wood; the
hawk left his nest with a shrill cry; the deer fled from her path! On,
on she bounded and leaped mocking their notes of terror, like a demon
pursued. At times, when she crossed an open glade, where the moon poured
down her unobstructed radiance, she would suddenly stop and mutter, but
without appearing to notice the pale orb the sight of which, by
directing her thoughts into another, but not less turbulent channel,
seemed to have exercised a momentary influence on her. She had travelled
six miles in less than one hour's time, when she suddenly stopped in the
full light of the moon, looked up, and shook her open hands towards it
with a laugh of derision.

"Oh, ho! you need not look and watch, and watch and look, and keep your
pale face and shining eyes always fixed on me! Dost think I would commit
murder? and the little twinkling stars peer down as if they could espy a
knife in my hand! Look, ye little glittering winklings," she cried,
spreading upward her open palms, "dost see a knife? Ha, ha, ha! ye are
out there. I am too much for ye. No, I know ye well, with your winking
and your blinking at each other, and how, in the darkest night, one of
you always keeps watch, to spy the murders done in the absence o' the
sun; and then you whisper it through heaven, and tell it to the earth,
and then we hang for it. Oh, ho! I have a charm will put you to sleep.
Ha! you laugh, and grin, and gibber, that I have lost in a half hour's
tale what I have won by years of silence. Well, well, there'll be a
time! there'll be a time!"

Dropping her head, she appeared a moment as if in sullen thought, and
then muttered, in a tone and manner which, more than words, gave a key
to the wild phrensy that had hitherto possessed her,

"If _he_ cannot be Lord of Lester, neither shall HE! He dies! The eye of
the moon pierces not this wood! He dies! 'Tis long yet to dawn," she
abruptly added, moving forward, and speaking with more coherency. "If I
can find him ere the myrmidons of Lady Lester can reach him, should she
send for him, Castle More will ne'er own other lord than he who, but for
my foul tongue--may it wither in my throat!--would now have been Lord of
Lester. He dies! dies! dies! dies!" and, hasting her footsteps, she
continued to repeat the word at every stride, accompanying it with a
threatening gesture of her arm.

Her rapid speed soon brought her to the ruins of the abbey. Bounding
like an ape over the fallen blocks, she entered the door in the tower,
and with an unfaltering step traversed the gallery to her subterraneous
abode, which, after Lester's angry and fruitless pursuit of her, she had
left for Hurtel's tower, fearing that he might despatch a party from
Castle More in search of her, for the purpose, by her death, of
effectually silencing all question of his birth.

Entering her subterranean abode, she produced a light without flint, or
steel, or fire, but by smartly drawing two marks, in opposition to the
sign of the cross, on the wall with a small stick, the end of which
immediately emitted a blue flame, and, after a fierce, hissing noise,
shot up into a bright blaze. This, to the peasantry who had witnessed
it, was one of the strongest evidences of her being in league with the
devil, who, it was asseverated, kindled her stick for her in the
unquenchable fire.

She lighted a fragment of a rush candle by the flame, and, opening a
small box containing medicinal preparations, took therefrom a small vial
containing an amber-coloured liquid, and held it to the light. She
looked at it for a while with a look of vengeful satisfaction, and then
placed it in her bosom; afterward she took a rusty poniard from a
crevice in the wall, carefully felt its point, which was ground to a
keen edge, and, with a look of satisfaction, thrust it up into her
sleeve. Then extinguishing the light, she hastened past the tomb of
Black Morris, and with a quick, determined step, traversed the gallery
towards its outlet.

As she approached it she heard the tramp of horses. With a quick,
apprehensive cry, as if she at once divined the cause, she flew through
the passage into the moonlight, and saw two horsemen approaching at a
round pace, and going in the direction of Castle Cor: as they came
nearer, she recognised them as the chief forester and the seneschal from
Castle More. She permitted them to gallop along the road till they were
within a few feet of her, when she suddenly stepped forth from the black
shadow of the tower, and, with one arm outstretched brandishing the
stiletto, confronted them. The riders, taken by surprise, pulled their
horses back to their haunches, and both instantly exclaimed, with
superstitious dread,

"Elpsy!"

These were the horsemen Mark turned from his path to avoid.

"I am Elpsy," she repeated, in a lofty tone. "Whither ride ye, so fast
and free?

    "If ye do not tell me true,
    Horses each shall cast a shoe,
    And evil bide ye, ill betide,
    As ye on your journey ride!"

"There be strange doings at the castle, mother," said the seneschal,
pitching his voice to the true gossiping tone; "there's me young
loord--"

"Fait! but it's jist this--" interrupted the other; "our young masther,
Lord Robert, is not masther's son at all at all, and masther's son--"

"Murther! an' it's you dat have it wrong, Ennis, honey," cried the
other, interrupting him in his turn; "it's jist this, ould Mither
Eelpsy; Lord Robert is not my Lord Robert at all at all, and the raal
Lord Robert is--"

"And is it not the very woords I was afther tilling the crathur?"
interrupted the forester. "I will give it to ye, Eelpsy, dare, in the
right way."

"Hist with your tongues!" cried the impatient woman, having heard enough
to convince her that Robert had told the truth in saying that he openly
published his own shame. "Hold with your senseless words, fools! I can
tell ye more than both of ye together, and all Castle Cor, know."

"We know dat, ould mither! Don't forget to crass yourself, Jarvey,
honey," added the speaker, aside, making the sign of the cross on his
breast. "It's the great dale ye know, and the likes o' ye, and it's not
we that is to gainsay it this night."

"Whither ride ye?" she demanded, impatiently taking hold of the bridle
of one of the horses.

"Och, an' isn't it to bring with all speed that young jintleman o' the
world, Mark Meredith, the ould fisherman's son, to be sure, to Castle
More," said the forester.

"At whose bidding?" she demanded.

"Our lady's, the jewil!" answered the seneschal.

"Go back, and tell the Dark Lady of the Rock that thus says Elpsy, the
sorceress: 'He whom she seeks she will never find!'"

"But it's the disthress she'll be in," said the seneschal.

"And it's the deep grief o' the world that's upon her now," added the
other.

"Och, but it will be bad news to be afther bringing back to her that
sint us," pursued Ennis, with a howl.

"Widout iver having gone at all at all," said Jarvey, in a tone of
grief.

"A cush-la-ma-chree, Jarvey, but it's find the lad we must!" cried
Ennis, with sudden resolution.

"And it's the ould mither that's here, bliss her, 'll maybe till us
where he may be jist at this present," added Jarvey, insinuatingly.

"Do you hesitate to obey me! Go back, even as you came. If _she_ ask you
where the lad is, tell her Elpsy has said, '_Lester has no lord_!'"

"Och, hone! and will it be the world's thruth, Elpsy, hinney! It'll
break the spirit of her, in her lone bosom."

"And what'll the castle do widout a lord! That I should live to see it!"
wailed the seneschal.

"And must we go back to the Dark Lady wid dis heavy sorrow to the fore?"
asked the forester.

"E'en must ye! So!" she cried, turning, with a sudden jerk of the rein,
the head of one of the horses towards the direction in which they had
come. "Ride, ride," she added, in a commanding but wild tone, "nor look
behind till ye are safe within the gates, lest ye care to see the evil
one astraddle of your crupper."

"The houly crass protict us!" they both ejaculated, crossing themselves.

"Good e'en to ye, mither. It's yourself is the crathur for knowing the
world's thruth," added Jarvey, as if by flattery he would disarm any
evil intention she might cherish in reference to himself.

"And it's to her we're indibted for not riding tree leagues for nothing
at all at all, whin the lad's not to the fore! Faix, it's my thanks ye
have, ould Elpsy, for't, an' its yer due, were ye the ould divil
himself," returned Ennis, gathering up his rein. "Kape your head
straight between yer shoulder, Jarvey."

"It's me, honey, will niver be afther looking behint," replied Jarvey,
setting his face towards Castle More.

Thus taking leave of the wily woman, these two old simple-minded
retainers rode back again; their obtuse minds probably scarce
comprehending the nature of the loss Lady Lester had met with, the
exchanged fortunes of their late young master, nor the important object
of their mission.

She looked after them as they galloped away till they were lost in the
gloom of the forest, when, clapping her hands, she broke into a peal of
frantic merriment, which was more like the shriek of a fiend than like
human laughter.

"Ah, ha! have I not done it well! I met them here just in time. Satan
stands my friend yet! If he did make me lose the game, he has helped to
keep another from winning it. No, Lester shall never have a lord at the
expense of him who, but for my accursed tongue and his silly _honour_!
would still have been its master. Ho, ho! have I not done it! Now it
remains for me, ere he can learn the secret of his birth, to send him
where low and highborn are all on a level! This! and, if this fail,
_this_," she said, grasping first the vial and then the dagger, "shall
do my will! It's a wicked act--I know it!--'tis a deed of hell! I would
not harm the poor lad--no; for he is like an own child to me--but, then,
he is _not_ my child--and shall I see him in the seat from which _he_
has been cast out? No, no, this steel shall drink--this poison shall dry
up, his noble blood first!"

"Of whom do you speak in such fearful words, mother?"

She started with mingled terror and astonishment, and beheld standing at
her side the unconscious object of her thoughts. Her surprise at his
sudden, and, as she at first believed, supernatural appearance, for the
moment deprived her of her speech; she dropped the hand that held the
vial, which was dashed in pieces against a stone, and gazed on him for
several seconds with a disturbed and remorseful countenance.

"Did you hear all my words?" she at length had the resolution to ask,
advancing a step towards him, and speaking in a deep, husky tone.

"No, mother. I have been in the shadow of yonder bastion, waiting the
departure of those horsemen."

"Then you could not hear their speech?" she interrogated, with an
eagerness of voice and manner that he could not account for.

"No," he answered, firmly.

"You have not spoken with them?"

"No."

"They have not told you--that is, you are Mark Meredith, the grandson of
old Meredith, the fisherman? Speak, boy!"

"Surely I am, Elpsy; do you not discern my face by this moon? I fear,"
he said, in a kind tone, "you have not taken good care of yourself of
late, and are a little fevered. Go down to our hut, if you can walk so
far, and you will find a meal of fish there, of my own taking, which I
left my grandsire preparing for me. Bid him give you my portion.
Good-night, Elpsy, I have business at Castle More."

As he spoke he stepped aside to pass her and pursue his way. His
hospitable and kind invitation had touched her. She was not so seared
that gentleness and words of kindness could not find a vibrating chord
within her bosom. Gradually, as he spoke she relaxed her hand from its
grasp on the poniard, which, on discovering him, she had instinctively
concealed in the folds of her scarlet cloak, and extended it towards him
in a grateful manner. But the expression of his intention to proceed to
the abode of Lady Lester caused her suddenly to draw it back, while in a
quick, harsh tone of voice, and with great vehemence of manner, in which
alarm and apprehension were visible, she cried,

"Castle More! What hast thou to do at Castle More?"

"I bear a message to Robert of Lester! Detain me not, Elpsy; I have
already lingered on the way."

"Who sends thee?"

"The young lady of Bellamont."

"Thy message?"

"I know not. 'Tis in this sealed pacquet."

"Is this all for which thou art sent?"

"It is."

"No instructions--no commands?"

"None, save to make no delay at Castle More, lest my young lord and I
should renew a quarrel we had this day."

"Nothing else?"

"Nothing. But why these rapid questions--this anxiety of manner? What
has come over thee, Elpsy?" he asked, with surprise.

She had put this series of interrogations to him with an irresistible
energy and rapidity, that left him no alternative but direct and instant
replies. At first she gave him no answer; her face worked convulsively,
and she seemed to be contending with some strong feelings, that she in
vain strove to get the mastery over. At length she muttered within her
lips,

"I had feared! But 'tis safe, safe. 'Tis a pity to slay the fair young
lad; but, if I do not, he will know that which he never must
know--become that he never shall become! He must not see Castle More. He
must die rather! Mark, come to me," she said, in a hollow and unearthly
tone; "I would whisper in your ear what I would not have the laughing
and grinning devils that flit about us in the air, hear! Come to me and
listen!"

While she was speaking she nervously grasped the handle of her dagger,
and took a step towards him. Her manner hitherto had already aroused his
watchfulness, and the tone of her invitation by no means increased his
confidence. He did not, indeed, suspect any attempt upon his life by
her; but, being familiar with her restless and violent nature, he was
prepared to expect some annoying violence; and for this he was
cautiously on the watch.

"Wilt not approach?" she said, in a coaxing tone. "'Tis a sweet and fair
tale I would tell thee! Ha, ha! as fair and sweet as I told the Lord
Robert yestere'en! Wilt not come?" she shouted, as she saw he continued
to step back as she advanced; "then will I come!"

She, with these words, made a spring towards him, seized him suddenly by
the breast, and brandished her poniard in the air. He was not unprepared
for this, sudden as it was: he caught her upraised arm, and bent it
backward over her head till she shrieked with pain, and, with a cool and
determined exertion of his whole strength, cast her from him so
violently as to hurl her to the earth. She sprang to her feet like a
cat, and, with a yell of rage, again leaped upon him. He avoided her
attack by lightly springing to one side, when, missing her blow, she
fell forward and struck her head on the edge of a stone, and sunk to the
ground senseless and bleeding.

He instantly flew to her relief, lifted her from the earth, and
attempted to assuage the flow of blood from a severe contusion that she
had received on the forehead. In a little time the loss of blood
restored her to consciousness; it also had the effect of subduing her
high fever of excitement, and making her comparatively calm. She
permitted him to bind a handkerchief, that he took from his own neck,
across her temples; but she neither spoke nor acknowledged his
attentions, but sat in sullen silence on the ground.

"Elpsy," asked the youth, at length, "why do you seek my life?"

"You can never know!" she replied, slowly shaking her head with morose
inflexibility.

"Have I wronged you?"

"Ask me not!"

"Is it thirst for blood, evil woman, that drives thee to this crime?"

"I would not slay thee, but thou and I, boy, can never live in the same
land!" she said, obstinately.

"Thou mightst have spared this attempt, then, on my life, for soon the
deep sea will roll between me and my native isle."

"How! Explain your words!" she asked, with awakened interest.

"I am resolved, as nature has denied me nobility of birth, to give it at
least to those who come after me."

"Speak on!" she cried, hanging on his words with intense expectation.

"I am going from my father's roof into the world, to see if I cannot
make men forget from what I have sprung!"

"Is this thy purpose, boy? Speak truly!"

"It is, Elpsy. Seven hours ago I had nearly linked my fortunes with the
yacht that takes the earl to England on the morrow--but--"

"But, what?" she eagerly demanded.

"My father--I thought of him, and--"

"Would not."

"I cannot desert him to suffering and want."

"And is this all?" she asked, her face lighting up with a newly awakened
thought.

"The sole cause."

She began eagerly to search her belt, and drew forth from it a heavy
purse. Shaking it with a gratified air, she then poured its glittering
contents on the ground beside her.

"See that pile of gold! To-morrow go in this king's ship, and it shall
be yours--there are three hundred guilders told--'twill give the old man
food and raiment for a longer life than his will be, and afterward buy a
coffin for his bones. Wilt go?"

"Mother," said he, his heart leaping with joy and hope, yet both
tempered with the doubt to which he gave utterance, "this wealth! is it
thine? How came you by it?"

"It matters not."

"I dare not touch it. I fear 'tis the price of sin--or, perhaps, of
blood."

"Fool; 'tis wealth I've had in store these eighteen years, given to me
by times by one who, if there be justice in Heaven or hell, is now
accursed on earth. There is no more evil in it than in every piece of
gold that the earth contains--all gold is evil--it is all but the price
of honour, of honesty, or of human blood. Take it, and depart from this
land."

He gazed on the glittering heap, and hope, by its aid, pictured bright
visions of the future, and the fruition of all his aspiring wishes.
Ambition once more awakened in his heart. Yet he hesitated. But, while
he did so, he thought of Kate Bellamont--of the proud Lester--of his
hopes of the future--of all that he had loved to contemplate; he even
gave a thought to Grace Fitzgerald: all that an aspiring mind like his,
at such a time, could be influenced by, had its effect upon him. She
narrowly watched his countenance, read rightly his thoughts, and,
feeling assured of his acceptance of it, mentally congratulated herself
that her object could be effected without the shedding of his blood. She
waited till she thought his mind was sufficiently ripe for her purpose,
then replaced the gold in the purse, and, balancing it in her hand,
said, "Before you take this purse, I name one condition of its
acceptance."

He looked to her to mention it.

"That you for ever drop your present name and assume another; that you
never breathe to mortal ear the place of your birth, nor give clew to
your country."

"I gladly promise this--for already I had resolved on it, Elpsy. I have
_one_ great motive for doing so. But what can be yours?"

"'Tis no matter. You promise this?"

"Cheerfully."

"Then take the gold for thy grandsire's support."

"Thanks, thanks, kind Elpsy--yet--"

"Not a word of objection. I have two favours to ask of thee."

"Name them," said he, with an eagerness that evinced a desire to serve
her.

"Promise that you will hold no speech with any one before thy
departure."

"I do," he said, after an instant's hesitation.

"Swear that thou wilt never set foot on this isle again."

"Nay, I will not swear it," he said, with determination.

"Wilt thou obey me? Swear it!" she cried, in a tone of fierce command.

"Who art thou that I should yield thee obedience, woman? I yield
obedience to none save my Maker!"

"Wilt thou swear?" she asked, with more composure.

"Never."

The resolute attitude he so unexpectedly assumed disconcerted her for an
instant. At length she said,

"Wilt thou promise never to return here under thy own, that is--thy
present name?"

"Yes, most freely. Now farewell, Elpsy; I must hasten to Castle More."

"You go not to Castle More!" she exclaimed, with singular emphasis.

"I am intrusted with a message, and must deliver it."

"Give it to me, I will be its bearer."

"Nay, I must myself place it in Lord Robert's hands, in person."

"Give it me, boy! I will bear it safely to its destination."

"No, Elpsy."

"Go to Castle More, and you sail not on the morrow," she said, in a
determined tone, replacing the gold in her belt.

He hesitated. After a brief struggle between his duty to Grace
Fitzgerald and her cousin, and his own wishes, he at length said,
falteringly,

"May I trust you to deliver it, Elpsy?"

"Yes."

He turned the billet, with its lock of hair, over and over, gazed on it
long and fondly on every side, and, from his reluctance to resign the
precious treasure, there appeared to have arisen a new bar to Elpsy's
purpose. At length he made a compromise with his feelings by slipping
off the braid of hair, and hastily concealing it in his bosom, while he
gave her the unsecured packet.

"Place it only in the hands of Robert of Lester, Elpsy."

"None else shall see it."

"Speedily, if you are not too ill."

"It will take many a harder buffet than that thou gavest me to make me
ill. He shall have it ere thou art half a league on thy return."

"Then, Elpsy, I go. Fare thee well, and may Heaven have you in better
keeping than your life now gives hope of. Will you call at times when I
am away to see my grandfather? He will be lonely."

"Many will be the gossip we'll yet have together. Now go! Take my
blessing--'twill do thee no harm, if it can do no good! When does the
ship sail?"

"The Earl of Bellamont will return from Kinsale in the morning, and 'tis
said that before noon she will be under weigh."

"The sooner the better. Go at once on board, nor let the rising sun find
thee on the land. Farewell."

"Farewell, Elpsy. Don't forget the poor old man!"

"He shall never want while Elpsy lives. Now fare thee well,
and--_remember_!" she added, impressively.

They now separated; the young man rapidly retracing his way to his hut,
with a buoyant tread and lightness of spirit, his imagination filled
with dazzling visions of the future; Elpsy bending her steps steadily in
the direction of Castle More, her soul exulting in the master-stroke of
policy she had effected. When he was no longer visible, she stopped,
and, opening the packet, by the light of the moon curiously examined the
locket and its device, the application of which, without understanding
its motto, she intuitively comprehended, and then read the contents of
the billet with a loud, scornful laugh.

"And would she meet him _now_ with love? Ha, ha! The haughty maiden
would toss her head, did he bear this to her, she knowing his birth.
Oh!" she added, with a malignant chuckle, "that I had let him married
her ere this secret had let out--would it not have been a brave thing
then to have brought down the pride of these gentles! If I could have
kept the secret till their honeymoon was over! Fiends!" she exclaimed,
with maddened disappointment, "what precious revenge I have lost! Shall
I not have a taste of what is left me? Shall I not yet tell her _who_
and _what_ he is? Oh, will it not be joy to my soul to witness her
ravings! I'll do't! I'll do't! There's something left yet to live for!
There's mischief yet to do in the earth. But I must first watch this
sprout of Lester--this fisher's boy! I shall not have to touch his life
if he'll get off before he learns his true rank; but I'll follow him
like his shadow, nor will I take eyes off him till the ship he sails in
goes out of my sight beyond the ocean's edge. Then will I to Castle Cor,
and see if Lady Kate will receive me, the bearer of this locket, 'with
love!' Haven't I a tale for her delicate ear! Oh, there is yet something
to live for! Elpsy'll not die while there's devil's work to do! So!
methinks I feel a little giddy for walking," she continued, tottering
against the trunk of a tree; "but I'll soon fall into my old gait. A
little bloodletting of a moonshiny night is ever good for the health."

Thus muttering to herself, she turned back towards the ruin, and began
to walk in the direction taken by Mark, at first slowly; but, gradually
gathering strength with motion and excitement, she soon strode through
the long, dark glades of the forest at a rate that soon brought her in
sight of him. Keeping so far in the rear as not to be discovered by him
should he chance to turn his head, she followed him out of the wood,
then down to the seaside and along the beach, till she saw him, just as
the day broke, lift the latch of the door of his humble cot and
disappear within. She then sought a recess in the cliff in the rear of
the hut, where, secreting herself in a clump of low bushes that grew
about it, she remained concealed until some time after sunrise, when she
saw him reappear accompanied by the fisherman, and beheld both go
together to the beach, launch their little fisher's bark, hoist the
sail, and leave the shore. She eagerly watched them as they stood off
from the land, and with unspeakable triumph saw them run alongside of
the yacht. With emotions of malignant joy, she beheld Mark take leave of
his grandsire and get on board, and the solitary old man quit the vessel
alone and steer in shore towards his desolate hut. As his skiff grated
upon the beach, she met him.

"So ho, father Meredith! thou hast been selling thy fish to a good
market. The English have the silver coin, which thou wilt scarce find at
the Cove ayond. What price gave these warsmen for thy herring the morn,
gossip?" she inquired, assisting him with her arm from the boat as she
spoke.

"It was no sale o' the herring at all, woman Elpsy," said the old man,
shaking his head mournfully, and placing the stone kedge of his boat in
a crevice in the rocks so as to secure it against being borne off by the
ebbing tide; "it's no a sale o' the fish, woman dear, but o' my own
flesh and blood. Och hone! och hone! and it's the ould gray-headed
man'll never see his face more!"

He turned towards the yacht as he spoke, and stretching forth his hands
towards it, wailed aloud: at length his lament ceased, or, rather,
changed to a flood of tender epithets, eloquent with the depth of Irish
sorrow, which he applied to the youth, while his dim eyes were vainly
strained towards the vessel, to distinguish once more his beloved form.

"What means this sorrow, father Meredith? Who hast thou sold?"

"The lad--my grandson! a-cush la-ma chree! I have sold him for gold.
There, woman, take thine again! I will none of it!" he cried, with
sudden vehemence, drawing the purse she had given Mark from his jacket,
and throwing it at her feet. "'Tis the price of blood, and I will not
have it, evil woman."

"Hear me, father Meredith," she said, deliberately placing her hands
upon his shoulders, and looking him earnestly in the face. "I know the
purpose of thy visit to yonder king's ship. I know whom thou hast left
there. Thou hast done well and wisely in permitting him to depart. He
has left gold for thy wants, and has told thee how he came by it. Twas
my gift to him and thee."

"'Tis the price o' his blood, woman!" he said, with a heavy moan of
mingled grief and indignation.

"'Tis the price of his life, old man! Were he not now in yonder
brigantine, the sands ere this would have drunken his blood," she added,
with fierceness. "Hist! ask not what I mean. What I have said is true. I
have sent him away to save his life, and that there may be one less
murder on the earth. Go to thy hut and content thee with this gold. 'Tis
a friendly gift, old father. 'Twill save thee from labour so long as thy
life shall last. I will come and gossip with thee o' evenings, and, hey!
sirs," she cried, skipping on before him with fantastic gambols, as he
placed his slender oars on his shoulder, "won't we pass the time
merrily? I will make fairies dance before thy door o' moonshiny nights
for thy entertainment; call the mermaids up from the bottom o' the blue
sea to sing thee to sleep when thou art aweary; and tell thee tales o'
hob-goblins and spirits till the moon fades in the morning. Oh, we will
have times, father Meredith!"

"But will he come back, Elpsy, woman?"

"The devil forbid!" she responded, half aloud. "Ay, father; thou wilt
yet see him return a brave sailor, and with piles o' wealth. Faith,
sirs, I would not wonder if he should build thee a castle with his gold,
and make a lord o' thee. Ha, ha, ha, father Meredith! thou wouldst make
a proper lord!"

"He, he, he! Elpsy, thou art pleasant. If the lad's gone, I'll make the
best o't till the saints give him back in good time. Come to my hut and
break thy fast, avourneen! He was ever o'er lofty, and had notions above
his class. He was unhappy, the creature, because he was not equal with
the young Lord o' Castle More. Be-dad! Elpsy, honey, one would ha'
thought he were of gentle blood!"

She started, and closely scrutinized the old fisherman's face; but,
seeing nothing to confirm her now constantly active suspicions, she
said,

"He was above his birth, as you say, gossip! The sea will be a school
for him, and teach him his place. He will make a better sailor than
lord. Ha, ha, ha! will he not, father Meredith?" and she laughed coldly
and sarcastically as she spoke.

"He was always a good sailor, Elpsy, woman! Ne'er a ship came int' the
Cove he went not up to her main truck; nor a craft lay becalmed i' the
sight o' the bay he went not aboard and through every part o' her. He
knew every rope in a ship as well as an admiral, the crathur! Ah, woman,
he could do an officer's duty this day as well as the keptain o' the
yacht yonder. He seemed to take to a seaman's life nat'rally, and it was
ever discontented he was in the skiff. He loved to talk o' big ships,
and foreign lands, battles by sea, and storms, and shipwreck, and the
likes o' them things; and, with all his high notions, he ever loved a
sailor betther than a lord, and the sailors all liked him, the jewil!"

"He is in his place, then, father Meredith," said Elpsy, chiming in with
the favourable train of the old fisherman's garrulous praises of the
youth. "Thou wouldst not call him ashore now an thou couldst."

"Nay, I would not say that, Elpsy, woman. Yet I begin to think the lad
be best where he is. Yet it will be a dark day to my soul when the ship
sails a-sea with him--the light o' my eyes! the core o' my heart! Och,
hone! Sad will be the day to the soul o' me, Elpsy, woman! Come in,
crathur, honey, an' take a bite o' the breakfast. It's you it is that's
the comfort o' my lone bosom now, avourneen!"

"No, no, I have much to do the mornin', old man!" she said, turning from
the door as the fisherman, after standing his oars up beside it, placed
his hand upon the latch. "Take the gold freely; it is thine!" she added,
casting it through the window upon the earthen floor of the cabin. "When
the ship sails I will eat."

"Take a drap o' the dew, Elpsy, dear!" continued the old man, the grief,
which at his age is always superficial, having, like a child's, been
diverted for the time by the rattling gossip of the weird woman.

"Elpsy will fast from all save water till the masts of yonder yacht are
shut from my sight by the meeting of sea and sky!"

She waved her hand with a lofty gesture as she spoke, as if she sought
to impress the fisherman by her manner alone, and strode away from the
hut towards the path that led up to the castle.

Grace Fitzgerald, after communicating the result of her interview with
Mark, had left Kate to her repose. But, with grief at her feud with
Lester, and her lively anticipations of beholding him at her feet, to be
raised from that humble posture to her forgiving embrace, her mind was
too active for rest, and sleep fled from her pillow, leaving it in the
sole possession of her ardent thoughts. With the first blush of day, her
face scarce less roseate than the morning sky with the consciousness of
her object, she rose and threw open her lattice, and turned her face,
with earnest expectation, towards the forest-path which led northward
towards Castle More. From time to time she would lean far out of the
window, and, with eager ear, listen as if to catch some distant sound.
At length, with a look and exclamation of disappointment, not undivested
of a slight shade of feminine pique, she closed the lattice and cast
herself upon her pillow again, saying, in a tone of wounded pride,

"I care not! he is unworthy of a thought! I will forget him and try to
sleep!"

She closed her eyelids, as if, at the same time, she expected her
fevered thoughts, like the flower which folds its leaves together when
the sun withdraws its light, would also shut themselves up and leave her
to repose. But she now thought more vividly and acutely than before. It
at length occurred to her that there might have been some delay on the
part of the messenger. Perhaps Lester had not yet got her pacquet, or
had just received it, and was now on his way to her!

"I will wait a little longer!" she said, unclosing her eyes, and rising
and going to the lattice.

A long time she remained here, with her eyes fixed on the forest path,
and her ears acutely set, to catch the most distant sound of horses'
feet.

"He comes not yet!" she sighed, with deep disappointment. "Yet he may
soon be here! Hark! is not that his horse? No, 'tis a deer bounding
along to the spring!"

At the moment a cool vein of wind from the sea chilled her, and,
glancing at her dress as she drew it together across her bosom, she
discovered, what she had hitherto been inattentive to, that she was in
her night-robes.

"And I dare say I should have run to meet him as I am! What a foolish
child!" she said, blushing with confusion and innocent shame. "'Tis
fortunate he did not come before! I will dress, and by that time he may
be here!"

Hope, hope, hope! Star of woman's love! In thy celestial journeyings,
thou dost never set on the limitless empire of her affections. Her wide
heart has no horizon beneath which thou canst go down and disappear.
Patient, long suffering, ever hoping to the last, she steers by thee her
bark of love through storm and danger, faithfully and fearlessly, never
losing sight of thee till, from her expectant eye, death steals the
power of reflecting longer thy radiance!

When she had completed her toilet, and found that there were still no
indications of Lester's approach, she became impatient, and, throwing a
hood and veil over her head, she left her chamber and hastened below.
For what purpose she hardly knew--impulse alone prompted her footsteps.
She hastened through the hall, and descended into the castle yard, and
directed her course towards the forest. She had entered the verge of its
gloomy shades, which the morning sun had scarcely yet driven out, and
was penetrating its depths, when she suddenly stopped.

"Where am I going? what am I doing?" she exclaimed, as if her feet had
been involuntarily obeying her thoughts hitherto, and she for the first
time had discerned that she was really doing what she supposed she was
only thinking of doing. Such absent reveries are peculiar to young
persons in love!

"Am I really going to meet him? I did not know that I did love Lester
so. But he would scorn me to find me here--I will hasten back as I
came--though I scarce have any consciousness how that was! What a simple
creature I have made of myself. I am afraid of my own ridicule. Oh love,
love, you do play the mischief with maiden's hearts when once you get
into them!" she said, sportively, yet ending her words with a deep sigh.

Turning back, she retraced her steps slowly towards the castle. As she
approached it, her eyes were attracted by the pavilions, which still
remained standing, and, bending her steps towards the lawn, she entered
that which had been the scene of the yesterday's festival. No signs of
the banquet remained--all, save the curtains of the tent, and one or two
rustic sofas within it, were removed. She seated herself on one of
these, and raising the north side of the tent-hangings by one of the
silken cords attached to them, was enabled, without being seen, to
command the avenue to the forest. With her person bent a little forward,
and holding her handkerchief in her hand, as if prepared to wave it at
an instant's notice, she sat watching in the direction in which she
expected Lester to appear.

"I will meet him here," she said; "I would not have even cousin Grace,
good as she is, to witness our interview of reconciliation. Oh, why does
he linger so! Well, Robert, I have been taught a lesson in a knowledge
of my own heart by this; and, let us but meet in peace once more, I will
bear much ere I will make either you or myself so miserable again."

She sighed deeply as she spoke, and a glittering tear, like a drop of
dew shaken from a spray, fell upon her hand.

"Surely he cannot love me, to linger so!" she said, dropping her aching
eyes, which had long kept watch on the distant path.

"Proud maiden, thou hast spoken truly! he loves thee not!"

Kate turned in alarm as the stern, harsh voice that spoke these words
sounded close to her ear, and beheld the weird woman.

"Elpsy!" she cried, rising and speaking between terror and surprise.

"The _witch_ Elpsy, lady," added the sorceress, sarcastically.

"What would you, woman?"

"Thyself."

"How mean you?" exclaimed the maiden, shrinking involuntarily back.

"Fear me not, lady!" she said, slowly and with mysterious emphasis, as
she gazed on the face of the fair girl, her eyes gloating with a
diabolical light; "I would not harm thy body, while I hold the key to
thy soul."

"Fearful woman, if woman, or even human, thou art, what terrible meaning
lies hidden beneath your words?"

"Thou lovest Robert of Lester?"

"Elpsy, I will not be questioned. Leave me," said Kate, her brow glowing
between maidenly shame and anger.

But Elpsy, without heeding her command or seeming to observe her
emotion, said, with the sardonic quiet that malice can put on when it
would wound,

"Thou didst despatch a messenger to Castle More the last night, lady?"

"How knowest thou this?" she demanded, evasively, startled at her
knowledge of what she believed known only to the parties immediately
interested.

"Is there aught, daughter of the house of Bellamont, that happens among
mortals," she said, in the elevated tone of mystery and supernatural
power she was wont to assume at such times, "that Elpsy the sorceress is
ignorant of?"

"I know thou art a dread and fearful woman," said Kate, with a thrill of
aversion, "and have power to do evil, which, rather than good, I have
heard it is thy delight to do."

"Ha, ha! thou hast well spoken," she responded, with a chuckling laugh,
that caused the maiden, with all her firmness, to shudder and start back
to the extremity of the pavilion.

"You fear me. Well, it is what I would have. Ho! 'Tis pleasant to be
feared by the lovely and the pure--by the strong and the mighty; to be
sought out by the noble, and have the homage of the low! Oh, it's a
brave thing, this holding sway over the minds of mortals. Kings may
govern their bodies--_we_ hold the empire of their souls! Ha, ha! So you
fear me, trembler?"

"An angel would tremble before thee, guilty one!"

"Ha, ha! I know it. Thou hast spoken it. It is the reward held out to us
that we shall one day master the good spirits."

"And how? Alone by the power of darkness and of sin! You conquer through
fear, not by strength. Therefore it is that good spirits dare not enter
the abodes of the prince of evil. Woman, thou art fearful; thy spells
sinful; thy soul lost for ever!" she cried, with virtuous horror united
to the natural enthusiasm of her character.

"Soul!" repeated the sorceress, with a writhing lip of derision;
"_soul_!"

"Hast thou no soul, woman, in the name of God!" exclaimed the maiden,
appalled by the emphasis she laid on the word as she repeated it a
second time.

The sorceress gazed on her a moment fixedly ere she replied, and then
advancing a pace towards her, said hoarsely,

"Yes!"

"Woman," continued Kate, with solemn earnestness, turning pale at the
manner in which she pronounced this monosyllable, "I know thou art
wicked and full of evil; but thou canst not have bartered thy eternal
life? have made compact with Sathanas, at the hazard of thy salvation?"

Elpsy was moved with surprise by the energy with which she was
addressed, and, banishing her derisive smile, answered in a more natural
tone,

"By compact no, lady! none save but with my own nature; even as all who
are mortal do barter away their souls when they obey the devil within. I
have served him in the shape of evil passions till his I am, soul and
body!"

"Say not so, Elpsy," said Kate, touched with pity by the sullen despair
and abandonment of her manner, although in it not a shade of remorse or
penitence was apparent even to her charitable gaze; "if you have sinned,
there is forgiveness to be had of Heaven! It is not too late to secure
your soul's future happiness. I know there is much that is kind and
humane in you when you are not gored by insults, or under the influence
of angry emotions. Abandon your course of life; seek forgiveness of Him
who died for the chiefest of sinners. I pity you, Elpsy."

The sorceress hung her head upon her breast in silence: her bosom heaved
with inward struggles; her harsh features became convulsed, and the
maiden thought she saw a tear fall from her eyes to the ground.
Encouraged by these signs of good, she added, approaching her in a
kindly manner,

"Cast off this assumed character, if, as I sincerely trust, it is not
irrevocably made thine own by thy soul's price. I will furnish for thee
a neat cottage not far from Cormac, the forester's, and thou shalt have
the comforts about thee thy old age craves. Do not despair of
forgiveness, Elpsy. God is merciful, and will meet thee in kindness more
than half the way if--"

"Angel! fiend! mock me not!" shrieked the woman, suddenly lifting her
face furrowed with tears, gnashing her glittering teeth, her eyes
flashing, her clinched hands shaking with nervous excitement, and her
whole bearing that of a pythoness enraged and fear-stricken. "There is
no God--no heaven for me! Yes, I am bought, body and soul! Talk not to
me of your Christ! For a moment I was carried back to childhood as you
spoke," she continued, with a sudden change of manner; "for I have been
once innocent as thyself. But 'tis past!" she cried, fiercely. "Your
words can move me no more! They have pressed out the last drop of
moisture that remained in my heart! I am adamant now--hard--hard--hard
as iron! Ha, ha, ha! Elpsy a Christian! Accursed be the name!"

Kate Bellamont, at this sudden and terrific outbreak from one whom she
believed had been softened by her words, retreated from the vehemence of
her language and the savage wildness of her manner, with the look and
attitude of one who suddenly beholds the lion which he has tamed start
suddenly from his playful embrace, and assume all at once the savage
ferocity of his nature. She was astonished beyond expression by this
unexpected ebullition of feeling, and her mind was appalled both by her
terrible language and the new ground she had assumed.

"Elpsy, stand from the door and let me pass!" she said, with firmness,
yet trembling through every fibre of her body, as Elpsy, after speaking,
continued to gaze on her in gloomy silence, and with a lowering and
menacing aspect.

"Nay," said the sorceress, placing herself full in the way, and speaking
with more mildness even than was usual to her, "I have news that
concerns thee."

"Me?"

"None else."

"Of what?"

"The young Lord of Lester."

"What of him? Thy looks--thy language--that fearful smile!"

"Dost love him?"

"It matters not to thee. Speak what thou hast to say, and quickly," she
cried, with an indefinable foreboding of evil.

"Thou dost, maiden. It is written in every lineament; speaks in every
action--yea, Robert of Lester is thy second self. Ha, ha, ha! Did I not
say I held the key to thy soul--ay, and I can unlock it, too!"

Having, in the first heat of her vengeance at finding herself defeated
by the course taken by Lester, resolved to divulge to Kate Bellamont the
secret of his birth that she might triumph in her humility and
wretchedness, Elpsy's fertile mind soon taught her how best to effect
her malicious, and, save its wickedness, aimless purpose. She now,
therefore, in a tone of assumed carelessness, added,

"But thou lovest him because he is noble like thyself! Were he lowly in
name and humble in birth, thou wouldst scorn him," she added, with the
manner of one who is trying the moral pulse of her victim: "this is ever
the way with the highborn."

"Were he lower born than the hind who herds my father's kine, he would
still be Lester, and noble to me!" she said, with a spirit that became
her lofty beauty and devoted love.

"This will never do," muttered Elpsy, thoughtfully, intent on her cruel
design, and forgetful of, and insensible to, the gratitude due to the
maiden for the kindly interest she had so recently expressed in her
welfare; in repayment of which, with all the maliciousness of a demon,
she was now taxing her ingenuity to dash from her lips the cup of
happiness which young love had offered to them.

"Were he a cowherd, he would have a cowherd's common soul, maiden!"

"Being common he then could not be Lester. But being Lester, though a
swineherd, that inherent nobleness, that is the birthright of his
nature, would shine out through his mean garb and calling, and make him
still, to my eyes, the Lester I love."

"Were he a slave--a serf--ay, chained to a galley, wouldst thou love him
still?"

"If misfortune, and not crime, brought him to this degradation--then
should I not love him less, but love him more!"

"If 'twere crime?"

"Couple it not with his name, woman," she said, with flashing eyes. "But
why this dark and subtle questioning? Speak, I command thee!"

"Thou hast no power to command me--I no will to obey. I will probe her
yet deeper!" she muttered. "If, maiden, there were a stain upon his
birth--"

"Well--" she quickly interrupted, with painful eagerness visible in
every lineament of her beautiful countenance: for her feelings were
highly wrought up, and, excited to expectation of something evil by the
manner of her interrogator, she was all nerves and on the rack of
torturing suspense. "Well--speak, prithee, woman! Why do you pause?"

"If 'twere proven he were a--a--"

"Say--"

"A--nay, 'twill wound thy ears!"

"Speak--I fear not--for I know thou canst lay no crime to his charge!"

"A _bastard_!" she said, laying a deliberate stress upon each syllable.

"Evil woman! away! Leave me!"

"It may be proved that he is not only this, but--"

"Away! Oh that I should listen to thy foul and slanderous speech."

"_Lowborn!_"

"In the name of Heaven, woman, cease! and give me way out, or I will
alarm the castle, and have thee punished for this insolence!"

As the indignant girl spoke she prepared to pass her, when the woman
laid her hand firmly on her wrist and detained her, while she said, in a
serious and imperious manner,

"Maiden, hear me! I am not mocking thee! What if I can prove him to thee
to be a lowborn bastard--the son of a peasant-girl, and palmed on Lady
Lester as her own?"

"Thou canst do no such thing with all thy wicked arts to aid thee,"
scornfully replied the maiden.

"What if I could do it! Wouldst love him then?"

"Yes."

"The bastard?"

"Yes, I tell thee."

"The son of a lowborn peasant?"

"He would still be Lester to me, so long as honour and truth were the
habitants of his bosom."

"Wouldst thou love him then?"

"Better and better for each misfortune he brought not on himself."

"Or serf--or galley-slave--or peasant--or bastard, he would still be
Lester in the eyes of thy love?"

"Yes! Stand aside, and let me pass forth."

"One word more, fair virgin. I must try," continued she to herself, "my
last card now. Her love outwits my invention. 'Tis a shield that turns
aside all my shafts. I think I now know her weakness, and so will put it
to trial. Suppose," she asked, in an indifferent tone, "this Robert of
Lester should take offence at thee--"

"Well--" she said, with interest.

"And should ride from thee in anger--"

"Proceed--prithee--"

"And, being too proud to atone, lets his pride grow till it beget hatred
and scorn of thee--"

"Well--"

"And so, from wounded love and rage, he forswears his noble name, and
leagues himself with pirates; and, out of revenge to thee, goes forth to
slay, and deluge the earth with blood and rapine!"

"Have you done?" she asked, in a tone of disdain for what she deemed the
idle words of the speaker.

"I have," she answered, with a peculiar smile, that troubled and
perplexed her. "But I would ask thee--wouldst love him then?"

"I will answer thee--if such things could be, which ne'er can be--No. In
this case, guilt would place for ever an impassable gulf between us.
But, as thou hast so much interest in him, let me pass that I may meet
him, for I hear his horse's feet in the forest," she said, with the
contempt of incredulity, yet trembling--so well the supposed case
advanced by Elpsy tallied with the circumstances under which Lester left
her--lest there might be some dreadful truth at the bottom.

"His horse's feet thou wilt never hear more. Himself thou wilt never see
more, save to thy sorrow."

"Explain, woman," she almost shrieked, grasping her by the shoulders,
and speaking with wild vehemence.

"Robert of Lester has become even as I have spoken. Maddened by thy
coldness--his pride stung--his self-love wounded--his feelings
lacerated, he has fled his home, and leagued himself with bucaniers."

"In the name of the blessed Heaven above, do you speak but a tithe of
the truth, woman?" she demanded, with fearful emotion.

"He galloped to the seaside, and a Danish bucanier being by chance in
shore, he threw himself on board, and put to sea with her."

"One word, only one word more! You saw this?"

"I did, and came hither to tell thee."

"Would to God I knew if thou didst tell the truth or no," she cried,
almost sinking upon the ground.

"Behold this token which he gave me, bidding me return it to the giver,
who, he said--mark the words, maiden!--was henceforth only worthy the
scorn and contempt of the noble heart she had broken," spoke the false
witch, taking, as if struck by a sudden thought, the locket and message
from her bosom and placing it in her hands.

"It is too true. Merciful Heaven, sustain me! Nay! Elpsy, touch me not.
I shall not fall. No, I _will_ not fall! If--if he can scorn
me--I--nay--do not support me--my pride will--will--oh--Lester,
Lester--you have killed me!"

With a deep moan, as if her heart were bursting, she fell into the arms
of the sorceress, who, not wholly unmoved by the wretchedness she had
caused, placed her on one of the settees, and, with a look of triumph,
gazed on her pale cheek, and watched the irregular and long-drawn
heaving of her bosom. Her success had been complete, and she experienced
a joy kindred to that of a fiend's when he beholds the fall of a good
man. She had made the happy miserable, and was content! She had wounded
the pride of the noble, and was satisfied. She had been the bearer of
guilt to innocence, and her task was accomplished!

After surveying for a few moments the lovely victim of her malice and of
her hatred of the highborn, which seemed to be placed deeper than any
other feeling in her bosom, she drew from her bosom a small vial, and,
removing the stopper, stooped over her and moistened her lips and
nostrils. The volatile essence of the evaporating fluid was instantly
inhaled, and produced a reviving effect. The colour returned to her
cheek, and, opening her eyes, she fixed on the sorceress a wild gaze.

"It is not all a dream, then!" she cried, putting back her hair from her
forehead and staring at her; "she is there! Lester! is he--is he--oh--I
cannot speak what I would--I remember--ah! I remember all. _She_ told me
so! Woman!" she all at once shrieked, "is thy tale false or true? Say it
is not true," she added, rising and holding her by the cloak, "and I
will fall down and kiss thy feet."

A triumphant light gleamed in the ruthless eyes of the sorceress. "Thou
art humbled by grief," she said, with torturing coolness. "It is a
pleasant thing to see the proud and high come down. Oh, if I had been
noble too, as well as fair, in my youth, I had been a bride instead
of--but I will not wound thine ears, maiden, with a word thou canst
never know the meaning of. It is only for the lowborn virgin to be
taught it by some highborn youth. What I have told thee is true. Robert
of Lester has leagued himself with pirates. One day I may tell thee more
of him."

"Hist!" she whispered, hoarsely. "I will hear no more of him. He is
nothing now to Catharine of Bellamont. Hark, there is the sound of
horses' feet! _He comes!_ False one, he is here!" she cried, darting
forward to the door of the pavilion.

Elpsy smiled grimly and followed her.

The sound of horsemen approaching was now distinctly heard, but it was
the noise of many horses advancing at speed. In a few seconds they
beheld emerge from the forest, not the form of Lester, but that of the
Earl of Bellamont, attended by three or four mounted servants.

"Has Elpsy spoken the truth, maiden?" asked the sorceress, her eyes
gleaming with the unpleasing smile habitual to her, when she observed
Kate to turn her face away in disappointment.

"Torture me not, evil woman; thy words, whether false or true, have
almost broken my heart."

At this instant the earl caught sight of his daughter, and, turning
aside from the avenue, galloped across the lawn towards the pavilion. He
was a gentleman of noble presence, with a dark, intelligent face, and
dignified features. The resemblance between himself and daughter was
instantly apparent. He rode with grace, and displayed admirable
horsemanship in the management of his fiery steed.

"A kiss, my sweet child," he said, as he threw himself from his horse
beside her. "You are abroad early! What, in tears? I have not been
absent three days, and yet you welcome me, Kate, with as much emotion as
if I had but returned from India. Nay, then, weep on my breast, silly
one, if you will. What, Elpsy here too!" he exclaimed, now for the first
time seeing the witch standing within the door of the pavilion--"I see
it all. She has been alarming you with some evil foretellings! Woman,
have I not forbidden thee to harbour or appear on the domains of Castle
Cor? Moral blight and misfare follow thy footsteps as surely as does
pestilence the path of the baleful dogstar. Depart!"

"I have done mine errand, proud earl, and therefore will go--but not at
thy bidding I depart," she added, gathering her scarlet cloak about her
hideous person.

"I care not if it be at the devil's--as it is most like to be--so I see
thee no more! Cease, my dove, that moan. Her charms are sand--her words
false--her prophecies the wildest dreams! Heed them not, if, as I
suspect, she has filled thy tender ears with them."

"Thou lovest thy daughter, earl?" she said, interrogatively, as she
prepared to depart.

"Too well to see her made miserable, vile sorceress!"

"See, then, thou do not make her so."

"How mean you?" he demanded.

"_Beware of a black plume!_" she added, mysteriously.

"Explain your meaning, woman!" he said, struck by her manner and the
menacing tones in which she gave him this prophetic warning.

The sorceress made no reply; but, turning her face towards the path that
led to the seashore, she rapidly traversed the lawn, and, waving her
hand warningly, disappeared down the path leading to the beach.

The cause to which her father attributed her sudden and unwonted grief
greatly relieved Kate; and by allowing him, through her silence, to
retain the impression he had formed, she was saved the embarrassment of
making him a confidant of her wounded affections by unfolding to him the
true cause--a task, in her present state of mind, impossible for her to
perform, and one which, at any time, would have been a sad trial to her
maidenly sensitiveness. In a few moments she became more composed: the
tide of her affections, which had been forced back upon the
fountain-head, having found a channel in paternal love through which to
flow, if not in the same direction as before, yet nearly in as deep and
strong a current.

She accompanied him to the castle, and for the remainder of the morning
was so occupied in forwarding the preparations for his departure and
that of her cousin, that she had little time to devote to her own
peculiar sorrows, leaving them for the lonely hours that would find her,
after they were gone, in the solitary chamber, mourning over her crushed
and blighted love. Yet a faint ray of the light of hope shone through
the darkness of her heart, and the faintly-cherished belief that the
tale of the sorceress might be false kept her from abandoning herself to
that hopelessness of grief, shame and utter wretchedness into which she
would have sunk had the truth been made manifest to her, divested of
every shadow of doubt.


END OF VOL. I.



NEW AND IMPORTANT WORKS LATELY PUBLISHED BY HARPER & BROTHERS.


THE PRIVATE JOURNAL OF AARON BURR

During his Residence of four Years in Europe; with Selections from his
Correspondence.

Edited by MATTHEW L. DAVIS, Author of "Memoirs of Aaron Burr," &c.


LETTERS TO MOTHERS

By Mrs. L. H. SIGOURNEY, Author of "Letters to Young Ladies."


DEMONSTRATION OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION

By ALEXANDER KEITH, D.D., Author of "Evidence of Prophecy," &c. Fourteen
beautiful Engravings on Steel.


THE FAR WEST; Or, a Tour beyond the Mountains.

Embracing Outlines of Western Life and Scenery; Sketches of the
Prairies, Rivers, Ancient Mounds, Early Settlements of the French, &c.,
&c.


THE LIFE OF CHRIST, in the Words of the Evangelists.

A complete Harmony of the Gospel History of our Saviour. For the use of
young Persons. Illustrated with Engravings after Chapman and others, by
Adams.


EVENINGS AT HOME; or, the Juvenile Budget Opened. By Dr. AIKIN and Mrs.
BARBAULD.

From the fifteenth London edition; Illustrated with Engravings after
Harvey and Chapman, by Adams.


VELASCO; A Tragedy, in five acts. By EPES SARGENT, Esq.


THE WORKS OF LORD CHESTERFIELD

Including his Letters to his Son, &c. To which is prefixed an original
Life of the Author.


THE HARMONY OF CHRISTIAN FAITH AND CHRISTIAN CHARACTER; AND THE CULTURE
AND DISCIPLINE OF THE MIND.

By JOHN ABERCROMBIE, M.D., F.R.S.E., Author of "Inquiries concerning the
Intellectual Powers and the Investigation of Truth," &c.


A MANUAL OF CONCHOLOGY

According to the System laid down by Lamarck, with the late Improvements
by De Blainville. Exemplified and arranged for the Use of Students. By
THOMAS WYATT, M.A. Illustrated by thirty-six plates containing more than
two hundred types, drawn from the natural shell.


PELAYO: a Story of the Goth.

By the Author of "Mellichampe," "The Yemassee," "Guy Rivers," &c.


HOW TO OBSERVE: MORALS AND MANNERS.

By HARRIET MARTINEAU.


THE WORKS OF EDWARD LYTTON BULWER, ESQ.

Containing Pelham; The Disowned; Devereux; Paul Clifford; Eugene Aram;
The Last Days of Pompeii; The Pilgrims of the Rhine; Falkland; Rienzi;
Ernest Maltravers, and Alice.


PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ECONOMY.

Illustrated by Observations made in England in the year 1836. Part
second. By THEODORE SEDGWICK.


INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN GREECE, TURKEY, RUSSIA, AND POLAND.

By the Author of "Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petræa, and the
Holy Land."

With a Map and Engravings. In two vols.


THE NARRATIVE OF A. GORDON PYM, of Nantucket.

Comprising the details of a Mutiny and atrocious Butchery on board the
American brig Grampus, on her way to the South Seas, in the Month of
June, 1827.


RETROSPECT OF WESTERN TRAVEL.

By HARRIET MARTINEAU, Author of "Society in America." 2 vols.


CALDERON, THE COURTIER.

A Tale.

By the Author of "Pelham," "Alice," "Leila," &c, &c.


THE AMERICAN SCHOOL LIBRARY.

Published under the Direction of the American Society for the Diffusion
of Useful Knowledge.


BURTON; or, the Sieges.

By J. H. INGRAHAM, Esq., Author of "Lafitte," &c. 2 vols.


SACRED HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

By SHARON TURNER, LL.D. [Vol. III.--Family Library, No. 84.]


THE WORKS OF MRS. SHERWOOD.

Vol. 15. Containing Part Four of Henry Milner, &c., &c.


THE ROBBER.

By G. P. R. JAMES, Esq., Author of "Richelieu," &c. 2 vols.


GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND BELGIUM.

A Short Tour in 1835. By HEMAN HUMPHREY, D.D. 2 vols.


THE LADY OF LYONS:

A Play. By E. L. BULWER, Esq.


TRAVELS IN EUROPE:

Viz., in Great Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and the
Netherlands. By WILBUR FISK, D.D.


CROMWELL: a Romance.

By H. W. HERBERT, Esq., Author of "The Brothers." 2 vols.


ANECDOTICAL OLIO:

Being a Collection of Literary, Moral, Religious, and Miscellaneous
Anecdotes.

By the Rev. Messrs. HOES and WAY.


CELESTIAL SCENERY; Or, the Wonders of the Planetary System displayed;
illustrating the Perfections of Deity and a Plurality of Worlds.

By THOMAS DICK, LL.D. With Engravings. [Family Library, No. 83.]


INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN EGYPT, ARABIA PETRÆA, AND THE HOLY LAND.

By an American. With a Map and Engravings. 2 vols.


THE MONK OF CIMIES, &c.

By Mrs. SHERWOOD. With a Portrait. [Mrs. Sherwood's Works, vol. 14.]


THE HISTORY OF AMELIA.

By HENRY FIELDING, Esq. With Illustrations by CRUIKSHANK.


LEILA; OR, THE SIEGE OF GRENADA.

By E. L. BULWER, Esq.


CAPTAIN KYD; Or, the Wizard of the Sea. By the Author of "Burton,"
"Lafitte," &c. 2 vols.


ANTHON'S SERIES OF CLASSICAL WORKS FOR SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES.

The following works, already published, may be regarded as specimens of
the whole series, which will consist of about thirty volumes.

     FIRST LATIN LESSONS, containing the most important Parts of the
     Grammar of the Latin Language, together with appropriate
     Exercises in the translating and writing of Latin, for the Use
     of Beginners.

     FIRST GREEK LESSONS, containing the most important Parts of the
     Grammar of the Greek Language, together with appropriate
     Exercises in the translating and writing of Greek, for the Use
     of Beginners.

     A GRAMMAR OF THE GREEK LANGUAGE, for the Use of Schools and
     Colleges.

     A SYSTEM OF GREEK PROSODY AND METRE, for the Use of Schools and
     Colleges; together with the Choral Scanning of the Prometheus
     Vinctus of Æschylus, and the Ajax and OEdipus Tyrannus of
     Sophocles; to which are appended Remarks on the Indo-Germanic
     Analogies.

     SALLUST'S JUGURTHINE WAR AND CONSPIRACY OF CATALINE, with an
     English Commentary, and Geographical and Historical Indexes.

     CÆSAR'S COMMENTARIES ON THE GALLIC WAR; with the first Book of
     the Greek Paraphrase; with English Notes, critical and
     explanatory, Plans of Battles, Seiges, &c., and Historical,
     Geographical, and Archæological Indexes. With a Map, Portrait,
     &c.

     SELECT ORATIONS OF CICERO, with an English Commentary, and
     Historical, Geographical, and Legal Indexes. With a Portrait.





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