Volume One


6


IT WILL be remembered that upon the first day of his residence with his uncle, he met his beautiful cousin in the garden, and that they parted after something was hinted about meeting again the next day, or that evening. After dinner, tired and afraid of the bacchanalian courses around him, he contrived to steal out, as, we believe, has also been said, and into the garden too. As he passed a window in the gable of the house, Maggy appeared at it; he did not pretend to see her, though he could not account for the affectation, but walked forward very seriously. In a few minutes she entered the garden after him; now, in her turn, not pretending to see him, but coursing along the walk with her dog, as if her heart was in nothing but so delightful a sport. It was not long, however, until they met; and, although he had made no regular plan of it, John took out of his pocket the little reading-book he had promised to provide for his cousin, and challenged her to sit down in the summer-house, and have her first lesson; pure benevolence then being, of course, the only possible motive to the zeal of the boy-tutor. But Maggy at first seemed to have lost all interest in the matter.

     "Avoch, no, we thank you; an' what's the use, now that a body can think iv id? there's mammy, amost as bad as myself at her buke, an' yet see what a woman she is—Fidelle! Fidelle! come here, you thief-o'-the world! come here!" and away she galloped after her dog, from the mortified, yet pitying John Nowlan.

     In another turn or two round the garden, she was, however, sitting by John's side, her arm childishly thrown over his neck, her cheek touching his cheek, and her little taper finger following his finger, as he taught her how to spell columns of one syllable. Although John felt no misgiving consciousness at her familiarity, the mere habit of avoidance, to which he had been trained, made him uncomfortable in this situation; but he could not behave rudely, nor even coldly; and he thought his best plan was to take no notice of the matter, but let it pass off harmlessly and simply as it had occurred.

     Maggy showed natural quickness in her task, and he praised her to the skies.

     "Kiss me, then, to show me I am a good girl," she said abruptly, in reply, Using a phrase she had been taught to use to her father.

     "There, Maggy;" and John blushing, and afraid of his next settling of accounts with his old clerical relative, kissed her peachy cheek.

     "But that's not the way wid a good girl," she resumed, imploringly putting up her little cherry lips.

     "Oh fie, Maggy;" yet he took Maggy at her word.

     "What's oh fie? sure there's no harm in kissing? many's the one tells me that."

     "No harm with me, Maggy," answered John, making a kind of exception that many graver persons have made in a similar predicament.

     "Well, now I'm sure you don't hate me, and ar'n't come to turn me an' us all out on the world, wide. When's the next lesson to be?"

     John appointed a time; Maggy was punctual, and still quick and attentive; but in about six months, John thought he saw that she kept her appointments as much, if not more, for the sake of having a companion in her unsocial and neglected state, as on account of literary improvement. In another year, it was with difficulty he could get her to come prepared with a line of her task, that had advanced, however, to reading lessons, or to attend to his instructions while it was gone through; yet Maggy's visits were even more frequent than had been agreed upon; and she would sit by his side, her arm still hanging over his neck, her finger touching her own lip, and her eyes bent on the book, as if in profound study. Her humour soon changed again, and she broke her regular appointments, yet intruded on him at other times; was oftener in his way, wherever he went; sometimes refused the parting or meeting kiss, that, with John, became, after his initiating trials, first a matter of course next a matter of inclination; and sometimes she snatched it and ran away. A third time, her tutor was puzzled at her conduct; her volubility changed into silence, or, as she spoke, her voice was low; her step and action lost their elasticity and quickness; her whole manner was heavy; she would sit like a dead weight pressing against him; her head drooped, her breathing thick, and often, as her eyes still rested upon the book, tears fell from them, and when John soothingly asked the cause, Maggy would look up as if to re-assure him, smiling such a smile as John (now eighteen) could no longer misinterpret.

     In consequence of his interpretations of it, he contrived to be out of the way on his uncle's business, the next time they were to have met alone. A second and third appointment were broken by him; and when they met, by chance, Maggy tossed her beautiful little head, with a beautiful air of rustic dignity, and passed him by. He was sorry and glad; sorry, at a necessity for their coolness; glad, that she had thus afforded him opportunity to call up all his philosophical phlegm, and take measures to confirm it. His heart had been ill at ease for some time. He accused himself of wishing to meet, halœway, poor Maggy's unthinking impulse; and, even leaving out of the question his former system of morals, when he was to have been a priest, the girl was his first cousin, and, according to the discipline of his church, not, without a heinous sin, to be regarded in any other light than that of a sister. As to Maggy, herself, the child of crime and of nature, and brought up, until her twelfth year, when he had met her, without any tutelage but what a bad mother could give, she might be expected to know nothing of such discipline, nor of any discipline; but he, John Nowlan, already well instructed by his reverend cousin, and once actually intended for a teacher himself, it was scandalous, grievous, that he should countenance for a moment so dangerous a delusion; and he therefore resolved instantly to go to confession to his good, though severe director,—a duty be had not, for some time, performed; but he half groaned, half sighed, as he took the resolution; the groan coming from a terror of facing his priest; the sigh from—in spite of him—a passionate regret that he could teach Maggy no more lessons.

     He resolutely shut himself up in his little chamber to prepare for his task; but, from certain interruptions, got through it badly. Maggy had always to pass his door, in running up and down, forty times a day, to her mother; and, as she passed it, sang, quite unheard as it were, in a loud gay tone, songs meant to show the independent state of her heart. Presently, they changed into songs of a different cadence and import: or she would prattle with her little brother on the lobby or the stairs, loud enough to be heard by John, asking the child what had come over their once good cousin, and if he was sick, or in trouble; but let his trouble be ever so great, her's was greater; and she had a heavier heart. John stole out, with his prayer-book, to sequestered spots: when he returned, late in the evening, he found her old reading-book open on his table, or his name scratched in the stiff, bad hand he had just begun to teach her, all over a bit of paper; or a bunch of flowers had been set in an old cracked jug, on the hearth; or, as he prepared for bed, the daintiest fruit lay on his pillow. After he had disposed himself to sleep for the night, perhaps a sigh sounded at his door, just as a light step went past it.

     But he persevered in his course, with what combats he might, and, early upon the morning allotted for the purpose, took his way to confession. Some distance from the house, as he pursued a short cut through a very lonely field, he had to jump over a high fence; and ere he landed on his feet, at the other side, Maggy, to his great surprise, screamed in terror, as if at the sudden descent of a man so near where she was sitting; started up, without looking; ran on, as fast as she could; tripped and fell, accidentally or purposely, over a sharp stone, and there lying prostrate, screamed louder than before.

     With the speed of a deer, John Nowlan, every thing forgotten but her fright and fall, raced after her, and, assuring her it was no one but John Nowlan, raised her up, and sat by her side. "Och, where were you comin', so arly, an' at such a rate, John; an' who could think o' seein' you here, this mornin'?—but don't be unasy; I'm not hurted; an' we thank you for all."

     "But you are hurt, Maggy—this elbow is hurt; it bleeds—let me look at it.

     "It's nothin'," she answered, drawing up to her shoulder the loose sleeve of a loose dress, that in every respect left her first bloom of youthful charms little confined.—" See," holding out a perfectly round arm— "it's nothin' at all; or, supposin' it is, kiss-ee an' cure-ee, you know, John," smiling, as she used common terms of infantine condolence. John did press his lips to the slight wound, very condolingly, and with the broken murmurs addressed to a hurt child, under similar circumstances; and then he kissed the arm over and over.

     "Well, now," continued Maggy, "that's what I never thought you'd do again, for your life."

     "What?" asked John, though he wanted no information.

     "That," answered Maggy, touching with a finger his lip, and then the scratched elbow.

     "Oh!"—blushing and looking awkward—"and why not, Maggy? what harm is in it?"

     "I didn't say there was much; but I thought we were never to kiss like cousins again, John; I thought you gave up your poor scholard entirely, for no raison that she knew; no, indeed, John; avoch, I thought you hated me well, at last;" weeping.

     "Hate you, Maggy!—Ah, you know I did not."

     "I believed well you didn't—once; an' more's the sorrow to my heart for that same.

     "Why?"

     "Why?—why—but because I saw it was all past an' gone, and forgot by you,—an' I'm sure it was, an' is, so I am——" as, not recollecting what he did, John lowered his head to pass round his neck the arm he still held—"let me alone, John Nowlan—let me go, an' lave me to myself, I say—for you do hate me."

     "It's with a quare hate, then, ma-colleen-dhass," said John, very simply, still keeping possession of the arm.

     "Then you don't, John? an' you love Maggy still? an' 'ill be her masther still? an' tache her what no one else here cares to tache her? "

     "Indeed and indeed, I do love Maggy still."

     "As well as ever?"—He assented.

     "Betther than ever?—you must say that, John," throwing both arms round his neck, and presenting her delightful mouth—"you must say that—betther than ever!"

     "Avoch, Maggy, better, indeed, than ever!"—and poor John did not, could not resist the amicable salute proposed; nor lengthened renewals of it, again and again; until, at last, his rebellious and treacherous blood was suddenly chilled by hearing Maggy whisper, in a kind of hiss, he thought, close at his ear, while her beautiful eyes seemed to take a reptile kind of expression—"Well; we thought we could bring you to your confession, afther all." Conscience-struck, frightened, he started to his feet. A freezing superstition, such as some have in various situations experienced, took possession of his mind. He feared he bad been way-laid on his path to his religious duty, by the tempter to sin, who assumed the shape and blandishments of the object most dangerous to his existence, in order more effectually to destroy him. He now recollected how early it was; scarce four o'clock; how unusual for Maggy, who was something of a stay-a-bed, to be up and abroad at that hour; and in so lonesome a place too, where she could have been led neither by business nor pleasure;—he looked at her;—her head was bent, as she indulged in a stifled laugh; she glanced up; and again, he fancied, with the expression of a beautiful fiend; he stared; his blood ran cold; he trembled, and stood motionless.

     "An' did you bring this, John, to tache me a new lesson in?"—tumbling over the leaves of his prayer-book, that now, for the first time, he saw in her hands.

     "No—no"—he answered, incoherently—"give it to me—I want it—I want it immediately."

     "An' I won't then," retorted Maggy, "till you sit down here, an' till we larn some of it together—what's come over you?" again laughing lightly— "sit down, John—is it good readin'?—"

     "Give it, I say—give it, Maggy,—I'll thank you to give it, in speed:" he stepped forward, agitated, holding out his hand.

     "Not without a run for it, then "—and she jumped up, hiding the book in the loose bosom of her gown, and ran towards a gap in the field, then towards the house; and John, he knew not clearly why, followed her. After a hot pursuit of some minutes, she dropt, sitting with her back to a high fence; and, "Bother on the place an' you," she said, as he, nearly at the same moment, caught her in his arms, still crying out for the prayer-book— "if it let a body run on, you'd never ketch me—but now you have me, sure enough, an' I give up entirely—och, John, John!"—wildly returning his embrace, her cheeks flushed, her eyes sparkling, and her breath gone— "John, dear, darling John!"—

     She had scarce spoken these words when a rude hand struck her violently on the face, and her mother stood behind them, screaming out—" What, you throllopin' hussey! is this why you lave your bed so arly in the mornin?—Eh?—Is this the manin' o' your ways, from week's end to week's end? you begin to roul your eyes, an' cock yourself up, do you? get home to the house, before me!" Maggy, weeping, and evidently afraid of more rude treatment, endeavoured to shun contact with her angry parent, as she speedily obeyed this command.

     "She has done nothing to deserve such cruel treatment, I assure you," said John, scarce less frightened, though now free from his former terrors: "if any one is to blame, it is I; but no one is to blame; we met by chance, and I beg you will not hurt poor Maggy."

     "Oh, I know, Sir, I know, an' there's another way to settle with you;—" and the wretched woman hastened after her wretched daughter.

     Aware of the system of discipline according to which Mrs. Carey (for such was her real name, and she was a married woman,) vented her anger on her children, John's only thought now was to shield Maggy from renewed violence, and he accordingly ran back to the house by another way, gained his uncle's bed-chamber, told him the whole story, earnestly requested his interference, and, after some effort, had the gratification to hear Mrs. Carey promise that all should be forgorten and forgiven, till the next time. He then shut himself up in his little chamber, and sat down to think, in less peace of mind than he had ever before experienced. The morning was yet young—would he again set out to confession?—No;—so soon after a relapse, it would be an insult to his God. But, from that moment, he would prepare himself over again; and never, never would he meet Maggy alone. He only wanted his prayer-book to begin his good course; Maggy had it; he sent a servant for it. Instead of the servant, Maggy herself appeared in answer, first returning abundant thanks for his "getting her off;" next, to his great surprise, assuring him she had not the prayer-book, and it must have fallen in the fields while they were running; and lastly, to complete his wonder, proposing, by permission of her mother, who, Maggy said, was now "come to her rason," that they should go together to look for it.

     They went, but looked in vain; the book could no where be seen. They traversed every inch of ground over which Maggy had trodden, after she first started up, peered into every tuft of grass, and under every large leaf; all to no purpose: the prayer-book never was heard of; and John thought it ominous, and so may the reader.

     "After this, anyhow, you hate me," said Maggy, taking his hand, when, their weary search over, he leaned his back to a tree.

     "Maggy," he answered, abruptly, "I love you better than I ought, better than is good for either of us, here or hereafter, better than myself," clasping her, and kissing her ardently; "for see, Maggy, I am destroying myself for your love; but leave me, in the name of God, leave me— he walked rapidly away.

     John Nowlan never after attended to his religious duties, during his residence under his uncle's roof. This was the time that he became more than ever engaged in riding about to the tenants, in endeavouring to pacify creditors, and in stratagems for his uncle's existence and personal safety. And such a course of life tended, in a way different from his feelings for Maggy, to sully his boyish purity of character, and give that mixed one, which leaves its possessor, open to great danger for the remainder of his existence. Wrangling with the mean tenants, made him, in some degree, mean also,—at least he felt it did; putting off the creditors, taught him to speak things that were not true; the necessity of countenancing the sheriff's sons, and even the lower law officers, further involved the necessiyy of drinking more, and oftener, than he had ever done before; and still, though he studied to avoid his unfortunate cousin, he allowed his passion for her to boil in his heart, and her burning kisses to taint his lips; and, altogether he knew himself to be in such a state as made him dread and loathe a visit to the knee of his austere reverend friend.

     But certain circumstances, if they did not cure his passion for the girl, placed him beyond the danger of injuring her and himself in consequence of it.

     Some weeks after the affair of the prayer-book, Mrs. Carey one day entered his room, sat down very leisurely, and after a few preliminary words, said—"You have a likin' for poor Maggy, I hear, Masther John?"

     John started, blushed, stared, and mumbled.

     "An' if so, maybe ye couldn't do betther, together," continued Mrs. Carey—"I know Aby Nowlan intends to give her a putty penny, and you the same, John; an' ye have my blessin', between ye."

     John, shocked and disgusted, expressed himself very strongly against the conclusion that he was in love with his cousin; or, even if he were, against the enormity of thinking of her; Mrs. Carey mentioned how all that could be got over by a trip to England, or somewhere; he grew indignant, and added his objections to degrade himself by marrying such a girl, even if she were not his cousin: and Mrs. Carey bounced out of the room, scolding and threatening as loud as she could.

     For a long time after, John and Maggy did not, of course, speak to each other; and all the better for John, as, his eyes now opened, he had time to think of the dangerous folly and the dangerous people he had so long allowed to lure him towards destruction. But, upon a night, after all the family had retired to bed, when there was an alarm of bailiffs or robbers breaking into the house, a loud knocking sounded at his door, and Mrs. Carey's voice, begging for his protection, was heard in the lobby. Hastily dressing himself, he opened the door, and the mother and daughter, hand in hand, entered the room.

     "Let us stay with you, Masther John, let us stay with you," said Mrs. Carey,—"we have no where else to stay."

     By the light of the moon, he procured them seats. After some pause, Mrs. Carey, hoping it was a false alarm, said she would go out to ask "poor Aby Nowlan" about it; and John and Maggy were left alone.

     In the imperfect light the moon afforded, she appeared but half attired; her feet thrust into slippers, and some large piece of drapery bundled round her. After her mother retired, she glanced round the room, and "Oh, dear John Nowlan," she whispered, "I'm frightened to death—jest feel how my heart bates—did you ever see the like!" He perceived, indeed, that she trembled from head to foot; whether with fear exclusively, or with another feeling as strong, though different, he did not think of determining.

     "Och! what's the matther at all—an' what's come over my mother to lave us here by ourselves, an' you as much frightened as I am, for you're all in a tremble too, John—whisht! an' look! who's at the dour?—oh John! John! won't you put your two hands round me?"

     He did so, assuring her there was nothing to fear. She pressed, as if in alarm, close to him. Upon this night John had retired to his room heated, though not to excess, with whisky-punch. He was off his guard. He caressed Maggy long after the necessity for quieting her fears had passed away. She did not repulse him: she did more; she encouraged him. Her advances exceeded his; he saw they did, and was first disgusted, then startled, then master of himself. He flung from her arms; muttered words, which, along with his repulse, the wretched girl, and her more wretched mother, never forgot nor forgave; led her to her chamber door; hurried back to his own; and again went to bed, assuring himself, and perhaps not uncharitably, that he had escaped a plan laid for his downfall.

     About six months after this, Aby Nowlan was a pauper in his brother Daniel's house, and John Nowlan a pauper with him. Maggy and her mother lived near at hand in the miserable cabin of a miserable old woman, who got the scanty meal of potatoes on which she barely existed, by wandering through the country with a bag on her back to beg them, while her two or three pounds of yearly rent were paid by the yearly sale of "a slip of a pig." How Mrs. Carey and her daughter settled for their board and lodging with this respectable person, remained no mystery. John often met Maggy in his solitary and discontented rambles about the fields, but they never spoke: the poor castaway, flaunting in a wretched display of finery and dirt, always passed him with a brow of settled anger, and, as she tried to evince it, disdain. Strange to say, he now felt more than ever an unholy passion for his cousin; the sluggish idleness in which, for the first time, he lived, promoting no doubt the tendency to every thing wrong and bad in his nature. Often did he lurk about her paths, determined to address her, and, with an impulse to sin, endeavour to make up their late difference. But two or three events checked, once again, his career to ruin.

     Upon a moonlight night, when, hiding in the shadow of a thick hedge, he had been watching her, she passed him, accompanied by a young man of about his own age, but whose dress and air seemed far above John Nowlan's situation in life. The stranger's arm was round Maggy's waist; and his face so turned to her that John could not see a feature of it. The girl sobbed and wept, and addressed her companion in a tone, half of entreaty, half of reproach; and ere they had passed out of hearing, John had no doubt of the cause of her tears and remonstrance. In a few weeks, it was well known that Maggy was about to become an unwedded mother, and that all efforts of her friends to ascertain the name of her seducer proved vain: she would never answer a question on the subject. This, joined to his chance observation of the young man he had seen in her company, appeared very strange to John. While his breast boiled with rage and jealousy, he took every measure, consistent with the secrecy and caution due to his own situation, to discover his successful rival. He resumed, day and night, his stealthful watches of Maggy; but she did not appear again, even alone, in her usual haunts. He thought over the names of all the young men in the neighbourhood, and ventured all the enquiries he durst; still without becoming satisfied.

     While his mind and heart continued in this disarranged and dangerous state; while he led his indolent life, scarce ever putting his hand to any thing about the house or farm, or even asked to do so by his father or brother Phelim, because, in fact, they thought him unqualified for such exertions; his two uncles, Murrough the saddler, and Davy the grocer, came to his father's house, professedly to see Aby and the family; but really to add, for a time, to the circle of idle paupers, who, including her own son, already sat at Mrs. Nowlan's thrifty hearth, and encroached on her thrifty housekeeping; for, by this time, Murrough and Davy were also "broke, horse an' foot," as the neighbours said; their wives gone home to their separate father's, each attended by a group of children; and Davy had just become "white-washed," that is, had just received the grace of the Insolvent Act; and Murrough was "on the shukerawn"* to evade it.

     Both were as like their brother Aby in nature and manner as in their misfortunes: but this was no more surprising than the relations between cause and effect. Like him, (though married) they had indulged in nasty vice; like him, they could imbibe incredible quantities of whisky-punch, Davy, however, being eminently a drunkard; like him, they were stupidly ignorant, stupidly lazy, stupidly negligent of every thing that concerned their best interests; and, like him, they could sit ftom morning to night roasting their shins at the fire, and every now and then rubbing them tenderly down, without uttering more than a dozen words; yet, sometimes, as they caught up some particular word, and each quarter of an hour iterated it, condescending to the dull kind of disheartening humour for which he was remarkable. All laughed alike—if laugh it can be called, which never extended beyond the spiritless "ha!" before ascribed to Aby; their monotonous voices, whenever they happened to speak, could not be distinguished from each other; and they had precisely the same view of things, always agreeing to a tittle between themselves.

     Upon the first evening of their visit to Daniel Nowlan's house, the three brothers seeming inclined to stay up longer than the family, were, after a late hour, left at the kitchen fire by their host and hostess, and John only sat with them. As Davy drank his tumblers twice as fast as any one else, as Murrough dozed and nodded, as Aby kept his eyes fixed on John's face, for, through weal or woe, he never forgot that, and while a dead silence, now of more than half an hour, reigned among all, John could not help feeling his situation very uncomfortable. A syllable had not been interchanged concerning their late common misfortunes; a single enquiry had not been made from one to the other, regarding the health or welfare of the connexions or friends of each; nay, although not having seen Aby for years before, Murrough and Davy had not yet shaken his hand; "Well, Masther Aby," and, "Well, lads," forming the extent of the salutations given and received at meeting.

     Supposing, or anxious to suppose, that his presence was a restraint upon the family topics of the brothers, John at last said—"Perhaps I had better go away, Sir," to Aby, "as you and Mr. Murrough, and Mr. Davy, may have something confidential to talk of." Aby continued his dead stare, just uttering, "No." Davy repeated the word "confidential," and, as if stupidly amused by its sound, added a "ha!" Murrough, roused from his doze, and lazily stretching his long arm to the table for his cold punch, supplied his "ha" also, then turned in his seat, fully fronting the fire, cautiously rubbed his shins, and, after some minutes, repeated in his turn, "confidential—ha;"and, when he had made a fresh tumbler, Davy similarly disposed and employed himself, and again played with the amusing word; Aby not omitting to chime in. And thus, another long hour elapsed; John beginning to wince under the silent gaze of his elder uncle, that, at such a dead hour of the night, seemed to have something unearthly in it.

     And while giving way to this mood, he got cause to be really terrified. The round set eyes grew more round and set as they held him in their spell; the whole face became pallid; the mouth first quivered, then turned up at one side, and all the muscles at that side turned with it; presently the arm, corresponding to them, started, grew crooked and twisted at the elbow and wrist, yet seemed endeavouring to stretch towards John, who gazed in speechless agitation—

    

"A throbbing pulse the gazer bath;
    Puzzled he was, and now is daunted;
He looks—he cannot choose but look—
Like one intent upon a book,
    A book that is enchanted!—"
"My God, Sir! what is the matter? uncle! uncle Aby! speak for Heaven's sake!"

     Uncle Aby never spoke another word. By nine o'clock next morning, he was a corpse; retaining, meantime, after this stroke of paralysis, of which his whole life had been only a modification, not as much sense as could enable him to hear the appeals of the priest, or to recognise a face around him. But he had a magnificent wake got up by Mrs. Nowlan; and, at the end of three days, a funeral that overspread half the country, and which some thirty or forty of his sons and daughters, real or reputed, and some dozen of his ladies, graced with their attendance. After all, no man, except, perhaps, King Charles the Second, was ever attended to his last lodging by a more numerous body of mourning relations.

     To a young mind, the first contemplation of mortality, particularly if it be sudden, or unusually circumstanced, is appalling. John Nowlan felt shocked and troubled at the bottom of his soul, upon the death of his uncle. The convulsed face, the staring, glassy eyes, the distorted limb, haunted his thoughts, day and night, for months. He slept little; and nothing else found place in his reflections. Maggy was forgotten. No fiery passions could riot in the awed stupor of soul he now experienced. Time rolled on; and his mere physical sensations changed into a new horror, at a review of the unprepared state in which the poor sinner had been called to his last account. From this review of another, his eye turned upon himself, and he started, shuddered, and groaned. Religion still had full influence over him; but it was rather the influence of terror than of persuasion; he heard its awakened voice in the thunders of reproof, not in the whispers of peace; and therefore he groaned and trembled. All that he had fallen from; the depth he still feared—almost wished to fall; the erring past; the obstinate and tempting present; aspirations of one kind; throbbings and wishes of another kind: every thing made him most miserable.

     He shunned the faces of his father, mother, and brother, and used to spend whole days, on pretence of being engaged in study, out in the most lonesome places. He would stretch himself on the grass, and now shed tears of penitence, now tears of passion; now pray to God, now turn to the Tempter, in his solitude. Features and forms of ecstatic influence subdued, at one moment, his whole heart and soul; at another, the mental horizon was blank and dismal, or else alive with very different objects. At last, a time of real trial came: a time, first full of confusion, but next of calm and sweetest repose.

     One morning that "a station" of confession was appointed to be held in his father's house, he sought, in avoidance of it, at an earlier hour than usual, one of his lonely haunts. He could not stand before the brow of his old guide, who was to preside on the occasion. In the country parts of Ireland, where chapels are far asunder, and the peasantry negligent of religious duties, it is the custom for the priest to name certain houses in his parish, to which he alternately repairs to hear the confessions of those in the immediate neighbourhood, thus making up for the want of more chapels, and, at the same time, leaving no excuse to the slumbering zeal of his sometimes refractory flock; and the meetings growing out of such arrangements are called "stations."

     As John sat in his solitary hiding-place, he heard the people troop by him from different paths, to comply with the summons of their pastor to meet him in Daniel Nowlan's house. Young and old, of each sex, passed him unseen; men so aged as to be scarce able to creep along; children, who, as they spoke of the duty they were about to discharge, lisped their comments to each other.

     Had he been a murderer skulking from justice, and these the officers of justice looking for him, and speaking of him as they went by, he could not feel more disturbed; his self-respect could not be more shaken; his spirit more crouching. At last, all had repaired to the house, and a dead silence surrounded him. Little relieved, he sat motionless; yet, in the pause, his soul filled with riotous thoughts. A light step approached him. He raised his head, and saw Maggy Nowlan.

     She came up without any appearance of her former anger, and her beautiful large eyes rested on his. He knew that she had for some time been recovered from the sufferings of a mother; and now, in renovated health, more rounded proportions, and with a bright blush mantling her cheek, John thought she had never looked so handsome. He started up; she extended her hand; he took it eagerly.

     "Let us forget an' forgive, John," she said: "we war both to blame; and I have the heaviest sorrowin'.—You know all that has happened, but you don't know what I'm goin' to tell you. I am in want, John; my babby an' me, an' my poor mother, too;" she wept real tears;—"you loved me once; if you love me still, give us a little help, John;" her eye, voice and manner, told the rest. Touched, fired, surprised, and maddened in a breath, he clasped her in his arms, and pressed his lips to hers. Then, catching her round the waist, they were walking away, when—"Stop, Sir!" cried a loud, stern voice: Maggy looked in the direction whence it came, and fled precipitately. John muttered a savage curse, that died upon his tongue as his eye settled on the upright, though aged figure of the old priest, his relative and former guide and pastor.

     After a glance, his first impulse was to avoid an interview; but a dogged resentment urged him to confront the person who had given the interruption.

     "Stop, Sir, and hear a word from me!" continued the clergyman, coming close.

     "I stop for you, Sir, to hear whatever you have to say—and to ask you, in turn, why I am thus intruded upon." He advanced.

     "Do you dare me, wretched boy? detected as you are in the very commission of sin?"

     "I am not detected in the commission of any sin—and I do dare you—you or any man who will thus insult me." Again he advanced, clenching his fingers so desperately that the nails pierced the palms of his hands.

     The priest fixed upon him a glance, such as the maniac is tamed by', and after a pause, thundered out—" Come into the house, Sir!"

     "No," answered John, still sullenly, yet conscience-struck and confused by the command—"I do not intend to stir from where I am:—why should I go into the house?"

     "Will you pretend to say you did not know of my business within the house this morning? Answer me, Sir!—are you prepared to attend to your duty?"

     John dropt his head, and was silent, but not softened.

     "You shall come in, John Nowlan!" resumed the priest, seizing his hand—"I command you to attend me; refuse—struggle with me "—John did struggle—" fling me down, if you like,—I will quit you but with a struggle. Who was the creature that left us? your poor partner in crime?"

     "I tell you, Sir "—shaking off the priest's grasp—"you wrong and slander me—you accuse me of sin I have not committed:—if I have erred——"

     "Was it, then, but the sin of the mind, John?"—interrupted the clergyman— can you make me sure of that?"—his voice grew kinder.

     "Oh, Sir" —something wrought upon—" I was guilty in thought—very guilty—but no more.

     "Thank God, a-vich, thank God! my heart gladdens at the word;—thank God, my poor, erring child; you are left pure for your great work yet. Give me your hands in mine, John; you were always my son; I always loved you; I will love you as dearly as ever; for you will again be the John Nowlan I was fond of: this moment you will turn again into your good courses: under your father's roof, and in the presence of your family and the poor people to whom you are one day to be a guide, you will kneel at your priest's knee, and make your peace with Heaven, and give a good example: you will come into the house, John; you will, my child, you will!"

     The old man held both his hands; his voice quivered; tears ran down his cheeks; the tears of zeal, duty, and affection. John Nowlan grasped convulsively the hands that grasped his; answering tears rushed from his eyes; he wept and sobbed like an infant. And in a few minutes he followed the old clergyman like a lamb; redeeming the promise made for him, entered humbly into his father's house; knelt down among the simple crowd there collected; and gave indeed the example that was expected from him.

     Two days after, he was living in the house of his reverend friend, his literary studies renewed, with the sincerest view towards that course of life to which he had been once destined: his sins repented of, and his heart purer and lighter than, since childhood, he had felt it.

    






 








* Making shifting contrivances.