The Lianhan Shee





One summer evening Mary Sullivan was sitting at her own well-swept

hearthstone, knitting feet to a pair of sheep's-grey stockings for

Bartley, her husband. It was one of those serene evenings in the month

of June when the decline of day assumes a calmness and repose,

resembling what we might suppose to have irradiated Eden when our first

parents sat in it before their fall. The beams of the sun shone through

the windows in clear shafts of amber light, exhibiting millions of those

atoms which float to the naked eye within its mild radiance. The dog lay

barking in his dream at her feet, and the grey cat sat purring placidly

upon his back, from which even his occasional agitation did not dislodge

her.



Mrs Sullivan was the wife of a wealthy farmer, and niece to the Rev.

Felix O'Rourke; her kitchen was consequently large, comfortable, and

warm. Over where she sat, jutted out the "brace" well lined with bacon;

to the right hung a well-scoured salt-box, and to the left was the jamb,

with its little paneless window to admit the light. Within it hung

several ash rungs, seasoning for flail-sooples, or boulteens, a dozen of

eel-skins, and several stripes of horse-skin, as hangings for them. The

dresser was a "parfit white," and well furnished with the usual

appurtenances. Over the door and on the "threshel" were nailed, "for

luck," two horse-shoes, that had been found by accident. In a little

"hole" in the wall, beneath the salt-box, lay a bottle of holy water to

keep the place purified; and against the copestone of the gable, on the

outside, grew a large lump of house-leek, as a specific for sore eyes

and other maladies.



In the corner of the garden were a few stalks of tansy "to kill the

thievin' worms in the childhre, the crathurs," together with a little

Rosenoble, Solomon's Seal, and Bugloss, each for some medicinal purpose.

The "lime wather" Mrs Sullivan could make herself, and the "bog bane"

for the _linh roe_, or heartburn, grew in their own meadow-drain; so

that, in fact, she had within her reach a very decent pharmacopoeia,

perhaps as harmless as that of the profession itself. Lying on the top

of the salt-box was a bunch of fairy flax, and sewed in the folds of her

own scapular was the dust of what had once been a four-leaved shamrock,

an invaluable specific "for seein' the good people," if they happened to

come within the bounds of vision. Over the door in the inside, over the

beds, and over the cattle in the outhouses, were placed branches of

withered palm, that had been consecrated by the priest on Palm Sunday;

and when the cows happened to calve, this good woman tied, with her own

hands, a woollen thread about their tails, to prevent them from being

overlooked by evil eyes, or _elf-shot_ by the fairies, who seem to

possess a peculiar power over females of every species during the period

of parturition. It is unnecessary to mention the variety of charms which

she possessed for that obsolete malady the colic, for toothache,

headaches, or for removing warts, and taking motes out of the eyes; let

it suffice to inform our readers that she was well stocked with them;

and, that in addition to this, she, together with her husband, drank a

potion made up and administered by an herb-doctor, for preventing for

ever the slightest misunderstanding or quarrel between man and wife.

Whether it produced this desirable object or not, our readers may

conjecture, when we add, that the herb-doctor, after having taken a

very liberal advantage of their generosity, was immediately compelled to

disappear from the neighbourhood, in order to avoid meeting with

Bartley, who had a sharp look-out for him, not exactly on his own

account, but "in regard," he said, "that it had no effect upon _Mary_,

at all at all"; whilst Mary, on the other hand, admitted its efficacy

upon herself, but maintained, "that _Bartley_ was worse nor ever afther

it."



Such was Mary Sullivan, as she sat at her own hearth, quite alone,

engaged as we have represented her. What she may have been meditating

on, we cannot pretend to ascertain; but after some time, she looked

sharply into the "backstone," or hob, with an air of anxiety and alarm.

By and by she suspended her knitting, and listened with much

earnestness, leaning her right ear over to the hob, from whence the

sounds to which she paid such deep attention proceeded. At length she

crossed herself devoutly, and exclaimed, "Queen of saints about us!--is

it back ye are? Well sure there's no use in talkin' bekase they say you

know what's said of you, or to you--an' we may as well spake yez fair.

Hem--musha yez are welcome back, crickets, avour-neenee! I hope that,

not like the last visit ye ped us, yez are comin' for luck now! Moolyeen

died, any way, soon afther your other _kailyee_, ye crathurs ye. Here's

the bread, an' the salt, an' the male for yez, an' we wish ye well.

Eh?--saints above, if it isn't listenin' they are jist like a

Christhien! Wurrah, but ye are the wise an' the quare crathurs all out!"



She then shook a little holy water over the hob, and muttered to herself

an Irish charm or prayer against the evils which crickets are often

supposed by the peasantry to bring with them, and requested, still in

the words of the charm, that their presence might, on that occasion,

rather be a presage of good fortune to man and beast belonging to her.



"There now, ye _dhonans_ ye, sure ye can't say that ye're ill-thrated

here, anyhow, or ever was mocked or made game of in the same family. You

have got your hansel, an' full an' plenty of it; hopin' at the same time

that you'll have no rason in life to cut our best clothes from revinge.

Sure an' I didn't desarve to have my brave stuff _long body_ riddled the

way it was the last time ye wor here, an' only bekase little Barny, that

has but the sinse of a _gorsoon_, tould yez in a joke to pack off wid

yourselves somewhere else. Musha, never heed what the likes of him says;

sure he's but a _caudy_, that doesn't mane ill, only the bit o'

divarsion wid yez."



She then resumed her knitting, occasionally stopping, as she changed her

needles, to listen, with her ear set, as if she wished to augur from the

nature of their chirping, whether they came for good or evil. This,

however, seemed to be beyond her faculty of translating their language;

for after sagely shaking her head two or three times, she knit more

busily than before.



At this moment, the shadow of a person passing the house darkened the

window opposite which she sat, and immediately a tall female, of a wild

dress and aspect, entered the kitchen.



"_Gho manhy dhea ghud, a ban chohr_! the blessin' o' goodness upon you,

dacent woman," said Mrs Sullivan, addressing her in those kindly phrases

so peculiar to the Irish language.



Instead of making her any reply, however, the woman, whose eye glistened

with a wild depth of meaning, exclaimed in low tones, apparently of much

anguish, "_Husht, husht, dherum_! husht, husht, I say--let me alone--I

will do it--will you husht? I will, I say--I will--there now--that's

it--be quiet, an' I will do it--be quiet!" and as she thus spoke she

turned her face back over her left shoulder, as if some invisible being

dogged her steps, and stood bending over her.



"_Gho manhy dhea ghud, a ban chohr, dherhum areesht_! the blessin' o'

God on you, honest woman, I say again," said Mrs Sullivan, repeating

that _sacred_ form of salutation with which the peasantry address each

other. "'Tis a fine evenin', honest woman, glory be to Him that sent the

same, and amin! If it was cowld, I'd be axin' you to draw your chair in

to the fire; but, any way, won't you sit down?"



As she ceased speaking the piercing eye of the strange woman became

riveted on her with a glare, which, whilst it startled Mrs Sullivan,

seemed full of an agony that almost abstracted her from external life.

It was not, however, so wholly absorbing as to prevent it from

expressing a marked interest, whether for good or evil, in the woman who

addressed her so hospitably.



"Husht, now--husht," she said, as if aside--"husht, won't you--sure I

may speak _the thing_ to her--you said it--there now, husht!" And then

fastening her dark eyes on Mrs Sullivan, she smiled bitterly and

mysteriously.



"I know you well," she said, without, however, returning the _blessing_

contained in the usual reply to Mrs Sullivan's salutation--"I know you

well, Mary Sullivan--husht, now, husht--yes, I know you well, and the

power of all that you carry about you; but you'd be better than you

are--and that's well enough _now_--if you had sense to know--ah, ah,

ah!--what's this!" she exclaimed abruptly, with three distinct shrieks,

that seemed to be produced by sensations of sharp and piercing agony.



"In the name of goodness, what's over you, honest woman?" inquired Mrs

Sullivan, as she started from her chair, and ran to her in a state of

alarm, bordering on terror--"Is it sick you are?"



The woman's face had got haggard, and its features distorted; but in a

few minutes they resumed their peculiar expression of settled wildness

and mystery. "Sick!" she replied, licking her parched lips; "_awirck,

awirck!_ look! look!" and she pointed with a shudder that almost

convulsed her whole frame, to a lump that rose on her shoulders; this,

be it what it might, was covered with a red cloak, closely pinned and

tied with great caution about her body--"'tis here!--I have it!"



"Blessed mother!" exclaimed Mrs Sullivan, tottering over to her chair,

as finished a picture of horror as the eye could witness, "this day's

Friday: the saints stand betwixt me an' all harm! Oh, holy Mary, protect

me! _Nhanim an airh_," in the name of the Father, etc., and she

forthwith proceeded to bless herself, which she did thirteen times in

honour of the blessed virgin and the twelve apostles.



"Ay, it's as you see!" replied the stranger bitterly. "It is

here--husht, now--husht, I say--I will say _the thing_ to her, mayn't I?

Ay, indeed, Mary Sullivan, 'tis with me always--always. Well, well, no,

I won't I won't--easy. Oh, blessed saints, easy, and I won't!"



In the meantime Mrs Sullivan had uncorked her bottle of holy water, and

plentifully bedewed herself with it, as a preservative against this

mysterious woman and her dreadful secret.



"Blessed mother above!" she ejaculated, "the _Lianhan Shee_!" And as she

spoke, with the holy water in the palm of her hand, she advanced

cautiously, and with great terror, to throw it upon the stranger and the

unearthly thing she bore.



"Don't attempt it!" shouted the other, in tones of mingled fierceness

and terror; "do you want to give _me_ pain without keeping _yourself_

anything at all safer? Don't you know _it_ doesn't care about your holy

water? But I'd suffer for it, an' perhaps so would you."



Mrs Sullivan, terrified by the agitated looks of the woman, drew back

with affright, and threw the holy water with which she intended to

purify the other on her own person.



"Why thin, you lost crathur, who or what are you at all?--don't,

don't--for the sake of all the saints and angels of heaven, don't come

next or near me--keep your distance--but what are you, or how did you

come to get that 'good thing' you carry about wid you?"



"Ay, indeed!" replied the woman bitterly, "as if I would or could tell

you that! I say, you woman, you're doing what's not right in asking me a

question you ought not let to cross your lips--look to yourself, and

what's over you."



The simple woman, thinking her meaning literal, almost leaped off her

seat with terror, and turned up her eyes to ascertain whether or not any

dreadful appearance had approached her, or hung over her where she sat.



"Woman," said she, "I spoke you kind an' fair, an' I wish you

well--but----"



"But what?" replied the other--and her eyes kindled into deep and

profound excitement, apparently upon very slight grounds.



"Why--hem--nothin' at all sure, only----"



"Only what?" asked the stranger, with a face of anguish that seemed to

torture every feature out of its proper lineaments.



"Dacent woman," said Mrs Sullivan, whilst the hair began to stand with

terror upon her head, "sure it's no wondher in life that I'm in a

perplexity, whin a _Lianhan Shee_ is undher the one roof wid me. 'Tisn't

that I want to know anything at all about it--the dear forbid I should;

but I never hard of a person bein' tormented wid it as you are. I always

used to hear the people say that it thrated its friends well."



"Husht!" said the woman, looking wildly over her shoulder, "I'll not

tell: it's on myself I'll leave the blame! Why, will you never pity me?

Am I to be night and day tormented? Oh, you're wicked and cruel for no

reason!"



"Thry," said Mrs Sullivan, "an' bless yourself; call on God."



"Ah!" shouted the other, "are you going to get me killed?" and as she

uttered the words, a spasmodic working which must have occasioned great

pain, even to torture, became audible in her throat; her bosom heaved up

and down, and her head was bent repeatedly on her breast, as if by

force.



"Don't mention that name," said she, "in my presence, except you mean to

drive me to utter distraction. I mean," she continued, after

considerable effort to recover her former tone and manner--"hear me with

attention--I mean, woman--you, Mary Sullivan--that if you mention that

holy name, you might as well keep plunging sharp knives into my heart!

Husht! peace to me for one minute, tormentor! Spare me something, I'm in

your power!"



"Will you ate anything?" said Mrs Sullivan; "poor crathur, you look like

hunger an' distress; there's enough in the house, blessed be them that

sent it! an' you had betther thry an' take some nourishment, any way";

and she raised her eyes in a silent prayer of relief and ease for the

unhappy woman, whose unhallowed association had, in her opinion, sealed

her doom.



"Will I?--will I?--oh!" she replied, "may you never know misery for

offering it! Oh, bring me something--some refreshment--some food--for

I'm dying with hunger."



Mrs Sullivan, who, with all her superstition, was remarkable for charity

and benevolence, immediately placed food and drink before her, which the

stranger absolutely devoured--taking care occasionally to secrete under

the protuberance which appeared behind her neck, a portion of what she

ate. This, however, she did, not by stealth, but openly; merely taking

means to prevent the concealed thing from being, by any possible

accident, discovered.



When the craving of hunger was satisfied, she appeared to suffer less

from the persecution of her tormentor than before; whether it was, as

Mrs Sullivan thought, that the food with which she plied it appeased in

some degree its irritability, or lessened that of the stranger, it was

difficult to say; at all events, she became more composed; her eyes

resumed somewhat of a natural expression; each sharp ferocious glare,

which shot from them with such intense and rapid flashes, partially

disappeared; her knit brows dilated, and part of a forehead, which had

once been capacious and handsome, lost the contractions which deformed

it by deep wrinkles. Altogether the change was evident, and very much

relieved Mrs Sullivan, who could not avoid observing it.



"It's not that I care much about it, if you'd think it not right o' me,

but it's odd enough for you to keep the lower part of your face muffled

up in that black cloth, an' then your forehead, too, is covered down on

your face a bit. If they're part of the _bargain_,"--and she shuddered

at the thought,--"between you an' anything that's not good--hem!--I

think you'd do well to throw thim off o' you, an' turn to thim that can

protect you from everything that's bad. Now, a scapular would keep all

the divils in hell from one; an' if you'd----"



On looking at the stranger she hesitated, for the wild expression of her

eyes began to return.



"Don't begin my punishment again," replied the woman; "make no

allus----don't make mention in my presence of anything that's good.

Husht--husht--it's beginning--easy now--easy! No," said she, "I came to

tell you, that only for my breaking a vow I made to this thing upon me,

I'd be happy instead of miserable with it. I say, it's a good thing to

have, if the person will use this bottle," she added, producing one, "as

I will direct them."



"I wouldn't wish, for my part," replied Mrs Sullivan, "to have anything

to do wid it--neither act nor part"; and she crossed herself devoutly,

on contemplating such an unholy alliance as that at which her companion

hinted.



"Mary Sullivan," replied the other, "I can put good fortune and

happiness in the way of you and yours. It is for you the good is

intended; if _you_ don't get both, _no other_ can," and her eyes kindled

as she spoke like those of the Pyrhoness in the moment of inspiration.



Mrs Sullivan looked at her with awe, fear, and a strong mixture of

curiosity; she had often heard that the _Lianhan Shee_ had, through

means of the person to whom it was bound, conferred wealth upon several,

although it could never render this important service to those who

exercised direct authority over it. She therefore experienced something

like a conflict between her fears and a love of that wealth, the

possession of which was so plainly intimated to her.



"The money," said she, "would be one thing, but to have the _Lianhan

Shee_ planted over a body's shouldher--och! the saints preserve us!--no,

not for oceans of hard goold would I have it in my company one minnit.

But in regard to the money--hem!--why, if it could be managed without

havin' act or part wid _that thing_, people would do anything in reason

and fairity."



"You have this day been kind to me," replied the woman, "and that's what

I can't say of many--dear help me!--husht! Every door is shut in my

face! Does not every cheek get pale when I am seen? If I meet a

fellow-creature on the road, they turn into the field to avoid me; if I

ask for food, it's to a deaf ear I speak; if I am thirsty, they send me

to the river. What house would shelter me? In cold, in hunger, in

drought, in storm, and in tempest, I am alone and unfriended, hated,

feared, an' avoided; starving in the winter's cold, and burning in the

summer's heat. All this is my fate here; and--oh! oh! oh!--have mercy,

tormentor--have mercy! I will not lift my thoughts _there_--I'll keep

the paction--but spare me _now_!"



She turned round as she spoke, seeming to follow an invisible object,

or, perhaps, attempting to get a more complete view of the mysterious

being which exercised such a terrible and painful influence over her.

Mrs Sullivan, also, kept her eye fixed upon the lump, and actually

believed that she saw it move. Fear of incurring the displeasure of what

it contained, and a superstitious reluctance harshly to thrust a person

from her door who had eaten of her food, prevented her from desiring the

woman to depart.



"In the name of Goodness," she replied, "I will have nothing to do wid

your gift. Providence, blessed be His name, has done well for me an'

mine; an' it mightn't be right to go beyant what it has pleased _Him_ to

give me."



"A rational sentiment!--I mean there's good sense in what you say,"

answered the stranger: "but you need not be afraid," and she accompanied

the expression by holding up the bottle and kneeling. "Now," she added,

"listen to me, and judge for yourself, if what I say, when I swear it,

can be a lie." She then proceeded to utter oaths of the most solemn

nature, the purport of which was to assure Mrs Sullivan that drinking of

the bottle would be attended with no danger.



"You see this little bottle? Drink it. Oh, for my sake and your own,

drink it; it will give wealth without end to you and to all belonging to

you. Take one-half of it before sunrise, and the other half when he goes

down. You must stand while drinking it, with your face to the east, in

the morning; and at night, to the west. Will you promise to do thus?"



"How would drinkin' the bottle get me money?" inquired Mrs Sullivan, who

certainly felt a strong tendency of heart to the wealth.



"That I can't tell you now, nor would you understand it, even if I

could; but you will know all when what I say is complied with."



"Keep your bottle, dacent woman. I wash my hands out of it: the saints

above guard me from the timptation! I'm sure it's not right, for as I'm

a sinner, 'tis gettin' stronger every minute widin me! Keep it! I'm loth

to bid any one that _ett_ o' my bread to go from my hearth, but if you

go, I'll make it worth your while. Saints above! what's comin' over me?

In my whole life I never had such a hankerin' afther money! Well, well,

but it's quare entirely!"



"Will you drink it?" asked her companion. "If it does hurt or harm to

you or yours, or anything but good, may what is hanging over me be

fulfilled!" and she extended a thin, but, considering her years, not

ungraceful arm, in the act of holding out the bottle to her kind

entertainer.



"For the sake of all that's good and gracious, take it without

scruple--it is not hurtful, a child might drink every drop that's in it.

Oh, for the sake of all you love, and of all that love you, take it!"

and as she urged her the tears streamed down her cheeks.



"No, no," replied Mrs Sullivan, "it'll never cross my lips; not if it

made me as rich as ould Hendherson, that airs his guineas in the sun,

for fraid they'd get light by lyin' past."



"I entreat you to take it," said the strange woman.



"Never, never!--once for all--I say, I won't; so spare your breath."



The firmness of the good housewife was not, in fact, to be shaken; so,

after exhausting all the motives and arguments with which she could urge

the accomplishment of her design, the strange woman, having again put

the bottle into her bosom, prepared to depart.



She had now once more become calm, and resumed her seat with the languid

air of one who has suffered much exhaustion and excitement. She put her

hand upon her forehead for a few moments, as if collecting her

faculties, or endeavouring to remember the purport of their previous

conversation. A slight moisture had broken through her skin, and

altogether, notwithstanding her avowed criminality in entering into an

unholy bond, she appeared an object of deep compassion.



In a moment her manner changed again, and her eyes blazed out once more,

as she asked her alarmed hostess,--



"Again, Mary Sullivan, will you take the gift that I have it in my power

to give you? ay or no? speak, poor mortal, if you know what is for your

own good."



Mrs Sullivan's fears, however, had overcome her love of money,

particularly as she thought that wealth obtained in such a manner could

not prosper; her only objection being to the means of acquiring it.



"Oh!" said the stranger, "am I doomed never to meet with anyone who will

take the promise off me by drinking of this bottle. Oh! but I am

unhappy! What it is to fear--ah! ah!--and keep _His_ commandments. Had

_I_ done so in my youthful time, I wouldn't now--ah--merciful mother, is

there no relief? kill me, tormentor; kill me outright, for surely the

pangs of eternity cannot be greater than those you now make me suffer.

Woman," said she, and her muscles stood out in extraordinary

energy--"woman, Mary Sullivan--ay, if you should kill me--blast

me--where I stand, I will say the word--woman--you have daughters--teach

them--to fear----" Having got so far, she stopped--her bosom heaved up

and down--her frame shook dreadfully--her eyeballs became lurid and

fiery--her hands were clenched, and the spasmodic throes of inward

convulsion worked the white froth up to her mouth; at length she

suddenly became like a statue, with this wild supernatural expression

intense upon her, and with an awful calmness, by far more dreadful than

excitement could be, concluded by pronouncing in deep husky tones the

name of God.



Having accomplished this with such a powerful struggle, she turned round

with pale despair in her countenance and manner, and with streaming eyes

slowly departed, leaving Mrs Sullivan in a situation not at all to be

envied.



In a short time the other members of the family, who had been out at

their evening employments, returned. Bartley, her husband, having

entered somewhat sooner than his three daughters from milking, was the

first to come in; presently the girls followed, and in a few minutes

they sat down to supper, together with the servants, who dropped in one

by one, after the toil of the day. On placing themselves about the

table, Bartley as usual took his seat at the head; but Mrs Sullivan,

instead of occupying hers, sat at the fire in a state of uncommon

agitation. Every two or three minutes she would cross herself devoutly,

and mutter such prayers against spiritual influences of an evil nature

as she could compose herself to remember.



"Thin, why don't you come to your supper, Mary," said the husband,

"while the sowans are warm? Brave and thick they are this night, any

way."



His wife was silent, for so strong a hold had the strange woman and her

appalling secret upon her mind, that it was not till he repeated his

question three or four times--raising his head with surprise, and

asking, "Eh, thin, Mary, what's come over you--is it unwell you

are?"--that she noticed what he said.



"Supper!" she exclaimed; "unwell! 'tis a good right I have to be

unwell,--I hope nothing bad will happen, any way. Feel my face, Nannie,"

she added, addressing one of her daughters; "it's as cowld an' wet as a

limestone--ay, an' if you found me a corpse before you, it wouldn't be

at all strange."



There was a general pause at the seriousness of this intimation. The

husband rose from his supper, and went up to the hearth where she sat.



"Turn round to the light," said he; "why, Mary dear, in the name of

wondher, what ails you? for you're like a corpse sure enough. Can't you

tell us what has happened, or what put you in such a state? Why,

childhre, the cowld sweat's teemin' off her!"



The poor woman, unable to sustain the shock produced by her interview

with the stranger, found herself getting more weak, and requested a

drink of water; but before it could be put to her lips, she laid her

head upon the back of the chair and fainted. Grief, and uproar, and

confusion followed this alarming incident. The presence of mind, so

necessary on such occasions, was wholly lost; one ran here, and another

there, all jostling against each other, without being cool enough to

render her proper assistance. The daughters were in tears, and Bartley

himself was dreadfully shocked by seeing his wife apparently lifeless

before him.



She soon recovered, however, and relieved them from the apprehension of

her death, which they thought had actually taken place. "Mary," said the

husband, "something quare entirely has happened, or you wouldn't be in

this state!"



"Did any of you see a strange woman lavin' the house a minute or two

before ye came in?" she inquired.



"No," they replied, "not a stim of anyone did we see."



"Wurrah dheelish! No?--now is it possible ye didn't?" She then described

her, but all declared they had seen no such person.



"Bartley, whisper," said she, and beckoning him over to her, in a few

words she revealed the secret. The husband grew pale and crossed

himself. "Mother of Saints! childhre," said he, "a _Lianhan Shee_!" The

words were no sooner uttered than every countenance assumed the

pallidness of death; and every right hand was raised in the act of

blessing the person, and crossing the forehead. "_The Lianhan Shee!!_"

all exclaimed in fear and horror--"This day's Friday; God betwixt us an'

harm!"



It was now after dusk, and the hour had already deepened into the

darkness of a calm, moonless, summer night; the hearth, therefore, in a

short time, became surrounded by a circle, consisting of every person in

the house; the door was closed and securely bolted;--a struggle for the

safest seat took place; and to Bartley's shame be it spoken, he lodged

himself on the hob within the jamb, as the most distant situation from

the fearful being known as the _Lianhan Shee_. The recent terror,

however, brooded over them all; their topic of conversation was the

mysterious visit, of which Mrs Sullivan gave a painfully accurate

detail; whilst every ear of those who composed her audience was set, and

every single hair of their heads bristled up, as if awakened into

distinct life by the story. Bartley looked into the fire soberly, except

when the cat, in prowling about the dresser, electrified him into a

start of fear, which sensation went round every link of the living chain

about the hearth.



The next day the story spread through the whole neighbourhood,

accumulating in interest and incident as it went. Where it received the

touches, embellishments, and emendations, with which it was amplified,

it would be difficult to say: every one told it, forsooth, _exactly_ as

he heard it from another, but indeed it is not improbable that those

through whom it passed were unconscious of the additions it had received

at their hands. It is not unreasonable to suppose that imagination in

such cases often colours highly without a premeditated design of

falsehood. Fear and dread, however, accompanied its progress; such

families as had neglected to keep holy water in their houses borrowed

some from their neighbours; every old prayer which had become rusty

from disuse was brightened up--charms were hung about the necks of

cattle, and gospels about those of children--crosses were placed over

the doors and windows;--no unclean water was thrown out before sunrise

or after dusk--



"E'en those prayed now who never prayed before,

And those who always prayed, still prayed the more."



The inscrutable woman who caused such general dismay in the parish was

an object of much pity. Avoided, feared, and detested, she could find no

rest for her weary feet, nor any shelter for her unprotected head. If

she was seen approaching a house, the door and windows were immediately

closed against her; if met on the way she was avoided as a pestilence.

How she lived no one could tell, for none would permit themselves to

know. It was asserted that she existed without meat or drink, and that

she was doomed to remain possessed of life, the prey of hunger and

thirst, until she could get some one weak enough to break the spell by

drinking her hellish draught, to taste which, they said, would be to

change places with herself, and assume her despair and misery.



There had lived in the country about six months before her appearance in

it, a man named Stephenson. He was unmarried, and the last of his

family. This person led a solitary and secluded life, and exhibited

during the last years of his existence strong symptoms of eccentricity,

which for some months before his death assumed a character of

unquestionable derangement. He was found one morning hanging by a halter

in his own stable, where he had, under the influence of his malady,

committed suicide. At this time the public press had not, as now,

familiarised the minds of the people to that dreadful crime, and it was

consequently looked upon _then_ with an intensity of horror of which we

can scarcely entertain any adequate notion. His farm remained

unoccupied, for while an acre of land could be obtained in any other

quarter, no man would enter upon such unhallowed premises. The house was

locked up, and it was currently reported that Stephenson and the devil

each night repeated the hanging scene in the stable; and that when the

former was committing the "hopeless sin," the halter slipped several

times from the beam of the stable-loft, when Satan came, in the shape of

a dark-complexioned man with a hollow voice, and secured the rope until

Stephenson's end was accomplished.



In this stable did the wanderer take up her residence at night; and when

we consider the belief of the people in the night-scenes which were

supposed to occur in it, we need not be surprised at the new features of

horror which this circumstance superadded to her character. Her presence

and appearance in the parish were dreadful; a public outcry was soon

raised against her, which, were it not from fear of her power over their

lives and cattle, might have ended in her death. None, however, had

courage to grapple with her, or to attempt expelling her by violence,

lest a signal vengeance might be taken on any who dared to injure a

woman that could call in the terrible aid of the _Lianhan Shee_.



In this state of feeling they applied to the parish priest, who, on

hearing the marvellous stories related concerning her, and on

questioning each man closely upon his authority, could perceive that,

like most other reports, they were to be traced principally to the

imagination and fears of the people. He ascertained, however, enough

from Bartley Sullivan to justify a belief that there was something

certainly uncommon about the woman; and being of a cold, phlegmatic

disposition, with some humour, he desired them to go home, if they were

wise--he shook his head mysteriously as he spoke--"and do the woman no

injury, if they didn't wish"--and with this abrupt hint he sent them

about their business.



This, however, did not satisfy them. In the same parish lived a

suspended priest, called Father Philip O'Dallaghy, who supported

himself, as most of them do, by curing certain diseases of the

people--miraculously! He had no other means of subsistence, nor, indeed,

did he seem strongly devoted to life, or to the pleasures it afforded.

He was not addicted to those intemperate habits which characterise

"Blessed Priests" in general; spirits he never tasted, nor any food that

could be termed a luxury, or even a comfort. His communion with the

people was brief, and marked by a tone of severe contemptuous

misanthropy. He seldom stirred abroad except during morning, or in the

evening twilight, when he might be seen gliding amidst the coming

darkness, like a dissatisfied spirit. His life was an austere one, and

his devotional practices were said to be of the most remorseful

character. Such a man, in fact, was calculated to hold a powerful sway

over the prejudices and superstitions of the people. This was true. His

power was considered almost unlimited, and his life one that would not

disgrace the highest saint in the calendar. There were not wanting some

persons in the parish who hinted that Father Felix O'Rourke, the parish

priest, was himself rather reluctant to incur the displeasure, or

challenge the power of the _Lianhan Shee_, by driving its victim out of

the parish. The opinion of these persons was, in its distinct

unvarnished reality, that Father Felix absolutely showed the white

feather on this critical occasion--that he became shy, and begged leave

to decline being introduced to this intractable pair--seeming to

intimate that he did not at all relish adding them to the stock of his

acquaintances.



Father Philip they considered as a decided contrast to him on this

point. His stern and severe manner, rugged, and, when occasion demanded,

daring, they believed suitable to the qualities requisite for

sustaining such an interview. They accordingly waited on him; and after

Bartley and his friends had given as faithful a report of the

circumstances as, considering all things, could be expected, he told

Bartley he would hear from Mrs Sullivan's own lips the authentic

narrative. This was quite satisfactory, and what was expected from him.

As for himself, he appeared to take no particular interest in the

matter, further than that of allaying the ferment and alarm which had

spread through the parish.



"Plase your Reverence," said Bartley, "she came in to Mary, and she

alone in the house, and for the matther o' that, I believe she laid

hands upon her, and tossed and tumbled the crathur, and she but a sickly

woman, through the four corners of the house. Not that Mary lets an so

much, for she's afeard; but I know from her way, when she spakes about

her, that it's thruth, your Reverence."



"But didn't the _Lianhan Shee_," said one of them, "put a sharp-pointed

knife to her breast, wid a divilish intintion of makin' her give the

best of atin' an' dhrinkin' the house afforded?"



"She got the victuals, to a sartinty," replied Bartley, "and

'overlooked' my woman for her pains; for she's not the picture of

herself since."



Everyone now told some magnified and terrible circumstance, illustrating

the formidable power of the _Lianhan Shee_.



When they had finished, the sarcastic lip of the priest curled into an

expression of irony and contempt; his brow, which was naturally black

and heavy, darkened; and a keen, but rather a ferocious-looking, eye

shot forth a glance, which, while it intimated disdain for those to whom

it was directed, spoke also of a dark and troubled spirit in himself.

The man seemed to brook with scorn the degrading situation of a

religious quack, to which some uncontrollable destiny had doomed him.



"I shall see your wife to-morrow," said he to Bartley; "and after

hearing the plain account of what happened, I will consider what is best

to be done with this dark, perhaps unhappy, perhaps guilty character;

but whether dark, or unhappy, or guilty, I, for one, should not, and

will not, avoid her. Go, and bring me word to-morrow evening when I can

see her on the following day. Begone!"



When they withdrew, Father Philip paced his room for some time in

silence and anxiety.



"Ay," said he, "infatuated people! sunk in superstition and ignorance,

yet, perhaps, happier in your degradation than those who, in the pride

of knowledge, can only look back upon a life of crime and misery. What

is a sceptic? What is an infidel? Men who, when they will not submit to

moral restraint, harden themselves into scepticism and infidelity,

until, in the headlong career of guilt, that which was first adopted to

lull the outcry of conscience, is supported by the pretended pride of

principle. Principle in a sceptic! Hollow and devilish lie! Would _I_

have plunged into scepticism, had I not first violated the moral

sanctions of religion? Never. I became an infidel, because I first

became a villain! Writhing under a load of guilt, that which I wished

might be true, I soon forced myself to think true: and now"--he here

clenched his hands and groaned--"now--ay, now--and hereafter--oh, _that_

hereafter! Why can I not shake the thoughts of it from my conscience?

Religion! Christianity! With all the hardness of an infidel's heart, I

feel your truth; because, if every man were the villain that infidelity

would make him, then indeed might every man curse God for the existence

bestowed upon him--as I would, but dare not do. Yet why can I not

believe? Alas! why should God accept an unrepentant heart? Am I not a

hypocrite, mocking Him by a guilty pretension to His power, and leading

the dark into thicker darkness? Then these hands--blood!--broken

vows!--ha! ha! ha! Well, go--let misery have its laugh, like the light

that breaks from the thunder-cloud. Prefer Voltaire to Christ; sow the

wind, and reap the whirlwind, as I have done--ha, ha, ha! Swim,

world--swim about me! I have lost the ways of Providence, and am dark!

_She_ awaits me; but I broke the chain that galled us: yet it still

rankles--still rankles!"



The unhappy man threw himself into a chair in a paroxysm of frenzied

agony. For more than an hour he sat in the same posture, until he became

gradually hardened into a stiff, lethargic insensibility, callous and

impervious to feeling, reason, or religion--an awful transition from a

visitation of conscience so terrible as that which he had just suffered.

At length he arose, and by walking moodily about, relapsed into his

usual gloomy and restless character.



When Bartley went home, he communicated to his wife Father Philip's

intention of calling on the following day, to hear a correct account of

the _Lianhan Shee_.



"Why, thin," said she, "I'm glad of it, for I intinded myself to go to

him, any way, to get my new scapular consecrated. How-an'-ever, as he's

to come, I'll get a set of gospels for the boys an' girls, an' he can

consecrate all when his hand's in. Aroon, Bartley, they say that man's

so holy that he can do anything--ay, melt a body off the face o' the

earth, like snow off a ditch. Dear me, but the power they have is

strange all out!"



"There's no use in gettin' him anything to ate or dhrink," replied

Bartley; "he wouldn't take a glass o' whisky once in seven years.

Throth, myself thinks he's a little too dhry; sure he might be holy

enough, an' yet take a sup of an odd time. There's Father Felix, an'

though we all know he's far from bein' so blessed a man as him, yet he

has friendship an' neighbourliness in him, an' never refuses a glass in

rason."



"But do you know what I was tould about Father Philip, Bartley?"



"I'll tell you that afther I hear it, Mary, my woman; you won't expect

me to tell what I don't know?--ha, ha, ha!"



"Behave, Bartley, an' quit your jokin' now, at all evints; keep it till

we're talkin' of somethin' else, an' don't let us be committin' sin,

maybe, while we're spakin' of what we're spakin' about; but they say

it's as thrue as the sun to the dial:--the Lent afore last itself it

was,--he never tasted mate or dhrink durin' the whole seven weeks! Oh,

you needn't stare! it's well known by thim that has as much sinse as

you--no, not so much as you'd carry on the point o' this

knittin'-needle. Well, sure the housekeeper an' the two sarvants

wondhered--faix, they couldn't do less--an' took it into their heads to

watch him closely; an' what do you think--blessed be all the saints

above!--what do you think they _seen_?"



"The Goodness above knows; for me--I don't."



"Why, thin, whin he was asleep they seen a small silk thread in his

mouth, that came down through the ceilin' from heaven, an' he suckin'

it, just as a child would his mother's breast whin the crathur 'ud be

asleep: so that was the way he was supported by the angels! An' I

remimber myself, though he's a dark, spare, yallow man at all times, yet

he never looked half so fat an' rosy as he did the same Lent!"



"Glory be to Heaven! Well, well--_it is_ sthrange the power they have!

As for him, I'd as _lee_ meet St Pether, or St Pathrick himself, as him;

for one can't but fear him, somehow."



"Fear him! Och, it 'ud be the pity o' thim that 'ud do anything to vex

or anger that man. Why, his very look 'ud wither thim, till there

wouldn't be the thrack o' thim on the earth; an' as for his curse, why

it 'ud scorch thim to ashes!"



As it was generally known that Father Philip was to visit Mrs Sullivan

the next day, in order to hear an account of the mystery which filled

the parish with such fear, a very great number of the parishioners were

assembled in and about Bartley's long before he made his appearance. At

length he was seen walking slowly down the road, with an open book in

his hand, on the pages of which he looked from time to time. When he

approached the house, those who were standing about it assembled in a

body, and, with one consent, uncovered their heads, and asked his

blessing. His appearance bespoke a mind ill at ease; his face was

haggard, and his eyes bloodshot. On seeing the people kneel, he smiled

with his usual bitterness, and, shaking his hand with an air of

impatience over them, muttered some words, rather in mockery of the

ceremony than otherwise. They then rose, and, blessing themselves, put

on their hats, rubbed the dust off their knees, and appeared to think

themselves recruited by a peculiar accession of grace.



On entering the house the same form was repeated; and when it was over,

the best chair was placed for him by Mary's own hands, and the fire

stirred up, and a line of respect drawn, within which none was to

intrude, lest he might feel in any degree incommoded.



"My good neighbour," said he to Mrs Sullivan, "what strange woman is

this, who has thrown the parish into such a ferment? I'm told she paid

you a visit? Pray sit down."



"I humbly thank your Reverence," said Mary, curtseying lowly, "but I'd

rather not sit, sir, if you, plase. I hope I know what respect manes,

your Reverence. Barny Bradagh, I'll thank you to stand up, if you plase,

an' his Reverence to the fore, Barny."



"I ax your Reverence's pardon, an' yours, too, Mrs Sullivan; sure we

didn't mane the disrespect, anyhow, sir, plase your Reverence."



"About this woman, and the _Lianhan Shee_," said the priest, without

noticing Barny's apology. "Pray what do you precisely understand by a

_Lianhan Shee_?"



"Why, sir," replied Mary, "some sthrange bein' from the good people, or

fairies, that sticks to some persons. There's a bargain, sir, your

Reverence, made atween thim; an' the divil, sir, that is, the ould

boy--the saints about us!--has a hand in it. The _Lianhan Shee_, your

Reverence, is never seen only by thim it keeps wid; but--hem!--it

always, wid the help of the ould boy, conthrives, sir, to make the

person brake the agreement, an' thin it has _thim_ in _its_ power; but

if they _don't_ brake the agreement, thin _it's_ in _their_ power. If

they can get anybody to put in their place, they may get out o' the

bargain; for they can, of a sartainty, give oceans o' money to people,

but can't take any themselves, plase your Reverence. But sure, where's

the use o' me to be tellin' your Reverence what you know betther nor

myself?--an' why shouldn't you, or any one that has the power you have?"



He smiled again at this in his own peculiar manner, and was proceeding

to inquire more particularly into the nature of the interview between

them, when the noise of feet, and sounds of general alarm, accompanied

by a rush of people into the house, arrested his attention, and he

hastily inquired into the cause of the commotion. Before he could

receive a reply, however, the house was almost crowded; and it was not

without considerable difficulty that, by the exertions of Mrs Sullivan

and Bartley, sufficient order and quiet were obtained to hear distinctly

what was said.



"Plase your Reverence," said several voices at once, "they're comin',

hot-foot, into the very house to us! Was ever the likes seen! an' they

must know right well, sir, that you're widin it."



"Who are coming?" he inquired.



"Why, the woman, sir, an' her _good pet_, the _Lianhan Shee_, your

Reverence!"



"Well," said he, "but why should you all appear so blanched with terror?

Let her come in, and we shall see how far she is capable of injuring her

fellow-creatures: some maniac," he muttered, in a low soliloquy, "whom

the villainy of the world has driven into derangement--some victim to a

hand like m----. Well, they say there _is_ a Providence, yet such things

are permitted!"



"He's sayin' a prayer now," observed one of them; "haven't we a good

right to be thankful that he's in the place wid us while she's in it, or

dear knows what harm she might do us--maybe _rise_ the wind!"



As the latter speaker concluded, there was a dead silence. The persons

about the door crushed each other backwards, their feet set out before

them, and their shoulders laid with violent pressure against those who

stood behind, for each felt anxious to avoid all danger of contact with

a being against whose power even a blessed priest found it necessary to

guard himself by a prayer.



At length a low murmur ran among the people--"Father O'Rourke!--here's

Father O'Rourke!--he has turned the corner after her, an' they're both

comin' in." Immediately they entered, but it was quite evident, from the

manner of the worthy priest, that he was unacquainted with the person of

this singular being. When they crossed the threshold, the priest

advanced, and expressed his surprise at the throng of people assembled.



"Plase your Reverence," said Bartley, "_that's_ the woman," nodding

significantly towards her as he spoke, but without looking at her

person, lest the evil eye he dreaded so much might meet his, and give

him "the blast."



The dreaded female, on seeing the house in such a crowded state,

started, paused, and glanced with some terror at the persons assembled.

Her dress was not altered since her last visit; but her countenance,

though more meagre and emaciated, expressed but little of the unsettled

energy which then flashed from her eyes, and distorted her features by

the depth of that mysterious excitement by which she had been agitated.

Her countenance was still muffled as before, the awful protuberance rose

from her shoulders, and the same band which Mrs Sullivan had alluded to

during their interview, was bound about the upper part of her forehead.



She had already stood upwards of two minutes, during which the fall of a

feather might be heard, yet none bade God bless her--no kind hand was

extended to greet her--no heart warmed in affection towards her; on the

contrary, every eye glanced at her, as a being marked with enmity

towards God. Blanched faces and knit brows, the signs of fear and

hatred, were turned upon her; her breath was considered pestilential,

and her touch paralysis. There she stood, proscribed, avoided, and

hunted like a tigress, all fearing to encounter, yet wishing to

exterminate her! Who could she be?--or what had she done, that the

finger of the Almighty marked her out for such a fearful weight of

vengeance?



Father Philip rose and advanced a few steps, until he stood confronting

her. His person was tall, his features dark, severe, and solemn: and

when the nature of the investigation about to take place is considered,

it need not be wondered at, that the moment was, to those present, one

of deep and impressive interest--such as a visible conflict between a

supposed champion of God and a supernatural being was calculated to

excite.



"Woman," said he, in his deep stern voice, "tell me who and what you

are, and why you assume a character of such a repulsive and mysterious

nature, when it can entail only misery, shame, and persecution on

yourself? I conjure you, in the name of Him after whose image you are

created, to speak truly!"



He paused, and the tall figure stood mute before him. The silence was

dead as death--every breath was hushed--and the persons assembled stood

immovable as statues! Still she spoke not; but the violent heaving of

her breast evinced the internal working of some dreadful struggle. Her

face before was pale--it was now ghastly; her lips became blue, and her

eyes vacant.



"Speak!" said he; "I conjure you in the name of the power by whom you

live!"



It is probable that the agitation under which she laboured was produced

by the severe effort made to sustain the unexpected trial she had to

undergo.



For some minutes her struggle continued; but having begun at its highest

pitch, it gradually subsided until it settled in a calmness which

appeared fixed and awful as the resolution of despair. With breathless

composure she turned round, and put back that part of her dress which

concealed her face, except the band on her forehead, which she did not

remove; having done this, she turned again, and walked calmly towards

Father Philip, with a deadly smile upon her thin lips. When within a

step of where he stood, she paused, and, riveting her eyes upon him,

exclaimed,--



"Who and what am I? The victim of infidelity and you, the bearer of a

cursed existence, the scoff and scorn of the world, the monument of a

broken vow and a guilty life, a being scourged by the scorpion lash of

conscience, blasted by periodical insanity, pelted by the winter's

storm, scorched by the summer's heat, withered by starvation, hated by

man, and touched into my inmost spirit by the anticipated tortures of

future misery. I have no rest for the sole of my foot, no repose for a

head distracted by the contemplation of a guilty life; I am the unclean



spirit which walketh to seek rest and findeth none; I am--_what you have

made me_! Behold," she added, holding up the bottle, "this failed, and I

live to accuse you. But no, you are my husband--though our union was

but a guilty form, and I will bury that in silence. You thought me dead,

and you flew to avoid punishment; did you avoid it? No; the finger of

God has written pain and punishment upon your brow. I have been in all

characters, in all shapes, have spoken with the tongue of a peasant,

moved in my natural sphere, but my knees were smitten, my brain

stricken, and the wild malady which banishes me from society has been

upon me for years. Such I am, and such, I say, have you made me. As for

you, kind-hearted woman, there was nothing in this bottle but pure

water. The interval of reason returned this day, and having remembered

glimpses of our conversation, I came to apologise to you, and to explain

the nature of my unhappy distemper, and to beg a little bread, which I

have not tasted for two days. I at times conceive myself attended by an

evil spirit, shaped out by a guilty conscience, and this is the only

familiar which attends me, and by it I have been dogged into madness

through every turning of life. Whilst it lasts I am subject to spasms

and convulsive starts which are exceedingly painful. The lump on my back

is the robe I wore when innocent in my peaceful convent."



The intensity of general interest was now transferred to Father Philip;

every face was turned towards him, but he cared not. A solemn stillness

yet prevailed among all present. From the moment she spoke, her eye drew

his with the power of a basilisk. His pale face became like marble, not

a muscle moved; and when she ceased speaking, his bloodshot eyes were

still fixed upon her countenance with a gloomy calmness like that which

precedes a tempest. They stood before each other, dreadful counterparts

in guilt, for truly his spirit was as dark as hers.



At length he glanced angrily around him:--"Well," said he, "what is it

now, ye poor infatuated wretches, to trust in the sanctity _of man_?

Learn from me to place the same confidence _in God_ which you place in

His _guilty creatures_, and you will not lean on a broken reed. Father

O'Rourke, you, too, witness my disgrace, but not my punishment. It is

pleasant, no doubt, to have a topic for conversation at your

Conferences; enjoy it. As for you, Margaret, if society lessen misery,

we may be less miserable. But the band of your order, and the

remembrance of your vow is on your forehead, like the mark of Cain--tear

it off, and let it not blast a man who is the victim of prejudice still,

nay, of superstition, as well as of guilt; tear it from my sight." His

eyes kindled fearfully as he attempted to pull it away by force.



She calmly took it off, and he immediately tore it into pieces, and

stamped upon the fragments as he flung them on the ground.



"Come," said the despairing man--"come--there is a shelter for you, _but

no peace_!--food, and drink, and raiment, but _no peace_!--NO

PEACE!" As he uttered these words, in a voice that sank to its

deepest pitch, he took her hand, and they both departed to his own

residence.



The amazement and horror of those who were assembled in Bartley's house

cannot be described. Our readers may be assured that they deepened in

character as they spread through the parish. An undefined fear of this

mysterious pair seized upon the people, for their images were associated

in their minds with darkness and crime, and supernatural communion. The

departing words of Father Philip rang in their ears: they trembled, and

devoutly crossed themselves, as fancy again repeated the awful

exclamation of the priest--"No peace! no peace!"



When Father Philip and his unhappy associate went home, he instantly

made her a surrender of his small property; but with difficulty did he

command sufficient calmness to accomplish even this. He was

distracted--his blood seemed to have been turned to fire--he clenched

his hands, and he gnashed his teeth, and exhibited the wildest symptoms

of madness. About ten o'clock he desired fuel for a large fire to be

brought into the kitchen, and got a strong cord, which he coiled, and

threw carelessly on the table. The family were then ordered to bed.

About eleven they were all asleep; and at the solemn hour of twelve he

heaped additional fuel upon the living turf, until the blaze shone with

scorching light upon everything around. Dark and desolating was the

tempest within him, as he paced, with agitated steps, before the

crackling fire.



"She is risen!" he exclaimed--"the spectre of all my crimes is risen to

haunt me through life! I _am_ a murderer--yet she lives, and my guilt is

not the less! The stamp of eternal infamy is upon me--the finger of

scorn will mark me out--the tongue of reproach will sting me like that

of the serpent--the deadly touch of shame will cover me like a

leper--the laws of society will crush the murderer, not the less that

his wickedness in blood has miscarried: after that comes the black and

terrible tribunal of the Almighty's vengeance--of His fiery indignation!

Hush!--What sounds are those? They deepen--they deepen! Is it thunder?

It cannot be the crackling of the blaze! It _is_ thunder!--but it speaks

only to _my_ ear! Hush!--Great God, there is a change in my voice! It is

hollow and supernatural! Could a change have come over me? Am I living?

Could I have--Hah!--Could I have departed? and am I now at length given

over to the worm that never dies? If it be at my heart, I may feel it.

God!--I am damned! Here is a viper twined about my limbs, trying to dart

its fangs into my heart! Hah!--there are feet pacing in the room, too,

and I hear voices! I am surrounded by evil spirits! Who's there?--What

are you?--Speak!--They are silent!--There is no answer! Again comes the

thunder! But perchance this is not my place of punishment, and I will

try to leave these horrible spirits!"



He opened the door, and passed out into a small green field that lay

behind the house. The night was calm, and the silence profound as death.

Not a cloud obscured the heavens;--the light of the moon fell upon the

stillness of the scene around him, with all the touching beauty of a

moonlit midnight in summer. Here he paused a moment, felt his brow, then

his heart, the palpitations of which fell audibly upon his ear. He

became somewhat cooler; the images of madness which had swept through

his stormy brain disappeared, and were succeeded by a lethargic vacancy

of thought, which almost deprived him of the consciousness of his own

identity. From the green field he descended mechanically to a little

glen which opened beside it. It was one of those delightful spots to

which the heart clingeth. Its sloping sides were clothed with patches of

wood, on the leaves of which the moonlight glanced with a soft lustre,

rendered more beautiful by their stillness. That side on which the light

could not fall, lay in deep shadow, which occasionally gave to the rocks

and small projecting precipices an appearance of monstrous and unnatural

life. Having passed through the tangled mazes of the glen, he at length

reached its bottom, along which ran a brook, such as, in the description

of the poet,--



"In the leafy month of June,

Unto the sleeping woods all night,

Singeth a quiet tune."



Here he stood, and looked upon the green winding margin of the

streamlet--but its song he heard not. With the workings of a guilty

conscience, the beautiful in nature can have no association. He looked

up the glen, but its picturesque windings, soft vistas, and wild

underwood mingling with grey rocks and taller trees, all mellowed by the

moon-beams, had no charms for him. He maintained a profound silence--but

it was not the silence of peace or reflection. He endeavoured to recall

the scenes of the past day, but could not bring them back to his

memory. Even the fiery tide of thought, which, like burning lava, seared

his brain a few moments before, was now cold and hardened. He could

remember nothing. The convulsion of his mind was over, and his faculties

were impotent and collapsed.



In this state he unconsciously retraced his steps, and had again reached

the paddock adjoining his house, when, as he thought, the figure of his

paramour stood before him. In a moment his former paroxysm returned, and

with it the gloomy images of a guilty mind, charged with the extravagant

horrors of brain-struck madness.



"What!" he exclaimed, "the band still on your forehead! Tear it off!"



He caught at the form as he spoke, but there was no resistance to his

grasp. On looking again towards the spot, it had ceased to be visible.

The storm within him arose once more; he rushed into the kitchen, where

the fire blazed out with fiercer heat; again he imagined that the

thunder came to his ears, but the thunderings which he heard were only

the voice of conscience. Again his own footsteps and his voice sounded

in his fancy as the footsteps and voices of fiends, with which his

imagination peopled the room. His state and his existence seemed to him

a confused and troubled dream; he tore his hair--threw it on the

table--and immediately started back with a hollow groan; for his locks,

which but a few hours before had been as black as the raven's wing, were

now white as snow!



On discovering this, he gave a low but frantic laugh. "Ha, ha, ha!" he

exclaimed; "here is another mark--here is food for despair. Silently,

but surely, did the hand of God work this, as a proof that I am

hopeless! But I will bear it; I will bear the sight! I now feel myself a

man blasted by the eye of God Himself! Ha, ha, ha! Food for despair!

Food for despair!"



Immediately he passed into his own room, and approaching the

looking-glass beheld a sight calculated to move a statue. His hair had

become literally white, but the shades of his dark complexion, now

distorted by terror and madness, flitted, as his features worked under

the influence of his tremendous passions, into an expression so

frightful, that deep fear came over himself. He snatched one of his

razors, and fled from the glass to the kitchen. He looked upon the fire,

and saw the white ashes lying around its edge.



"Ha!" said he, "the light is come! I see the sign. I am directed, and I

will follow it. There is yet ONE hope. The immolation! I shall

be saved, yet so as by fire. It is for this my hair has become

white;--the sublime warning for my self-sacrifice! The colour of

ashes!--white--white! It is so!--I will sacrifice my body in material

fire, to save my soul from that which is eternal! But I had anticipated

the SIGN! The self-sacrifice is accepted!"



We must here draw a veil over that which ensued, as the description of

it would be both unnatural and revolting. Let it be sufficient to say,

that the next morning he was found burnt to a cinder, with the exception

of his feet and legs, which remained as monuments of, perhaps, the most

dreadful suicide that ever was committed by man. His razor, too, was

found bloody, and several clots of gore were discovered about the

hearth; from which circumstances it was plain that he had reduced his

strength so much by loss of blood, that when he committed himself to the

flames, he was unable, even had he been willing, to avoid the fiery and

awful sacrifice of which he made himself the victim. If anything could

deepen the impression of fear and awe, already so general among the

people, it was the unparalleled nature of his death. Its circumstances

are yet remembered in the parish and county wherein it occurred--_for it

is no fiction_, gentle reader! and the titular bishop who then presided

over the diocese declared, that while he lived no person bearing the

unhappy man's name should ever be admitted to the clerical order.



The shock produced by his death struck the miserable woman into the

utter darkness of settled derangement. She survived him some years, but

wandered about through the province, still, according to the

superstitious belief of the people, tormented by the terrible enmity of

the _Lianhan Shee_.





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