Volume Two


6


AFTER leaving Peggy and Peery, Frank Adams bent his steps to his uncle's, at first walking rapidly, and then slowly and thoughtfully, when he began to grow ashamed of the vehemence into which he had been betrayed. An avoidance of the danger threatened in poor Peery's whisper, became his chief subject of meditation. Even Peggy Nowlan, and all connected with her, at present yielded to the superior importance of this matter. Ere he had gained a view of Long-Hall, Peery's destruction was not only resolved upon, but planned without the seeming possibility of failure. All the means were at hand. As if fortune studied to favour him, a person, deemed by Frank to be most useful, indeed, indispensable in the project, met him outside the shrubbery, near the house. He could not expect to see his friend in that very place, although he knew he was within call. They whispered together a few moments, but were obliged to separate very suddenly, as a slow step came down the shrubbery walk; and Frank, now alone, advanced to see his uncle.

     After a salutation, "Who was that?" asked Mr. Long.

     "Where? when, my dear Sir? whom do you mean?"

     "The person that turned from your side, at the far end of this path, as I came up."

     "Dear uncle, I was quite alone; no one turned from my side; you must have seen my own shadow among the trees, faintly cast by the moon just beginning to shine,—and how beautifully she does shine!—or the shadow of one of the stems, Sir."

     "Perhaps; yet I am not quite certain, Frank."

     "My dear uncle! what can you mean?"

     "This, Frank,—you begin,—you have more than begun to break the compact last entered into between us—pray do not interrupt me. We were to have had no mystery, no doubtful, or secret goings on: but, Frank, all you do, all you say, all connected with you, is doubtful and secret. The very tones of your voice, the very expression of your eyes, grow troublous— fearful to me. I am here, a solitary, nervous invalid, and you terrify me with mystery; you begin to make me tremble. I will come to particulars with you. I cannot bear this existence. Strange people lurk about my grounds: men, whose appearance and faces, as I catch glimpses of them, are not like the peasantry of the country, and I fear, Frank, I fear some of them lurk in my house! Listen to me. But last night, as I lay awake, I heard you, notwithstanding all your precautions, arranging to leave the house, (and there is another instance of your secret proceedings,) and much interested, of course, I arose, dressed myself, saw you issue towards the village disguised—but that is not the point: having watched you from the parlour windows, I was returning alone to my chamber, a lamp in my hand, when a foot sounded stealthily in the stairs above me; and, looking up, I caught indistinctly the profile of a face I had before seen, although I had no right to see it a second time, in my own house, at the dead of the night. Do not smile, Frank, do not attempt to tell me I might have been mistaken; that pale, calm, marbly face, is never to be forgotten:—and it was, Frank, the face of the Englishman, who deposed, along with you, to the robbery of the mail-coach—the face of Lawson."

     "And, my dearest uncle," said Frank, continuing to smile, "I know it was: now, for common charity, Sir, hear me out, in turn. Some months ago, I got reason to believe that one of the fellows engaged in the outrage, to which you allude, lived in the neighbourhood, and, under cover of assumed insanity, thought to hide himself from notice. I contrived to see him, and became rather assured he was the very person who fired upon me, and wounded me in the arm. But, before I would take any decided steps, I wrote to Mr. Lawson."

     "He could give you no assistance, Frank, in identifying the man: for Lawson's depositions, drawn up by himself, and which I still hold, assert his ignorance of the persons of any of the mail-coach robbers."

     "And so they do, uncle; and that was not my motive in writing, at all; I only deemed that two respectable witnesses to the fact of the robbery would be better than one; so, my dear Sir, after many delays, Mr. Lawson at last consented to come over to Ireland. Early in the evening of yesterday, he announced to me, by a private message, his arrival in the village; I sent him word to meet me as privately in the house, here, that we might go over the whole matter, alone; he came towards midnight: acting upon particular information, I repaired to the village, to obtain, in a public house, a second closer observation of the robber; Mr. Lawson remained behind me, and you saw him: I returned perfectly convinced; indeed, more than ever so, of the identity of the fellow in question; and we but await the assistance of competent officers to lodge our joint informations, and secure his arrest. And now, my dearest uncle, you will ask, why conceal this from you? But need I answer? You were an invalid; your nerves shattered, indeed, from various irritations; and surely it was my duty, the common duty of grateful affection, to save you from any protracted annoyance on this head; to wait until the thing was done, and then at once inform you of it; not fret you about it, morning, noon, and night, during Mr. Lawson's long delay and indecision, which from the beginning I foresaw."

     "Is the gentleman now in the house?" asked Mr. Long.

     "No, Sir; he has walked down to the village; but, if you wish, you can see him tonight, or else—"

     "Phru-u! stop a bit, ma'am, if you please, here," interrupted the voice of Friar Shanaghan, admonishing his "poor grey," as he led her up the avenue.

     "Who are those persons?" enquired Mr. Long.

     "Heaven and earth!" Frank began, getting a view of the group: then checking himself— "Who can they be, indeed?—oh, some wandering beggar with his wife, ass, and brats. Allow me, my dear uncle—these scenes are too strong for you; I will soon relieve you from them. Pray turn towards the house, Sir; the night—air does not serve you: thanks, dear uncle; and now—"

     "Do not dismiss the poor people roughly, Frank, whoever they may be; give them a little assistance," interrupted Mr. Long, as he walked away.

     "Fear nothing, Sir," answered Frank, as he bounded from the shrubbery across the lawn that separated him from the avenue.

     "Welcome, Sir," began the Friar, while he came up; "seeing you and your uncle together, we halted to speak a bit."

     "My uncle will gladly see you in the house, good Sir, and has sent me to say as much to you and your companion—Ah! Peggy, my life, what brings you out, so late?"

     "A little business, Sir; a little business, that concerns you and her," answered Mr. Shanaghan, as Peggy remained silent.

     "What, Peggy!" advancing closely to her, and speaking ardently, though in a suppressed tone, "can this mean that you propose to address my uncle on the subject of the connexion between us?"

     "Yes, Sir; on the subject of our marriage," answered Peggy, with emphasis.

     "For God's sake! for both our sakes! But first grant me your private ear, only a moment—just allow me to lead the animal a step aside—just ask this good man to allow us one confidential word; this cannot harm you, Peggy, and I entreat it!"

     She requested the old ecclesiastic to take no notice of Frank and her, for an instant; and Frank led her out of his sight and hearing, as the Friar muttered, "Ay; let him palaver you again; do; I see the end of it."

     "Now, Peggy," resumed Frank, when they were quite alone, "I am your humble petitioner; I will kneel, if you ask it, only to beg that, for this night at least, you do not expose me to my uncle! It would be my ruin! he is in some unaccountable ill-humour against me—and if you ever loved me—and I believe you did, and hope you do—if you love the child you have not seen—"

     "Mr. Frank," interrupted Peggy—" these ifs come with little effect from you—from you, who this day thought to make me show my love for my unborn infant and for my God, in a way that—"

     "You mean that accurst draught—you suppose it was intended badly; some fool and meddler has told you so—but, dearest Peggy, you wrong me, sorely! I offered it but for your good—it could have produced no other effect—let me be confounded for ever if it could. The thought is horrible, Peggy! horrible, of your husband—of the father of your infant—throw it from your heart, and if this be your only reason for coming to destroy us both to-night, just turn home again, and see what to-morrow will do! On my knees, indeed," (he knelt) "I ask that."

     "It is not my only reason, Frank: I fear something even worse; I fear you want to say we are not man and wife, that our child is to be a base-born child, and that I—" she stopped.

     "Madness, again, Peggy—worse than madness! I swear to you, on my soul, and my soul's hope, you are shamefully wronged by whoever has told you this. Listen to me. Only return home, and give me a few hours preparation, and before the dawn of morning I will prove this cannot have been my intention. Let me have time to speak to a Protestant clergyman— and, about midnight—say twelve o'clock, exactly—let you steal out of your father's house, and meet him and me at the upper end of the Foil Dhuiv—'tis the nearest point to his road—and there, the moon and stars for our sole witnesses, except the all-seeing eye above them, there, Peggy, shall you and I be re-married, according to the rite of the established church—will that satisfy you? will that show how much I have been belied? will that restore you to no confidence in the husband of your heart?—and, after it, can you not consent to await a proper time for my publicly taking you by the hand as my wife?"

     "It would, indeed, satisfy me for the present, Frank; and, I hope, my father and mother too. What is the name of the clergyman you intend to bring with you? have I seen him?"

     "You have, no doubt; young Mr. Sirr; an admirer of one of my sisters; he shall be the man: I am quite sure of his obliging me."

     "Well, I'll meet you, Frank, at the upper end of the Foil Dhuiv, at twelve exactly; and no one but Mr. Shanaghan by my side."

     "No one on earth, Peggy!—no human being by your side! Consent to this, or we are indeed undone: I fear the imprudent babbling of your friends, one and all—see how they have injured me in your own opinion already—it cannot be—I will brave my uncle at once, rather than that."

     "But witnesses are always necessary," urged Peggy, coolly and watchfully.

     "I know they are, where doubt exists; and, since you doubt me, Peggy, although I first thought to be quite alone, witnesses you shall have—of my choice, though—Do not dissent, but listen! one of my brothers and one of my sisters shall come with me, and be ready to take you by the hand—my eldest sister—Are you at ease, now?"

     "You promise, this, Frank?" looking seriously upon him.

     "On my life, I do!—yet, if you will doubt me still, what use of a promise or an oath? have you not your remedy in your own hands? If, when we all meet, you do not feel pleased at the arrangements I shall have made, can you not keep your cruel resolution until morning, and accuse me to my uncle then, as well as now? Dearest and only-beloved Peggy, your heart must be quite hardened against me and my child, or you would not hesitate so long. This is the very harshest treatment—I did not merit it—God knows I did not. "—She thought he wept.

     "Then I will fully depend on you, Frank—No; I have no doubt; I will have none; I can have none; I will meet you and your friends quite alone."

     "Eternal thanks, my own dear Peggy! But now, I ask you in turn, is this a solemn promise?"

     "It is: a solemn promise, before God."

     "No one shall even know you leave home?—Assure me of that too; for their suspicions would be as bad as any thing else: they would follow you, dog us, and—you promise again?"

     "Yes; 'tis but part of my first promise; I could not leave home alone, unless I hid my departure from every one in the house."

     "True, true;—and there is another little matter that, as you say, also forms part of your first solemn engagement. If no one is to know where you go, you can tell no one; neither father nor mother, nor yet this old priest—this good old gentleman—is it not so?"

     "Certainly; I must be as silent as I am careful."

     "And of course, again, when he asks you what we have been saying, you cannot answer him?"

     "Not a word."

     "But what will you say? You must invent something;—let us see."

     "No, Frank; we are not obliged to invent any thing. It is not necessary, even if it could be done; even if I would do it. Should he ask me, I will just plainly tell him not to ask me again; and surely he cannot be displeased at any confidence between man and wife."

     "You are right, my good excellent girl; you teach me what is right: in fact, then, he shall not know upon what account you alter the determination that has led you both here this evening—what you intend, one way or another. You will merely say you defer your purpose?"

     "Nothing more. "

     "And as soon as twelve o'clock comes, you will meet me and my friends in the Black Glen?"

     "I will; but, Frank, I wish the hour was a little earlier, or the place another place. I am not very childish about these things; but you know the Foil Dhuiv has a bad name, and is an ugly place at any rate."

     "Pho, my dearest girl, I did not expect this from you; nor do I, can I expect you will think of it a moment longer. All places are alike to those who fear no harm from having done bad, or from coming to do it; and friends will be waiting for you, you know, and 'tisn't so far from your father's door; scarce a mile; and besides, as I said, Mr. Sirr can so easily turn to the spot—that is the great point."

     "No matter then—I will be punctual."

     "Blessings on you, for ever, Peggy!—and now, won't you give me a wife's farewell till midnight, after all?—Ah, Peggy, what a soft and silky kiss!— none other in life is like it. Adieu, love, for a few hours; and now let us return to Mr. Shanaghan."

     In perfect silence, except that he met all stated with a "hum," or the end of a tune, the old friar received his charge, with her own request to be led home to her father's.

     They proceeded down the avenue, and along a good stretch of the road, and still the dry old man remained without speaking a word as he led the "poor grey" by the bridle, over rut and puddle. His humming of bits of tunes grew, indeed, more surly; and sometimes he broke out into the opening of a Latin hymn, such as the "Magnificat" or the "Confiteor tibi," to which exercise of his voice for vespers he was, during his lonely quests, accustomed. At last, though still he did not speak, he began to interrupt himself with little bursts of splenetic laughter, and Peggy saw it was time for her to conciliate.

     "You are angry with me, Sir," she said.

     "Me angry!—for what, child?—God settle your poor little head, I have something else to think of; only, to tell the blessed and holy truth, I certainly' was fancying, just then, what a respectable figure I cut, thrapsing about the country, myself and my grey, with a woman on our backs, at this time of our life, that knows just as much of her own mind, or her own good, as a blind cow does of a holiday."

     "I could not help changing my mind, Sir; indeed I could not; charity and fair-dealing obliged me to change it; and, Sir," anticipating what she knew she had to encounter—" if I was at liberty to tell you our conversation, you would yourself say the same thing."

     "Oh, no doubt in the world of that, ma'am; not the laste; all quite right and as it should be, to be sure; all settled to a hair, I know; and all to be kept snug from the meddling ould friar that brought you the road; sure I know, very well, thank God!—you're a rock of sense; grey hairs on a priest's head, no more to you than a mill sthrame to the Shannon: Ay, ay, and why not; you understand him so well, and you're such a match for him, particularly at the tongue. Well, praise be to God, I say again, it's a dacent calling I've turned myself into in the latter end o' my days; the grey and I; ay, yes, and good enough for us; qups, Sheela, qups; show your paces, miss, and mind your steps; a wiser load you couldn't have on your back, supposing it the whole Council of Trent, and you an elephant big enough to carry them; and a better trade your masther couldn't have than roaming about with you, from post to pillar, day and night, as a carter with his load, or a raree-show-man with his wonders of the world."

     "Indeed, Sir, if you knew all, you would not be angry with me; and indeed, and in truth, I am very grateful for your kindness, and very sorry for your trouble; especially your walking so much, while I am on your horse; and if I was a year younger, Sir, you should be on Sheela's back, and I, as 'ud be my duty and pleasure, stepping along at your side; and, badly as you know I am able, I will even now tire you no longer, if you please; only just help me off, Sir, and,"—

     "Bother, child," interrupted the friar; "bother says Brotherick, when he lost mass; stay where you are; I'm not so tired, either, ould as I am, and such a fool as I am, tho' it's kind of you (poor thing like you) to think of it. No ma'am, I didn't mean to quarrel with you; I like you too well, you baggage, for that; so, there now; and if you cry another tear, and if you don't give a good laugh at the ould friar, from the heart out, salvation to me, but I'll kiss you and run away with you:—what—eh?—are we friends yet?"

     Peggy made a dutiful answer.

     "Well: that's right; and now, Peggy, my child, we're in the bosheen, and I must lave you to step home by yourself, for neighbour Shearman promised me a bed to-night; and so God bless you, Peggy;—and only one word—Do not depend on him, too far—do not depend on him at all!—I know him, and you do not. Whatever he has said to you—whatever he has promised,— look close at it. If you have promised any thing, think twice before you perform it. I don't want your little secrets; even if I did, I see how it is;—I might go without them; no matter for that; but—since you can have no other adviser, now advise with yourself; ask God to enlighten you. He is a bad man, I tell you, Peggy; and so good night." They parted.

     After Frank saw them turn upon the road out of the avenue, he stood some time in deep and breathless meditation. Then he returned to the house, and sought his uncle. Mr. Long again candidly brought forward in conversation the doubts of Frank he had before expressed; Frank combated them as adroitly as he could; the topic changed to Mr. Lawson, and the prosecution of the mail-coach robber. At last it grew late; Mr. Long rose to go to his chamber; Frank, accompanying him, bore a night-lamp into his own; shut his door, seemed to lock it; laid his lamp on a table; listened to his uncle's movements; heard a voice call to him out of an inside closet; started on tip-toe to the key-hole, and vehemently whispered through it—Have a care, and curse you!—not a move or a breath, yet!"'

     For more than ten minutes he continued to bustle about his chamber; then became motionless, as if he had retired to bed; again whispered into the closet, "Open, but not a word!"—handed in the lamp to the person who there awaited him, stole to the outside door, gently opened it, listened for sounds in his uncle's room, and along the corridor, found all silent, and at last entered the closet.

     "You've staid d—d long to-night," said the man he had secreted in it, and who sat at a small table, with a whiskey bottle, water and sugar, before him; "it has been hell-dark these three hours, except for the winking of the glim in at this little high window, that reminds me of a crib more than any thing I ever saw out of one; and confound my — eyes, if I can stand all this much longer."

     "I'm quite sure, Ned, you can't stand it this moment, if one may judge from the increase of your complexion, your flash, and the decrease of the black bottle; but, hold your tongue, you drunken goose, and speak lower, while I tell you this,—we are on the brink of ruin; you, Studs, you have ruined us."

     "As how, Master Frank?"

     "As how, you headstrong hound? Last night, after I stole out to pack off Mag, mother, brother, and the whole kit, and left you here to lock yourself in, and be d—d to you, with your promise to stay quiet, and behave yourself, out you must creep, to take the air of the house and the staircases, so that the old chap, who was watching me (he's getting 'cute, Ned; sharp's the word) saw you on the landing-place above him, as he returned to bed; saw you, and knew you, too."

     "He lies, Master Adams; by this bottle, I never tramped an inch through his house last night."

     "Thou liest most ungratefully to say the word, as it was by that very bottle thou wert then led to it, and art now perjured."

     "Know me? know Ned Studs? well, that's a good 'un."

     "Not as Ned Studs, you stupid beast, but as Mr. Lawson, the English traveller."

     "Oh! all right; and now, Mr. Lawson must be off, I take it; and yet, that won't do neither."

     "No, curse you! Mr. Lawson must stay where he is, and appear as Mr. Lawson, and as sober as he can to the elder, to-morrow morning; and I'll tell you why. But first, Ned, how goes on the little firm over the water? After you came last night, I was obliged to slip out before I could ask you all that; this morning you were too drunkenly asleep; and all day I have been panting to pop the question, and thought I could when we met this evening in the shrubbery—Had the swag much luck?"

     "A little, at first; doubled or so; and so kept on for a few months; then—whew! and off."

     "D—d cross, that; I believe you must play me loyal here, Ned; for the final stake is too great to think you could nibble on what was to win it for us both."

     "True blue, Master Adams; no fairer man; show it, by being here; for when one swag went, I and another tried for as good a one; got blown, talked about, looked after, and so, Ned Studs is a- drinking your Hirish stingo tonight, just for peace-sake, and a look up to Master Frank for a little help on the road, you know."

     "And you shall have it, Ned, if we step high for it; but all the last year has been curst glum. I thought we could have coaxed off from the reversions half the rooks by this time; but on they stick; and then that running interest! I say, Studs, you were to have seen them for me; what do they say?"

     "Nothingk; only this, that if you don't down the interest more regular, they'll blab to old chap about that and other things."

     "Hell's fire round them! He knows enough already, and thinks more, Ned; and harps away on old matters from morning to night. More than once, since the Irish swag here, he has hit me in the teeth about that plucking I gave the young Oxford Lord, and that unlucky affair at Newmarket, and our little firm in the West-end; and do you know, Studs, I begin to fear he has heard more than he ought concerning all the business of that firm. Could my real name have dropt?"

     "Do you mean the Brumagem affair, in Lad Lane, or the heavy Ipswich swag, at Hankey's bundle?"

     "Why, Ned, you know I must mean both."

     "Well, no fear of the last; but while t'other lay in the ring, and the Bow-street barkers at it, with our broker, 'twas said your name was a little blown,—a little winded or so."

     "The devil! I always thought that; and he—but no; could he really have caught a breath of it, I had not been here to-night. All must be safe, so far. Let us talk of business more at hand. You know, Ned, that upon the night of the swag, on this road, we expected a fellow to join us who did not come.

     "Ay; there was you in, with Mag and Mother Carey; I, out with young Carey; and two country chaps of your choosing, were to join the two Dublin chaps, of my own choosing, and only one came to the scratch; but 'twas all well as it happened; three could give as good a blank volley as four, while young Phil and I did business with coachee and guard;—never mind: remember it all; snug, I say."

     "But listen to me, you stupid blunderer. This one fellow, who hung fire, was enlisted by Mag, d—n her; I never saw him; she only told me his name, Conolly; Conolly the rake, as he calls himself, and a good alias I thought it was. Since then, he has never come in my sight until this day; and, indeed, as I was so sure my name was out of the thing, with all but you and Mag, why I never much troubled myself whether he might be alive or dead. But this day, I tell you, Studs, this very day, I met the fellow without knowing him; and, before we parted, after telling or singing me his name, he put his lips to my ear and whispered, 'Who robbed the mail coach, Master Frank?' Studs, I felt as if cold lead went through my brain! as if—"

     "As if Judge Best had asked you the question," interrupted Mr. Studs. "I think I know what you'd say; but, Master Adams, isn't that 'ere chap the very one you told me was to be put up for the self-same little swag you speak of, when we met this evening in the shrubbery?"

     "To be sure he is; have you done as I bid you? have you kissed primer before the good magistrate, my father?"

     "John Lawson, of the county of Suffolk, in England, gent., came before me this day, and maketh oath, and saith——"

     "Enough; a point-blank deposition, I warrant; and my excellent brother, the police chief, will not be long without finding Master Conolly; and then, if the idiot hasn't peached beforehand with us, which all the devils forbid, how strange he will look to see us take the pretty tale out of his mouth, while not a breathing creature but will laugh out at his true story. Well, Lawson, we must, by some means, have another examination sworn."

     "Against whom? your own uncle, or your own mother, or who the devil?"

     "Only against an old popish friar, Studs, who has, in violation of the statute in that case made and provided, pretended to join in wedlock a certain young lady and your humble servant. I think I have the plan of the examination in my head; but more about it, by and by; only it must be done this very blessed night, and the priest put up by day-break. I hope they can't bail him; do you know? But why should I ask you about bailing any thing that isn't swindling, mail-coach swagging, hell-keeping, or, duly to honour the follies of your youth, pocket-touching, shop- lifting, and petty larceny, ad libitum." "Speak no thieves' Latin to me, Master Frank, I'm above it."

     "Hold your hand, Ned; not another throw out of that black bottle:—lay it down, I say! and don't pretend to fly into a passion with me, just to put yourself off your guard, as it were, for a snatch at it. I know your tricks, Sir. Nor no grumbling, either, now, but sit still and hear, at last, what is worth hearing. I have told you, we were on the edge of ruin—that the drop was under our feet, and only the devil waiting to slip the bolt;—now learn really why and how. You have heard me speak of a wench, whom I had by humming her with the old priest's marriage; well, she's up, of course, and getting, somehow, a wind of my true notions about her, here she comes to-night, to blow me to the old governor, and blab all how and about it. If she is once allowed to do that, my uncle, who thinks wenching as bad as man-killing, would first make me marry her in earnest; and then turn me off with the girl, upon a few thousands and a blessing: and so, if you can understand any thing, Ned Studs, behold, in this prospect, the fine old acres wriggled fairly through our fingers: not even the half I was sure of when my pretty sister was here, left to clear the reversions I have (may I be well d—d for it some day!) suffered to get into the claws of the rooks."

     "But who's to allow the silly wench to come down with her gab? that's all I ask, Master Frank. You sent her off this evening, I know; can't you take care she don't call again?"

     "How do you mean, Ned Studs?"

     "Poh! gammon, and so many bows in the case; and you knowing them all so well."

     "I'm to meet her to-night, at twelve o'clock, in a very lonesome place, far out of sight and hearing of house or home, Ned."

     "Are you?"

     "She thinks, to marry her legally."

     "Ay, ay."

     "Studs, in my case, seeing that every thing depends on mum—run to the saddle-skirts, as I am, what would you do? In what manner would you come to a settling with a foolish, ungrateful, unfeeling girl, if you met her alone, at the dead of the night, in such a place, where, if ever there was a spot to keep a secret—Hush!—who's there? douce the glim, Studs!"

     In obedience to the latter words, given in a close, sharp whisper, his companion hastily extinguished the lamp.

     They sat together in darkness, for many minutes, both silent, and suppressing their fluttered breath, as they strained their ears to catch a sound in the outside chamber. At last:

     "Didn't you hear a step?" whispered Frank.

     "Caunt say as a' did," answered Studs, "and I think you've only frightened yourself a bit."

     "Hush!—let's listen again."

     Once more they remained perfectly silent; but, as not the slightest sound was heard, Studs's interpretation seemed plausible.

     "Go on, Master Frank," he resumed, "not a mouse is stirring: why don't you go on? I don't half like this sitting alone, in the deep dark; I must either drink, or hear the sound of your voice."

     "Then I must speak, indeed, Ned, for you have already guzzled enough for the work in hand. But can you guess what kept me silent a moment?"

     "Saying your prayers, Master Frank."

     "No; not so bad, neither: I was only thinking—it was a sudden and a strange thought—that, if we had really heard a step, it could be no other than nuncle; and if so, it struck me, Studs, to ask myself the question— should we, or should we not allow him to go back to his bed in full possession of all we don't want him to know: particularly as there has been some chaffer about it before,—and (what he doesn't know) as I could lay my hand, this moment, on the will he has last made, by which every acre of Long-Hall estate is legally bequeathed to a nephew of his? That was just what passed through my head."

     "It would be dangerous, here in his own house, Master Adams."

     "Dangerous! no more! Curses on you for a gallows dog, wouldn't it be treacherous, bloody, diabolical? I tell you but of a flitting thought that our master shot into my brain, and you, Studs, you imagine it rests with me, and argue only for convenience! You are a worse villain than I took you for. Never dare to glance at it again. But, now about this poor foolish wench, Sir. I say we are to meet,—she and I, or any one that will stand in my place,—quite alone, exactly at midnight, in the most lonesome and wildest part among these black Tipperary hills. What am I to do with her? how satisfy her? how stop her from coming to accuse me before my uncle in the morning?"

     "She thinks you meet her to marry her?"

     "Ay, that's the understanding, as it were.

     "Would the marriage make her mum?"

     "Yes, I promise you; but am I a fool, Studs?"

     "Sometimes ay, sometimes no. You don't want to marry her, then? it's all gammon, so far?"

     "Confounded stuff and nonsense."

     "Well, are you sure she will come quite alone?"

     "Cock sure."

     "But mustn't some one know where she comes to so late?—some of her friends?"

     "Not a soul; her promise is given to that, too; and she'll keep it fur her own sake."

     "So then she might step into a pit, or a pool, or—But zounds, Master Frank, at which side of me are you?" suddenly lowering his voice.

     "Here, at your right hand; why?"

     "Then," cried Studs, springing up, "here's the devil at council with us in the dark,—some one else stands at my left, near the door!"

     "Secure the door!" exclaimed Frank, "you are next to it; curse you, fellow! why will you not move? I must scramble on myself; there!" shutting and bolting the closet door, "if the devil is in company, we have dared him before, and shall not now fear him; if any other hearer has intruded, let him tell his beads, and pay for his peeping; he goes not hence alive. Keep you your back to the door, Ned, while I go round by the walls; and no pulling of triggers, sirrah, no shots to alarm the house; but just lend me your case with the spring-bayonets; one of them never misses fire, and makes little noise; so now stand quiet."

     Carefully, although, despite the lightness and hardihood of his speech, his blood curdled and his hair bristled, carefully did Frank grope all round the closet, but no intruder was to be found; again and again he searched, and was disappointed.

     "You must have raved in your cups, Studs," he then said; "here is no one but ourselves; where did you see, or think you saw, the person?"

     "Where I said, at my left hand, his back against the wall; but when I looked a second time, he was gone."

     "Tush! you are a cowardly goose, and that's all. Let us leave this place, however; my time for meeting with the girl I spoke of is near at hand. Muffle yourself up as well as you can, and follow me out of the house by the private way. Stick close to my skirts, lest you stumble in the dark, and make some cursed noise. Stop, I too must put on a disguise, some coarse things that now and then serve me; we will talk over the whole business on our way; and whether or no you do any thing else for me, you know you have to call on the magistrate."

     At about the time they secretly left Long-Hall, Peggy Nowlan also crept out of her father's house, to keep her appointment in the Foil Dhuiv.

     Notwithstanding her solemn promise to Frank, she did not bring herself to take such a step without much inward struggling. The friar's cautions first alarmed her; in the alarm, all her own former ones sprang up; and while she sat alone in her little chamber, by the feeble flickering gleam of an economical rushlight, her father and mother and their servants hushed into sleep around her, and no sound heard outside the house but the hoot of the owl, and the hoarse murmurs of many streams, near and distant, poor Peggy's heart failed and revolted, she knew not why, at the thought of what she was about to do.

     In vain did she assure herself that, against whatsoever the friar had intended to warn her, he could not have contemplated possible ill-treatment of her person at Frank's hands: he could not have meant that she was in any danger of bodily harm from him; and if not, what else did she fear? why else should she shrink from meeting him, even all alone, at any hour of the day or night? But he would not come alone—for, again, why should he have promised to marry her, according to the form of his religion, and in the presence of his brother and sister, if he intended to break his word? The disingenuousness could be of no eventual good to him, supposing him not sincere; then why practise it? In the absence of a doubt too horrible— too monstrous and unnatural, what could he mean but to keep his promise? The little phial, though—the scene that day, when they were alone before!— her veins ran cold—she would not go.—Yet, had he not most solemnly, by the most solemn oaths, disavowed the crime attributed by the friar? and might not the friar be mistaken? nay, he was mistaken—he must be— human nature never produced such a monster; she would trample on the thought. And, again and again, the idea that Frank's offer was a providential chance to allow justice to be done to her unborn infant and herself, and that, if she now weakly rejected it, Heaven might, for her punishment, harden his heart against her in future,—these reveries at last determined Peggy; and some time before she need have stirred, she was walking rapidly towards the place of rendezvous.

     It was a fine night, starry and moonshiny; and, until she turned into the first shadows of the Foil Dhuiv, Peggy held a brave heart. Then, however, the intense silence, blackness, and loneliness of the place, disagreeably affected her. She had never before been out, so late at night, amidst the desolate solitude of nature; and,—from the change thrown over them by new effects of light and shade,—features of the rude scenery with which she thought herself familiar, seemed new and strange to her eye:—in one place, a hill looked nearer; in another, a huge rock more distant; while, generally speaking, real outline becoming lost, objects distinct in day-light, merged into one strange whole, or took peculiarities of shape that started hideous fancies to the baffled mind.

     Step by step, the scene deepened. At last she gained the end of the valley farthest from her father's house, where, at either hand, and widely removed, two vast black hills swept up into the sky, each so toweringly, that the cheery moon, though more than half way in the heavens, was only able to glint, over the outer brow of one, a few rays upon the inner brow of the other. Thus, the whole deep glen remained in shade, except the very unnoticed summit of the mountainous side that, at Peggy's left hand, half formed it. Before her, another heath-clad black hill intercepted any distant view; and, by the last abrupt turn of her little trembling feet, through the furze-choked and rain-sprinkled path, she was also shut out from a view of the long way she had come.

     And here, shivering in the cold night blast, and starting at every sound, Peggy had to await the promised appearance of Frank and his friends. A long time she did wait, alone, and undisturbed, and she thought the hour of appointment must have elapsed, and that, whatever was the cause, he would not come at all. As she looked timidly up and down the shadowed solitude, many weakening fears again assailed her. The interview with Frank, when he frightened her to take the phial from her hand—his glaring eyes—his pale face—his changed character—more vividly than ever occurred; and then the thought that he might so visit her, alone, in her present situation—she shrunk from that. Peggy remembered too, stories of the Foil Duiv, that used to shake her childhood, and collect terrible dreams for her childish pillow. About where she stood, a woman had once been cruelly murdered, and her bones were found whitening behind a rock, and the cries of her angry spirit often sounded through the glen. In spite of her, for Peggy was not weak-minded nor superstitious, such extraneous recollections added an ominous horror to her real fears; and at last she was about to rush, screaming, along the path she had come, when the appearance of a single figure, on the side of the opposite and remote hill, rooted her feet to the spot; called back, with her observation, her presence of mind; and suddenly calmed her into a watchfulness of her own safety.

     A few seconds after her eye caught the object, she sank down, carefully and completely hiding herself amid a group of shivered rocks and stones, hedged round by furze-bushes and tall fern, but allowing her, through a little opening, to look out unseen.

     The single figure came obliquely down the sweep of the hill, often pausing, as if it looked around, and to every quarter; but, amid the great shadow, and scarce relieved from the blacker back-ground of the hill-side, its motions, as well as itself, were yet very vague and indistinct. In some time it gained the bottom of the Foil Dhuiv; again stood still, and looked to the east, and to the west. Peggy could now assure herself it was a man; but of what quality, his non-descript dress did not allow her to decide. At a nearer approach, she saw he carried something on his right shoulder, and something else under his left arm. He continued his heavy strides towards where she lay; again paused, and again looked to the east and to the west; and now the former article seemed a spade; the latter, a sack, folded hard. He came still closer to her; at the distance of about forty yards stopped once more; renewed his keen scrutiny, at either hand; then threw down his sack, and, with his back turned to her, began rapidly to dig the loose, slaty earth with his spade.

     Peggy was skilful enough in all agricultural operations to perceive that the man worked clumsily, though vigorously, and in earnest haste, often interrupting himself still to look about him, far and near. By his stooping low, and his continuing to dig at one spot, she saw, too, that he was penetrating some depth into the ground. After a lengthened exertion, he ceased: his work seemed done. He cast down his spade upon his sack, folded his arms, crossed the valley to the far side, coming so near that she could have touched his legs, though still she did not see his face; and all the while looking out wistfully, and seeming to change his ground only to gain more commanding points of observation.

     And thus he remained for more than an hour; and thus, for more than an hour, though she could not then measure time, Peggy lay close and still, breathless and motionless, watching him. At length, as if overcome by impatience, he abruptly walked to the pit he had delved, gazed a moment into it, snatched his spade, hastily pitched in the piles of earth he had thrown up: when the hole was filled, stamped with his heels, evidently to harden the spot; smoothened over and all round it with his spade-handle; took up his sack, and striding off in the direction whence he had appeared, slowly ascended the hill; crossed it obliquely, as he had descended it; disappeared, and Peggy was left alone.

     Her feelings, during this scene, we have not attempted to describe; we shall not now attempt to do so. With the self-command, and the mental endurance for which women are, even above the stronger sex, sometimes eminently remarkable, she was able to look on, and give not the slightest indication of alarm. Though, before the coming of the man, imaginary terrors had almost made her shriek out,—yet, now a spectatress of real terrors, and with a consciousness and a misgiving, horrible beyond expression, she did not even breathe hard.

     Nor, long after the disappearance of this person did she stir. He might return; if once caught by his watchful eye, she could not, perhaps, though at a distance, escape him, and therefore she still lay motionless. For more than the time he had stayed, she lay so. But when once Peggy started up, she ran, burdened as she was, without looking to the right or to the left, through the whole length of the Foil Dhuiv; in unabated speed gained her father's house—her own little chamber- window;—opened it cautiously; dragged herself into the room, fastened her window; and then, and not till then, did poor Peggy's brain reel, and her eyes swim, as, staggering round the earthen floor, she sank swooning on her bed.