Volume Two


9


MEANTIME PEGGY NOWLAN had her own trials and escapes on the road to Dublin.

     Late in the second morning of her journey, the coach upset within about a stage of the metropolis, and she was violently thrown off, and deprived of sense by the shock. When Peggy recovered, she found herself in a smoky-looking room, dimly lighted by a single dipped candle of the smallest size. The walls were partly covered with decayed paper, that hung off, here and there, in tatters. There were a few broken chairs standing in different places, and in the middle of the apartment a table, that had once been of decent mould, but that now bore the appearance of long and hard service, supporting on its drooping leaves a number of drinking glasses, some broken and others capsized, while their slops of liquor remained fresh around them.

     Peggy was seated with her back to the wall; she felt her head supported by some one who occasionally bathed her temples with a liquid which, by the odour it sent forth, could be no other than whisky; and if she had been an amateur, Peggy might have recognised it as potheen.

     "My God, where am I?" looking confusedly around, was her first exclamation.

     "You're in safe hands, Peggy Nowlan," she was answered in the tones of a woman's voice: an' I'm glad to hear you spake, at last."

     Turning her head, she observed the person who had been attending her. The woman was tall and finely-featured, about fifty, and dressed pretty much in character with the room and its furniture; that is, having none of the homely attire of the country upon her, but wearing gay flaunting costume, or rather the remains of such; and there was about her air and manner a bold confidence, accompanied by an authoritative look from her large black eyes, that told a character in which the mild timidity of woman existed not. Yet she smiled on Peggy, and her smile was beautiful and fascinating.

     "How do you know me, good woman?" again questioned our heroine, for we believe she is such.

     "Oh, jist by chance, afther a manner, miss; onct, when I went down to your counthry to see a gossip o' my own, the neighbours pointed you out to me as the comeliest colleen to be seen far an' wide; an' so, Miss Peggy, fear nothing;" for Peggy, as she looked about her, and at the woman, did show some terror: "an' I'm glad in the heart to see any one from your part, where there's some kind people, friends o' mine; an' for their sakes, an' the sake o' the ould black hills you cum from, show me the man that daares look crooked at you."

     This speech was accompanied by such softness of manner, that Peggy's nervousness lessened. She gained confidence from the presence of one of her own sex looking so kindly on her, and, though years had been busy with her fine features, looking so handsome too. Her next question was, naturally, a request to be informed how she came into her present situation.

     "You were brought here, jist to save your life," answered the woman; "a son o mine, coming along the road from Dublin, saw the coach tumble down; he waited to give it a helping hand up again; and when it druv away—"

     "And has it gone off, and left me behind?" interrupted Peggy, in great distress.

     "Of a thruth, ay has it, my dear."

     "What, then, am I to do?—"

     "Why, you must only stay where you are wid me, until the day; an' you're welcome to the cover o' th' ould roof, an' whatever comfort I can give you; an' when the day comes we'll look out for you, Miss Peggy, a-roon. But, as I was saying, when the coach dhrew off again, my son was for hurrying home, when he heard some one moaning inside o' the ditch; an' he went into the field, an' there was a man lying, jist coming to his sense, an' you near him, widout any sense at all; an' when the man got betther, my son knew him for an ould acquaintance; and then they minded you, and tuck you up between them; an' sure here you are to the fore."

     "It is absolutely necessary I should continue my journey to-night," said Peggy.

     "If you're for Dublin, child, you can hardly go; it's a thing a friend can't hear of."

     Peggy reflected for a moment. Her usual caution now told her, what her first suspicions had suggested, that, in some way or other, the house was an improper one, and, perhaps, that good- nature had not been the only motive in conveying her to it. The woman's last words seemed to show a particular determination that she should remain. It would be imprudent, then, to express a design to go away; she might be detained by force. Nor would she suffer herself to become affected by her fears, lest she might incapacitate herself for escaping by stealth. Prompted by growing suspicion, she stole her hand to her bosom to search for her purse; it was gone: and Peggy became confirmed in her calculations, though not more apparently shaken by her fears.

     "I had a small hand-basket," she said, "containing a few little articles, and my money for the road; it's lost, of course, and I am left pennyless; if I go to the spot where the coach fell, maybe I could find it."

     "We can go together," said the woman, "if you are able to walk so far."

     Peggy had made the proposal, not in hopes of recovering any thing, but that she might be afforded a chance of walking away; if, indeed, the story of the coach having driven on proved to be true. Now, however, she was, in consistency, obliged to accept the attention of her officious protector; and the woman and she walked to the road along a narrow, wild lane, at each side of which a few old decayed trees and bushes shook their leafless branches in the wintry wind, while the footing was broken and miry, and overgrown by weeds and long grass. It seemed to have been a winding avenue to the house she had left, once planted with rows of trees, when the mansion was better tenanted and in better repair, but which had disappeared, from time to time, beneath the axe or the saw of the marauder.

     Arrived at the spot required, she commenced a seemingly careful search; but, finding nothing, returned at the continued urgency of the woman, who linked her closely, to the house they had quitted. Ere Peggy re-entered, she took a survey of the fabric: it was, like every thing around it and within it, a ruin. She could see that it had been a good slated house, two stories high, but that in different places the slates were now wanting; indeed she trod, near the threshold, upon their fragments, mixed with other rubbish. Some of the windows were bricked op, some stuffed through their shattered panes with wisps of straw and old rags; and of the lower ones, the shutters, which were, however, attached to the wall, outside strong iron bars, hung off their hinges, and flapped in the blast.

     Again entering the room in which she had first found herself, two men appeared seated. Peggy, in something like the recurrence of a bad dream, thought she recognized in one of them the air and figure of the person who, on a late and fearful occasion, had stood so near to her in the Foil Dhuiv. But as she did not feel herself entitled to draw any certain deductions from feature, complexion, or even dress, Peggy, after a moment's faltering pause, struggled to assure herself that this misgiving was but a weakness of her agitated mind, and firmly advanced to the chair she had before occupied.

     The second man was very young, his person slight, and twisted into a peculiar bend and crouch as he sat; his face pale and sharp, resembling that of the woman who called herself his mother; and in the side-long glance of his cold jetty eye there lurked a stealth, an enquiry, and a self- possession, as, in reply to Peggy's curtsey and her look of observance, he, in turn, observed her, and gave, slowly and measuredly, his "Sarvent, miss."

     He and his companion sat close to the drooping table. Two of the glasses that had been capsized now stood upright, and were frequently filled from a bottle of whisky, of—as one might augur by the smell—home manufacture. The person whose first view had startled Peggy, made more free with the beverage than the other; the pale young man visibly avoiding the liquor; but often filling for his friend, and urging him to drink bumpers.

     "Well, Phil, my boy," said the woman, addressing the pale lad, as she entered after Peggy, "did Ned tell you the raison yet, why he was on the top o the coach to-night, instead of being far off on other business?"

     "Oh, yes," answered Phil, in a dry, careless tone, "he tould me all how an about it;" and a wink, that, from its freedom from humour, was disagreeable, did not escape Peggy.

     "I call that toss we got together a d—d hearty 'un——my eyes, miss," said the other man, addressing Peggy, and offering her some liquor.

     "Were you the person who lay so near me?" refusing his politeness.

     "Ay, that I was, to my cost; and though no great harm might come o' lying so near you, little 'un, at another time, I'd rather not have such a throw for it, however."

     She shrunk while he spoke, and while his eye of gloomy, stupid excitement, dwelt upon her; but did not omit an answer.

     "Then I have to thank you, and, I suppose, this other gentleman, for my safety."

     "Oh, that's all gammon: easy to clear the odds with such a pretty 'un, you know."

     Phil made no observation; but his glance went from the speaker to Peggy, and then to his mother, with a slow, remarkful, and cheerless expression; and again Peggy saw interchanged, between him and the woman, a wink, followed by a dead glare.

     "Go, Phil, my boy," resumed the old woman, "take Ned and yourself up stairs; an' the bottle wid you; you must have the hot wather, when it's ready, and the sugar along wid it: this young woman and myself'll stay together."

     Phil arose, taking the bottle and glasses: he was sidling out of the room before his companion, when, at a renewed signal from the woman, he hung back, allowed the other to stagger out first, and then he and she paused together, beyond the threshold of the room, in the passage, where Peggy could hear them exchange a few earnest, though cautious whispers.

     "An' now, Peggy Nowlan," resumed the woman, coming back and reseating herself, "as you don't seem to like the whisky, you most have whatever the house can give you."

     "I would like some tey, ma am."

     "Then, sure enough, you'll get it; we won't be long lighting the fire, an' biling the wather, an' we'll take our tey together."

     There were some embers dimly gleaming in the blackened fire-place, to which the woman added wood and chips, that, by' blowing with her mouth as she knelt, soon blazed; and, according to her promise, a dish of tea, not badly flavoured, was manufactured, of which, with much seeming hospitality and kindness, the hostess pressed her young guest to partake. Peggy felt thankful, and strove to compell herself to feel at ease also: but, amid the smiles and blandness of her entertainer, there were moments when her thin and bloodless, though handsome lips compressed themselves to a line so hard and heartless,—moments when a deep shade of abstraction passed over her brow, and when her eyes dulled and shrunk into an expression so disagreeable, that the destitute girl internally shivered to glance upon her. These momentary changes did not, however, seem to concern her. She argued, that they rather intimated an involuntary turn of thought to some other person or subject. The woman never looked on her without a complacent smile; and it was after her getting up occasionally, and going to the door of the room, as if to catch the sound of voices from above, that her countenance wore any bad character. But, whatever might have been passing in her mind, Peggy prudently resolved not to allow her hostess to perceive that she observed these indications of it. Her glances were, therefore, so well-timed, and so quick, that they could not be noticed; and her features so well mastered, as always to reflect the easy smile of her companion. Her manners, too, she divested of every trait of alarm or doubt; and even the tones of her voice were tutored by Peggy into an even, pleased cadence; and the questions she asked, and the topics she started, calculated to lull all suspicion.

     As part of her plan, she would show no uneasiness to retire; and it was not until the woman herself offered to attend her to bed, that Peggy rose from her chair. She was conducted out of the little, half-ruined parlour or kitchen, a few paces along the passage, and then a few steps up a rent and shaking staircase, into a mean sleeping-chamber, of which the door faced the passage: the stairs continuing to wind to the right, to the upper rooms of the house. As they passed into the chamber, it was with difficulty Peggy prevented herself from drawing back, when she perceived that the patched door had bolts and a padlock on the outside, but no fastening within. Still, however, she controlled her nerves, and displayed to her attendant no symptom of her apprehension that filled her bosom.

     "I'm sorry the poor house doesn't afford a betther an' a handsomer lodgin' for you, Miss Peggy," said the woman, as both stumbled about the half-boarded floor of the room: "but you'll jest take the will for the deed; an' so, good-b'ye, an' a pleasant night's sleep to you.

     "Can't you oblige me with the candle?" asked Peggy, as her hostess was about to take it away.

     "I would, with a heart an' a half, if it was to spare; but I'll have nothing else to light me to bed, an' help me to set things to rights for the morning; for the matther o' that, the good moon shines so bravely through the window, and I believe through another little place in the loft here, that you'll be well able to say your prayers an' go to bed by it, Miss Peggy; so, bannochth- lath;" and she finally took the candle away, securing the door on the outside, and leaving Peggy standing in the middle of the filthy chamber.

     The moon did, indeed, stream in upon the floor as well through the shattered window as, first, through a breach in the slates of the house roof, and then down the broken boards of the room over head. Peggy looked round for her bed, and saw, in a corner, a miserable substitute for one, composed of straw laid on the floor, and covered with two blankets. There was no chair or table, and feeling herself weak, she cautiously picked her steps to the corner, and sat down on this cheerless couch.

     The motive of her conduct hitherto had been to hide her feelings, so as to throw the people of the house off their guard, and eventually create for herself an opportunity to escape to the main road, and thence to the next cabin at hand. In furtherance of her project, she now begged of God to strengthen her heart, and keep her in a steady mind; and, after her zealous aspiration, Peggy continued to think of the best part to act. At once she resolved not to stir in her chamber, until the woman and the two men should seem to have retired to sleep—if, indeed, it was doomed that they were to do so without disturbing her. In case of a noise at her door, she determined to force her way through the crazy window, and, trusting herself to God, jump from it to the ground, which, she argued, could not be many feet under her, as Peggy had not forgotten to count the steps while she ascended from the earthen passage to her present situation. If, after long watching, she could feel pretty sure that no evil was intended to her during the night, still she planned to steal to the window, open it with as little noise as possible, drop from it and try to escape.

     More than an hour might have passed, when she heard a noise, as if of two persons stumbling through the house; it came nearer, and two men, treading heavily and unevenly, entered a room next to hers, and only divided from her by a wooden partition, which here and there admitted the gleams of a light they bore. Without any rustling, Peggy applied her eye to one of the chinks, and gained a full view of the scene within. She saw the person she so much dreaded, led by the pale young man towards such a bed as she occupied; the one overcome by intoxication; the other cool, collected, and observant. With much grumbling, and many half-growled oaths, the drunken fellow seemed to insist on doing something that the lad would not permit, and at length Peggy heard an allusion to herself.

     "Go to sleep, Ned; you're fit for nothing else to-night; there's your bed, I tell you," said the young man, forcing him to it.

     "I say, Master Phil, stoopid, I'll have one word with that wench before I close a winker," replied Ned; "that wench, I say—hic!—what I picked up on the road; and why the devil should I bring her here but to chat a bit with her? Your house isn't fit for much better, you know, Master Phil; and,—my eyes but—"

     "Lie down, you foolish baste," interrupted his companion, pushing him down on the straw.

     "I'll stand none of that nonsense, neither," continued the ruffian, scrambling about; "and it's no use talking; I'll see her by——; I'll see the wench, as I brought to this——house: and don't you go to tell me, now, as how it's all a hum, and that I brought no such body into it; I'm not so cut but I remember it: so fair-play, Master Phil; she must be accounted for: none of your old mother's tricks will do, now. I am not to be done, by—— ; the wench shan't be served out in that way, however; and I'll see her, by——; first and last, that's my word: hic!—I'll—hic!" and he lay senseless.

     The pale young man watched him like a lynx, until, after some moments, his growling changed into a loud snore, and there was no doubt but he slept soundly. Then he stepped softly to him, knelt on one knee, took out of his breast a large pistol, thrust it under his own arm, and finally emptied his pockets of a purse and some crumpled papers. Arising, with continued caution, he glanced over the latter close by the candle, and Peggy saw his features agitated. The next moment he stole out of the room, barred the door outside, and she heard his stealthy step, betrayed by the creaking boards, about to pass her chamber.

     At this moment, however, another step,—Peggy supposed that of the woman,—met his from the lower part of the house, and both stopped just at her frail, though well-secured door.

     "Well?" questioned the woman, in a sharp whisper; "you pumped him? and soaked him? and touched the lining of his pockets? Did we guess right?"

     "We did, by——" answered the young man; "the——rascal has peached, by the——; his very shuffling with me showed it at once; but here's the proof: here's an answer from Mr. Long to his offer to put him on his guard against the swag at Long Hall, this blessed night: and here's another letter, from Lonnon, closing with another offer of his to set the poor private for the Bow- street bull-dogs."

     They had, during these words, been, perhaps, speaking to each other at some little distance; for their whispers, now that Peggy supposed them to have come close together, were lost on her aching ear, though she still heard the hissing sounds in which the conversation was carried on. A considerable time lapsed while they thus stood motionless outside her door: at length they moved; seemed about to part; and, at parting, a few more sentences became audible.

     "Go, then," said the woman, "an' let us lose no time: nothing else can be done; poor Maggy is to be saved from the treachery of the Lonnon sneak, if there was no one else concerned in the case; speed, Phil; make sure o' the horn-hafted Lamprey that you'll find on the dresser: I'll meet you at this dour with a light and a vessel. Are you sure he sleeps sound enough?"

     "There is only the one sleep more that can be sounder," replied Phil; and Peggy heard them going off.

     In panting terror she listened for their steps again passing her door: nor had she to listen long. Slowly and stealthily, and with heavy breathings, or a suppressed curse at the creaking boards, they separately came by. In a moment after, she heard them undo the fastenings of the inside room, and, fascinated to the coming horror, as the bird is to the reptile's glance, her eye was fixed to a chink, ere the light they carried afforded her a renewed view of the victim's chamber.

     The woman first entered, bearing the candle in one hand, and in the other a basin which held a cloth. Her face was now set in the depth of the bad expression Peggy had seen it momentarily wear below stairs; and she was paler than usual, though not shaking or trembling. The lad followed, taking long and silent strides across the floor, while his knife gleamed in his hand, and his look was ghastly. They made signs to each other. The woman laid down the candle and the basin, and tucked op the sleeves of her gown beyond her elbows. She again took up her basin, laid the cloth on the floor, stole close to the straw couch, knelt by it, and held the vessel near the wretch's head. Her companion followed her, and knelt also. He unknotted and took off, with his left hand, the man's neckcloth. As it was finally snatched rather briskly away, the wearer growled and moved. He never uttered a sound more.

     Peggy kept her eye to the chink during the whole of this scene. She could not withdraw it. She was spell-bound; and, perhaps, an instinctive notion that if she made the slightest change in her first position, so as to cause the slightest rustle, her own life must be instantly sacrificed—perhaps this tended to hold her perfectly still. She witnessed, therefore, not only the details given, but the concluding details which cannot be given. Even when the murder was done, she durst not remove her eye until the woman and lad had left the chamber; so that she was compelled to observe the revolting circumstance of washing the blankets and the floor, and other things which again most not be noticed. It is certain that moral courage and presence of mind never won a greater victory over the impulses of nature, than was shown in this true situation, by this lonely and simple girl. Often, indeed, there arose in her bosom an almost irresistible inclination to cry out—at the moment the neckcloth was removed, when the sleeping man muttered and turned, she was scarcely able to keep in her breath; yet she did remain silent. Not even a loud breathing escaped her. All was over, and she a spectatress of all, and still she mastered herself; and although, so far as regarded her, the most home cause for agitation finally occurred as the murderers were about to withdraw, Peggy was a heroine to the last.

     "He'll touch no blood-money now," whispered the woman; an we may go to our beds, Phil, for the work is done well; so, come away—but stop; high-hanging to me, if I ever thought of that young—— in the next room: an', for any thing we know, she may be watching us all this time."

     "If you think so, mother, there's but one help for it," observed the lad.

     "A body could peep through the chinks well enough," resumed the female monster;—" but, on a second thought, Phil, d'yoo think it's in the nature of a simple young coonthry girl like her to look at what was done, without givin' warning?"

     "May be not; come, try if she's asleep any how; she can't bam us there, mother."

     "Come."—and they left the chamber.

     The moment they withdrew, Peggy stretched herself on her couch, threw a blanket over her person, closed her eyes, and breathed as if fast asleep. Yet it was with many doubts of her own ability to go successfully through this test, that she listened for the noise of unbarring her door. The creeping steps approached, and her heart nearly failed her. A bolt was shot, and her brain swam.

     But again the assassins seemed to hesitate, and again she heard their whispers.

     "Stop," said the lad, "she must be sound asleep, as you say; it's not to be thought she could look on and stand it."

     "That's my own notion," replied the woman.

     "Then if we rouse her, at this time o' night, wid those marks about us," meaning the marks on their hands and clothes, "why, it'll be tellin' our own sacret, when we might hoold our tongue."

     "Yes; an' only makin' more o' the same work for ourselves, when we have done enough of it."

     "Besides; she'll be to the fore in the mornin', and then we can cross-hackle her on the head of it; an', if she shows any signs of knowin' more than we want her to know,—why, it can be a good job still."

     "You spake rason; an', sure enough, she'll be to the fore; because I have a notion o' my own, that we ought to keep her fast till the poor private an' Maggy sees her; they'll want to have a word wid her, may be: so, by hook or crook, she's to pass another day and night in the house."

     "Let us go sleep, then, mother; an' you must get me a little wather."

     "Yes, a-vich; but I don't think myself wants much o' the sleep for this night, any how."

     They left Peggy's door, and she was thus saved the test her soul shrank from. In some time after their steps became silent, she lay on her straw, with clasped hands and eyes turned to Heaven, offering the most fervent thanks for her preservation. The winter morning broke; all seemed quiet in the house; and she ventured to sit up and think again. Her neighbourhood to the mangled body occurred to her, and delirium began to arise. She had recourse to her prayers for help and strength, and they did not fail her. Hour after hour passed away, still she kept herself employed, either by communions with her God, or by laying out her mind to meet the trials she had yet to encounter.

     They would watch her, they had said, in the morning; she was able to will and determine that the investigation would be vain: Peggy felt that she could defeat them. They intended to induce or force her to spend the day and night where she was; against this plan she also attempted to lay a counter-plot.

     It might be nine o'clock when she heard them stirring about. But, at the first sound, she lay stretched on her bed; and this proved a good precaution. One of them walked softly up the stairs; then into the next room; and afterwards, close to the partition, by her couch; and, as Peggy judged by the hard breathing through the chinks, seemed to watch if she slept. She was now able to give every appearance of sleep to the eye of the observer. After a few moments, they were together in the room, and she heard their whispers, and then the noise of trailing out the body.

     For about another hour, they left her undisturbed. At length the door was opened, and the woman entered her chamber. Peggy still pretended to sleep, showing, however, some signs of the restlessness that attends our being disturbed from sleep without our being fully aroused. The hideous visitor stooped down and stirred her. Peggy bore the touch of that hand on her shoulder, without wincing in any way. The woman stirred her again, and she seemed gradually and naturally to become awakened.

     "Musha, it's the good sleep that's on you, a colleen," said the woman, as she sat up.

     "Yes, indeed; I'm not used to be without the sleep so long, and I had none before this since I left the mountains," answered Peggy. "Is it very late? but I don't care much about that, as there's no use in my starting from you till the coach comes again to-night, and gives me a seat for Dublin."

     "We'll tell you all about that by and by: get up now, my woman, an' break your fast; you ought to be hungry."

     "And I am very hungry, and able to help myself out of any thing you lay before me.

     The woman led her down stairs. A good breakfast was prepared. Peggy seemed to eat with a keen appetite; but she continued to slip the bread she had cut into her large country pockets. The young man entered: she bade him a smiling good-morrow. He hoped she had passed a good night: she answered promptly and easily.

     "It's an odd question I'm for axin'," he continued, "but I thought I heard strange noises in a room next to yours last night—did you?"

     With the consciousness that the eyes of both were watching her face for a change of expression, Peggy baffled the enquiry.

     "It's said this ould house is haunted," rejoined the woman, "an' that's the ghost's room.

     "My faith isn't strong in ghosts," said Peggy, smiling; "but I'm glad you did not tell of it before I went to bed, or I might be kept waking."

     A pause ensued, during which she knew that her catechists were consulting each other by looks and nods.

     "Why don't you ax afther your friend, that helped to bring you to us last night?" pursued the lad.

     "I was thinking of him, but said to myself he was in his bed, maybe; and as he's no kith or kin o' mine, only a stranger met on the road, I didn't believe it would be right for a young, lone woman like me to be asking so closely after him."

     "He's not in his bed," said the lad, fixing his eye. She stood his glance.

     "No," resumed the woman; but gone the road at the first light this mornin'."

     "Why then I'm sorry for his going."

     "How's that?" asked the lad.

     "Because I'm left without a farthing in the world, and I thought that as he looked to be a dacent man, maybe he'd lend me a few shillings to take me on to Dublin; and now I don't know what to do under Heaven."

     "Never make yourself uneasy about that," remarked the hostess: "for if you thought he looked so like a dacent body, he thought you looked like a hansome colleen, as you are; an' for a token, hearin' o' your loss by the coach, he left us the very thing you're talking about, to give you when you'd get up.

     "Yes, he left this wid me for you," pursued the other, handing some silver, "and just his word to take care an' have as much ready to pay him in the next place he an' you are to see each other."

     As he gave the money, and spoke these words very significantly, he again fixed her eye; but Peggy allowed him no advantage. With many professions of thanks to her chance benefactor, she quietly put up the supposed gift. Perhaps they became fully assured that they had nothing to fear, for they soon stopped questioning her.

     "I'll pay him, with hearty thanks, sure enough," she continued, recurring to the topic, "and sooner than he thinks, maybe. I have only to get to Dublin, to the Brazen-Head, where my father stops, when I'll have money enough; and, after a word there, I'm to pass your dour, to-morrow, about the night-fall, when I'll be axin' a night's lodgin' from you again; and I can jest lave the honest man's shillings in your hands, and you'll give 'em to him, the next time he calls, in Peggy Nowlan's name, and her best wishes along with em.

     The day wore away in common topics, and she showed no anxiety to depart. She said she grew hungry for her dinner; and, when it came before her, still seemed to make a hearty meal. No living creature came to the house during the day; but she could understand that the person called Maggy, and who she concluded was her wretched cousin, Maggy Nowlan, and the other person, called "the private," were expected during the night; as also a number of "the customers," from Dublin.

     Nothing had yet been said to deter her from proceeding to town in the night-coach, which, as usual, was to pass at about three o'clock in the morning. She often alluded to its hour of passing by, and they did not make an observation. This gave her courage; and, after the night fell—for Peggy, still to avoid a shadow of suspicion, would not motion to stir in the day-light—she said, inadvertently, and yet with some natural show of anxiety to proceed in her interrupted journey;—

     "Maybe I couldn't get a seat in it, an' what should I do, then?—But maybe I ought to take the road some time afore ye expect it to come up, so that, when it overtakes me, if I get the place, well and good; and if I don't, why I could be so far on my way, and sure of walking the six or seven miles more, to Dublin, by the morning, any how; for I must be there in the morning: what brings me up is to get a good lot of money from my father, that'll be wanted at home the day after to-morrow, or the next day, at farthest; and so, ye see, honest people, I'm beholding to be soon back and forward, and, as I said, sleeping in your house, on my way to the country, by to-morrow night, any how."

     They said little in reply to this; but Peggy believed they again exchanged some glances and signs, while her head was purposely held down; and then they retired to whisper at the outward door. Fervently did she pray, although the prayer involved an uncharitable contradiction, that, influ- enced by the hope of plunder she had held out, their resolves not to let her depart for the night might be changed. And perhaps her plan took effect.

     In a short time they rejoined her; and after a few ordinary remarks, said, by the way, that she might do well to "take a start o' the road, afore the coach, just as she was a saying of it; and they wished her safe to Dublin, any how; and they hoped she would keep her promise, and come see them on her way home again."

     Without discovering any extraordinary joy at this concession, Peggy bid them a steady and cordial good-b'ye; engaged her bed for the next night; and it was not till the very moment she was crossing the murderous threshold that she feared her face, accent and fluttered step might have given intimation of the smothered emotions that battled in her heart.

     But, again befriended by her extraordinary presence of mind, she checked her rising ecstasy, and trod with a sober and way-faring step down the dark, tangled, and miry lane. When fairly launched on the broad road, her breast experienced great relief; yet still she kept her demure pace, neither faltering, nor looking back nor about her, nor yet sure of the policy of rushing into the first cabin she might meet. Her heart whispered that the people of the abominable house might have noticed her parting struggle, and, after a little reflection, would perhaps follow her, and put her to another trial.

     To her left, as she walked along, was some rather high ground, falling down to the road, little cultivated, and crowded with furze and briars. A straggling path ran through it, parallel to the road, but at some distance, and, she believed, led to the lone house in the "bosheen." Her eye kept watching this path, every step she took. The moon shone full upon it, so as to enable her to discern any near object. Peggy, her head down, and her regards not visibly occupied, soon caught a figure rapidly striding along the path, through the clumps of furze and briars. As it abruptly turned towards a gap in the road-fence, some yards before her, she could ascertain that this individual was closely muffled in the common female Irish mantle, holding, as Irishwomen often do, the ample hood gathered round the face.

     "That's not a woman's step," thought Peggy; as the figure issued through the gap:—" and now, this will be the sorest trial of all."

     And, with her suspicions, well might she say so. The gigantic resolution of her heart, so long kept up, had just begun to yield to an admitted sense of relief: she had just permitted her mind to turn and sicken on the contemplation of the horrors she had witnessed and escaped; an opportu- nity at last seemed created for an indulgence of the revulsion and weakness of her woman's nature;—and now again to call back her unexcelled philosophy; again to rally herself; again to arrest and fix the melting resolution; to steady the pulse-throb, tutor the very breath, prepare the very tones of her voice; this, indeed, was her sorest trial. But it was her greatest too; for Peggy, assisted a little by the shadows of night, came out of it still triumphant.

     "God save you!" began the person in the cloak, in a female voice. Peggy gave the usual response with a calm tone.

     "Are you for thravellin' far, a-roon?" continued the new-comer. She said she was going to Dublin.

     "I'm goin' there myself, an' we may's well be on the road together."

     "With all my heart, then," answered Peggy, and they walked on side by side.

     "You're not of these parts, ma-colleen, by your tongue," resumed her companion. Peggy assented.

     "An' how far did you walk to-day, a-chorra?"

     "Not far; not a step to-day; only from a house in a bosheen behind us, a few minutes ago."

     "What house, a good girl? do you mane the ould slate-house that stands all alone, in the middle o' the lane?" Peggy believed that was the very one.

     "Lord save us! what bad loock sent you there?"

     "None, that I know of; why?"

     "It has a bad name, as I hear among the neighbours, and 'ud be the last place myself 'ud face to, for the night's rest."

     "Well, aroon; it's only a Christian turn to spake of people as we find 'em; I have nothing at all to say against the house; an' may be it won't be long till I see it again."

     "That's bould as well as hearty of a young girl like you. Did you come across the woman o the house?"

     "Yes; and met good treatment from her; the good tey; the good dinner; every thing of the best."

     "But what kind of a bed did you get from her, a-hager?" continued the catechist, speaking very low, sidling to Peggy, and grasping her arm. This threw her off her guard. She shrieked, and broke from her companion, who, as she ran, fast pursued her; and the person's real voice at last sounded in her ear.

     "Stop, Peggy Nowlan, or rue it! I know what you think of the bed you got now!

     The road suddenly turned in an angle; Peggy shot round the turn: as her pursuer gained on her, she heard the noise of feet approaching in a quick tramp, and a guard of armed soldiers, headed by two men in civil dress, and followed by a post-chaise, met her eyes at a short distance; she cried out again, and darted among the soldiers; one of them caught and held her from falling, and she had only time to say—" Lay hands on the murderer!" when nature at last failed, and Peggy's senses left her.