Page images

her hand, playfully passed it from one to the other in her endeavours to cool it. Whatever her errand was, she did not then explain it, but waited patiently till the last of the potatoes had disappeared; when the father and sons, after crossing themselves devoutly, stood up to return to their daily labour in the neighbouring fields; yet not before Paddy Houghlahan, who was a wag in his way, had a little desultory conversation with Catherine, while his wife was scraping up the remnants of the meal in order to set them before the pigs.

"Now, Misch, if I might make so bowld as to ask, maybe it's yourself that can enlighten me, as to whether the masther has made up his mind to send the black colt to-morrow to the fair? Shure, he'll never have a finer chance of getting his price for it, for it's the talk all round the country and in the sheebeens (publichouses),―saving your presence !—that Squire Lalor has come down wid a bet, that it's himself can bring to the fore, one that will take it out and out; but it's meself and the boys that won't believe a word of that same,no, not if it were there before uz in black and white. For, shure, that would be black trayson to the masther, and go agin our principles intirely.

[ocr errors]

Then, perceiving that Catherine did not reply to his remarks on that subject, he went on to another, with the most perfect ease.


Begorra, Misch Kate, and shure it's Masther Otway who is growing an illigent young gintleman! So spurrited like, anyone can see wid half an eye, that he comes from the ould stock,-bones and all. And it's for sartin that he's going to furrin parts to be edicated?"

"Yes, Pat, the end of next year he will leave us for a school in England. His uncle wishes it, and, as he intends to make him his heir, we must abide by his arrangement, as far as Otway is concerned."

"The main miser! I ask your pardon, Misch, but when I think that he is wallowping in gold and diamonds, and sees his own blud-relations want, and

yet won't as much as stretch out his dirty hand to help them, shure it's meself blushes at the like, that shouldn't, every time I hear his name.”

“Pat, he has surely a right to do what he likes with his own? We have no lawful claims upon him, and are grateful for the notice he takes of the boy, and having him occasionally to stay with him. You know that Mr. Herbert, who is now at the Court, has a better right to his notice than Otway, yet he's not jealous of the preference shown to his little cousin, although were Otway not in existence, he would surely be made the old gentleman's heir, for want of a nearer."


‘Still, I think it a pity, Misch, that one of the O'Neiles should be sint away among those traytors of 'Lassennachs,' as we have it in Irish; shure it's naughting to be proud of, he'll pick up in their company."

Catherine, drawing herself up with dignity- “An O'Neile, Pat, is invulnerable, where his honour and his country are concerned. We have no fears of his being perverted

[ocr errors]

She had scarcely said this, when she stopped abruptly, and a crimson flush overspread her pale face, for she remembered another O'Neile, who was very dear to her, who had not verified her words. Honest Paddy chose, at this moment, to have his attention suddenly attracted by some phenomenon in the air, invisible to other eyes except his own, and only became conscious that Catherine was still addressing him, as, after a little time, she continued

"I should have wished Otway to have studied in his own country, but you know very well, Pat, that beggars cannot always be choosers.'

[ocr errors]

Honest Paddy, as he heard these words, reddened to the very roots of his hair; while a sudden flash darted from his eyes, he, in an excited voice, exclaimed

"Oh, Misch Kate, unsay that dirty word! that it should ever have come out of your own purty mouth!

Shure, the O'Neiles are fit to hold a candle before the best in the land, were he an emperor himself—the grand ould stock! Beggars! Och, Misch, it's a bowld man, and a very bowld man, that would have the courage to throw such a demaining word as that at me this blessed day. Beggars! Shure, it's many a proud man would be glad to change places wid the masther any dayaye, and die and spill every dhrop of his heart's blood for him, and be glad to stand in his shoes. Don't say that word agin, Misch Kate, for it makes my blood turn to water like-don't, Misch!" and the rough yet tender-hearted peasant drew his sleeve across the upper part of his face, and held it there many minutes.

Catherine was moved at the generous impulse of the man, who held the name of O'Neile as something sacred. She put out her hand, and grasped that of Paddy, which she pressed within her own soft one. She felt a tear fall upon it, as she turned away from him, and entered the cabin in search of her foster-mother.

"Colleen dhe (dark-haired girl) of my heart!" were the first words that Nora (Catherine's foster-mother) addressed to her, as Catherine threw herself on a stool at her feet, and, covering her face with her hands, burst out into a passionate fit of uncontrolled weeping, while she rocked herself to and fro, and uttered, in a voice broken by sobs

"Oh, Nora, what will become of us-of me? And to think that I cannot prevent it—cannot forewarn. It is too dreadful what I have seen this time-too fearful!" Then in an abrupt tone-"But I will-I must -anything to save him!" Despairingly-"Save him! Nothing can save him; he is doomed-doomed-and I-I know it, and yet I dare not confide in any but you, Nora, for I should not be believed-I should be derided, laughed at, aye, even accused of insanity. But you, Nora, you at least know the fatal truth, for has it not often-alas! too often-been proved to you?"

"Miss Catherine, honey, unburthen your mind to

me-do, accushla. Shure, it's asier you'll be after it. You've not been after having another vision of—”

Before she could utter the name, it died unspoken upon her lips, as a sudden and fearful clap of thunder shook the mud walls of the cabin, causing the woman and the frightened girl to look at each other with ghastly terror in their faces. Nora crossed herself, while her lips muttered a prayer. Another and more violent clap followed the first. Catherine, the strong-hearted, brave girl, who was never known to give way or evince any signs of fear at either fortune or weather, now, in an agony of fright and despair, threw herself at the feet of her foster-mother, and buried her face in her lap. She remained motionless in this attitude till the storm had nearly passed. Nora appealed to her, and caressingly tried to raise the hidden face, over which the long, dark hair now fell in thick masses.

"Avourneen, listen to me, darling-to your own Nora, who has always been able to give you the little bit of comfort, an' shure this time it won't fail me, anyhow. But first open your heart to me, and tell me how many figures you saw in the vision this time, and if— if "the words fell tremblingly from her lips-“ he was there ?"

"Alas! yes, she and the Englishman stood one upon each side of him, with their arms encircled above him; a shadow, wearing my form came between them, it pointed threateningly to something in the distancewhat, I could not distinguish, and as I strained my eyes to see what it was, a veil seemed to envelope the group, then gradually faded into almost darkness, and when I looked up again twilight had set in. Then, for a moment, I believed that I must have fallen asleep, and dreamed the whole fearful vision; but my delusion was but momentary, for old Nanny, the lodge-keeper, at that very moment appeared and told me that she was sure I must have been conversing with the fairies, as she had been watching me from the other side of the

hedge during the last hour, without daring to interrupt me, and also too fascinated to take her eyes from me. She went on to say how she by chance saw me come and sit down, at first in a rather listless attitude; then, after I had remained thus for some time, I suddenly raised my head, while my eyes seemed to fix themselves on vacancy, with an expression of wonder and horror, as if they were beholding some seemly sight. Nanny felt overpowered and frightened at my manner. She rose, and looked around in the direction my eyes were taking, yet she could not see anything to explain my strange excitement; at last she came slowly towards me, calling me by name, till she stood by my side. At that moment my instincts had returned to the objects that surrounded me. I stood up, stared at her wildly, and then, without exchanging one word with her, rushed from the spot.

"That night I never closed my eyes, and arose with the dawn, determined to see Father Maguire and confess all, without reserve, to him. I had nearly reached his house with that intention, when my heart failed me, and I returned with my purpose shaken and my fears augmented, for I dared not tell him. Do not look at me so beseechingly, Nora; I repeat, I dared not tell him the dreadful fears and presentiments of evils that are oppressing me. I know, too well, what he would say, from previous attempts to gain his indulgence and a hearing upon the subject. No, Nora, Father Maguire, with his strong intellect and common sense (though still I know him to be imbued with many of the superstitions of his country), would, for my only consolation, have told me, that I had been dreaming-deceiving myself, and that an evil power was at work within me."

As Catherine uttered the last sentence, Nora's face turned deadly pale, while she trembled all over, and for a moment-but only for a moment—a doubt appeared upon her features; it soon passed away, and she said, in solemn tones

« PreviousContinue »