The House by the Church-Yard
by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
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'At your sarvice, Ma'am—Sir,' replied Moore, with submissive alacrity.

'Come in here, then. Come in, will you?' cried the doctor, hauling him in with his great red hand.

'There now—there now—there—there,' he said gruffly, extending his palm to keep off poor Mrs. Sturk.

So he shut the door, and poor Mrs. Sturk heard him draw the bolt, and felt that her Barney had passed out of her hands, and that she could do nothing for him now but clasp her hands and gasp up her prayers for his deliverance; and so great indeed was her anguish and panic, that she had not room for the feminine reflection how great a brute Doctor Dillon was.

So she heard them walking this way and that, but could not distinguish what they said, only she heard them talking; and once or twice a word reached her, but not very intelligible, such as—

''Twas Surgeon Beauchamp's—see that'

'Mighty curious.'

Then a lot of mumbling, and

'Cruciform, of course.'

This was said by Doctor Dillon, near the door, where he had come to take an additional candle from the table that stood there; as he receded it lost itself in mumble again, and then she heard quite plainly—

'Keep your hand there.'

And a few seconds after,

'Hold it there and don't let it drip.'

And then a little more mumbled dialogue, and she thought she heard—

'Begin now.'

And there was a dead silence of many seconds; and Mrs. Sturk felt as if she must scream, and her heart beat at a gallop, and her dry, white lips silently called upon her Maker for help, and she felt quite wild, and very faint; and heard them speak brief, and low together, and then another long silence; and then a loud voice, in a sort of shriek, cry out that name—holy and awful—which we do not mix in tales like this. It was Sturk's voice; and he cried in the same horrid shriek, 'Murder—mercy—Mr. Archer!'

And poor Mrs. Sturk, with a loud hysterical cry, that quivered with her agony, answered from without, and wildly rattled at the door-handle, and pushed with all her feeble force to get in, in a kind of crescendo screaming—'Oh, Barney—Barney—Barney—sweetheart—what are they doing?'

'Oh! blessed hour!—Ma'am—'tis the master himself that is talking;' and with a very pale face the maid, who stood in the doorway beside her, uttered her amazed thanksgiving.

And the doctors' voices were now heard plainly enough soothing the patient, and he seemed to have grown more collected; and she heard him—she thought—repeat a snatch of a prayer, as a man might just rescued from a shipwreck; and he said in a tone more natural in one so sick and weak, 'I'm a dead man—he's done it—where is he?—he's murdered me.'

'Who?' demanded Toole's well-known voice.

'Archer—the villain—Charles Archer.'

'Give me the cup with the claret and water, and the spoon—there it is,' said Dillon's rough bass tones.

And she heard the maid's step crossing the floor, and then there was a groan from Sturk.

'Here, take another spoonful, and don't mind talking for a while. It's doing mighty well. There, don't let him slip over—that's enough.'

Just then Toole opened the door enough to put his head through, and gently restraining poor Mrs. Sturk with his hand, he said with a vigorous whisper—

''Twill all go well, Ma'am, we hope, if he's not agitated; you must not go in, Ma'am, nor talk to him—by-and-by you may see him, but he must be quiet now; his pulse is very regular at present—but you see, Ma'am, we can't be too cautious.'

While Toole was thus discoursing her at the door, she heard Dr. Dillon washing his hands, and Sturk's familiar voice, sounding so strange after the long silence, say very languidly and slowly—

'Take a pen, Sir—some one—take and write—write down what I say.'

'Now, Ma'am, you see he's bent on talking,' said Toole, whose quick ear caught the promise of a revelation. 'I must be at my post, Ma'am—the bed post—hey! We may joke now, Ma'am, that the patient's recovered his speech; and, you know, you mustn't come in—not till we tell you it's safe—there now—rely on me—I give you my word of honour he's doing as well as we could have hoped for.'

And Toole shook her trembling little hand very cordially, and there was a very good-natured twinkle in his eye.

And Toole closed the door again, and they heard Sturk murmur something more; and then the maid, who was within, was let out by Toole, and the door closed and bolted again, and a sort of cooing and murmuring recommenced.

After a while, Toole, absolutely pale, and looking very stern, opened the door, and, said he, in a quiet way—

'Ma'am, may I send Katty down to the King's House, with a note to Mr.—a note to the King's House, Ma'am—I thank you—and see, Katty, good girl, ask to see the gentleman himself, and take his answer from his own lips.'

And he tore off the back of a letter, and pencilled on it these words—

'MY DEAR SIR,—Dr. Sturk has been successfully operated upon by me and another gentleman; and being restored to speech and recollection, but very weak, desires earnestly to see you, and make an important disclosure to you as a justice of the peace. 'I am, Sir, your very obedient, humble servant, 'THOMAS TOOLE.

Upon this note he clapt a large seal with the Toole arms, and when it was complete, placed it in the hands of Katty, who, with her riding-hood on and her head within it teeming with all sorts of wild conjectures and horrible images, and her whole soul in a whirl of curiosity, hurried along the dark street, now and then glinted on by a gleam through a shutter, or enlivened by the jingle of a harpsichord, or a snatch of talk and laughter heard faintly through the windows, and along the Dublin-road to the gate of the King's House. The hall-door of this hospitable mansion stood open, and a flood of red candle-light fell upon one side of the gray horse, saddle, and holster pipes, which waited the descent of Mr. Lowe, who was shaking hands with the hospitable colonel at the threshold.

Katty was just in time, and the booted gentleman, in his surtout and cape, strode back again into the light of the hall-door, and breaking the seal, there read, with his clear cold eye, the lines which Toole had pencilled, and thrusting it into his coat pocket, and receiving again the fuddled butler's benedictions—he had given him half-a-crown—he mounted his gray steed, and at a brisk trot, followed by his servant, was, in little more than two minutes' time, at Dr. Sturk's door.

Moore, the barber, functus officio, was now sitting in the hall, with his razors in his pocket, expecting his fee, and smelling pleasantly of the glass of whiskey which he had just drunk to the health and long life of the master—God bless him—and all the family.

Doctor Toole met Mr. Lowe on the lobby; he was doing the honours of the ghastly eclaircissement, and bowed him up to the room, with many an intervening whisper, and a sort of apology for Dillon, whom he treated as quite unpresentable, and resolved to keep as much as practicable in the background.

But that gentleman, who exulted in a good stroke of surgery, and had no sort of professional delicacy, calling his absent fathers and brethren of the scalpel and forceps by confounded hard names when he detected a blunder or hit a blot of theirs, met Mr. Lowe on the upper lobby.

'Your servant, Sir,' said he, rubbing his great red hands with a moist grin; 'you see what I've done. Pell's no surgeon, no more than that—(Toole, he was going to say, but modified the comparison in time)—that candlestick! to think of him never looking at the occiput; and he found lying on his back—'twas well Mr. Dangerfield pitched on me—though I say it—why shouldn't I say it—a depression, the size of a shilling in the back of the head—a bit of depressed bone, you see, over the cerebellum—the trepan has relieved him.'

'And was it Mr. Dangerfield?' enquired Lowe, who was growing to admire that prompt, cynical hero more and more every hour.

'By gannies, it just was. He promised me five hundred guineas to make him speak. What all them solemn asses could not compass, that's sweeping in their thousands every quarter, thanks to a discerning public. Baugh! He had heard of a rake-helly dog, with some stuff in his brain-pan, and he came to me—and I done it—Black Dillon done it—ha, ha! that's for the pack of them. Baugh!'

Doctor Dillon knew that the profession slighted him; and every man's hand against him, his was against every man.

Sturk was propped up and knew Lowe, and was, in a ghastly sort of way, glad to see him. He looked strangely pale and haggard, and spoke faintly.

'Take pen and ink,' said he.

There were both and paper ready.

'He would not speak till you came,' whispered Toole, who looked hotter than usual, and felt rather small, and was glad to edge in a word.

'An' don't let him talk too long; five minutes or so, and no more,' said Doctor Dillon; 'and give him another spoonful now—and where's Mr. Dangerfield?'

'And do you really mean to say, Sir, he promised you a fee of five—eh?' said Toole, who could not restrain his somewhat angry curiosity.

'Five hundred guineas—ha, ha, ha! be gannies, Sir, there's a power of divarsion in that.'

''Tis a munificent fee, and prompted by a fine public spirit. We are all his debtors for it! and to you, Sir, too. He's an early man, Sir, I'm told. You'll not see him to-night. But, whatever he has promised is already performed; you may rely on his honour.'

'If you come out at nine in the morning, Dr. Dillon, you'll find him over his letters and desk, in his breakfast parlour,' said Toole, who, apprehending that this night's work might possibly prove a hit for the disreputable and savage luminary, was treating him, though a good deal stung and confounded by the prodigious amount of the fee, with more ceremony than he did at first. 'Short accounts, you know,' said Dillon, locking the lid of his case down upon his instruments. 'But maybe, as you say, 'tis best to see him in the morning—them rich fellows is often testy—ha! ha! An' a word with you, Dr. Toole,' and he beckoned his brother aside to the corner near the door—and whispered something in his ear, and laughed a little awkwardly, and Toole, very red and grave, lent him—with many misgivings, two guineas.

'An' see—don't let them give him too much of that—the chicken broth's too sthrong—put some wather to that, Miss, i' you plaze—and give him no more to-night—d'ye mind—than another half a wine-glass full of clar't unless the docthor here tells you.'

So Dr. Dillon took leave, and his fiery steeds, whirling him onward, devoured, with their resounding hoofs, the road to Dublin, where he had mentally devoted Toole's two guineas to the pagan divinities whose worship was nightly celebrated at the old St. Columbkill.

'We had best have it in the shape of a deposition, Sir, at once,' said Lowe, adjusting himself at the writing-table by the bed-side, and taking the pen in his fingers, he looked on the stern and sunken features of the resuscitated doctor, recalled, as it were, from 'the caverns of the dead and the gates of darkness,' to reveal an awful secret, and point his cold finger at the head of the undiscovered murderer.

'Tell it as shortly as you can, Sir, but without haste,' said Toole, with his finger on his pulse. Sturk looked dismal and frightened, like a man with the hangman at his elbow.

'It was that d—d villain—Charles Archer—write that down—'twas a foul blow—Sir, I'm murdered—I suppose.'

And then came a pause.

'Give me a spoonful of wine—I was coming out of town at dusk—this evening—'

'No, Sir; you're here some time, stunned and unconscious.'

'Eh! how long?'

'No matter, Sir, now. Just say the date of the night it happened.'

Sturk uttered a deep groan.

'Am I dying?' said he.

'No, Sir, please goodness—far from it,' said Toole.

'Fracture?' asked Sturk, faintly.

'Why—yes—something of the sort—indeed—altogether a fracture; but going on mighty well, Sir.'

'Stabbed anywhere—or gunshot wound?' demanded Sturk.

'Nothing of the kind, Sir, upon my honour.'

'You think—I have a chance?' and Sturk's cadaverous face was moist with the dews of an awful suspense.

'Chance,' said Toole, in an encouraging tone, 'well, I suppose you have, Sir—ha, ha! But, you know, you must not tire yourself, and we hope to have you on your legs again, Sir, in a reasonable time.'

'I'm very bad—the sight's affected,' groaned Sturk.

'See, Sir, you tire yourself to no purpose. You're in good hands, Sir—and all will go well—as we expect—Pell has been with you twice—'

'H'm! Pell—that's good.'

'And you're going on mighty well, Sir, especially to-night.'

'Doctor, upon your honour, have I a chance?'

'You have, Sir,—certainly—yes—upon my honour.'

'Thank God!' groaned Sturk, turning up the whites of his eyes, and lifting up two very shaky hands.

'But you must not spoil it—and fatigue will do that for you,' remarked Toole.

'But, Sir, Sir—I beg pardon, Doctor Toole—but this case is not quite a common one. What Doctor Sturk is about to say may acquire an additional legal value by his understanding precisely the degree of danger in which he lies. Now, Doctor Sturk, you must not be over much disturbed,' said Lowe.

'No, Sir—don't fear me—I'm not much disturbed,' said Sturk.

'Well, Doctor Toole,' continued Lowe, 'we must depart a little here from regular medical routine—tell Doctor Sturk plainly all you think.'

'Why—a'—and Doctor Toole cleared his voice, and hesitated.

'Tell him what you and Doctor Dillon think, Sir. Why, Doctor Dillon spoke very plainly to me.'

'I don't like his pulse, Sir. I think you had better not have agitated him,' muttered Toole with an impatient oath.

''Tis worse to keep his mind doubtful, and on the stretch,' said Lowe. 'Doctor Toole, Sir, has told you the bright side of the case. It is necessary, making the deposition you propose, that you should know t'other.'

'Yes, of course—quite right—go on,' said Sturk faintly.

'Why, you know,' said Toole, sniffing, and a little sulkily, 'you know, Doctor Sturk, we, doctors, like to put the best foot foremost; but you can't but be aware, that with the fractures—two fractures—along the summit of the skull, and the operation by the trepan, behind your head, just accomplished, there must be, of course, some danger.'

'I see. Sir,' said Sturk, very quietly, but looking awfully cadaverous; 'all I want to know is, how long you think I may live?'

'You may recover altogether, Sir—you may—but, of course—you may—there's a chance; and things might not go right,' said Toole, taking snuff.

'I see—Sir—'tis enough'—and there was a pause. 'I'd like to have the sacrament, and pray with the clergyman a little—Lord help me!—and my will—only a few words—I don't suppose there's much left me; but there's a power of appointment—a reversion of L600, stock—I'm tired.'

'Here, take this,' said Toole, and put half-a-dozen spoonsful of claret and water into his lips, and he seemed to revive a little. 'There's no immediate hurry—upon my honour, Doctor Sturk, there isn't,' said Toole. 'Just rest aisy a bit; you're disturbed a good deal, Sir; your pulse shows it; and you need not, I assure you, upon my conscience and honour—'tis quite on the cards you may recover.'

And as he spoke, Toole was dropping something from a phial into a wine-glass—sal volatile—ether—I can't say; but when Dr. Sturk swallowed it there was a 'potter-carrier's' aroma about the room.

Then there was a pause for a while, and Toole kept his fingers on his pulse; and Sturk looked, for some time, as if he were on the point of fainting, which, in his case, might have proved very like dying.

'Have you the claret bottle in the room?' demanded Toole, a little flurried; for Sturk's pulses were playing odd pranks, and bounding and sinking in a dance of death.

'The what, Sir?' asked the maid.

'The wine, woman—this instant,' said the doctor, with a little stamp.

So, the moment he had the bottle, he poured out half a large glass, and began spooning it into Sturk's white parted lips.

Lowe looked on very uneasily; for he expected, as Toole did also, prodigious revelations; though each had a suspicion that he divined their nature tolerably clearly.

'Give him some more,' said Toole, with his fingers on the sick man's wrist, and watching his countenance. 'D—— it, don't be afraid—more, some more—more!'

And so the Artillery doctor's spirit revived within him; though with flickerings and tremblings; and he heaved some great sighs, and moved his lips. Then he lay still for a while; and after that he spoke.

'The pen, Sir,—write,' he said. 'He met me in the Butcher's Wood; he said he was going to sleep in town,' and Sturk groaned dismally; 'and he began talking on business—and turned and walked a bit with me. I did not expect to see him there—he was frank—and spoke me fair. We were walking slowly. He looked up in the sky with his hands in his coat pockets and was a step, or so, in advance of me; and he turned short—I didn't know—I had no more fear than you—and struck me a blow with something he had in his hand. He rose to the blow on his toes—'twas so swift, I had no time—I could not see what he struck with, 'twas like a short bit of rope.'

'Charles Archer? Do you know him, Dr. Toole?' asked Lowe. Toole shook his head.

'Charles Archer!' he repeated, looking at Sturk; 'where does he live?' and he winked to Toole, who was about speaking, to hold his peace.

'Here—in this town—Chapelizod, up the river, a bit, with—with a—changed name,' answered Sturk. And at the name he mentioned, Lowe and Toole, in silence and steadfastly, exchanged a pale, grim glance that was awful to see.



It seemed that Mr. Dangerfield had taken Zekiel Irons's measure pretty exactly. The clerk had quite made up his mind to take the bold step urged upon him by that gentleman. He was a slow man. When one idea had fairly got into his head there was no room there for another. Cowardly and plotting; but when his cowardice was wrought upon to a certain pitch, he would wax daring and fierce from desperation.

He walked down to the village from the little gate of the Brass Castle, where he had talked with Mr. Dangerfield, appointing eight o'clock next morning for making the deposition; late now for all purposes; but to nail him to a line of viva voce evidence when he should come to be examined on Charles Nutter's approaching trial. The whole way along he walked with the piece of silver, which Mr. Paul Dangerfield had given him, griped tight in his crooked fingers, in his breeches' pocket—no change in his grim and sinister face—no turn of the head—no side glance of the eye—all dark, rigid, and tense.

The mechanism of long habit brought him round the corner to the door of the Salmon House, the 'public' facing, but with the length of the street interposing, the Phoenix, whose lights were visible through and under the branches of the village tree. His mind wandered back to the Mills with a shock, and glided stealthily past the Brass Castle without dwelling there, and he looked down the street. Over the bridge at the Elms, lay death in its awful purity. At his left, in the Gray Stone House, was Doctor Sturk—the witness with sealed lips—the victim of Charles Archer's mysterious prowess; and behind lay the church-yard, and the quiet little church with that vault and nameless coffin. Altogether, the suggestions and associations about him were not cheerful or comfortable. He squeezed the silver—Dangerfield's little remembrance—with a furious strain, and ground his teeth.

'I'm like a man surrounded. I wish I was out of it all!' he muttered, with a care-worn glance.

So he entered the public-house.

There was not much business doing. Three friends, Smithfield dealers, or some such folk, talking loudly over their liquor of prices and prospects; and one fat fellow, by the fire, smoking a pipe, with a large glass of punch at his elbow.

'Ah, then, Mr. Irons, an' is it yourself that's in it? and where in the world wor ye all this time?' said the landlady.

'Business, Ma'am, business, Mrs. Molloy.'

'An' there's your chair waitin' for you beside the fire, Mr. Irons, this month an' more—a cowld evening—and we all wondherin' what in the wide world was gone widg ye—this I do'no how long.'

'Thank ye, Ma'am—a pipe and a glass o' punch.'

Irons was always a man of few words, and his laconics did not strike Mistress Molloy as anything very strange. So she wiped the little table at his side, and with one foot on the fender, and his elbow on his knee, he smoked leisurely into the fire-place.

To look at his face you would have supposed he was thinking; but it was only that sort of foggy vacuity which goes by the name of 'a brown study.' He never thought very clearly or connectedly; and his apathetic reveries, when his mood was gloomy, were furnished forth in a barren and monotonous way, with only two or three frightful figures, and a dismal scenery that seldom shifted.

The three gentlemen at the table called for more liquor, and the stout personage, sitting opposite to Irons, dropped into their talk, having smoked out his pipe, and their conversation became more general and hilarious; but Irons scarce heard it. Curiosity is an idle minx, and a soul laden like the clerk's has no entertainment for her. But when one of the three gentlemen who sat together—an honest but sad-looking person with a flaxen wig, and a fat, florid face—placing his hand in the breast of his red plush waistcoat, and throwing himself back in his chair, struck up a dismal tune, with a certain character of psalmody in it, the clerk's ear was charmed for a moment, and he glanced on the singer and sipped some punch; and the ballad, rude and almost rhymeless, which he chanted had an undefined and unpleasant fascination for Irons. It was thus:—

'A man there was near Ballymooney, Was guilty of a deed o' blood, For thravellin' alongside iv ould Tim Rooney. He kilt him in a lonesome wood.

'He took his purse, and his hat and cravat. And stole his buckles and his prayer-book, too; And neck-and-heels, like a cruel savage, His corpus through the wood he drew.

'He pult him over to a big bog-hole, And sunk him undher four-foot o' wather, And built him down wid many a thumpin' stone. And slipt the bank out on the corpus afther.'

Here the singer made a little pause, and took a great pull at the beer-can, and Irons looked over his shoulder at the minstrel; but his uneasy and malignant glance encountered only the bottom of the vessel; and so he listened for more, which soon came thus:—

'An' says he, "Tim Rooney, you're there, my boy, Kep' down in the bog-hole wid the force iv suction, An' tisn't myself you'll throuble or annoy, To the best o' my opinion, to the resurrection."

'With that, on he walks to the town o' Drumgoole, And sot by the fire in an inn was there; And sittin' beside him, says the ghost—"You fool! 'Tis myself's beside ye, Shamus, everywhere."'

At this point the clerk stood up, and looked once more at the songster, who was taking a short pull again, with a suspicious, and somewhat angry glance. But the unconscious musician resumed—

'"Up through the wather your secret rises; The stones won't keep it, and it lifts the mould, An' it tracks your footsteps, and yoar fun surprises An' it sits at the fire beside you black and cowld.

'"At prayers, at dances, or at wake or hurling; At fair, or funeral, or where you may; At your going out, and at your returning, 'Tis I'll be with you to your dying day."'

'Is there much more o' that?' demanded Irons, rather savagely.

The thirsty gentleman in the red plush waistcoat was once more, as he termed it, 'wetting his whistle;' but one of his comrades responded tartly enough—

'I'd like there was—an' if you mislike it, neighbour, there's the door.'

If he expected a quarrel, however, it did not come; and he saw by Irons's wandering eye, fierce as it looked, that his thoughts for the moment were elsewhere. And just then the songster, having wiped his mouth in his coat-sleeve, started afresh in these terms—

'"You'll walk the world with a dreadful knowledge, And a heavy heart and a frowning brow; And thinking deeper than a man in college, Your eye will deaden, and your back will bow.

'"And when the pariod iv your life is over, The frightful hour of judgment then will be; And, Shamus Hanlon, heavy on your shoulder, I'll lay my cowld hand, and you'll go wid me."'

This awful ditty died away in the prolonged drone which still finds favour in the ears of our Irish rustic musicians, and the company now began to talk of congenial themes, murders, ghosts, and retributions, and the horrid tune went dismally booming on in Mr. Irons's ear.

Trifling, and apparently wholly accidental, as was this occurrence, the musical and moral treat had a very permanent effect upon the fortunes of Irons, and those of other persons who figure in our story. Mr. Irons had another and another glass of punch. They made him only more malign and saturnine. He sat in his corner by the fire, silent and dismal; and no one cared what was passing in the brain behind that black and scowling mask. He paid sternly and furiously, like a villain who has lost at play; and without a 'good-night,' or any other leave taking, glided ominously from the room; and the gentlemen who carried on the discourse and convivialities of the Salmon House, followed him with a gibe or two, and felt the pleasanter for the removal of that ungracious presence.

A few minutes later, Mr. Lowe stood on the hall-door step, and calling to his man, gave him a little note and some silver, and a message—very impressively repeated—and the groom touched his hat, and buttoned up his coat about his neck, the wind being from the east, and he started, at something very near a gallop, for Dublin.

There was a man at the door of the Salmon House, who, with a taciturn and saturnine excitement, watched the unusual bustle going on at the door-steps of Doctor Sturk's dwelling. This individual had been drinking there for a while; and having paid his shot, stood with his back to the wall, and his hands in his pockets, profoundly agitated, and with a chaos of violent and unshaped thoughts rising and rolling in his darkened brain.

After Lowe went into the house again, seeing the maid still upon the steps, talking with Mr. Moore, the barber, who was making his lingering adieux there, this person drew near, and just as the tonsor made his final farewell, and strode down the street towards his own dwelling, he presented himself in time to arrest the retreat of the damsel.

'By your leave, Mistress Katty,' said he, laying his hand on the iron rail of the door-steps.

'Oh, good jewel! an' is that yourself, Mr. Irons? And where in the world wor you this month an' more?'

'Business—nothin'—in Mullingar—an' how's the docthor to-night?'

The clerk spoke a little thickly, as he commonly did on leaving the Salmon House.

'He's elegant, my dear—beyant the beyants—why, he's sittin' up, dhrinking chicken-broth, and talking law-business with Mr. Lowe.'

'He's talkin'!'

'Ay is he, and Mr. Lowe just this minute writ down all about the way he come by the breakin' of his skull in the park, and we'll have great doings on the head of it; for the master swore to it, and Doctor Toole——'

'An'who done it?' demanded Irons, ascending a step, and grasping the iron rail.

'I couldn't hear—nor no one, only themselves.'

'An' who's that rode down the Dublin road this minute?'

'That's Mr. Lowe's man; 'tis what he's sent him to Dublin wid a note.'

'I see,' said Irons, with a great oath, which seemed to the maid wholly uncalled for; and he came up another step, and held the iron rail and shook it, like a man grasping a battle-axe, and stared straight at her, with a look so strange, and a visage so black, that she was half-frightened.

'A what's the matther wid you, Misther Irons?' she demanded.

But he stared on in silence, scowling through her face at vacancy, and swaying slightly as he griped the metal banister.

'I will,' he muttered, with another most unclerklike oath, and he took Katty by the hand, and shook it slowly in his own cold, damp grasp as he asked, with the same intense and forbidding look,

'Is Mr. Lowe in the house still?'

'He is, himself and Doctor Toole, in the back parlour.'

'Whisper him, Katty, this minute, there's a man has a thing to tell him.'

'What about?' enquired Katty.

'About a great malefactor.'

Katty paused, with her mouth open, expecting more.

'Tell him now; at once, woman; you don't know what delay may cost.'

He spoke impetuously, and with a bitter sort of emphasis, like a man in a hurry to commit himself to a course, distrusting his own resolution.

She was frightened at his sudden fierceness, and drew back into the hall and he with her, and he shut the door with a clang behind him, and then looked before him, stunned and wild, like a man called up from his bed into danger.

'Thank God. I'm in for it,' muttered he, with a shudder and a sardonic grin, and he looked for a moment something like that fine image of the Wandering Jew, given us by Gustave Doree, the talisman of his curse dissolved, and he smiling cynically in the terrible light of the judgment day.

The woman knocked at the parlour door, and Lowe opened it.

'Who's here?' he asked, looking at Irons, whose face he remembered, though he forgot to whom it belonged.

'I'm Zekiel Irons, the parish-clerk, please your worship, and all I want is ten minutes alone with your honour.'

'For what purpose?' demanded the magistrate, eyeing him sharply.

'To tell you all about a damned murder.'

'Hey—why—who did it?'

'Charles Archer,' he answered; and screwed up his mouth with a convulsive grimace, glaring bloodlessly at the justice.

'Ha! Charles Archer! I think we know something already about that.'

'I don't think you do, though; and by your leave, you'll promise, if I bring it home to him, you'll see me safe through it. 'Tis what I'm the only witness living that knows all about it.'

'Well, what is it about?'

'The murder of Mr. Beauclerc, that my Lord Dunoran was tried and found guilty for.'

'Why, all very good; but that did not happen in Ireland.'

'No. At Newmarket, the "Pied Horse."'

'Ay, in England. I know, and that's out of our jurisdiction.'

'I don't care. I'll go to London if you like—to Bow-street—anywhere—so as I make sure to hang him; for my life is worse than death while he's at this side of the grave—and I'd rather be in my coffin—I would—than live within five miles of him. Anyway, you'll hear what I have to say, and to swear, and send me safe across the water to Bow-street, or wherever else you think best; for, if he has his liberty, and gets sight o' me again, I'm a dead man.'

'Come in here, Mr. Irons, and take a chair,' said the justice.

Doctor Toole was in the room, in a balloon-backed chair, regaling himself with a long pipe, and Mr. Lowe shut the door.

'We have another deposition, doctor, to take; Mr. Irons, here, is prepared to swear informations of very singular importance.'

'Irons, hollo! from what planet did you drop to-night?'

'Mullingar, Sir.'

'Nothing about the burning of the old woman at Tyrrell's Pass, eh?'

'No—'tis an old story. I don't care what comes of it, I'm innocent, only you'll say I kept it too long to myself. But you can't touch my life. I'm more afeard of him than you, and with good cause; but I think he's in a corner now, and I'll speak out and take my chance, and you mustn't allow me to be murdered.'

By this time Lowe had procured writing materials, and all being ready, he and the curious and astonished doctor heard a story very like what we have already heard from the same lips.



Mr. Dangerfield having parted with Irons, entered the little garden or shrubbery, which skirted on either side the short gravel walk, which expanded to a miniature court-yard before the door of the Brass Castle. He flung the little iron gate to with a bitter clang; so violent that the latch sprang from its hold, and the screaking iron swung quivering open again behind him.

Like other men who have little religion, Mr. Paul Dangerfield had a sort of vague superstition. He was impressible by omens, though he scorned his own weakness, and sneered at, and quizzed it sometimes in the monologues of his ugly solitude. The swinging open of the outer gate of his castle sounded uncomfortably behind him, like an invitation to shapeless danger to step in after him. The further he left it behind him, the more in his spirit was the gaping void between his two little piers associated with the idea of exposure, defencelessness, and rashness. This feeling grew so strong, that he turned about before he reached his hall-door, and, with a sensation akin to fury, retraced the fifteen or twenty steps that intervened, and grasped the cold iron with the fiercest tension of his sinews, as if it had resented his first violence by a dogged defiance of his wishes, and spluttering a curse between his teeth, he dashed it to again—and again, as once more it sprang open from the shock.

'Who's master now?' snarled Mr. Paul Dangerfield, through his clenched teeth, and smiting the senseless iron with a vindictive swoop of his cane. I fancy his face at this moment had some of the peculiar lines and corrugations which we observe in that of Retzsch's Mephistopheles, when he gripes the arm of Faust to drag him from Margaret's cell. So he stood behind his iron grating, glaring and grinning defiance into the darkness, with his fingers clenched hard upon his cane.

Black Dillon's failure was a blow to the progress of his plans. It incensed him. 'That d——d outcast! That he should presume so to treat a man who could master him so easily at any game, and buy and sell him body and soul, and had actually bargained to give him five hundred guineas—the needy, swinish miscreant! and paid him earnest beside—the stupid cheat! Drink—dice—women! Why, five hundred guineas made him free of his filthy paradise for a twelvemonth, and the leprous oaf could not quit his impurities for an hour, and keep the appointment that was to have made him master of his heart's desires.'

At his hall-door he paused, listening intently, with his spectacles glimmering toward Chapelizod, for the sound of a distant step; but there was no messenger afoot. He heard only the chill sigh of the air through the leafless branches.

Mr. Dangerfield had not his key with him; and he beat an unnecessarily loud and long tattoo upon his door, and before it could possibly have been answered, he thundered a second through the passages.

Mrs. Jukes knew the meaning of that harsh and rabid summons. 'There was something on the master's mind.' His anxieties never depressed him as they did other men, but strung up his energies to a point of mental tension and exasperation which made him terrible to his domestics. It was not his acts—his conduct was always under control, but chiefly his looks, and accents, and an influence that seemed to take possession of him at such times that rendered him undefinably formidable to his servants.

'Ha!—mighty obleeging (he so pronounced the word)—let in at last—cold outside, Ma'am. You've let out the fire I suppose?'

His tones were like the bark of a wolf, and there was a devilish smirk in his white face, as he made her a mock salutation, and glided into his parlour. The fire was bright enough, however, as Mrs. Jukes was much relieved to see; and dropping a courtesy she enquired whether he would like a dish of tea, or anything?

'No, Ma'am!' he snarled.

'Would he like his dressing-gown and slippers?'

'No, Ma'am,' again. So she dropped another courtesy, and sneaked away to the kitchen, with short, noiseless steps, and heard Mr. Dangerfield shut the door sharply.

His servants were afraid of him. They could not quite comprehend him. They knew it was vain trying to deceive him, and had quite given up lying and prevaricating. Neither would he stand much talking. When they prattled he brought them to the point sternly; and whenever a real anxiety rested on his mind he became pretty nearly diabolical. On the whole, however, they had a strange sort of liking for him. They were proud of his wealth, and of his influence with great people. And though he would not allow them to rob, disobey, or deceive him, yet he used them handsomely, paid like a prince, was a considerate master, and made them comfortable.

Now Mr. Dangerfield poked up his fire and lighted his candles. Somehow, the room looked smaller he thought than it had ever seemed before. He was not nervous—nothing could bring him to that; but his little altercation with the iron gate, and some uncomfortable thoughts had excited him. It was an illusion merely—but the walls seemed to have closed in a foot or two, and the ceiling to have dropped down proportionably, and he felt himself confined and oppressed.

'My head's a little bit heated—ira furo brevis,' and he sneered a solitary laugh, more like himself, and went out into his tiny hall, and opened the door, and stood on the step for air, enjoying the cold wind that played about his temples. Presently he heard the hollow clink of two pair of feet walking toward the village. The pedestrians were talking eagerly; and he thought, as they passed the little iron gate of his domain, he heard his own name mentioned, and then that of Mervyn. I dare say it was mere fancy; but, somehow, he did not like it, and he walked swiftly down to the little gate by the road side—it was only some twenty yards—keeping upon the grass that bounded it, to muffle the sound of his steps. This white phantom noiselessly stood in the shadow of the road side. The interlocutors had got a good way on, and were talking loud and volubly. But he heard nothing that concerned him from either again, though he waited until their steps and voices were lost in the distance.

The cool air was pleasant about his bare temples, and Mr. Paul Dangerfield waited a while longer, and listened, for any sound of footsteps approaching from the village, but none such was audible; and beginning to feel a little chilly, he entered his domicile again, shut the hall-door, and once more found himself in the little parlour of the Brass Castle.

His housekeeper heard his harsh voice barking down the passage at her, and rising with a start from her seat, cried,

'At your service, Sir.'

'At a quarter to twelve o'clock fetch me a sandwich, and a glass of absynthe, and meanwhile, don't disturb me.'

And she heard him enter his little parlour, and shut the door.

'There's something to vex, but nothing to threaten—nothing. It's all that comical dream—curse it! What tricks the brain plays us! 'Tis fair it should though. We work it while we please, and it plays when it may. The slave has his saturnalia, and flouts his tyrant. Ha, ha! 'tis time these follies were ended. I've something to do to-night.'

So Mr. Dangerfield became himself again, and applied himself keenly to his business.

When I first thought of framing the materials which had accumulated in my hands into a narrative, dear little Lily Walsingham's death was a sore trouble to me. 'Little' Lily I call her, but though slight, she was not little—rather tall, indeed.

It was, however, the term I always heard connected with her pretty name in my boyhood, when the old people, who had remembered her very long ago, mentioned her, as they used, very kindly, a term of endearment that had belonged to her, and in virtue of the childlike charm that was about her, had grown up with her from childhood. I had plans for mending this part of the record, and marrying her to handsome Captain Devereux, and making him worthy of her; but somehow I could not. From very early times I had known the sad story. I had heard her beauty talked about in my childhood; the rich, clear tints, the delicate outlines, those tender and pleasant dimples, like the wimpling of a well; an image so pure, and merry, and melancholy withal, had grown before me, and in twilight shadows visited the now lonely haunts of her brief hours; even the old church, in my evening rambles along the uplands of the park, had in my eyes so saddened a grace in the knowledge that those slender bones lay beneath its shadows, and all about her was so linked in my mind with truth, and melancholy, and altogether so sacred, that I could not trifle with the story, and felt, even when I imagined it, a pang, and a reproach, as if I had mocked the sadness of little Lily's fate; so, after some ponderings and trouble of mind I gave it up, and quite renounced the thought.

And, after all, what difference should it make? Is not the generation among whom her girlish lot was cast long passed away? A few years more or less of life. What of them now? When honest Dan Loftus cited those lines from the 'Song of Songs,' did he not make her sweet epitaph? Had she married Captain Devereux, what would her lot have been? She was not one of those potent and stoical spirits, who can survive the wreck of their best affections, and retort injury with scorn. In forming that simple spirit, Nature had forgotten arrogance and wrath. She would never have fought against the cruelty of changed affections if that or the treasons of an unprincipled husband had come. His love would have been her light and life, and when that was turned away, like a northern flower that has lost its sun, she would have only hung her pretty head, and died, in her long winter. So viewing now the ways of wisdom from a distance, I think I can see they were the best, and how that fair, young mortal, who seemed a sacrifice, was really a conqueror.

Puddock and Devereux on this eventful night, as we remember, having shaken hands at the door-steps, turned and went up stairs together, very amicably again, to the captain's drawing-room.

So Devereux, when they returned to his lodgings, had lost much of his reserve, and once on the theme of his grief, stormed on in gusts, and lulls, and thunder, and wild upbraidings, and sudden calms; and the good-natured soul of little Puddock was touched, and though he did not speak, he often dried his eyes quietly, for grief is conversant not with self, but with the dead, and whatever is generous moves us.

'There's no one stirring now, Puddock—I'll put my cloak about me and walk over to the Elms, to ask how the rector is to-night,' said Devereux, muffling himself in his military mantle.

It was only the restlessness of grief. Like all other pain, grief is haunted with the illusion that change means relief; motion is the instinct of escape. Puddock walked beside him, and they went swiftly and silently together.

When they reached the other side of the bridge, and stood under the thorn-hedge fronting the leafless elms, Devereux was irresolute.

'Would you wish me to enquire?' asked Puddock. Devereux held him doubtfully by the arm for a moment or two, and then said gently—

'No, I thank you, Puddock—I'll go—yes—I'll go myself;' and so Captain Devereux went up to the door.

John Tracy, at the steps, told him that he thought his master wished to speak with him; but he was not quite sure. The tall muffled figure therefore waited at the door while John went in to tell his master, and soon returned to say that Doctor Walsingham would be much obliged to him to step into the study.

When the doctor saw Devereux, he stood up to meet him.

'I hope, Sir,' said Devereux, very humbly, 'you have forgiven me.'

The doctor took his hand and shook it very hard, and said, 'There's nothing—we're both in sorrow. Everyone—everyone is sorry, Sir, but you more.'

Devereux did not say anything, being moved, as I suppose. But he had drawn his cloak about his face, and was looking down.

'There was a little message—only a word or two,' said the doctor; 'but everything of hers is sacred.'

He turned over some papers in his desk, and chose one. It was in Lily's pretty handwriting.

'I am charged with this little message. Oh, my darling!' and the old man cried bitterly.

'Pray, read it—you will understand it—'tis easily read. What a pretty hand it was!'

So Devereux took the little paper, and read just the words which follow:—

'My beloved father will, I hope, if he thinks it right, tell Captain Richard Devereux that I was not so unkind and thankless as I may have seemed, but very grateful for his preference, of which I know, in many ways, how unworthy I was. But I do not think we could have been happy; and being all over, it is a great comfort to friends who are separated here, that there is a place where all may meet again, if God will; and as I did not see or speak with him since my dear father brought his message, I wished that so much should be said, and also to say a kind good-bye, and give him all good wishes.

'LILIAS.' 'Friday evening.'

Captain Richard Devereux read this simple little record through, and then he said:—

'Oh, Sir, may I have it—isn't it mine?'

We who have heard those wondrous aerial echoes of Killarney, when the breath has left the bugle and its cadences are silent, take up the broken links of the lost melody with an answer far away, sad and celestial, real, yet unreal, the fleeting yet lingering spirit of music, that is past and over, have something in memory by which we can illustrate the effect of these true voices of the thoughts and affections that have perished, returning for a few charmed moments regretfully and sweetly from the sea of eternal silence.

And so that sad and clear farewell, never repeated, was long after, in many a lonely night, answered by the voice of Devereux.

'Did she—did she know how I loved her? Oh, never, never! I'll never love any but you. Darling, darling—you can't die. Oh, no, no, no! Your place knows you still; your place is here—here—here.'

And he smote his breast over that heart which, such as it was, cherished a pure affection for her.



I would be ashamed to say how, soon after Dangerfield had spoken to Mr. Mervyn in the church-yard on the Sunday afternoon, when he surprised him among the tombstones, the large-eyed young gentleman, with the long black hair, was at his desk, and acting upon his suggestion. But the Hillsborough was to sail next day; and Mr. Mervyn's letter, containing certain queries, and an order for twenty guineas on a London house, glided in that packet with a favouring breeze from the Bay of Dublin, on its way to the London firm of Elrington Brothers.

On the morning of the day whose events I have been describing in the last half-dozen chapters, Mr. Mervyn received his answer, which was to the following effect:—

'SIR,—Having made search for the Paper which you enquire after, we have Found one answering your description in a General way; and pursuant to your request and Direction, beg leave to forward you a Copy thereof, together with a copy of a letter concerning it, received by the same post from Sir Philip Drayton, of Drayton Hall, Sometime our Client, and designed in Part to explain his share in the matter. Your order for twenty guineas, on Messrs. Trett and Penrose, hath come to hand, and been duly honoured, and we thankfully Accept the same, in payment for all trouble had in this matter. '&c, &c, &c.'

The formal document which it enclosed said:—

'This is to certify that Charles Archer, Esq., aged, as shortly before his death he reported himself, thirty-five years, formerly of London, departed this life, on the 4th August, 1748, in his lodgings, in the city of Florence, next door to the "Red Lion," and over against the great entrance of the Church of the Holy Cross, in the which, having conformed to the holy Roman faith, he is buried.—Signed this 12th day of August, 1748.


'We three having seen the said Charles Archer during his sickness, and after his decease.'

Then followed the copy of the baronet's letter to his attorneys, which was neither very long nor very business-like.

'Why the plague don't you make the scoundrel, Jekyl, pay? His mother's dead only t'other day, and he must be full of money. I've scarce a marvedy in hand, now; so let him have a writ in his, drat him. About that certificate, I'm almost sorry I signed it. I've bin thinking 'tis like enough I may be troubled about it. So you may tell 'em I know no more only what is there avouched. No more I do. He played at a faro-table here, and made a very pretty figure. But I hear now from Lord Orland that there are many bad reports of him. He was the chief witness against that rogue, Lord Dunoran, who swallowed poison in Newgate, and, they say, leaned hard against him, although he won much money of him, and swore with a blood-thirsty intention. But that is neither here nor there; I mean ill reports of his rogueries at play, and other doings, which, had I sooner known, my name had not bin to the paper. So do not make a noise about it, and maybe none will ask for't. As for Jack Jekyl, why not take the shortest way with him. You're very pitiful fellows; but I wish o' my conscience you'd take some pity o' me, and not suffer me to be bubbled,' &c., &c.

There was only a sentence or two more, referring in the same strain to other matters of business, of which, in the way of litigation, he seemed to have no lack, and the letter ended.

'I'll go direct to London and see these people, and thence to Florence. Gaetano Meloni—he may be living—who knows? He will remember the priest who confessed him. A present to a religious house may procure—in a matter of justice, and where none can be prejudiced, for the case is very special—a dispensation, if he be the very Charles Archer—and he may—why not?—have disclosed all on his death-bed. First, I shall see Mr. Dangerfield—then those attorneys; and next make search in Florence; and, with the aid of whatever I can glean there, and from Irons, commence in England the intensest scrutiny to which a case was ever yet subjected.'

Had it not been so late when he found this letter on his return, he would have gone direct with it to the Brass Castle; but that being quite out of the question, he read it again and again. It is wonderful how often a man will spell over and over the same commonplace syllables, if they happen to touch a subject vitally concerning himself, and what theories and speculations he will build upon the accidental turn of a phrase, or the careless dash of a pen.

As we see those wild animals walk their cages in a menagerie, with the fierce instincts of suppressed action rolling in the vexed eye and vibrating in every sinew, even so we behold this hero of the flashing glance and sable locks treading, in high excitement, the floor of the cedar parlour. Every five minutes a new hope—a new conjecture, and another scrutiny of the baronet's letter, or of the certificate of Archer's death, and hour after hour speeding by in the wild chase of successive chimeras.

While Mr. Justice Lowe's servant was spurring into town at a pace which made the hollow road resound, and struck red flashes from the stones, up the river, at the Mills, Mistress Mary Matchwell was celebrating a sort of orgie. Dirty Davy and she were good friends again. Such friendships are subject to violent vicissitudes, and theirs had been interrupted by a difference of opinion, of which the lady had made a note with a brass candlestick over his eye. Dirty Davy's expressive feature still showed the green and yellow tints of convalescence. But there are few philosophers who forgive so frankly as a thorough scoundrel, when it is his interest to kiss and be friends. The candlestick was not more innocent of all unpleasant feeling upon the subject than at that moment was Dirty Davy.

Dirty Davy had brought with him his chief clerk, who was a facetious personage, and boozy, and on the confidential footing of a common rascality with his master, who, after the fashion of Harry V. in his nonage, condescended in his frolics and his cups to men of low estate; and Mary Matchwell, though fierce and deep enough, was not averse on occasion, to partake of a bowl of punch in sardonic riot, with such agreeable company.

Charles Nutter's unexpected coming to life no more affected Mary Matchwell's claim than his supposed death did her spirits. Widow or wife, she was resolved to make good her position, and the only thing she seriously dreaded was that an intelligent jury, an eminent judge, and an adroit hangman, might remove him prematurely from the sphere of his conjugal duties, and forfeit his worldly goods to the crown.

Next morning, however, a writ or a process of some sort, from which great things were expected, was to issue from the court in which her rights were being vindicated. Upon the granting of this, Mistress Matchwell and Dirty Davy—estranged for some time, as we have said,—embraced. She forgot the attorney's disrespectful language, and he the lady's brass candlestick, and, over the punch-bowl of oblivion and vain glory, they celebrated their common victory.

Under advice, M. M. had acquiesced, pending her vigorous legal proceedings, in poor little Sally Nutter's occupying her bed-room in the house for a little while longer. The beleagured lady was comforted in her strait by the worthy priest, by honest Dr. Toole, and not least, by that handsome and stalworth nymph, the daring Magnolia. That blooming Amazon was twice on the point of provoking the dismal sorceress, who kept her court in the parlour of the Mills, to single combat. But fortune willed it otherwise, and each time the duel had been interrupted in its formal inception, and had gone no further than that spirited prologue in which the female sex so faithfully preserve the tradition of those thundering dialogues which invariably precede the manual business of the Homeric fray.

This was the eve of a great triumph and a memorable gala. Next morning, Sally Nutter was to be scalped, roasted, and eaten up, and the night was spent in savage whoopings, songs and dances. They had got a reprobate blind fiddler into the parlour, where their punch-bowl steamed—a most agreeable and roistering sinner, who sang indescribable songs to the quaver of his violin, and entertained the company with Saturnalian vivacity, jokes, gibes, and wicked stories. Larry Cleary, thou man of sin and music! methinks I see thee now. Thy ugly, cunning, pitted face, twitching and grinning; thy small, sightless orbs rolling in thy devil's merriment, and thy shining forehead red with punch.

In the kitchen things were not more orderly; M. M.'s lean maid was making merry with the bailiff, and a fat and dreadful trollop with one eye—tipsy, noisy, and pugnacious.

Poor little Sally Nutter and her maids kept dismal vigil in her bed-room. But that her neighbours and her lawyer would in no sort permit it, the truth is, the frightened little soul would long ago have made herself wings, and flown anywhere for peace and safety.

It is remarkable how long one good topic, though all that may be said upon it has been said many scores of times, will serve the colloquial purposes of the good folk of the kitchen or the nursery. There was scarcely half-an-hour in the day during which the honest maids and their worthy little mistress did not discuss the dreadful Mary Matchwell. They were one and all, though in different degrees, indescribably afraid of her. Her necromantic pretensions gave an indistinctness and poignancy to their horror. She seemed to know, by a diabolical intuition, what everybody was about—she was so noiseless and stealthy, and always at your elbow when you least expected. Those large dismal eyes of hers, they said, glared green in the dark like a cat's; her voice was sometimes so coarse and deep, and her strength so unnatural, that they were often on the point of believing her to be a man in disguise. She was such a blasphemer, too; and could drink what would lay a trooper under the table, and yet show it in nothing but the superintensity of her Satanic propensities. She was so malignant, and seemed to bear to all God's creatures so general a malevolence, that her consistent and superlative wickedness cowed and paralysed them. The enigma grew more horrible every day and night, and they felt, or fancied, a sort of influence stealing over them which benumbed their faculty of resistance, and altogether unstrung their nerves.

The grand compotation going on in the parlour waxed louder and wilder as the night wore on. There were unseen guests there, elate and inspiring, who sat with the revellers—phantoms who attend such wassail, and keep the ladle of the punch-bowl clinking, the tongue of the songster glib and tuneful, and the general mirth alive and furious. A few honest folk, with the gift of a second sight in such matters, discover their uncanny presence—leprous impurity, insane blasphemy, and the stony grin of unearthly malice—and keep aloof.

To heighten their fun, this jovial company bellowed their abominable ballads in the hall, one of them about 'Sally M'Keogh,' whose sweetheart was hanged, and who cut her throat with his silver-mounted razor, and they hooted their gibes up the stairs. And at last Mary Matchwell, provoked by the passive quietude of her victim, summoned the three revellers from the kitchen, and invaded the upper regions at their head—to the unspeakable terror of poor Sally Nutter—and set her demon fiddler a scraping, and made them and Dirty Davy's clerk dance a frantic reel on the lobby outside her bed-room door, locked and bolted inside, you may be sure.

In the midst of this monstrous festivity and uproar, there came, all on a sudden, a reverberating double-knock at the hall-door, so loud and long that every hollow, nook, and passage of the old house rang again. Loud and untimely as was the summons, it had a character, not of riot, but of alarm and authority. The uproar was swallowed instantly in silence. For a second only the light of the solitary candle shone upon the pale, scowling features of Mary Matchwell, and she quenched its wick against the wall. So the Walpurgis ended in darkness, and the company instinctively held their breaths.

There was a subdued hum of voices outside, and a tramping on the crisp gravel, and the champing and snorting of horses, too, were audible.

'Does none o' yez see who's in it?' said the blind fiddler.

'Hold your tongue,' hissed Mary Matchwell with a curse, and visiting the cunning pate of the musician with a smart knock of the candlestick.

'I wisht I had your thumb undher my grinder,' said the fiddler, through his teeth, 'whoever you are.'

But the rest was lost in another and a louder summons at the hall-door, and a voice of authority cried sternly,

'Why don't you open the door?—hollo! there—I can't stay here all night.'

'Open to him, Madam, I recommend you,' said Dirty Davy, in a hard whisper; 'will I go?'

'Not a step; not a word;' and Mary Matchwell griped his wrist.

But a window in Mrs. Nutter's room was opened, and Moggy's voice cried out—

'Don't go, Sir; for the love o' goodness, don't go. Is it Father Roach that's in it?'

''Tis I, woman—Mr. Lowe—open the door, I've a word or two to say.'



About a quarter of an hour before this, Mr. Paul Dangerfield was packing two trunks in his little parlour, and burning letters industriously in the fire, when his keen ear caught a sound at which a prophetic instinct within him vibrated alarm. A minute or two before he had heard a stealthy footstep outside. Then he heard the cook walk along the passage, muttering to herself, to the hall-door, where there arose a whispering. He glanced round his shoulder at the window. It was barred. Then lifting the table and its load lightly from before him, he stood erect, fronting the door, and listening intently. Two steps on tip-toe brought him to it, and he placed his fingers on the key. But he recollected a better way. There was one of those bolts that rise and fall perpendicularly in a series of rings, and bar or open the door by a touch to a rope connected with it by a wire and a crank or two.

He let the bolt softly drop into its place; the rope was within easy reach, and with his spectacles gleaming white on the door, he kept humming a desultory tune, like a man over some listless occupation.

Mr. Paul Dangerfield was listening intently, and stepped as softly as a cat. Then, with a motion almost elegant, he dropt his right hand lightly into his coat-pocket, where it lay still in ambuscade.

There came a puffing night air along the passage, and rattled the door; then a quiet shutting of the hall-door, and a shuffling and breathing near the parlour.

Dangerfield, humming his idle tune with a white and sharpening face, and a gaze that never swerved, extended his delicately-shaped fingers to the rope, and held it in his left hand. At this moment the door-handle was suddenly turned outside, and the door sustained a violent jerk.

'Who's there?' demanded the harsh, prompt accents of Dangerfield, suspending his minstrelsy. 'I'm busy.'

'Open the door—we've a piece of intelligence to gi'e ye.'

'Certainly—but don't be tedious.' (He drew the string, and the bolt shot up). 'Come in, Sir.'

The door flew open; several strange faces presented themselves on the threshold, and at the same instant, a stern voice exclaimed—

'Charles Archer, I arrest you in the king's name.'

The last word was lost in the stunning report of a pistol, and the foremost man fell with a groan. A second pistol already gleamed in Dangerfield's hand, and missed. With a spring like a tiger he struck the hesitating constable in the throat, laying his scalp open against the door-frame, and stamping on his face as he fell; and clutching the third by the cravat, he struck at his breast with a knife, already in his hand. But a pistol-shot from Lowe struck his right arm, scorching the cloth; the dagger and the limb dropped, and he staggered back, but recovered his equilibrium, and confronted them with a white skull-like grin, and a low 'ha, ha, ha!'

It was all over, and the silver spectacles lay shattered on the floor, like a broken talisman, and a pair of gray, strangely-set, wild eyes glared upon them.

The suddenness of his assault, his disproportioned physical strength and terrific pluck, for a second or two, confounded his adversaries; but he was giddy—his right arm dead by his side. He sat down in a chair confronting them, his empty right hand depending near to the floor, and a thin stream of blood already trickling down his knuckles, his face smiling, and shining whitely with the damp of anguish, and the cold low 'ha, ha, ha!' mocking the reality of the scene.

'Heinous old villain!' said Lowe, advancing on him.

'Well, gentlemen, I've shown fight, eh?—and now I suppose you want my watch, and money, and keys—eh?'

'Read the warrant, Sir,' said Lowe, sternly.

'Warrant! hey—warrant?—why, this is something new—will you be so good as to give me a glass of water—thank you—hold the paper a moment longer—I can't get this arm up.' With his left hand he set down the tumbler-glass, and then held up the warrant.

'Thank ye. Well, this warrant's for Charles Archer.'

'Alias Paul Dangerfield—if you read, Sir.'

'Thank you—yes—I see—that's news to me. Oh! Mr. Lowe—I did not see you—I haven't hurt you, I hope? Why the plague do you come at these robbing hours? We'd have all fared better had you come by daylight.'

Lowe did not take the trouble to answer him.

'I believe you've killed that constable in the exercise of his duty, Sir; the man's dead,' said Lowe, sternly.

'Another gloss on my text; why invade me like housebreakers?' said Dangerfield with a grim scoff.

'No violence, Sirrah, on your peril—the prisoner's wounded,' said Lowe, catching the other fellow by the collar and thrusting him back: he had gathered himself up giddily, and swore he'd have the scoundrel's life.

'Well, gentlemen, you have made a false arrest, and shot me while defending my person—you—four to one!—and caused the death of your accomplice; what more do you want?'

'You must accompany us to the county gaol, Sir; where I'll hand in your committal.'

'Dr. Toole, I presume, may dress my arm?'

'Certainly, Sir.'

'Good! what more?'

'There's a coach at the door, you'll please to step in, Sir.'

'Good, Sir, again; and now permit me to make a remark. I submit, Sir, to all this violence, and will go with you, under protest, and with a distinct warning to you, Mr. Lowe, and to your respectable body-guard of prize-fighters and ruffians—how many?—two, four, five, six, upon my honour, counting the gentleman upon the floor, and yourself, Sir—seven, pitted against one old fellow, ha, ha, ha!—a distinct warning, Sir, that I hold you accountable for this outrage, and all its consequences.'

'See to that man; I'm afraid he has killed him,', said Lowe.

He was not dead, however, but, as it seemed, suffering intense pain, and unable to speak except in a whisper. They got him up with his back to the wall.

'You issue a warrant against another man whom I believe to be dead, and execute it upon me—rather an Irish proceeding, Sir; but, perhaps, if not considered impertinent, you will permit me to enquire what is the particular offence which that other person has committed, and for which you have been pleased to shoot me?'

'You may read it on the warrant, Sir; 'tis for a murderous assault on Doctor Sturk.'

'Hey? better and better! why, I'm ready to pay five hundred guineas to make him speak; and you'll soon find how expensive a blunder you've committed, Sir,' observed Dangerfield, with a glare of menace through his hollow smile.

'I'll stand that hazard, Sir,' rejoined Lowe, with a confident sneer.

The dreadful sounds of the brief scuffle had called up the scared and curious servants. The smell of the pistol-smoke, the sight of blood, the pale faces of the angry and agitated men, and the spectacle of their master, mangled, ghastly, and smiling, affrighted Mrs. Jukes; and the shock and horror expressed themselves in tears and distracted lamentations.

'I must have your keys, Sir, if you please,' said Mr. Lowe.

'A word first—here, Jukes,' he addressed his housekeeper; 'stop that, you fool!' (she was blubbering loudly) ''tis a mistake, I tell you; I shall be back in an hour. Meanwhile, here are my keys; let Mr. Lowe, there, have them whenever he likes—all my papers, Sir (turning to Lowe). I've nothing, thank Heaven! to conceal. Pour some port wine into that large glass.'

And he drank it off, and looked better; he appeared before on the point of fainting.

'I beg pardon, gentlemen—will you drink some wine?'

'I thank you, no, Sir. You'll be good enough to give me those keys' (to the housekeeper).

'Give them—certainly,' said Dangerfield.

'Which of them opens the chest of drawers in your master's bed-chamber facing the window?' He glanced at Dangerfield, and thought that he was smiling wider, and his jaws looked hollower, as he repeated—

'If she does not know it, I'll be happy to show it you.'

With a surly nod, Mr. Lowe requited the prisoner's urbanity, and followed Mrs. Jukes into her master's bed-chamber; there was an old-fashioned oak chest of drawers facing the window.

'Where's Captain Cluffe?' enquired Lowe.

'He stopped at his lodgings, on the way,' answered the man; 'and said he'd be after us in five minutes.'

'Well, be good enough, Madam, to show me the key of these drawers.'

So he opened the drawers in succession, beginning at the top, and searching each carefully, running his fingers along the inner edges, and holding the candle very close, and grunting his disappointment as he closed and locked each in its order.

In the mean time, Doctor Toole was ushered into the little parlour, where sat the disabled master of the Brass Castle. The fussy little mediciner showed in his pale, stern countenance, a sense of the shocking reverse and transformation which the great man of the village had sustained.

'A rather odd situation you find me in, Doctor Toole,' said white Mr. Dangerfield, in his usual harsh tones, but with a cold moisture shining on his face; 'under duresse, Sir, in my own parlour, charged with murdering a gentleman whom I have spent five hundred guineas to bring to speech and life, and myself half murdered by a justice of the peace and his discriminating followers, ha, ha, ha! I'm suffering a little pain, Sir; will you be so good as to lend me your assistance?'

Toole proceeded to his task much more silently than was his wont, and stealing, from time to time, a glance at his noticeable patient with the wild gray eyes, as people peep curiously at what is terrible and repulsive.

''Tis broken, of course,' said Dangerfield.

'Why, yes, Sir,' answered Toole; 'the upper arm—a bullet, Sir. H'm, ha—yes; it lies only under the skin, Sir.'

And with a touch of the sharp steel it dropped into the doctor's fingers, and lay on a bloody bit of lint on the table by the wine-glasses. Toole applied his sticking-plaster, and extemporised a set of splints, and had the terrified cook at his elbow tearing up one of her master's shirts into strips for bandages; and so went on neatly and rapidly with his shifty task.

In the mean time, Cluffe had arrived. He was a little bit huffed and grand at being nailed as an evidence, upon a few words carelessly, or, if you will, confidentially dropped at his own mess-table, where Lowe chanced to be a guest; and certainly with no suspicion that his little story could in any way be made to elucidate the mystery of Sturk's murder. He would not have minded, perhaps, so much, had it not been that it brought to light and memory again the confounded ducking sustained by him and Puddock, and which, as an officer and a very fine fellow, he could not but be conscious was altogether an undignified reminiscence.

'Yes, the drawers were there, he supposed; those were the very ones; he stooped but little; it must have been the top one, or the next to it. The thing was about as long as a drumstick, like a piece of whip handle, with a spring in it; it bent this way and that, as he dried it in the towel, and at the butt it was ribbed round and round with metal rings—devilish heavy.'

So they examined the drawers again, took everything out of them, and Captain Cluffe, not thinking it a soldier-like occupation, tacitly declined being present at it, and, turning on his heel, stalked out of the room.

'What's become of it, Ma'am?' said Lowe, suddenly and sternly, turning upon Mrs. Jukes, and fixing his eyes on hers. There was no guilty knowledge there.

'He never had any such thing that I know of,' she answered stoutly; 'and nothing could be hid from me in these drawers, Sir; for I had the key, except when it lay in the lock, and it must ha' been his horsewhip; it has some rings like of leather round it, and he used to lay it on these drawers.'

Cluffe was, perhaps, a little bit stupid, and Lowe knew it; but it was the weakness of that good magistrate to discover in a witness for the crown many mental and moral attributes which he would have failed to recognise in him had he appeared for the prisoner.

'And where's that whip, now?' demanded Lowe.

'By the hall-door, with his riding-coat, Sir,' answered the bewildered housekeeper.

'Go on, if you please, Ma'am, and let me see it.'

So to the hall they went, and there, lying across the pegs from which Mr. Dangerfield's surtout and riding-coat depended, there certainly was a whip with the butt fashioned very much in the shape described by Captain Cluffe; but alas, no weapon—a mere toy—leather and cat-gut.

Lowe took it in his hand, and weighing it with a look of disgust and disappointment, asked rather impatiently—

'Where's Captain Cluffe?'

The captain had gone away.

'Very well, I see,' said Lowe, replacing the whip; 'that will do. The hound!'

Mr. Lowe now re-entered the little parlour, where the incongruous crowd, lighted up with Mr. Dangerfield's wax lights, and several kitchen candles flaring in greasy brass sticks, were assisting at the treatment of the master of the castle and the wounded constables.

'Well, Sir,' said Mr. Dangerfield, standing erect, with his coat sleeve slit, and his arm braced up in splints, stiff and helpless in a sling, and a blot of blood in his shirt sleeve, contrasting with the white intense smirk of menace upon his face; 'if you have quite done with my linen and my housekeeper, Sir, I'm ready to accompany you under protest, as I've already said, wherever you design to convey my mangled person. I charge you, Sir, with the safety of my papers and my other property which you constrain me to abandon in this house; and I think you'll rue this night's work to the latest hour of your existence.'

'I've done, and will do my duty, Sir,' replied Lowe, with dry decision.

'You've committed a d——d outrage; duty? ha, ha, ha!'

'The coach is at the door, hey?' asked Lowe

'I say, Sir,' continued Dangerfield, with a wolfish glare, and speaking in something like a suppressed shriek, 'you shall hear my warning and my protest, although it should occupy the unreasonable period of two whole minutes of your precious time. You half murder, and then arrest me for the offence of another man, and under the name of a man who has been dead and buried full twenty years. I can prove it; the eminent London house of Elrington Brothers can prove it; the handwriting of the late Sir Philip Drayton, Baronet, of Drayton Hall, and of two other respectable witnesses to a formal document, can prove it; dead and rotten—dust, Sir. And in your stupid arrogance, you blundering Irishman, you dare to libel me—your superior in everything—with his villainous name, and the imputation of his crimes—to violate my house at the dead of night—to pistol me upon my own floor—and to carry me off by force, as you purpose, to a common gaol. Kill Dr. Sturk, indeed! Are you mad, Sir? I who offered a fee of five hundred guineas even to bring him to speech! I who took the best medical advice in London on his behalf; I who have been his friend only too much with my Lord Castlemallard, and who, to stay his creditors, and enable his family to procure for him the best medical attendance, and to afford him, in short, the best chance of recovery and life, have, where you neither lent or bestowed a shilling—poured out my money as profusely as you, Sir, have poured out my blood, every drop of which, Sir, shall cost you a slice of your estate. But even without Sturk's speaking one word, I've evidence which escaped you, conceited blockhead, and which, though the witness is as mad almost as yourself, will yet be enough to direct the hand of justice to the right man. There is a Charles, Sir, whom all suspect, who awaits trial, judgment, and death in this case, the wretched Charles Nutter of the Mills, Sir, whose motive is patent, and on whose proceedings a light will, I believe, be thrown by the evidence of Zekiel Irons, whatever that evidence may be worth.'

'I don't care to tell you, Sir, that 'tis partly on the evidence of that same Zekiel Irons that I've arrested you,' said Mr. Justice Lowe.

'Zekiel Irons, me! What Zekiel Irons charge me with the crime which he was here, not two hours since, fastening on oath upon Charles Nutter! Why, Sir, he asked me to bring him to your residence in the morning, that he might swear to the information which he repeated in my presence, and of which there's a note in that desk. 'Pon my life, Sir, 'tis an agreeable society, this; bedlam broke loose—the mad directing the mad, and both falling foul of the sane. One word from Doctor Sturk, Sir, will blast you, so soon as, please Heaven, he shall speak.'

'He has spoken, Sir,' replied Lowe, whose angry passions were roused by the insults of Dangerfield, and who had, for the moment, lost his customary caution.

'Ha!' cried Dangerfield, with a sort of gasp, and a violent smirk, the joyousness of which was, however, counteracted by a lurid scowl and a wonderful livid glare in his wild eyes; 'ha! he has? Bravo, Sir, bravissimo!' and he smirked wider and wider, and beat his uninjured hand upon the table, like a man applauding the denouement of a play. 'Well, Sir; and notwithstanding his declaration, you arrest me upon the monstrous assertion of a crazy clerk, you consummate blockhead!'

''Twon't do, Sir, you sha'n't sting me by insult into passion; nor frighten me by big words and big looks into hesitation. My duty's clear, and be the consequences what they may, I'll carry the matter through.'

'Frighten you! ha, ha, ha!' and Dangerfield glared at his bloody shirt-sleeve, and laughed a chilly sneer; 'no, Sir, but I'll punish you, with Doctor Sturk's declaration against the babble of poor Zekiel Irons. I'll quickly close your mouth.'

'Sir, I never made it a practice yet to hide evidence from a prisoner. Why should I desire to put you out of the world, if you're innocent? Doctor Sturk, Sir, has denounced you distinctly upon oath. Charles Archer, going by the name of Paul Dangerfield, and residing in this house, called the "Brass Castle," as the person who attempted to murder him in the Butcher's Wood.'

'What, Sir? Doctor Sturk denounce me! Fore heaven, Sir—it seems to me you've all lost your wits. Doctor Sturk!—? Doctor Sturk charge me with having assaulted him! why—curse it, Sir—it can't possibly be—you can't believe it; and, if he said it, the man's raving still.'

'He has said it, Sir.'

'Then, Sir, in the devil's name, didn't it strike you as going rather fast to shoot me on my own hearth-stone—me, knowing all you do about me—with no better warrant than the talk of a man with a shattered brain, awakening from a lethargy of months? Sir, though the laws afford no punishment exemplary enough for such atrocious precipitation, I promise you I'll exact the last penalty they provide; and now, Sir, take me where you will; I can't resist. Having shot me, do what you may to interrupt my business; to lose my papers and accounts; to prevent my recovery, and to blast my reputation—Sir, I shall have compensation for all.'

So saying, Dangerfield, with his left hand, clapt his cocked hat on, and with a ghastly smile nodded a farewell to Mrs. Jukes, who, sobbing plentifully, had placed his white surtout, cloakwise over his shoulders, buttoning it about his throat. The hall-door stood open; the candles flared in the night air, and with the jaunty, resolute step of a man marching to victory and revenge, he walked out, and lightly mounted to his place. She saw the constables get in, and one glimpse more of the white grim face she knew so well, the defiant smirk, the blood-stained shirt-sleeve, and the coach-door shut. At the crack of the whip and the driver's voice, the horses scrambled into motion, the wheels revolved, and the master of the Brass Castle and the equipage glided away like a magic lantern group, from before the eyes and the candle of the weeping Mrs. Jukes.



The coach rumbled along toward Dublin at a leisurely jog. Notwithstanding the firm front Mr. Lowe had presented, Dangerfield's harangue had affected him unpleasantly. Cluffe's little bit of information respecting the instrument he had seen the prisoner lay up in his drawer on the night of the murder, and which corresponded in description with the wounds traced upon Sturk's skull, seemed to have failed. The handle of Dangerfield's harmless horsewhip, his mind misgave him, was all that would come of that piece of evidence; and it was impossible to say there might not be something in all that Dangerfield had uttered. Is it a magnetic force, or a high histrionic vein in some men, that makes them so persuasive and overpowering, and their passion so formidable? But, with Dangerfield's presence, the effect of his plausibilities and his defiance passed away. The pointed and consistent evidence of Sturk, perfectly clear as he was upon every topic he mentioned, and the corroborative testimony of Irons, equally distinct and damning—the whole case blurred and disjointed, and for a moment grown unpleasantly hazy and uncertain in the presence of that white sorcerer, readjusted itself now that he was gone, and came out in iron and compact relief—impregnable.

'Run boys, one of you, and open the gate of the Mills,' said Lowe, whose benevolence, such as it was, expanded in his intense feeling of relief. ''Twill be good news for poor Mistress Nutter. She'll see her husband in the morning.'

So he rode up to the Mills, and knocked his alarm, as we have seen and heard, and there told his tidings to poor Sally Nutter, vastly to the relief of Mistress Matchwell, the Blind Fiddler, and even of the sage, Dirt Davy; for there are persons upon the earth to whom a sudden summons of any sort always sounds like a call to judgment, and who, in any such ambiguous case, fill up the moments of suspense with wild conjecture, and a ghastly summing-up against themselves; can it be this—or that—or the other old, buried, distant villainy, that comes back to take me by the throat?

Having told his good news in a few dry words to Mrs. Sally, Mr. Lowe superadded a caution to the dark lady down stairs, in the face of which she, being quite reassured by this time, grinned and snapped her fingers, and in terms defied, and even cursed the tall magistrate without rising from the chair in which she had re-established herself in the parlour. He mounted his hunter again, and followed the coach at a pace which promised soon to bring him up with that lumbering conveyance; for Mr. Lowe was one of those public officers who love their work, and the tenant of the Brass Castle was no common prisoner, and well worth seeing, though at some inconvenience, safely into his new lodging.

Next morning, you may be sure, the news was all over the town of Chapelizod. All sorts of cross rumours and wild canards, of course, were on the wind, and every new fact or fib borne to the door-step with the fresh eggs, or the morning's milk and butter, was carried by the eager servant into the parlour, and swallowed down with their toast and tea by the staring company.

Upon one point all were agreed: Mr. Paul Dangerfield lay in the county gaol, on a charge of having assaulted Dr. Sturk with intent to kill him. The women blessed themselves, and turned pale. The men looked queer when they met one another. It was altogether so astounding—Mr. Dangerfield was so rich—so eminent—so moral—so charitable—so above temptation. It had come out that he had committed, some said three, others as many as fifteen secret murders. All the time that the neighbours had looked on his white head in church as the very standard of probity, and all the prudential virtues rewarded, they were admiring and honouring a masked assassin. They had been bringing into their homes and families an undivulged and terrible monster. The wher-wolf had walked the homely streets of their village. The ghoul, unrecognised, had prowled among the graves of their church-yard. One of their fairest princesses, the lady of Belmont, had been on the point of being sacrificed to a vampire. Horror, curiosity, and amazement, were everywhere.

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