« 前へ次へ »
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 hunts. man, 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, promon. tory-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 man. 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 most 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 up, 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 affections, 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, courting 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 un. ravel it; or else to hide his half-felt ignorance on the subject. Mean. time 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 misfor. tune. 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 eject. ments, 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 ; “I can earn money, in many ways, for us both, if good people will give me em. ployment.”
“ 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 out 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 rival's 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 encoun. tered, 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
xo. VIII.-VOL. II,
mission in his Majesty's service, the plaintiff in the case at issue. Not a tittle of evidence, in contradiction to that stated, was offered by the defendant; and the only link of the chain of proof submitted by the heir-at-law, which the Squire's counsel energetically sought to cut through, was that created by the first witness. On her cross-examination, it was ingeniously attempted to be impressed on the minds of the jury, that no reliance could be placed upon the oath of a depraved creature like her ; that she had really made away with the infant, according to her original intention; and that the one she had offered for exposure, must have been her own, the result of her acquaintance with the son of her benevolent and ill-requited protectress. But, without pausing upon details, we shall only say, that during the trial, sound confirmatory evidence of the truth of the miserable woman's assertion was supplied ; and that, in fact, without hesitation, the jury found for the plaintiff.
Squire Hogan's look of consternation, when he heard the verdict, was pitiable. For a moment he bent down his head and wiped his forehead with his moist handkerchief. Then, with a wretched leer distorting his haggard countenance, he started up, and, muttering indistinctly, bowed low to the judge, the jury, the bar, the public, all; as if he would humbly acknowledge the superiority of every human being. After this, forgetting his hat, he was hurrying away; some one placed it in his hand; he bowed lowly, and smiled again ; and, finally, forgetting the necessity to remain uncovered, he pressed it hard over his eyes and left the court; carrying with him the sincere, and, in some instances, the tearful sympathy of the spectators.
As fast as horses could gallop with him, he left Dublin, a few moments following.
“ By Cork, Kate" he began, laughing, as his daughter, upon his arrival at the house which used to be his home, hurried to meet him : but he could not carry on the farce ; his throat was full and choking; and suddenly throwing himself upon his child's neck, he sobbed aloud.
She understood him, but said nothing ; she only kissed his cheeks and pressed his hands, keeping down all show of her own grief and alarm.-Woman! in such a situation, you can do this : man cannot: it is above the paltry selfishness of his nature.
He rallied, and tried to take up his absurd jeering tone, but soon tripped in it a second time.
“Ay, Kate-by the good old Jove, I'm a poorer man than the day I raffled for your mother: and you must work, sure enough, to try and keep a little bread with us. If there's any thing you think I can turn my hand to, only say the word, and you'll see I'll not be idle, my poor
He entered into the details of his misfortunes and mortifications, Among other things, he mentioned the slight of “ the puppy officer;" and neither his wonder nor his curiosity was excited, when, now for the first time, Catherine burst into tears.
It shows much good sense to take my Lady Law at her word, Fortune is fickle, but law is fickleness : the principle itself. And so seemed to argue the successful young aspirant to the Squire's estate. While yet only expatiating on his past misfortunes, our worthy friend received a note which informed him that, in a quarter of an hour, an authorised agent would arrive to take possession of the house and lands; and father and daughter had not recovered from the shock this gave them, when