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Title: Lha Dhu; Or, The Dark Day - The Works of William Carleton, Volume Two
Author: Carleton, William
Language: English
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LHA DHU;

OR, THE DARK DAY.



By William Carleton



There is no country in the world whose scenery is more sweetly
diversified, or more delicately shaded away into that exquisite variety
of surface which presents us with those wavy outlines of beauty that
softly melt into each other, than is that of our own green island. Alas!
how many deep valleys, wild glens, green meadows, and pleasant hamlets,
lie scattered over the bosom of a country, peopled by inhabitants who
are equally moved by the impulses of mirth and sorrow; each valley, and
glen, and pleasant hamlet marked by some tearful remembrance of humble
calamity of which the world never hears. How little do its proud
nobility know of the fair and still beauty which marks the unbroken
silence of its most delightful retreats, or of the unassuming records
of love or sorrow, which pass down through a single generation, and
are soon lost in the rapid stream of life. We do not love to
remember sorrow, but its traces, notwithstanding, are always the most
uneffaceable, and, what is strange as true, its mournful imprint remains
ever the longest upon the heart that is most mirthful. We talk not now
of the hollow echo, like mirth, which comes from thousands only because
the soul is wanting. No; but we say that as the diamond is found in the
darkness of the mine, as the lightning shoots with most vivid flashes
from the gloomiest cloud, so does mirthfulness frequently proceed from
a heart susceptible of the deepest melancholy. Many and true are the
simple tales of Irish life which could prove this. Many a fair laughing
girl who has danced in happiness, light as a mote in the sunbeam, has
been suddenly left in darkness, bowed down in youth and beauty to the
grave, and though the little circle of which she was the centre may have
been disturbed by her untimely life, yet in brief space, except to a few
yearning and stricken hearts who could not forget her who was once their
pride and hope, her Memory has passed away like a solitary bird, viewed
as it goes over us, and followed wistfully, by the eye, until by degrees
it lessens and lessens--becomes dim--then fades into a speck, and
ultimately melts into the blue distance of heaven. One such a “simple
annal,” brought about by the inscrutable hand that guides the destinies
of life, we are now about to present to our readers. Were it the mere
creation of our fancy, it might receive many of those embellishments at
our hand with which we scruple not to adorn the shadowy idealities of
fiction.

It is, however, one of those distressing realities so often produced
by the indulgence of vehement passion, that we are compelled by the
melancholy severity of its truth to give the details of, not, alas, as
we could have wished them to happen, but simply as they occurred.

The village of _Ballydhas_ was situated in the bosom of as sweet a
valley as ever gladdened the eye and the heart of a man to look upon.
Contentment, peace, and prosperity, walked step by step with its happy
inhabitants. The people were marked by a pastoral simplicity of manners,
such as is still to be found in some of the remote and secluded hamlets
of Ireland. The vale was green and shelving, having its cornfields,
its pasturage, and its patches of fir, poplar, and mountain-ash
intermingled, and creeping up on each side in wild but quiet beauty to
the very mountain tops that enclosed it. At the head of the glen reposed
a small clear sheet of water, as calm and unruffled as the village
itself. By this sweet lake was fed the pure stream which murmured down
between the banks, here and there opened, and occasionally covered by
hazel, black-thorn, or birches. As it approached the village the scenery
about it became more soft and tranquil. The banks spread away into
meadows flower-spangled and green; the fields became richer; the corn
waved to the soft breezes of summer; the noon-day smoke of the dinner
fires rose up, and was gently borne away to the more wide-spread scene
of grandeur and cultivation that lay in the champaign country below it.
On each side of the glen were masses of rock and precipices, just large
enough to give sufficient wildness and picturesque beauty to a view
which in itself was calm and serene. In the distance about a mile to the
north, stood out a bold but storm-vexed headland, that heaved back the
mighty swell of the Atlantic, of which a glimpse could be caught from
an eminence above the village. Nothing indeed could be finer than the
booming fury of the giant billows, as they shivered themselves into
spray, and thundered around the gloomy caverns of the headland,
especially when contrasted with the calm sense of peace and security
which reposed upon the neat white village in the glen.

How sweet of a summer Sabbath morning to sit upon the brow of this
delightful valley, and contemplate in the light dreams of a happy heart
its humble images of all that is pure, and peaceful, and soothing in
life; the little bustle of preparation for the cheerful but solemn
duties of the day; the glad voices of bright-faced boys and girls,
eager to get on their Sunday clothes; the busy stirring about of each
tucked-up matron, washing, and combing, and pinning her joyous little
ones; and the contented father now dressed, placidly smoking his
after-breakfast pipe, looking upon their little cares, and their
struggles for precedence in being decked out with their humble finery;
now rebuking an elder boy for his impatience and want of consideration
in not allowing his juniors to get first dressed, and again soothing a
younger one until his turn came.

“Barney, troth you ought to have more sinse, avick, than to be
quarrellin’ wid poor Jemmy about gettin’ an you. Don’t you know he’s
but a child, an’ must of coorse get his little things an before you,
espishially as this is the first Sunday of the crathur’s new jacket an’
throwsers. Blood alive, Barney, be manly, and don’t make comparishment
wid a _pasitah_ (child). I hope you’ve got off your lesson in the
catechiz this mornin’, and that you wont have to hang down your head wid
the blush of shame among the _bouchaleens_ (little boys) in the chapel
to-day. Go ‘way, avick, and rehearse it, an’ whin your mother finishes
him, and Dick, and little Mary, she’ll have yourself as clane as a new
sixpence.”

Then came the moment when the neat and well-dressed groups issued out
of their happy homes, and sought in cheerful companionship with those
of different creeds, their respective places of worship; for, gentle
reader, the inhabitants of Ballydhas were, in point of religion, some
Protestant, some Roman Catholic, and others Presbyterian. Many a time
have we seen them proceed together in peace and friendship along the
same road, until they separated either to church, to meeting, or to
chapel; and again return on their way home, in a spirit equally cordial
and kind. The demon of political discord and religious rancor had not
come among them. Each class in the parish worshipped God after its own
manner. All were happy, and industrious, and independent, for they had
not then been taught that they were slaves and natural enemies groaning
under the penal yoke of oppression.

Their fairs and markets were equally peaceful. Neither faction-fight nor
party-fight ever stained the streets with blood. The whoop of strife was
never raised by neighbor against neighbor, nor the coat trailed, or the
caubeen thrown up into the air to challenge an opposite faction. There
was, in truth, none of all this. The people were moral and educated.
Religion they attended with that decorous sense of decency which always
results from a sincere perception of its obligations and influence.

Yet were they not without their sports and rustic amusements. Where
the bitterness of malignity is absent, cheerfulness has full play, and
candor, ever open and benevolent, is the exponent of mirth and good
will. Though their fairs and markets were undisturbed by the savage
violence of mutual conflict, yet were they enlivened by the harmless
pastimes which throw the charm of uncorrupted life over the human heart
and the innocent scenes from which it draws in its amusements. Life is
harsh enough, and we are no friends to those who would freeze its genial
current by the gloomy chill of ascetic severity.

Within about two miles of Ballydhas stood the market town of the parish.
It also bore the traces of peace and happiness. Around it lay a rich
fertile country, studded with warm homesteads, waving fields, and
residences of a higher rank, at once elegant and fashionable. The gentry
were not, it is true, of the highest class; but in lieu of that they
were kind, considerate, and what was before all, resident. If an
accidental complaint happened to be preferred by one man against
another, they generally were qualified by a knowledge of their
characters to administer justice between them, without the risk of being
misled by misrepresentation. This prevented many complaints founded
in malice or party-spirit, and consequently reduced litigation to
an examination of the very few cases in which actual injury had been
sustained.

Many a fair day have we witnessed in this quiet and thriving market
town. And it is sweet to us--yes, intensely sweet to leave, for a
moment, the hollow and slippery pathways of artificial life--of that
unfeeling, unholy and loathsome selfishness of heart, and soul, and
countenance, which marks as with a brand of infamy, the fictions of
fashionable and metropolitan society, where every person and profession
you meet, is a lie or a libel to be guarded against. Yes, it is pleasant
to us to leave all this, and to go back in imagination to a fair day in
the town of Balaghmore. Like an annual festival, it stole upon us with
many yearning wish, that time, at least for a month before, should be
annihilated. And when the fair morning came, what a drifting tide of
people, cows, sheep, horses, and pigs, passed on in the eager tumult
of business, before our eyes. The comfortable farmer in his best gray
frize; the young man in spruce corduroy breeches, home-made blue coat,
and bran new hat; the tidy maiden with neat bunch of yarn, spun by her
own fingers, giving sufficient proof to her bachelor that a young woman
of industrious habits uniformly makes the best wife for a poor man.
Various, indeed, were the classes that, in multitudinous groups, drifted
towards the fair green. The spruce, well-mounted horse-jockey, with
bottle-green coat closely buttoned, tight buckskin inexpressibles,
long-lashed hunting-whip, and top-boots; the drover on his plump hack,
pacing slowly after his fat beeves; the gentleman farmer, trundling
along in his gig, or trotting smartly on a bit of half-blood. Here go
a family group, the children with new hats and ruffles, grandfather a
little behind, with the hand of an own pet boy or a girl in his;
observe the joy of their faces; what complacent happiness on the ruddy
countenance of the healthy old man. The parents are also happy, but
betray the unconscious anxiety of those who love their children, and
are sensible of the serious duties inseparable from their condition;
the four little ones know not the cares of affection, and, consequently,
their looks are full of delight, eagerness, and curiosity. What a tide
of bewildered interrogatories does the fifth urchin pour upon the ear of
the old grandfather, who is foolish enough to stop the whole group,
in order to relate the precocious pertinency of some particular query.
There goes a snug farmer, his wife, and good-looking daughters, seated
upon a farm-car that is trussed with straw, covered by a blue quilt. We
will wager that some “good woman” has somewhere about the premises a few
cakes of hard griddle-wheat, to eat when they get hungry, with a glass
of punch, and, it may be, a good slice or two of excellent hung beef or
bacon. But now they approach town, and the stream thickens. There go the
beggars, mendicants, and impostors, showing a degree of agility rather
impracticable with their respective maladies, grievous and deplorable as
they all, of course, are; and toiling vehemently after them, hops “Bill
i’ the Bowl,” pitching himself along in a copper-fastened dish, with a
small stool or _creepie_ supporting each hand. But now the whole sweep
of the town and fair-green open to us; tents, and standings, and tables,
and roasting and boiling are all about us; for the _spoileen_ fires are
in operation, and many a fat sheep will be cut up, as well for those
who have never tasted mutton before, as for hundreds who eat rather
from hunger than curiosity. Heavens! what an astounding multitude of
discordant noises all blend into one hoarse, deep, drowsy body of sound,
for which we can find no suitable term. Cows lowing, sheep bleating,
pigs grunting, horses neighing, men shouting, women screaming, fiddlers
playing, pipes squeeling, youngsters, dancing, hammering up of standings
and tents, thumping of restive or lazy animals, the show-man’s drum, the
lottery-man’s speech, the ballad-singer’s squall, all come upon us; and
lastly, the unheeded sweep of the death-bell, as it tells with sullen
tongues that some poor mortal has for ever departed from the cares and
amusements, the trade and traffic, of this transitory life.

About twelve o’clock the fair-tide is full; for that is the time in
which the greatest interchange of property, and the most vigorous
transactions of business, with all accompanying bustle and activity,
take place. For an hour or two this continues. About three o’clock the
tide is evidently on the ebb; business begins to slacken, and those
who have their transactions brought to a close, meet their families and
friends at the place of rendezvous--always a public house. It is now,
indeed, when the heat and burden of the day have passed, and refreshment
becomes both grateful and necessary, that the people fall into distinct
groups for the purpose of social enjoyment. If two young folk have been
for some time “_coortin_” one another, “the bachelor,” which in Ireland
means a suitor, generally contrives to bring his friends and those of,
his sweetheart together. The very fact of their accepting the “thrate,”
 on either side, or both, is a good omen, and considered tantamount to
a mutual consent of their respective connections. This, however, is not
always so; for it often happens that a match is broken off after many
a friendly compotation has been held “upon the head of it,” which means
upon that subject. Let the reader stand with us for a few minutes, and
we will point out to him one or two groups who have met for the purpose
of settling a marriage. Do you see that tall _sthreel_ of a fellow,
who slings awkwardly along, for which reason he is nicknamed by his
acquaintances “a sling-poke”? Observe the lazy grotesque repose of his
three-featured face, for more it does not present, viz.--mouth, eyes,
and nose. His long legs are without calves, and he is in-kneed; yet the
fellow has such taste, that in order to show his shape he must needs
wear breeches! Look at his coat, which was made for him about five years
ago, when he was but “a slip of a boy.” The thin collar only reaches
to the upper part of his shoulder; and as he is what is called
“crane-necked,” of course the distance between his hat and the collar
is incredible. The arms of the said coat are set so far in, that they
appear almost to meet behind; but, on the other hand, two naked bones,
each about six inches in length, project from the cuffs, which come not
far below his elbows. The coat itself is what is called a jerkin; and
as the buttons behind are half-way up his back, it is a matter of course
that the tail, which runs rapidly to a point, is ludicrously scanty.
Now, that youth, who is probably under no sense of gratitude to the
graces, has put his “co-medher” on the prettiest girl, with one or
two exceptions, in the whole parish. The miserable pitch-fork, the
longitudinal rake--we speak now in a hay-making sense--has contrived
to oust half a dozen of the handsomest and best-looking fellows in the
parish. How he has done this is a mystery to his acquaintances; but
it is none to us--we know him. The kraken has a tongue dripping with
honey--one that would smooth a newly-picked millstone. There they go,
each of them laughing and cheerful, except himself; yet the fellow,
though conscious of his own influence, enters the public-house as if
he were going on the forlorn hope, or trailing his straggling limbs to
confide his last wishes to the ear of the sheriff or hangman. He is,
however, an Irishman at heart, though little indeed of the national
bearing is visible in his deportment.

Here again comes a second group. Keep your eye on that good-humored,
ruddy-faced young man, compact and vigorous, who is evidently the wag of
his party. Observe his tight-titling, comfortable frize, neat brogues,
and breeches, on the knees of which are two double knots of silk ribbon.
See with what a smart, decisive air he wears his hat--“jauntily,” as
Leigh Hunt would say--upon one side of his head. That fellow has a high
character for gallantry, and is allowed to be “the very sorrow among
the girls”--“a Brinoge,” “wid an eye that ‘ud steal cold praties off
a dresser.” He is now leading in a girl, handsome no doubt, but who,
nevertheless, does not possess sixpence, or sixpence worth for her
portion. Not so the sword-fish we have pointed out to you a while ago,
the tail of whose short coat lay as closely to him as that of a crab.
The cassoway has secured a girl who, in point of wealth and dower, will
be the making of him. However, you know the secret, Solomon says that
a soft answer turneth away wrath; but what will not a soft question do,
when put to a pretty girl, where there is no wrath?

Here comes another party, fewer in point of number than those we have
shown you; a young man, a middle-aged woman, and her two daughters--one
grown,the other only about fifteen. Who is--ah!--it is not necessary to
inquire. Alley Bawn Murray! Gentle reader bow with heartfelt respect to
humble beauty and virtue! She is that widow’s daughter, the pride of the
parish, and the beloved of all who can appreciate goodness, affection,
and filial piety. The child accompanying them is her sister, and that
fine, manly, well-built, handsome youth is even now pledged to the
modest and beautiful girl. He is the son of a wealthy farmer, some time
dead; but in purity, in truth, and an humble sense of religion, their
hearts are each rich and each equal.

Alas! alas! that it should be so! but we cannot control the inscrutable
designs of Heaven. The spirit of our narrative must change, and our tale
can henceforth breathe nothing but what is as mournful as it is true.
There they pass into that public-house, true-hearted and attached;
unconscious, too, poor things, of the almost present calamity that
is soon to wither that noble boy and his beautiful betrothed. Their
history, up to the period of their entering the public-house, is very
brief and simple. Felix O’Donnell was the son of a farmer, as we have
said, sufficiently extensive and industrious to be wealthy, without
possessing any of the vulgar pride which rude independence frequently
engrafts upon the ignorant and narrow-hearted. His family consisted of
two sons and a daughter--Maura, the last-named, being the eldest, and
Felix by several years the junior of his brother Hugh. Between the two
brothers there was in many things a marked contrast of character, whilst
in others there might be said to exist a striking similarity. Hugh was
a dark-brown, fiery man when opposed, though in general quiet and
inoffensive. His passions blazed out with fury for a moment, and only
for a moment; for no sooner had he been borne by their vehemence
into the commission of an error, that he became quickly alive to
the promptings of a heart naturally affectionate and kind. In money
transactions he had the character of being a hard man; yet were there
many in the parish who could declare that they found him liberal and
considerate. The truth was, that he estimated money at more than its
just value, without absolutely giving up his heart to its influence.
When a young man, though in good circumstances, he looked cautiously
about him, less for the best or the handsomest wife than the largest
dower. In the speculation, so far as it was pecuniary, he succeeded; but
his domestic peace was overshadowed by the gloom of his own character,
and not unfrequently disturbed by the violent temper of a wife who
united herself to him with an indifferent heart. He was, in short, a man
more respected than loved; one of whom it was often said, “Well, well,
he’s a decent man, nabours--a little hard or so about money, but for all
that there’s worse. Sure we all have our failin’s. There’s one thing in
him any how, that if he offinds a man he’s sorry for it: ay, an’ when he
does chance to do a good turn, sorra a word ever any one hears about it
from his own lips. To be sure there’s a great deal of the nager in him
no doubt, an’ in troth he didn’t take afther his own father for that.
Devil a dacenter man than ould Felix O’Donnell ever broke bread.”

His brother Felix, in all that was amiable and affectionate, strongly
resembled him; but there the resemblance terminated Felix was subject to
none of his gloomy moods or violent outbursts of temper. He was
manly, liberal, and cheerful--valued money at its proper estimate,
and frequently declared, that in the choice of a wife he would never
sacrifice his happiness to acquire it.

“I have enough of my own,” he would say; “and when I meet the woman that
my heart chooses, whether she has fortune or not, that’s the girl that I
will bring to share it, if she can love me.”

Felix and his sister both, resided together; for after his father’s
death he succeeded to the inheritance that had been designed for him.
Maura O’Donnell was in that state of life in which we feel it extremely
difficult to determine whether a female is hopeless or not upon the
subject of marriage. Her humors had begun to ferment and to clear off
into that thin vinegar serum which engenders the exquisite perception of
human error, and the equally keen touch with which it is reproved. Time,
in fact, had begun to crimp her face, and the vinegar to sparkle in her
eye with that fiery gleam which is so easily lit up at five and thirty.
Still she loved Felix, whose good-humor constituted him a butt for the
irascible sallies of a temper more nearly allied to his brother Hugh’s
than his own. He was her younger brother, too, of whom she was justly
proud; and she knew that Felix, in spite of the pungency of her frequent
reproofs, loved her deeply, as was evident by the many instances of his
considerate attention in bringing her home presents of dress, and in
contributing, as far as lay in his power, to her comfort.

The world, indeed, is too much in the habit of drawing distorted
inferences from the transient feuds that occasionally appear in domestic
life. It would be hard to find a family in which they do not sometimes
occur; and when noticed by strangers, it is both uncharitable and unjust
to conclude that there is an absence of domestic affection in the hearts
of those who, after all, prove no more than that they are subject to
the errors and passions of human nature, like their fellow creatures.
No sister, for instance, ever loved another with stronger affection than
poor Maura did her brother Felix, notwithstanding the repeated scoldings
which, for very trivial causes, he experienced at her tongue. Woe,
keen and scathing, be to those who dared, in her presence to utter an
insinuation against him.

“If she abused him, she only did it for his good, and because she loved
him; an’ good right she had to love him, for a better brother never
breathed the breath of life. Wasn’t he a mere boy, only one-and-twenty
years come next Lammas; and surely it stood to reason that he wanted
sometimes to be checked and scolded too. He had neither father or mother
to guide him, poor boy; and who would guide him, and advise him too, if
his own sister wouldn’t do it? Only one-and-twenty, and six feet in his
shoes; but no _punhial_, no cabbage upon two pot-sticks, like some she
knew, that were ready enough to give boy a harsh word when they ought to
look nearer home, and--may-be--but she said nothing--as God forbid that
she’d make or meddle with any neighbor’s character; but still, may-be,
they’d find enough to blame at home, if they’d open their eyes to their
own failings, as well as they do to the failings of their neighbors.”

Another circumstance also strongly characteristic of the woman’s heart,
was evinced in the high and vigorous tone she assumed towards Hugh,
whenever, in any of his dark moods, he happened to take Felix to task.
These fierce encounters, however, never occurred in Felix’s presence;
for she thought that to take his part then, would remove, in a great
degree, the ‘vantage ground on which she stood with reference to
himself. Difficult, indeed, was the part she found herself compelled
to play on those delicate occasions. She could not, as a moralist and
disciplinarian, proverbially strict, seem in any degree to countenance
the charges brought by Hugh against Felix; nor, on the other hand, was
it without a command of temper and heroic self-denial, rarely attained,
that she was able to keep, her indignation against Hugh pent up within
decorous and plausible limits. During the remonstrance of the latter,
she usually pushed the charges against Felix into the notorious failings
of Hugh himself, and this she did in a tone of irony so dry and cutting,
that Hugh was almost in every case, as willing to abandon the attack as
he had been to begin it.

“Ay, indeed,” she would proceed--“troth an’ conscience, Hugh,
avourneen”--avourneen being pronounced with a civil bitterness that was
perfectly withering--“troth an’ conscience, Hugh, avourneen, it’s truth
you’re speaking, and not only that, Hugh darling, but he’s as dark as
the old _dioul_ betimes, so he is, and runs into such fits of blackness
and anger, for no reason--Hugh, _dheelish_, for no reason in life, man
alive. Are, you listening, Hugh? for it’s to you I’m speaking, dear--for
no reason in life, acushla, only because he’s a dirty, black bodagh,
that his whole soul and body’s not worth the scrapings of a pot in a
hard summer. Did you hear me, Hugh jewel? Felix, go out, avourneen, ye
onbiddable creature, and look after them ditchers, and see that they
don’t play upon us to-day, as they did on Saturday.”

Felix, who understood the sister’s irony, went out on every such,
occasion with perfect good will, and indulged in an uncontrollable fit
of laughter at her masked attack upon his brother.

No sooner was he gone than Hugh either fled at once, or gathered himself
up against the vehement assault he knew she was about to make upon him.

“Why then, Hugh O’Donnell, ar’n’t you a dirty, black bodagh, to go to
open upon the poor boy for no reason in life? What did he do that you
should abuse him, you nager you? and it’s well known that you’re a
nager, and that your heart’s in the shillin’. Oh! it’s long before you’d
go to fair or market and bring home the best gown, or shawl, or mantle
in it to the only sister you have, as he does. Ay, ar’n’t you the cream
of a dirty, black bodagh, for to go to attack the poor boy only for
speaking to a dacent and a purty girl that hasn’t a stain upon her name,
or upon the name of one of her seed, breed, or generation, you miserly
nager. I wouldn’t say that before him, because I want to keep him under
me; but where, I say, could you get so fine a young slip as poor Felix
is’? My soul to the dev--God pardon me! I was going to say what I
oughtn’t to say: but I tell you, Hugh, that you must quit of it; he’s
the only brother we have, and it’s the least we should be kind to him.”

During this harangue poor Hugh’s flush of passion usually departed from
him. As we said, he loved his only brother; and so vivid were Maura’s
representations of his virtues, that Hugh, his passion having subsided,
was usually borne away by the pathos with which she closed her
observations respecting him. A burst of tears always concluded the
dialogue on her part, and deep regret on the part of Hugh; for, in fact,
the charges against Felix were such only as none except they themselves
in the very exuberance of their affection, would think of bringing
against him.

The reader is already acquainted with the allusion made by Maura to the
“dacent and purty girl that hasn’t a stain upon her name, or upon the
name of one of her seed, breed, or generation.” This “purty” girl is no
other than Alley Bawn Murray; and although Maura, from a sheer spirit
of contradiction, spoke of her to Hugh in a favorable point of view, yet
nothing could be more obstinately bitter than her opposition to such a
match on the part of Felix.

This, however, is human nature. To those who cannot understand such a
character, we offer no apology--to the few who do, none is necessary.

The courtship of Alley Bawn and Felix had arrived, on the fair-day of
Ballaghmore, to a crisis which required decision on the part of the
wooer. They went in, as we have shown the reader, to a public-house.
Their conversation, which was only such as takes place in a thousand
similar instances, we do not mean to detail. It was tender and firm on
the part of Felix, and affectionate between him and her. With that high
pride, which is only another name for humility, she urged him to
forget her, “if it was not plasin’ to his frinds. You know, Felix,” she
continued, “that I am poor and you are rich, an’ I wouldn’t wish to be
dragged into a family that couldn’t respect me.”

“Alley dear,” replied Felix, “I know that both Hugh and Maura love me in
their hearts; and although they make a show of anger in the beginnin’,
yet they’ll soon soften, and will love you as they do me.”

“Well, Felix,” replied Alley, “my mother and you are present; if my
mother says I ought----”

“I do, darling,” said her mother; “that is, I can’t feel any particular
objection to it. Yet somehow my mind is troubled. I know that what he
says is what will happen; but, for all that--och, Felix, aroon, there’s
something over me about the same match--I don’t know--I’m willin’ an’
I’m not willin’.”

They arose to depart; and as both families lived in the beautiful
village of Ballydhas, which we have already described to the reader, of
course their walk home was such as lovers could wish.

Evening had arrived; the placid summer sun shone down with a mild flood
of light upon Ballaghmore and the surrounding country. There was nothing
in the evening whose external phenomena could depress any human heart.
The ocean lay like a mirror, on which the beams of the sun glistened
in magnificent shafts, in whatsoever position you looked upon it. Not a
wave or a ripple broke the expansive sheet, that stretched away till
it melted into the dipping sky; yet to the ear its mysterious and deep
murmurs were audible, and the lonely eternal sobbing of the awful sea,
struck upon the heart of the superstitious mother with a sense of fear
and calamity. Felix and Alley went before them, and the conversation
which we are about to detail, took place between herself and her
youngest daughter.

“Susy, darlin’,” said she, “you see the happy pair before us; but why
is it, acushla, that my heart is sunk when I think of their marriage? Do
you hear that _say_? There’s not a wave on it, but still it’s angry, if
one can judge by its voice. Darlin’ it’s a bad sign, for the same
say isn’t always so. Sometimes it is as asy as a sleepin’ baby, and
sometimes, although its waves are quiet enough, it looks like a murderer
asleep. Now it breathes heavily avourneen, as if all was not right.
Susy, darlin’, I’m afeard, I say, that it’s a bad sign.”

“Mother dear,” replied Susy, “what makes you speak that way? Sure it
wouldn’t be the little-sup o’ punch that Felix made you take that ‘ud
get into your head!”

“No, darlin’! Look at the pair before us; there they go, the pride, both
o’ them, God knows, of the whole parish; but still when I think of the
bitterness of Felix’s friends, Susy, I can’t help being afeard. His
brother Hugh is a dark man, and his sister Maura is against it. God pity
them! It’s a cruel world, acushla, when people like them can’t do as
they’d wish to do. But, Susy, you’re a child, and knows nothing at all
about it.”

Felix and Alley walked on, unconscious of me ominous forebodings which
the superstition of the affectionate woman prompted her to utter. The
arrangements for their marriage were on that night concluded, and the
mother, after some feebly expressed misgivings, at which Felix and
Alley laughed heartily, was induced, to consent that on the third Sunday
following they should be joined in wedlock. Had Felix been disposed to
conceal his marriage from Hugh and Maura, at least until the eve of its
occurrence, the publishing of their banns in the chapel would have, of
course, disclosed it. When his sister heard that the arrangements
were completed, she poured forth a torrent of abuse against what she
considered the folly and simplicity of a mere boy, who allowed himself
to be caught in the snares of an artful girl, with nothing but a
handsome face to recommend her. Felix received all this with good humor,
and replied only in a strain of jocularity to every thing she said.

Hugh, on the other hand, contented himself with a single observation.
“Felix,” said he, “I won’t see you throw yourself away upon a girl that
is no fit match for you. If you can’t take care of yourself, I will.
Once for all, I tell you that this marriage must not take place.”

As he uttered these words his dark brows were bent, and his eyes
flashed with a gleam of that ungovernable passion for which he was
so remarkable. Felix, at all times peaceable, and always willing to
acknowledge his elder brother’s natural right to exercise a due degree
of authority over him, felt that this was stretching it too far. Still
he made no reply, nor indeed did Hugh allow him time to retort, had he
been so disposed. They separated without more words, each resolved to
accomplish his avowed purpose.

The opposition of Hugh and Maura to his marriage, only strengthened
Felix’s resolution to make his beloved and misrepresented Alley
Bawn, the rightful mistress of his hearth, as she already was of his
affections. Nay, his love burned for her with a purer and tenderer
flame, when he looked upon the artless girl, and thought of the cruel
hearts that would make her a martyr to a spirit so worldly-minded and
selfish. Their deep-rooted prejudice against her poverty, he delicately
concealed from her, together with the length to which their opposition
had gone. As for himself, he acted precisely as if the approaching
marriage had their full sanction; he saw Alley every day, became still
more deeply enamored, and heard his sister’s indignant remonstrances
without uttering a single syllable in reply.

At length the happy Sunday morning arrived, and never did a more
glorious sun light up the beautiful valley of Ballydhas than that which
shed down its smiling radiance from heaven upon their union. Felix’s
heart was full of that eager and trembling delight, which, where there
is pure and disinterested love, always marks our emotions upon that
blessed epoch in human life. Maura, contrary to her wont, was unusually
silent during the whole morning; but Felix could perceive that she
watched all his emotions with the eye of a lynx. When the hour of going
to chapel approached, he deemed it time to dress, and, for that purpose,
went to a large oaken tallboy that stood in the kitchen, in order to
get out his clothes. It was locked, however, and his sister told him at
once, that the key, which was in her possession, should not pass into
his hands that day. “No,” she continued, “nor sorra the ring you’ll put
on the same girl with my consent. Aren’t you a purty young omadhaun,
you spiritless creature, to go to marry sich a _niddy-nauddhy_, when you
know that the best fortunes in the glen would jump at you! Yes, faiks!
to bring home that mane, useless creature, that hasn’t a penny to the
good! A purty farmer’s wife she’ll make, and purtily she’ll fill my poor
mother’s shoes, God be good to her! A poor, unsignified, smooth-faced
thing, that never did a dacent day’s work out of doors, barring to
shake up a cock of hay, or pull the growing of a peck of flax! Oh! thin,
mother darlin’, that’s in glory this day! but it’s a purty head of a
house he’s puttin’ afther you; and myself, too, must knock under to the
like of her, and see her put up in authority over my head. Let me
alone, Felix; your laughing wont pass. The sorra kay you’ll get from me
to-day.”

Felix, who was resolved to procure the key, saw that there was
nothing for it but a little friendly violence. A good-humored struggle
accordingly commenced between them--good-humored on his side, but bitter
and determined on the part of Maura. Finding it difficult to secure the
key, even by violence, Felix was about to give up the contest, and force
the lock at once, when Hugh entered.

“What’s all this?” he inquired. “What racket’s this? Is it beating your
sister you are? Is the young headstrong profligate beating you, Maura,
eh?”

“No, Hugh, not that; but he wants the kay to deck himself up for
marrying that pot of his. God knows, I’d rather he did beat me than do
what he’s going to do.”

“Felix,” said his brother, “I’m over you in place of your father, and
I tell you that it’ll cost me a sore fall, or I’ll put a stop to this
day’s work. A purty bridegroom you are, and a ‘sponsible father of a
family you’ll make! By my sowl, it’s a horsewhip I ought to take to you,
and lash all thoughts of marriage out of you. What a hurry you are in
to go a shoolin’ (to become the rustic _chevalier d’industrie_). You
had betther provide yourself the bag and staff at once, for if you marry
this portionless, good-for-nothing hussy----”

Felix’s eye flashed, and, for the first time in his life, he turned a
fierce glance upon his brother.

“She’s no hussy, Hugh; and if another man said it----” he paused, for it
was but the ‘hectic of a moment.’

“You’d knock him down, I suppose,” said Hugh. “Why don’t you speak it
out? Why, Maura, he’s a man on our hands, and I suppose he’ll be a bully
to-morrow, or next day, and put us all under his feet, and make us all
knuckle down to his poppet of a wife.”

“Hugh,” said Felix, “I am willin to forget and forgive all the harshness
ever you showed me, and to remimber nothing but your kindness, and you
wor kind, to me; you’re my brother--my only, and my eldest brother,
and I beg it as a favor to one that loves you both, that you’ll not
interfere in my marriage this day.”

“So far only,” replied Hugh, “that I’ll stop it for good an’ all. You’ll
get no clothes out of this press to-day. In ten years or so you may be
thinkin’ of it. There’s Madge M’Gawley, take her, with all my heart; a
girl that has fifty pounds, five cows, and threescore sheep: ay, an’
a staid sober girl. To be sure she’s no beauty, an’ not fit for
‘gintlemen’ that must have purty faces, and empty pockets. I say again,
Felix, I’ll put an end to this match.”

This was too much for Felix’s patience. After several unsuccessful
remonstrances, and even supplications very humbly expressed, a fierce
struggle ensued between the brothers which was only terminated by the
interference of the two servant-men, who with some difficulty forced the
elder out of the house, and brought him across the fields towards his
own home. Maura then gave up the key, and the youthful bridegroom was
soon dressed and prepared to meet his “man,” and a few friends whom he
had invited, at the chapel. His mind, however, was disturbed, and his
heart sank at this ill-omened commencement of his wedding day.

“Maura,” said he, when about to leave the house, “I’m heavy at heart for
what has happened. Will you say that you forgive me, dear, before I go?
and tell Hugh that I forgive him everything, and that the last words I
said before I went, wor--‘that the blessin’ of God may rest upon him
and his,’ and upon you too, Maura, dear.”

These expressions are customary among Irish families when a marriage is
about to take place; but upon this occasion they came spontaneously from
a generous and feeling heart. Felix saw with sorrow that his brother and
sister had not blessed him, and he resolved that his part of a duty so
tender should not remain unperformed.

Maura, who suddenly averted her face when he addressed her, made no
reply; but after he had departed from the threshold, her eyes followed
him, and the tears slowly forced their way down her cheeks.

“It’s no use,” said she, “it’s no use, I love him, I love my kind
brother in spite of every thing. May God bless you Felix! may God bless
you, and all you love! God forgive me for opposin’ the boy as I did; and
God forgive Hugh! but he thinks it would be all for Felix’s good to stop
his marriage with Alley Bawn.”

Felix, who heard neither his sister’s blessing nor the expression of the
affection she bore him, passed on with hasty steps through the fields.
He had not gone far, however, when he saw his brother walking towards
him; his arms folded, and his eyes almost hidden by his heavy brows;
sullen ferocity was in his looks, and his voice, as he addressed him,
was hollow with suppressed rage.

“So,” said he, “you will ruin yourself! Go back home, Felix.”

“For God’s sake, Hugh, let me alone, let me pass.”

“You will go?” said the other.

“I will, Hugh.”

“Then may bad luck go with you, if you do. I order you to stay at home,
I say.”

“Mind your own business, Hugh, and I’ll mind mine,” was the only reply
given him.

Felix walked on by making a small circuit out of the direct path, for
he was anxious not only to proceed quickly, as his time was limited, but
above all things, to avoid a collision with his brother.

[Illustration: PAGE 75-- Felix fell forward in an instant]

The characteristic fury of the latter shot out in a burst that resembled
momentary madness as much as rage. “Is that my answer?” he shouted, in
the hoarse, quivering accents of passion; and with the rapid energy of
the dark impulse which guided him, he snatched up a stone from a ditch,
and flung it at his brother, whose back was towards him. Felix fell
forward in an instant, but betrayed after his fall no symptoms of
motion--the stillness of apparent death was in every limb. Hugh, after
the blow had been given, stood rooted to the earth, and looked as if the
demon which possessed him had fled the moment the fearful act had been
committed. His now bloodless lips quivered, his frame became relaxed,
and the wild tremor of horrible apprehension shook him from limb to
limb. Immediately a fearful cry was heard far over the field’s, and the
words--“Oh! yeah! yeah, yeah, Felix, my brother, agra, can’t you spake
to me?” struck upon the heart of Maura and the servant-men, with a
feeling of dismay, deep and deadly.

“O God!” she exclaimed, with clasped hands and upturned eyes, “O God! my
boy, my boy--Felix, Felix, what has happened to you?”

Again the agonized cry of the brother was heard loud and frantic.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, Felix, are you dead? brother, agra, can’t you speak to
me?”

With rapid steps they rushed to the spot; but, ah! what a scene was
there to blast their sight and sear the brain of his sister, and indeed
of all who could look upon it. The young bridegroom smote down when
his foot was on the very threshold of happiness, and by the hand of a
brother?

Hugh, in the mean time, had turned up Felix from the prone posture in
which he lay, with a hope--a frenzied, a desperate hope of ascertaining
whether or not life was extinct. In this position the stricken boy was
lying, his brother, like a maniac, standing over him, when Maura and
the servants arrived. One glance, a shudder, then a long ghastly gaze at
Hugh, and she sank down beside the insensible victim of his fury.

“What,” said Hugh, wildly clenching his hands, “Mother of glory, have
I killed both? Oh, Felix, Felix! you are happy, you are happy, agra,
brother; but for me, oh, for me, my hour of mercy is past an’ gone. I
can never look to heaven more! How can I live,” he muttered furiously
to himself, “how can I live? and I daren’t die. O God! O God! my brain’s
turnin’. I needn’t pray to God to curse the hand that struck you dead,
Felix dear, for I feel this minute that His curse is on me.”

Felix was borne in, but no arm would Hugh suffer to encircle him but
his own. Poor Maura recovered and although in a state of absolute
distraction, yet she had presence of mind to remember that they ought
to use every means in their power to restore the boy to life if it were
possible. Water was got, with which his face was sprinkled; in a little
time he breathed, opened his eyes, looked mournfully about him, and
asked what had happened him. Never was pardon to the malefactor, nor the
firm tread of land to the shipwrecked mariner, so welcome as the dawn of
returning life in Felix was to his brother. The moment he saw the poor
youth’s eyes fixed upon him, and heard his voice, he threw himself on
his knees at the bedside, clasped him in his arms, and with an impetuous
tide of sensations, in which were blended joy, grief, burning affection,
and remorse, he kissed his lips, strained him to his bosom, and wept
with such agony, that poor Felix was compelled to console him.

“Oh! Felix, Felix,” exclaimed Hugh “what was it I did to you? or how
could the devil out of hell tempt me to--to--to--oh! Felix agra, say
you’re not hurted--say only that you’ll be as well as ever, an I take
God and every one present to witness, that from this minute till the day
of my death, a harsh word ‘ll never crass my lips to you. Say you’re not
hurted, Felix dear! Don’t you know, Felix, in spite of my dark-temper’s
putting me into a passion with you sometimes, that I always loved you?”

“Yes you did, Hugh,” replied Felix, “an’ I still knew you did. I didn’t
often contradict you, because I knew, too, that the passion would soon
go off of you, and that you’d be kind to me again.”

“Yeah, yeelish,” said the other, while the scalding tears flowed
profusely down his cheeks, and the deep sobs almost choked him. “Oh,
yeah, yeelish! what could come over me! As judgment’s before me, he was
the best brother ever God created--you were, Felix darling--you were,
you were!” He again pressed him to his heart, and kissed his lips with
an overwhelming fulness of remorse and love.

“An’ another thing, Felix dear--but first tell me are you gettin’
betther?”

“I am,” replied the youth, “my head is a little confused, but I have no
pain.”

Hugh raised his hands and streaming eyes to heaven.

“Thanks, thanks, oh thanks an’ praise be to God for that news! thanks
an’ praise be to you, blessed Father, for what he has said this minute,
for it takes the weight, the dead crushin’ weight that lay on my heart,
off it. And now, Felix jewel, here, alanna, lay over your head upon my
breast, an’ I’ll hould you anything I whisper into your own ear what ‘ll
make you as stout as ever--keep away all of yees--the nerra one o’ ye
‘ll hear it but himself. Sure, Felix dear,” he continued, in a lower
voice, “sure I’m willin’ that you should marry your own Alley Bawn. An’
listen, sure, I’ll give her a portion myself--I’m able to do it an’ I
will too.”

Felix, on hearing her name, looked around and endeavored, as appeared by
his manner, to collect himself. He put his hand to his head for a moment
and his eyes were without meaning. Hugh observed it, and felt his grief
instantly checked by a fearful surmise as to a possible consequence of
the blow which he had not contemplated.

“Felix dear,” said he in a voice low, hollow, and full of terror, “what
ails you? Is the pain coming back?”

Felix spoke not for about a minute, during which time he had become
quite collected. Then with an affectionate look towards his brother, he
replied--

“God bless you, Hugh, for the words you have said to me! Poor Alley?
Hugh, God bless you! Would Maura consent? Will you consent, agra, to it,
Maura dear?”

Maura, who had been all this time weeping, now advanced, and, smiling
through her tears, embraced him tenderly. “Yes, Felix, darling, an’ I’m
only heart-broken, that ever Hugh or myself refused to consent, or ever
set ourselves against it.”

The boy’s eyes sparkled with a light more brilliant than had ever shone
from them before: his whole face became animated, and the cloud
of sorrow which had rested on his pale brow melted away before the
effulgence of reviving hope. In a few minutes he arose and expressed
his determination to proceed and keep his appointment. Hugh and Maura
requested to accompany him, and the latter begged to be allowed the
privilege to give the bride away.

“Maura,” said Felix, “will you desire the servants to have a decent
dinner prepared, and we’ll eat it here. I intend, if you and Hugh will
let me, to bring her home at once!”

“Och, God help the poor boy!” exclaimed Maura--“yes, darling, all that
must be done.”

When ready to depart, he again put his hand to his head--“It comes on
here,” said he, “for about a minute or so--this confusion--I think I’ll
tie a handkerchief about my head. It ‘ill be an asy thing for me to make
some excuse, or I can take it off at the chapel.”

This was immediately acquiesced in; but at Hugh’s suggestion a car was
prepared, a horse yoked in a few minutes, and Felix, accompanied and
supported by his brother and sister, set out for Mass. On arriving at
the “green,” he felt that his short journey had not been beneficial to
him; on the contrary, he was worse, and very properly declined to go
into the heated atmosphere of the chapel. A message by his sister soon
brought the blushing, trembling, serious, yet happy-looking girl to
his side. Her neat white dress, put on with that natural taste which
is generally accompanied by as clear sense of moral propriety, and her
plain cottage bonnet, bought for the occasion, showed that she came
prepared, not beyond, but to the utmost reach of her humble means. And
this she did more for Felix’s sake than her own, for she resolved that
her appearance should not, if possible, jar upon the feelings of one
who, she knew, in marrying her, had sacrificed prospects of wealth and
worldly happiness for her sake. At sight of her, Felix smiled, but it
was observed that his face, which had a moment before been pale, was
instantly flushed, and his eye unusually bright. When he had kissed her,
she replied to the friendly greetings of his brother and Maura with the
most comely dignity, well suited to her situation and circumstances.
Then turning to the elected husband of her heart, she said--

“Why thin, Felix, but it’s little credit you do me this happy morning,
coming with your night-cap on, as if you weren’t well;” but as she saw
the smile fade from his lips, and the color from his cheek, her heart
sank, and “pallid as death’s dedicated bride,” with her soft blue eyes
bent upon his changing color and bandaged head, she exclaimed, “God be
merciful to us! Felix dear, you are ill--you are hurted! Felix, Felix
darling, what ails you? What is wrong?”

“Don’t be frightened, jewel,” he replied, “Don’t, darling--it won’t
signify--my foot slipped afther laving you last night on my way home,
and my head came against a stone--it’s only a little sore outside.
It ‘ill be very well as soon as the priest puts your heart and mine
together--never to be parted--long--long an’ airnestly have I wished
an’ prayed for this happy day. Isn’t your mother here, jewel, an’ my own
little Ellen?”

Her eye had been fixed upon his countenance with all the love and
anxiety of a young bride about to be united to the husband of her
heart’s first choice. She saw that despite of every effort to the
contrary, there was in his mind a source of some secret sorrow. A single
tear rolled down her cheek, which he kissed away, and as he did it,
whispered her in a tone of affectionate confidence, that it was but a
trifle and signified nothing. Maura took her hand, and assured her that
no cause for apprehension existed; so did Hugh, but as he held her hand
in his, he perceived that she got pale again, and trembled as if seized
with some sudden fear.

When the ceremony was concluded, those who attended it of course
returned to Felix’s house to partake of the wedding-dinner. He, indeed,
seemed to be gifted with new life; his eyes sparkled, and a deep
carmine of his cheek was dazzling to look upon. Courtesy, and the usages
prevalent on such occasions, compelled him to drink more than his
state of health was just then capable of bearing; he did not, however,
transgress the bounds of moderation. Still the noise of many
tongues, the sounds of laughter, and the din of mirth, joined to the
consciousness that his happiness was now complete, affected him with
the feverish contagion of the moment. He talked hurriedly and loud, and
seemed to feel as if the accomplishment of his cherished hopes was too
much for his heart to bear.

In the midst of all this jollity a change which none observed came over
him. His laugh became less frequent than his shudder or his sigh, and
taking Alley aside, he begged she would walk with him to the beach.

“The say-breeze,” said he, “and a sate upon the rocks--upon our
thyme-bank, where we’ve often sat happily, Alley dear, will bring me
to myself soon. I am tired, asthore machree, of all this noise and
confusion. Come away, darling, we’ll be happier with one another than
with all these people about us.”

His young bride accompanied him, and as they went, her happy heart
beating under that arm to whose support she had now a right, her love
the while calm and secure in its own deep purity, she saw before them,
in bright perspective, many, many years of domestic affection and peace.

There they sat in the mellow sunset, until the soft twilight had
gradually melted away the lengthened shadows of the rocks about them.
Their hands were locked in each other, their hearts burned within
them, and a tenderness which can be felt only by souls equally pure and
innocent touched their delighted converse into something that might be
deemed beautiful and holy.

Artless, humble, and happy pair! Sit on and enjoy the only brief glimpse
of this earth’s heaven which you will ever get. It is the last time that
heart will beat responsive to heart, and soul tremble to and mingle with
soul between you.

Long before the hour of their, return, Felix had felt much worse than
during any preceding part of the day. The vivid and affectionate
hopes of future happiness expressed by Alley added to his concern, and
increased his tenderness towards her, especially when he contrasted his
own physical sensations with the unsuspicious character of her opinion
concerning his illness and the cause that produced it. ‘Tis true he
disguised all this as long as he could; but at length, notwithstanding
his firmness, he was forced to acknowledge that pain overcame him. With
the burning chill of fever bubbling through his blood--shivering yet
scorching--he complained of the shooting pain in his head, and a strange
confusion of mind, which the poor girl, from some of his incoherent
expressions, had attributed to his excess of affection. With words
of comfort she soothed him; her arm now returned the support she had
received from his; she led him home, languid and half-delirious, whilst
she herself felt stunned as well by the violence as by the unaccountable
nature of his illness. On reaching home they found that the noise of
social enjoyment had risen to the outrage of convivial extravagance; but
the moment he staggered in, supported only by the faithful arm of
his wife, a solemn and apprehensive spirit suddenly hushed their
intemperance, and awed them into a conviction that such an illness upon
the marriage day must be as serious as it was uncommon. Felix was put to
bed in pain and danger; but Alley smoothed his pillow, bound his head,
and sat patient, and devoted, and wife-like, by his side. During all
that woeful night of sorrow she watched the feverish start, the wild
glare of the half-opened eye, the momentary conscious glance, and the
miserable gathering together of the convulsed limbs, hoping that each
pang would diminish in agony and that the morning might bring ease and
comfort.

     “Poor girl, put on thy stifling widow’s weeds,
     And ‘scape at once from Hope’s accursed bands!”

We feel utterly incapable of describing, during the progress of this
heavy night, the scorching and fiery anguish of his brother Hugh, or
the distracted and wailing sorrow of poor Maura. The unexpected and
delightful revulsion of feeling produced upon both, especially on the
former, by his temporary recovery, now utterly incapacitated them from
bearing his relapse with anything like fortitude. The frantic remorse of
the guilty man, and the stupid but pungent grief of his sister, appeared
but as the symptoms of weak minds and strong passions, when contrasted
with the deep but patient affliction of his innocent and uncomplaining
wife. She wasted no words in sorrow; for during this hopeless night,
self, happiness, affection, hope, were all forgotten in the absorbing
efforts at his recovery. Never, indeed, did the miseries and calamities
of life draw from the fruitful source of a wife’s attached and faithful
heart, a nobler specimen of that pure and disinterested devotion which
characterizes woman, than was exhibited by the stricken-hearted Alley
Bawn.

There was something in this peculiar case, as, indeed there are in all
family occurrences of a similar nature, which induced them to try upon
the suffering boy the full extent of their humble skill, rather than
call in a strange physician to witness the disastrous, perhaps fatal,
effects of domestic violence. Had the cause of Felix’s illness been
unknown to Hugh or Maura, they would have procured medical advice in the
early part of the night. Let us, however, not press too severely on the
repentant brother. Shame, and remorse, and penitence, ought to plead
strongly for “the hope deferred that made his heart sick.” Hugh’s
passions arose to violence, but not to murder, a distraction which both
law and morality too frequently forget to make.

When Hugh saw, however, that nothing except medical skill could save
him, he forgot his crime and its consequences. Stung to madness by his
love of Felix, and his fears for his recovery, he mounted a horse, and
had almost broken down the animal by over-exertion, ere he reached the
village of B------, where the doctor he sought lived.

After an impetuous and violent knocking the door was opened, and a man
pale and horror-struck entered, whom the doctor was inclined to receive
rather as the patient than the messenger. Yes! haggard, wild, yet weak
and trembling, he staggered into the room, and, sinking on a seat, in a
voice husky and hoarse said--

“Docthor! oh, docthor, you won’t refuse to come! It’s thrue he was my
brother--but I had not--I had not--oh--no--no--I had it not in my heart
to murdher him! My brother is dyin’. Oh, come, docthor! come to my
brother, he’s dyin’, and ‘twas I that struck, the blow.”

With a vehemence of grief that was pitiable, and an exhibition of the
wildest gestures which characterize despair, he then uttered a cry that
rang through the house.

“Oh, Felix agra, my brother, I’m your murdherer! My sister and I are
both wealthy--he’s dyin’ docthor--come, come. Oh, agra Felix--agra
Felix! To see you well--to see you well--the wealth of the world, if
I had it, would go. My life--my life--docthor! Oh, that would be but
little--but it, too, would go--I’d give it--all we have, my sister and
I, to our blanket--to the shoes on our feet, and the coat and gown on
our backs--all--all--you’ll get--if you can save our brother, that I
struck down and murdhered!”

The doctor, a man of great skill and humanity, immediately ordered
his horse, and mounting him, accompanied Hugh to the sick bed of his
brother. On arriving there, they found him worse; and never before, nor
during his whole professional experience, had the doctor witnessed
such a scene. Hugh took his place behind Felix, who, by the doctor’s
direction, was placed in a half-sitting, half-recumbent posture in the
bed; his arms were placed distractedly about him, his breast was his
pillow, and his cheek, wildly and with voracious affection, laid to
his. He was restrained from crying aloud, but his groans were enough to
wrench the heart from which they proceeded to pieces. Sympathy, in fact,
was transferred from the sick boy to his brother; and perhaps more tears
were shed by the lookers-on from pity towards Hugh than Felix.

But where was she, the bride and wife of a changeful day--of a day, in
which the extremities of happiness and misery met? Oh, where but where
she should and ought to be, at his bed-side, hoping against hope,
soothing his wild ravings by her soft sweet voice; and when, in his
delirium, the happy scene of the past day seemed reacted, then she
knelt, ever ready to lead him, by her words and caresses, into a
forgetfulness of his present pain. In his desperate struggles he fancied
they were tearing her from him; and when the strength of several men
could scarce restrain him, then came the mildness of her power. With her
gentle hands and her fond, kind words she laid him in peace once more,
and, kneeling by his side, cooled his burning temples with her pale
fingers, and wetted his parched lips with the draught prescribed by the
physician. When the crisis, however, approached, she saw by the keen
glance of observant affection, that the doctor’s manner betrayed his
hopelessness of her husband’s recovery. Then did her strength give way,
and one violent fit of hysteric sobbing almost broke down her reason
and physical powers. Unavailing was all their tenderness, and fruitless
every attempt at consolation. Even her own beloved mother failed.
“Alley, asthore agruc machree,” said she, “don’t give way to this, for
it’s sinful; it’s wrong to cry so bitterly for the livin’. You know that
while there’s life there’s hope. God is merciful, and may think fit to
pity you, anien machree, and to spare him for the sake of our prayers,
that your heart mayn’t be broken. Here’s the priest, too, an’ sure it’s
a comfort, if the Lord does take him from us, that he’s not goin’ widout
the holy sacraments of the Church, to clear away any stain of sin that
may be on him.”

Felix, tranquilized by the satisfaction that always results from the
consciousness of having received the rites of the Church, yet moved
by the deep sobbings of his miserable brother, took his hand, and thus
addressed him--

“Hugh dear!”

“Oh, Felix, Felix, Felix darling, if you spake kind to me my brain will
turn, and my heart will burst to pieces! Harsh, harsh, avourneen, speak
harshly, cruelly, blackly--oh, say you won’t forgive me--but no, that I
couldn’t bear--forgive me in your heart, and before God, but don’t spake
wid affection to me, for then I’ll not be able to bear it.”

“Hugh,” said Felix, from whose eyes the keenness of his brother’s
repentance wrung tears, despite his burning agony; “Hugh dear”--and he
looked pitifully in the convulsed face of the unhappy man. “Hugh, dear,
it was only an accident, for if you had thought--that it would turn
out--as it has done----But no matter now--you have my forgiveness--and
you deserve it; for Hugh dear, it was as much and more my own
thoughtlessness and self-will that caused it. Hugh dear, comfort and
support Alley here, and Maura, too, Hugh; be kind to them both for poor
Felix’s sake.” He sank back, exhausted, holding his brother’s hand in
his left, and his mute heart-broken bride’s in his right. A calm, or
rather torpor, followed, which lasted until his awakening spirit, in
returning consciousness of life and love, made a last effort to dissolve
in a farewell embrace upon the pure bosom of his virgin wife.

“Alley,” said he, “are you not my wife, and amn’t I your husband? Whose
hand should be upon me--in what arms but yours should I die? Alley,
think of your own Felix--oh, don’t let me pass altogether out of your
memory an’ if you’d wear a lock of my hair (many a time you used to curl
it over on my cheek, for you used to say it was the same shade as your
own, and you used to compare them together), wear it for my sake, next
your heart, and if ever you think of doin’ a wrong thing, look at it,
and you’ll remember that Felix, who’s now in the dust, always desired
you to pray for the Almighty’s grace, an’ trust to Him for strength
against evil. But where are you, asthore? My eyes want a last look of
you; I feel you--ay, I feel you in my breakin’ heart, and sweet your
presence in it, avourneen machree; but how is it that I cannot see you?
Oh, my wife, my young wife, my spotless wife, be with me--near me!” He
clasped her to his heart, as if while he held her there he thought it
could not cease to beat; but in a moment, after one slight shudder, one
closing pang, his grasp relaxed--his head fell upon her bosom--and he,
Felix, who that morning stood up in the bloom of youth and manly beauty,
with the cup of happiness touching his lips, was now a clod of the
valley. Half unconscious--almost unbelieving that all could be over, she
gently laid him down. On looking into his face, her pale lips quivered;
and as her mute wild gaze became fixed upon the body, slowly the
desolating truth forced itself upon her heart. She then sank upon her
knees, and prayed to God that, if it were His will, and lawful for her
in her misery to utter such a prayer, He would not part her in
death from him who had been to her far dearer than all that life now
contained--without whom the world was now empty to her for ever.

Quietly and calmly she then arose, and but for the settled wretchedness
of her look, the stillness of her spirit might have been mistaken for
apathy. Without resistance, without a tear, in the dry agony of burning
grief she gently gave herself up to the guidance of those who wept,
while they attempted to soothe her. In reply to their attempts at
consolation she only uttered one brief sentence in Irish. “Oh,” said
she, “God is good--still, still, this was a dark day to Felix and to
me!”

At the inquest which followed, there was no proof to criminate the
wretched brother; nor, to speak truly, were the jury anxious to find
any. The man’s shrieking misery was more wild and frightful than death
itself. From “the Dark Day” until this on which I write, he has never
been able to raise his heart or his countenance. Home he never leaves,
except when the pressure of business compels him; and when he does, in
every instance he takes the most unfrequented paths and the loneliest
by-roads, in order to avoid the face and eye of man. Better, indeed,
to encounter flood or fire, than to suffer what he has borne, when the
malicious or coarse-minded have reproached him, in what we trust, is his
repentance, with his great affliction.

Alley contrary to the earnest solicitations of Hugh and Maura, went back
to reside with her mother. Four years have now passed, and the virgin
widow is constant to her grief. With a bunch of yarn on her arm, she may
be occasionally seen in the next market-town; the chastened sorrow of
her look agreeing well with her mournful weeds. In vain is she pressed
to mingle in the rustic amusements of her former companions; she cannot
do it, even to please her mother; the poor girl’s heart is sorrow-struck
for ever. She will never smile again. As it is, however, the steady
subdued melancholy of her manner increases the respect, without
lessening the love, of all who know her. Who, indeed, could see her,
and hear her sad history without loving her purity, and her devoted
affection to the memory of him that was only the husband of a day,
without pitying the stricken girl who suffered so much, and wishing that
time, which weans us from our greatest sorrows, may, by its influence,
mellow her afflictions, until the bitterness of their spirit passes out
of her soul.

Reader, if you want a moral, look upon the wasted brow of Hugh
O’Donnell, and learn to restrain your passions and temper within its
proper limits.





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