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Banim, John / Stories by English Authors: Ireland
But sure he might happen to git a thrifle more wit yet;
he's no great age to spake of."

But when he came home about sunsetting, his mother was feeding her
few hens outside their cabin, the end one of a mossy-roofed row,
with its door turned at right angles to the others, looking out
across the purple brown of the bog-land to the far-off hills, faint,
like a blue mist with a waved pattern in it, against the horizon.
Mick, brought up short by the group, woke out of his walking dream,
in which he had been performing acts of valour to the tune of the
"Soldier's Chorus" in Gounod's Faust, the last thing the band had
played yesterday; and he noticed a diminution in the select circle
of fowls, who crooned and crawked and pecked round the broken dish
of scraps.

"I see the specklety pullet's after strayin' on you agin," he said;
"herself's the conthrary little bein'; I must take a look about
for her prisintly."

"Ah, sure she's sold," said his mother; "it's too many I had
altogether. I was torminted thryin' to git feedin' for them. So
I sold her this mornin' to Mrs. Dunne at Loughmore, that gave me a
fine price for her. 'Deed she'd have took her off of me this while
back, on'y I'd just a sort of notion agin' partin' from the crathur.
But be comin' in to your supper, child alive; it's ready waitin'
this good while. Molly's below at her sister's, and I dunno were
Thady's off to, so there's on'y you and me in it to-night."

In the room the more familiar odour of turf-smoke was overborne
by a crisp smell of baking, and Mrs. Doherty picked up a steaming
plate which had been keeping warm on the hearth. "Isn't that somethin'
like, now?" she said, setting it on the table triumphantly. "Rale
grand they turned out this time, niver a scorch on the whole of
them. I was afeard me hand might maybe ha' got out o' mixin' them,'t
is so long since I had e'er a one for you; but sure I bought a
half-stone of seconds wid the price of the little hin, and that'll
make a good few, so it will, jewel avic, and then we must see after
some more. Take one of the thick bits, honey."

Probably most of us have had experience of the unceremonious
methods which Fate often chooses when communicating to us important
arrangements. We have seen by what a little seeming triviality
of an incident she may intimate that our cherished hope has been
struck dead, or that the execution of some other decree has turned
the current of our life away. It is sometimes as if she contemptuously
sent us a grotesque and dwarfish messenger, who makes grimaces at
us while telling us the bad news, which is ungenerous and scarcely
dignified. So we need not wonder if Mick Doherty had to read the
death-warrant of his darling ambition in a pile of three-cornered
griddle-cakes. At any rate, he did read it there swiftly as clearly.
Most likely he knew it all before the plate was set on the table,
and his heart had already gone down with a run when he replied
to his mother's commendations that they looked first-rate. As he
indorsed this praise with what appetite he could, being, indeed,
mechanically hungry, the uppermost thought in his mind was how he
should at once let his mother understand that she had got the price
she hoped for her pet hen; and after considering for a while, he
said: "Did you ever notice the quare sort of lane-over the turf-stack
out there's takin' on it? I question hadn't we done righter to have
took a leveller bit of ground for under it. But I was thinkin' this
mornin'"--of what a different subject he had been thinking!--"that
next year I'd thry buildin' it agin' the back o' th' ould shed,
where there does be ne'er a slant at all."

"Ay, sure that 'ud be grand," said Mrs. Doherty, much more elated
than if she had heard of a large fortune; "you couldn't find an
iliganter place for it in the width of this world." She felt quite
satisfied that her craftily timed treat had dispelled the dreaded
danger, which actually was the case in a way. But if Mick would
stay at home with her, she was perfectly content to suppose that she
came after a griddle-cake in his estimation. Her relief made her
unusually talkative; but Mick was reflecting between his answers
how he must now tell Paddy Joyce that they were never to be comrades
after all.

He went out on this mission immediately after supper. The sun had
gone down, and the cold clearness left showed things plainly, yet
was not light. In front of the cabin-rows the small children of the
place were screeching over their final romp and quarrel, as they
did every evening; fowls and goats and pigs were settling down for
the night with the squawks and bleats and squeals which also took
place every evening; on the brown-hollowed grass-bank between
Colgan's and O'Reilly's, old Morissy, the blind fiddler, was feebly
scraping and twangling, according to his custom every evening, and,
for that matter, all day long. Even the wisps of straw and scraps
of paper blowing down the middle of the wide roadway seemed to
have whirled over and over and caught in the rough patches of stone
just so, as often as the sun had set. Close to the Joyces', Mick
met Peter Maclean driving home a brood of ducklings. A broad and
burly man, who says "shoo-shoo" to a high-piping cluster of tiny
yellow ducks, and flourishes a long willow wand to keep them from
straggling out of their compacted trot, does undoubtedly present
rather an absurd appearance; yet I cannot explain why the sight
should have seemed to prick like a sting through the wide weary
disgust which Mick experienced as he stood in the twilit boreen
waiting for Paddy to come out. He had scarcely a grunt to exchange
for Peter's cheerful "Fine evenin'." What does it signify in a
universal desert whether evenings be fine or foul? Altogether, it
was a bad time; and Mick acted wisely in taking precautions against
its recurrence, especially as the obstacles which had confronted
him nearly two years back were now more hope-baffling than ever.
For the intervening months had not brought the desirable "thrifle
more wit" to his unsteady brother Thady, who, on the contrary,
was developing into one of those people whose good-for-nothingness
is taken as a matter of course even by themselves; and a bolt was
thus, so to speak, drawn across Mick's locked door.

He set off betimes on his long ramble. It was a cloudless July
morning--the noon of summer by air and light as well as by the
calendar. Even the barest tracts of the bog-land, which vary their
aspect as little as may be from shifting season to season, were
flecked with golden furze-blossom, and whitened with streaming
tufts of fairy-cotton, and sun-warmed herbs were fragrant underfoot.
Mick rather hurried over this stage of his "stravade," partly
because he foresaw a blazing hot day, and he wished to be among
more broken ground, where there are sheltered hollows scooped in
the "knockawns," and cool patches under their bushes and boulders.
He entered the region of these things before his shadow had shrunk
to its briefest; for not so very far beyond Kilmacrone the smooth
floor of the big bog crumples itself into crusts and ridges, as if
it had caught the trick from its bounding ocean; and the nearer
it comes to the shore the higher it heaves itself, until at last
it is cut short by a sheer cliff wall, with storm-stunted brambles
and furzes cowering along the edge, fathoms above a base-line of
exuberant weed and foam. The long sea-frontage of this rock-rampart
is fissured by only a few narrow clefts. On the left hand, facing
oceanward, the coast is a labyrinth of mountain fiords, straits,
and bays, where you may see great craggy shoulders and domed summits
waver in their crystal calm at the flick of a gull's dipping wing,
or add to the terror of the tempest as they start out black and
unmoved behind rifts of swirling mists. On the right there is the
same fretwork of land and water, but wrought in less high relief--a
tract of lonely strands, where shells and daisies whiten the grass,
and pink-belled creepers trail, entangled with tawny-podded wrack,
across the shingle. You are apt thereabouts to happen on clattering
pebble-banks and curling foam when you are apparently deep among
meadows and corn-land, or to come on sturdy green potato-drills
round some corner where you had confidently supposed the unstable
furrows of the sea. And the intricate ground-plan of the district
must be long studied before you can always feel sure whether the
low-shelving swarded edges by which you are walking frame salt or
fresh water.

Mick was bound eventually for one of those ravines which cleave
the cliffs' precipitous wall and give access to the shore, generally
by a deep-sunken sandy boreen. Here, under a tall bank, there are
a couple of cabins, besides another which, having lost its roof,
may be reckoned as a half; so that Tullykillagin is not a large
place, even as places go in its neighbourhood. He knew, however,
that he could count upon getting something to eat at either of
the two cabins first mentioned, and, indeed, at the bare-raftered
one also, if, as often chanced, it was occupied by Tim Fottrel,
the gatheremup; and this prospect served for an incentive, feeble
enough, though it strengthened a little as the hours wore on. So
languid, in fact, was his resolution that at one moment he thought
he would just sthreel home again without going any farther; if he
went aisy everybody would have cleared out of Kilmacrone before he
got back. But at this time he was sitting among some broom-bushes,
under which last year's withered black pods were strewn, and he
determined that if there were an odd number of seeds in the first
one he opened he would go on to Tullykillagin. There were nine in
it, and he logically continued to loiter seaward.

He dawdled so much that when he came to the cliff the sun already
hung low over the water, and as he walked along the edge his shadow
stretched away far inland across the dappled pale and dark green
of the furze-fretted sward. The sea unrolled a ceaseless scroll
of faint wild-hyacinth colour, on which invisible breeze-wafts
inscribed and erased mysterious curves and strokes like hieroglyphics.
Here and there it showed deep purple stains; for a flight of little
snowflake clouds were fluttering in from the Atlantic, followed
at leisure by deep-folded, glistering drifts, now massed on the
horizon-rim to muffle the descending sun. Yet that tide, with all
its smoothness, showed a broad band of foam wherever it touched
the pebbles, which lay dry before its sliding, for it was on its
way in. It had nearly reached the cliff's foot in most places;
but Mick presently came to a point where he looked down on a small
field of very green grass, set as an oasis between the waves and
the walling rock, with a miniature chaos of heaped-up boulders
to left and right. A few of them were scattered over it, and even
the highest of these wore a scarf of leathery flat sea-ribbon, in
token of occasional submergence; but amongst them grew hawthorn and
sloe bushes, and a clump of scarlet-tasselled fuchsia. To heighten
the incongruity of its aspect, this pasture was inhabited by a large
strawberry cow, who seemed to be enjoying the alternate mouthfuls
of seaweed and woodbine, which she munched off a thickly wreathed
boulder, untroubled by the fact that the meal bade fair to be her
last, since the rising spring tide had already all but cut off
access on either hand, and would still flow for some hours.

"Musha, now I'll be skivered," said Mick, standing still, "if that's
not Joe McEvoy's ould cow. You 'll be apt to experience a dampin',
ould woman, if you don't quit out of there. Whethen, it's a quare
man he is to lave the baste sthrayin' about permiscuous in the
welther of the tide."

He peered over the edge of the cliff, evidently mistrusting its
smooth face; and then he threw several stones and clods at the
cow, with shouts of "Hi, out of that!" and "Shoo along!" But his
missiles fell short of their mark, and if his voice reached her,
she treated it with the placid disregard of which her kind are
mistress on such occasions, and never raised her crumple-horned
head.

"Have it your own way, then," said Mick, cynically; "it's nothin'
to me if you've a mind to thry a taste of swimmin' under wather."

He had not, however, strolled much farther when he met with somebody
who was vastly more concerned about the animal's impending fate.
This was old Joe McEvoy himself, who, out of the mouth of a steep,
sandy boreen, sprang up suddenly, like a jack-fn-the-box-one of the
shock-wigged, saturnine-complexioned pattern. But no jack-in-the-box
could have looked so flurriedly distracted, or have muttered to
itself such queer execrations as he did, hobbling along.

"A year's loadin' of bad luck to the whoule of thim!" he was saying
with gasps when Mick approached; "there's not a one of thim but
'ud do desthruction on herself sooner than lose a chanst to be
annoyin' anybody, if she could conthrive it no other way."

"If it's th' ould cow you're cursin'," said Mick, "she's down below
yonder."

"Och, tell me somethin' I dunno, you gomeral, not but what I'm nigh
as big a one meself as can be, to go thrust her wid that little
imp of mischief. Bad scran to it, I must give me stiff leg a rest,
and she 'll be up here blatherin' after me before you can look
round, you may bet your brogues she will."

"Gomeral yourself and save your penny," said Mick, whose temper
was not at its best after his long day of hungry discontent. "And
the divil a call you have to be onaisy about the crathur follyin'
you anywheres. Stayin' where she is she's apt to be, until she
gets the chanst of goin' out to say wid the turn of the tide, and
that's like enough to happen her."

"And who at all was talkin' of the cow follyin'? It's ould Biddy
Duggan down below that nivir has her tongue off of me, nagglin' at
me for lettin' the poor crathur pick her bit along the beach, and
it a strip of the finest grass in the townland, when it's above
wather, just goin' to loss. A couple of pints differ extry it does
be makin' in the milkin' of a day she's grazed there. But it's
threatenin' dhrowndin' and disthruction over it th' ould banshee
is this great while; and plased she 'll be, rale plased and sot
up. Sure, that's what goes agin' me, to be so far gratifyin' her,
and herself as mischevious, harm-hopin' an ould toad as iver I hated
the sight of--Och, bejabers, didn't I tell you so? It's herself
comin' gabble-gobblin' up."

As he spoke, a very small, meagre, raggged old woman emerged
swiftly from the lane, accompanied by one younger and stouter and
less nimble of foot, her temporary neighbour, Mrs. Gatheremup.
Mrs. Duggan seemed to bear out Joe's character of her; for now, like
Spenser's hag Occasion, "ever as she went her tongue did walk," and
the path it took was not one of peace. "Maybe, after this happenin',
some she could name might have the wit to believe what other people
tould thim, who knew bitter than to be thinkin' to feed a misfortnit
crathur of an ould cow on sand and sayweed as if she was a sayl or
a saygull, and it a scandal to the place to behould her foostherin'
along down there wid the waves' edges slitherin' up to her nose,
and she sthrivin' to graze, and the slippery stones fit to break
her neck." Such was the purport of Mrs. Duggan's remarks, which
were punctuated by Joe McEvoy's peremptory requests that she would
lave gabbin' and givin' impidence, and his appeals to the others
to inform him whether they weren't all to be pitied for havin' to
put up wid the ould screech-owl's foolish talk.

"Sure, that's the way they do be keepin' it up continial, Micky
lad," Mrs. Fottrel called to him, shrilly, as if athwart gusts of
high wind. "I'll pass yon me word the two of thim 'll stand at their
doors of an evenin" and give bad langwidge to aich other across
the breadth of the road till they have us all fairly moidhered wid
the bawls of thim, and I on'y wonder the thatch doesn't take and
slip down on their ould heads."

"Belike it's lave of the likes of YOU I ought to be axin' where I'm
to git grazin' for me own cattle?" a growl of sarcastic thunder
was just then observing, to which flashed a scathing response: "And,
bedad, then, it's lave you had a right to be axin' afore you sent
off me poor son Hughey's bit of a Pat, to be wastin' his time
mindin' your ould scarecrow and gettin' himself dhrownded in the
tide. It's no thanks to you if the innicent child isn't as like
as not lyin' this minute under six fut of could wather, instead of
fetchin' me in the full of me kettle that I'm roarin' to him for
this half-hour, and niver a livin' sinner widin sight or--"

"Saints above! is little Pat strayin' along wid the cow?" said Mrs.
Fottrel, much aghast. "I was noticin' I didn't see him anywheres
this evenin'. What's to become of him down there, and it risin'
beyond the heighth of iverythin' as fast as it can flow? Sure, this
mornin' 't was wallopin' itself agin' the wall, back of our place,
fit to swally all before it."

"Why didn't you tell me the child was below?" said Mick. "I'd lep
down there and fetch him up aisy enough; on'y there was no mortial
use goin' after the cow, for niver a crathur that took its stand
on four hoofs 'ud git its own len'th up the cliff, unless it might
be some little divil of a goat. And the wather's dhrowndin'-deep
alongside it afore now."

"Musha, good gracious! sure, all I done was to bid the spalpeen be
keepin' an eye on her now and agin while he would be playin' about
there," said Joe; "and it's twinty chances if ivir he did at all.
Trapesed off wid himself somewheres; he'll be right enough be this
time. 'T is n't the likes of him to go to loss, it's the quare
five-poun' note he'd fetch at Athenry fair."

"He might ha' broke his legs climbin' disp'rit on the rocks," said
Mrs. Fottrel, unconvinced by the argument from unsaleability," and
be lyin' there now waitin' for the say-waves to wash the life out
of him. Heaven pity the crathur!"

"Sure, I 'll step down and see what's gone wid him," said Mick.

The descent of the cliff, though not riskless, was no great feat
for an active youth, and Mick accomplished it safely, but to little
purpose, he thought at first, since the irreclaimable cow appeared
to be the sole denizen of the shrinking beach. However, when he
had shouted and scrambled for some time without result, he came
abruptly upon a nook among the piled-up rocks, where a very small
black-headed boy in tattered petticoats was digging the sandy floor
with a razor-shell.

"Och, it's there you are," said Mick, stepping down from a weedy
ledge; "and what have you in it at all that you didn't hear me
bawlin' to you?"

"Throops," said Pat, gloatingly, almost too absorbed t o glance
off his work; "it's Ballyclavvy, the way it did be in the school
readin'-book at Duffclane. There's the Roossian guns" (he pointed
to a row of black-mouthed mussel-shells, mounted on periwinkle
carriages), "and here's the sides of the valley I'm makin'; long
and narrer it was. Just step round and look at it from where I am,
Micky, but don't be clumpin' your fut on the French cavalary."

"The divil's in it all," said Mick, with a sudden bitter vehemence,
which he accounted for to himself by adding, as he pointed toward
the seething white line: "D' you see where that's come to, you
little bosthoon? And you sittin' grubbin' away here as if you were
pitaty-diggin' a dozen mile inland."

Pat looked in the desired direction, but misapprehended the object
to be the western sky, where an overblown fiery rose seemed to have
scattered all its petals broadcast. "Sure, that's on'y the sun settin'
red like," he explained, indifferently, and would have resumed his
excavations if he had not been seized and hustled half-way up the
cliff before he could disengage his mind from his brigades and
batteries. Both heads soon bobbed up over the edge without accident;
for Pat climbed like a monkey when once he had grasped the situation.
His grandmother's attitude toward Joe McEvoy constrained her to
receive him effusively as prey snatched from the foaming jaws of
death; but it was out of Mrs. Fottrel's pocket that a peppermint-drop
came to sweetly seal his new lease of life.

"And what are you after now, Mick?" she said, observing that,
instead of drawing himself up to level ground, he stood poised on
an uncomfortable perch, and looked back the steep way he had come.

"I'm thinkin' to slip down agin," he said, "and see if be any manner
of manes I could huroosha th' ould baste round the rocks yonder.
The wather mightn't be altogither too deep there yit; at all evints,
she's between the divil and the deep say where she is now; it's
just a chanst."

"Sorra a much," said Joe, disconsolately; "scarce worth breakin'
your bones after, any way."

"Bones, how are you? Sure, there's no call to be breakin' bones in
the matter," said Mick, beginning to descend. This was true enough,
if he had minded what he was about; but then he did not. So far from
it, he was saying to himself, "One 'ud ha' thought now she might
ha' took a sort of pride in it," when the bottom of the world seemed
to drop away from under his feet, and his irrelevant meditations
ended in a shattering thud down on the rocky pavement a long way
below. He never heard the shouts and shrieks which the incident
occasioned above his head. Once only he became dimly conscious of
a quivering network of prismatic flashes, which he could not see
through, and a booming throb in his ears, which made him murmur
dazedly: "Wirra, I thought I'd got beyond hearin' of them drums."
In another moment: "What's took me?" he said, with a start. But
the depths he sank among remain always dark and silent.

Next day messengers from Tullykillagin told Mrs. Doherty that the
Lord had "took" her son Mick, and that "he had gone out to say wid
the tide, before they could get anybody to him, and there was no
tellin' where he might be swep' up, if ever he came to shore at
all."

"And the quarest part of it was that Joe McEvoy's ould cow that
he went after had legged herself up, somehow, on the rocks out of
reach, and niver a harm on her when they found her in the mornin'.
But she'd been all of a could quiver ever since, and himself doubted
if she'd rightly git over it--might the divil mend her, and she
after bein' the death of a fine young man. Sure, every sowl up at
Tullykillagin was rale annoyed about it. Even ould Biddy Duggan,
that was as cross-tempered as a weasel, did be frettin' for the
lad; and Joe McEvoy was sittin' crooched like an ould wet hen, over
his fire block out, that he hadn't the heart to be lightin'."

Mrs. Doherty said she didn't know what talk they had of the Lord
and the say and the ould cow; but she'd known well enough the way
it was when Mick niver come home last night. He'd just took off
after the souldiers, as he'd a great notion one time.

She was, as may have been observed, rather a dull-witted woman,
and proportionately hard to convince against her will.

"A great notion intirely," she said; "on'y she'd scarce have
thought he'd go do such a thing on her in airnest. And I runnin'
away indoors yisterday out of the heighth of the divarsion, when
the band-music was a thrate to be hearin', just to see his bit of
supper wouldn't be late on him. And the grand little pitaty-cake
I had for him; I may be throwin' it to the hins now, unless Molly
might fancy a bit; for we 'll not be apt to set eyes on him this
three year. Och, wirra! and he that contint at home, and niver a
word out of him about the souldierin' this long while. If it had
been poor Thady itself, 't would ha' been diff'rint; but Mick--I'd
scarce ha' thought it of him; for he'd a dale of good-nature, Mrs.
Geoghegan, ma'am."

"He had so, tub-be sure, woman dear," said Mrs. Geoghegan, "or he
might be sittin' warm in here this minnit."

"The back of me hand to thim blamed ould throopers," said Mrs.
Doherty, "that sets the lads wild wid their thrampin' around."

"Poor Mick would be better wid them than where he is now--God have
mercy on his soul!" said a neighbour, solemnly.

But Mick's mother continued to bewail herself: "And I missin' the
best of all the tunes they played, so Molly was tellin' me, for
'fraid he 'd be kep' waitin' for his supper, and he comin' home
to me hungry; and now--There's a terrible len'th of time in three
year. I wouldn't ha' believed he'd ha' done it on me."






THE RIVAL DREAMERS

BY JOHN BANIM





Mr. Washington Irving has already given to the public a version
of an American legend, which, in a principal feature, bears some
likeness to the following transcript of a popular Irish one. It
may, however, be interesting to show this very coincidence between
the descendants of a Dutch transatlantic colony and the native
peasantry of Ireland, in the superstitious annals of both. Our
tale, moreover, will be found original in all its circumstances,
that alluded to only excepted.

Shamus Dempsey returned a silent, plodding, sorrowful man, though
a young one, to his poor home, after seeing laid in the grave
his aged, decrepit father. The last rays of the setting sun were
glorious, shooting through the folds of their pavilion of scarlet
clouds; the last song of the thrush, chanted from the bough nearest
to his nest, was gladdening; the abundant though but half-matured
crops around breathed of hope for the future. But Shamus's bosom was
covered with the darkness that inward sunshine alone can illumine.
The chord that should respond to song and melody had snapped in it;
for him the softly undulating fields of light-green wheat, or the
silken-surfaced patches of barley, made a promise in vain. He was
poor, penniless, friendless, and yet groaning under responsibilities;
worn out by past and present suffering, and without a consoling
prospect. His father's corpse had just been buried by a subscription
among his neighbours, collected in an old glove, a penny or a
half-penny from each, by the most active of the humble community to
whom his sad state was a subject of pity. In the wretched shed which
he called "home," a young wife lay on a truss of straw, listening
to the hungry cries of two little children, and awaiting her hour
to become the weeping mother of a third. And the recollection that
but for an act of domestic treachery experienced by his father and
himself, both would have been comfortable and respectable in the
world, aggravated the bitterness of the feeling in which Shamus
contemplated his lot. He could himself faintly call to mind a time
of early childhood, when he lived with his parents in a roomy house,
eating and sleeping and dressing well, and surrounded by servants
and workmen; he further remembered that a day of great affliction
came, upon which strange and rude persons forced their way into the
house; and, for some cause his infant observation did not reach,
father, servants, and workmen (his mother had just died) were
all turned out upon the road and doomed to seek the shelter of a
mean roof. But his father's discourse, since he gained the years
of manhood, supplied Shamus with an explanation of all these
circumstances, as follows.

Old Dempsey had been the youngest son of a large farmer, who divided
his lands between two elder children, and destined Shamus's father
to the Church, sending him abroad for education, and, during its
course, supplying him with liberal allowances. Upon the eve of
ordination the young student returned home to visit his friends;
was much noticed by neighbouring small gentry of each religion; at
the house of one of the opposite persuasion from his met a sister
of the proprietor, who had a fortune in her own right; abandoned
his clerical views for her smiles; eloped with her; married her
privately; incurred thereby the irremovable hostility of his own
family; but, after a short time, was received, along with his wife,
by his generous brother-in-law, under whose guidance both became
reputably settled in the house to which Shamus's early recollections
pointed and where, till he was about six years old, he passed
indeed a happy childhood.

But, a little previous to this time, his mother's good brother died
unmarried, and was succeeded by another of her brothers, who had
unsuccessfully spent half his life as a lawyer in Dublin, and who,
inheriting little of his predecessor's amiable character, soon showed
himself a foe to her and her husband, professedly on account of
her marriage with a Roman Catholic. He did not appear to their
visit, shortly after his arrival in their neighbourhood, and he
never condescended to return it. The affliction experienced by his
sensitive sister from his conduct entailed upon her a premature
accouchement, in which, giving birth to a lifeless babe, she
unexpectedly died. The event was matter of triumph rather than of
sorrow to her unnatural brother. For, in the first place, totally
unguarded against the sudden result, she had died intestate; in
the next place, he discovered that her private marriage had been
celebrated by a Roman Catholic priest, consequently could not,
according to law, hold good; and again, could not give to her nominal
husband any right to her property, upon which both had hitherto
lived, and which was now the sole means of existence to Shamus's
father.

The lawyer speedily set to work upon these points, and with little
difficulty succeeded in supplying for Shamus's recollections a day
of trouble, already noticed. In fact, his father and he, now without
a shilling, took refuge in a distant cabin, where, by the sweat of
his parent's brow, as a labourer in the fields, the ill-fated hero
of this story was scantily fed and clothed, until maturer years
enabled him to relieve the old man's hand of the spade and sickle,
and in turn labour for their common wants.

Shamus, becoming a little prosperous in the funeral we now see
Shamus returning, and to such a home does he bend his heavy steps.

If to know that the enemy of his father and mother did not thrive
on the spoils of his oppression could have yielded Shamus any
consolation in his lot, he had long ago become aware of circumstances
calculated to give this negative comfort. His maternal uncle
enjoyed, indeed, his newly acquired property only a few years after
it came into his possession. Partly on account of his cruelty to
his relations, partly from a meanness and vulgarity of character,
which soon displayed itself in his novel situation, and which, it
was believed, had previously kept him in the lowest walks of his
profession as a Dublin attorney, he found himself neglected and
shunned by the gentry of his neighbourhood. To grow richer than
those who thus insulted him, to blazon abroad reports of his wealth,
and to watch opportunities of using it to their injury, became the
means of revenge adopted by the parvenu. His legitimate income not
promising a rapid accomplishment of this plan, he ventured, using
precautions that seemingly set suspicion at defiance, to engage in
smuggling-adventures on a large scale, for which his proximity to
the coast afforded a local opportunity. Notwithstanding all his
pettifogging cleverness, the ex-attorney was detected, however, in
his illegal traffic, and fined to an amount which swept away half
his real property. Driven to desperation by the publicity of his
failure, as well as by the failure itself, he tried another grand
effort to retrieve his fortune; was again surprised by the revenue
officers; in a personal struggle with them, at the head of his
band, killed one of their body; immediately absconded from Ireland;
for the last twenty years had not been authentically heard of, but,
it was believed, lived under an assumed name in London, deriving
an obscure existence from some mean pursuit, of which the very
nature enabled him to gratify propensities to drunkenness and other
vices, learned during his first career in life.

All this Shamus knew, though only from report, inasmuch as his
uncle had exiled himself while he was yet a child, and without
previously having become known to the eyes of the nephew he had so
much injured. But if Shamus occasionally drew a bitter and almost
savage gratification from the downfall of his inhuman persecutor,
no recurrence to the past could alleviate the misery of his present
situation.

He passed under one of the capacious open arches of the old abbey,
and then entered his squalid shed reared against its wall, his heart
as shattered and as trodden down as the ruins around him. No words
of greeting ensued between him and his equally hopeless wife, as
she sat on the straw of her bed, rocking to sleep, with feeble and
mournful cries, her youngest infant. He silently lighted a fire
of withered twigs on his ready-furnished hearthstone; put to roast
among their embers a few potatoes which he had begged during the
day; divided them between her and her crying children; and, as
the moon rising high in the heavens warned him that night asserted
her full empire over the departed day, Shamus sank down upon the
couch from which his father's mortal remains had lately been borne,
supperless himself, and dinnerless, too, but not hungry; at least
not conscious or recollecting that he was.

His wife and little ones soon slept soundly, but Shamus lay for
hours inaccessible to nature's claims for sleep as well as for
food. From where he lay he could see, through the open front of
his shed, out into the ruins abroad. After much abstraction in his
own thoughts, the silence, the extent, and the peculiar desolation of
the scene, almost spiritualised by the magic effect of alternate
moonshine and darkness, of objects and of their parts, at last diverted
his mind, though not to relieve it. He remembered distinctly, for
the first time, where he was--an intruder among the dwellings of
the dead; he called to mind, too, that the present was their hour
for revealing themselves among the remote loneliness and obscurity
of their crumbling and intricate abode. As his eye fixed upon a
distant stream of cold light or of blank shadow, either the wavering
of some feathery herbage from the walls or the flitting of some
night-bird over the roofless aisle, made motion which went and came
during the instant of his alarmed start, or else some disembodied
sleeper around had challenged and evaded his vision so rapidly as
to baffle even the accompaniment of thought. Shamus would, however,
recur, during these entrancing aberrations, to his more real causes
for terror; and he knew not, and to this day cannot distinctly
tell, whether he waked or slept, when a new circumstance absorbed
his attention. The moon struck fully, under his propped roof, upon
the carved slab he had appropriated as a hearthstone; and turning
his eye to the spot, he saw the semblance of a man advanced in
years, though not very old, standing motionless, and very steadfastly
regarding him. The still face of the figure shone like marble in
the night-beam, without giving any idea of the solidity of that
material; the long and deep shadows thrown by the forehead over the
eyes left those unusally expressive features vague and uncertain.
Upon the head was a close-fitting black cap, the dress was a
loose-sleeved, plaited garment of white, descending to the ground,
and faced and otherwise checkered with black, and girded round
the loins; exactly the costume which Shamus had often studied in
a little framed and glazed print, hung up in the sacristy of the
humble chapel recently built in the neighbourhood of the ruin by a
few descendants of the great religious fraternity to whom, in its day
of pride, the abbey had belonged. As he returned very inquisitively,
though, as he avers, not now in alarm, the fixed gaze of his midnight
visitor, a voice reached him, and he heard these strange words:

"Shamus Dempsey, go to London Bridge, and you will be a rich man."

"How will that come about, your reverence?" cried Shamus, jumping
up from the straw.

But the figure was gone; and stumbling among the black embers on the
remarkable place where it had stood, he fell prostrate, experiencing
a change of sensation and of observance of objects around, which
might be explained by supposing a transition from a sleeping to a
waking state of mind.

The rest of the night he slept little, thinking of the advice he
had received, and of the mysterious personage who gave it. But he
resolved to say nothing about his vision, particularly to his wife,
lest, in her present state of health, the frightful story might
distress her; and, as to his own conduct respecting it, he determined
to be guided by the future; in fact, he would wait to see if his
counsellor came again. He did come again, appearing in the same
spot at the same hour of the night, and wearing the same dress,
though not the same expression of feature; for the shadowy brows
now slightly frowned, and a little severity mingled with the former
steadfastness of look.

"Shamus Dempsey, why have you not gone to London Bridge, and your
wife so near the time when she will want what you are to get by
going there? Remember, this is my second warning."

"Musha, your reverence, an' what am I to do on Lunnon Bridge?"

Again he rose to approach the figure; again it eluded him. Again a
change occurred in the quality of the interest with which he regarded
the admonition of his visitor. Again he passed a day of doubt as to
the propriety of undertaking what seemed to him little less than
a journey to the world's end, without a penny in his pocket, and
upon the eve of his wife's accouchement, merely in obedience to a
recommendation which, according to his creed, was not yet sufficiently
strongly given, even were it under any circumstances to be adopted.
For Shamus had often heard, and firmly believed, that a dream or a
vision instructing one how to procure riches ought to be experienced
three times before it became entitled to attention.

He lay down, however, half hoping that his vision might thus
recommend itself to his notice It did so.

"Shamus Dempsey," said the figure, looking more angry than ever,
"you have not yet gone to London Bridge, although I hear your wife
dying out to bid you go. And, remember, this s my third warning."

"Why, then, tundher an' ouns, your reverence, just stop and tell
me-"

Ere he could utter another word the holy visitant disappeared, in
a real passion at Shamus's qualified curse; and at the same moment
his confused senses recognised the voice of his wife, sending up
from her straw pallet the cries that betoken a mother's distant
travail. Exchaning a few words with her, he hurried away. professedly
call up, at her cabin window, an old crane who sometimes attended
the very poorest women in Nance Dempsey's situation.

"Hurry to her, Noreen, acuishla, and do the best it's the will
of God to let you do. And tell her from me, Noreen--" He stopped,
drawing in his lip, and clutching his cudgel hard.

"Shamus, what ails you, avick?" asked old Noreen; "what ails you,
to make the tears run down in the gray o' the morning?"

"Tell her from me," continued Shamus, "that it's from the bottom o'
the heart I 'll pray, morning and evening, and fresh and fasting,
maybe, to give her a good time of it; and to show her a face on
the poor child that's coming, likelier than the two that God sent
afore it. And that I 'll be thinking o' picturing it to my own
mind, though I'll never see it far away."

"Musha, Shamus, what are you speaking of?"

"No Matter, Noreen, only God be wid you, and wid her, and wid the
weenocks; and tell her what I bid you. More-be-token, tell her that
poor Shamus quits her in her throuble wid more love from the heart
out than he had for her the first day we came together; and I'll
come back to her at any rate, sooner or later, richer or poorer,
or as bare as I went; and maybe not so bare either. But God only
knows. The top o' the morning to you, Noreen, and don't let her
want the mouthful o' praties while I'm on my thravels. For this,"
added Shamus, as he bounded off, to the consternation of old
Noreen--"this is the very morning and the very minute that, if
I mind the dhrame at all at all, I ought to mind it; ay, without
ever turning back to get a look from her, that 'ud kill the heart
in my body entirely."

Without much previous knowledge of the road he was to take, Shamus
walked and begged his way along the coast to the town where he
might hope to embark for England.



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