BUT SORROWS wear down; and when they do, the persons they have most keenly afflicted
engage, according to the law of their nature, in the usual duties of their situation. After some
months, Anty Nowlan returned to her nunnery school, leaving Peggy quite re-established in
health, and much cheered by the constant visits of the dry humorist, Friar Shanaghan, and of his
young, handsome, and ingenuous friend, David Shearman. It was suspected indeed, that, half-
recollecting the early childish intimacy to which we have heard the friar allude, and charmed
with Peggy's sufferings, virtue, and (we must not forget) beauty too, David felt a peculiar
attraction in his visits; while some went so far as to whisper, that if Peggy Nowlan thought
herself disengaged from her solemn nuptial vows to a bad husband, she would experience little
ill-humour at hearing him explain what that peculiar attraction meant. But, in her present
situation, a widow indeed, yet a wife too, Peggy never gave the slightest proof of such a
sentiment; and David was, on his part, correspondingly cautious and delicate.
About a year after Frank's flight, there appeared, however, good cause to leave her bosom free, if,
indeed, Peggy had any hidden secret to intimate. Mr. Long, still and more than ever an invalid,
often called to see her; and looking in, as usual, one evening, he asked, with much solemnity of
manner, a private interview with Peggy. When they were alone, he took out a letter with a black
seal, and, warning her to prepare for a shock, put it into her hands. She read the
"To Charles Long, Esq.
"My race is ended, and I am at least bound to warn you that it is. An intimation of my being
alive, and likely, in any situation, to continue to live, could not interest, and might disturb you;
but the announcement of my coming death, invited by myself, will give you relief. My exit from
this world will be disgraceful; but the disgrace cannot extend beyond my own person; it will not
reach even my name, which, since I parted you, has been carefully concealed. So, you have but
to keep your own secret, and no one will ever reproach you on my account. Show this letter to
Peggy Nowlan, and, when she reads it, tell her it is all that shall remain of
"Your accursed nephew,
The letter was dated from London, but from no particular place in London.
Peggy felt indeed shocked, but horror more than grief overpowered her. She wept too; but it was
in sorrow for the dark death of a bad man, who had injured her and lost his own soul, rather than
the tribute of affection to a departed friend. Her solemn assertions, that she had never loved the
person whom extraordinary circumstances compelled her to accept as a husband, have been
recorded, and they will be taken as the perfect truth, for indeed they were so. Hence, she could
experience none of the violent grief that comes from our first thought of being left desolate,
irreparably desolate, by the loss of a sharer of our heart. Nor, after the momentary escape of the
peculiar feelings attributed to her, did Peggy continue to weep, or remain insensible to the natural
relief brought to her in the melancholy letter she had read. We wish her to appear above
affectation of any kind; and it was impossible for her heart, yet young, and not wholly forsaken
by some of the hopes of youth, to acknowledge as a cause of lengthened regret, the death of a
man whose life was at once her shame and her bondage; and who, by a right, that he was not
even generous enough to admit to her advantage, doomed her to all the miseries of a lonely and
In a little time she was composed enough to hint to Mr. Long her anxiety for an explanation,
according to his judgment, of the letter.
"What," she asked, "could be meant by 'a death invited by himself?' " and her kind uncle-in-law,
who, by the way, often requested her to address him as a relative, answered, that he was not quite
certain on that afflicting point. The expression might allude to the wretched Frank's death by his
own hand; (Peggy, who had not thought of this, shuddered) or to his death decreed by the laws of
his country, and brought on by his own acts. Either was a horrible supposition, and both Mr.
Long and Peggy showed, by their silence and their suppressed groans, that they felt it was. But
Mr. Long at length added his presumption, that the second case supposed was the more likely;
and he produced to Peggy a London newspaper, containing reports of the trial and execution for
forgery of a young man, who, on account of the coincidence of dates, and the minute description
of his age, manner, and conjectured rank, the miserable uncle had little doubt would, notwithstanding
a different name, turn out, upon enquiry, to be his nephew.
Mr. Long proposed to make enquiries, then? Peggy again asked; and he told her that, in a strictly
private and cautious way, such was his intention. Indeed, a proof of the terrible event, apart from
Frank's own assertions in the letter, became indispensable, in order to arrive at certainty; and
certainty it was his duty, for many reasons, to attain. For Peggy's own sake, he deemed himself
bound to make a secret investigation; and accordingly he would, that day, write to an old and
esteemed friend in London, every way qualified to take his instructions, and attain his object.
He left the house, after cautioning her not yet to communicate the matter to her family; parting
from Peggy with a kindness and respect that, since the discoveries and explanations at his house,
had marked his manner towards her.
The increased seriousness which attended Peggy's silence before her friends, was seen by all; and
her mother, Friar Shanaghan, and David Shearman, questioned her about it, but got no answer,
except that she could not yet inform them of the cause. Meantime, she awaited with natural
anxiety the answer from Mr. Long's London friend; not that she had any of the slight doubts
started by her amiable adviser; for, to Peggy's mind, the letter did not admit of a question, and
was decisive on the main point; but, in very truth, she wished to watch the effect of the news on
one certain person.
In about three weeks, Mr. Long submitted to her his friend's answer. It left no uncertainty on his
mind. Although Frank's real name, as his shocking letter premised, remained hidden from every
one in London, still the accounts supplied by the London officers of the individual executed
immediately after the date of the letter, confirmed the presumptions of the newspaper report, and
seemed to propose downright certainty by adding, that this person was a native of Ireland,
educated in an English college, and once heir to a considerable Irish property. So Mr. Long now
left Frank's letter in Peggy's hands, together with that of his correspondent, and empowered her
to break the news to her family, agreeing with her, however, that, outside her family, Frank's
death should merely be stated as an authenticated fact; the hideous manner of it entirely
As she accompanied her good friend to the door, another good friend entered, Friar Shanaghan.
Peggy was glad to see him at this juncture. In a few moments, with the old man one of her
council, she laid her documents before her father and mother. Little was said at any side; but all
seemed as much pleased as shocked at the sudden announcement. Mrs. Nowlan could not,
indeed, repress some harsh intimations of her thanks to Heaven for the liberation of her child; old
Daniel Nowlan wept, and took Peggy in his arms: the Friar, like Macpherson's ghost, "hummed a
surly tune," that still told, however, to those who knew him, more content than dissatisfaction;
and then, suddenly recollecting that he had to call at neighbour Shearman's that evening, he
undid the grey's bridle from the hasp of the door, slowly deposited himself between his wallets
on her back, and she, as slowly, wended with him out of sight. Peggy thought she could guess the
Friar s business at neighbour Shearman's, and she held down her head to hide the alternate
blushes and paleness that the guess, its associations, its doubts, hopes, and fears, sent from her
heart to her cheeks.
"David will come to-morrow morning, if he comes at all," thought Peggy, as she laid her head on
her pillow, a little disappointed that he had not come that evening. But David did not come the
next morning; nor the next; nor the next: in fact, a week wore away without a visit from him.
Peggy wept plentifully in her chamber, but also rallied her heart into spirit, and framed some
high resolutions. "He is shy to ask the love of one like me, one that was ruined and shamed by a
lost creature, she said; and this first view it was that drowned her in tears;—" but let him;" and
the tears were now hastily dried up: "if David Shearman takes that part, Peggy Nowlan thinks
him more below her, than she is below him; my misfortune is not my fault; and I was not bad nor
sinful, nor, with my free will, even that poor sinner's lawful wife. God pities me, but does not
blame me; and all good men the same: my heart tells me that: so let him, aroon; he'll never know
I wanted other thoughts from him at any rate."
It was early in the morning, after the lapse of a week since David's last visit, that Peggy held this
little soliloquy in her chamber; and she had scarce concluded, when David Shearman rode hastily
into the yard, leaped from his horse, and with a flushed cheek, and a brisk step, entered the
kitchen. She heard him from her room bid the old people good-morrow; and then the voices of all
sank into a low confidential tone, and so continued for some time. Peggy's views of things began
to change; and when, with a good-humour that for years had been a stranger to the old woman's
face and manner, her mother entered her chamber to say that Davy was outside, and was asking
about her, after a week's absence from home on particular business, the indifferent way in which
Peggy said she would be in the kitchen by and by, belied the fluttering of her bosom, and, we
fear, did not ensure to Miss Nowlan the flawless sincerity we have just been over-zealous to
invest her with.
When she slowly came into the kitchen, with her "shining morning face," (not unattended to, by
the way, during the time she had kept David waiting,) and a bunch of flax in her hand, she found
it occupied by David alone. This discomposed, a little, the studied serenity of her manner; but her
greeting of him was still as quiet as it was mild; and Peggy proceeded with much care and
composure to attach the head of flax to her wheel, seat herself, pass the thread through the flyer,
and, finally, begin to spin very hard.
David was not, by nature, a forward lad upon any occasion: upon the present one, he was shy and
embarrassed. He asked her many questions about her occupation; such as "did the thread often
break? wasn't it very hard to keep it always of a thickness? and how in the world did she manage
to keep the wheel going round without tiring her foot?" and to these curious enquiries Peggy
gave quiet, intelligible answers, accompanied by quiet, peace-making, yet cautious smiles, until,
at length, David abruptly broke the real matter in hand.
Father Shanaghan had been talking to him, he said, last night, late, just after he came home, and
told him all about the two letters Mr. Long received from London; (Peggy reddened and spun
harder;) and she knew well, David continued, how he felt on the subject. To make a long story
short, it left them both free, and allowed him, without offence, to ask her——
David was interrupted by a phenomenon of which he had just been conjecturing the probability,
that is to say, the snapping of Peggy's thread on the flyer; and (but we fear it is rather an old
phrase) the simultaneous snapping of the thread of his argument was the inevitable consequence.
Both remained silent until she had repaired the accident; and then Peggy spun on both threads
"I'm no child to mistake what you mean, David, and no flirt to pretend I do. But, for the present,
we can say little more on the head of it. You make me happy, I won't deny; happier than I
thought I ever could be." Tears ran down her cheeks as her head remained bent over her spinning.
"Yet hear what I have to say: first and foremost, there's your father; he's richer than my father,
and, we hear, higher in his notions too."
"Dear Peggy," interrupted David, "Mr. Shanaghan and I have already spoken to him; and the
knowledge that Mr. Long intends to leave you a handsome fortune, Peggy, entirely reconciles my
father to our coming together."
Peggy at last stopped her whirring wheel, and looking straight in David's face, asked, "Why,
then, what's that you say, Davy Shearman?"
Her admirer explained that Friar Shanaghan, to whom Mr. Long had communicated his intention,
was his authority for what he stated. Peggy, after listening attentively, burst out into hearty tears,
only interrupted by grateful prayers for her benefactor.
"But, though that's a great blessing, David, particularly when we didn't expect it," she resumed
after a pause, "still I have something to say. So, hear me out, without stopping me again, I bid
you. No matter what you, and Mr. Long, and Father Shanaghan, and all other good people think,
there will be some of the neighbours saying that my unfortunate marriage with that poor man is a
stain on me, and must be a stain on you, David, and may be on whoever is to come after us—let
me go on, I bid you again: and though you think very differently now, you may——no, I will
not say you can ever entirely change your mind: but some things that neither of us foresee may
help to bias it; or your father, or some of your family, may take second thoughts. Now, Davy, I'll
not run such a chance: no earthly creature must have it to say that I took any one short; it is my
duty to myself to leave no danger in the way of being called a designer, or a shame to the people
I'm to go among, or beholding to their pity, or their good-nature, or anything else they may feel
for me, at the present time, for notice and love. It shall never be said that Peggy Nowlan was
under a favour for the good will of her husband, or her husband's family: and the long and the
short is this, Davy,—let us all take time to consider with ourselves; and if your liking can keep
as it is for two years——"
"Two years!" interrupted David; and thereupon he proceeded to urge all the arguments and
expostulations usual in such cases; but Peggy remained firm.
"It is not a thought of the moment, Davy; and you'll find me fixed in it. Besides, no matter what
kind of a man he was that's now gone to his long account, he was my husband; and though the
world knows I never loved nor liked him, it 'ill be only decent and proper, and expected from me,
not to make a new engagement for some time to come. And there's another reason; and without
offence, or a cold heart to you, the strongest, maybe; at all events, God sees it ought to be the
strongest. My poor brother John" ——Peggy melted again, and the rest of her speech went on
in tears—"Tale or tidings we have never heard of him since the black day he left his lodgings in
Dublin: thinking to get a letter from him, day after day, we made no enquiries since, or nothing
like what we ought to make; so that whether he's in Ireland, or gone abroad, or on the earth, or
could under the earth, or stretched in the bottom o' the sea, none of us can tell, nor any body for
us. And all this I have long been thinking about, for I think a good deal, Davy. Before you spoke,
it was in my mind to ask a friend to go with me to Dublin, and let us do our best in tracing him
out, or knowing his fate, and the fate of the poor young lady that went along with him: and now I
tell you, plump and honestly, if there was no other reason for you and me taking our time, I'll
never hear of changing my condition until the poor priest John is found to be living or dead; or
until two years, at the least, are past and gone without tidings of him; and more, Davy, I hope and
expect, that whoever has my good opinion at heart will do their endeavours to get us satisfaction
in this matter, if it is to be got, or leave no stone unturned to get it, any how."
Again David pleaded eloquently, but in vain. It will be perceived that Peggy kept rather a high
hand with him; and, indeed, no ladie-love of one of the giant-fighters of old, ever insisted on the
probation and services of her ridiculous knight with more sedate pertinacity, than did she on the
terms now proposed to David Shearman. Seeing her really in earnest, the young man made a
virtue of a necessity, and offered himself, in her place, to accompany to Dublin the friend to
whom she had alluded. Mr. Kennedy, the clergyman, was the individual meant: Peggy and he
had before spoken together; and so, after such signing and sealing of the compact, so long under
discussion, as generally ends similar compacts, David Shearman went off that moment to seek
In a few weeks both set out for Dublin, and, after a long stay, returned with but vague tidings.
The result of all the enquiries they were able with much planning and difficulty to make, was,
that in all probability, a John Nowlan, whose name appeared entered as a passenger to
Newfoundland, about the time in question, might prove to be their John Nowlan. Having taken
care to obtain the name of the ship in which he sailed, together with the names of the captain and
owners, Mr. Kennedy proposed to Peggy, on his coming home, to write, conjointly with him, to
the proper official persons in Newfoundland, enclosing letters for the exile, and giving all the
necessary details and references; and accordingly despatches were forwarded, and Peggy
awaited, in patient anxiety, the expected answers. None came to hand. Six months; a year; more
than a year elapsed without a line, a word to relieve her suspense; and the conclusion of David's
probation drew very near, when, by other means, some news seemed to transpire of the fate of
her unfortunate brother.
Anty, her school accomplishments supposed to be completed, came home at this period, now
grown, since last we saw her, into a pretty and interesting girl of seventeen. Upon the evening of
her arrival, both sisters walked out in the by-road before their father's door, to give and impart
the minute and delightful confidence that a separation of some years keeps in store for a final
meeting between friends. As they talked over all their little secrets and feelings, Peggy's
engagements with David Shearman and their brother's unknown fate forming the principal
theme, three or four weatherbeaten men, dressed in the rags of sailors' jackets and trowsers,
passed the stile on their way to a wretched village, and stopped and asked for charitable
assistance. Their ship had been wrecked, they said, during her voyage from Newfoundland to
Dublin, upon the northern coast of Kerry, and, while some of their hands walked for other points
of the kingdom, they were on their way to the metropolis, hoping to get a re-engagement. The
two girls pressed each other's arms, which were closely interwoven, at the mention of
Newfoundland, and, in much agitation and some fright, gave the poor men a little money, who
immediately left the stile, and proceeded towards the group of dirty cabins called a village.
Peggy had it on the tip of her tongue to ask a certain question, in reference to a certain name, but
her heart failed her. She was taken by surprise in the first place, and then the men looked so
strange and hard-featured, the night fell so fast, and her situation from the house, though at no
great distance, was so lonely, that, particularly with her young sister to take care of, she could not
bring herself to encourage their stay. She was therefore about to turn and walk home, when
another ragged sailor, or else one of the former who had come back, limped wearily to the stile;
and leaning his chin on his hands, and his elbows on it, gazed wistfully towards the house. Again
the sisters pressed each other's hands, stepping farther from the stranger, but keeping their eyes
on him. A long and deep sigh reached their ears; their hearts fluttered, and they looked more
earnestly. But that worn and rigidly-marked face, shaded by long streaming hair, and but vaguely
shown in the increasing twilight, gave no certainty, though it aroused wild and poignant anticipation. The sea-buffeted man once more sighed loudly, and began to move; and darting from their
hitherto secret place of observation, they ran, with the panic of lonely women upon them, to the
shelter of their father's roof. That night, lying down side by side in the same bed, they did not
sleep; their conjectures and their hopes were too lively, or they blamed themselves for their
sudden and unaccountable fright; or, in every flutter of the door to the light night-breeze, rose up
on their elbows to listen for the timid knock of a fallen and repentant brother, craving, after years
of exile, trial, and penance, merciful admittance into the paternal house. They were wholly
disappointed, however, in all their little romantic expectations;— even the morning showed
them no tired and sorrowful man, such as they had seen last night, walking up to the threshold;
they went to the village and learned that the poor sailors had rested but a few hours, and then one
and all pursued their weary way; and whether their brother really appeared before them, or that
some wave-tossed wretch, in his momentary transit by their peaceful-looking house, had
"Lean'd o'er its humble gate and thought the while,
Between these two cases the innocent girls remained in painful doubt, and spent many
Oh that for me some home like this would smile!"
But another incident soon made them dwell most on their first supposition. Their uncle,
Murrough Nowlan, had been to Dublin in the caravan, no one could tell why, not even himself;
about a week after the little adventure noted, he returned, and stopped to sleep at his brother
Daniel's; and at a late period of the night came out, from time to time, and between stated sops of
his punch, with a strange story. As he was about to walk, he said, from the place he slept in
Dublin, to the place where the caravan was to set out for the country, he wanted some one or
other to carry a trunk for him, while he carried his valise himself. Looking about so early in the
morning, he could see no one at all likely to do the job, when a kind of worn-down sailor passed
him, and begged a penny for God's sake. Murrough agreed to give the alms for God's sake,
provided the supplicant could manage the trunk; and no sooner said than done; they walked off to
the caravan, side by side, both laden; the luggage was stowed; Murrough in the van, along with
eleven fellow passengers; the penny was bestowed on the temporary porter; and as the driver's
whip cracked, and just as the curious machine began to lumber off—"The blessing o' poor John
Nowlan be with you!" said the mendicant sailor.
Well? every body asked: Well, answered Morrough, that was all he knew about it.—What! did
he not stop and get out, and speak to his supposed nephew? Yes; he did ask the driver to stop,
and he wouldn't.—Then, in truth, he did not get out? No; how could he?—Was
he even sure of the person who called himself John Nowlan? He must at once have recollected
his face? He never saw it; he happened to be looking on the ground (no great accident neither)
when the poor fellow stopped; while they made their bargain, therefore, he saw no more of him
than the feet; while they walked to the caravan he never once thought of minding him; while he
got in, his behind was turned to him; and when the words were spoken, he was hid from the
speaker, who stood at the side of the vehicle.
No farther could Murrough go; but even upon this information Daniel Nowlan resolved to start
for Dublin the next morning. Peggy pleaded hard to accompany her father, but he mildly refused
her request, and her mother crossly lifted up her voice against it; and as David Shearman
happened to be in another part of the kingdom, and was not expected home for some time,
Peggy, with a sad and ominous heart, saw the old man set out alone on his long journey, in the
middle of a hard winter.
In a week at least, Daniel Nowlan was to come home, or write home to his family; but the week
passed and they had not seen nor heard from him; and while the anxiety of the two girls became
excessive, their poor mother, long shaken with the sickness of the heart, and, as Peggy before
intimated, half blind with incessant weeping, lay in her bed, a victim to peevishness, real
distemper, and almost despair, at the new misery of the long and unexplained absence of her
husband. Another week wore away in terrible suspense, and the third was coming to a close,
when David Shearman's father rode over to inform Peggy, that a slight acquaintance of his, who
stopped a night at his house, on his way from the metropolis to a remote county, brought the sad
intelligence of Daniel Nowlan having been left by him ill of typhus fever, a week ago, at the old
Brazen Head Inn, in Dublin. It was night when Peggy heard this; she did not take a moment to
consider, but immediately proceeded, assisted by her weeping sister, to pack up a few things, and
after twelve o'clock she bade that sister adieu, at the stile on the Dublin road before spoken of,
where a night coach, for which they had some time been watching, stopped at their hail, and
afforded Peggy a seat, but, owing to previous occupation, only an outside one.
But for the illness of their mother, Anty would not have been prevented from bearing her sister
company on the first long and unprotected journey she had ever taken; and it was with anguish
and impatience she now saw herself compelled to remain almost alone in their deserted house,
attending the sick pillow of one parent, while another was dying, perhaps dead; and waiting,
from day to day, the arrival from Dublin of tidings that concerned alike the fate of a brother, a
father, and a dearly-loved sister.
Her only companion was the household maid of all-work, Cauth Flannigan; but from the cast of
this girl's mind, good-natured as she might be, Anty could derive little relief; and, in fact, the
poor wench's best consolation was her pitying and respectful silence, or her tears. But Anty did
not long experience the sameness of grief she had anticipated; for, just as it had set in, it became
broken up into a startling interest.
Upon the evening after Peggy's departure, she walked out to see Cauth a little way on her path to
milk the cows: and when, with a slow and heavy step, Anty re-crossed the threshold into the
kitchen, a tired soldier was sitting, in the twilight, upon a low stool in the middle of the floor.
A scream, half suppressed, only because she had presence of mind to recollect her sick mother,
escaped Anty, and she stepped back in much alarm.
"You do not know me, Anty," said the soldier, in a low and melancholy tone.
"I do not indeed, Sir," answered the timid girl.
"And yet," he resumed, "though I have not seen you these seven years, I know my second sister,
Again she could scarce keep in a wild shriek.
"John!" after a moment's pause, stepping into the kitchen.
"Your unfortunate brother John, Anty;" he held out his arms, and she fell on his neck.
"I have been some time hiding in the neighbourhood," he continued, "but, day after day, could
not take heart to face my father and my sister Peggy: at last, I even walked a good distance out of
the neighbourhood, to get a friend to come here beforehand for me, until I heard they were both
gone to Dublin, to look after me, I believe, and no one at home but you, Anty, and our poor
mother, confined to her bed; then I thought 1 would try if your heart, Anty, the youngest and, as
1 always said, the tenderest of the family, would first open to give me a forgiveness, a crust, a
cup of water, and a night's lodging."
Tears started to his eyes during this address, and Anty also wept as she asked,
"John, John, could you doubt my heart, or one of our hearts?—Oh, we prayed, morning, noon
and night, to see you restored to us."
"Then you, at least, forgive me, Anty?"
"Can you ask the question, John? you have suffered as much as you have sinned—oh, how
much suffered! and your God forgives you, because you are punished and a penitent; and why
should not your sister?"
"That's cold enough, Anty; I ventured to hope that, without a clause of any kind, without
catechising me at all, without stopping to ask whether or no I was sorry for the part I took, or
thankful or no to those that drove me from home, friends, and country, for one youthful error—I
hoped that without a word or thought of all this, my gentle sister Anty, at least, would give a
sister's welcome to her unfortunate brother."
"And I do, dear John, I do—my heart's best welcome, for nothing but joy to see you;" she again
threw her arms round his neck.
"Then, that's like the gentle Anty I always believed you to be; thanks, dear, dear sister!"
He returned her soft embrace, in a way that, to the sensitive convent girl, was, from a brother,
strange. She felt some astonishment, disengaged herself from him, took a near seat and
proceeded to remark:—
"You say you have been long in the neighbourhood, John; did you come first in that dress?"
"Yes; in no other; for no other have I: I am on furlough from my regiment, just returned to
Ireland out of the Indies."
"You are a soldier, then, not a sailor?"
"I have never been a sailor."
"Then how much we are all mistaken: word came to us, from more than one quarter, that you
went, three years ago, as a sailor, to Newfoundland, and had lately come back to Dublin, after
being wrecked on the coast: indeed, we half believed you had passed our door, some time ago, in
a sailor's dress."
"I know all that, Anty, and I know that, in the notion of finding me as a wrecked sailor, in
Dublin, my father left home near a fortnight ago."
"And if you knew it, John, why did you let the old man go on such a journey, for nothing?"
"I did not know it till after he had gone, Anty."
"But, surely, you could then have set us right, and then we could have set him right, if you even
sent us a message after he went; and he would now be at home with us, and poor Peggy, too;
instead of his being sick of the fever in Dublin?"
"I was as much afraid of letting Peggy know I was in the country, as of letting my father know;
indeed more; for her notions of what's good, and right, and all that, were so rigid, I feared she
would never see my face; but if my poor father is ill on my account, I'm very sorry, Anty; very
sorry, indeed; tho' I couldn't have intended it, you see."
Anty paused, a little dissatisfied, though she knew not why; and, as if noticing this, he
"But I see it's the cold face is to be shown to me, after all you say, Anty."
"Did you go into the regiment in your own name?" she asked, half expressing a sudden
"Was I a fool, child, to do any such thing? When my name was blackened by the world, and by
them that called themselves my friends first of all, do you think I had no reason or wish to hide
it? What was left to me, but to hide it and my disgraced head in any far quarter of the globe that
would open to me? and how could you think that the John Nowlan who gave his name, at full
length, for Newfoundland, was the hunted wretch that only wanted to baffle his persecutors for
ever? as if, indeed, there was only one John Nowlan in the world."
"What has become of the poor young lady, John?" enquired Anty, after another pause.
"Letty is dead."
"God rest her soul in peace!" ejaculated Anty, piously crossing herself, and looking up.
"She was a Protestant, you know, and you, a good Catholic, must not pray for her," he said, in a
scoffing smile and accent; "only I like to see you do or say any thing, Anty, that makes you look
so very handsome, child."
"Fie, fie, John," answered Anty, not noticing the hand he had stretched out to her; "to talk in such
a light way of her, and to me, in the present circumstances, and after all that has happened."
"Ay, ay, rebuke and scold me, Anty, and make that the return you promised; nothing shall ever
make me think the less of you, or love you with less of the heart than I now do, and as I ever did;
indeed, Anty, the thought of getting your forgiveness and love, supposing all the rest to cast me
off, was the only thought that cheered my banishment and my despair. But hush! there's my poor
mother's voice crying out for you from the lower room;—and I see Cauth Flannigan, at a
distance, coming home with the pail on her head. Dear Anty, for the present you must not tell I
am in the house; the sudden news might kill my poor mother; and Cauth is a great
ballowr, and would blab all about me before the proper time; so, I'll just step into
my old bed-room here, until you leave our mother for the night, and send Cauth to her loft; and
then, Anty, I expect from your pretty hands a candle, and a little refreshment, of which I stand in
need; and from your prettier lips, a little more conversation.' "
He arose, and with a jaded step passed into the little chamber often before alluded to, Anty
assenting readily to the arrangement: and after he had gone in, she heard him lock the door, and
take the key out of the lock.
She hurried to attend her mother, and, after receiving a peevish rebuke for her long absence, and
administering some necessary services and comforts, came back to the kitchen, sat on the low
stool, and closely communed with herself.
"The poor sinner has come at last; but, the good God save us! in what a mind and heart has he
come!—There is no sorrow for his sin upon him; not a bit; he only seems hardened and careless,
and enraged with those that did their duty by him, instead of kissing the rod of punishment. Oh! I
wish, I wish he had tried his fate in any way but among the soldiers!—often have I heard how
their company and example, and their wild bad ways, particularly in foreign parts, will corrupt
the best, not to talk of a poor creature made to their hands, by his early troubles and passions, and
ready for any mad course. They have quite case-hardened him, and quite changed him, every
way. Tis seven years, to be sure, since I saw him before, and then I was a mere child, and he a
young boy, with blushes on his cheeks, and peace and lightness in his heart, and it's hard to tell
what changes years, and the hardships of foreign parts alone, may not bring on, without any other
cause;—yet, little as I recollect of what he was before I went to the convent, I'm sure he had not
then such a bold manner, such a careless air, and such a frightful way of speaking. Can I bring
John Nowlan's face before my mind at all, as it was at that time?—No; I believe I cannot.
Phelim's is quite plain to my memory, because his early death fixed it in one shape; but all I have
heard of John—his terrible actions, his wild passions, his long sufferings,—all come between
me and his young features; every time I think of him in such and such circumstances, his face
appears altered and strange; he is pale, or he frowns, or he grinds his teeth; and there's not a trace
left of the boy-priest at nineteen, so mild, so smiling, and so handsome. Even the sound of his
voice I forget, or else, as he spoke this evening, it is quite changed too——Blessed Heaven!"
interrupting the train of her reverie, as a doubt, before faintly felt, arose in her breast—" what
am I thinking of at all? who else can it be? why should any one else come here and say he was
John Nowlari? who else could know the house as he does, and all in it, and all about it? This is
mere weakness of me, mere folly; I will forget it; and the voice he had just now, is not entirely
strange to my ear, either; I have heard it before, though my bad memory says it
was not from John Nowlan, at nineteen. 'Tis all great weakness. I must stir myself, and attend to
the poor wanderer's comforts. My mother will not call for me again till towards the morning; and
I will send Cauth to bed, and soon bring him a meal's meat, and something to drink."
Anty accordingly exerted herself; Cauth retired for the night; the refreshments were prepared by
Anty, and with a timid knock she stood at the door of the little chamber.
"God bless you, my beautiful child!" he said, as he cautiously unlocked the door and let her
in;—" God bless you for coming at last, to feed the hungry, and comfort the sorrowful."
With few words Anty laid down her light, her food, and her whisky, and sat to see him eat and
drink. His soldier's cap was now taken off, and the candle, shining full upon his face and
forehead, showed features still fine and commanding, though emaciated, and reduced to one
pervading sallow hue.
"You're thinking how much I'm altered, Anty," he resumed, as he partook of the food.
"I am, indeed, John. I'm a'most thinking there's not a trace of what I try to remember you
"Ah, dear Anty, the heart-break, and many years toiling under a scorching sun, makes sad work
of the boy, during his growth into the man."
"Your hair, itself, was once a different colour, I believe, John."
"That can be turned, too, Anty. I've seen a young man's hair change, not merely from one shade
to another, like mine, but into the locks of old age, in one night; into a head of hair as grey as our
poor father's, whom Heaven rise up in health and strength, I pray."
"Amen," said Anty: and, while both remained some short time silent, she had another
"Poor fellow, poor fellow! poor priest John! he has come home hungry to the father's house. And
what it is to sit here and look at the man he has come home, and to think of all that
brought him to appear so! Poor outcast! his case has, indeed, been hard; may be, too hard; and
may be it's not much wonder, after all, that he feels a little of the sullenness he does feel. God
will soften his heart, and work a change in him; and our kindness, too, with the help of God: and
may be the day's not far off when he can be brought back to his old nature entirely, and a'most as
happy and as good in himself, and before the world, as ever he was. He is our brother, at any rate,
and kindness and love are his due. I love him in the heart, and pity and compassionate him more
than when he was away: though, from my cradle, we always loved one another. Poor priest
John!" and her eyes swam in tears as she gazed on him.
"Come, dear Anty," he resumed, "drink a glass to my welcome home."
"I seldom taste the liquor, dear John, but my heart can't refuse you."
He filled her glass, and, with clasped hands, they drank to each other.
"Ay," looking around him, "there are all my old musty books, with their musry thrash in 'em: and
there hangs the old watch I left behind me, in my hurry: now, however, it comes back to its
owner;" and he stood up, took down the watch, and put it into his fob. Anty knew it was her
father's watch, and had never been John's. His last words, and this action, startled her again.
Shocked, and sitting silent, she found herself compelled to admit to her own mind that her
brother had returned a profligate in more than one sense. His speech was blasphemous; his
appropriating the watch, dishonest. As she sat, without a word, her soul sickened towards him:
and she remained almost unconscious of his movements, until, sitting close at her side, he passed
an arm round her neck, and called on her to drink another bumper to their future love and
happiness. Then she tried to draw back, as she answered—
"No, John, I have taken too much already; and the heart can wish its wish without any help of the
kind: keep down your arm, John; it hurts my neck."
"Curse on it, then, for its rudeness to the handsomest neck in the world: and, there, Anty, it shall
hurt you no longer, only don't you draw away entirely. I thought you would drink
the toast I offered: but no matter; your heart, you say, goes with the words, and I believe you.
Dear Anty, the more I look at you and listen to you, "—drinking rapidly—" the more I'm
inclined to ask your heart to join mine in another wish."
"What is it, John?"
"I'll tell you, my little beauty "—as with a kindled expression his eyes met hers—"a wish that,
with your kind feelings towards me, you did not think of me as you do, in another way."
"Oh, if that's all, God above knows how sincerely I—But stop, John, I say'"—growing more
alarmed at his glance—" stop, and recollect yourself, or I must leave you."
"Go away? Nonsense. Stop you, Anty, and hear me out. You don't understand me. I meant that I
had a wish you did not know me for your brother."
"And I had the same," she answered, in a low, solemn voice.
"Then, dearest girl," misconstruing the sense of her reply, "you could feel kindly to me, for my
own sake, even though I was not your brother John? Without that accidental tie, from what you
have seen of me, you could love me, Anty, even if I was nothing to you? you own so much?"
He drew her closer to him. She started up: very opportunely for her purpose of escape, a loud
scream sounded from her mother's chamber; and then another and another.
"Whisht, John! that's our mother's voice; something has terrified her; or she is dying, may be!
God forgive my neglect! let me go: I must run to her; good night."
"Surely, Anty," still holding her, as she struggled, "you will come to see me for one moment
more, before we say good night?—nay, you must promise——"
"Well, I do; but let me go now to my poor mother; she cries out louder and louder:—good-
He attempted to salute her, but she avoided him, and hurried off to her mother's chamber. The
feeble old woman lay in a state of great alarm. Strange faces, she said, had darkened the window
at the foot of her bed; she could but faintly distinguish them, but still she saw them in the
lightsome winter-moon, as, more than once, they came close to the glass, and gazed in upon her.
Anty, though her own brain was half crazed with contending fears and suspicions, tried to
believe that her mother had raved, and told her it was all a dream. The peevish sufferer scolded
her for saying so, and commanded her to sit by her bed. Anty did sit down, until the weak voice
sank in exhaustion, which ended in sound sleep; and then she began to tremble at her loneliness,
and at the whole scene from which she had just escaped. Remembering, though endeavouring to
doubt, her mother's story, she looked in terrified foreboding on the window; and, whether it was
imagination or reality, strange persons seemed to steal by it. After this, she thought she heard the
noise of one going about the house. Her heart beat high in alarm. She recollected there was no
fastening to the door of her mother's chamber, and she arose, half tottered to her own, locked
herself in, and sat on the side of her bed.
It is impossible to give a clear account of Anty's thoughts in this situation. In fact, though
shaking with a fear of the character, actions, nay, identity of her guest, her thoughts could not
arrange themselves into order. A great horror of him fell upon her, no matter in what light he
presented himself; and that was all she knew, or could pause to calculate. The sudden event was
too much for her simplicity and childish inexperience.
She did not know how long she had thus sat alone in her chamber, shivering, and starting at
every sound, when the noise of opening a window, in the direction of John's old room, riveted
her attention. With a cautious step she gained her own window, and through a small hole in the
muslin curtain peeped out. It was still bright moonshine: her position enabled her partially to
command the point about which she was interested; and she saw, indeed, that the lattice was
open, and three persons, one of them a woman, standing at it, evidently conversing with the guest
inside. Redoubled terror seized Anty's heart; yet she continued to look until the people went
away, doubling by the corner of the house, and so, rather suddenly, escaping her view.
She had scarce reseated herself on her bed, when she heard the well-known creak of John's door,
and, afterwards, stealing footsteps coming from it. They seemed to pass into every room, staying
some time in each; and Anty thought she caught the jingling of the little stock of plate, kept in a
drawer in the kitchen, and then the opening and shutting of other drawers and cupboards.
Presently, to add the utmost to her horror, the handle of her door was turned, but, after a few
cautious efforts, left quiet, and the foot went into her mother's chamber; returned; again stole by
her door, while a bunch of keys sounded in the passage; and Anty soon heard unlocked a little
private desk in which she knew her father kept, now and then, considerable sums of money. After
this, all became silent, for about an hour; but at the end of, perhaps, some such lapse of time, the
step again approached her door, and stopped before it: the handle again turned, and a voice spoke
in whispers through the keyhole:
"Anty, dear Anty!" She was silent, controlling even her breath.
There was a knock, and the voice continued:
"You are not asleep, Anty, I'm sure of that; you cannot sleep so sound after my knock; open the
door, and let me have a word with you."
She took heart to say, "Dear John, what is the matter?"
"I'm frightened to death in that old room of mine; it brings such thoughts and recollections, I
cannot close an eye; let me in, for charity's sake, and I will just throw myself across the foot of
your bed, and try for a little rest, which I want badly."
"You know I have lain down, John, and will not, surely, expect me to rise."
"I'll wait till you are ready to open the door, but you must open it, dear Anty."
"Well, I'll tell you, John; go back to your own room, and in a few moments you shall see me
there, and we can situp the night together, talking of old times."
"You promise this?"
"Depend on me."
He retired. She snatched a bonnet; gently undid her casement; issued out; avoiding the other
window, gained a by-path leading towards David Shearman's father's, close by the Dublin road;
and after a few cautious steps, ran forward in the impulse to call upon her good neighbours for
protection for herself and her mother. She had made but little way, when a soldier appeared
closing her by another path from her own house, and at the same moment shots were fired further
on, in the country about Long-Hall. Utterly confounded, Anty lost all recollection of a purpose,
and only raced more wildly towards the Dublin road, not noticing that, at the report of the shots,
her pursuer suddenly slackened his pace. As she gained the high fence that separated her from the
road, a strange man and two other soldiers, all armed, started up before her; she shrieked aloud,
almost wild with terror; the man abruptly asked who had come to her father's house that night?
She answered but with another scream; he took her arm, and told her that Long-Hall had been
attacked by robbers, and that he suspected one of them was then skulking under Daniel Nowlan's
roof; poor Anty did not hear him; or, if so, could not properly apprehend him; the quick
succession of so many startling incidents, the shots, the soldiers, the loud talking, all bewildered
her; her catechist and his companions left her, as if in impatience; she sank nearly senseless on
the road side; the horn of the usual night-coach sounded; she sprang up, and only capable of
feeling that, as by such a conveyance Peggy had gone to seek her father in Dublin, she would
now go seek protection from Peggy and him, the terrified girl called out to the guard, and in a
few seconds, seated inside, was on her way to the metropolis. Her poor mother's helpless
situation escaped her thoughts for the moment, though when far upon the road, too far to turn
back, her heart sorely smote her, during the remainder of the journey, at a recollection of the
selfishness she could not have controlled.