Volume Two


7


ABOUT the grey of the morning Peggy recovered to a confused sense of her situation; and the first effort of her mind was to master her terror, her agony, and all her feelings. She became impressed with the conviction that such was her duty; that she had a decided, courageous, yet temperate part to act; and that self-possession was the first step in the discharge of her responsibility. After sitting up, then, on her bed, until she felt her strength in a degree restored, Peggy knelt down in prayer. While thus engaged, some unusual stir arose outside the house: she paid it no attention. In a few moments, a light step stole to her chamber-door, which was not fastened: she turned, and her little sister, Anty, sprang to her neck, and was clasped, in showers of tears, to her sad yet comforted heart.

     "I heard it all at last, Peggy," sobbed Anty, "though it was so well and so cruelly hid from me—John's misfortune, and your unhappy marriage, and all; and, the moment I did hear it, came to be one among ye in your trials. Last night I slept at Nenagh. Oh! Peggy, it was very unkind to leave me so long ignorant."

     "Anty, Anty," answered her sister, "we thought to keep our heart of one family safe from the curse that fell among us: and then, you were so young and so childish, we believed it would have been a pity to darken your days so soon—though, indeed, Anty, my dear, a few years' absence has made a great change in you,—in your appearance, your manner, and your mind, I'm sure,—for you were always a sensible child, Anty."

     "God grant, sister, I may have sense enough to be, now, to you the comfort you stand in need of. Are you glad to see me, and to speak to me?"

     "Since you are come, dear Anty, Heaven could not send a greater consolation. Oh! you will be such a support to me in what I have to do; and it will make me so firm to tell you all, and to get your advice; for, till this moment, I had no one to advise with; I was quite alone in my trials, Anty: the poor father's heart is a'most broke, and he cannot talk to me; or when he does, 'tis more like a child's folly than a man's sense: and the poor mother is turned into gall with her sorrows; her speech is only complaint and crossness; and she cries so much, alone, that her old eyes are growing blind with it"

     There was a long silence, while the sisters wept in each other's arms. Ar last Anty whispered, "This used to be his room, Peggy;" and the remark was again followed up with tears. "Tell me, Peggy," she resumed, "was the poor young lady such a temptation to him, indeed?"

     "Oh, Anty, my eyes never lighted on a crearure like her: as good as she was comely; as bright in the mind, as, before that happened, I believe she was pure in the heart; and the real gentlewoman, if ever one walked the earth."

     "And he, too, Peggy—when it happened, he must have been all in her eyes, or in any woman's eyes, that she was in his; though 'tis so long since I saw him, I can only suppose so; nearly six years, I believe; for, just after I went to the nunnery, now two years ago, he was coming home from the bishop's school, with the priesthood, but I didn't meet him then; and you know he had been at that time four years away from us all. But, was not our poor John a very handsome boy at three-and-twenty?"

     Instead of answering, a low abhorring scream escaped Peggy, as she clung close to her almost childish sister; and Anty, following her eyes to the little window of the chamber, saw it darkened by the form of a man wrapped in a large cloak.

     "I will not speak to him, Anty," whispered Peggy.

     "Who is it?" enquired her companion.

     'My ruin—my husband! he that says he is not my husband—he that— —Oh! Anty, dear Anty!" as Frank tapped at the jessamine-shaded glass— "tell him I cannot—will not see him: get up and speak to him for me; tell him to meet me in his uncle's house in an hour—nothing more can now pass between us—go to him, for God's sake!—and stay—help me across the floor, out of his sight."

     When Anty had attended to the latter part of the request, she advanced steadily to the window. Her glance curiously and earnestly sought to make out Frank's features; but the collar of the cloak, and the leaf of his rustic hat pulled down to his nose, baffled her attempt.

     In a few words she gave, however, her sister's message, half opening the window for the purpose.

     "I must see her this moment," replied Frank; "who are you? her sister?"

     "You cannot and shall not see my sister, Sir," insisted Anty; answering both questions in a breath.

     "Pho, child; open the lattice, like a good, pretty girl, as you are;" standing sideway to her, and with one hand spread over that part of his face which the cloak and hat had not quite hidden, he thrust the other hand through the half unclosed window, and, first catching Anty's arm, further attempted a slight liberty. The unsophisticated child instantly shut the window, secured it as well as she could, and rapidly disappeared to join her sister, out of view of Frank.

     He continued to knock, unheeded. In some time, they heard him walk away.

     "Now come with me, Anty," said Peggy, "that I may keep my promise with him, to meet him in his uncle's house; but first let us seek an old friend, a few fields off."

     "What has he done to you, Peggy? it must be something very bad when you will not speak to him."

     "Do not ask me all, now; I will tell you soon; but now I fear the thinking of it would deprive me of the little strength I have, and which I want to keep.—Come, dear Anty; let us steal out without disturbing our father or mother."

     "Yes; but only one word: you said he wanted to deny he was your husband?"

     "He does: he wishes to assert that we were not properly married; but he cannot prove that in the sight of God, though he may in the sight of men."

     "What do you mean, Peggy?" asked the young sister, reddening and starting; "what do you mean by a marriage that will not hold in the sight of man? Are you his wife?"

     ''We were married by the priest. "

     "Well? and what then? what can he mean, then? dear, dear Peggy, how you frightened me;" winding her arms around her sister.

     Peggy explained the legal exception, as the old friar had explained it to her. Anty looked as confounded as Peggy had done when she first heard it; and scarcely had her sister added that her only course could be to throw herself upon the justice and humanity of Mr. Long, ere they were both on the path diverging into the fields from the by-road before their father's door.

     At a point where the path divided into tracks, one leading to Long Hall, the other to the house of a wealthy neighbouring farmer, whither Friar Shanaghan had gone to sleep the previous evening, Peggy signified her intention of first calling on the old ecclesiastic to give them his support and company up to Mr. Long's. "He was a courageous friend," she said; "and, besides, would be a protector on the way, if any one they did not like to meet came across their path." Accordingly the sisters turned towards the rich farmer's.

     In their progress they had to ascend an eminence, which gave a view to their right of the direct path to Long Hall, winding through several lonesome little dells and retreats; and while they hurried along, Peggy, casting a watchful glance in this direction, started, pressed her sister's arm, and quickened her pace. Anty, standing a moment behind, also looked, and saw some hundred yards off, through a medium of bluish exhalation, the same person who had knocked at the chamber window, and another man, mounted on a stout horse, which further bore an empty pillion. Both men were motionless, and seemingly in earnest discourse. While Anty yet gazed, her sister turned, as she now called out to her, and beckoned anxiously; and in wonder and alarm, she hastened to join Peggy. But before she left her exposed situation, she thought the figure in the cloak turned and recognized her.

     And she was right in her conjecture.

     "There they go, by Heaven!" cried Frank; "avoiding the direct path, too:I told you so, Studs; she suspects every thing now: she was in the Foil Dhuiv."

     "Not last night then, Master Adams, take my word for it. And what a fuss about the path she happens to fancy this morning; can't you just wheedle her in here, you that can sing the birds off the bushes, get her upon the pillion, well strapped, and then order me wherever you like, with your own lawful wife?"

     "That must be it, hollow; so I take a race round to meet her: but, Studs, are you sure the old priest can't stir without coming across the Peelers?"

     "Didn't I station them myself?"

     "And this cursed Conolly: what has become of him?"

     "Run off in a funk, I say again."

     "God or the devil make you a prophet; for, if my fears be true—no matter—all that another time; now for this hoaxing wench; don't budge an inch, Studs, till I come back."

     In a few moments, Frank stood before the sisters with a "Good morrow, Peggy;" one screamed, the other, encircling Peggy's waist, changed to the side whence he approached, not now daring or caring to look up into his face, which was still carefully muffled, as if to leave in future doubt of his identity, any chance spectator of his present actions.

     "I knew, or at least was told by your servant, that you did not intend to keep your appointment last night," continued Frank, as the girls stood silent and motionless, "and so did not go out myself; but my friend Mr. Sirr, my sister, and one of my brothers, await you a little way off, to give you the satisfaction you required, early as it is." 'Twas yet scarce four o'clock.

     Peggy continued perfectly silent.

     "And so you will take my arm, and come with me."

     He moved towards her disengaged side; Anty moved before him; he changed his place again; she again anticipated him.

     "Tut, child," he resumed, "this is no time to play at bo-peep; tho' "— whispering her closely—"at any other time you will find me willing enough: for may I never die in sin, but, in a year or two, you will be worth two of Peggy—nay, this moment, you don't know how I like you;" and taking Anty by surprise, he passed his arm around her waist, and ardently saluted her lips.

     The young nunnery girl, gaining, from indignation, extraordinary strength, flung him aside, and, with some point-blank and rather forcible epithets, clung closer to her sister.

     "After this, at least, let us go our road, Frank Adams," said Peggy.

     "Why will you be obstinate, Peggy? my friends all waiting, and you keeping them: from the last height you have passed you might have seen some of them—my sister rode behind Mr. Sirr, on a pillion. Come, come; if you are wilful, and I will add, ungrateful, I cannot consent to be exposed to laughter; so, come along, Peggy."

     He took her arm, and endeavoured to separate her from her sister's embrace. Both girls now screamed loud, and all struggled violently. They were answered by a "hilli-ho!" from the direction of the farmer's house whither they had been going; and presently appeared a very handsome young man, dressed in a rustic green sporting jacket, and bestriding as handsome a horse, which bore him rapidly towards the parties; while, at a good distance behind, Friar Shanaghan's poor grey, with her master on her back, did her best, at a very unusual stretch of muscle, to keep in the track of the leader.

     "Stop, Sir, whoever you are, and whatever you intend!" said the young man, jumping from his saddle.

     "And who dares bid me stop?" retorted Frank; "I am warranted in what I do; this female is my wife."

     "Remember that, David," said the friar, now almost at the spot; "remember it well, David Shearman; he calls Peggy Nowlan his wife."

     All seemed much struck with these words: Frank looked irritated and perplexed; and Peggy and David Shearman glanced in confusion at each other.

     "I see you don't know her, man, though you ought; nor Peggy you, though she ought, too; but, Peggy, my woman, this is little Davy Shearman that used to be, though, now that he's come home from the priest's school in England, he's big Davy; and don't you remember long ago, when he and you, children as you were—but never mind; that's all past and gone; and now he's nothing to you but a neighbour, to do a neighbour's turn; and, to make a beginning, since he and I have come by chance to your side so arly this morning, why, we'll just stay at your side till we see you safe on the road you're for going; though he left his snug bed at such an hour to see me a bit on my own road, for ould-time's sake; eh, Peggy?" alighting slowly from his grey, "isn't that the way it'll be? and arn't you this moment going to take the course I bid you take yesterday?"

     "I am, Sir; I was on my way to ask your company, and now I thank you and this gentleman."

     "To be sure you were, to be sure you do; so come; stop, who's this? eh? Oh, I needn't ask another word; a Nowlan all over; there's her mother's own nose and mouth, only the eyes are blue like her poor ould father's; Anty, ma-colleen, how are you? come here and tell me; there, God bless you, my fine child;" kissing her cheek; "how's the ould suparior? and all the ould nuns? and all the purty novices? and the boorders? Well, you'll tell me another time; come now, I believe we're bound for Long-Hall: does Mr. Frank accompany us?"

     Frank, who, since the interruption, had stood silent, his back turned, did not answer, but stepped aside to allow free passage to three Peelers, who, advancing in the way the friar had come, soon gained his side, and as soon pronounced him their prisoner, on authority of a warrant granted by Magistrate Adams.

     "Pullaloo and botheration entirely," cried the old regular, as all other persons of the group seemed, in different ways, much agitated at this occurrence, "warrant away, arrest away, hang away, my boys; I know all about that; and I'll go with you as quiet as any lamb, if you just take me, first and foremost, before Mr. Long's face, where I have a word to say; you'll oblige me so far, won't you?"

     Having secretly consulted Mr. Frank's eye, the leader of the Peelers said he could do no such thing; Mr. Shanaghan must go before Magistrate Adams.

     "Then, Peggy," resumed the friar, speaking earnestly, "go you your ways with your sister and Davy Shearman, straight to Mr. Long; tell your story, plain and square, before all; and never cry for me, a good girl; no fear o the ould regular; many a cat and dog and better thing '11 die before me; shake hands, my child, and God speed you. David, don't leave her side; you know a little of the little rason why."

     "Never fear me, Sir," answered David.

     "One word with you, Peggy," whispered Frank, stepping to her. Anty clung closer than ever to her sister, and Peggy evidently showed a resolution not to turn off alone with him.

     "Let pretty Anty come with you," he added; "what I have to say may as well be said in her hearing."

     The sisters accordingly separated themselves a few paces from their friends.

     "'Tis but one question," resumed Frank, in a boding whisper; "why do you now so obstinately refuse the satisfaction you so earnestly demanded yesterday, Peggy?"

     "I will answer your question, if you answer one from me first," replied Peggy, measuring the distance between her and the friar and David Shearman: then glancing at Frank's hands, and pressing closer to little Anty.

     "Let me hear it," he said; his eyes falling.

     "This is it, Frank," as her hoarse tones became almost inaudible; "who dug the hole in the Foil Dhuiv, after twelve o'clock, last night?"

     Without raising his eyes, he drew back, his shoulders slowly cringed up, and inclined to double forward, as if a creeping went through every fibre of his body; and when at last his enlarged eyes as slowly rose and fell upon Peggy's, she shrieked aloud at their deadly, animal expression.

     "What's the matter with you all there?" enquired the friar; "and stop—what's the matter here at our backs too? Salvation to my soul, but it's that crack-brained poor omadhaun, Peery Conolly, coming prancing on, like a year-ould coult, before my excellent friend Mr. Nevin, of Nenagh town, and he another magistrate, and with another handful of Peelers at his heels—Christ save us all! it's a busy morning."

     At the mention of Peery Conolly's name, Frank quickly started from his baleful trance, and, casting but a look towards the approaching party, bounded away from our friends, before the new-comers could well have got him in view.

     "Here we are! here we are, like May-boys!" shouted Peery, dancing forward; "come on, Peelers, my darlins! come on, Misther Nevin, a-chorna, an' glory to you! fauch-a-vollaugh!* here we are!"

     "Pray, gentlemen, has any one just parted from you?" enquired Mr. Nevin.

     "Mr. Frank Adams, this moment," answered the friar.

     "That looks bad," rejoined Mr. Nevin; "and now, Sir, I begin to believe your mad charges," to Peery.

     "It looks good, your honour means," said that person; "an' believe Peery or no, jist as your honour likes, he's to the fore, any how, to hould his own purty neck for a runnin' knot, if he can't fit it on another's."

     "I will certainly take care of you, Sir, till the affair has ended.—Which way, Mr. Shanaghan, has Mr. Frank gone?"

     The friar officiously pointed it out: two of Mr. Nevin's attendants were despatched to explore it; two more moved in an opposite direction.

     "And now, whatever may be your business among us, Mr. Nevin, you'll do me a favour, I know," said the friar: and thereupon he explained his situation; the attributed crime that had brought him into it; and ended by requesting the interference of the Nenagh magistrate with his captors, to prevail on them for liberty to accompany his young friends towards Mr. Long's house. Mr. Nevin easily obtained the accommodation which the Peelers had before refused; and adding, that he had just been at Long Hall, and was again called there by his present duty, the whole party moved for this important ground of explanation.

     "Your honour wouldn't let me up to the Hall wid you afore," said Peery, "me nor the Peelin' boys; an' may be all was dacent an' kind, for the sake o' the ould uncle, that was the best man in the counthry till his nephew came home; bud now, if your honour plaises, we'll go in, at any rate; an' you '11 let the boys break open any dour or lock I rise up my little finger at."

     Mr. Nevin assented. They soon gained the house. Mr. Long received the magistrate, Peery, and our friends in his library, where they found him pale and trembling in an easy chair.

     "Have you seen him, Sir?" asked the afflicted gentleman, as his brother-magistrate entered.

     "No, Mr. Long; but he may have since returned to the house."

     "Then, Sir, you can again search the house." The uncle more than suspected that Mr. Nevin was right in his conjecture; but, from the place towards which he believed Frank had retreated, he hoped all search might be turned. He was, however, left by Mr. Nevin and Peery to abide the issue of a closer scrutiny than had before occurred.

     "And now, Miss Nowlan, your business with me," continued Mr. Long.

     "Tell it all up, like an honest woman, Peggy," said Friar Shanaghan.

     "My name is not Nowlan, now, sir" answered Peggy, "and for some time has not been."

     "And I know that," rejoined the friar.

     "And, since last night, I too know it," resumed Mr. Long: "the young woman has been married by you, Sir, to my wretched nephew, Frank Adams, according to the forms of your church."

     "You have just said it, Sir," observed the friar, nodding: "may we ask how you found it out?"

     "By his own acknowledgment."

     "Good God, Sir!" cried Peggy, "then we have all wronged him; and I—I have injured him in coming before you this morning."

     "Fear it not, my good young woman; and do not think I heard his avowal with his own free will; in fact, he knows not, even now, that I have his secret. So, go on. What request do you wish to make of me on the subject?"

     "He has lately disowned me as his wife, Sir."

     "He has," echoed the friar.

     "And that I know too," said Mr. Long. "Well?"

     "We know you, Sir, to have the kind heart and the straight mind; and we hope you will just ask him not to deny it; for we hear he can, if he likes, and with all the law on his side, Sir."

     "I will ask him, my child, if, after the ending of a matter that now nearly concerns him, you still wish me to do so; and, perhaps, the question will do him more honour than he merits. Do you love him?"

     "It's not so much for myself, Sir, that I want him to do me justice."

     "For whom, then?"

     "Oh, sir!"—and Peggy's firmness began to fail. The horror of the last night was fully recollected, in the thought of what a man she was about to present her child to. She sickened; her head swam; she leaned on her little sister, and whispered her; and in a few seconds, Anty, transmitting her to the care of the friar, advanced firmly, though she blushed scarlet, and said in an even voice,

     "My sister Peggy is more anxious for the good name and happiness of her unborn child, Sir, than for her own."

     "Poor young thing," sighed Mr. Long; gazing through moist eyes at his niece-in-law.

     "And she hopes, Sir, that you will put it out of the power of the father of her child to call it a ——"

     The zealous advocate failed in her turn, and could get no farther. The old friar supplied the word.

     "Answer me, Peggy," resumed Mr. Long, as she grew better; "I ask no idle questions; but a certain one I have before asked requires a candid answer:—Do you love my unhappy nephew?"

     "No, Mr. Long!—oh! no, no, no!" replied Peggy, as she vehemently clasped her hands.

     "You would not, then, be content to live with him (if, as I said before, he now escapes a difficulty)—in competence, though not in wealth, and perhaps, in solitude?"

     Peggy yielded a negative more earnest than her former one; the horror and revulsion of her soul, called up by the word "solitude" and all its associations, being quite evident to Mr. Long.

     "How did this happen ?—what cause has he given for this obstinate change of feeling? When did he forfeit your affections?"

     "He never had them, Sir."

     "Indeed! Why did you marry him, then?" demanded the catechist, now beginning to regard poor Peggy as a cold-hearted, designing young person— "his hopes of a good fortune were, perhaps, an inducement?"

     "No, Mr. Long; I can spurn fortune, though I am only a farmer's daughter, if fortune does not bring peace and true heart's-love. 'Tis true I never, never loved Mr. Frank, and yet I became his wife. The first unlucky evening—unlucky in every thing but the saving you from danger—"

     "I remember it," said Mr. Long, as Peggy paused.

     "That very first evening, Sir, I'll not deny—for a young girl is sometimes foolish and thoughtless, Sir—that, for an hour or so, he might have pleased me by his flattery, and his fine words, and his elegant manners, that I never saw before; to say nothing of his being then, as well as now, the handsomest man that—God forgive me!—ever had within him so bad a heart;—but before he left my father's roof, my mind—the soul of my body—changed against him; and changed, first, from a little thing. I caught him, when he thought I wasn't minding him, sneering at my poor father and mother and my poor brother John, while they and I were doing the best to treat him kindly; and a'most in the same moment that he was praising them to my ear for all they said or did. He stayed that night; and I watched him closer, and liked him worse; and the next morning, Sir, after you and Miss Letty came back, I saw his eye and his smile full of such contempt to my poor lost brother, while he pretended to be going under his very feet, that from that blessed hour my heart was shut for ever and ever against him."

     "All this is still very singular to me," said Mr. Long, as Peggy stopped, from exhaustion.

     "And to me, Sir," echoed David Shearman; who, in no common interest, watched Peggy while she spoke.

     "Hould you your tongue, Davy, and let the poor child go on," observed the friar.

     "I came, with him that's lost to us all, to stay a while in your house Sir," resumed Peggy, "and though his attention to me grew more and more, my bias towards him grew less and less. I saw nothing in him or about him that wasn't suspicious; and, for a stronger reason, I was on my guard every time we met."

     "May I ask that reason, Peggy?"

     "I am bound to tell you, Sir, though it's a shame for any young woman to own it. This was it; while he talked of loving me better than the world, he never spoke, at first, (nor 'till I reminded him by saying he must ask me of my father) of making me his wife: and worse,—he would have been freer than he ought if I had allowed him. It often rose in my mind to tell my brother John all about it, so that I might escape Mr. Frank's insults; but I was afeard of John's passion, which was always great when roused, and of a quarrel between him and your nephew that wouldn't become his calling."

     "You say, Peggy, you referred him to your father: it is not unlikely your father would have assented; then you would have been bound to marry him; and how do you reconcile that to your rooted dislike?"

     "I knew, Sir, he never intended to ask me of my father; I knew he didn't love me for his wife; I was quite sure: or, even supposing he had come over the old man, I knew I could get my father to give him the go-by at last."

     "But still, I cannot guess a reason for your marrying him of your own free will, at last."

     "It wasn't of my own free will, Sir; I'm coming to that. After a night, when, by the help of a poor boy I saw here just now, I barely escaped the worst at Mr. Frank's hands, we didn't meet for a long while. He sent me letters and messages, through one body or another, but I kept close by my father's hearth. At last he thought of means to frighten me into seeing him. He wrote me word that my unfortunate brother John was in his power; that with one word to his bishop, he could ruin him for ever; and he swore wicked oaths, that if I did not come out in the evenings to speak to him, he would say the word. So I was forced to steal out from time to time, to try and soften his heart towards my poor brother, God above, and a good trust in God, my only safeguard. At first, our meetings passed off with nothing but Mr. Frank's promise not to destroy John Nowlan until I should see him again; but, by degrees, your bad nephew, Sir, made me understand that if I did not consent to sin, he would take his long-threatened revenge. Nothing else, he swore, could save us all. I broke away from him again and again, only to run back to him the next evening, and fall on my knees at his feet for mercy. He was not to be moved. And now comes the marriage. Upon the very black evening that John Nowlan left his home, and that I was to leave it, for a while, with him, I promised Mr. Frank to give him a last word near the stile on the Dublin road. It was my plan to beg from him a few days grace, until I should return, after leaving my brother at Nenagh: and when, with his promise, John and I were on the road, far away from the near danger of a quarrel with your nephew, I thought to tell him the whole story, and put him on his guard against the charge that was ready to fall on his head. Avoch, Sir, I knew it was partly true; but still I hoped he might come to himself, repent, confess his crime to his bishop beforehand with his enemy, and so save himself and me, together.

     "So, Sir, I met Mr. Frank in a lonesome place, while John Nowlan and another were left alone too. I begged my boon; your nephew would not hear of it. He swore more wickedly than ever, that, if I left him that night as I came, he would not sleep till he saw John's bishop in Limerick town. I cried and wrung my hands, and knelt to him over and over; but I spoke to the heart of stone: he had no pity for me. More, Sir; he began to talk of destroying me by force as well as terror; and I was still at his feet, crying and beseeching, when my poor lost brother—oh, Mr. Long, Mr. Long!—I cannot go on, Sir; this good gentleman, Father Shanaghan, will finish it for me.

     The friar readily took up the story, and detailed his strange meeting with John by the road-side; his progress with him in the lonesome field; their meeting with Maggy, whom the narrator knew; and finally, the frantic and terrible threat by which, against Peggy's inclination repeatedly expressed, he was compelled to celebrate the marriage.

     "We all know," continued the old ecclesiastic, "the cause for the madness, that, happening just the moment before, made the poor boy ripe for any thing desperate and wild; but, as I have since had reason to believe, his temper was turned into the channel for this extravagance by certain falsehoods told him by the wretched creature, Maggy Nowlan, who felt jealous of my child here, and, when Mr. Frank's earnestness went too far with Peggy, yielded to a sudden fit of wicked revenge in setting John upon them both. And now, Mr. Long, having told out our little story, we again turn to you for all the justice,—and it's but little, too—you have it in your power to give us. It is true, as my child Peggy says, that your nephew wants to appeal to the convenient laws of the country, to sanction his disavowal of his marriage, and to give him security in his crimes. As a proof of his intentions, you must know that I am, this moment, a prisoner under your roof, arrested on a warrant from his father, for having celebrated the marriage—"

     "Good God, Mr. Shanaghan!" interrupted the judge, becoming much agitated, while a clamour through the house seemed additionally to alarm him. He attempted to rise and touch the bell-pull, but sank back in his chair faint and trembling. David Shearman sprang to it. A servant, looking frightened, appeared at the door: Mr. Long asked a glass of water; tasted it, and resumed.

     "Mr. Shanaghan, the justice you ask of me you shall have, to the utmost of my ability to confer it. First, be assured, I shall see you freed from this odious arrest."

     "Don't mind me, Sir," said the friar.

     "Next; if, by entreaty, threats, or promises, I can prevail on my demoniacal nephew to remarry, according to the provisions of the law, this excellent young woman, whom I have more sorrow than shame in even now calling my niece, her child shall not come into the world legally branded: but, as I before said, this chiefly depends on Frank's escape from greater difficulties that threaten him close. Hear that! the noise abroad, which now increases, concerns the question, and, I fear, tells against us—against us all:—oh God!" as, amid loud talking, the parlour door flew open, "I fear I am to be the most disgraced sufferer, here."

     As he spoke, Mr. Nevin, Peery Conolly, the servant before noticed as partly in Frank's confidence, and a group of Peelers, advanced into the room.

     "Ax his honour's self, I say," cried Peery, now much altered from his usual buffoonery of manner— My life is concarned in id, an' I must see myself rightified: if he gets time to make away wid the proofs in black an' white agin him, who '11 believe poor Conolly the Rake, on his own word, face to face wid one o' your gintlemin? Misther Long,—your reverence,— Peery can't help it; he held his pace a long while, an', only for two things, 'ud go to his grave, an' the dance on him, widout a word; but when Masther Frank wanted to wrong Peggy Nowlan, an' get my own-self hanged, out-an-out, instead iv his own self, why, plase your honour, the biggest fool couldn't wait to let him."

     "Pardon me my most disagreeable duty, Mr. Long," said Mr. Nevin, "but the facts are these—you know the capital offence with which your nephew stands charged; we left you to search the house, a second time, for him, or for certain documents against him; neither have yet been found:— but this young man insists that, in a concealed and barricaded cellar, we shall come at least on the documents: the door he points out is trebly barred and locked; we suspect it to be fastened at the inside also; we have demanded the keys from your servant, he says they are lost; we believe he misinforms us; but at all events, before we proceed to burst open the door, at which some of my officers remain stationed, we are anxious to consult your wishes."

     "Give up the keys, Sir," said Mr. Long to the servant, after a very' agonized pause.

     The man insisted they were lost even before he came to the house, and that the vault had never since been opened or used.

     "The papers are snug in id, for all that," insisted Peery Conolly; "I'm not likely to be wrong; one that helped to hide them there, and brought them at the dead o' night, from the middle o' the wood, where they were left, as soon as they were gutted,—that body, an' it's a woman, tould me so. Sure, from the first hour she spoke to me, an' thought to 'list me for the job, she an me are as thick as two brothers; tho' I found manes to stay away that night, an' to throw dust in her eyes, to make her think me loyal to the cause, for all that. Yes, musha, what a fool I am; and there stands the colleen o' the world," pointing to Peggy, "for whose sake I pretended to listen to Maggy, and larn as much o' the matther as I could, becase I had a bit iv a rason o' my own for thinkin' that the man that wanted her to like him was at the bottom iv id all."

     "I warn you," resumed Mr. Nevin to the servant, who still persisted, however, in his statement. "Then you will excuse us, Mr. Long, our necessary duty: follow me, men; and the magistrate, Peery, the Peelers, and the servant, again left the room.

     In a few moments, heavy, battering sounds were heard. The sisters, the friar, young David, and Mr. Long, listened some time in breathless silence.

     "This is wrong," at last said Mr. Long; "I should not sit here: I ought to see the result with my own eyes: pray assist me, Sir;" stretching out his arm to David Shearman.

     The young man readily gave the help required, and both went out. The friar, with Peggy and Anty clinging to him, soon followed.

     All passed through the kitchen apartments into a broad area, over which the hall-door steps were supported by an arch. In the sidewall of the area, detached from the house, and under the steps, was a low door, fitting very tight to its jambs, made of thick oak plank, and secured as Mr. Nevin had described. It obviously gave entrance to a vault, excavated under a continuation of the steps that, tier after tier, fell down into the lawn, some distance from the house. Around it were grouped the Peelers, headed by Mr. Nevin, and assisted by Peery, still battering with a sledge, a large stone, and the buts of three carbines, at the tough oak, and, to this moment, with little success.

     "Let us never mind the door itself, but try the sledge on this padlock, an' nothing else," said one of the Peelers. The hint seemed good. The strongest man stripped, and by a succession of crashing and well-aimed strokes, broke the padlock into pieces. Two iron bars, which it had kept fixed, were then easily taken away; still the door was fast, and now it was evident that it was indeed double-locked on the inside.

     All looked at each other when this became certain; and while Peery Conolly, after drawing his breath hard, remarked, "Christ save us! the bouchal is within, his own-self," Mr. Long was seen to grow dreadfully agitated, and the sisters shrunk back as far as the area allowed them.

     Again the sledge was applied to that part, at the side of the door, where the man supposed the lock to be. At every clash it gave, poor Peggy's heart shrunk, and her ears buzzed with the sound. Still she could not keep her eyes from the door, which, yielding to a tremendous stroke, and opening on its hinges into the vault, at last flew open, and, to the surprise if not terror of all, allowed vent to a gush of thick, suffocating smoke, that completely hid a view of the interior.

     "Murther!" roared Peery; "he's afther burnin' them—that's the smoke o' the blaze they made."

     "In, men, in!" exclaimed Mr. Nevin to the Peelers, who, taken by surprise, stepped back as the unexpected volume of smoke rushed into their faces.

     "Suppose we just guard the door well, your honour, till this cloud passes off, an' we can see what we're doin'?" answered the corporal.

     Mr. Nevin assented. The men cocked their carbines and formed, at some distance, round the door. Our friends could see between them. In a very short time, the interior of the vault became so far cleared, that all were able to discem a dying flame at its remote end, and the figure of a man stooped over it. After another pause, the features of Frank became visible, haggard, and seemingly stupefied. Kneeling on both knees, he held, as if unconsciously, a torn paper in one hand, and in the other a pistol, which more than once he pointed to his head, but withdrew again, in want of nerve or of self-possession. Mr. Long groaned aloud; Peggy shrieked and swooned away; the old friar crossed himself; the Peelers looked petrified, and did not stir.

     "Seize him, and save all the papers you can," said Mr. Nevin; the first to awaken to his duty. The men rushed in: Frank discharged at random, and without effect, his pistol, and then passively submitted to his fate. Mr. Nevin, assisted by others, stamped upon the fire and extinguished it; collected fragments of paper that it had left unconsumed, and others that lay nearly whole around the vault, together with several leathern bags, cut open; they were conveyed into the area, and, after a moment's investigation, no doubt remained that many of the letters and all the mail-bags which, some time before, had been robbed from the night-coach, now lay before Mr. Nevin.

     "This is dreadful, indeed," said that gentleman, passing to Mr. Long, taking his arm, and walking him aside.

     "Mr. Nevin," began the miserable uncle, grasping the arm of his friend, but for a time he could not go on. At length he was able to say—"Do you think, Sir, I deserve the appalling disgrace this must bring upon me? Oh! Mr. Nevin, do you not pity me?"

     "In my heart and soul I do, my excellent friend."

     "What, then? am I to live to witness his shameful end? If you pity me, indeed—"

     "Hold, Mr. Long; you and I cannot have a word on that; but it is natural you should wish to see him alone, and you shall: men, bring the prisoner up stairs to Mr. Long's library, and while he and his uncle speak some time together, guard the door carefully. I leave the house, Mr. Long."

     Ordering Peggy and her sister to be kindly looked after by the housekeeper, Mr. Long was able to muster sufficient nerve to gain his library, followed by Frank, who entered it unguarded after him. The apartment had a double door, both with locks. The moment the uncle and nephew were alone, Frank started from his lethargy; his eye sparkled; he glanced around; and, as Mr. Long sank into a chair, he softly locked the inside door, and put the key into his pocket.

     "Now, uncle, you must aid me to escape," he said in a whisper, advancing.

     "Miserable creature! it is for that we are here."

     "Quick then, uncle, quick," going to a closet door; "your key, Sir: this little place is fast, but I can drop from the window into the garden; from it, escape into the village; and if you stand to your promise, by staying here for half an hour, there is a neck-chance yet:—your key, Sir."

     "On two conditions, I will, perhaps, consent to aid your escape from a felon's death."

     "I fear I have no time to spare for conditions; but say them, uncle."

     "First, you shall transport yourself to America."

     "What to do there, Sir?—Starve?"

     "I will supply you with a competence."

     "What do you call a competence, uncle?"

     "Infamous, hard-hearted man! at such a time as this can you stop to drive a bargain?"

     "Well, Sir, no matter; your other condition."

     "You shall, before you leave this house, submit to be married by a Protestant clergyman to the woman you have already ruined."

     "Hush, good uncle, don't speak so loud; that's all confounded nonsense; it can't be done."

     "Monster! dare you deny me?"

     "Tut, Sir; there's no dare in the case; I only say it is impossible."

     "Then meet your fate."

     "And that's absurdity, too, uncle;—stay where you are," pressing him back in his chair, as Mr. Long was about to move out of the room; "sit quietly, Sir, and let me have your key."

     "So, Frank;—and if I refuse, you are ready, I suppose, to get it by some such means as occurred to you for getting rid of me, when you conjectured, and rightly conjectured, that I was in your closet, beside your counsellor, last night?"

     Frank started back, and glared on his uncle.

     "You know the worst then: well, it will warn you to fear the worst:— your key, Sir, your key!"

     As he spoke, in a hissing whisper, his hand grasped Mr. Long's throat. Horror, acting upon excessive nervousness, instantly deprived the feeble old gentleman of all sense. When he recovered from his swoon, it was in consequence of the breaking open of his library door, and the quick entry of the Peelers there stationed; who, after a considerable lapse of time, became impatient and suspicious, as they knocked without getting any answer, and listened without hearing voices. They found Mr. Long alone in the apartment, lying on the floor, and his neck showing marks of some violence. The closet-door was open; so was the window. Pursuit was raised after the fugitive, which continued several days, but he was never discovered or apprehended by them. Mr. Nevin and Mr. Long stood clear of all suspicion of having aided his escape.

     When Peggy Nowlan was conveyed, senseless, to her father's house, a premature labour came on; she gave birth to an infant which died almost instantly, and, for many weeks, the mother's life was despaired of.

    





 









* Clear the way.