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the present moment, I must confess that I feel there is very little possibility of success."
"You possess such a clear head and such an inventive brain, Catherine, that I am confident you will discover some plan."
“In case I should do so, Pierce, how am I to let you know? I dare not venture here again; and that dreadful old hag !—what a trade she drives, Pierce, in those fearful, misshapen things, which, by her account, have some terrible, mysterious meaning attached to them, and which have impressed me with such a superstitious dread, even against my reason, which tells me they are but inanimate, vegetable matter. believe in them, Pierce ?"
She looked up earnestly in his face, as she put the question in a half-doubting manner, as if afraid he might answer in accordance with her fears, but he only laughed, and said,
"I don't pretend to know much about botany, cousin. All roots bear the same aspect to me. But about communicating with you, I shall soon settle that point.”
He began to hoot like an owl, when, to Catherine's amazement, not to say terror, an enormous white owl perched itself upon the cask, in the midst of the papers strewn over it.
“ This is my courier, is he not a splendid creature ? He was brought from the North Pole, the place where only such white ones are indigenous. He is such a clever, discreet bird, and then, his ears are peculiarly formed, he hears the slightest noise even at a great distance, and, spite of his bulk, his flight is quite noiseless. He was given me by an acquaintance, who had just returned from an Arctic expedition. I generally send him by night, when I wish to communicate with any of the country people, to whom he is well known. "Shall I send it to-morrow night for your answer ?”
“Pray don't, Pierce, I should never have the courage to go near him, much less to touch him. I should look upon
some transformed spirit, destined to wander about the earth, till some vow or other connected with him should be fulfilled.”
Catherine could scarcely take her eyes off the strange, ominous creature, with its wonderfully-shaped head and eyes, that seemed to penetrate her very thoughts.
Well, Catherine, since you are so appalled at the sight of my pet, I can send you, instead, a carrier-pigeon, which has been trained by Captain Sweeny, to fly to the Court and back, and which I usually carry about with me, in case of necessity, and before sending it attach a scarlet ribbon to its neck, as a signal of distress. When the peasantry see it, they are then aware that danger threatens me, and accordingly take measures to come to the rescue. The other night I should have certainly availed myself of its intelligence, had I not recognised you, and counted upon your assistance."
“Apropos, Pierce, you have not yet told me how you contrived to effect your escape that night from the cabinet."
“Why, simply enough: I waited as patiently as my cramped position and anxiety would allow, till I felt assured that the police had left the house. Of this I was aware beyond all doubt by the return of Edward Maitland, and his long interview with Sergeant Patricks, in the very room. I heard every word, and, if I wished to excite your vanity, I could a tale unfold in your praise, that I think would astonish even you. What an immense interest Edward Maitland seems to take in you! He really became almost excited, as he listened to the Sergeant narrating the whole proceeding, and declared that you were an honour to the country. After I had assured myself of their departure, I ventured out of my lock-up, and stole noiselessly along the passage till I had gained the front entrance.
Then, cautiously opening and shutting the door after me, I
went on to the stables, entered, and called your horse by name. I really imagine the intelligent brute recognised my voice, in spite of the lapse of time since he had last heard it, for he snorted in a friendly manner, and let me mount him without any trouble. And, as you tell me, no one has guessed what took him away that night."
They now arose, and began to ascend a rough path cut into the rocks. Here, a ray of moonlight fell, and the cool night air blew soft and balmy on Catherine's heated brow. But her astonishment knew no bounds, when Pierce, pulling her gently after him, stepped out of the excavated stem of an old tree that grew upon the point of the mountain. As she looked down from it, she could distinguish the mud cabin, by which she had entered, and then the open country, that spread out like a panorama before her.
“ You perceive, Catherine, that should escape fail me at one outlet, I could have recourse to another. Is it not cleverly-I might say almost incomprehensibly -contrived ? It must have taken years of labour to accomplish. They say that, at the time of the Reformation, many of the monks used to resort here, when they were driven from their monasteries. I have found many of their relics, and innumerable death-heads and cross-bones, that I have secreted in a cavity within. It seemed to me like desecration to have them staring us in the face, perhaps, during some of our noisy revels. Few people, if indeed any, in the present day, know of its existence, except the old woman, myself, and the Captain. Chance led to its discovery, as one day, some years back, Captain Sweeny happened to enter the cabin below in search of shelter. He chanced to let his gun fall upon the very spot by which you entered to-night. He was struck by the hollow sound it emitted, and, having obtained a pick-axe, he dug up the earth, till he came to a broad flag-stone. Upon removing it, he discovered stairs cut in the rock,
and, with the aid of a lantern, then and there found out all the intricacies of the place. Since that time it has become his stronghold. Many believe that he bears a charmed life, for often, when hotly pursued, he has suddenly disappeared, as it were, into the bowels of the earth. His pursuers often come near the spot, and some have even gone so far as to examine the very tree through which we all so mysteriously disappear; but, strange to say, it has baffled their penetration. secret of it is a sliding-stone, covered with sod, which, by pressing at a certain part, slides in and out. So you see it would be impossible for me to be captured; for, if one outlet failed me, I should escape by the other, aided by some one or other of the many disguises with which we are so well provided. And I defy any one, even the most scrutinising, to recognise the Captain, when disguised as a countryman or a pilgrim. He has not unfrequently imposed upon his own relations. Besides, the peasantry, who look upon him as a hero, would gladly render him all the assistance in their power.”
Catherine and her companion soon arrived at the foot of the mountain. Here Pierce whistled, and, as if by magic, the ragged urchin that Catherine had left in the arms of Morpheus and with the pig, was by their side. He seemed perfectly to understand what was required of him, for he remained motionless, till he saw Catherine take leave of her companion and then proceed upon her way, when he followed her, as if by instinct.
“ Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
We must now digress a little from the thread of our story, and devote a chapter to the explanation of the misdeed that caused Pierce O'Neile's estrangement from his home and family; a misdeed that, after its perpetration, he regretted every day of his life, and which he was led to commit, through over-enthusiasm and patriotism, when scarcely of age. A college friend, who it appears possessed an evil and powerful influence over him, worked upon his weakness, till, in an unlucky hour, he persuaded him to steal the archives of his family, in order to dispose of them for the purpose of assisting the Rebel Army.
Long and frequent were the arguments used, with eloquent appeals to his patriotism and nationality, and they ended in convincing him that all and everything should be sacrificed to his unfortunate country. Alas! he forgot that honour should be the first and one great law, the pure light which must never be shut out from our path. He yielded in a moment of temptation and weakness.
But the time came when he awoke from his delusion, and then he was horrified at the disgraceful act he had been tempted to commit. Not anything short of great crime could approach that one act of madness. Pierce O'Neile not only robbed his own generation, but the dead and the unborn, of their ancient titles and records of departed glory. In one thoughtless moment