« 前へ次へ »
The horses of the Squire and of his neighbour, a man of fifty, who thus spoke, would brook no further delay; and their riders were com. pelled to loosen their reins, and allow them to spring onward.
Daniel, the black-browed huntsman, was at this moment immediately next the hounds. Two or three of the rivals for fair Catharine's love rode within a little distance of him. The new-comer loitered behind the last of the candidates : of course, the Squire and his friend now pressed him hard. Suddenly his coal-black horse, seemingly without an effort, and certainly independently of one from his master, cleared the ground between him and Daniel. The huntsman turned in his saddle, fixed an appalled look on his follower, uttered a wild cry, and desperately dashed his spurs into the sides of his steed. The stranger, still seemingly unexcited, as also appeared his horse, stuck so close to Daniel's crupper, that he could have put his hand upon it.
All swore that the fox outstripped the wind in swiftness. The hounds did their very best, and more than they had ever done before, to keep near to him. Each huntsman, including even our honest Squire, spared not whip and spur to rival them ; but the huntsman first, and the stranger at his horse's tail, were the only persons who succeeded in the achievement.
Vain was the endeavour to come up with those two. And every now and then, black Daniel would glare behind him into the face of his pursuer, and with a new shout of horror, re-urge his hunter to greater speed ; and still, and still, although the stranger sat tranquilly in his saddle, Daniel could not gain a stirrup's length a-head of him. Over hill and valley, over ditch and hedge, over bog and stream, they swept, or plunged, or leaped, or scrambled, or swam, close upon the dogs, as if life were of no value; or as if they were carried, eddied forward, with supernatural speed, and in superhuman daring. Onward, onward they swept, scarce seeming to touch the earth, until at length only three other horsemen were able to keep them even in distant view. And, soon after, those three became two ; and, again, but one followed remotely in their track; and this one was our excellent friend Squire Hogan.
The sea-cliffs came in view! and straight towards them did the mad chase now turn. In amazement, if not in terror, the Squire pulled up his horse on a rising ground, and stood still to note its further progress. He saw the panting fox make for the dangerous place over the cliff's
w. For an instant saw him on its very line. The next, he disa appeared towards the sea. At his brush came the hounds, and down they plunged also. The rival horseman followed, and they, too, were, in a second, lost to view. A woman suddenly started up over the perilous pass, gazed below, and then sprang, as if into the air.
The mysterious fate of his predecessor fully occurred to our Squire ; and he sensibly vowed to himself that, “ By Cork! the faggot of a witch should never 'tempt him to leave the world by the same road.” H also brought to mind his huntsman's words that morning; and a struggle arose between his reason and his superstitious propensities, as to whether or no the man's dream had been verified.
While thus mentally engaged, one of the baffled aspirants for Catherine's hand came up, himself and his horse soiled and jaded. Another and another followed, until almost all the members of the day's hunt surrounded Squire Hogan. He recited to them what he had witnessed. Greatly excited, some of them dismounted, and, under the care of an experienced guide, descended the cliff.
They found that the bewitched hounds, and their bewitched followers, need not, as the Squire had supposed, have jumped direct from the land into the sea ; inasmuch as they might have turned, obliquely, into a narrow, rocky ravine. Down this pass, however, it seemed impossible that horses of mortal mould could have found a footing. The explorers themselves were obliged to follow their guide very cautiously; as well to avoid tumbling downward, as to save their heads from the loose stones and fragments of rocks, which almost every step displaced and set in motion,
After having proceeded a little way, they caught, far below them, a glimpse of the dogs, whose cry came up to them, mingled with the roar and chafe of the waters of the sea. Shortly after, they saw the huntsman, still closely pressed by the stranger. The next moment, dogs, horses, and riders were lost to view, behind a curve of the tortuous and stony course of the ravine, all hurrying onward and downward, with whirlwind speed, as if to bury themselves in the waves of the ocean.
Our adventurers, persevering in their descent, suddenly turned a pro jecting rock, and came in view of a strip of strand, running, promortory-like, into the sea : this they soon gained. Daniel, the huntsman, lay on his back upon it ; his horse not be seen. His dogs were squatted around him, each holding a fragment of bone between his teeth. The stranger sat still in his saddle, as if intensely observing the prostrate
The woman who had appeared to Squire Hogan on the cliff's brow stood on a rock amid the shallow breakers which rippled over the edges of the neck of strand,
As the explorers approached this group, the unknown horseman glanced towards them, took off his cap, waved it, and said, “ Let no man claim Catherine Hogan's hand till I come to woo it. I have hunted for her; won her; and she is mine."
Those of Catherine's lovers who heard this speech were not chickenhearted fellows. They resolved to ascertain who was the dictatorial speaker. Their friend, Squire Hogan, appeared in view, having nearly completed, at his cautious leisure, the descent to the sea's level, after them; and they first approached him, momentarily turning their backs on the object of their interest, for the purpose of consulting him, and enlisting him in a common plan of operations. After some discourse with the good Squire, and when he and they would have confronted the unknown horseman, no human form but that of sulky Daniel was visible on the patch of strand; and there he lay, stretched at his length, and still apparently insensible.
To him their attention became directed. They found him covered with blood, and seemingly a corpse. His dogs continued to couch around him, holding bones between their grinning teeth ; and they snarled fiercely when the new comers approached them.
“ By the blessed light !” exclaimed the Squire, “ this is part of a man's skull that Ranger has his teeth through !”
“ It is," answered Harry Walshe; “ and not one of the dogs but holds a human bone between his jaws !”
The prostrate huntsman opened his eyes, and glared fearfully around him.
“ What has happened to you, Daniel ?" questioned the Squire.
Daniel's head turned in the direction of the voice, and he seemed to recognise the speaker.
“ Is he gone ?” he asked faintly.
« Is who gone? for whom do you inquire ? ”
“ The masther's sperit—the sperit of the murthered man--the man that I murthered and buried in this sand, twenty years ago !”
Amid exclamations of surprise and horror from all who heard him, the huntsman gained, for a moment, more perfect power of observation. He looked from one to another of the group around him; then mos t ghastlily at the dogs; and then, closing his eyes, and shuddering, continued to speak in snatches.
“ Ay, and it was a cruel murther. I have never slept a night's sleep since I did it. And every dog of the pack brought me one of his bones to-day. I will hide it no longer. I will own it to the world, and suffer for it. His sperit drove me before him to the spot where I had buried his broken body, afther I tumbled him over the cliff-yes, buried it, as deep as I could dig. Twenty years passed away, and he came to chase me to his unblessed grave; and at the sight of it, my horse tossed me out of my saddle, and my own accursed bones are broken this day, and so I have half my punishment. Did I see the witch near me, here, a while ago ? I did; an' the wathers o' the sey gave her
alive, to be a witness against me. For, when I was burying him, this day twenty years, I spied her watching me ; and I ran afther her, and saized her, and pitched her far into the waves; but now she is come to hang me. Let her. I will tell all-all-of my own accord ; I will ; and swing high for the deed.”
He was conveyed to the Squire's house; and in his presence, and that of other magistrates, made a more ample confession. He had been tempted to commit the murder under the following circumstances :
The mother of his old master received under her protection a friendless and pennyless orphan girl of low birth. The young huntsman loved her to distraction; and his ardours were seemingly returned, until the Squire, then a minor, became his successful rival, seducing, under a promise of marriage at his mother's death, his fickle mistress. Rage, hatred, loathing, took possession of Daniel's heart; he could have beaten out the brains of his young master with the loaded end of his hunting whip; and his amiable feelings were not added to, when, upon a day that he was expostulating, alone, with the estranged object of his affeetions, the Squire suddenly rushed upon him, snatched that identical whip from his hands, and energetically laid it across his own shoulders.
The Squire's mother died. The Squire cast off his mistress, and married a wealthy wife. It was now the turn of the depraved, bad-hearted, and forsaken girl, to look for her revenge. Upon certain conditions, she offered herself, “ soul and body," and without the trouble of a marriage, to her old lover. Daniel's eager passion for her, and his deep detestation of her undoer, had scarce abated. He felt sorely tempted, but hesitated. The girl threw herself in his way, from time to time ; refired him; and in almost a year subsequent to the first attempt to make him a murderer, he was one, nay, a double one; for, a few days after he had dragged his master off his horse, and hurled him down the cliff, he placed in his tempter's arms, on the understanding that she was to destroy it, the only child of his victim. But, even in the disappointment of his feverish dream of passion, he had a foretaste of the punishment due to his crime. From the moment he committed to her the helpless infant she so much detested, he had never seen the authoress of his ruin ; and his belief was, that, after having murdered “ the child of days,” she had put an end to her own existence.
A few hours following his confession, the huntsman died.
Whether or no the gentle Catherine shared the popular belief that she had been hunted for, and won by, and was doomed to become a spectre's bride, is not clearly ascertainable. True it is, that her cheek faded, that her eye grew dull, and that the smile of contented pleasure forsook her moistly-red lip, now no longer red nor moist. But these changes may as well be accounted for on less supernatural grounds. Her military adorer still continued absent and silent; he who had so often vowed himself away into wordless sighs, nay, tears, under the big effort to define how much he loved her, and whose only hesitation to declare himself to her father, had always assumed the shape of a fear of being regarded as a speculating fortune-hunter ; when, at a glance, it could be ascertained that he was almost an unfriended adventurer, court. ing the hand of a wealthy heiress.
As to good Squire Hogan, he contrived, or, perhaps, rather tried to laugh at the whole thing; vaguely calling it a very good hoax; “ a choice one, by Jove !" just to save himself the trouble of trying to unravel it; or else to hide his half-felt ignorance on the subject. Meantime he got some cause to laugh a little less than usual. Ejectments were served upon his estate, in the name of the lost son of the man whom he had succeeded in it. And Squire Hogan only strove to laugh the more ; and to affect that he considered the claim as an uncommonly good attempt at “a capital hoax !" practised upon him by some unknown persons whom, on some past occasion, he must have outwitted “ gloriously;" but it was a poor attempt at mirth, and he saw that Catherine, as well as himself, felt that it was.
In fact, he spent many hours alone, mourning for his beloved child, and taxing his brains to shield her from probable and verging misfortune. And a brilliant thought came into his head.
Would it not be a happy, as well as an exceedingly clever thing, to dispose of Catherine, before the trial at law, grounded upon the ejectments, should commence, and while the matter was little suspected, to one or other of her ardent admirers at the club-dinner in Dublin ; to, in fact, Ned O'Brien, or George Dempsey, or Mick Driscoll ; or, above all, to Harry Walshe? And the wise father made the attempt, duly, four times in succession; and learned, thereby, that the serving of the ejectments was more generally known than he had imagined.
Still he tried to laugh, however; until one morning, when his boisterousness ended in sudden tears, as he cast his head on Catherine's shoulder, and said :-" Oh, Kate, Kate! what is to become of you ?-I think I can bear poverty,--but you !"
“ My dear father do not be cast down,' answered Catharine ; earn money, in many ways, for us both, if good people will give me employment.
“ And you are going a-working to support your father, Kate?" He left the room sobbing. His tears affected Catherine to the quick. Other sad and bitter recollections swelled her sorrow into a flood. She could now account for the persevering neglect of her lover, and her tenderlybeloved, upon no other grounds than those of her approaching poverty. Oh, that was a heart-cutting thought !
The day upon which the poor Squire must necessarily start from the country to attend the trial in Dublin, arrived ; and he commenced his journey with another magnificent conception in his head; to eke ont which, he carried in his pocket, without her knowledge, a miniature of
his daughter Catherine. And with this miniature, and a note, expressive of his willingness to compromise the matter by a marriage, he called on the new claimant for his squireship, the evening of his arrival in the metropolis. But, having retired to his own town-house long before he could have thought it possible that his note had received a leisurely reading, he received back the miniature with a technical epistle from his rivals attorney, stating that no compromise could be entered into ; that the heir-at-law was determined to accept nothing which the law should not decide to be his right; and, adding, that any attempts to see the young gentleman must prove unavailing, while they would be felt to be intrusive ; inasmuch as, in cautious provision against a failure in his attempt to establish his claim, he had invariably concealed his person, even from his legal advisers.
This was the first really serious blow our Squire had received. Hitherto he had courageously depended on his own innate cleverness to outwit the coming storm ; now, within a few hours of the trial which was to determine his fate, he acknowledged himself without a resource or an expedient, beyond patience to attend to the grave proceeding, sit it out, and endeavour to comprehend it.
To beguile the remainder of his sad evening, after receiving the attorney's communication, he repaired to his club-room. He found himself cut there. Issuing, in no pleasant mood, into the streets, he encountered, by lamp-light, an individual in a red coat whom he had hitherto considered rather as a deferential hanger-on than as an acquaintance to boast of. Now, at least, by unbending himself, he need not fear a repulse; so, he warmly stretched out both his hands, received a very distant bow of recognition, and was left alone under a lamp-post.
“ By Cork !" said the Squire, with a bitter laugh, “the puppy officer thinks I am turned upside..down in the world already!”
The cause came on. Our good friend's eyes were rivetted on every person who uttered a word, upon one side or the other. The usual jollity of his countenance changed into the most painful expression of anxiety; and when any thing witty was said by one of his Majesty's counsel, learned in the law, at which others laughed, his effort to second them was miserable to behold. And although it was a bitter cold day, the Squire constantly wiped the perspiration from his forehead and face; chewing, between whiles, a scrap of a quill which he had almost unconsciously picked off his seat.
The depositions, on his death-bed, of Daniel the huntsman, were tendered against him. They established the fact of the wretched selfaccuser having kidnapped the heir of his then master, and handed the infant to his partner in crime. And the first living witness who appeared on the table, was that witch, supposed to have been long dead, even by Daniel himself. She swore that she had intended to destroy the babe ; that, however, having got it into her arms, she relented of her purpose, and gave it, with a bribe, to a strange woman, in a distant district, to expose for her on the high road. Next came the woman alluded to, and she proved that she had followed the directions of her employer, and afterwards watched, unseen, until an elderly lady of her neighbourhood, passing by with a servant, picked up the little unfortunate. And, lastly, the aforesaid elderly lady, who, by the way, had endured some little scandal, at the time, for her act of Christian charity, corroborated this person's testimony ; and further deposed that she had carefully brought up, on limited means, until the day she procured him a com
NO, VIII, VOL. II.